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Africa's History: Lest We Forget

Fernando M. Gonçalves

Lest We Forget: On this day in 1884, 13 European nations shamelessly gathered in Berlin to parcel out the African continent like famished school children (on a school trip) haphazardly dividing up a pizza. Great Britain was represented by Sir Edward Malet (Ambassador to the German Empire). The US, the emerging but reluctant superpower, had a delegate - the explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

In utter disregard and with not a single iota of conscience or concern for the culture or the families of the continent, the map was redrawn and lands claimed. What followed was the systematic scramble and undoing of Africa. Resistance was met with the brutal force of gunpowder. The Herero Massacre was the first genocide of the 20th century: tens of thousands of men, women and children were shot, starved, and tortured to death by German troops as they put down “rebellious” tribes in what is now Namibia. Tens of thousands of defenseless women and children were forced into the Kalahari desert, their wells poisoned and food supplies cut.

In Uganda, the first election fraud (in favor of Apollo Milton Obote) was masterminded by London. The British governor then, Sir Fredrick Crawford, an honest man to a fault, resigned because he was unwilling to be party to this gerrymandering. This has since become the template for regime survival. Congo and many other African nations have never recovered from this trauma that was orchestrated at Bismarck's official residence on that bleak weekend.

With the emergence of another domineering superpower, may this history not be lost to us.