The main harm of European colonialism in Africa

Jean-Bédel Bokassa

It was psychological, Dalrymple points out.

Working as a doctor in Rhodesia, he noticed that

black doctors were paid the same as white doctors; but while I lived like a king on my salary, the black doctors on the same salary lived in penury and near-squalor.

The reason was that while Dalrymple had only himself to consider, the black doctors,

being at the peak of the African pyramid, had to share their salary with their extended family and others. It was a profound social obligation for them to do so and was, in fact, morally attractive.

Idi Amin


did not prevent them from wishing as individuals to live at the European standard; but this was impossible so long as the colonial régime lasted.

Once this élite had its hand on power, Dalrymple notes,

it had both the means and opportunity to outdo that standard to assuage its humiliation, but the social obligations to look after the extended family and others remained. There was no legitimate way to satisfy these demands other than by gaining and keeping control of political power, which is why the struggle for such control was often so ruthless and bloody.

When the model of power they had in their minds

was that of the colonial ruler, salaried philosopher-kings whose prestige was maintained by a lot of ceremonial flimflam (white helmets with egret feathers, splendid uniforms), it was hardly surprising that the dance of freedom was a bestiary of bizarre rulers.

Robert Mugabe

Ahmed Sékou Touré

Mobutu Sese Seko

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