The conference took place in Berlin between November 15, 1884, and November 26, 1885, and was chaired by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Though controlling the slave trade and promoting humanitarian idealism were supposed to be the focuses of the conference, only empty and meaningless resolutions about the ending of the slave trade and providing for the welfare of Africa were actually passed. In reality, the conference divided the continent of Africa between the European powers.
Firstly, the exclusion of African states that, ironically, were the chief subjects of the conference makes it clear that they were not recognized as autonomous, independent, and sovereign nations with any right to self determination. All the nations represented at the conference arrogantly believed that the African nations were made up of uncivilized, ignorant savages who had no idea of where their best interests lay.
Furthermore, the delegates mostly believed that the treaties they had signed with chiefs and other tribal leaders from the various areas under discussion gave them the authority to decide on the fate of these regions. The pompous assumption was that they, the delegates, would be acting in the best interests of the natives, when in fact their primary considerations were expansionism, avarice, and greed.
In addition, one can only conclude that the delegates were fearful of any opposition they might encounter from African representatives. Such delegates would obviously have disagreed about the boundaries (as one of the many issues under discussion) that the incumbent delegates were intent on drawing to divide the continent.
The Berlin Conference is one of the clearest examples of the assumptions and preconceptions of the colonialist era. Its devastating effects on Africa are still evident today.