The Colbert Factor:
Reimagining ancient African Kingdoms as opposed to Bismarck’s 1884 artificial nations
Imagine how the six-year old deadly armed separatist conflict in the coastal and grassfields zones of ‘Cameroon’ could have been if the fight was to restore the once independent and vibrant kingdom states that were destroyed by the invading european colonizers.
Imagine that the fighting that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced thousands more, internally and externally, (in a bid to restore the European-imposed artificial boundary of British former Southern Cameroons or maintain that of an equally UN-manipulated ‘one and indivisible’ Cameroon), would have been to restore the once independent and vibrant kingdom states of the Nsos, the Koms, the Nkambes, the Bafuts, the ngembas, the Mankons, the Bangwas, the Banghangis, the Ejakams, the Balongs, the Bafaws, the Bakweris, the Bulus, the Sawas, the Soas, the Fulanis, the Bamilekes, the Bamouns, etc, etc, etc.
If European nations that are today basically assembled on ethnic and racial lines allowed the Kingdoms they met upon arrival in Africa to fortify their indigenous social and political structures that existed, Africa would have had better and higher levels of development than today.
Before the United Nations sanctioned what is today referred to as Cameroon in 1960/61, after it was crafted in the famous 1884-85 Berlin conference, (without the consent of any African as non was invited to attend), powerful and well organized independent kingdom states existed and competed favourably in livelihoods with other continents.
To give a dog a bad name in order to hang it, exploitative european colonizers claimed Africans were ‘uncivilized and barberic’ and so, needed to be civilized through culture, education and christianity.
That is how the stable and flourishing independent African kingdom states like the Nsos, the Koms, the Bafuts, the Mankons, the Bamouns, the Bamilekes, the Bafaw, the Dualas, the Bakweris, the Bangwas, the ngembas, the Bulus, the Soas, the fulanis, the baghangis, the Ejakams, the Benins (of Nigeria), the Kongos (of DRC and Brazza), the Ashantes (of Ghana or Gold Coast), etc, etc, saw their independent kingdom states savagely and brutally colonized.
A famous Ghanian author, Emmanuel Twum Mensah, has strongly opined that ‘Africa would have reached its own higher level of development naturally had the Europeans not intervened in the affairs of the continent’. Writing in GRIN verlag, a Munich-based research center, on the topic ‘The Partition of Africa and the Effects on the Continent’, Mensah posits that : ‘the Europeans at the time of colonisation had no interest in developing the colonies but continued to exploit the people’s natural resources to serve as raw materials for European industries whilst the people had little or no benefits from their own natural resources’.
To better manage the newly conquerred territories, the seven European nations that met in Berlin under auspices of Von Bismark, (then German Chancellor), decided to lump otherwise independent African kingdom states (with no relation with each other), into present-day artificial nations. That’s how one came to find, for instance, once independent kingdom states in Central Africa lumped into new spheres of influence and referred to as ‘Cameroon’, ‘Chad’, ‘Gabon’, ‘Central African Republic’, ‘Equitorial Guinea’, etc. With colonies seen as assets in the balance of power, the larger the lumping of kingdom states into nation states, the better for the invading euoropean nations.
Those who have originally claimed they were coming to civilize otherwise barbaric Africans, instead imposed terror regimes on the colonized people, including mass killings and forced labour. For instance, between 1885-1908, many atrocities were perpetrated in the Congo Free State with native Congo labourers who failed to meet their rubber collection quotas punished by having their hands ‘garried’ or cut off.
The brutality of King Leopold II of Belgium, in his Congo Free State was heartbreaking. Up to 8 million of the 16 million native inhabitants died between 1885 and 1908 from the king’s brutality. Equally, the brutal method of the French in french congo, along with the introduction of disease, resulted in the loss of 50% of the native populations.
Worse still, and after the conquest of territory by the Europeans, it was inevitably followed by the public display of indigenous peoples for scientific and leisure purposes. That’s how Samoa and Sami people were publicly displayed as ‘purely natural’ populations in European zoos. Not used to the climatic conditions, some of the indigenous Africans in the zoos died from exposure. At the same time, a certain pigmy, Ota Benga was exhibited in a cage in the Bronz zoo and labelled ‘The Missing Link’, in an attempt to illustrate Darwinism, and in particular, that Africans like Ota Benga are closer to apes than Europeans were.
The same European colonizers also brought in a disease called rinderpast that affected 90% of African cattle, thereby damaging and destroying their source of livelihood and forcing them to work as labour for colonizers.
This write-up is a re-contextualization of the essence of the partition of Africa and its ramifications on the continent. More importantly, it posits that rather than fighting and killing each other to maintain artificial boundaries (of say British former West Cameroon or French former East Cameroun), it would have made much more sense in fighting to restore the once vibrant independent kingdom states. After all, as we fight either to breakaway or keep a ‘one and indivisible’ country whose arteficial boundaries were drawn up in Berlin and subsequently without our consent, the same European nations that lumped us together long saw reason to set up their nation states following linguistic, cultural or basically, ethnic afinities.
Just like each African empire that was colonized ‘legally’ became the colony of that European country, any society fighting to recreate or preserve the colonial boundaries is defending european or colonial interests.
Historians are largely agreed on the fact that Africa would have been a more better, stable and conflict-free continent if Africans were allowed to develop their social and political structures of their own and form nation-states without any external influence from Europe.
*Colbert Gwain is digital rights advocate, author, radio host and content creator @TheColbertFactor
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