How African nationalism made Africans more racist than ever

Demonstrators hold up a Pan-African flag to protest the killing of teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 12, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo.

Colonialism is often called the ultimate “accident of history” when it comes to the development of Africa. Little do we know that African nationalism, its direct response was also the ultimate catastrophe for the mental evolution of the citizens. Without even noticing it, we have been dealing with the improbable consequences and trauma left by the waves of decolonization. The horrific murders of the leaders and the political troubles which followed the early days of “freedom” are still haunting the memories of those who lived it. These problems and orchestrated wars were always explained by the evil games played by the European colonizers along with their African pawns. Actually, the issues were way deeper than that.

Out of anger, as they faced a century of torture and abuse, the leaders asked for an immediate rupture with the colonizers without understanding that the division, the crime were deeper than they thought. It encomprised the theft of the land, the name changes, but above all the frontiers. The real rebellion could have been showcased by a geographical re-thinking of the continent. For instance, the original name of the continent “Africa” is problematic for that appellation “Ifrikiya” only referred to North Africa and not the entire continent. The Ancient Greeks used to call the unknown parts of Africa, Aethiopia. Yet, we still ignore how our ancestors really named the land, and if they saw it as a whole body of land or a divided territory? It is true that the Ancient Egyptians would call it “Kemet” but this is also an attempt to exclude all the other African civilizations millions of modern Africans descend from today for not all of us had Egyptian forefathers.

African nationalism was the direct response to centuries of oppression and colonialism. It could be interpreted as the political expression of the suppressed African body against the colonial dominant figure whether Belgian, Portuguese, British, Spanish or French. Yet, if the majority of the African countries had had access to independence in the very early 1960s, many nations fell into uncertainty and total chaos. The failed independence of the Belgian Congo, symbolized by the murder of prime minister Patrice Lumumba, the different rebellion groups which came later and the beginning of thirty-two year dictatorship under Marechal Mobutu in 1965, are one among many examples which illustrate our point. What was supposed to be the beginning of a new day without the oppressor was eventually a living hell for many traumatized Africans.

All these events combined have reinforced a feeling of nationalism within the heart of Africans, depending on the country they originally came from. In the name of the fight for the freedom of the nations and the martyrdom of the leaders pride in nations are being displayed.

Angolan pride/Pinterest

In reality, the main problem regarding the decolonial period in the Mother Land takes root in the lack of understanding of colonialism itself. Indeed, African nationalism flows from one individual’s pride in their country or nation. Yet, a real process to decolonize should have also taken place geographically. The majority of modern day African countries were colonial fabrications with new names attributed to them. The colonial forces have crushed the ancient African conception of geography to impose their own on a continent which was never theirs. The ancient Africans did not recognise frontiers as such but established them through the spread of bodies in a given space. Before the period of colonialism which followed the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, though the people could fight one another, they would also coexist as one same group.

One of the most horrible tragedies in the 20th century must have been embodied by the Rwandan genocide. The Watusi were always nomads who spread all along the Great Lakes region until the eastern part of the Congo. The borders established by German and Belgian colonizers crushed them to the core. Those living in the eastern part of the Congo have been excluded, called invaders, “Rwandans” and faced the racism of the others.

Why did Hutu and Tutsi hate each other so much that 20% of Rwanda  population were murdered in the Rwandan Genocide? - Quora
No caption needed

The brutality faced by the Rwandan Watusi by their Bantu peers reveals that the fabrication of fake frontiers have enhanced a serious issue related to inner African racism and disdain. If the Latin colonizers did put an emphasis on the creations of several racial categories depending on the race mixing of the individuals in Latinized America, the Belgians and Germans favored the culture of apartheid and divided the colonized Africans regarding the facial phenotypes. The Watusi wrongly called “Caucasoid” were attributed more power by the colonizers over the Wahutu, the Bantu. The white colonizers did consider the Watusi to be more beautiful than their peers due to their features. Therefore, today, in the name of African nationalism and pride, many modern Congolese violently promote a racial supremacy of the Bantu over those who do not look like them at all.

The great lie relies on the fact that millions of Africans consider their origin to have taken place within the fraudulent states created by the colonizers. As African nationalism puts a dysfunctional emphasis on a oneness centered around one identity, it has contributed to the erasure of fluidity and understanding. Africans no longer understand geography because of nationalism and their frontiers. A Cameroonian would be surprised to discover that most of his DNA comes from Nigeria for he was raised to ignore the fact that Africans were never static but always moved.

Africa was not only isolated from the political life of Europe but it was also excluded from the academic world as historians consider the continent to be a unique still block. Therefore, all issues adressed in Europe concerning immigration, population growth, economy, race-mixing, mental health are deeply ignored within the study of the continent. Colonialism did crush the Africans but the period which followed the decolonial era made them even more ignorant to the others and themselves.

A Malian could consider a Senegalese to be a stranger, when the two entities have always been, historically speaking, the same group. The same confusion is present in the Maghreb, North Africa, a region which has been plagued by endless waves of colonialisms which even whitewashed the peoples. Though constituted by different ethnic groups, many North Africans hope to accentuate a difference between Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians, when in reality, they belong to the same era and their influence could also be found in West Africa, Northern Cameroon and the North of the Democratic Republic of Congo where several groups of Imazigh Berbers are found as well.

The future of the UK's relationship with the Maghreb | Middle East Institute
Algerian pride/Middle East Institute

Many African nations fell into a civil war right after the independence for the depths of colonialism were never explored. As the countries were falsely fabricated, the colonizers, refusing to respect the delimitation of the people and their bodies, indirectly forced several groups which had nothing to do with one another in the past to live together. In that sense, many leaders hoped to free a fabricated nation thinking colonialism would have brought people together. Actually, these Africans did not know each other at all and some never felt an attachment to the fabricated nation. The quest for independence from the Katanga was one of many problems as well. Especially when ethnic groups in Africa constitute a single nation themselves.

The Kongo Empire was constituted by the modern day nations of Gabon, northern Angola, Congo-Brazzaville and the southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Yet, due to the improbable colonial period and nationalism, an individual originally from the eastern part of the Congo, who could have more proximity to Rwanda or Uganda culturally, has been forced to be closer to a kingdom, that of the Kongo, which was never his at all. Interestingly, the modern day Gabonese are so damaged by French colonialism that they forget that, they too, were the original Kongo people. They would rather hold racist views against the Congolese and tap into their Gabonese pride out of confusion.

The colonization of the continent was always way more complicated than that of Cabo-Verde. Indeed, the islands were inhabited before until deported Africans who had lost their heritage originally and who, over the years developed a new culture in a new space which gave birth to the modern day Cabo-Verde, were brought there. However, the colonization of the interior of Africa was more complicated. There, millions of people with a background, different languages, musical skills, cultures and phenotypes were reduced to one single stock, when they had a past before the arrival of the Europeans.

African nationalism was more problematic than a salvation as it also put an emphasis on the rejection of those who do not look like the norm. Nationalism in itself always evolves around one single ethnic group which decides over who is a real inhabitant of the land, or not. In that sense, it greatly contributed to self-hatred as millions of Africans, who were immigrants from nearby countries, decided to deny their original roots to fit in a new society where they decided to move to. This clanism accentuated inner racism, and the disdain of some groups over the others, which could also be reinforced by the contempt towards the most Negroid phenotypes, a thought perpetuated by the Germans and the Belgians.

Nationalism was a new way to reappropriate a false identity attributed by other entities and build a strength upon it, all the while forgetting about our past. Worst. A great part of the continent had been colonized for centuries before the modern Europeans took a hold on it in 1492. Since then, the geographical confusion had already taken place. Most Africans from the past did not recognize the frontiers like the Europeans do. Their bodies were the indication of where and when to stop regarding the presence of other people’s in a given sphere.

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