During 1884-85, European powers met to try and come to terms on how to colonize Africa at what was known as the Berlin Conference. A simple way to define what was discussed at this conference would be say, “how do we split up the land of Africa amongst ourselves.” The meeting signaled the “scramble for Africa” as well as the beginning of decades of death and mayhem. Such colonizing powers went about their business with the idea that no one, no “real” people, occupied the land. This grave haughtiness not only propelled the advent of European infiltration, but also set the stage for the erosion of native tribal identities. As foreign powers came to realize the problem of trying to govern from a distance, with the inclusion of inhumane practices that pervaded the African landscape, the withdrawal of European infiltrations came too late: the thirst for power had been instilled within local leaders. Left to fend for themselves amid flimsy, previously non-existent governmental structures, bloodbaths ensued in barrages of civil wars among tribal groups vying for control.
The systematic attempts by European powers to control a landscape fundamentally governed by the power of nature and its wildlife, while occupied by the tribal nations with their own ways of thriving, invoked a state of confusion unparalleled in world history. Eventually resulting from this mess of colonialism came the literary work that is Sozaboy, the story of a young man caught fighting whomever it was that he could figure out, of whomever it was that he thought he was supposed to be fighting.
Pic from Laura Serra’s Tumbler Blog
In the aftermath of this European attempt to colonize, governments were formed by locals on the whims of self-proclaimed leaders. They would go about recruiting whomever happened to be close by. Sometimes a professed government in control and ruling during a given morning, could be replaced by another by the end of the same day. For a soldier like Sozaboy, this meant that by the end of any particular day, he could be fighting against a group of people of whom, only a few hours earlier, were a part of his own team.
Thus the destructive aftereffects of botched colonialism runs its course. Tribal identity crises, senseless wars over the control of resources, the pollution or effacement of cultural customs and languages lost through the years of externally imposing forces, all of these comprise only a fraction of the damage. Atop of this nationalized home wrecking came the internal conflict of individuals like Sozaboy, who realizes at the end of the day, that he’s got nothing but a pile of rubble smoldering over the bodies of his family and his wife.
Standing at the pinnacle of this progression of inhumanity lies the dead end path trodden by the rancor of ulterior motives. The avarice of a country can mimic the avarice of an individual, prickling with buds of selfishness and disrespect. Like Pandora’s Box, acting without considering the consequences is the age old history lesson that one always ponders, only after the pain has been wrought.