The history of Africa is one characterised by the infamous Berlin Conference in 1884 that resulted in artificial borders being fixed to the African continent merely for the selfish, greedy, capitalistic and parochial interests. The Eurocentric borders have not only warped Africa's destiny but have made the colonizers filthy rich because of the unending and incessant conflicts that these fake borders bring about.
The Berlin Conference was purely a farcical exercise that betrayed how evil and heartless the Europeans were. African rivers, lands, mountains and lakes were divided among Europeans themselves, as if they had any origins to the continent. Worse still, no African was present when these territories were being partitioned. It was clearly a matter of not regarding the African as a human but as a tool to advance the capitalistic causes of the colonizers.
The ramifications of the Berlin Conference are very much palpable to this day, and it would seem as if Africa is entangled in a perpetual cycle of violence, conflict and widespread poverty. Grouping various people of various ethnicities into single political entities was one of the biggest mistake of the Berlin Conference. The subsequent failure to muster and foster unity among these people by the African leader has led to devastating acts of terror in the recent of Africa.
Take for instance Nigeria. The country came about as a result of a transaction between the Royal Niger Company (which is now Unilever) and the British government which saw the British government creating a single political entity that included hundreds of ethnicities as well as hundreds of local languages. This delicate political setup was to erupt, with dreadful consequences, into the Biafran War from 30 May 1967 to January 1970. This deadly civil war was a symptom of how Eurocentric borders cause instability in Africa.
The maps were not drawn out of consideration of the people of Africa. No. The maps represented the economic interests of the Europeans. With emphasis on that, there was no regard for the political dynamics that existed within African political systems at that time. Without doubt, the maps were drawn as an arbitrary exercise, and that is why the whole phenomenon has been aptly called the Scramble for Africa. This scramble is still raging on with new ferocity and it is coming in more nuanced forms.
It then becomes unfortunate that a lot of blood has been shed because of these borders that were devoid of anything African in them. Even the nature of the current maps shows that nothing was made with consideration for the African. Straight lines that follow latitudinal and longitudinal lines as if some madness were reigning supreme. The capitalist madness, of course. Africa was taken up and shared as if it belonged to no one (the Europeans treated Africa with no regard for its people, ignoring all of that, and they claimed ownership to Africa on the basis that it was land that belonged to no one and they had got the ownership via conquest).
The sickening thing is that these former colonizers, when they witness all the conflict in Africa, fail to realize that it is because of these borders that there is much strife. Instead, they like to run with the "lack of civilization" narrative and in frank terms, they should never get away with such nauseating arrogance of epic proportions.
It is still possible to demarcate Africa along the precolonial lines. But, put bluntly, it is not an easy feat. And the situation may even stay like that for the longest time. This is because the current crop of leaders does not get any sort of incentive or motivation to dismantle colonial structures. Such motivation is absent because change means that they will lose all the wealth they have accumulated and still want to accumulate. Changing border lines requires a fearless leadership that is capable of standing up to the bullies and then dictate what is good for Africa's interests.
Creating real border lines that mirror what true African political dynamics were like before the Europeans destroyed everything would need courage and vision, qualities that are not present in many leaders. It may not even need to be a complete restructuring of these lines, but should be a reasonable delimitation of territories. It is this reasonable delimitation that volatile countries are sorely in need of.
It is still possible to reject these legacies of colonialism. Because the consequences still slap us hard in the face and we have to bear the brunt of the pain of losing fellow African brothers and sisters to senseless violence brought about by these Eurocentric borders. It would need maximum effort from our leaders.
Header image credit - World Atlas