Use of Indirect Rule in Africa to Compensate for the Small Numeric Presence of Colonialists

1092 words | 4 page(s)

One of the areas of focus for historians has been to understand factors responsible for the growth and consolidation of colonialists in Africa. It is widely argued that most of the dramatic steps in the consolidation of Africa were based on socio-economic and political superiority, yet inferior numbers implied that the colonialists sought alternative mechanisms towards the achievement of power and effective administration. The colonization of Africa posed mixed outcomes. On one hand, colonialism led to positive outcomes such as paradigm shifts in education and religious activities among the Africans. However, the extent of colonial control in some parts of Africa faced challenges in terms of numeric representation. Without a doubt, evidence showed that the provision of security and general administration of the African continent faced challenges. In particular, numerical inferiority in reference to the number of colonial administrators was a major drawback on the colonialists’ side as they encountered resistance to change and ideologies. Colonialists were fewer in comparison with the host or target populations. As such, the direct rule of the colonies became unsuccessful. Therefore, this paper examines some of the methods that colonialists used as compensatory measures that emerged out of the small numeric disadvantage.

Focus on Africa
The influence of colonialists on the African inhabitants remains overwhelming. Colonialists exercised control over their African subjects through indirect rule. The role of policy organizers entailed delegating the day-to-day governance approach to the power holders at local scales. In so doing, the colonialists compensated for the inferior numbers in Africa regarding the administration and provision of security. It is also crucial to highlight that, areas governed by indirect rule were beyond the reach of direct authority and power in respective states. Rather, the face of political rule emerged from intermediaries. According to Benjamin et al. (2006), intermediaries refer to power systems in which individuals with customary or traditional authority dominated political rule, security provision and administration in Africa.

puzzles puzzles
Your 20% discount here.

Use your promo and get a custom paper on
"Use of Indirect Rule in Africa to Compensate for the Small Numeric Presence of Colonialists".

Order Now
Promocode: custom20

Therefore, it is imperative to highlight and mention some of the ways in which indirect rule was applied. One of the approaches regarding the use of indirect rule in Africa postulated that, it served as a unitary category upon which colonial strategies lied. In fact, indirect rule was not a disaggregated approach. A second approach advocating for indirect rule stated that, whereas direct rule characterized all modern associations between the society and the state, the act of overlooking diverse forms that aided in existing controls, governance and bargaining led to a challenged financial system regarding the ruling of Africa (Lawrence, Osborn & Roberts, 2006).

In Africa, three forms of interaction existed as counter measures against colonial numerical inferiority; regardless of the philosophical foundation on which various countries relied. The process of ruling the larger, target population witnessed bewildered arrays of diversity, with the areas characterized by territories, autonomous religions, entreports, political administration, and customary administration. The arising scenario is the projected significance about the role of local strongmen who aided in the provision of security and effective administration, upon which direct rule applied in interchangeability with indirect rule. The reality is that the target countries experienced direct rule yet indirect rule dominated by means of the local strongmen.

In reference to the numerical inferiority that existed among the colonialists, instances of governance occurred in spectra of state authority. The state authority defined two approaches to indirect rule. The first stage entailed force monopolies over their territories while independence from the sovereignty of the state became alternative approaches towards controlling Africa in the colonial period.

The organization principle under which indirect rule operated suggests that the role of the legal framework involved clearer signs towards state intervention and intentions. Furthermore, indirect rule’s state principal became basis for the realization of a self-defined extent of colonial operation. Through the Suzerain governance, colonialists used titular powers whereby dominant states in Africa helped towards the achievement of control over the foreign states in vassal positions. However, the Suzerain approach implied that the role of superior African states towards controlling vassal states in the interest of colonialists allowed the vassal states to exercise their internal affairs through sovereign authority (Lawrence, Osborn & Roberts, 2006).

Therefore, inferior colonialists’ numbers in some of the African states were compensated by delegating authority to the tribal groups or princely states in which constitutional freedom or independences helped in the ordering of internal affairs but still maintained allegiances of overarching imperial powers. The latter accounted for nominal tributes that the treaties fixed. Additional aspects of imperial representation guidance within regions that colonialists had specific imperial concerns played crucial roles in the process of action execution among the princely states or tribal groups. Customary norms or explicit laws aided in guiding the African states under the Suzerain rule. Other parties upholding the customary norms included political organizations and governments.

Another approach towards the compensation of numerical inferiority among colonialists included hybrid governance. Through hybrid governance, the colonialists identified and trained individuals who helped in the achievement of policies as stipulated in the intentions of the motherland (Lawrence, Osborn & Roberts, 2006). The approach, hybrid governance in Africa, remains unique by identifying and training individuals who spearhead motherland interests in vassal states; rather than using local men who are already in charge of particular countries or regions respectively. Hybrid governance played the crucial role of state-sharing authority with other actors in the social arena (Lawrence, Osborn & Roberts, 2006).

Colonialists used indirect rule in African countries in place of direct rule to compensate for their inferiority in numbers. Indirect rule was particularly crucial in the consolidation of Africa, as well as its enablement of the emergence of superior states. In exercising indirect rule, aspects of Suzerain and hybrid governance helped in the achievement of goals and objectives. The Suzerain approach entails the identification and use of a local, but potentially able administrator, from which matter delegation would guide in local administration of the rest of the subjects. Additionally, through hybrid governance, able individuals would help in overseeing and reporting to the colonialists regarding country operations. However, hybrid governance approach required training, unlike the Suzerain approach, with the latter requiring a mere selection of existing local men. Whereas it was limited in some ways (such as failing to shield the citizens from the effects of great depression), indirect rule was pivotal for the subsequent developments; characterizing further consolidation of the governments that saw Africa grow in terms of social, economic and political developments.

  • Lawrence, B.N., Osborn, E.L and Roberts, R.L. (2006). Intermediaries, Interpreters, and Clerks: African Employees in the making of colonial Africa edited. University of Wisconsin System, USA. 4 (28): 324-326.

puzzles puzzles
Attract Only the Top Grades

Have a team of vetted experts take you to the top, with professionally written papers in every area of study.

Order Now