It’s beyond any doubt that colonial “apologism” is rife in Africa, particularly in Africa’s corridors of power. Colonial “apologism” is the habit (tendency), usually by those in western political, academic and international development circles who argue that European colonialism in Africa was more a force for good than the evil it’s made out to be.
It’s one thing to condemn European colonialism and, no doubt, its devastation and subsequent effects in Africa. But it is strange of many Africans to attack western circles or indeed, Africans who criticise the behaviour of African politicians and governments, and accuse them of being apologists for colonialism without considering the fact that post-independence African politicians and governments have behaved and continue to behave like, in some cases worse than, European colonial administrations.
Post-independence African politicians and governments, through many of their policies and actions, have reinforced colonial legacy and further entrenched not only colonial mindset to power but perceptions and aspirations to power. This has effectively turned African politicians and governments into colonialists themselves.
Strangely, however, this is not seen, by the type of Africans who criticise, both western circles or Africans who criticise African politicians and governments for their colonialist policies and behaviour, as yet a form of apologising for colonialism. It does not occur to this type of African who is quick to accuse anyone who dares criticise post-independence African politicians and governments for their dismal failure; calling on them to own up to their failures instead of trying to explain them away by blaming them on neo-colonialism and continued colonial interference in Africa.
Post-independence African governments and their officials, through their many – usually copy and paste policies from western policy papers – are and have been the worst apologists for colonialism in Africa. Post-independence African governments maintained the colonial administrative structures (systems) and order. ‘Independence‘ was merely a replacement of European colonial administration and administrators with African administrators with a colonial mindset to governance and (public) administration.
This is because their formative experiences and education about (in) governance and (public) administration was shaped by colonial experience and education. They knew no other ways, forms and experiences of governance and (public) administration; so they looked up to colonial administration as a benchmark, particularly because they had taken over (inherited) all its systems and infrastructure. Naturally, they saw no substantial reason or had no incentive to dismantle the colonial administrative structures and infrastructure and build anew. That is, build their own systems they had consciously conceived, designed and implemented to bring about, in revolutionary speak, ‘total change’, as indeed, many immediate post-independence African politicians had promised in some of their independence struggle manifestos and literature.
They had no reason nor the incentive to re-invent the administrative wheel; particularly because what they had inherited, accorded them power – over the people and their affairs and national resources – as it had to colonial administration and administrators. The inherited colonial administrative structures (systems) and the entire infrastructure served them well. It made many of them overnight kings; and not just kings but authoritarian multimillionaire kings. Most came from impoverished peasant background and lifestyle to suddenly live in State sponsored opulence, and in colonial administrative palaces, so-called, ironically, “State Houses” that are cordoned off public access and with heavy security. It’s a criminal offence for the public to attempt to gain access to such so-called “State Houses“.
They took on the hat of the ‘White/European’ colonial administrator, complete with all the titles and regalia, and effectively became the new colonisers. Many, indeed, despite their pre-independence ideological convictions and reasons for the agitation for self-rule and against colonialism; within a matter and the inevitable test of time, transmogrified into the kind of ruthless, merciless behaviour, if not worse than typically that of the colonial administration and administrators. They treated their own people like, if not worse than, the colonial administrations. They oppressed, beat up and subjugated their own people in the manner and the same way the colonial administrators did. They saw their own people as their subjects; and they as their new masters, despite claiming (falsely of course) to have ‘liberated‘ the people from the colonial rule and oppression.
The people had to respond, recognise and defer to them, as they – both the new masters and the people – did to the ‘White/European’ colonial administrators who wielded the whip, the gun and was trigger happy with an itchy finger on the trigger of the gun. The African colonialist, through his military, the police and a slew of other oppressive quasi security organs, is as trigger happy as the ‘White/European’ colonial administrators, through similar instruments of oppression and repression, were. Suffice to say, in the words of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, “the more things change, the more they stay the same“.
The new African colonial masters (colonisers) have, since independence, modeled and/or sought to model their development aspirations and policies towards those of their ‘erstwhile‘ masters. Yet, African colonisers – these hypocrites in politics and government – have the gall to criticise and accuse (often through their articulate stooges) others, be it from the western corridors of power and academia and/or their ‘educated‘ African protégés, of being apologists for colonialism.
They engage in vitriol and level such accusations from the comforts of their European colonial legacy such as “State Houses“, palaces and mansions with all the colonial paraphernalia. They hire and pay foreign, mainly western, PR firms and communications agencies extortionate sums of money to speak for them; to create favourable public images of them in the eyes of western corridors of power and the public. Put simply, they hire and pay extortionate sums of public resources to seek and buy external – foreign (western) – or colonial validation. But they think this is alright; it’s not and does not amount to colonial “apologism“.
They criticise European colonialism (and/or neo-colonialism) and interference in their affairs; but they happily benefit from colonial legacy and enjoy its privileges. While they complain about imperialism, colonialism and colonial interference; they happily send their own children to western countries they accuse of and criticise for interference and imperialistic (and colonial) agenda, to be educated and be socialised in the western socio-educational value systems. They, therefore, through that act of hypocrisy effectively, albeit, ironically, import cultural imperialism – in the behaviour and values of their children – into their countries they supposedly want to protect from imperialism and foreign interference.
Their lifestyle alone, would constitute enough incriminating evidence, if being an apologist for European colonialism was a punishable crime. They live in colonial inspired State funded opulence, and import everything from western economies – usually each inclined to draw inspiration from (and aspire to) their former colonial masters’ aspirations and way of life.
It goes without asking: how many post-independence African governments built their own so-called “State Houses” and furnish(ed) them with national (local) artefacts and locally made (manufactured) furniture instead of importing everything from their colonial masters’ economies and cultural heritage?