Genocide, Francophile Africa & The Colonial Mind

Contemporary education is no longer capable of discerning nor appreciating the philosophical distinctions that reeled the ancient world, any person familiar with Patristic thought can indeed understand how Francophile Africa, specifically Rwanda became a conduit for genocide.  Yes, the British were the first to make concentration camps for the Boer War throughout South Africa, but the tribal and racial drive to genocide found a home in French utopian thought permanent.

The social darwinian racial component that underwrote Germanic genocide is similar to the utopian currents that found a home in Francophile Africa.  What I would like to provide for the reader is an outline of how genocide became possible in French Equatorial Africa without Darwin.

Why is this significant?

Given the social, political trajectory of militant Islamism, the west should anticipate a resurgent Islamic drive to implement, pursue African slavery.  This should be expected for the simple reason that Islamic jurisprudence frames its thinking along purely extrinsic lines of thinking.  Pagan thinking did the same for centuries until the rise of Christian orthodoxy and its culmination in an Athanasian distinction of economy that fortified a bulwark against a flailing Arius.

Islamic jurisprudence was never shaped from the informing contours of western modernity, especially its discovery and subsequent affirmation of the twin achievements of philosophy:  liberty (individual sovereignty) & interiority (empiricism).  Islamic contact with the west can indeed fortify a Reformation; nevertheless, the genocide that reeled Rwanda has its ground in extrinsic conceptions of personhood, something familiar to militant Islam, western secularism and pagan thought.  I’d like to provide a historical outline for how Francophile Africa made Rwandan genocide.

With the rise of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, an act that is indissolubly linked to British policy in Afghanistan, we can discern new ideas shaping colonialism throughout the South Asian Subcontinent.  The main driver embodying this pursuit was Henry Main, a brilliant historian of jurisprudence and ethnographer.  Dr. Main ended his tenure as Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge.  Like Jesuit and Dominican Friars throughout the new world, Dr. Main was bent on formulating an eloquent case for the historicity and moral agency of the colonized.

In his thinking, the Imperialist was grounded in history but the native was defined by geography.  Main was an intellect who found a resounding home in being read by nearly every Imperialist administrator; from Lyall in India to Swetenham in Malaya, Shepstone in Natal, Cromer in Egypt, Lugard in Nigeria and Uganda.  Even Harold MacMichael in Sudan and Donald Cameron in Tanganyika, colonial administrators throughout the globe devoured his writings, the most famous being ‘Ancient Law’ (1861).

Bear in mind that Main never exposed any hint of natural law in his grasp of nativism.  His ideas were far more circumspect.  He sough to identify a positive relation between colonial administration, legal personality and colonial power.  At best, a Tory with Whig ambition outside the confines of natural right; positivism meeting the intransigence of ethnicity.  Although he reified the status of ethnicity as an ethnographer, his turn of mind can fortify us in the west to anticipate how the positive mind (Islamic jurisprudence) grasps ‘substance’ outside any acknowledged interiority.  This is a pastiche worth dissecting.

What all this effort birthed was not yet known until the Congress of Berlin ended and its architects claimed ‘indirect rule’ as the premiere form of foreign policy.  We can with justification accept that the crisis of Empire had succeeded in stimulating British gentry toward accepting indirect rule as a social, political response to the stark challenges of geographical extremes of Empire.  Nevertheless, the twin disasters of the Indian Mutiny and the Morant Bay rebellion in Jamaica in 1865 only justified Imperialist claims along extrinsic juridical lines thought.  Main was no Thomas Jefferson!  What was done by benevolent govmint from Whitehall had no traction in Ireland!

Main should not be denied his claim to underwrite how Imperial Brits brought South Asia into the modern world; for the British were responsible implementing the colonial mission from civilization to conservation, and of progress to finally order.  Although all this would be repudiated in the 1950’s through the early 1960’s, it did succeed well.

The ideological turbines of the colonial project were clear from the beginning of 1850, abolish the Mughal court and impose British law and technology along with Christianity.  Dr. Main’s Rede Lecture in Cambridge in 1875 can fortify U.S.  Army infantry throughout South Asia today; for he warned western Orientalist that the coastlines of today’s AfPak region is not efficacious if one is to discern how a resurgent Islamist will act.  Main firmly believed that Imperial Brits had to dump liberal utilitarian beliefs in favor of social and ethnic enmity sanctioned by revelation.  For Main, the logic of the quotidian, the mundane, reveals the logic of native institutions.

Although Main was considered to be an ardent Orientalist, he favored the ideas of ‘comparative jurisprudence’, specifically the study of kinship as the basis of social order.  (So has Anatol Lieven’s ‘Pakistan:  Hard Country’, professor of International Relations at King’s College, London.)  As any good ethnographer will reveal, kingship is the central abiding fact underwriting primitive societies.  As such, native tradition was a bulwark against time, the triumph of the local over sovereign ‘others.’

Here geography trumps history!

For Main, indirect rule aimed at reproduction of difference as custom, not its eradication as barbarism.  Here there is an intrinsic relation between law and subjectivity, for law was not simply consensual but enforced from ethnic kingship, not always easily discerned by utilitarian westerners. I should strain to tell this reader that the policy of soliciting pluralism was not beneficial to natives, for it was a Machiavellian policy of divide and conquer.  Under no circumstances should we believe that Downing and Whitehall possessed the principle of subsidiarity!  (They didn’t.)

Imperial foreign policy throughout Africa and South Asia sought to forcibly assimilate elite groups remaking the subjectivities of entire populations.  Through the use of an extensive legal and administrative apparatus, Imperials sought to contain a native pluralism by formulating cultural (not ethnic) identities through the coercive ideology of consensus.  (Just ask the Irish!)

Because of this enforced process of assimilation, racial and ethnic racism became endemic. Here cultural historiography becomes the legal instrument of positivism.

The Congress of Berlin saw changes regarding how Imperialists developed a consensus shaped from an emerging positivism, for Bismarck, Casterleagh, Disraeli, Salisbury and numerous others present made a distinction between race and tribe.  Tribe being indigenous to colonial administration held greater weight.  For the British, how a native was defined would determine the kind of law to be imposed.  Absolutely nowhere here in these deliberations do we discover natural law; it’s significance will only be acknowledged when European political affairs turns fascist and nation states begin criminalizing political, cultural differences.

For all imperialists, customary law was unchangeable.  This is distinct from British common law and natural law.  Customary law administered through divisive local allies as a coercive enforcer of an unchangeable law would become satanic throughout the 20th century.  Francophile Africa would have no recourse to natural law or British common law.

The development of both natural and common law along British Puritan, mercantile societies would prevent this fascist satanic racism from developing along either civil law or customary law.  Francophile Rwanda was not spared this fundamental Christian insight.

We must remember that customary law grounded rights in discourse of origin.  Race was a marker of civilization, tribe marked cultural diversity. Neither could unravel the satanic Darwinian impulse that marked how political modernity was received in colonial societies throughout the third world.

“Alibis of Empire:  Henry Main and the Ends of Liberal Imperalism” by Karuna Mantena.


About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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