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Reimagining Europe Day: Africa’s Cry for Reparative Justice

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By Julius. T. Jaesen, II
BA, MA, Cand. MSc.
coyies2004@gmail.com
+231886661061/+231777661061

Introduction

Europe Day, celebrated on 9th May every year, commemorates the foundation of the European Union and symbolises unity and cooperation among European nations. However, for Africa, this occasion serves as a painful reminder of an ugly history marred by exploitation, oppression, and underdevelopment inflicted by European colonial powers. As Africa reflects on this day, it is extra important to acknowledge the systematic exploitation and underdevelopment that characterised centuries of European domination on the continent.

The history of European exploitation of Africa traces back to the era of colonialism, where European powers embarked on a quest for territorial expansion, resources, and economic dominance. Colonialism, as an institution, was rooted in the ideology of racial superiority and the belief in the civilising mission of Europeans over the so-called ‘inferior’ African peoples (Fanon, 1961). This mindset justified the brutal exploitation of African labour, resources, and land for the benefit of European powers.

One of the most devastating legacies of European colonialism in Africa was the extraction of natural resources. European colonisers ruthlessly exploited Africa’s abundant resources, including minerals, timber, and agricultural products, to fuel the industrial revolution and satisfy the demands of European markets (Rodney, 1972). This exploitation led to the depletion of Africa’s resources and hindered the continent’s economic development, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and dependence.

The impact of European colonisation on African societies was profound. Colonial powers imposed arbitrary borders that divided ethnic groups and disrupted traditional social structures, leading to conflicts and instability that continue to plague the continent to this day (Mamdani, 2018). Additionally, Europeans imposed their cultural, political, and legal systems on African societies, eroding indigenous institutions and undermining local governance structures.

Europe’s exploitation of Africa was not only economic but also deeply ingrained in the suppression of African agency and resistance. African leaders who dared to challenge European domination and advocate for independence were met with repression, violence, and in some cases, assassination. Figures like Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso were assassinated due to their commitment to African unity, self-determination, and liberation from European exploitation. And also, masterminded by European powers, people like Kwame Nkrumah were overthrown (Nzongola-Ntalaja, 2007).

As Africa reflects on Europe Day, it is crucial to remember and honour the sacrifices of leaders
like Osagyfo Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba, Nelson Mandela, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ahmed Sékou Touré, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Samora David Machel, Amílcar Cabral, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Haile Selassie, Kenneth David Kaunda, Eduardo Mondlane, Frantz Fanon, Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, Hastings Banda, Seretse Khama, Modibo Keïta, Mamadou Dia, Sam Nujoma, Tom Mboya, Eduardo dos Santos, Agostinho Neto, John Chilembwe, King Nzinga Mbemba, King Mwanga II, King Moshoeshoe I, Imam Abdallah ibn Yassin who fought against colonial powers.

Their struggles were not only for political independence but also for economic sovereignty and social justice. They witnessed firsthand the systematic extraction of Africa’s natural resources, the imposition of exploitative economic systems, and the disruption of indigenous societies and cultures. These experiences highlighted above offer valuable insights into understanding the root causes of Africa’s enduring challenges.

Economic structures established during colonial rule, such as mono-crop agriculture and extractive industries, have often perpetuated dependency and inhibited sustainable development. Additionally, the legacy of colonialism has left a profound psychological impact, contributing to a sense of inferiority and dependency among African nations. Moreover, the relationship between Europe and Africa has evolved but remains characterised by asymmetrical power dynamics and persistent inequalities (Amin, 1973).

Whilst development aid and partnerships are promoted as mechanisms for fostering growth and stability, they often fail to address the underlying structural imbalances or prioritise the interests of African communities. The legacy of exploitative trade practices, debt burdens, and unequal access to global markets continues to undermine Africa’s efforts to achieve self-reliance and prosperity (Moyo).

As the European Union celebrates Europe Day, this short piece is an attempt to seize the moment to reflect on Europe’s footprints on Africa’s underdevelopment and poverty by offering incredible perspectives to challenge dominant narratives and highlight the need for genuine cooperation and reparative justice.

Europe owes Africa a lot. Their legacies remind us of the importance of acknowledging historical injustices, confronting systemic inequalities, and empowering African nations to chart their new course toward sustainable development and dignity. It is also a time to reaffirm Africa’s commitment to pursuing development on its own terms and building a future free from the shackles of exploitation and dependency.

Conclusion

To sum up, Europe Day serves as an opportunity for Africa to critically reflect on its history and the enduring legacies of colonialism and exploitation. By acknowledging the injustices of the past and striving for a more equitable and just future, Africa can reclaim its agency and chart a course toward true independence and development.

References

1. Amin, S. (1972). Underdevelopment and Dependence in Black Africa: Historical Origin. Journal of Peace Research 9 (2), 105-119.

2. Fanon, F. (1998). The Wretched of the Earth. Grove Press. In Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze (ed.), African Philosophy: An Anthology. Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 228–233.

3. Mamdani, M. (2018). Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. Princeton University Press.

4. Moyo, D. (2009). Why foreign aid is hurting Africa. The Wall Street Journal 21 (1-2), 1-5.

5. Nzongola-Ntalaja, G. (2014). Patrice Lumumba. Ohio University Press.

6. Rodney, W. (1972). How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications.

3 Comments
  1. Ivor S. Moore says

    Thanks for this very informative piece deliving into the question of European exploitation and destruction of Africa and the need to do reparations.

  2. Julius T. Jaesen, II says

    Thank, my distinguished brother.

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