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Impact of colonialism will be perceptible in Africa for many decades to come
By Mohammad Memarian*
Colonialism is not something of the past nor a matter of merely historical interest. Even after decades of the formal independence of various former colonies, the reverberations of their colonial heritage still happens to shape their present conditions and even in some cases contributes to tremors in their very sociopolitical foundations.
“The post-colonial states and societies carry the hangover of colonialism for a very long time,” said Rajendra Govind Harshé, a founder and former vice chancellor of the Central University of Allahabad, who has taught political science and international relations for more than four decades in various academic institutes such as the University of Hyderabad.
Harshé who served as the president of the African Studies Association of India from 2005 to 2011, believes that “the colonial past is present in every moment of any post-colonial state.” That’s one of the major themes which he investigated in his latest book, ‘Africa in World Affairs: Politics of Imperialism, the Cold War and Globalization’, published by Routledge in 2019. In the following talk, he has touched upon some key aspects of his latest book.
*Mohammad Memarian is a staff writer at Iran Daily.
In your book, you’ve touched upon an important yet often neglected aspect of colonialism: The psychological violence that it commits upon the colonized by creating an inferiority complex and making them internalize their inferiority through which the colonized try to emulate the colonizer and become them. Had it been a deliberate act on the part of the colonial rulers or, as some might say, just an uncalled-for by product of the colonization process?
At the outset let me state that showing colonial subjects as inferior beings is necessary to justify any colonial rule. Without degrading the subjects, their cultures and societies, the superiority of the colonial power cannot be established. Frantz Fanon, an anti-imperialist thinker, from Martinique, has dwelled deeper on this theme in his celebrated works such as Black Skins and White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth in the context of the behaviour of the black races in the erstwhile Francophone world.
In fact, any form of colonialism is anti-democratic and authoritarian. Further, it was through superior fire power, police and the army that the coercive force was exercised by the colonial state to control the colonies. The colonial state was also oppressive in terms of levying taxes and relying on the practice of forced labour while exploiting the colonised people. Apart from the economic, political and geographical control over the land and resources of the colonies, the colonialists commit violence on the minds of their subjects because racism is integral to colonialism. Such violence was easier to commit on the people of Africa because the institution of slavery was prevalent in Africa even before the advent of modern colonialism. Under slavery the individuals were bought and sold like commodities which insulted the black race. A formidable combination of colonialism and racism only aggravated the damage on the minds of the colonial subjects. In the process, the cause and effect become synonymous. For instance, if someone is white skinned, he/she must be sophisticated, beautiful, and bright and cultured. Conversely, if someone is black skinned, he/she must be crude, uncultured and unintelligent. According to Fanon, the colonial world essentially is a Manichean world where things are perceived in “black” and “white’ or “light” and “dark”. The violence committed on minds through this process for generations has a lasting impact for centuries.
Following up on the above question, you’ve also mentioned that this aspect “has proved lasting despite the formal decolonization of Africa.” Would you please elaborate on its lasting influence? Can it still be felt on the continent?
Indeed, the post-colonial states and societies carry the hangover of colonialism for a very long time. That is how in social sciences post-colonial theories have shed a different light on the post-colonial societies. Simply put post-colonialism signifies that the colonial past is present in every moment of any post-colonial state and society and such societies mediate with their colonial past to work out their future. For instance, the post-colonial societies, especially the societies in Africa, are immensely attracted to Western educational institutions such as Oxford, Cambridge or Sorbonne because any degree from such places adds to the prestige of the people who obtain it and the graduates from such institutions are well placed in their respective societies when they return to their native land.
This not merely demonstrates a form of inferiority complex but cultural under confidence within the post-colonial world. They treat educational institutions in their ‘ex’ metropolitan countries as superior and are almost convinced that such institutions do not exist in their respective countries.
Imitation is the best form of flattery and even in contemporary times people from the erstwhile French Africa try to behave like ‘Frenchmen’. Under French colonialism, colonies were being treated as integral and indissoluble, if not contiguous, part of France at one stage. Among all the erstwhile colonial powers, the neo-colonial influence of France is the strongest among the French colonies because France succeeded in institutionalizing neo-colonialism by signing comprehensive economic, political, military and cultural agreements with most of its former colonies. Moreover, most of the African countries in terms of development are far behind the advanced industrialized world. They continue to depend on markets, funds, trade and technology as far as the industrial world is concerned. On the whole, the impact of colonialism is perceptible on the continent and it will remain in different forms on the post-colonial societies for decades ahead.
You stated that “under globalization, the impact of neo-liberalism was clearly visible.” What was the visible impact of it on Africa? What was the actual result of neo-liberal policies espoused by donor agencies on the African Continent in terms of their development?
Let me answer this question with the essence of arguments in my book. Globalization as a phenomenon, in principle, involves multi-layered interactions between diverse actors that stimulate free flow of goods, capital, trade, services, finance, technology, knowledge, terror and even diseases. Globalization has compressed time and space, and revolution in the Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) have brought the world much closer, where the areas of cooperation as well as conflicts have widened. I have explored the links between capitalism and imperialism, on the one hand, and capitalism and globalization, on the other hand.
Imperialism is an integral part of the development of capitalism. It signifies an asymmetrical relationship of interdependence between the materially advanced and backward societies. Of course, apart from conventional capitalist countries, the erstwhile Soviet Union, too, was imperialist, and contemporary China, too, is not free from imperialist policies. Furthermore, I consider globalization as yet another stage in the development of capitalism.
The term neo-liberal came into existence in the context of Britain, under Thatcher, and the United States under the Reagan administration during the 1980s. Basically, these conservative capitalist leaders wanted to roll back the state from business, cut excessive expenditure on salaries and subsidies and support the expansion of the transnational capital and its movements across the world. As the neo-liberal agenda was embraced by the international donor agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), these loan disbursing bodies began to accentuate the development of private initiative and curb the role of the public sector. In fact, under the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the IMF and World Bank, the donor agencies review the overall structure of the economy to enhance its international competitiveness and help it to resolve balance of payments crises. However, the aid is conditional. In order to obtain the loan, several African countries were constrained to liberalise their economies since liberalisation was a precondition to obtaining the loan. Likewise, in addition to these agencies, Western donors also wanted to promote representative democracy in Africa before the loan was sanctioned. In fact, during the 1990s, Africa witnessed a wave of democracy when so many countries held elections. In several cases, they were not free and fair, or even rigged, but elections were necessary to get the funds from the various donor agencies.
The impact of globalisation has been uneven in Africa, with mixed results. In Africa, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Rwanda have the fastest growing economies according to the IMF. However, all the economies are not growing at a faster rate. Such growth necessarily is not accompanied by overall development in the social sectors.
Moreover, the African countries have strengthened the African Union (AU) and Regional Economic Communities (REC) as a response to meet the challenges of globalisation. Through the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) the AU member states have been engaged in creating a single market for Africa. This is not going to be a mean achievement. At the same time, the phase of globalisation has had its adverse effects. It has caused uneven development between and within states. The states that are resource rich have done better than those that have paucity of mineral and other resources. Within the states, it has also aggravated social and economic inequalities, poverty, unemployment and other problems of development.
In regard to China’s new role in Africa, you argue that regardless of some potentially alarming signs, it has essentially diversified the sources from which sovereign African countries can seek assistance for their development. Is my impression accurate?
You have made a valid point. After attaining independent statehood, a large number of African states were either dependent on the ‘ex’ metropolitan powers or the other Western countries. Some of these countries also relied on the former Soviet Union for assistance during the phase of the Cold War. However, with the Chinese expansive policies in the continent, especially during this century, and the frequent meetings of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China has emerged as the most important external player in Africa. China’s growing trade with the continent, aid that it is offering to build infrastructure to different African countries, and Chinese investments in extractive sectors have been mutually beneficial. Being an energy hungry economy, China has invested in oil rich countries such as Sudan, South Sudan, Angola, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Mauritania. Similarly, China has also invested in resource rich countries such as Zimbabwe, which has iron ore, copper, chromium, coal, platinum, vanadium, nickel and other reserves.
While showing leniency towards least developed countries of Africa, China has also cancelled their debts. Since China is not harping on human rights violations, its entry into Africa has often suited the dictatorial regimes. China, in its turn, had no qualms about backing oppressive regimes of Omar al-Bashir (1989-2019) in Sudan, and Robert Mugabe (1980-2017) in Zimbabwe. In fact, China has sold weapons to the dictatorial regime of Bashir who, in turn, used them to suppress armed struggles in Sudan in its western (Darfur) and southern parts (currently South Sudan). The role of Chinese companies and labour as well as China’s ownership of large tracts of land in countries like Ethiopia have made China’s presence conspicuous. Irrespective of China’s occasional philanthropic stances, China’s policy in Africa is not without imperialist tendencies. It may not be conventional colonial imperialism of the European variety, but dominant-dependent ties that are so characteristic of imperialism are visible in China’s Africa policy. Nevertheless, China has provided African countries a window of opportunity to pursue developmental projects.
Today, stateless powers, notably multinational and big tech companies, exert extraordinary levels of influence over global affairs, most importantly in terms of labour market and capital flow. How do you see their role in Africa in the new century?
This again is a pertinent question. Diverse networks of multinational conglomerates are operating in different parts of Africa. Thus, most of the major powers including the US, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, China, India, Japan and South Korea are involved in Africa through the multinational firms. Under globalisation, finance capital is quite mobile but the labour mobility can be problematic. Before organised capital of the conglomerates, labour is at a disadvantage.
I have shown in my work how collaboration between Western oil firms such as Mobil, Chevron, Shell and Elf Aquitaine (currently Total Fina Elf) was working with Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) under the dictatorial regimes in Nigeria from 1985-1998, and how they exploited labour ruthlessly. The callous disregard of the multinational firms for human and environmental rights has caused immense sufferings to the people of the Niger Delta. At the moment, Russian companies are moving quite aggressively in states such as Central African Republic (CAR) and Guinea, primarily in extractive industries. In the process of catering to the interests of its firms, the Russian state is also getting involved in domestic politics of African countries such as Guinea. The untapped mineral and natural resources in Africa will continue to attract investments from multinationals and tech giants. In response, the African states too have to strengthen themselves through the RECs and the AU to protect their interests as far as they can.
Nasrallah: General Soleimani created resistance front against US occupation
The secretary general of Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement said top Iranian anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani helped create a resistance front in Iraq and neighboring Syria against the presence of American occupation forces.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah made the remarks in a televised speech on Monday evening, while addressing a ceremony held in Beirut to commemorate the second anniversary of the assassination of Gen. Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), and their companions in a US drone strike authorized by former president Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020.
“The presence of US forces in the region has brought about nothing other than destruction, bloodshed and displacement,” he said, stating that the targeted killings of the two exemplary anti-terror commanders had severe repercussions for the entire Middle East, Press TV reported.
He highlighted that Soleimani and Muhandis made great grounds across the region, adding that all can draw valuable lessons from their martyrdom.
“The United States occupied Iraq for many years, massacred Iraqi people and looted the country’s natural resources. It was Washington that created the Daesh terrorist group, and it, therefore, bears complete responsibility for the extremists’ crimes and acts of terror,” Nasrallah said.
While the US ruined Iraq through creation and full support of Daesh, the Hezbollah chief said, Iran defended the Iraqi nation in the face of the terrorists.
“Given the horrendous crimes it has committed in the country, the US cannot be trusted and viewed as a friend of Iraq,” Nasrallah pointed out.
He said the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP), which is Saudi Arabia’s primary intelligence agency, had for years dispatched bombers to Iraq to carry out terrorist attacks, and Riyadh officially welcomed the advance of Daesh and occupation of large swathes of Iraqi territories in June 2014.
“The US and Saudi Arabia played major roles in the massacre of Iraqi people. Iran, on the other hand, had been a staunch defender of the nation,” the Hezbollah leader stressed.
Rapping normalization with Israel
Nasrallah said Palestinian territories have been occupied for decades, lambasting some Arab states for signing normalization agreements with Tel Aviv whilst millions of Palestinians are living under Israel’s occupation.
“Washington is responsible for all the crimes that Israel has perpetrated against Palestinians and the Lebanese nation. The US and Israel have killed many Palestinians, while the nation’s supporters, Gen. Soleimani in particular, have sacrificed their lives,” he said.
The Hezbollah chief noted that that Israel continues to threaten Lebanon and Palestine, saying, “The US cannot be considered a friend of Middle Eastern nations since it actively supports their main enemy, which is Israel.”
“The US destroyed Syria, waged an all-out war on the country, and left Syrians unprotected in order to face slow and gradual death. This is while Gen. Soleimani and Muhandis confronted US evil plots in Syria,” he said.
Expulsion of US forces
Nasrallah also described the devastating Saudi-led military aggression against Yemen as a US project, emphasizing that the Riyadh regime is simply playing out Washington’s scenarios in its crisis-hit southern neighbor.
“The United States makes wars in the region in order to plunder our resources. Gen. Soleimani was there to alter equations and defeat enemies,” the Hezbollah secretary general said.
Nasrallah said expulsion of US forces from the region will be the ultimate revenge for the assassination of Gen. Soleimani and Muhandis, underscoring that the Baghdad government and Iraqi nation are fully responsible for the removal of the occupation troops from the Iraqi soil.
“American forces will be finally driven out of the region. The US cannot be viewed as a great example given the substantial level of its domestic problems. The blood of martyred resistance and anti-terror fighters attests to the fact that Washington is the root cause of all problems in our region.
“As long as US forces are present in the region, there will be more occupation, aggression and oppression,” he said.
Emma Watson post in support of Palestinians angers Israeli envoys
Iran vows to defend itself forcefully against Israeli aggression
Iran’s foreign minister hit back at Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, for his “disturbing remarks” against the Islamic Republic, vowing that the country will defend itself with power against any aggression.
“The disturbing remarks of the foreign minister of the fake Israeli regime against the great nation of Iran” were a pipe dream, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweeted.
In an interview on Friday Lapid, when asked if Israel had the ability to strike uranium enrichment facilities or weapons sites in Iran claimed: “Israel has capabilities, some of which the world, and even some experts in the field, cannot even imagine. And Israel will protect itself against the Iranian threat.”
He also suggested that Israel could attack Iran, if necessary, without informing the administration of US President Joe Biden, which is looking to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal.
Israel vocally opposed the accord between Iran and world powers from which former US president Donald Trump withdrew and reimposed sanctions on Iran.
“We will forcefully and rationally defend the rights, interests and progress of the Iranian people,” Amir-Abdollahian fired back.
“Zionism has no place in the future of the world,” he added.
The Israeli regime has never stopped advertising the threat of “military action” against Iran and falsely accusing the Islamic Republic of seeking to acquire non-conventional military capability.
Iranian generals, for their part, have decisively warned the Tel Aviv regime on multiple occasions against any adventurism against the country, pledging a crushing response to any attack, Press TV wrote.
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) launched a massive military exercise last week, following which both Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Mohammad Baqeri and IRGC Chief Commander Hossein Salami warned that the Iranian Armed Forces will “cut off” the hands of aggressors in case of an attack against the country.
Iranian military experts and technicians have in recent years made great progress in developing and manufacturing a broad range of domestically-manufactured equipment, making the Armed Forces self-sufficient in this regard.
Iranian officials have repeatedly underscored that the Islamic Republic will not hesitate to build up its defense capabilities, emphasizing such abilities are entirely meant for the purpose of defense and will be never subject to negotiations.
US assassination of Gen. Soleimani ‘war crime’: China
China on Tuesday called the US assassination of Iran’s top commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in 2020 a “war crime” and a “wanton violation” of international norms.
“The assassination was an example of Washington’s wanton violation of the norms governing international relations based on the United Nations Charter and another war crime committed by the US with excessive use of force,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday, CGNT reported.
Wang made the remarks at a regular press briefing in response to a question about the second anniversary of Gen. Soleimani’s assassination in a drone strike near Bagdad airport on January 3, 2020, which was ordered by former US president Donald Trump.
Gen. Soleimani was the commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps when he was targeted.
The US breaks international law and conducts targeted killings with acts of terrorism in sovereign countries, and kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people in different places across the world, Wang said, describing such behavior as illegal and atrocious.
But the US always uses the “rules-based international order” to whitewash this behavior, the spokesperson added.
“The US repeatedly claimed that it will defend the ‘rules-based international order,’” Wang said.
“But facts have proven over and over again that the US only cares about an order that meets its needs and serves its interests. What the US strives to defend is an order that consolidates its hegemony and allows it to remain above the international community.”
People in Middle Eastern countries and across the world will not accept such “rules and order,” which are against international law, he added.
Iran’s President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi on Monday vowed revenge for the assassination of the general unless Trump was put on trial.
Raeisi said Trump as “the prime criminal” of the case must be punished by death for his central role in the deadly strike.
Seizure of UAE vessel sent chill down aggressors’ spine: Yemen
The spokesman for Yemen’s popular Ansarullah resistance movement praised Yemeni naval forces for seizing a United Arab Emirates-flagged cargo vessel as it was engaged in “hostile acts,” stating that the incident took the Saudi regime and its allies by surprise and caused an intense feeling of fear in them.
“We extend our thanks to Yemeni naval forces for carrying out such a courageous and challenging military operation, which sent a chill down the aggressors’ spine. The seizure conveyed a clear message to them and their sponsors that Yemen can inflict a defeat on them but will not be defeated,” Mohammed Abdulsalam wrote in a post published on his Twitter page.
“The Yemeni nation expects the country’s armed forces, in the wake of this unique operation, to notch up greater achievements in the future,” he added, according to Press TV.
On Monday, the spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces said the country’s naval troops, backed by allied fighters from Popular Committees, had managed to seize a UAE-flagged vessel off the port of Hodeida as it was carrying military equipment and engaging in hostile acts.
Brigadier General Yahya Saree stated that the Yemeni forces and their allies captured the vessel after it trespassed into Yemen’s territorial waters and was acting against the security and stability of the country.
The senior Yemeni military official added that the ship was loaded with various munitions and was seized off the coast of Yemen’s strategic western province of Hodeida.
Meanwhile, Yemeni military and political affairs expert Brigadier General Abdul Ghani al-Zubaidi told Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen television news network that the seizure of the Emirati-flagged vessel debunked the myth of Saudi Arabia’s strategic security.
“In case the UAE opts to show reactions, the course of events will change and our missiles would likely be fired at it. The operation clearly points to the preparedness and great capabilities of the Yemeni Armed Forces as it is an audacious task to detain a military vessel,” Zubaidi said.
He stressed that the capture of the UAE-flagged vessel sent a message to the United States and the Israeli regime, in addition to Riyadh and its allies, and exhibited the fact that the Yemeni Armed Forces possess great capabilities and can harm anyone who dares to attack Yemen.
Saudi Arabia, backed by the United States and regional allies, launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing a former friendly government back to power and crushing the Ansarullah movement.
Raeisi orders relief for Iran’s flood-hit regions
President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi ordered his chief of staff and the energy minister to mobilize efforts to help flood-hit people in Iran’s south.
At least eight people have been killed in flash floods hitting provinces of Fars, Sistan and Baluchestan, Hormuzgan and Kerman due to heavy rains expected to last until later this week.
“So far eight people have died and two are still missing,” spokesman for the national rescue service Mojtaba Khaledi said, adding 14 others have been injured.
Five of the deaths occurred in Fars, local crisis management official Rahim Azadi said.
Heavy rains damaged “agriculture, infrastructure, urban and rural housing”, Azadi added.
Iran’s Red Crescent has provided “emergency accommodation for more than 3,000 people, and over 20,000 have received relief assistance”, its head of rescue and emergency operations Mehdi Valipour told state television.
“Houses have been flooded and infrastructure such as roads and communication systems have been damaged,” he said, adding more than 500 teams were providing assistance in parts of the country’s south and east.
Pictures published by the Red Crescent on Tuesday showed its personnel setting up tents in sports halls and assisting cars trapped on flooded roads or stuck in snow-covered mountain areas.
Relief operations were underway in 87 cities across more than half of Iran’s 31 provinces, it added.
The weather system is expected to last until Friday, an official from Iran’s meteorological agency told national television.
Largely arid, Iran has endured repeated droughts over the past decade, but also regular floods.
In 2019, heavy flooding in the country’s south left at least 76 people dead and caused damage estimated at more than $2 billion, AFP wrote.
Scientists say climate change amplifies droughts and that their intensity and frequency in turn threaten food security.