Comparing the Legacies of Pre-Colonial and Colonial Times of Rwanda and Eritrea

Eritrea and Rwanda are both considerably small in size comparatively to other African nations and while both had emotionally scaring instability throughout the late 20th century fueled by colonialism, Rwanda has had considerably more recent success than its counter part due in part to its political independence created and sustained through out the pre-colonial and colonial period.

Eritrea and Rwanda pre-colonial situations not only varied geographically but politically as well due to its location within Africa. Eritrea, made up of rough and rigid mountains, fostered basic nomadic and agricultural tribes. These pre-colonial locals faced the same geographically horrid conditions as the British and Italian soldiers did centuries later, as Wrong describes in “I Didn’t do it for You”. The environment to create and expand a cohesive Eritrea homeland was not available. The lack of nationality and cohesiveness would lead the country to it’s eventual annexation to Ethiopia and the bloody conflicts that would follow.

Rwanda on the other hand definitely had the better end of the stick geographically as the pre-colonial kingdom lay on fertile and resource-abundant soil among its famous hills. The better off country, also known as the land of a thousand hills, developed a very complex hierarchical system, later known as the Hutu’s and Tutsi’s. Pre-colonially, Rwanda’s intricate pre-colonial political system also carried diplomatic traits Smith described in his writings “Peace and Palaver: International Relations in Pre-Colonial West Africa”. But Rwanda’s hierarchical system would eventually set the country up for a devastating genocide between the stratified classes . Overall, while small countries, Eritrea and Rwanda’s pre-colonial geography and politics significantly differed as Rwanda held a much more politically sound structure to its control of the kingdom due to its isolated yet resource abundant lands.

Due to the pre-colonial legacy of each country, the colonial times proved to be worse for the disorganized, politically weak state of Eritrea than it did for the structured kingdom of Rwanda. The approach that the Italians made to colonizing though, played a large role in the impact the European oppression had on the Eritreans. Italy chose a very direct way to rule and tried to create a state to house its Italian population. The Germans and eventually the Belgium’s took a very indirect approach to maintaining Rwanda’s kingdom. Since Rwanda already had the system of government set up, the Belgium’s emphasized the stratified classes to extract more resources but overall had very little direct impact with the country. Both colonial rulers stirred bitterness within the local populations of Eritrea and Rwanda. The Belgium’s, due to the pre-colonial structure of the Rwandan kingdom, just choose to do it more indirectly than the Italians in Eritrea.

The colonial legacy, not to be confused with time period, shares many more similarities between Rwanda and Eritrea. While the overall rule of colonialism affected Eritrea much more harshly than Rwanda, the legacy and ripples that the colonialist left led each country to eventual conflict. Both countries continued their struggle for stability and peace during the 1990′s in thanks to the devastating waves their colonial occupiers created and left behind. In 1994, Rwanda was faced with a countrywide civil war that led to one of the worst genocides in history. In 1993, Eritrea had been in a continuous battle for independence from their Ethiopian suppressors who had taken over after the colonialists left.  Each country’s European oppressors left the countries locals with a bitter taste and fired the eventual conflicts that would shake the nation forever.

 

  • Appiah, A., & Gates, H. L. (2010). Encyclopedia of africa. New York: Oxford University Press Oxford ; New York.
  • Wrong, Michela. I Didn’t Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. Print.
  • Smith, Robert. “Peace and Palaver: International Relations in Pre-colonial West Africa.” The Journal of African History 14.04 (1973)
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Pre-colonial and colonial legacies: Eritrea and Uganda

Unlike Eritrea, whose strategic location on the Red Sea made the country both easily accessible and desirable to European colonizers, Uganda’s location in the central African lake region meant that contact with the outside world was relatively late compared with the rest of Africa. The growing demand for ivory during the mid 19th century lead traders further inland into the central regions of the continent, including what is modern-day Uganda. Eritrea, on the other hand, given its geopolitical status, was seen as a strategic colonial opportunity for Italy, who was interested in building its empire and needed more influence in the African scramble.

Eritrea and Uganda experienced vastly different colonial periods, and this has had significant and lasting implications on the post-colonial legacies for each nation. Uganda’s strong political associations prior to British interest as well as local chiefs’ willingness to cooperate enabled the British to establish a mostly hands-off form of indirect rule in which existing chiefs retained power and allowed Uganda to remain mostly autonomous. In fact, Uganda was never officially a British colony, but rather a protectorate. Additionally, the fact that Uganda was fairly inaccessible during early British influence meant there was little incentive for European immigration there, and much of the political and economical power remained in the hands of the native Bugandans. This protectorate status, in addition to the strong organizational systems that already existed, allowed Uganda to have a smoother and more stable transition to a democracy in its post-independence period. Italy’s colonial presence in Eritrea, on the other hand, was much stricter and subverted all existing local political authority. Direct rule, significant European settlement, and an essentially apartheid legal structure rendered native Eritreans powerless during the colonial era. This exclusion from political organization significantly affected the post-colonial legacy of Eritrea, during which it took decades of violent struggle to finally establish an independent and autonomous government.

The differences in international interests between these two countries also had important consequences in the legacies of each nation. The British seized Eritrea from Italy during WWII, and subsequently the country was annexed by Ethiopia. Consequently, Eritrea had to fight years of devastating war to earn its independence back from Ethiopia, after which it was in a fragile position after not having had self-rule for over a century. Uganda, on the contrary, was essentially granted its independence by the British in the 1950’s, and the British even established the Uganda Development Corporation to help the nation’s transition both politically and economically.

This is not to say that Uganda did not experience its share of violent political conflicts after gaining its independence. Democracy lasted for a few years, but in 1971, a military coup was staged and Prime Minister Obote was ousted. Idi Amin, who had led the coup, established himself as the new president and gave himself absolute power. He ruled for almost a decade, in what is referred to as a “reign of terror,” during which there was severe civil unrest and violence, and it is estimated that over 100,000 Ugandans were killed. He was finally overthrown in 1979, when a democracy was reestablished. Since then, although it has been inconsistent, Uganda has been on a mostly positive trajectory towards democracy and reestablishing strong political and economic institutions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Uganda

http://countrystudies.us/uganda/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14112446

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eritrea#History

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Eritrea and Namibia

Eritrea and Namibia (German South-West Africa) had very similar history in terms of colonization. Firstly, they were both colonized by fascist regimes during the scramble for the continent (Italy and Germany). This led to the framework of a brutal, even more discriminatory form of colonialism than that of the other colonizers.

 

Both Italy and Germany had a direct role in the colonization of the two countries, meaning that they pretty much ran the country themselves with colonial officers. This led Italian and German settlers into Eritrea and Namibia.

 

The settlers’ treatment of the natives of both countries was absolutely horrid. In Eritrea, although Martini spent a lot of Italian taxpayer money on the infrastructure in Eritrea, including starting the Eritrea railway, the rift and hatred between the settlers and the natives just never stopped growing, plus Martini never had the good intentions of actually helping the natives, but he wanted to leave a legacy behind in his name, claiming himself as “I am the Colony” (pg. 63 Wrong). The fascist period when Mussolini was in power was when the rift between the two groups was the largest. He would only allow people to have four years of education to prevent the breeding of intellectuals, which in turn will prevent rebellions. Furthermore, laws were made which caused segregated the two races even more. There would even be a different line for the two races at the post office.

 

Both colonizers at the time believed in Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection and survival of the fittest, which they used to justify the laws and the massacres. The German massacre of the Herero tribesmen in South West Africa is an example of one of the massacres where 65,000 Hereros (80% of the population) were killed by the Germans. The racial laws that were adapted in South Africa, which Namibia or South-West Africa was apart of at the time were similarly callous to that of Eritrea. Both countries used systems of forced labor. In Eritrea white settlers were encouraged to take land from the locals and make them work under slavery-like conditions, while in Namibia the Germans created labor camps, which probably gave them the idea for a concentration camps in World War II.

 

What is even more strikingly similar between Eritrea and Namibia is that: After colonization ended at around World War II, the countries were handed to their neighbors, and they only got their full independence in the 90s, making these two countries some of the newest countries in the world along with North and South Sudan.

 

The colonial impacts of the colonizers are still felt in the two countries. One of the biggest problems is education, where since, like in Eritrea, you were allowed four years of school during the colonial period, makes the people of the country very unskilled. Without skills, you are unable to diversify and build infrastructure, but even worse, without education it will be hard for you to educate the next generation, thus the countries are still considered third-world countries today.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Namibia#European_influence_and_colonisation

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/1514856.stm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Eritrea#Italian_occupation_of_Massawa_and_formation_of_the_colony

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Comparing Eritrea and Zimbabwe

Harry Russell

 

Eritrea vs. Zimbabwe

 

In pre-colonial times, Eritrea was part of the Abyssinia Empire believed to have stretched from modern-day Ethiopia throughout the Horn of Africa. Because of competing regional powers and invading armies on all sides, in the 16th century the territory along the coast was lost to the Ottomans Empire. At the same time Zimbabwe, was ruled as a Shona state by the strong hand of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe which became the Kingdom of Mutapa. The Kingdom was renowned for its strategic trade routes with the Arabs and the Portuguese. When the Portuguese tried to monopolize the trade route, they were violently expelled by the newly emerged Rozwi Empire.

By the end of the 19th century and the arrival of Cecil Rhodes British South Africa Company, the Rozwi had merged with other clans to form the Ndebele clan who ruled over a large portion of modern-day Zimbabwe in what was known as Matabeleland. In the 1890s Rhodes sent various groups of well-armed Europeans and British South Africa police to fight a war against the Ndebele so that he could establish company rule. By 1898, the war had been won and the territory was renamed Southern Rhodesia. This is in contrast to Eritrea where the Italians were met with little violent resistance to their cause and were even able to legally buy the port of Assab in 1869 before working their way up the country to the highlands.

In 1923, Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony which meant that during WWII, many of its inhabitants served on behalf of the Allies in the East Africa Campaign. It’s quite possible that some of these Zimbabweans went up against the Italians and their Eritrean and Ethiopian Ascari in the battles to topple Mussolini’s rule in East Africa. Many Zimbabweans made great sacrifices for the British and earned medals on the battlefield, whereas Eritrea only became a burden for Great Britain after its capture. There was not enough forces or money to control the territory, and so the British had to resort to selling its assets to fund its wartime activities in the British colonies.

A big difference between colonial life in Rhodesia and Eritrea was that in Rhodesia the British were successful in getting a large amount of their citizens to emigrate there. They were promised the most fertile parcels of land whereas in Eritrea there were not many fertile areas to promise arriving Italians. There were even enough white people that in 1965 one of the most outspoken among them, Ian Smith having been inspired by the recent independence in Zambia, decided to issue a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain as a white-minority ruled country. This touched off the beginning of a guerilla war against the state by the African nationalist Marxist-Lenninist ZIPRA and the African National Maoist ZANLA armed groups who fought each other at the same time they were fighting the state. In what became known as the Rhodesian Bush War, Ian Smith’s Rhodesian government was supported by the equally racist South African regime while the rebel groups were supported by other majority-rule independent nations such as Mozambique, the Eastern Bloc, and even China. This was similar to Eritrean War of Independence where the Soviet Union supported Ethiopia to counter the US goal of maintaining a radio signal spy station in Eritrea. In Rhodesia, the USSR sought to use ZANU and ZAPU as proxies in the fight against Smith’s white supremacy that was seen as an extension Western Imperialism and possibly hoped to secure a communist government when Rhodesia finally gained independence under Black majority-rule in 1980.

 

Sources Used

http://www.historytoday.com/paul-moorcraft/rhodesias-war-independence

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zimbabwe

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zimbabwe_People%27s_Revolutionary_Army

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zimbabwe_African_National_Liberation_Army

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Smith

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhodesian_Bush_War

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Impacts of Pre-Colonial and Colonial Legacies: Eritrea and South Africa

For countries with such contrasting modern politics and foreign relations, Eritrea and South Africa had remarkably similar the pre-colonial and colonial experiences. Both countries were first colonized by Europeans who justified violent subjugation of the native populations they encountered with racist ideology that was eventually formalized into law. Both countries were later also seized by the British, whose conflicts and compromises with the original settlers created significant hardships for the natives and their descendants. The two countries even claimed independence from their colonizers within a year of one another. Differences in the pre-colonial and colonial legacies of Eritrea and South Africa can be explained by their attitudes towards the injustices they have endured and their natural resources, both of which have directly impacted their success as independent nations.

Eritrea and South Africa’s common experience under racist colonial rule left behind great economic disparities and burdensome collective memories of oppression. Both Italian and British colonists engaged in racial extermination as a way to secure their conquest of Eritrean and South African territories and extract labor from the natives. This took the form of routine assassinations that led to the Massawa scandal in Eritrea and military domination of the powerful, centralized Zulu and Xhosa tribes in South Africa (Bradley). In I Didn’t Do it For You, Wrong describes the racist laws that the Italians introduced under Mussolini as being “as callous as anything seen in apartheid South Africa” although they were put in place over a decade earlier. Though never the architects of apartheid themselves, the British were complicit in maintaining legacies of racial inequality left by the original settlers in both countries. It was not until four years after the Battle of Keren that the British abolished fascist laws in Eritrea (Wrong). Their extraction of essential Italian infrastructure during the interim is likely to have reduced the payoff of productive activities and brought the country closer to Nunn’s low production equilibrium, fueling Eritrea’s economic challenges even after apartheid had ended. Similarly, Britain’s willingness to compromise with the Boers over three centuries of colonization in South Africa and benefit from white supremacy laid the foundation for the disenfranchisement of non-whites under the National Party (BBC).

Eritreans’ prideful tendency to suppress emotion about the injustices committed against them helps explain why Eritrea has struggled so much since independence compared to South Africa. While South Africans made the moral repugnance of apartheid known to the world through violent uprisings and civil disobedience and ultimately defeated the National Party with the help of foreign disapproval and economic pressure, Eritreans met brutal racial laws with “tight-lipped restraint…turning inwards…and waited to see what the future would bring” (Wrong). Strong foreign relations have helped South Africa manage four successful national elections since independence, whereas President Isaias Afwerki has acted as a “one-man-state” for the past two decades and—insisting on Eritrean’s self-sufficiency—refused international aid despite recent reports that about seventy percent of Eritreans cannot meet basic food needs (The Economist).

In line with Miguel’s analysis, Eritrea’s democratization and economic gains have also been derailed by its ongoing violent conflict with Ethiopia, whose interest in the otherwise resource-scarce territory has stemmed from Eritrea’s position on the coast of the Red Sea (Wrong). While South Africa’s abundant natural resources that attracted its colonizers are now a boon for its economy, Eritrea’s coveted access to the sea resulted in its post-colonial annexation followed by a thirty-two year-long armed struggle with Ethiopia. This conflict resumed a mere five years of independence and continues in the form of aggressive border disputes today.

Sources:

Wrong, I Didn’t Do it For You

 Thompson, A History of South Africa

 Bradley, Causes and Consequences of the End of Apartheid

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14094760

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13349078

http://www.economist.com/node/6866625

http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21587844-eritreans-are-taking-seas-because-worsening-conditions-home-why-they

http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21601533-south-africa-better-place-1994-it-going-wrong

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Pre-Colonial and Colonial Legacies in Eritrea and South Sudan

In at least one major way, the colonial legacies left by European imperial powers in South Sudan and Eritrea are quite similar.  By far the most overarching colonial legacy in both cases has been the wide array of consequences resulting from the creation of regional divisions in Sudan and Ethiopia, a strategy that would ultimately lead to the birth of Eritrea and South Sudan as Africa’s newest countries.  Nonetheless, the countries did have very different colonial experiences, which when combined with very different demographics and geography, have resulted in different modern-day political situations.

The area of South Sudan, home to an amalgamation of different religious and ethnic groups, was first colonized by Egypt in the late 19th century.  Concerned with access to the crucial Nile River, the British then took control of an area that was originally intended to be French and created the territory of Sudan, which they would rule in conjunction with Egypt for the next 50 years.  In an effort to restrict any sort of unified rebellion and also prevent northern Sudanese Muslims from capturing southerners as slaves, the British basically ruled north Sudan and south Sudan as two separate entities, cementing a division between the two.  Crucially, they paid much more attention to the North, making no effort to develop the southern region.  The result, whether intentional or not, was the de facto creation of an entirely separate region.  In this way, the eventual impact of British colonial rule in Sudan was not too dissimilar to that of Italian rule in Ethiopia and Eritrea.  In their attempts to colonize the horn of Africa in the late 19th century, the Italians failed to conquer more than a small portion of coastal territory along the Red Sea.  This territory became the country of Eritrea almost by default, simply because it was the area of the wider Ethiopian region that they were able to conquer.  In any event, the effect was similar to the separation that the British had fostered in Sudan, and set the wheels in motion for the making of an entirely separate country.

The process of Eritrean and South Sudanese independence would take place over the remainder of the 20th century and in South Sudan’s case, into the 21st.  That Eritrea and South Sudan received independence relatively late from Ethiopia and Sudan, respectively, shows a complicated, long-running separation in both cases.  The similarity in both smaller countries’ struggle for independence, however, does highlight a key difference between the pair.  The British focus on religion in Sudan, and the intentional division of religious groups was largely absent during the Italian period in Eritrea.  Religious tension was and remains a defining characteristic of the Sudanese-South Sudanese conflict, while modern Eritreans Christians and Muslims live in relative harmony with one another.  While religion was one aspect of the Eritrean – Ethiopian split, it was not nearly as fundamental as it was in Sudan.

In both cases, the creation of singular national identity over time was remarkably successful.  The experience of Italian colonialism, British rule and the subsequent struggle for recognition from Ethiopia has fostered a very strong Eritrean national identity, something that would have been doubtful if not impossible without colonialism.  The remarkably high percentage of pro-independence votes in the two countries’ respective referendums (around 99%) is a testament to the strong feeling of nationhood among their citizens.  That the two nations were built essentially from scratch over the past century or so shows the power of the colonial divisions.

In both cases, independence struggles have resulted today in de facto one-party states.  The main rebel groups behind the independence movements in both countries were able to maintain their stronghold on power as the countries became independent.  This has been more problematic in South Sudan, which is probably a more theoretically democratic and open country, although it is hard to tell at such an early stage.  South Sudan has been plagued by a civil war pitting various rebel groups against the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party, as well as infighting among the SPLM itself.  Although Eritrea is supposed to hold elections at some point as per its constitution, it is yet to actually do so.  The government is dominated by the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice and its leader Isaias Afewerki, who banned political opposition and continues to restrict other aspects of democracy as well.  The process by which this situation was achieved is remarkably similar in both cases.  A long war for independence created support for the main rebel group, support that continued and allowed them to maintain power after independence.   Again, for both countries this single-party dominance is at least partially a product of the independence struggle wrought on by artificial regional divisions created by colonial powers.

Both countries also hold important economic and strategic resources that complicate their relationship with their larger neighbors.  In the case of Eritrea, it is the coastline and the trading ports and sea access that come with it that appealed to Ethiopia and its longtime leader Haile Selassie.  South Sudan, meanwhile, holds 75% of the oil refineries of the former territory of Sudan.  Oil was and remains crucial to the Sudanese economy and the issue of oil revenue sharing is today perhaps the single most contentious aspect of the Sudan – South Sudan conflict.  It is also worth noting the lack of colonial infrastructure in both countries, for which the British can be blamed.  In South Sudan, the British simply did not develop the area as they did in the north, leaving a very imbalanced and underdeveloped region.  In Eritrea, the Italians were very committed to investing in the country’s infrastructure.  As Wrong explains at length, however, the British cruelly rid Eritrea of almost all of this infrastructure, leaving the country with very little to build its economy on at independence.  The result is that both countries are among the least economically developed on the continent.

While South Sudan and Eritrea clearly had very different colonial experiences, their post-colonial stories are remarkably similar in many ways.  South Sudan was ruled by the British and their colonial legacy is obviously one of a British African colony ruled largely by indirect rule.  Eritrea maintains a strong (but waning) Italian influence in its culture and its architecture, among other aspects.  Both countries, however, went through long, violent struggles for independence from neighboring African countries to arrive where they are today, and many aspects of their current situations can be traced back to colonial times.

 

 

Sources used:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sudan

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14069082

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/jul/08/south-sudan-independence-history

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13349076

 

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Pre-colonial and Colonial Legacies: Eritrea and Chad

Existing at similar longitudes, both Eritrea and Chad are countries whose inhabitants have historically been forced to grapple with and adapt to the difficulties prompted by their harsh and extreme climate conditions (The Library of Congress). This is one of the only parallels that has persisted throughout the legacies of these two countries.

Although varying in form, prior to colonialism these states experienced monarchies sustained by the ability to facilitate trade. This was enabled by Eritrea and Chad’s settings, which despite differences, each boasted strategic significance. While Eritrea’s setting on the Red Sea granted it invaluable coastal access (Wrong), Chad, despite being landlocked, controlled notable trans-Saharan trade routes (The Library of Congress). Beyond this, similarities in politics and foreign relations dissolve, a consequence of the disparate colonial involvement these countries subsequently endured, accounting for their astoundingly different experiences and, ultimately, divergent post-colonial states.

The major discrepancies between the colonial experiences of Eritrea and Chad arose largely from the systems of rule enacted. Whereas Eritrea was faced with direct rule coupled with the presence of settlers (Wrong), with the exception of military exhibitions, the French had almost no physical presence in Chad, which largely faced indirect rule (The Library of Congress). This simple difference had drastic subsequent impacts on the difficulties these states faced during their respective periods of colonization, accounting for dissimilar rates and scales of new development, extents of religious change, and transitions to independence.

Development in Eritrea was expansive and rapid. Following Italian colonization and immigration, Eritrea faced an influx of technological development and modernist architecture (Wrong). The immediate benefits this development offered were clearly not intended for the Eritreans but its indirect influence was undeniably advantageous. It is unlikely change would have occurred at such a rapid pace or to such a vast extent had it not been coupled with the presence of settlers. Chad did not have this experience. Without immigrants, there was little incentive for development and the slow modernization that did occur cumulated in development limited in magnitude (Decalo). This was indicative of the dissimilar degrees of commitment these colonizers assumed for their respective states.

In the colonization of Eritrea, the Italians saw their exposure to new peoples as an opportunity to impart their axiomatically superior way of life. Considering themselves more sophisticated, they deemed this their responsibility and thus began introducing Eritreans to Catholicism (Wrong). Their extensive physical presence allotted them general success in these efforts, causing an enormous shift in faith of the Eritrean population, which became vastly Catholic. Similar motivation and capacity for imparting such change was absent in Chad, again the product of the different methods of colonization enforced: explicit and direct in Eritrea while implied and remote in Chad (The Library of Congress).

A final and significant consequence of the divergent systems of rule imparted during colonization was the transition experienced by each country to independence. While Eritrea faced a notable struggle to gain independence from the European forces acting on it, conflict in Chad was largely the product of the overwhelming internal authority of the Chadian Progressive Party (The Library of Congress). Whereas Eritrea needed to escape the extensive and deep claims of European powers, Chad did not have to fight with the already largely absent French and instead faced a subsequent domestic struggle for power over the newly independent nation (The Library of Congress). These transitions were dictated by the independent struggles both states faced throughout colonization and ultimately had huge influences in on their stability post-colonization. The impacts of Eritrea and Chad’s vastly different pre-colonial and colonial legacies continue to shape the politics and foreign relations these countries experience today (Bureau of Democracy).

 

Sources:

“A Country Study: Chad.” The Library of Congress; Federal Research Division, 2010.  http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/tdtoc.html#td0005.

“Chad.” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2007.  http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78726.htm#.

Decalo, Samuel. Historical Dictionary of Chad. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1997.

Wrong, Michela.  I Didn’t Do it For You. Great Britain: Fourth Estate, 2005.

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Senegal

Senegal and Eritrea experienced very different forms of colonial rule and had very different relations with European nations that account for the different governments that formed in the post-colonial era. The Portuguese and other European power used Senegal as a strategic trading port for centuries before the French claimed it in the Scramble for Africa. The French favored a more indirect form of rule with their colonies and didn’t venture into mainland Senegal until after slavery had been abolished in France in the 1850’s. Eritrea was occupied by the Italians who settled the colony and used it as both a mineral resource and as a show of power with their strategic ports. The more assertive Italian rule resulted in more mixing of the cultures and a more violent occupation. France allowed for representation of the Senegalese with in their government and allowed Senegal to interact with European nations before they became independent. Eritrea was surrounded by Italian adversaries in England’s Egypt and France’s Djibouti, and faced aggression from Ethiopia over their strategic placement along the Red Sea. These two factors were crucial in the creation of a republic in Senegal and a dictatorship in Eritrea.

France’s colonization of Senegal was based on a need for a strategic port connecting Africa and America in the slave trade. France stayed out of mainland Senegal and allowed the country to act as a semi-independent nation while supplying slaves to the French. During this era Senegal remained culturally intact while European nations fought over islands off their coast. This time period helped solidify a sense on cultural identity in Senegal and allowed the Senegalese government some authority over their nation. In 1848, France granted citizenship rights to Senegalese and allowed for Senegalese representation in the parliament, the only African representation in Europe during colonial rule. The Senegalese coexistence with the French led to knowledge of their government system and a united nation when they finally fought for independence.

The main goal of the Eritrean occupation was power and strategic ports in the red Seas. The settling of Eritrea was violent and caused societal stratification between Italians, Eritreans and successive generations of racial mixing. The Eritrean were shunted to the lower tiers of society the nation was directly ruled by the Italians. Non-Italians were not represented in the government so the transition to independence was a transition to a completely new government. The lack on unity and the power vacuum created after colonialism allowed a dictatorial regime to be instated in Eritrea.

Senegal’s relationship with France was fairly strong and allowed Senegal to participate in the multiparty unicameral system in place. This made the transition to a similar republic system fairly seamless for Senegal. Eritrea had a very bad relationship with Italy and was also struggling against other competing European powers in the region. England and France remained silent as Eritrea fought Ethiopia over port access and Italy for freedom. This negative experience with democracy and European powers coupled with the oppression and violence of Italy made the system appear unappealing and strong central leadership was able to take hold.

Senegal’s interactions with Europe and their experience with Frances indirect approach to colonialism allowed for the transition to democracy in a post-colonial era. Eritrea acted as the battleground for several rival European nations and faced hardship and oppression for their Italian occupants. The government resulting from this era was one built on opposition to Italian rule and European democracy.

(Sources: Wikipedia: History of Senegal, Senegal; CIA World Fact Book: Senegal)

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Precolonial and colonial legacies: Nigeria vs. Eritrea

Nigeria is roughly seven times the size of Eritrea and has a full 28 times the population. The New Encyclopedia of Africa, in its discussion of Nigerian cultural diversity, divides the country up into five subsections; each of these is more populous than Eritrea. Despite such differences in scale, the political lives of these two countries are both best understood in light of their religious and ethnic diversity and the impact of colonialism. Contrasting geopolitical factors have shaped contrasting colonial histories and current international relations for the two countries.  Nigeria was first explored by traders, while Eritrea was originally imagined by the Italians as a settler colony. The key geopolitical factors affecting Nigeria are its resource wealth and suitability for trade, which affected the way in which Britain took control of the territory and has allowed the population to grow so dramatically. As for Eritrea, the nation’s strategic importance to European powers and territorial conflict with Ethiopia have had pronounced effects on national identity and political life.

Northern and Southern Nigeria were ruled as two separate protectorates until the early 20th century; the North was under indirect rule allowing local emirs to exercised authority while the South accepted western customs and the slave trade continued for some time. The two protectorates were united in 1914, but the country was not immediately united under a common representative political system. While federalism was a key feature of colonial Nigeria up until independence in 1960, representation of Nigerians increased unevenly across the territory.

Neither Eritrea nor Nigeria existed as a political or cultural unit before colonization. Christianity existed in Nigeria before colonization and spread under the British. Since independence, Muslims in several Northern provinces have established shari’a law since the turn of the century, fueling conflict between the Christians and Muslims. Eritrean unity did not materialize upon independence, Wrong notes, but emerged more gradually in response to Ethiopia’s policy’s towards Eritrea in the aftermath of World War II. Although Eritrean Christian’s were interested in unity with Ethiopia at the outset, the threat of cultural erasure (particularly the imposition of Amharic language) and political suppression mobilized a nationalist rural base against Ethiopia. Eritrea’s conflict with Ethiopia is recent and fresh enough to affect its international relations into the present. For example, Eritrea withdrew its representative to the African Union as a means of protesting the organization’s poor management of a border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Wrong’s descriptions of Eritrean national sentiment in the aftermath of this war imply a lingering sense of common Eritrean struggle, even across ethnoreligious lines. In contrast to the externally-directed conflicts in Eritrea, ethnic strife exploded within Nigeria after independence. (In one significant example, the Igbo attempted to secede from greater Nigeria to form Republic of Biafra, a failed attempt that left 1 million Igbo dead.)  Since 1960 Nigeria has seen political conflict between different sections of the large, diverse country. Without the colonial influence that bound many groups together as a political unit, Nigeria would not exercise the international political influence it does today (as a founding member of the African Union and leadership on African issues in general). However, political divisions within the country has stood in the way of transparent, effective governance.

Sources:

The New African Encyclopedia (2011)

http://countrystudies.us/nigeria/80.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eritrea

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigeria

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Eritrea & Botswana: Pre-colonial and Colonial legacies

A legacy that I noticed each state happened to possess was a  profound sense of nationalism. I believe this particular legacy falls under both categories (precolonial and colonial). Each state’s countrymen believed in their state – even blindly at times. Some example’s of Eritrean nationalism can be found in Wrong’s book I Didn’t Do it For You. There is an “Eritrean way” that Wrong points out to the reader. Wrong starts with an example that  stems from her inquiry, Why are Eritreans so bad at saying “thank you”  (18). We learn quickly that Eritreans carry their history on their shoulders by the answer her friend gives her, ” There’s a feeling that we fought for 30 years and no one helped us, so why thank anyone? We don’t owe thanks to anyone (Wrong 18).” Another  line that the author has as an Eritrean quote in her book that promotes Eritrean nationalism is,  “Eritrea is not made of people who cry (Wrong 20)”. She even goes as far to add, “The Eritrean capacity for speaking with one voice was beginning to sound a little creepy to my ears (Wrong 20)”.  She was overwhelmed by the nationalism running in each Eritreans veins. This almost biological sense of nationalism is also found In Botswana.

Botswana had a a similar conflict to Eritrea. Botswana was being tugged on the arm by the British to annex with modern day South Africa. However, Botswana’s strong sense of nationalism altered that plan. They were able to create independent churches and schools, which put even more pressure on the British to let go of the dream of South African annexing Botswana, in which they eventually did.

A legacy I found these two countries differ in the most were post colonial racial relations. Botswana controlled it’s own land. They had their own schools, and churches. Their infrastructure belonged to them. They were not affected by the apartheid because of their proposal of independence from England. Eritrea cannot say the same. Eritrea’s infrastructure has a large Italian influence. Botswana had a stronger native influence on its infrastructure. In fact the Fascism movement by the Italians in Eritrea in mirrored  South African apartheid. The Italians relationship with the Eritreans showed similar attitudes the white South Africans took towards their black counterparts. Wrong describes some scenarios told by Eritrean’s themselves, “When a white man walked along the street, you always followed a couple of steps behind, never alongside (Wrong 75)”.  Another equivalent shocking story is of a  pastor. He remembered how, as a boy, he once made a mistake of crossing in front of an Italian policeman. “He was quite a long way off, but as far as he was concerned I should have waited for him to pass. He caught up with me and slapped me round the face (Wrong 76)”. This could be due to the legacy of “quietism” the Eritreans decided to practice against the Italians. The Boatswains certainly did not take up this method. Eritrea and Botswana share some similar legacies however, their histories are too significant for these legacies to lead to any real commonality between these two countries.

  • Sources: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/75170/Botswana/43909/British-protectorate
  • http://www.botswanaembassy.org/history-of-democracy/
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botswana

 

 

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