Suffering and Dependence: How Colonialist Discourse Denies African Statehood

This content was originally written for an undergraduate or Master's program. It is published as part of our mission to showcase peer-leading papers written by students during their studies. This work can be used for background reading and research, but should not be cited as an expert source or used in place of scholarly articles/books.

The struggles of post-colonial states are due to enduring colonial influence. In this essay, I will first explore how colonialism in Africa was conducted and how the methods of colonial historiography contributed to a romanticising of its impact. I will then take Cote d’Ivoire as a case study, tracing its fluctuating fortunes after independence and discussing the questions of identity that led to political instability in the 1990s through to 2011. Finally, I will use post-colonial theorists to examine the importance of identity formation in newly independent states and to argue against studies of decolonisation that prioritise economic and political analyses.

On the 30th of June 2020, the Democratic Republic of the Congo celebrated 60 years of independence from Belgium. On the same day, the current King of Belgium, Philippe Léopold Louis Marie, published an open letter to the Congolese President, Félix Tshisekedi, expressing his regret for “acts of violence and cruelty” and “suffering and humiliation”[1] that occurred under Belgian rule. The letter stopped short in acknowledging King Philippe’s ancestor and namesake, King Léopold II, the architect of Belgian expansion in the region under whose reign up to an estimated 15 million Congolese died, and whose actions spawned a term that would enter into the lexicon of international law to describe the most egregious atrocities against a population: ‘crimes against humanity’.[2] Between November 1884 and February 1885, the representatives of 14 European powers gathered in Berlin for the West Africa Conference, where they negotiated rules for trade in the region and the principles by which colonial powers were to claim legal ownership of territory. A new state emerged from the conference, the Congo Free State, which would be privately owned by the Belgian king. Léopold cast himself as a philanthropist bringing justice to Africa: in 1876 he created the International Association for the Exploration and Civilization of Central Africa, organising a group of geographers to survey the area that would eventually become the Free State. At the eve of the Conference in 1884, a Daily Mail article would describe Léopold as having “knit adventurers, traders and missionaries of many races into one band of men (…) to carry into the interior of Africa new ideas of law, order, humanity, and protection of the natives.”[3] This was a common justification for the colonial project: the host of the Berlin Conference, Otto von Bismarck, opened the proceedings with a speech celebrating the ideals of “commerce, Christianity [and] civilisation.”[4] The negotiations culminated with the signing of the Berlin Act in which Article 6 declared a commitment to the “preservation of the native tribes, and to care for the improvement of the conditions of their moral and material well-being, and to help in suppressing slavery,”[5] and “aim at instructing the natives and bringing home to them the blessings of civilisation.”[6]

Léopold guaranteed the Congo Free State as a tax-free trade area open to exchange with all European powers, who were eager to concede the territory without one empire declaring exclusive access to its trade routes and resources. The Congo was rich in rubber, which experienced a boom in demand beginning in the last decade of the 19th century sparked by its increasing use in industry and the invention of the pneumatic tyre. As a resource that could be gathered by local populations without the need for machinery, it “broadened the base of the export trade and brought large numbers of Africans into the international economy for the first time.”[7] In the Congo Free State, rubber harvesting occurred through concessions to private companies who worked in tandem with the state to exploit labour: “[t]he people of the area were to collect wild rubber for the company in lieu of paying taxes to the State. To enforce the collection, the company received rights of police and powers of bodily detention.”[8] The liberalisation of trade and capitalist mode of production incentivised methods to maximise harvesting, leading to the implementation of rubber quotas which resulted in profits so large that an industrialist estimated them to be “perhaps without precedent in the annals of our industrial companies.”[9] These companies, in turn, paid taxes to the state, resulting in vast sums of wealth transferred to Léopold and Belgium.

The quotas were enforced at horrific costs: the failure to meet them was punishable by death, and local forces were ordered to prove that imported ammunition was being used efficiently by presenting the severed hands of those executed under the policy. The severed limbs themselves became part of the rubber tax, creating a trade in hands often perpetrated by locals themselves through incursions into neighbouring villages to satisfy the increasingly unrealistic quotas imposed by the private companies and the State.[10] It also forced local populations away from any other form of industry or agriculture, resulting in an undiversified economy and the destruction of cultural and societal traditions.[11] On paper, the creation of the Congo Free State led to an increase in wealth, participation in the world economy, and the establishment of a centralised, stable political unit. These indicators, however, do not necessarily correlate with positive human outcomes.

While the Congo Free State was one of the most brutal expressions of European colonialism in Africa, the effects of trade liberalisation, resource extraction, and imperial enrichment followed the same pattern by varying degrees. Yet, the colonial era is often romanticised. Contemporary Africa is depicted as a failed continent[12] where “institutional failure, criminality, rising anarchy, piracy, and brutalization of the human body (..) threaten not only the continent and its people, but also ‘civil order’ and the international community,”[13] placing it in opposition to a largely fabled, orderly colonial past. This is in part due to the historiography of colonialism: Gayatri Spivak, one of the foremost intellectuals of post-colonialism, notes that British depictions of its civilising imperial project served the function of reinforcing the crown at home:  “[u]nderstood as England’s social mission, [it] was a crucial part of the cultural representation of England to the English.”[14]

Part of the colonial project was depicting itself as a stabilising influence on uncivilised lands and presenting itself as necessary to their development. This phenomenon was explored by Edward Said in Orientalism, where he noted that colonial power was also exerted through a study of its subjects that was professed to be greater than their knowledge of themselves. Although he focused on Western interpretations of the Orient, Said’s thesis on colonialism travels well to the African context: as with Léopold’s International Association for the Exploration and Civilization of Central Africa and its surveying program which led to the study, definition, and ultimately dominion of the Congo Free State, “within the umbrella of Western hegemony (…) there emerged a complex Orient suitable for study in the academy, for display in the museum, for reconstruction in the colonial office, for theoretical illustration in anthropological, biological, linguistic, racial, and historical theses about mankind and the universe, for instances of economic and sociological theories of development.”[15] As with Léopold, defining a geographical area can also mean claiming ownership of it and administrating it. Through policy study and political and economic reforms, a continuation of this discourse continues to be used today in reference to African states when they are examined as an aggregate of failed, unstable entities, incapable of managing the institutions handed down to them by colonial powers.

The turbulence of some African nations post-independence will be examined by taking the case of Côte d’Ivoire, as its path illustrates some of the troubles that have emerged in post-colonial state formation. Its history since independence has been alternately marked by economic successes and crashes, political stability and civil war, autocracy and democracy, kleptocracy, and an ongoing search for a national identity. 

Côte d’Ivoire gained independence from France on August 7, 1960, under the leadership of Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who would remain as the country’s president for over 30 years of relative stability. However, his death precipitated the volatility and identarian civil war that is often regarded as the trademark downfall of resource-rich African states: this is referred to as the ‘resource curse,’ and the contemporary academic study of the phenomenon is often conducted by way of statistical measures that end their inquiry at the point of finding a correlation between wealth and instability while ignoring the historical context within which this occurs. As an example, a 2014 meta-analysis of 29 studies exploring the relationship between oil reserves and democracy in Sub-Saharan states found a strong negative relationship between oil and democracy but also found that these studies ignored the context of colonialism and international institutions.[16]

To provide an alternative analysis, the travails of Côte d’Ivoire will be examined against the backdrop of the political and social theories of Frantz Fanon. Born under colonial rule and descended from slaves, Fanon was a French West Indian intellectual who was involved with liberation movements during decolonisation.

Fanon explored the conditions under which newly formed nations may devolve into the type of instability and ‘tribalism’ that typifies resource-rich countries: to Fanon, the young national consciousness would fracture if the middle class remained isolated from the lower class and popular rebellion against colonial powers.[17] Former colonial powers created monocultural economies of extraction where raw materials were exported to be transformed into products in European industrial centres, meaning that the “national bourgeoisie of underdeveloped countries is not engaged in production, nor in the invention, nor building, nor labor.”[18]

As weak imitations of the coloniser’s middle class, they held little economic power, formed a smaller number than their European counterparts, and given that much of governance and production was conducted by the foreign state, this class continued to be beholden to the colonist and foreign companies to sustain its position and wealth. Ex-colonial powers fostered corruption to secure access to raw materials as their methods of production relied on the new state’s resources to produce goods, creating a culture of a kleptocracy: this middle class is “canalized into activities of the intermediary type. Its innermost vocation seems to be to keep in the running and to be part of the racket.”[19] As economic development advanced through an exclusive relationship between the former colonial power and the new ruling class, it continued to detach from the material reality of its country and “tends to look toward the former mother country and the foreign capitalists who count on its obliging compliance.”[20] Fanon predicted that this exclusive relationship would create the need for the autocrat: when it becomes apparent that the profits of the new middle class are not shared with the underclass, who do not enjoy “any of the dues that are paid to it by the big foreign companies, it will discover the need for a popular leader to whom will fall the dual role of stabilizing the regime and of perpetuating the domination of the bourgeoisie.”[21]

The rule of Houphouët-Boigny and post-independence Côte d’Ivoire should be examined in this context. He was a successful planter under French rule, and while he did form trade unions to better the working conditions of labourers, this was always done within the French administrative system: he was elected to the French Constituent Assembly in Paris and formed alliances with French political parties. Houphouët-Boigny’s closeness to France can be seen through his initial reluctance to support Ivorian independence: in 1958 the French Community was created, wherein colonies were granted the possibility to vote for independence or join the French Commonwealth. Houphouët-Boigny campaigned for Côte d’Ivoire to remain tied to France for economic reasons rather than looking to create an autonomous Ivorian identity: “He expected French financial and technical support to increase once the Community was up and running.”[22]

Popular pressure pushed him to support full independence and Houphouët-Boigny was then tasked with forming a nation out of the inherited French colonial borders. The area encompassed more than 60 distinct ethnic groups, many of whom had migrated to the area to participate in the growing of Côte d’Ivoire’s principal exports, coffee and cocoa. To consolidate support for the Partí Démocratique de la Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), Houphouët-Boigny systematically co-opted elites across ethnic lines through a patronage system[23] and maintained close-knit economic and political ties to France throughout his presidency.[24]

Houphouët-Boigny’s connections to France and Western powers also manifested themselves in his foreign policy. Having risen through the French colonial power structure and forging connections with the French Communist Party while being a member of the Constituent Assembly, upon his rise to the Presidency he took a marked anti-communist stance, aiding in deposing socialist leaders in the region. When Ghana became the first African state to declare independence in 1957, Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, visited Côte d’Ivoire and called for other African nations to do the same. Houphouët-Boigny responded that due to the connection between the Ivorians and the French and the interdependence of their economies, “it would perhaps be more interesting to try a new and different experience than yours and unique in itself, one of a Franco-African community based on equality and fraternity.”[25] Nkrumah had risen through a movement, which sought to make a clean break with the British Empire and form a national identity. In Africa Must Unite, he wrote that during the push for independence, “[w]e were engaged in a kind of war, a war against poverty and disease, against ignorance, against tribalism and disunity. We needed to secure the conditions which could allow us to pursue our policy of reconstruction and development,”[26] an autochthonous form of socialism merging the creation of cultural identity with Marxist politics.

Ghana became a Mecca for liberation movements and a centre for ideological formation.[27] Houphouët-Boigny allowed conspirators against Nkrumah to use Côte d’Ivoire as a logistical base, and in 1966 he was deposed in a military coup after which Ghana proceeded to align itself with the Western Bloc and a policy of economic liberalisation. Scarcely a month after the coup, IMF and World Bank representatives landed in Accra and proceeded to implement structural adjustment policies and the privatisation of state assets. Ghana opened itself to foreign investment, granting multinational companies extensive concessions including “token rent, generous capital allowances, tax exemptions, remission of import duties, monopolistic conditions of production and pricing (…) as well as state and USAID guarantees against expropriation. The risk was further reduced by the heavy undervaluation of the original assets.”[28]

Houphouët-Boigny was involved in numerous other plots against leftist leaders in the region. He provided armaments in an attempt to depose Ahmed Sékou Touré of Guinea,[29] supported an attempted coup by a French mercenary in Benin,[30] the UNITA party in Angola which precipitated the Angolan Civil War,[31] and participated in the Congo Crisis supporting opponents of Patrice Lumumba;[32] he was sent by the French to support secessionist movements in Biafra[33] and was heavily suspected of involvement in the overthrow and assassination of Thomas Sankara, an anti-imperialist leader who promoted national social, ecological, and economic programmes and resisted IMF and World Bank influence. Under the direction of Paris, Houphouët-Boigny also opened diplomatic relations with the Apartheid government of South Africa, trafficking arms to the state in its conflict with Angola.[34]

In destroying national movements at the behest of colonial powers and to the benefit of international financial capital, Houphouët-Boigny was a blueprint for the authoritarian business leader that Fanon predicted would fail to transform political independence into a national culture:  “[a]s soon as independence is declared (…) the leader will reveal his inner purpose: to become the general president of that company of profiteers.”[35] This capital-based stability did work for a period of time as the Ivorian economy, buoyed by an agricultural boom and foreign investment, grew at close to 8% until the late 1970s,[36] during which the economy was referred to as the ‘Ivorian miracle’ and its economic capital, Abidjan, was dubbed the ‘Paris of Africa’. This enrichment fuelled by foreign capital resulted in excesses and kleptocracy: Houphouët-Boigny established Yamoussoukro, his place of birth, as the new political capital and built four-lane highways, ostentatious government palaces, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, a Catholic church larger than St. Peter’s Basilica.

However, due to the world economic crises of the mid-1970s, by 1980 Côte d’Ivoire was heavily in debt, and by the late 1980s, its economy had collapsed, forcing it to undergo its own IMF structural adjustments. These IMF policies were conducted in numerous African states undergoing debt crises in the 1980s, and in the next decade, African incomes dropped 23% under the programs.[37] Joseph Stieglitz, president of the World Bank in the mid-1990s, would go on to say that while purportedly targeted, the adjustment policies of these institutions were identical across states and aimed at the full liberalisation and foreign ownership of assets and resources, policies that recalled that of 19th-century colonialism.[38] Structural adjustment policies resulted by design in economic collapse, enrichment of Western banks, and the purchase of assets at low cost, Stieglitz stated.[39] Recalling the colonial mindset, foreign forces professed greater knowledge of the African context than African states themselves, and this expertise was used to exert economic and political control. Botswana avoided the problem by expelling both the IMF and the World Bank.[40]

Houphouët-Boigny’s method of control relied on the success of neoliberal economic policies, which Fanon predicted would create a state that was “only an empty shell, a crude and fragile travesty of what it might have been,”[41] and under these conditions, “the leader stands for moral power, in whose shelter the thin and poverty-stricken bourgeoisie of the young nation decides to get rich.”[42] The danger of this form of state creation is that it is embodied by a paternalistic safeguard of the nation: Boigny himself was referred to as Papa Houphouët. As the only outlet for national identity, his death resulted in instability and the fracture of national consciousness.

Shortly before he died in 1993, Houphouët-Boigny anointed Henri Konan Bédié as his successor, who had been the first Chairman of the IMF and World Bank’s joint Development Committee during the crises of the 1970s. In a bid to replace the vacuum of identity left by Houphouët-Boigny, Bédié developed the concept of Ivorité, or Ivorianness, describing the cultural unity of Ivorian nationals. This occurred against a backdrop of a state with numerous ethnicities and nationalities due to the economic policies of Houphouët-Boigny: while the agricultural policies he pursued created a boom in coffee and cocoa production, “labor was in short supply. Consequently, demand for immigrant labor in the coffee and cocoa industries grew,”[43] and Houphouët-Boigny expanded his plantations by turning to the poorer northern region[44], leading to an influx of farmers and cheap labour. He used his connection with northern immigrants to expand his electoral support and sustain his presidency politically.[45] Thus, while he did rise on a platform of Ivorian nationalism,[46] his path to power was buttressed by the political instrumentalization of economic exploitation, and as the economy began to collapse by the end of his presidency he was accused of favouring foreigners over indigenous Ivorians.[47]

Ivorité was used by successive political parties in response to this resentment and to dispose of opposition: after Houphouët-Boigny’s death, Bédié used it to deny Alassane Ouattara, a Muslim from the north, the right to run for the presidency. As 26% of the population was of migrant descent, and a voting block that threatened the post-Houphouët-Boigny PDCI, “ethnic entrepreneurs seeking to challenge the old order led the charge to designate autochthony as a determinant of voting and other citizenship rights,”[48] which later expanded to land rights in 1998, where farmers who could not prove citizenship had their land expropriated. Successive coups revolving around questions of identity eventually led to Laurent Gbabo acceding to power in 2000, and he took Ivorité to yet another extreme: he created the Office of National Identification, a bureaucratic body tasked with determining and tracking individuals’ citizenship rights, validated by citizenship papers.

Ouattara and his supporters interpreted this as an attempt to strip them of citizenship, precipitating a civil war in 2002: a combatant was quoted as saying “[w]e need a war because we need our identity cards. Without an identity card, you are nothing in this country.”[49] Gbagbo retained power by committing to a government of national reconciliation, however, within two years, it had broken down, and the problem of citizenship and land rights was left unresolved. Gbagbo postponed elections between 2005-2010, and when they were held, Ouattara won in a contest that was declared free and fair by international observers. The Constitutional Council, however, declared Gbagbo the winner, precipitating another civil war between the supporters of the two candidates.

Gbagbo was eventually ousted in 2011 and Ouattara finally became president, reforming citizenship laws absent of the concept of Ivorité and including members of each region and tribal origin. Ivorité was the result of a vacuum of identity and the delayed process of self-definition, which then had to be created artificially and was merely an instrument of political control. As Fanon had said, “a national culture is not a folklore, nor an abstract populism that believes it can discover the people’s true nature,”[50] and questions of Ivorian purity were intentionally left open to definition and redefinition according to political interest. Ivorité sprung from the erasure of identity left by colonialism and its lingering structures: Houphouët-Boigny had eschewed cultural state formation by instead perpetuating the colonial economic administration he had risen under. Maintaining close political and economic ties to France and the West, and often at their behest, he participated in the sabotage of other African states’ governments and experiments to create indigenous political experiments, resulting in political instability and the installation of repressive regimes.

Edward Said notes that modern references to the continuing negative legacy of colonialism are often portrayed as ‘victimology’ in order to deny responsibility for the present: “[y]ou have failed, you have gone wrong, says the modern Orientalist.”[51] Failures are attributed to indigenous mismanagement, while there is a reticence “to face the long succession of years through which empire continues to work its way in the lives of, say, Palestinians or Congolese or Algerians or Iraqis. We allow justly that the Holocaust has permanently altered the consciousness of our time: why do we not accord the same epistemological mutation in what imperialism has done?”[52] The view of current Africa as having reached a static endpoint to which a solution is a reintegration into European history is to deny it historical agency and to take Hegel’s view that Africa “is no historical part of the world; it has no movement of development to exhibit. Historical movement in it (…) belongs to the Asiatic or European world.”[53]

The interpretations can be imposed without displacing autochthonous descriptions of the colonial experience. In ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ Spivak takes Antonio Gramsci’s concept of the subaltern – marginalised groups who are denied access to social and economic institutions to deny them political representation – to argue for history to be viewed from the point of view of oppressed groups rather than cultural hegemons. To argue that African states would have benefited by remaining under colonial rule is to relegate African history to a perpetual subset of European history while making the relationship appear objective: “[a]lthough the history of Europe as Subject is narrativized by the law, political economy, and ideology of the West, this concealed Subject pretends it has ‘no geo-political determinations.’”[54] To Spivak, Western analyses of post-colonial states put forth theses, which promote their economic agenda and justify political and economic intervention in the Global South.

For this reason, it is necessary to turn to thinkers to recalibrate discussions of decolonisation and the need to sever ties with colonial powers, and to understand why concepts like Ivorité took hold. Frantz Fanon was concerned with how newly formed nations would create their national identities and the effect that foreign rule had on the individual. Published in 1952, in Black Skin, White Masks, he would reflect on the dehumanising nature of contact with Europeans:

I begin to suffer from not being a white man to the degree that the white man imposes discrimination on me, makes me a colonized native, robs me of all worth, all individuality, tells me that I am a parasite on the world, that I must bring myself as quickly as possible into step with the white world.[55]

Franz Fanon, 73

The colonised cannot coexist with the coloniser without sacrificing personhood; the nature of the relationship between them is irreconcilable, and the continuation of colonialism reinforces not only the inferiority of the subjugated but the superiority of the subjugator. However, he argued that the black individual could use these frustrations of deprived personhood towards liberation: “[t]here is a zone of nonbeing, an extraordinarily sterile and arid region, an utterly naked declivity where an authentic upheaval can be born.”[56]

Fanon was heavily influenced by the concept of ‘Négritude’ articulated by Aimé Césaire, his compatriot, and Léopold Sédar Senghor, Senegal’s first president. Césaire rejected the attitudes of Martinique’s “colored petit-bourgeois” as they displayed a “fundamental tendency to ape Europe.”[57] Initially primarily a literary movement, Négritude described the emergence of black identity separate from the coloniser: “[i]n the darkness of the great silence, a voice was raising up, with no interpreter, no alteration, and no complacency, a violent and staccato voice, and it said for the first time: ‘I, Nègre.’” To Fanon, ‘non-being’ was “hell,”[58] thus Césaire’s declaration of personhood as a black man would form the basis of the construction of a new identity after ‘authentic upheaval’ was sparked. This project would take time: “the explosion will not happen today,”[59] but to Fanon, the irreconcilability of the black individual would and must result in a violent break from colonial rule.

Fanon took Négritude’s rebellious assertion of black identity and merged it with Marxist-Leninist revolutionary politics and analysis of empire. In Imperialism as the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin wrote that  “[c]apitalism has grown into a world system of colonial oppression and of the financial strangulation of the overwhelming majority of the population of the world by a handful of ‘advanced’ countries.”[60] In order to generate more profits than it can obtain in domestic markets, capitalism, by its nature based on expansion and accumulation, will invest in underdeveloped markets and lead to the division of the world into monopolistic business cartels between great powers: the Congo Free State and Leopold’s control over the rubber trade is an expression of this trend. Lenin’s thesis was that competition in imperial exploitation would lead to conflict between the great powers, which was the real cause of the First World War: “[t]his ‘booty’ is shared between two or three powerful world plunderers armed to the teeth (America, Great Britain, Japan), who are drawing the whole world into their war over the division of their booty.”[61] However, the imperialist project also sowed the seeds for revolution: Lenin quotes the Marxist economist Rudolf Hilferding who noted that “capitalism itself gradually provides the subjugated with the means and resources for their emancipation and they set out to achieve the goal which once seemed highest to the European nations: the creation of a united national state as a means to economic and cultural freedom.”[62] The economic benefits of colonialism were only positive in that they created the possibility of colonial overthrow and state formation.

Fanon became a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front to take up arms against France. To Fanon, the Algerian War of Independence was not only constitutive of the new state but also of a new national culture which had to be created out of the artificial lines of colonial partition: “[t]o fight for national culture means in the first place to fight for the liberation of the nation, that material keystone which makes the building of a culture possible.”[63] A new nationalism based on identity-creation by the colonised, instead of the coloniser, would spring from the very act of rebellion as populations experienced revolutionary struggle. This did not only extend to those who took up arms, as Fanon saw the national culture as “the whole body of efforts made by a people in the sphere of thought to describe, justify, and praise the action through which that people has created itself and keeps itself in existence.”[64]

Independence movements, then, were not constituted only for the improvements in the standards of living of the colonised, nor only against the repressive political systems as such: they were wars of assertions of personhood and identity that they had been deprived of by colonial rule, and the natural expressions of the irreconcilable relationship between oppressed and oppressor. Thus, when viewed from the perspective of a subaltern history one can say that to a degree, whether African states struggled or not following the creation of these states is somewhat of a moot point: to suggest that a continuation or return to colonialism would have been beneficial by focussing on economic or political indicators is to misunderstand both the anti-imperialist motive and the nature of colonialism itself, and to deny African states the possibility to participate in history. In Côte d’Ivoire instability, kleptocracy, and the effects it had upon the population did not happen because colonialism ended. They happened because Côte d’Ivoire did not make a clean break with France at independence: Houphouët-Boigny perpetuated the economic structures of colonial administration with the support of its former coloniser.

Fanon had said that “the destruction of the colonial world is no more and no less that the abolition of one zone, its burial in the depths of the earth or its expulsion from the country,”[65] not the substitution of one bourgeoisie for its sympathiser. Romanticised views of pre-independence stability are based on the historiography of the coloniser that needed to both exert power over the colonised and narrate its own virtues. The trend in academic and policy study which focuses on economic indicators does serve a purpose but also contributes to claims of superior knowledge than African states have of themselves. This results in the imposition of exogenous economic measures and political change that, as with the IMF and World Bank adjustment programs, does not lead to promised outcomes: Altbach views this process as a characteristic of neo-colonialism which is “more subtle and includes the use of foreign technical advisors on matters of policy and the continuation of foreign administrative models.”[66] To question decolonisation is to perpetuate the Hegelian notion of Africa’s historical immobility, and this can only be shed by the complete overthrow of the settler: “[t]he immobility to which the native is condemned can only be called in question if the native decides to put an end to the history of colonization — the history of pillage — and to bring into existence the history of the nation — the history of decolonization.”[67]


[1] “King Philippe Expresses ‘Regret for Violence and Cruelty’ in DR Congo during Colonial Rule,” Deutsche Welle, accessed July 2, 2020,

[2] Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (Boston: Mariner, 1999), 96.

[3] Thomas Pakenham, The Scramble for Africa (London: Abacus, 2015), 342.

[4] Ibid., 356.

[5] Robin Brooke-Smith, Documents and Debates: The Scramble for Africa (London: Macmillan Education, 1987), 41.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Robert Harms, “The End of Red Rubber: A Reassessment,” The Journal of African History 16, no. 1 (1975), 73.

[8] Ibid., 78.

[9] Ibid., 81.

[10] Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost, 164–165.

[11] David Van Reybrouck and Sam Garrett, Congo: The Epic History of a People (London: Fourth Estate, 2015), 94.

[12] John M Fobanjong, State of the Continent: A Mid-Century Assessment of Political Performance in Africa (Spears Media Press, 2018), 51.

[13] Kenneth C. Omeje and Dauda Abubakar, “Africa in World Politics and the Political Economy of Postcoloniality,” in The Crises of Postcoloniality in Africa (Dakar: CODESRIA, 2015), 45.

[14] Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism,” Critical Inquiry 12, no. 1 (1985), 243.

[15] Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin Books, 2003), 8.

[16] Anar K. Ahmadov, “Oil, Democracy, and Context,” Comparative Political Studies 47, no. 9 (2013), 1265.

[17] Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 149.

[18] Ibid., 149.

[19] Ibid., 150.

[20] Ibid., 165.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Edmond J. Keller, Identity, Citizenship, and Political Conflict in Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014), 92-93.

[23] Ibid., 94.

[24] Abdul Rahman. Lamin, The Conflict in Côte D’Ivoire: South Africa’s Diplomacy, and Prospects for Peace (Midrand, South Africa: Institute for Global Dialogue, 2005), 8.

[25] Pierre Nandjui, Houphouët-Boigny: L’homme De La France En Afrique (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1995), 167.

[26] Kwame Nkrumah Africa Must Unite: Kwame Nkrumah (London: Heinemann, 1963).

[27] Boni Yao Gebe, “Ghana’s Foreign Policy at Independence and Implications for the 1966 Coup D’État,” The Journal of Pan African Studies 2, no. 3 (March 2008), 179.

[28] Eboe Hutchful, IMF and Ghana: The Confidential Record (London: Zed Books, 1990), 32.

[29] Nandjui, Houphouët-Boigny, 169.

[30] Ibid., 188.

[31] Ibid., 212.

[32] Ibid., 150.

[33] Ibid., 182.

[34] Wauthier, Claude. “Jacques Foccart Et Les Mauvais Conseils De Félix Houphouët-Boigny.” Les Cahiers du Centre de recherches historiques, no. 30 (2002).

[35] Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 166.

[36] Keller, Identity, 93.

[37]Gregory Palast, “IMF’s Four Steps to Damnation,” The Guardian, April 29, 2001,

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 148

[42] Ibid., 166.

[43] Keller, Identity,90.

[44] Ibid., 91.

[45] Ibid., 92.

[46] Lamin, The Conflict in Côte D’Ivoire,9.

[47] Keller, Identity, 94.

[48] Ibid., 96.

[49] Ibid., 99.

[50] Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 233.

[51] Ibid., xvii.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Philosophy of History (Kitchener, Ont.: Batoche, 2001), 117.

[54] Cary Nelson, Lawrence Grossberg, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (Basingstoke: Macmillan Education, 1988), 271.

[55] Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Charles Lam Markmann (London: Pluto Press, 2017) , 73.

[56] Ibid., 2.

[57] Aimé Césaire and Françoise Vergès, Nègre Je Suis, Nègre Je Resterai (Paris: Albin Michel, 2005), 19.

[58] Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, 2.

[59] Ibid., 1.

[60] Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (Marxists Internet Archive, n.d.),

[61] Ibid.  

[62] Ibid.

[63] Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove, 2002), 233.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Ibid., 41.

[66] Philip G Altbach, “Education and Neocolonialism,” in The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, ed. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin (London: Routledge, 1995), 452.

[67] Ibid., 51.


Ahmadov, Anar K. “Oil, Democracy, and Context.” Comparative Political Studies 47, no. 9 (2013): 1238–67.

Altbach, Philip G. “Education and Neocolonialism.” Essay. In The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, edited by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, 452–56. London: Routledge, 1995.

Brooke-Smith, Robin. Documents and Debates: The Scramble for Africa. London: Macmillan Education, 1987.

Césaire, Aimé, and Françoise Vergès. Nègre Je Suis, Nègre Je Resterai. Paris: Albin Michel, 2005.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Translated by Charles Lam Markmann. London: Pluto Press, 2017.

———. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove, 2002.

Fobanjong, John M. State of the Continent: A Mid-Century Assessment of Political Performance in Africa. Spears Media Press, 2018.

Gebe, Boni Yao. “Ghana’s Foreign Policy at Independence and Implications for the 1966 Coup D’État.” The Journal of Pan African Studies 2, no. 3 (March 2008): 160–86.

Harms, Robert. “The End of Red Rubber: A Reassessment.” The Journal of African History 16, no. 1 (1975): 73–88.

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. The Philosophy of History. Kitchener, Ont.: Batoche, 2001.

Hochschild, Adam. King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Boston: Mariner, 1999.

Hutchful, Eboe. IMF and Ghana: The Confidential Record. London: Zed Books, 1990.

Keller, Edmond J. Identity, Citizenship, and Political Conflict in Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014.

“King Philippe Expresses ‘Regret for Violence and Cruelty’ in DR Congo during Colonial Rule.” Deutsche Welle. Accessed July 2, 2020.

Lamin, Abdul Rahman. The Conflict in Côte D’Ivoire: South Africa’s Diplomacy, and Prospects for Peace. Midrand, South Africa: Institute for Global Dialogue, 2005.

Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich. Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Marxists. Marxists Internet Archive, n.d.

Nandjui, Pierre. Houphouët-Boigny: L’homme De La France En Afrique. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1995.

Nelson, Cary, Lawrence Grossberg, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Essay. In Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, 271–316. Basingstoke: Macmillan Education, 1988.

Nkrumah, Kwame. Africa Must Unite: Kwame Nkrumah. London: Heinemann, 1963.

Omeje, Kenneth C., and Dauda Abubakar. “Africa in World Politics and the Political Economy of Postcoloniality.” Essay. In The Crises of Postcoloniality in Africa, 45–63. Dakar: CODESRIA, 2015.

Pakenham, Thomas. The Scramble for Africa. London: Abacus, 2015.

Palast, Gregory. “IMF’s Four Steps to Damnation.” The Guardian, April 29, 2001.

Reybrouck, David Van, and Sam Garrett. Congo: The Epic History of a People. London: Fourth Estate, 2015.

Said, Edward W. Orientalism. London: Penguin Books, 2003.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism.” Critical Inquiry 12, no. 1 (1985): 243–61.

Wauthier, Claude. “Jacques Foccart Et Les Mauvais Conseils De Félix Houphouët-Boigny.” Les Cahiers du Centre de recherches historiques, no. 30 (2002).

Further Reading on E-International Relations

Please Consider Donating

Before you download your free e-book, please consider donating to support open access publishing.

E-IR is an independent non-profit publisher run by an all volunteer team. Your donations allow us to invest in new open access titles and pay our bandwidth bills to ensure we keep our existing titles free to view. Any amount, in any currency, is appreciated. Many thanks!

Donations are voluntary and not required to download the e-book - your link to download is below.


Get our weekly email