Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Miller and Stitz on Discovery Doctrine in East Africa

 Robert J. Miller and Olivia Stitz, Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law have posted The International Law of Colonialism in East Africa: Germany, England, and the Doctrine of Discovery:

The non-European, non-Christian world was colonized under international law that is known today as the Doctrine of Discovery. This common-law international Doctrine was codified into European international law at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 and in the Berlin Act of 1885 specifically to partition and colonize Africa. Thirteen European countries and the United States attended the four month Conference and then thirteen countries signed the Berlin Act on February 26, 1885. Under the Discovery Doctrine and the Berlin Act, European countries claimed superior rights over African nations and Indigenous Peoples. When European explorers planted crosses, signed hundreds of treaties, and raised flags in many parts of Africa, they were making legal claims of ownership and domination over the native nations and peoples, and their lands and assets. These claims were justified in the fifteenth and in the nineteenth centuries by racial, ethnocentric, and religious ideas about the alleged superiority of European Christian nations. This Article examines the application of the Doctrine and the Berlin Act by England and Germany in East Africa, the area that now comprises Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. This comparative law analysis demonstrates convincingly that the Berlin Act and these colonizing countries applied what we define as the ten elements of the Doctrine of Discovery. These elements had been developed and refined by European legal and political systems since the mid-1400s. Over 400 years later, the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 expressly and implicitly adopted and codified all ten elements to control the European partition and colonization of Africa. Germany and England used this international law to colonize East Africa. Needless to say, European domination, exploitation, and colonization seriously injured the human, property, sovereign, and self-determination rights of Indigenous nations and peoples and still impacts them today. The comparative legal analysis set out in this Article will benefit readers to see more clearly how law affected and directed African colonization, and to develop a better understanding of the international law of colonialism, that historic process, the impacts of colonization, and why this knowledge is of crucial importance to us all.

--Dan Ernst