africa / Opinion / Politics

From Colonialism to Neo-Colonialism and currently Afro-Colonialism

by Kawuma

For decades we have blamed the western world for the economic, political and social turmoil on the continent of Africa. Pundits have pointed out colonialism as the symbol of western dominance and superiority and neo-colonialism as the invisible arm of the global economy which casts the African nations at the bottom of the food chain.

Africans took to the streets and celebrated as many of their mother-nations were granted independence. It was a violent up-hill struggle for African nations but it left many with a sense of optimism and hope for a more prosperous Africa.  Neo-colonialism was a reality check that Africa had attained political independence but was still trapped in a web of economic dependence.  The iconic Pan-Africanists including Kwame Nkurumah, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta voiced their concerns about neo-colonialism. ‘A State in the grip of neo-colonialism is not master of its own destiny. It is this factor which makes neo-colonialism such a serious threat to world peace.’  Kwame Nkurumah. What many of these founding fathers did not envision was that decades later, Africans would be suffering at the hands of their own.  Afro-colonialism was the beast lurking in the horizon.Afro-colonialism is a phenomenon in which an African nation is held hostage by an African leadership establishment. It is an act of control, domination, exploitation and oppression. Afro-colonialism has emerged as a powerful force. What started as one or two dictators during the post-colonial era has turned into a new generation of African leaders un-willing to relinquish power. After the resignation of Fidel Castro, Africa is currently home to the longest serving head of state, Omar Bongo of Gabon who has been at the realm of power since 1967.

Afro-colonialism has become wide spread, acceptable and the norm in many corners of Africa. Many of the long serving leaders receive a hero’s welcome and hardly any form of accountability for their actions by regional organizations such as the African Union and even the United Nations. The leadership standards have reached a new low in Africa that we have elected Muammar Gaddafi as chair of the African Union. It is mind boggling that Gaddafi who is deficient in democratic principles and operates a government that violates numerous African Union principles is currently running the show. It is my opinion that Gaddafi’s selection was not the step in the right direction. I can’t imagine a scenario in which he could be the voice of Africa to speak out against human rights violations and power hungry leaders. We have in other words handed the keys of a wrecked car to a driver without a license.

Afro-colonialism runs deep in the crust of many governmental structures that elections are currently just a formality. It has become the norm in some African countries that you don’t have to win an election to assume the presidency. Power-sharing is the new chapter from the afro-colonialist play book to hold the opposition at arms-length. Fear mongering, patronage, control of media, rigged elections, political imprisonment and intimidation make up the items in the tool box. Africans have been suffocated by afro-colonialists like a constrictor. We have been weakened, chocked and swallowed like prey. It is hard to fathom how a country like Zimbabwe with over 13 million people can be brought down to its feet by a single man. Many African people have lost their voice and have been driven into submission. Many are suffering in silence not from the historical colonialism or neo-colonialism but rather from present day Afro-colonialism.

Why are we so silent and why do we tolerate afro-colonialism? Is it because a majority of our societies were historically under a monarch system of governance where a King or Chief ruled until death and then the son took over? Are we just happy to be ruled by the ‘devil we know’ rather than risk another phase of power struggle and civil strife? Did we throw in the towel because we have been made to believe that things could be worse? Is it because culture taught us to respect the elder? Are we just living in fear to speak and do what we think is right? I wish I knew the answer to this quagmire—– but what I know is that our struggles as a continent are deeply rooted in our failed leadership structure. I am always reminded that Africa has had some successful stories and indeed we have had some great leaders who have made the effort to sow the seeds of democracy. However, as a continent, we are all still lurking in the shadows of poor leadership.

It is time for Africans to take full responsibility and realize that we are part of the problem and we ought to be part of the solution. As one voice we can act and speak out loud and challenge the entrenched structure of Afro-colonialism that is bedeviling our continent. Thousands fought for our independence so that we can live in freedom and form strong cohesive nations of the people, for the people, by the people—– and nations that listen to the people. They did there part and now it is our turn.

Some of Africa’s longest serving presidents:

  • President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba: April 14, 1967 (Gabon)
  • Colonel Muammar Gaddafi: September 1, 1969 (Libya)
  • President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo: August 3, 1979 (Equatorial Guinea)
  • President Jose Eduardo dos Santos: September 10, 1979 (Angola)
  • President Robert Mugabe: March 4, 1980 (Zimbabwe)
  • President Hosni Mubarak: October 14, 1981 (Egypt)
  • President Paul Biya: November 6, 1982 (Cameroon)
  • President Lansana Conte: April 3, 1984 (Guinea)
  • President Yoweri Museveni: January 29, 1986 (Uganda)
  • President Blaise Compaore: October 15, 1987 (Burkina Faso)
  • President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali: November 7, 1987 (Tunisia)
  • President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir: June 30, 1989 (Sudan)
  • President Idriss Deby: December 2, 1990 (Chad)
  • Prime Minister Meles Zenawi: May 28, 1991 (Ethiopia)
  • President Isaias Afewerki: May 29, 1991 (Eritrea)
  • President Denis Sassou Nguesso, 1979-1992 and 1997-present (Republic of Congo)

Kawuma Daniel Busuulwa ©


2 thoughts on “From Colonialism to Neo-Colonialism and currently Afro-Colonialism

  1. Kawuma, I’m with you on your analysis. In fact, I like the name you have given to the beast. “Afro-colonialism” is exactly what it is. However, I don’t agree with your premise. If I understand, I think you are saying it’s worse today than the period after colonization. I couldn’t disagree more. Today, Sese Sekou is gone, Yedema of Togo is gone, Jerry Rawlins is gone, and recently Conteh left albeit taken by God….and so many lesser known but just as vicious, destructive, and drunk on power. Yes, indeed things are bad today, but they are no where as hopeless as they were in the seventies and eighties. We can acknowledge stride in the right direction and still point to the distance we have yet to go.

  2. Hello–I am a writer/editor, currently working with a native of Zimbabwe–now Atlanta based–on a memoir. The book is ending with a brief discussion of the important African issues–health, environment, education, etc.. But in order to understand these current issues I am providing a very brief description colonization–to be followed by (again) a very brief description on neocolonization and Afro-colonization. Your article is justs an excellent summary, and I’m wondering if I can use parts of it. I would paraphrase, and I would also quote directly, and I would fully document the source. I am based in Northfield MN. My email is ( The book has a London publisher, and I know the author would want to share it with you. Let me know. Continued success with your terrific work. Orlo Otteson–651-278-4824

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