What can you conclude from the fact that African delegates were not included in the Berlin Conference of 1884?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main thing that you can conclude from this fact is that the European powers did not think that the Africans were worthy of having a voice in their own future.  This is completely consistent with the Europeans' policy of carving up Africa into colonies.

At this conference, the European powers were deciding the fate of Africa.  They were, essentially, deciding which European country would get which part of Africa and what the rules of the "Scramble for Africa" would be.  This means that they were deciding the fate of many African people.  The fact that they did not include African delegates shows that they did not believe that the Africans deserved to have a say in their future.

The Scramble for Africa was based largely on the idea that the Africans were inferior and that they could and should simply be used for the benefit of Europeans.  The exclusion of African delegates is another way of showing that attitude.

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