Colonialism and Oppression in the African Diaspora

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Colonialism and Oppression in the African Diaspora
The Kenyan feminist and environmental activist, Wangari Maathai, explores the legacy of colonialism and oppression in her native country through her moving 2006 memoir, Unbowed. Maathai explains that over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Africa experienced a massive influx of white settlers. In an effort to solidify control over recently acquired colonies, many European powers had encouraged large numbers of their ethnically white citizens to make a new home on the African continent. As a result, thousands of native Africans were displaced. Maathai’s ancestors, the Kikuyu and Maasai peoples were among them. The majority of these forced dislocations took place in the highland regions. The rich soil and temperate climate of this area had proven attractive to native African peoples for centuries; and it seemed the new British settlers found it equally tempting. After most of the land’s original occupants were transported to the Rift Valley region of western Kenya, settlers began taking advantage of the highlands’ vast natural resources. The land was essentially ravaged as ancient forests were clear-cut in order to make room for agricultural plots. The introduction of the plantation system, with its non-native plant species, large-scale hunting, and systematic recruitment of Africans as field laborers, signaled the next phase in the oppression of native Africans (Maathai 6-9).
The situation became even more complex when the British colonial administration introduced a currency-based income tax system. For centuries, the Kenyan economy had largely rested on the exchange of livestock and other goods. With this in mind, it should come as little su...

... middle of paper ... glance, this would seem to be a positive impact of post-colonial interactions between France and Africa; but, the situation beneath the surface is actually quite problematic. Most of the countries responsible for these new industries are of Western origin, meaning that the majority of profits earned through these endeavors are filtered back into Western economies. This imbalance, in turn, affects the purchasing power of average Africans; and, reinforces neocolonial power dynamics.

Works Cited

Kolawole, Mary. Womanism and African Consciousness. Trenton, NJ: African World Press, 1997. Print.
Maathai, Wangari. Unbowed: A Memoir. New York: Anchor Books, 2007. Print.
Profant, Tomas. “French Geopolitics in Africa: From Neocolonialism to Identity.” Perspectives: Central European Review of International Affairs 18.1 (2010). 41-62. Web. 18 May 2014.
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