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Colonialism And Africa Essay

1734 words - 7 pages


Modern African states have several problems ranging from corruption, to armed conflict, to stunted structural development. The effects of colonialism have been offered as a starting point for much of the analysis on African states, but the question of why African states are particularly dysfunctional needs to be examined, given the extent to which they have lagged behind other former European colonies in many aspects. In the first section, I will consider the problems with African states from the level of the state. That is, the nature of the states' inceptions and the underlying flaws may explain some of the issues that have been associated with African states today. Next I ...view middle of the document...

Whatever the exact nature of the various African ethnogenesis processes, the states gaining independence were populated by groups which had differing loyalties. This scenario would fall foul of many theories of the state, in which the absence of the coherent link between the population and the power structure of the state calls it into question. Ethnic cleavages has been a factor in many of the numerous coups d'etat and armed conflicts throughout Africa, as rival groups see the power of state apparatus as a prize worth fighting for(Warner 2001, p89).
One example of ethnic cleavage which can be traced directly to colonial foundations is that of the African/Asian(Indian) divide in Kenya and Uganda. Paul Vandenberg explains the racial privileges which the Asians enjoyed under British rule, leading to their concentration as a relatively successful ethnic group. As migrants flowed within the British empire, Asians who arrived in Kenya were given greater access to social, educational and capitalist opportunities by the colonials, as a result of higher 'racial' status(also Bennell 1982, p131). This expanding community naturally reinforced itself, in part due to the issues of trust and networking, in the absence of openly available commercial institutions(Vandenberg 2003, p450).
Another consequence of inheriting the colonial state is the diversion of resources to maintaining the integrity of these states post-independence. The narratives of sovereignty and national anti-colonial solidarity were often used to justify consolidation of power, with increasing militarisation and one-party rule. Chester Crocker(1974) argued that the military forces came to represent an avenue for expressions of national security and projection following independence. This was partly due to the pressures of indigenous military elites, who were formed during the colonial era. Relatively weak initial capabilities, following the withdrawal of colonial powers, provided the motivations for increasing military expenditure for consolidation of power by the state. Similarities can be seen with the evolution of Latin American countries into military rule through the caudillos following independence from Spain. The conclusion that can be drawn is that the nature of the African military was at its worst possible stage in the decolonization period. One cannot firmly argue the counterfactual case that African states would not pursued militarization from an original position of pacifism. Arguably though, the development of some military personnel and infrastructure for colonial benefit(also a pool of manpower for extraterritorial wars, such as the French in IndoChina) provided a potent enough springboard for the military to play a role in post-independence affairs. This left the various states in a vulnerable position vis-a-vis each other, possibly the worst position.

Civil Structure and Society

While the issues related to state boundaries and sovereignty can explain some of the...

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