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Did worldwide decolonization after 1945 create more problems than it solved Essay

Decolonization after World War 2 created a whole new era of human history. Colonizers had drawn borders for the first time in places like Africa, created and promoted the idea of a state and national identity, as well as new technologies and ways of life. Independence would therefore create many problems. Conflict over disputed territories leading to ethnic violence, power struggles among the educated and a mass exodus of civilians to flee persecution, to name a few. The colonizers policies of using natural resources for self gain was retained, especially in Africa, which explains the vast economic and humanitarian crisis there today.

When British India was granted independence by the British Empire in 1947, partition was “In part because of the haste which the British withdrew there forces… a bloodbath…. Viscous Hindu-Muslim and Muslim-Sikh communal rioting, in which neither women nor children were spared, took the lives of hundreds of thousands’’ (Stearns, Adan, Schwartz, 1996, p. 464).

The new task of setting out a national identity meant it was inevitable that the decolonisation would cause both sides to clash mainly on religious and cultural grounds. This problem had then furthered when India had partitioned into two states as the two ethnic groups would not coexist. Pakistan became an Islamic state, India secular and the problem, furthered into a mass exodus of Hindi and Muslim people into their respective states that “may have totalled 10 million people”. (Stearns, Adan, Schwartz, 1996, p. 464).

Similarly along these lines, when borders were drawn and demarcated in Africa, the idea of nationality had just been formed which only intensified cultural differences. It is quite clear to see from the process of decolonisation across Africa, that in relation to power struggles, violence and all out war, the process has created a vast amount of problems which seem unsolvable to many in modern times. When granted their individual independence, a detrimental power vacuum was inevitable.

Countries like Kenya and Ghana, acquired nationalist governments. For the first time Africans were divided by national identity. This gave rise to opposition forces wanting control of the state, either or, an authoritarian reign was likely. In most cases the educated elite drastically failed in creating a stable state and government and were overthrown by generals and western backed movements which led to mass violence across the continent. When independence in its due course happened, ethnic divides, most notably in Rwanda, manifested into and annihilation, which led to one of the worst genocides in recent human history.

The two tribal groups in question, the Hutu’s and the massacred Tutsi’s rivalry existed in pre-colonial time. However decolonization had added elements to which caused this genocide as the Hutu’s used the socio-economic failures of the country as a reason to persecute the Tutsi’s.

Decolonisation had furthered racial tensions in some parts of the world. Even when South Africa was granted independence, the white settlers continued to run the country and most notably continued the policy of racial segregation. The ruling Afrikaners silenced any type of protest from the anti-apartheid movement for over 40 years after independence. Racism took on a vice versa in the neighbouring Zimbabwe, formerly South Rhodesia . President Mugabe forcibly evicted white farmers from their land, claiming he was taking the land for his own people. Although a less radical form of racism than what happened in South Africa, it still created problems for both sides, especially economically.

When independence occurred in African states, it was merely a passing of a torch ceremony. “Several scholars have proposed a political theory of Africa’s stagnation according to which African leaders, having inherited artificial polities from colonialism, resort to neo-patrimonial strategies to foster their power and… use the resources of the state to pursue their political and essentially private aims of power maximization” (Englebert, 2000) . Although the demarcation and stately political structure provided by the colonizers can be seen as good thing, they did not rule and implement the same policies on their colonies as they had done in their own nations. They were there to rule and reap, not to provide which distorted the political minds of generations to come.

In modern day Africa, this continues with widespread poverty and famine, dense corruption and on-going conflicts. Similarly to this point, the political structure and policies described above gave Africa the opportunity to enter international markets by exporting natural resources, to which nearly all GDP is accounted for and is therefore the state is fully reliant on international demand for their resources. “Broadly speaking, Ghana’s and Africa’s economic problems are attributed to factors external to the continent.

More specifically, the international capitalist system and its constituent institutions…is seen as ultimately responsible for the economic disaster that has befallen countries such as Ghana”. (Price, R M., 1984). A prime example would be the Democratic Republic of Congo as Winter (2006) explains the Congo has “30% of the world’s diamond reserves, more than 70% of the valuable coltan mineral – a vital ingredient in mobile phones”. This fuels profit maximization for both capitalist institutions and the elite of the exploited country, which funds the ongoing corruption and violence in the developing regions.

From my research, I come to the conclusion that decolonization and the way it occurred created a lot more problems. Although the structure was there to build a successful state, it lacked substance in the key areas of healthcare and education. “The economic failure is undercutting a drive for political liberalization, raising ethnic rivalries to a dangerous level and forcing countries to impose politically inflammatory austerity programs, often under the dictates of Western financial institutions” (Darnton J. 1994). The problems in these areas are simply derived from profit versus people.


Darnton, J. (1994), ‘Lost decade’ drains African vitality. The New York Times, 19 June. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/06/19/world/lost-decade-drains-africa-s-vitality.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm [17 Oct. 2013]

Englebert,P. (2000), ‘Pre-Colonial Institutions, Post-Colonial States, and Economic Development in Tropical Africa’ Political Research Quarterly, 53 (1): 7 – 36

Stearns, P. , Adas, M. , Schwartz, S. (1996) World Civilizations: The Global Experience. New York, Harper Collins.

Price, R M. (1984) ‘Neo-Colonialism and Ghanas economic decline: a critical assessment’, Canadian journal of African studies, 18 (1), Available from : http://www.jstor.org/stable/485008?seq=2 [10 Oct 2013]

Winter, J. (2006) ‘DR Congo poll crucial for Africa’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/5209428.stm [17 Oct 2013]

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