The meeting held in Berlin, Germany around 1884–1885 which would later be referred to as the Berlin West Conference remains one of the greatest atrocities ever committed by mankind. It was at this meeting that major European superpowers such as Great Britain, France, Belgium, and Germany sat together like brothers to formally divide Africa into territories among themselves for exploitation and slavery.
The purpose of the conference was to claim ownership of African territories and its people. This became necessary in order to bring an end to the ongoing European competition and conflict which occurred as a result of conflicting claims for territories in Africa, a process which is commonly known as the “Scramble for Africa.” Indeed, the conference served that purpose and marked the climax of European competition for territory in Africa.
It is on record that during the 1870s and early 1880s, European nations such as Great Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, and Germany began mass explorations across the Atlantic into the African continent for natural mineral resources for their new industries, potential markets for the products which their industries produced and of cause cheap (or free) labour.
After locating Africa, there was a scramble for ownership and claims, prompting the governments to protect commercial interests in Africa and began sending scouts in the guise of missionaries, health workers and traders to different parts of the continent to secure treaties from the indigenous peoples within the African kingdoms. They got these treaties by fraud and backdoor channels because the traditional rulers did not know what they were signing and in cases where they asked questions, they were often lied to.
In the same vein, we cannot forget the personal interests of individual European countries as a reason for the scramble for Africa which recorded many casualties but have been well kept off the record books. Belgium’s King Leopold II was known for his personal and selfish aspiration to become the greatest and wealthiest ruler in Europe.
To achieve this and knowing that claims to African resources, markets, and people would boost his reputation and wealth, he hired agents and mercenaries to help him secure central Africa. This did not go down well with his neighbors, Germany; and in no time, the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck decided to secure territories for his country also.
Although very rarely documented, the scramble for Africa led to a great conflict among European powers and the face-off between the British and French on interest in West Africa is as a result of their initial disagreements resulting from the scramble.
It was this rivalry between Great Britain and France that formed the main purpose for the Berlin Conference and prompted Bismarck to intervene by calling for a meeting of European superpowers in 1884.
It was at this conference that Africa was divided into territories, mapped and shared among the various countries. The superpowers were also made to sign an agreement allowing free trade within the colonies and this helped in no small way to strengthen European claims in Africa.
The greatest evil was that African leaders were not consulted in this agreements, and this was because Europe did not see any worth in people of African descent other than that they were created to serve the Europeans as ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water.’
The conference initiated and formalized the slavery and colonization of Africa; those who claim otherwise are as evil as the perpetrators themselves. This is because of the obvious reasons that a few years after the conference and by 1900, more than 90 percent of territories in the African continent was being colonized by the Europeans.
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