The Berlin conference where no African was present to divide Africa
The Berlin conference in one way or another is Africa’s undoing. The colonial powers superimposed their domination in Africa. Even after the independence in 1950s and 1960s the post-independence Africa reality up to date is in mess in terms of human catastrophe.
In 1884, at the request of German chancellor Otto von Bismark called together the major western powers of the world to negotiate how and end confusion over the control of Africa. German appreciated the fact and need to expand Germany’s influence over Africa.
At the time of the conference, 80% of Africa remained under traditional and local control. What resulted from the conference is today’s hodgepodge of geometric boundaries that divide Africa up to 50 countries. The new countries lacked rhyme or reason and divided coherent community and merged together incoherent community who really didn’t get along.
Fourteen African countries were represented by a plethora of ambassadors when the conference opened in Berlin on November 15, 1884. The countries represented at that time were, Austria-Hungry, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from1814 to 1905), Turkey and United States of America. Of these 14 nations, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal were the major players in the conference, controlling most of the colonial Africa at the time.
The initial task of the conference was to agree that the Congo River and Niger mouths and basins would be considered free to trade hence neutral. Despite of its being free, part of the Congo Basin became a personal kingdom for Belgium’s King Leopold II. Under his rule, over half of the region’s population died.
At the time of conference, only the coastal areas of Africa were colonized by the European powers. At the Berlin Conference, the European scrambled to the interior to gain control. The conference lasted until February 26, 1885, a three months period.
By that period, colonial powers divided Africa, disregarding the cultural and linguistic boundaries already established by the indigenous Africans.
By 1914, the conference participants had fully divided Africa among themselves into 50 countries.