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This paper discusses the impact of British and French colonialism in West and East Africa by drawing examples from : Things fall apart, Weep Not child and Houseboy . British East Africa was a settler colony while both British and French west Africa were not . Earlier on the Europeans only traded on the coast but with the slave trade becoming economically not viable the European countries set to find new ways of getting resources from Africa in a cheaper way .
The Berlin Conference of 1844-1845 set the scramble and partition for Africa. The French used assimilation to rule their colonies . British used assimilation in West Africa and direct rule in East Africa . To maintain power over their subjects this countries used numerous methods . In this paper the focus shall be on use of : western education, economic sabotage, divide and conquer and religion as ways that the Europeans used to ensure minimal resistance from the Africans.
Economic being the core reason and drive for the colonies meant so much to the colonial government. This however spelt doom for the Africans who were placed in the lowest social and economic class. In colonial Kenya the Britons came first, then the Indians, Elite Kenyans and then the other Kenyans. “The Indian shops were many. The Indian traders were said to be very rich, they too employed some black boys whom they treated like nothing “.
The colonial government sold good to Indians at cheaper prices than the Africans and hence the Indian shops were more popular. This made it harder for competing African businesses to thrive,” African shops stood alone on one side of the town near the post office. The Africans had not many things in their stores and generally charged higher prices. “ This ensured that the Africans had little income earning options forcing them to work on the settlers’ farms.
“Let them destroy themselves. What did it matter with him if the blacks in the forest destroyed the whole village? What did it matter except for the fact that labor would diminish.” Mr. Howland, is pleased that the machine he has put in place in working, blacks are killing blacks. Divide and conquer was one of the methods used in colonial Kenya to minimize resistance. The country was divided into regions depending on the language one spoke. The buffer class of “Elite Africans” that the Europeans had created was fighting the Land and Freedom Movement for the colonial government. To Mr. Howland it doesn’t really matter when Jacobo is killed or not because he would just appoint another person in his place and life would move on, the only reason he was concerned for the Africans was because he would lack labor for his farm.
Western Education was presented as the only way out of the poverty and misery . In Weep Not Child , Ngotho’s family is proud of Njoroge’s prowess in school and see his as the savior of their family . Njoroge loves school and sees this as his avenue to become even with the likes of Jacobo who had better lives and remove the “Muhoi” status of his father . However this view is a fallacy as the education system was set in such a way that they did not teach any craft , the children were taught how to manage the colonies but never how to develop them . Those who went into craft and arts were regarded lowly by the community . “Children came to the shop. They were coming from school . Njoroge saw their hopeful faces .He too had been like this when he had seen the world as a place where a man with learning would rise to power and glory.” Njoroge like many other Kenyans had been reduced to selling dresses at the Indian shop, most of the educated Kenyans ended up working as clerks , messengers and other jobs that did not befit their statuses as educated people. The government did not offer resources to them in fear that it may lead to Kenyans gaining economic independence and hence loss of labor for the settlers’ farms.
“Brother what are we? What are we black men who are called French. “ Toundi’s words accurately depict the dilemma of the French Cameroonians who were struggling to maintain their identity during the colonial rule. In Francophone Africa, Africans were taught that by speaking acting like Frenchmen they would become French. As Toundi watches his friends being tortured he understands the hypocrisy of the Europeans in that they did not live what they preached. Assimilation, is a patronizing policy in every way as depicted in the way the Africans Even in the church Cameroonians are seated at the rear of the church on tree trunks under strict supervision of the catechists while the French seat in the front in velvet laced chairs. In church, they had been taught love your neighbor but Toundi wondered” Is the white man’s neighbor only other white men?” Regardless of how “’civilized’ the Africans looked the Frenchmen never considered them as equals.
Ferdinand brings out Christianity as one of the major agents of colonial rule in French west Africa .Toudi like many other “Frenchmen” in Cameroon at first were excited by the offerings of the French .Christian Partenism is evident in “I am his boy” ….” Father Gilbert knew me when I was stark naked he taught me to read and write…nothing can be more precious than that.” Toundi notes that the people were cannibals but Christianity “saved “them. Christianity as an agent of colonial rule served to separate people from their belief system and hence make them more susceptible to susceptible to French’s ideologies. This however only meant to serve the interests of the mother country and never the Cameroonians. Christianity was also the easiest way in which Cameroonians were enticed to assimilate to Frenchmen, “He threw little lumps of sugar to us like throwing corn to chickens.“ This was how Father Gilbert enticed the black boys to join the Parish and hence convert to Frenchmen.
Use of military and rogue justice systems against the Africans was a common thing among all colonial powers. Even though in French west Africa it was not very evident Toundi’s experiences with Madam and the commandant give us a glimpse into this. Toundi is punished on some sham accusations of theft while the real reason Madam wanted him gone was because he knew the truth. This was the case for most of the Africans, especially the leaders who had realized the truth about the Europeans. Um Nyobe’ Ruben the leader of UPC Cameroons nationalist party was detained without cause or trial by the colonial government for challenging the government The detentions encompassed ruthless beatings and subhuman conditions in the holding cells.As seen in the book Gullet says “We are going to put you in a safe place while we continue our inquiries” but once they get back to the police camp he orders the constable ,”Give him twenty-five blows of the sjambok.” . This was a method that the colonial government used to instill fear in people and force them into submission.
“Our own men and our sons have joined the ranks of the stranger . They have joined his religion and they help uphold his government. If we should try to drive out the white man it shuld be easy,they are only tow of them, but what of our own people who are following their ways ?” Obierika’s concerns can be replicated for the entire Nigeria . Christianity as intended for by the colonial governments had created loyal subjects and made it harder for the people to fight the colinialists . Just like the French, The English used religion to divide and conquer. Christianity not only infuriates the people for accepting the oucasts and the Lazy people in the community but because it disregards and disrespects the Igbo religion.
Apart from religion the Britons also brought the government . This was such a grea