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Saturday, October 11, 2014
The Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 to Share Africa Among Colonialists.
Old Scramble for Africa
Conference of 1884-1885 to share African resources among Europe
following material is from the book Geography: Realms, Regions and Concepts,
by H. J. de Blij, Peter O. Muller, 2003
- Berlin West African Conference carves Africa into spheres of control
In the second
half of the nineteenth century, after more than four centuries of contact,
the European powers finally laid claim to virtually all of Africa. Parts
of the continent had been "explored," but now representatives
of European governments and rulers arrived to create or expand African spheres
of influence for their patrons. Competition was intense. Spheres of influence
began to crowd each other. It was time for negotiation, and in late 1884
a conference was convened in Berlin to sort things out. This conference
laid the groundwork for the now familiar politico-geographical map of Africa.
1884, the imperial chancellor and architect of the German Empire, Otto von
Bismarck, convened a conference of 14 states (including the United States)
to settle the political partitioning of Africa. Bismarck wanted not only
to expand German spheres of influence in Africa but also to play off Germany's
colonial rivals against one another to the Germans' advantage. Of these
fourteen nations, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal were the
major players in the conference, controlling most of colonial Africa at
Conference was Africa's undoing in more ways than one. The colonial powers
superimposed their domains on the African Continent. By the time Africa
regained its independence after the late 1950s, the realm had acquired a
legacy of political fragmentation that could neither be eliminated nor made
to operate satisfactorily. The African politico-geographical map is thus
a permanent liability that resulted from the three months of ignorant, greedy
acquisitiveness during a period when Europe's search for minerals and markets
had become insatiable.
The French dominated
most of West Africa, and the British East and Southern Africa. The Belgians
acquired the vast territory that became The Congo. The Germans held four
colonies, one in each of the realm's regions. The Portuguese held a small
colony in West Africa and two large ones in Southern Africa.
After colonial rule
was firmly established in Africa, the only change in possessions came after
World War I. Germany's four colonies were placed under the League of Nations,
which established a mandate system for other colonizers to administer the
Congo Free State, conceived as a "neutral" zone to be run by an
international association in the interest of bringing science, civilization,
and Christianity to the indigenes, received the Berlin Conference's blessings.
Belgium's King Leopold II (far left) soon took control, reaping fabulous
personal profits through the sale of land and development rights. Scandalously
little was reinvested in schools like the one shown here.
colonial powers shared one objective in their African colonies; exploitation.
But in the way they governed their dependencies, they reflected their differences.
Some colonial powers were themselves democracies (the United Kingdom and
France); others were dictatorships (Portugal, Spain). The British established
a system of indirect rule over much of their domain, leaving indigenous
power structure in place and making local rulers representatives of the
This was unthinkable in the Portuguese colonies, where harsh,
direct control was the rule. The French sought to create culturally assimilated
elites what would represent French ideals in the colonies.
In the Belgian
Congo, however, King Leopold II, who had financed the expeditions that staked
Belgium's claim in Berlin, embarked on a campaign of ruthless exploitation.
His enforcers mobilized almost the entire Congolese populations to gather
rubber, kill elephants for their ivory, and build public works to improve
export routes. For failing to meet production quotes, entire communities
were massacred. Killing and maiming became routine in a colony in which
horror was the only common denominator.
After the impact of the slave trade,
King Leopold's reign of terror was Africa's most severe demographic disaster.
By the time it ended, after a growing outcry around the world, as many as
10 million Congolese had been murdered. In 1908 the Belgium government administrators,
and the Roman Catholic Church each pursued their sometimes competing interest.
But no one thought to change the name of the colonial capital: it was Leopoldville
until the Belgian Congo achieved independence in 1960.
Makoko and Queen
named Savorgnan de Brazza. Nominally employed by the French government,
he undertook an expedition up the Ogoue River in the 1870’s. Along
his journey, de Brazza concluded a series of treaties with an African chief
known as Makoko. These treaties ceded large tracts of land to de Brazza,
as a representative of France; yet they were vague and highly irregular,
and the government decided to ignore them. However, in 1882, as a result
of the Egypt crisis, the government of France reversed itself and publicly
recognized the Makoko treaties as valid, thereby claiming a considerable
amount of territory in Central Africa.
It wasn’t so much that the
French government wanted to get back at Britain, but rather the French public,
resenting the losses their country suffered to Germany and angered by the
weak role France had played in Egypt, was particularly susceptible to the
press campaign that de Brazza, members of the government and other interested
parties waged in support of the treaties (Chamberlain 53).
Revising the General Act of Berlin, February 26,1885, and the General Act
and Declaration of Brussels, July 2,1890
Journal of International Law, Vol. 15, No. 4, Supplement: Official Documents
(Oct., 1921), 314-321.
Signed at Saint-Germain-en-Laye,
September 10, 1919. (Translation.)
General Act of the African Conference, signed at Berlin on February 26,1885,
was primarily intended to demonstrate the agreement of the Powers with regard
to the general principles which should guide their commercial and civilising
action in the little-known or inadequately organised regions of a continent
where slavery and the slave trade still flourished; and
the Brussels Declaration of July 2,1890, it was found necessary to modify,
for a provisional period of fifteen years the system of free imports established
for twenty years by Article 4 of the said Act, and since that date no agreement
has been entered into, notwithstanding the provisions of the said Act and
territories in question are now under the control of recognised authorities,
are provided with administrative institutions suitable to the local conditions,
and the evolution of the native populations continues to make progress;
ensure by arrangements suitable to modern requirements the application of
the general principles of civilisation established by the Acts of Berlin
having communicated their full powers recognised in good and due form, Have agreed
Powers undertake to maintain between their respective nationals and those
of States, Members of the League of Nations, which may adhere to the present
Convention a complete commercial equality in the territories under their
authority within the area denned by Article 1 of the General Act of Berlin
of February 26, 1885, set out in the Annex hereto, but subject to the reservation
specified in the final paragraph of that article.
Article 1 of
the General Act of Berlin of February 26, 1885. The trade of
all nations shall enjoy complete freedom:
1. In all the
regions forming the basin of the Congo and its outlets. This basin is bounded
by the watersheds (or mountain ridges) of the adjacent basins, namely in
particular, those of the Niari, the Ogowe, the Shari, and the Nile, on the
north; by the eastern watershed line of the affluents of Lake Tanganyika
on the east; and by the watersheds of the basins of the Zambesi and the
Loge on the south. It therefore comprises all the regions watered by the
Congo and its affluents, including Lake Tanganyika, with its eastern tributaries.
2. In the maritime
zone extending along the Atlantic Ocean from the parallel situated in 2°
30' of south latitude to the mouth of the Loge.
boundary will follow the parallel situated in 2° 30 feet from the coast
to the point where it meets the geographical basin of the Congo, avoiding
the basin of the Ogowe, to which the provisions of the present Act do not
boundary will follow the course of the Loge to its source, and thence pass
eastwards till it joins the geographical basin of the Congo.
3. In the zone stretching eastwards from the Congo Basin
as above defined, to the Indian Ocean from 5° of north latitude to the
mouth of the Zambesi in the south, from which point the line of demarcation
will ascend the Zambesi to 5 miles above its confluence with the Shire,
and then follow the watershed between the affluents of Lake Nyassa and those
of the Zambesi, till at last it reaches the watershed between the waters
of the Zambesi and the Congo.
It is expressly
recognised that in extending the principal of free trade to this eastern
zone, the Conference Powers only undertake engagements for themselves, and
that in the territories belonging to an independent Sovereign State this
principle shall only be applicable in so far as it is approved by such State.
But the Powers agree to use their good offices with the Governments established
on the African shore of the Indian Ocean for the purpose of obtaining such
approval, and in any case of securing the most favourable conditions to
the transit (traffic) of all nations.
belonging to the nationals of the Signatory Powers, and to those of States,
Members of the League of Nations, which may adhere to the present Convention,
shall have free access to the interior of the regions specified in Article
1. No differential treatment shall be imposed upon the said merchandise
on importation or exportation, the transit remaining free from all duties,
taxes or dues, other than those collected for services rendered.
the flag of any of the said Powers shall also have access to all the coast
and to all maritime ports in the territories specified in Article 1; they
shall be subject to no differential treatment.
Subject to these provisions, the States concerned reserve
to themselves complete liberty of action as to the customs and. navigation
regulations and tariffs to be applied in their territories.
In the territories
specified in Article 1 and placed under the authority of one of the Signatory
Powers, the nationals of those Powers, or of States, Members of the League
of Nations, which may adhere to the present Convention shall, subject only
to the limitations necessary for the maintenance of public security and
order, enjoy without distinction the same treatment and the same rights
as the nationals of the Power exercising authority in the territory, with
regard to the protection of their persons and effects, with regard to the
acquisition and transmission of their movable and real property, and with
regard to the exercise of their professions.
reserves the right to dispose freely of its property and to grant concessions
for the development of the natural resources of the territory, but no regulations
on these matters shall admit of any differential treatment between the nationals
of the Signatory Powers and of Stages, Members of the League of Nations,
which may adhere to the present Convention.
the provisions of the present chapter, the navigation of the Niger, of its
branches and outlets, and of all the rivers, and of their branches and outlets,
within the territories specified in Article 1, as well as of the lakes situated
within those territories, shall be entirely free for merchant vessels and
for the transport of goods and passengers.
Craft of every
kind belonging to the nationals of the Signatory Powers and of States, Members
of the League of Nations, which may adhere to the present Convention shall
be treated in all respects on a footing of perfect equality.
shall not be subject to any restriction or dues based on the mere fact of
It shall not
be exposed to any obligation in regard to landing, station, or depot, or
for breaking bulk or for compulsory entry into port.
or river toll, based on the mere fact of navigation, shall be levied on
vessels, nor shall any transit duty be levied on goods on board. Only such
taxes or duties shall be collected as may be an equivalent for services
rendered to navigation itself. The tariff of these taxes or duties shall
not admit of any differential treatment.
of the rivers and lakes specified in Article 5 shall in all respects be
subject to the same rules as the rivers or lakes of which they are tributaries.
railways or lateral canals which may be constructed with the special object
of obviating the innavigability or correcting the imperfections of the water
route on certain sections of the rivers and lakes specified in Article 5,
their affluents, branches and outlets, shall be considered, in their quality
of means of communication, as dependencies of these rivers and lakes, and
shall be equally open to the traffic of the nationals of the Signatory Powers
and of the States, Members of the League of Nations, which may adhere to
the present Convention.
On these roads,
railways and canals only such tolls shall be collected as are calculated
on the cost of construction, maintenance and management, and on the profits
reasonably accruing to the undertaking. As regards the tariff of these tolls,
the nationals of the Signatory Powers and of States, Members of the League
of Nations, which may adhere to the present Convention, shall be treated
on a footing of perfect equality.
Each of the
Signatory Powers shall remain free to establish the rules which it may consider
expedient for the purpose of ensuring the safety and control of navigation,
on the understanding that these rules shall facilitate, as far as possible,
the circulation of merchant vessels.
In such sections
of the rivers and of their affluents, as well as on such lakes as are not
necessarily utilised by more than one riverain State, the Governments exercising
authority shall remain free to establish such systems as may be required
for the maintenance of public safety and order, and for other necessities
of the work of civilisation and colonisation; but the regulations shall
not admit of any differential treatment between vessels or between nationals
of the Signatory Powers and of States, Members of the League of Nations,
which may adhere to the present Convention.
Powers recognise the obligation to maintain in the regions subject to their
jurisdiction an authority and police forces sufficient to ensure protection
of persons and of property and, if necessary, freedom of trade and of transit.
Powers exercising sovereign rights or authority in African territories will
continue to watch over the preservation of the native populations and to
supervise the improvement of the conditions of their moral and material
well-being. They will, in particular, endeavour to secure the complete suppression
of slavery in all its forms and of the slave trade by land and sea.
They will protect
and favour, without distinction of nationality or of religion, the religious,
scientific or charitable institutions and undertakings created and organized
by the nationals of the other Signatory Powers and of States, Members of
the League of Nations, which may adhere to the present Convention, which
aim at leading the natives in the path of progress and civilisation. Scientific
missions, their property and their collections, shall likewise be the objects
of special solicitude.
conscience and the free exercise of all forms of religion are expressly
guaranteed to all nationals of the Signatory Powers and to those under the
jurisdiction of States, Members of the League of Nations, which may become
parties to the present Convention. Similarly, missionaries shall have the
right to enter into, and to travel and reside in, African territory with
a view to prosecuting their calling.
of the provisions of the two preceding paragraphs shall be subject only
to such restrictions as may be necessary for the maintenance of public security
and order, or as may result from the enforcement of the constitutional law
of any of the Powers exercising authority in African territories.
Powers agree that if any dispute whatever should arise between them relating
to the application of the present Convention which cannot be settled by
negotiation, this dispute shall be submittted to an arbitral tribunal in
conformity with the provisions of the Covenant of the League of Nations.
Except in so
far as the stipulations contained in Article 1 of the present Convention
are concerned, the General Act of Berlin of 26th February, 1885, and the
General Act of Brussels of 2nd July, 1890, with the accompanying Declaration
of equal date, shall be considered as abrogated, in so far as they are binding
between the Powers which are Parties to the present Convention.
authority over African territories, and other States, Members of the League
of Nations, which were parties either to the Act of Berlin or to the Act
of Brussels or the Declaration annexed thereto, may adhere to the present
Convention. The Signatory Powers will use their best endeavours to obtain
the adhesion of these States.
shall be notified through the diplomatic channel to the Government of the
French Republic, and by it to all the Signatory or adhering States. The
adhesion will come into force from the date of its notification to the French
Powers will reassemble at the expiration of ten years from the coming into
force of the present Convention, in order to introduce into it such modifications
as experience may have shown to be necessary.
The present Convention shall be ratified as soon as possible.
will address its ratification to the French Government, which will inform
all the other Signatory Powers.
will remain deposited in the archives of the French Government.
Convention will come into force for each Signatory Power from the date of
the deposit of its ratification, and from that moment that Power will be
bound in respect of other Powers which have already deposited their ratifications.
On the coming
into force of the present Convention, the French Government will transmit
a certified copy to the Powers which, under the Treaties of
Peace, have undertaken to accept and observe it. The names of these Powers
will be notified to the States which adhere.
In faith whereof the above-named Plenipotentiaries have
signed the present Convention.
Done at Saint-Germain-en-Laye,
the 10th day of September, 1919, in a single copy, which will remain deposited
in the archives of the Government of the French Republic, and of which authenticated
copies will be sent to each of the Signatory Powers.
Africason is a Musician/independent recording artiste and a die-hard believer in Africa. Twitter: @african_school Web: www.africason.com Email: info(AT)africason.com Find my songs on iTunes, artiste name: Africason