Tajudeen revisits the issue of colonialism and its lingering aftermath

Last Monday I participated in a segment of the BBC  discussion Programme ' Four Corners'. The topic I  discussed with two other guests (one Portuguese and the other from Netherlands) was whether relationship between former colonies and former colonial masters
can ever be rid of Master-servant complexes. The
immediate stimulus for the discussion is the tragic
situation that has been long unfolding in that former
shining star of former French colonies on the West
Coast of Africa, Cote d'Ivoire.  Needless to say that the three of us had divergent
views (that's the whole purpose of a multi sided
discussion, isn't it?).  But our disagreements were
not principally due to the obvious on everybody's mind, i.e. that because the other two were Europeans and  myself an African, one belonging to victims and the other a
descendant of perpetrators therefore objective and subjective
contradictions. No. We were all opposed to colonialism
and agreed too that the consequences were generally
bad for the victims regardless of who the colonizer
was. But that's where the agreement stopped.

Our differences emerged as a result of what is happening today and what can be done. Both Europeans were rather sanguine about the impact of history on
contemporary relations between the former colonies and their erstwhile colonial subjects. The Portuguese see no direct influence for his country as could be found
in former British or French colonies. Maybe because
the Portuguese were the first to arrive in Africa and
the last to be chased out! The Dutch also felt his
country had no much control in their former colonies.
Both of them however see moral and
political responsibility to intervene in their former
colonies. The Portuguese chap even argued that but
for Portugal who cared about Guinea-Bissau or Cape
Verde? When I retorted that even if both countries
were not important internationally or even regionally
they mattered to Cape Verdians and people of
Guinea-Bissau the man was still relentless finally
quipping that he was not even sure about that!  A few
seconds later he realized the incongruity of his
colonialist template by qualifying the absurd claim
with I don't think the elite care’. But the Genie was already out of the bottle. So powerful and consuming is the latter day missionary fervor of many in the
West that they actually believe that they care more
about Africa than Africans themselves. This ideology
of being more catholic than the pope is so pervasive
that even many Africans share in it.
On the surface the argument is so beguiling and
dressed in humanitarian concerns it is most seductive.
But it is only a latter day repackaging of the old  imperialist white man's burden’.
The relationship between former colonies and their
former colonial masters need not necessarily be a
continuing repackaging of the same colonial attitudes
through neo-colonialism or present real threatening
recolonisation. Looking at the relationship between
Britain and the USA today especially Tony Blair’s
America right or wrong servitude to Bush many would
have forgotten that America used to be a colony of the British. The relationship between Britain and the former White colonies of New Zealand, Australia and
Canada are also different. And yes too relationship
with India is different say from that with Gambia or
Sierra-Leone. Even within Africa I do not think that
Britain can be presumptouos enough ton take South
Africa or Nigeria's cooperation for granted. The
Italians can never dream of controlling Libya which is their former colony. And the French or the Belgians cannot walk like former masters across present day

What makes African countries vulnerable to continuing
manipulation by former colonial powers is their
essentially unviable nature built as they were to
serve foreign interests and mostly lacking in organic
linkages and legitimacy among the peoples forcibly
brought together in these artificial states.  But more
than the economic linkages and in many countries
security and intelligence network residual colonialist
ideology on both sides help in retaining metropolitan
hold. This is certainly more evident in in many of the
former French colonies where the added burden of
French cultural policy of assimilation made
many of their elite to think they are French. It must
be said that there are so many elite in the former
British colonies too who regard themselves as and
mimic the English in many ridiculous ways including
confused middle class elements who refuse to speak
African mother tongue to their children even in the
home because they feared their English will suffer.
But generally the colonial cultural project seems more
complete in former French colonies. That was why
France has always had far greater neo-colonialist
influence in her former colonies. But in recent years
it has gone into retreat but old habits die hard
hence the current situation in Ivory Coast. But that
mess is made messier by the fact that Laurent Gbagbo's
government and his leadership is that of a genocidaire
yet to be put on trial.  However that situation can only be sorted out by the
Ivorians themselves , their sub regional neighbours,
the African Union and support of the international
community. A positive role for former colonialists is
one in which they support African efforts  if and when
asked and as desired by the Africans not to justify
continuing imperialism with the need to do something’Too many times that something has turned out to be nothing but old fashioned imperialism in new robes.