The Genocide in Darfur is the Fault of Those Who Oppose Colonialism

Hari, Johann. 2007. White Man for the Job. The New Republic. April 23, 2007. Available online:

Eddie of Hidden Unities emailed me a “hit piece” against Andrew Roberts that recently appeared in The New Republic. In particular, felt the follow passage justly put Roberts in a bad light:

In 2001, Roberts spoke to a dinner of the Springbok Club, a group that regards itself as a shadow white government of South Africa and calls for “the re-establishment of civilized European rule throughout the African continent.” Founded by a former member of the neo-fascist National Front, the club flies the flag of apartheid South Africa at every meeting. The dinner was a celebration of the thirty-sixth anniversary of the day the white supremacist government of Rhodesia announced a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, which was pressing it to enfranchise black people. Surrounded by nostalgists for this racist rule, Roberts, according to the club’s website, “finished his speech by proposing a toast to the Springbok Club, which he said he considered the heir to previous imperial achievements.”

I’m generally unaware of the Springbok Club, and can’t comment on its mix of affection for the Commonwealth and liberationalist republicanism. Instead, I will address what appears to be the substantive theme of the paragraph: that “civilized European rule throughout the African continent.”

Of course it was.

The European Powers conducted the most massive, and most intense, Systems Administration Work in the history of the world in Africa. The European regimes stretched from the horrendous (Congo Free State) to possibly the best the continent had ever known (the British Empire). This period of interventionism stretched roughly from the 1878 Congress of Berlin to after the Second World War (though native left-of-center governments took power in Rhodesia and before the end).

The retreat of the Empires saw genocides, ethnic cleansing, massacre, and terrorism of all stripes. The middle part of Africa saw near immediate devastation, while decline and stagnation would soon encircle the continent from the Pacific to the Indian, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Southern Ocean.

If not for the terrible toll, in blood and money, of fighting the Axis in World War II, Dar Fur would have never happened. Rwanada would have never happened. Because the Europeans would still be there.

Instead, a combination (in increasing order of importance) of national liberation movements, leftist-isolationist domestic intellectuals, and bankrupt Empires led to the abandonment of a good slice of humanity. While other states pulled off the grid in the twentieth century (the Soviet Union and the Chinese People’s Republic, for example) experienced record-breaking democides, they had enough internal social capital to either slowly decline (Moscow) or eventually rebound (Beijing). Africa does not and did not.

I titled this post “The Genocide in Darfur is the Fault of Those Who Oppose Colonialism” not because the genocides and democides truly are the moral fault of anticolonialists, any more than a spate of immolations would be the “fault” of those who just don’t feel like funding a fire department anymore. The title of the post is true in the functional sense.

European colonialism was a once-in-a-millenia opportunity for Africa. Sadly, neither Europe — nor Africa — were up for it.

4 thoughts on “The Genocide in Darfur is the Fault of Those Who Oppose Colonialism”

  1. As additional evidence for your thesis, and a fact rarely if ever mentioned in this context, Darfur was one part of Africa with minimal experience with colonialism. It only came under British rule in 1916. Probably only Ethiopia had a shorter period of colonial rule.

    A similar lesson might be drawn from contrasting India, some parts of which were under Eurpoean rule for over 300 years, with Pakistan, which came under East India Company rule in 1846 and 1849.

  2. There is no way Africa could be conquered again.

    Whatever happens we have got
    The Maxim gun and they have not.

    But now they have Kalashnikovs. Too many of them:

    “The disruptive effect of all these guns has halted, or reversed, decades of progress in treating endemic diseases. Death rates from disease and malnutrition are going up. All because of several million Cold War surplus AK-47s getting dumped in Africa. The world market for such weapons was glutted by the late 1990s. All that was left was Africa, but only if you were willing to sell cheap. The gunrunners were, and still are.”

    The only thing that will stop the Africans from massacring each other with them is if some foreigner comes in, in which case they will be temporarily reunited — shooting at the foreigner.

    (Also, extremely interesting point about Pakistan by Bob.)

  3. Eddie,

    Thanks! I joined the discussion over at your blog, “Hidden Unities”!


    “The only thing that will stop the Africans from massacring each other with them is if some foreigner comes in, in which case they will be temporarily reunited — shooting at the foreigner.”

    My hope is rather a resource-intensive global consumer comes in with enough investment money to build up basic infrastructure while working with the native elites. A good candidate would be China.

    Unfortunately, Africa's bitter taste probably discourages any outside country from doing the social work that the English and French put into the continent. So we will probably get a Putin style buildup of things rather than people. (In other words, a few good years, then back to the abyss.)

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