The return of Europeans back to Europe: Part One


DURING the colonisation of Africa, Europeans migrated to Africa to control, to fight the Africans and to take over land and minerals.
Over the years, the Africans fought and regained independence.
Then a wave of Europeans began to leave Africa.
In general, historians argue that the number of Europeans leaving Africa has increased.
While there are approximately 4,5 million white South Africans and other white people living in Angola, Madagascar, Namibia, Tunisia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and Ghana, the number of white or European presence in Africa has gone down since the independence of various countries.
The first part of this column traces the process of colonisation and migration of Europeans to Africa and their return back to Europe.
Samantha Spooner, a historian wrote an article titled: ‘Hounded and courted: What happened to Africa’s white settlers?’
She makes the following argument: “Over the last 50 years, Africa’s once-ubiquitous white settlers have slowly been disappearing from the face of the continent.
“Though many of these individuals lived most of their lives or were born and raised in Africa, it has been difficult to shake off the perception of their being outsiders.” 
She argues that the tension between black and white people is not unjustified because the wealth of much of Africa’s white population was built on unfair systems that allowed for ‘land-grabs, fraud and extortion’.
This means the Europeans leaving Africa are forced to migrate to European countries, “For which the white settler communities may have a passport, but no affiliation.”
The movement of Europeans back to Europe began in the 1960s as white settlers moved to Europe following independence movements and the end of colonial administrations.
For example, after the Algerian War of Independence in 1962 more than a million French ‘pied-noir’ settlers returned to France.
In 1963 when Kenya became independent, more than 30 000 white settlers flocked out of Kenya. 
Zimbabwe had a similar situation though the number of white migration from Zimbabwe increased after the Land Reform Programme.
Part one of this column will focus on Algerian history and the war leading to the migration of the French back to France.
After the end of Napoleon Wars, Algeria was colonised by the French.
The takeover of Algiers was meant to promote and enhance the declining power of the French monarchy after the Bourbon dynasty and its government had been overthrown by the revolution.
In 1830, the French launched a brutal invasion of Algiers and imposed French rule.
It took them three weeks to capture Algiers and massacre many people.
Then France annexed the rest of the occupied areas in 1834.
According to the government of Algeria website, soon after the occupation, there was, “A large influx of Europeans, mainly of peasant farmer or working class origins from southern areas of Italy, Spain and France, into Algiers.
“The French authorities took possession and redistributed the land used by tribes, religious foundations and villages.
“During the conquest, the French troops were known to have looted, raped and massacred entire villages, desecrated mosques and destroyed cemeteries.”
It was a brutal invasion of the country as the French fought Abd al-Qadir, a devout Sufi religious and political leader who fought hard to keep Algerian freedom.
Abd al-Qadir remains in history as the most venerated first hero of Algerian independence.
He had support from many people to the extent that he controlled two-thirds of Algeria in 1839.
The French government sent Commander General Bugeaud who defeated Abd al-Qadir in 1847.
Soon after that, the French destroyed Islamic institutions and schools.
They launched a mission to bring ‘civilisation’ to Algeria and forced the people to become full French citizens.
Algerian Muslims were also forced to renounce Islamic traditions and follow French ways of life.
Basically the Muslims were treated as subjects and not able to obtain French citizenship until they gave up their religion and culture. 
This way, they were forced to forgo their identity.
Two waves of French immigration to Algeria happened between 1848 and 1881.
As the French settled, the Algerians lost their land and they became refugees in their own country.
The white settlers in Algeria were known as the ‘pieds noirs’ for being born in the country.
They owned fertile 23 percent of the fertile land while the indigenous Algerians were dispossessed of their traditional land.
Not only did the Algerian lose their land; they were forced to grow cash crops for European consumption.
Algeria produced crops such as wheat, vines, olives, citrus fruits, tobacco and vegetables for export to Europe, but mainly to France.
As a result, wine from Algeria was the most important export.
At the same time, the French also exploited Algeria’s mineral resources and took control of phosphates, iron ore and oil.
The Algerian government website also notes the following: “Socially, the Algerians developed an inferiority complex as a result of the continued oppression by the French.
“The settlers had more power and high incomes while the Algerian majority suffered loss of status, subservience and poverty.
“Much of their traditional and religious education was eliminated and replaced by Christian French education.”
However, such a situation or exploitation and racism had to end.
Revolutionaries emerged from the Algerian people and the Algerian War of Independence began in 1954.
For eight years, there were brutal massacres, terrorism, and torture.
The war went on till March 1962 when the French government accepted a ceasefire.
In July 1962 the Algerian people became independent.
As a result, 1, 4 million French settlers were forced to leave Algeria and return to France.
Until the late 1980s, some French people kept on returning to Algeria, but the Algerian Civil War of the 1990s forced many of them to stay in France, as should have been the case in the first place.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here