In 1885 European leaders met in ~ the notorious Berlin Conference to divide Africa and arbitrarily draw up boundaries that exist come this day.

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The map ~ above the wall in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin was 5 meters (16.4 feet) tall. It showed Africa v rivers, lakes, a few place names and many white spots. When the Berlin Conference pertained to an end on February 26, 1885, after an ext than 3 months of deliberation, there were still huge swathes that Africa on which no European had actually ever set foot.

Representatives that 13 europe states, the United claims of America and the Ottoman empire converged ~ above Berlin in ~ the invite of German Chancellor rose oil von Bismarck to divide up Africa among themselves "in accordance with international law." afri were not invited come the meeting.

The Berlin Conference brought about a period of heightened colonial activity by the europe powers. V the exemption of Ethiopia and also Liberia, every the claims that make up present work Africa were parceled out amongst the colonial powers in ~ a couple of years after the meeting. Present of longitude and latitude, rivers and also mountain arrays were pressed into company as borders separating the colonies. Or one simply inserted a ruler on the map and also drew a straight line. Plenty of historians, such together Olyaemi Akinwumi indigenous Nasarawa State university in Nigeria, see the conference together the crucible because that future inner african conflicts.


French caricature (from 1885): German chancelor Bismarck divides the afri continent amongst the colonial powers

"In african Studies, countless of us think that the foundation for existing day crises in Africa was actually laid through the 1884/85 Berlin Conference. The partition was done without any kind of consideration for the background of the society," Akinwumi told

Traditional borders not considered

New boundaries were attracted through the regions of every tenth country group. Trade routes were cut, due to the fact that commerce with civilization outside one"s swarm was forbidden. Researches have presented that societies through which brand-new frontiers were moved would later on be far more likely to endure from civil war or poverty.

"The conference go irreparable damages to the continent. Some countries are still experiencing from it to this day," Akinwumi said.

In plenty of countries, such as Cameroon, the europe rode roughshod over local communities and also their needs, claimed Michael Pesek, a researcher in african colonial history at the college of Erfurt. But historians, that explained, to be now much less inclined than they were to regard the arbitrarily redrawing of Africa"s boundaries as the root reason of disputes in postcolonial Africa.


"People had actually learnt come live with boundaries that regularly only existed on paper. Boundaries are vital when interpreting Africa"s geopolitical landscape, but for people on the ground they have small meaning."

Scared come re-open Pandora"s Box

In the 1960s, as African nations gained your independence, african politicians might have readjusted the colonial borders. But they desisted native doing so.

"A large majority of politicians said approximately 1960 "if we carry out that we will open up up Pandora"s Box"," Pesek said. They were most likely right. Feather at every the difficulties Africa has had over the last 80 years, there have been numerous disputes within states but hardly any between states.

When analyzing African conflicts, the colonial power that populated a specific tract of floor - the Belgians, French, british or Germans - is less relevant than the definition of belong to details ethnic groups which early american powers often pitted against each other.

Ethnic allegiances to be far much more open and flexible in the 19th century than they are today, Pesek said. In pre-colonial Rwanda, the Hutu and Tutsi were social groups and also it was feasible to switch from one come the other. That was early american rule that cemented the division of the population, of which one of the aftermath was the 1994 genocide.


African rulers and people had actually no say in the department of your continent

In 2010 - ~ above the 125th anniversary the the Berlin Conference, to represent from countless African states in Berlin dubbed for reparations because that the colonial era. The arbitrary division of the continent amongst European powers, i m sorry ignored african laws, culture, sovereignty and institutions, to be a crime against humanity, they claimed in a statement. They dubbed for the resources of monuments at historic sites, the return the land and other resources which had actually been stolen, the restitution of cultural treasures and recognition the colonialism and also the crimes committed under it were crimes versus humanity.

But nothing has actually come of all this. The chroniclers from Nigeria and Germany room not surprised. "There is lot talk that reparations for the slave trade and the Holocaust. But little mention is made of the crimes committed by the European early american powers throughout the century or an ext they invested in Africa," stated Pesek.

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Olyaemi Akinwumi doesn"t think there will ever before be any type of reparations, of any sort shape or form.