Letter: Africa's problems began with colonialism

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YOU CONTEND in your editorial 'The world watches, waits and hopes' (24 April) that 'Africa's experience since the withdrawal of the colonial powers has been awful'. Might it not be more apposite to suggest that Africa's experience since the arrival of the colonial powers has been awful?

Africa under colonialism was ruled as a promontory of European interests. Colonialism was trade, investment and enterprise for the benefit of an alien society. Power lay beyond Africa's borders. African trade and free enterprise, far from being encouraged, were ousted. Colonial Africa became a continent of bureaucratic rule, with armies to prove that government existed by conquest. Though regular electoral competition within a European- style constitution became the 'pubertal rite' of independence, the colonial system had been busy locking up its opponents and had never dreamt of paying them salaries to oppose.

The dislocation of African economies and the dissolution of African cultures occasioned by colonialism must have long- term effects. The sediment of colonialism not only lies deep in African society but permeates the West's own mindset. Hence the unconscious omissions and suppositions which mar verdicts on Africa by those charged with saying what counts as true.

C Wolfe

Brentford, Middlesex