29 March 2012

How African countries got their borders

In 1884 at the request of Portugal, German Chancellor Otto von Bismark called together the major western powers of the world to negotiate questions and end confusion over the control of Africa. Bismark appreciated the opportunity to expand Germany's sphere of influence over Africa and desired to force Germany's rivals to struggle with one another for territory.

The Berlin Conference was Africa's undoing in more ways than one. The colonial powers superimposed their domains on the African Continent. By the time Africa regained its independence after the late 1950s, the realm had acquired a legacy of political fragmentation that could neither be eliminated nor made to operate satisfactorily. The African politico-geographical map is thus a permanent liability that resulted from the three months of ignorant, greedy acquisitiveness during a period when Europe's search for minerals and markets had become insatiable.

At the time of the conference, 80% of Africa remained under Native Traditional and local control.

Fourteen countries were represented by a plethora of ambassadors when the conference opened in Berlin on November 15, 1884 by the imperial chancellor and architect of the German Empire, Otto von Bismarck to settle the political partitioning of Africa. Bismarck wanted not only to expand German spheres of influence in Africa but also to play off Germany's colonial rivals against one another to the Germans' advantage. The countries represented at the time included Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814-1905), Turkey, and the United States of America. Of these fourteen nations, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal were the major players in the conference, controlling most of colonial Africa at the time...

Following the conference, the give and take continued. By 1914, the conference participants had fully divided Africa among themselves into fifty unnatural and artificial States. 
Here is a precolonial map:

Excerpted from an extensive discussion at Africa Federation, via fyeahblackhistory.


  1. And divide and conquer within those colonies as well as exploiting differences among the colonized was the rule. It's not wonder that it's been so hard for Africans to recover.

  2. One question that I have asked is why has recent African history been so violent and bloody, especially as compared to earlier European conflicts. Having asked that, I have come to the conclusion that it is because of three major reasons, first the weapons available to the combatants. Up in Europe, the combatants were limited to either swords and related weapons in the earliest periods, or single shot muskets in the more recent periods. Both mean that it is much harder to kill someone in the first place, and it makes it easier to defend yourself from an aggressor.

    A second reason is the media. Earlier European conflicts have been somewhat cleansed of the more bloody and unsavory aspects of the conflict, whereas we can see and more immediately react to current African conflicts.

    And third and finally is because of European Colonialism, which (in the Middle East) placed the Kurds in at least two separate nations, this happened all over Africa, with some tribes being split between three or more nations. This both meant that the members of one tribe in Nation #1 cannot receive the support of it's natural ally, the members of the same tribe in Nation #2, and that both sections of the tribe will be forced to fight against more opponents then would have otherwise occurred naturally.


  3. You only have to look at how Belgium ruled Rwanda to see how colonial ruling tactics would give birth to extreme violence:



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