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Racism in Africa

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Racism in Africa

Racism in Africa is multi-faceted and dates back several centuries. In all parts of the world there have been some forms of racism. This may have been created through strong national ties within certain groups, making them think other peoples are of less value than ones of their own nation, or a consequence of a belief that some peoples or races are inherently superior to others. This may have been strengthened by European colonialism, drawing lines which didn’t take into consideration the different peoples dwelling within the newly formed provinces. These were never changed when former European colonies gained independence. As a consequence some African nations have been plagued with inner conflicts, racist attitudes and tribal warfare.

Race and racism continues to be a factor in the post-colonial context.[1]

Colonial Era Racism

Racism and colonization were interrelated.[2] Racism was used to justify colonialism. It imposed and produced the conquest of African nations.[3] In the colonial imagination Africans had to move from their "primitive" existence to a modern European one. Africans were seen as primitive and backward in development due to the racist ideas of Social Darwinism.[2] The relationship between the colonized and colonizer was mediated by race and a system of racism that disadvantaged Blacks, Asians and Arabs.

Ivory Coast

In the past recent years the Ivory Coast has seen a resurgence in ethnic tribal hatred and religious intolerance. In addition to the many victims among the various tribes of the northern and southern regions of the country that have perished in the ongoing conflict, white foreigners residing or visiting the Ivory Coast have also been subjected to violent attacks. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, the Ivory Coast government is guilty of fanning ethnic hatred for its own political ends.[4]

In 2004, the Abidjan. Calls for violence against whites and non-Ivorians were broadcast on national radio and TV after the Young Patriots seized control of its offices. Rapes, beatings, and murders of white expatriates and local Lebanese followed. Thousands of expatriates and Lebanese fled. The attacks drew international condemnation.[5][6]


Slavery in Mauritania persists despite its abolition in 1980 and affects the descendants of black Africans abducted into slavery before generations, who live now in Mauritania as "black Moors" or haratin and who partially still serve the "white Moors", or bidhan, as slaves. The practice of slavery in Mauritania is most dominant within the traditional upper class of the Moors. For centuries, the so-called Haratin lower class, mostly poor black Africans living in rural areas, have been considered natural slaves by these Moors. Social attitudes have changed among most urban Moors, but in rural areas, the ancient divide is still very alive.[7]

The ruling bidanes (the name means literally white-skinned people) are descendants of the Sanhaja Berbers and Beni Ḥassān Arab tribes who emigrated to northwest Africa and present-day Western Sahara and Mauritania during the Middle Ages. Many descendants of the Beni Ḥassān tribes today still adhere to the supremacist ideology of their ancestors. This ideology has led to oppression, discrimination and even enslavement of other groups in Mauritania.[8]

According to some estimates, as many to 600,000 black Mauritanians, or 20% of the population, are still enslaved, many of them used as bonded labour.[9] Slavery in Mauritania was finally criminalized in August 2007.[10]


About 4,000 commercial land owners, mostly whites, own over 50% of the arable land across the country despite a land reform process.[11][12] When the country was known as South West Africa, White Namibians enjoyed a highly privileged position due to Apartheid laws enforcing strict segregation and white domination.[13]

On 12 January 1904, the Herero people, led by Samuel Maharero, rebelled against German colonial rule. In August, German general Lothar von Trotha defeated the Herero in the Battle of Waterberg and drove them into the desert of Omaheke, where most of them died of thirst. In October, the Nama people also rebelled against the Germans only to suffer a similar fate.

This violence and war eventually led to genocide performed by the Germans against the Herero and Nama people known as the Herero and Namaqua Genocide it is considered to have been the first genocide of the 20th century. In total, from 24,000 up to 100,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama died.[14][15][16][17][18] The genocide was characterised by widespread death by starvation and thirst because the Herero who fled the violence were prevented from returning from the Namib Desert. Some sources also claim that the German colonial army systematically poisoned desert wells.[19][20] The genocide took place between 1904 and 1907 in German South-West Africa (now modern day Namibia), during the Herero Wars.

In 1926, except for archive copies, it was withdrawn and destroyed following a "decision of the then Legislative Assembly".[21][22] Survivors, majority of whom were women and children, were eventually put in concentration camps, such as that at Shark Island, where the German authorities forced them to work as slave labour for German military and settlers, all prisoners were categorised into groups fit and unfit for work, and pre-printed death certificates indicating "death by exhaustion following privation" were issued.[23] The British government published their well-known account of the German genocide of the Nama and Herero peoples in 1918.[24]

Many Herero died later of disease, overwork and malnutrition.[25][26] Camps, such as that in Windhoek, showed mortality rates as high as 61%[27] The mortality rate in the camps reached 45% in 1908.[28] The death rates are calculated at between 69 and 74%.[29]

Food in the camps was extremely scarce, consisting of rice with no additions.[30] Shootings, hangings and beatings were common,[31] and the sjambok was used by guards who treated the forced labourers harshly. Medical experiments were performed on the Herero and Nama people by the Germans much similar to the ways the Germans did to the European Jews during the Holocaust. Eugen Fischer, a German anthropologist, came to the concentration camps to conduct medical experiments on race,[32] using children of Herero people and mulatto children of Herero women and German men as test subjects.[32] Other experiments were made by Dr Bofinger, who injected Herero that were suffering from scurvy with various substances including arsenic and opium; afterwards he researched the effects of these substances by performing autopsies on dead bodies[33]

With the closure of concentration camps all surviving Herero were distributed as labourers for settlers in the German colony, and from that time on, all Herero over the age of seven were forced to wear a metal disc with their labour registration number,[32] and banned from owning land or cattle, a necessity for pastoral society.[34]

It is believed that the Herero and Namaqua genocide influenced the Nazis and Nazi Germany.

In 1985, the United Nations' Whitaker Report classified the aftermath as an attempt to exterminate the Herero and Nama peoples of South-West Africa, and therefore one of the earliest attempts at genocide in the 20th century. The German government recognised and apologised for the events in 2004, but has ruled out financial compensation or land reparation for the victims' descendants.[35] In 2004, there was only minor media attention in Germany on this matter.[36]


In October 2006, Niger announced that it would deport to Chad the so-called Diffa Arabs: Arabs living in the Diffa region of eastern Niger.[37] This population numbered about 150,000.[38] While the government was rounding up Arabs in preparation for the deportation, two girls died, reportedly after fleeing government forces, and three women suffered miscarriages. Niger's government had eventually suspended a controversial decision to deport Arabs.[39][40]

In Niger, where the practice of slavery was outlawed in 2003, a study has found that more than 800,000 people are still slaves, almost 8% of the population.[41][42] Slavery dates back for centuries in Niger and was finally criminalised in 2003, after five years of lobbying by Anti-Slavery International and Nigerian human-rights group, Timidria.[43]

Descent-based slavery, where generations of the same family are born into bondage, is traditionally practiced by at least four of Niger's eight ethnic groups. The slave masters are mostly from the lighter-skinned nomadic tribes — the Tuareg, Fulani, Toubou and Arabs.[44] It is especially rife among the warlike Tuareg, in the wild deserts of north and west Niger, who roam near the borders with Mali and Algeria. In the region of Say on the right bank of the river Niger, it is estimated that three-quarters of the population around 1904–1905 was composed of slaves.[45]

Historically, the Tuareg swelled the ranks of their black slaves during war raids into other peoples’ lands. War was then the main source of supply of slaves, although many were bought at slave markets, run mostly by indigenous peoples.[41][46]

South Africa

Racism is still a fact of life in South Africa.[47] The end of Apartheid might have removed the legal framework allowing institutionalised racism. Racism in South Africa both predates and encompasses more than just the institutionalised racism of apartheid.

Colonial racism

The establishment of the Dutch East India Company settlement at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 brought with it the established slave labor practices of the company.[48] Many of these slaves were imported from the company's more established settlements in India and the East Indies.[49] Slavery was by no means just restricted to the European slave trade. During the Difaqane, the Zulu under Shaka overran many smaller tribes and enslaved them.[50]

Slavery in South Africa was officially abolished in 1833 with the Slavery Abolition Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.[51]

There are many examples of racism and discriminatory practices during the colonial period, such as the allocation of rations during the Siege of Ladysmith

For Whites—Biscuit, 1/4 lb.; Maize meal, 3 oz.
For Indians and Kaffirs—Maize meal, 8 oz.
Europeans—Fresh meat, 1 lb.
Kaffirs—Fresh meat, 1-1/4 lbs. (Chiefly horseflesh.)
For White men—Coffee or tea, 1/12 oz.; pepper, 1/64 oz.; salt, 1/3 oz.; sugar, 1 oz.; mustard, 1/20 oz.; Vinegar, 1/12 gill.
For Indians—a little rice.
— H. W. Nevinson [52]

Even Mohandas Gandhi who worked to eradicate racism and in particular racism that affected the Indian communities in South Africa, was not immune to racism during this period. In one of his early articles for the Indian Opinion he writes:

Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilised - the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live almost like animals.
— Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi [53]

Apartheid racism


In the Sudan, black African captives in the civil war were often enslaved, and female prisoners were often used sexually,[54] with their Arab captors claiming that Islamic law grants them permission.[55] According to CBS news, slaves have been sold for US$50 a piece.[56] In September 2000, the U.S. State Department alleged that "the Sudanese government's support of slavery and its continued military action which has resulted in numerous deaths are due in part to the victims' religious beliefs."[57] Jok Madut Jok, professor of History at Loyola Marymount University, states that the abduction of women and children of the south is slavery by any definition. The government of Sudan insists that the whole matter is no more than the traditional tribal feuding over resources.[58]

The United States government's Sudan Peace Act of October 21, 2002 accused Sudan of genocide in an ongoing civil war which has cost more than 2,000,000 lives and has displaced more than 4,000,000 people since the war started in 1983.[59]

During the Second Sudanese Civil War people were taken into slavery; estimates of abductions range from 14,000 to 200,000. Abduction of Dinka women and children was common.[60]

In 2004, it became widely known that there was an Darfur region of western Sudan. These peoples include the Fur, Zaghawa and Massalit.[61][62]

Mukesh Kapila (Rwanda [in 1994] and Darfur now is the numbers of dead, murdered, tortured and raped involved"[63][64][65][66] A July 14, 2007 article notes that in the past two months up to 75,000 Arabs from Chad and Niger crossed the border into Darfur. Most have been relocated by the Sudanese government to former villages of displaced non-Arab people. Some 2.5 million have now been forced to flee their homes after attacks by Sudanese troops and Janjaweed militia.[67]


The accession of the Almohade dynasty to the throne of the Maghreb provinces in 1146 proved very disastrous to the Jews of Tunis. Jews as well as Christians were compelled either to embrace Islam or to leave the country. Abd al-Mu'min's successors pursued the same course, and their severe measures resulted either in emigration or in forcible conversions. Soon becoming suspicious of the sincerity of the new converts, the Almohades compelled them to wear a special garb, with a yellow cloth for a head-covering.[68]

Mistranslations of Arab scholars and geographers from this time period have led many to attribute certain racist attitudes that weren't prevalent until the 18th and 19th century to writings made centuries ago.[69] Although bias against those of very black complexion existed in the Arab world in the 15th century it didn't have as much stigma as it later would. Older translations of Ibn Khaldun, for example in The Negro land of the Arabs Examined and Explained which was written in 1841 gives excerpts of older translations that were not part of later colonial propaganda and show black Africans in a generally positive light.

When the conquest of the West (by the Arabs) was completed, and merchants began to penetrate into the interior, they saw no nation of the Blacks so mighty as Ghanah, the dominions of which extended westward as far as the Ocean. The King's court was kept in the city of Ghanah, which, according to the author of the Book of Roger (El Idrisi), and the author of the Book of Roads and Realms (El Bekri), is divided into two parts, standing on both banks of the Nile, and ranks among the largest and most populous cities of the world. The people of Ghanah had for neighbours, on the east, a nation, which, according to historians, was called Susu; after which came another named Mali; and after that another known by the name of Kaukau ; although some people prefer a different orthography, and write this name Kagho. The last-named nation was followed by a people called Tekrur. The people of Ghanah declined in course of time, being overwhelmed or absorbed by the Molaththemun (or muffled people;that is, the Morabites), who, adjoining them on the north towards the Berber country, attacked them, and, taking possession of their territory, compelled them to embrace the Mohammedan religion. The people of Ghanah, being invaded at a later period by the Susu, a nation of Blacks in their neighbourhood, were exterminated, or mixed with other Black nations. [[70]]

Ibn Khaldun suggests a link between the decline of Ghana and rise of the Almoravids. however, there is little evidence of there actually being an Almoravid conquest of Ghana [[71]][72]


Former British colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa have many citizens of South Asian descent. They were brought there by the British Empire from British India to do clerical work in Imperial service.[73] The most prominent case of anti-Indian racism was the ethnic cleansing of the Indian (sometimes simply called "Asian") minority in Uganda by strongman dictator and human-rights violator Idi Amin.[73]

The 1968 Committee on "Africanization in Commerce and Industry" in Uganda made far-reaching Indophobic proposals. A system of work permits and trade licenses was introduced in 1969 in order to restrict the role of Indians in economic and professional activities. Indians were segregated and discriminated against in all walks of life. After Amin came to power, he exploited these divisions to spread propaganda against Indians, stereotyping and scapegoating the Indian minority. Indians were stereotyped as "only traders" and so "inbred" to their profession. Indians were attacked as "dukawallas" (an occupational term that degenerated into an anti-Indian slur during Amin's time).[73]

In the 1970s Uganda and other East African nations implemented racist policies that targeted the Asian population of the region. Uganda under Idi Amin's leadership was particularly virulent in its anti-Asian policies. In August 1972, Idi Amin declared what he called an "economic war", a set of policies that included the expropriation of properties owned by Asians and Europeans. Uganda's 80,000 Asians were mostly Indians born in the country, whose ancestors had come to Uganda when the country was still a British colony.[74][75] Indians were stereotyped as "greedy" and "conniving", without any racial identity or loyalty but "always cheating, conspiring and plotting" to subvert Uganda. Amin used this propaganda to justify a campaign of "de-Indianization", eventually resulting in the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Uganda's Indian minority.[73]

India had refused to accept them.[76] Most of the expelled Indians settled in Britain.[77] The forced expulsion of Uganda's entire Asian population attests to the persecution of Asian peoples residing in the country at the time. Today, Asian/Indian residents of Uganda continue to face marginalization, being given an inferior status.


Racial discrimination has occurred against White Zimbabwean communities.[78][79][80] The government has forcefully evicted them from their farms and committed ethnic cleansing against them.[81][82]

Since independence, in recent years there has been a surge in violence and racism against the dwindling white community and particularly against white farmers. On 18 September 2010 droves of white people were chased away from participating in the constitutional outreach programme in Harare at the weekend, in which violence and confusion marred the process with similar incidents occurring in Graniteside. In [86]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^
  4. ^ [ Ivory Coast "fanning ethnic hatred"]
  5. ^
  6. ^ Europeans flee Ivory Coast violence. 13 November 2004. ABC News Online
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Namibians plan white farm grabs in BBC News, 5 November 2003
  12. ^ Video on YouTube Al Jazeera, 2012
  13. ^ Amid Namibia's White Opulence, Majority Rule Isn't So Scary Now in the New York Times, 26 December 1988
  14. ^ Colonial Genocide and Reparations Claims in the 21st Century: The Socio-Legal Context of Claims under International Law by the Herero against Germany for Genocide in Namibia, 1904-1908 (PSI Reports) by Jeremy Sarkin-Hughes
  15. ^ Empire, Colony, Genocide: Conquest, Occupation and Subaltern Resistance in World History (War and Genocide) (War and Genocide) (War and Genocide) A. Dirk Moses -page 296(From Conquest to Genocide: Colonial Rule in German Southwest Africa and German East Africa. 296, (29). Dominik J. Schaller)
  16. ^ The Imperialist Imagination: German Colonialism and Its Legacy (Social History, Popular Culture, and Politics in Germany) by Sara L. Friedrichsmeyer, Sara Lennox, and Susanne M. Zantop page 87 University of Michigan Press 1999
  17. ^ Walter Nuhn: Sturm über Südwest. Der Hereroaufstand von 1904. Bernard & Graefe-Verlag, Koblenz 1989. ISBN 3-7637-5852-6.
  18. ^ Marie-Aude Baronian, Stephan Besser, Yolande Jansen, "Diaspora and memory: figures of displacement in contemporary literature, arts and politics", pg. 33 Rodopi, 2007,
  19. ^ Samuel Totten, William S. Parsons, Israel W. Charny, "Century of genocide: critical essays and eyewitness accounts" pg. 51, Routledge, 2004,
  20. ^ Dan Kroll, "Securing our water supply: protecting a vulnerable resource", PennWell Corp/University of Michigan Press, pg. 22
  21. ^ ‘Stolen’ Blue Book was just misplaced 23.04.2009 accessed 17 Dec 2011
  22. ^
  23. ^ The colonising camera: photographs in the making of Namibian history Wolfram Hartmann, Jeremy Silvester, Patricia Hayes, page 118, University of Cape Town Press, 1999
  24. ^ Jan-Bart Gewald, Jeremy Silvester, "Words Cannot Be Found: German Colonial Rule in Namibia : An Annotated Reprint of the 1918 Blue Book (Sources on African History, 1)", Brill Academic Publishers, annotated edition (1 June 2003)
  25. ^
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  28. ^ Hitler's Black Victims: The Historical Experiences of European Blacks, Africans and African Americans During the Nazi Era (Crosscurrents in African American History) by Clarence Lusane, page 50-51 Routledge 2002
  29. ^ Steinmetz, George, The devil's handwriting, pp 196-216
  30. ^ The practice of war Production, Reproduction and Communication of Armed Violence Edited by Aparna Rao, Michael Bollig and Monika Böck, page 92, Berghahn Books; 2011
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b c Mamdani, p. 12
  33. ^ The Kaiser's Holocaust: Germany's Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism, page 225, Casper Erichsen, David Olusoga, Faber and Faber 2010
  34. ^ Production, Reproduction and Communication of Armed Violence Aparna Rao, Michael Bollig and Monika Böck,page 89, Berghahn Books 2008
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  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
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  42. ^ Born to be a slave in Niger By Hilary Andersson, BBC Africa Correspondent, Niger
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^ Islam and Slavery
  56. ^ Curse Of Slavery Haunts Sudan CBS News. January 25, 1998
  57. ^ U.S. State Department report says 'religious intolerance remains far too common' around world. September 6, 2000 CNN US News
  58. ^ Jok Madut Jok (2001), p.3
  59. ^ U.S. Department of State: Sudan Peace Act October 21, 2002
  60. ^
  61. ^ Jonathan Clayton Desert hides world's worst humanitarian crisis in The Times May 13, 2004, Page 2
  62. ^ Hilary AnderssonGenocide lays waste Darfur’s land of no men in Sunday Times November 14, 2004
  63. ^ Fred Bridgland Darfur: Africa’s hidden holocaust? in Sunday Herald April 11, 2004
  64. ^ Darfur, Sudan: Crisis, response and lessons UK Parliament Press Notice 14, Session 2004-05
  65. ^ Collins, Robert O., "Civil Wars and Revolution in the Sudan: Essays on the Sudan, Southern Sudan, and Darfur, 1962-2004 ", (p. 156), Tsehai Publishers (US), (2005) ISBN 0-9748198-7-5 .
  66. ^ Power, Samantha "Dying in Darfur: Can the ethnic cleansing in Sudan be stopped?"[1], The New Yorker, 30 August 2004. Human Rights Watch, "Q & A: Crisis in Darfur" (web site, retrieved 24 May 2006). Hilary Andersson, "Ethnic cleansing blights Sudan", BBC News, 27 May 2004.
  67. ^
  68. ^
  69. ^ Translation and the Colonial Imaginary: Ibn Khaldun Orientalist, by Abdelmajid Hannoum © 2003 Wesleyan University. JSTOR 3590803
  70. ^ The Negro land of the Arabs Examined and Explained
  71. ^ Not Quite Venus from the Waves: The Almoravid Conquest of Ghana in the Modern Historiography of Western Africa by Pekka Masonen; Humphrey J. Fisher 1996
  72. ^ The Conquest That Never Was: Ghana and the Almoravids, 1076. I. The External Arabic Sources, by David Conrad and Humphrey Fisher © 1982 African Studies Association JSTOR 3171598
  73. ^ a b c d General Amin and the Indian Exodus from Uganda Hasu H. Patel, Issue: A Journal of Opinion, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Winter, 1972), pp. 12-22 doi:10.2307/1166488
  74. ^
  75. ^
  76. ^
  77. ^
  78. ^
  79. ^
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  81. ^
  82. ^
  83. ^
  84. ^
  85. ^
  86. ^
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