Commentary on "sample of native treaty"

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  • Publié le : 10 décembre 2009
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Commentary on : “Sample of Native Treaty”

This document is a sample of a treaty written and employed by the British Royal Niger Company for the Native tribes living in Africa. After the Berlin West Africa Conference in 1884-1885, many trading companies were granted charters to exploit zones of influence in Africa. This is the case of the British Niger Company which wanted toimpose the British presence in Nigeria. The only way to impose sovereignty legally was to have treaties signed with African Chiefs tribes. This sample is an example of one of them. Nigeria being a multi-ethnic country, the text is made clear and simple so that the natives could understand it.

The page is a text with blank spaces. It could be divided into three parts: theprerogatives, the signature and the declaration of the interpreter.
In the treaty, only the names of the African chief tribe which is concerned by the situation, the name of the interpreter and the date of the day, where the agreement was supposed to be signed, are missing.
The prerogatives are exposed in nine points. It sets the modalities for the settlement.
Under them, and after the signature, theinterpreter swears that he had faithfully translated the motives of the colonists without falsifying them. The same is true for the Natives.
At the first sight, we could say that this is a honest treaty. But, this is THE example of the colonists perfidy. Indeed, by presenting a text which seems first to be perfect, well written, easy to understand, it in fact reveals a time trial for colonization ontwo levels.

1. A time trial which reflects in the text itself:“Don't judge a book by its cover”

As it was said in the description, the text is short and clear. If we look closer, it could be said to answer to a military logic: efficiency and rapidity.
First, repetition is omnipresent, often at the beginning of each sentences which give a particular tone to the text: like a rhythm or likea warrior who is receiving directives from his general and who answers obediently according to the usage. This already reflects the British sovereignty.
Secondly, the text is ready to be filled. The country concerned by the agreement just have to say “yes” or “no”. There is no human feelings in this treaty. That shows the personal interest of Britain. It doesn't want to strike up a friendshipwith the tribe, they just want their land and resources to increase its prestige. Anyway if the answer is negative, Britain will use of its superiority to make things change in his favour.

2. A time trial: in the words.

The treaty contradicts itself especially concerning the first point of the treaty. The settlement of Britain on this territory is supposed to “better the condition” of thecountry and the people. However, it is simply a country which is going to be within the sphere of influence of another more powerful country, Britain, and which is going to serve in effect as a satellite state. The sphere of influence concerns three points in this text: an economic point, a strategic point and a social/human point.

-On a strategic plan
Nigeria is implanted along the Guinea Gulf. Atthat time, Britain has still an opening up to the Mediterranean Sea (with Egypt), to the Red Sea (with Sudan) and the Aden Gulf (with Somalia). It controls the Nile, it has an opening on the Indian Ocean (with South Africa). The acquisition of the Nigeria would be an opening up to the South Atlantic Ocean but also a way to control and compete with the other colonial powers: France and Germany,still well established in this area. Moreover, the Niger River attracted British merchants to open depots in the delta towns. The main advantage is the fact that the river, which has many tributaries, is a quicker way and safe for linking Nigeria to two other British colonies: Ghana and Sierra Leone, through different other countries. Thus, Britain does not only control the other colonial powers...
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