Fourth in a series of
The Devils' Annexe
The British Colonial System
Sidney & Shirley Robbins
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With the rise of Liberation movements fuelled by ideology and arms from the
Soviet Union and China, and backed by the UNO Charter, colonialism was over. As soon as Britain was rid of her colonies, her economy prospered. It could rightly be said that these colonies had simply been a drain on her, rather than the oft-repeated canard that she had raped their wealth.
With the exodus of the Colonial Powers, the new ‘democracy’ was introduced to Africa. The colonial flag was lowered and a new one raised. At that point,
Africa’s problems multiplied. - But what are the consequences fro the future of Africa?
Britain’s haste to get out of Africa
The 19th-century scramble to get into Africa was reversed in less than a century later. This was the scramble to get out of Africa after the end of the Second World War took place with more haste than the original scramble to get into Africa. The continent had become an ideological battleground between the two super-powers, the Soviet Union and the United States.
Britain, with her economy in dire straits after 5 years of war, and with pressure from the United States, had no option but to get out. She could no longer sustain her colonial possessions, and was only too keen to get shot of them. With the rise of Liberation movements fuelled by ideology and arms from the Soviet Union and China, and backed by the UN Charter, colonialism was over. As soon as Britain was rid of her colonies, her economy prospered. It could rightly be said that these colonies had simply been a drain on her, rather than the oft-repeated canard that she had raped their wealth. One glaring example was Nyasaland (Malawi). Britain only annexed the territory to put an end to the Arab slave trade extending down from the Great Lakes. It was, and still is an impoverished country that brought no income to Britain - only expense.
With the exodus of the Colonial Powers, a new ‘democracy’ was introduced to Africa. Almost overnight the colonial flag was lowered and a new one raised. At that point, Africa’s problems multiplied. Things started to go horribly wrong in spite of taking over viable economies; efficient public services; established industrial and agricultural economies, and the sound health and education structures that existed in most colonial territories - particularly in British territories.
Just how and why did things go so horribly wrong? Are the colonial powers complicit in the shambles that independence brought? Let's go back a bit to that 'wind of change' speech by Harold Macmillan. This is where the era of 'Doublespeak' began - the use of words to disguise, not to express intention. They meant to abandon Africa – whether it led to turbulence and war, or to stability and progress.
The British Colonial System
The cycle of African government has gone from the age-old tribal system, to colonial rule, and back to a form of tribal rule, as we will explain.
The colonial system of government was based on ‘indirect’ rule from London, Paris or Brussels. It brought administration, communication, law and order, justice, education, health, progress, missionaries and Christianity. It brought out settlers with their expertise, experience and industry. Of course, no one bothered to ask the Africans if they agreed to all these blessings. But neither did the Romans ask the people of Britain or Europe before they occupied their countries and imposed their systems of government and laws.
Under the British system the administration assumed complete authority. There was the British Governor and his executive, which was chosen by the white settlers. This constituted the civil authority, which ruled through civil law and legislated through a central state. Then there was customary law administered through the Native Authority. Provincial and district governors enforced this. The population was subject to the laws that were imposed by the legislature; however the tribal system still operated. The chiefs’ powers, although somewhat diminished, remained intact, and they still ruled over their tribes, while each ethnic group was left to its own customs. It had its imperfections but it worked admirably. However, the chiefs had to somehow come to terms with a foreign system of government being imposed on an existing system that had been in place for countless centuries. For many years we lived under that system in two countries in southern Africa. With all its imperfections, it was a respected, efficient and just authority, with a proud record.
The following explains graphically the structure of the colonial system: