Topic 2: The Colonial Administrative Systems - History Form 3

Topic 2: The Colonial Administrative Systems – History Form 3

History Notes Form Three, Topic 4: Colonial Social Services - History Form 3, Topic 3: Colonial Economy - History Form 3, Topic 2: The Colonial Administrative Systems - History Form 3, Topic 1: Establishment Of Colonialism In Africa - History Form 3

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The creation of colonies by imperial powers in Africa was a crucial thing in the 20th century, after the scramble for and partition of the African continent. The colonial powers that immediately occupied Africa after the Berlin Conference of 1884 to 1885 were Britain, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy.

Although all these European powers had the same economic goals of occupying the African continent, they did not use uniform approaches in establishing their colonial administrations. For instance, the Portuguese, French and Belgians applied assimilation policy in their colonies and later used the association policy. On the other hand, the British employed indirect rule in many of her colonies except Zimbabwe where they applied direct rule. Likewise, the Germans in Tanganyika used direct rule as their system of administration.

The major types of colonial administrative systems were

  1. direct rule
  2. indirect rule
  3. assimilation policy and
  4. association policy


This was the colonial system of administration, whereby African traditional rulers were involved in administering their fellow Africans at the local levels on behalf of the colonial governments while the colonial officials and administrators at the higher level. Sir Fredrick John Lugard who was the British High Commissioner to Nigeria in 1900 initiated the indirect rule. The British in their colonies adopted the system especially where she had peasant economy like in Nigeria, Tanganyika, Ghana, Cameroon and Uganda.

Lugard urged the British to use indirect rule in all the colonies. In 1922, Lugard wrote a book titled of the dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa to show the validity of indirect rule. The system was applied in other British West African colonies such as Ghana and Gambia.


The major reasons that made Europeans to initiate and apply the indirect rule system of administration in Africa were:

  1. The Europeans did not want to interfere with African traditional systems of administration.
  2. The European administrators wanted their instructions or orders to appear as if they were emanating or starting directly from the African traditional rulers. This was aimed at reducing African resistances against the European policies.
  3. The Europeans wanted the African chiefs to appear as the ones giving orders to their subordinates (fellow Africans).
  4. The Europeans introduced the indirect rule system with an assumption of civilizing the Africans.
  5. In other areas, indirect rule was used when the system of direct rule had proved failure. For example, the British colonial government decided to use indirect rule in Tanganyika to avoid what happened to the Germans during the Maji Maji rebellion in 1905-1907.


The British colonial government used indirect rule in most of its colonies in Africa because of the following reasons.

  1. Britain drew more attention to its colony in India, thus it was difficult for it to introduce direct rule in Africa. One may argue that they employed indirect because Britain had many colonies in different parts of the world and therefore it was quite difficult for it to administer all the colonies it had using direct rule.
  2. Britain did not have enough manpower (personnel) to administer its colonies in Africa. For instance, in 1900 it was reported that the British had only 42 British officials in the Nigerian colony. This number was not enough to administer the whole colony. The shortage of personnel was caused by lack of experienced workers. Moreover, British citizens were not willing to work in tropical Africa for fear of tropical diseases and other physical problems such as transportation.
  3. The British government for the maintenance of the colonies set fewer funds. It was convenient for the colonial administrators to use the indirect rule system in the colonies so as to reduce administrative costs.
  4. The direct rule proved to be ineffective and inefficient in their Indian colony; therefore, the British government was motivated to apply it in Africa.
  5. The British thought of using the indirect rule in order to overcome resistances from Africans. Consequently, African rulers were made to feel that the British honored their status, as this system of administration gave them an opportunity of keeping some of the money collected in form of taxes for their native treasuries. That money was spent for paying messengers and police officers salaries. However, the local African chiefs retained the money for their personal use.
  6. Physical barriers such as poor infrastructures, presence of mountains, thick forests and dangerous animals in the colonial Africa forced the British to use indirect rule.
  7. A language barrier between the British and the Africans forced the British to use indirect rule. Neither Africans nor Europeans understood the language of the other. Hence, they used interpreters who were basically African local rulers.


  1. Indirect rule was indirect because the British used local rulers to organize and supervise various colonial economic activities such as cash crop production, tax collection and building colonial infrastructures such as railways and roads on their behalf.
  2. The British colonialists used local African rulers in administering punishment to their fellow Africans on their behalf.
  3. The British colonialists used African local rulers to resolve disputes (conflicts) where the conflicting individuals were African natives on their behalf.
  4. The British government issued orders to the African local rulers who then had to convey to the ruled Africans ready for implementation. Thus African – rulers had no independence in decision-making.
  5. The system shifted the blame on African rulers making them be hated by their fellow Africans for their support of colonial rule evils such as exploitation and oppression from these fellow Africans.


The following were some of the strengths of indirect rule:

  1. It avoided African resistances by appointing traditional rulers to rule on their behalf. Hence, all complaints (malalamiko) were directed to the traditional African rulers.
  2. It was cheap, as local chiefs were used to mobilize their people to pay taxes and work as forced laborers.


  1. Indirect rule created imbalance in development amongst African states. Areas which had local chiefs assisting the colonial government had development in social services like schools, hospitals and roads while those which had no chiefs in their areas had no or inadequate social services. Such situations had led to many conflicts among Africans after independence. The African local rulers were favored in all aspects of life as opposed to ordinary Africans. For example, the colonial education was given to the sons, daughters of the chiefs only while the sons, and daughters of nobodies had no access to such an important social amenity that is education.
  2. It divided Africans along religious and ethnic extractions something which made Africans succumb to colonialism in Africa as easily as possible.
  3. It had created social differences amongst Africans. The chiefs’ families and royal families got privilege of getting social services such as education, hospitals and many more while the rest of the community were not getting such facilities.
  4. Tribalism developed as an impact of indirect rule. African chiefs who were entrusted to rule on behalf of the colonialists considered themselves superior to others in their land. For example, Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda created disunity amongst Ugandans when he declared the Buganda kingdom independent in 1960.
  5. African chiefs became puppets of the colonial administrators and did not serve their people. Hence founding the fertile ground for neo-colonialism in Africa, which is still practiced in Africa?
  6. The indirect rule cemented centralized bureaucracy with the district commissioners.


Some of the effects of indirect rule in Africa were:

  1. The white settlers confiscated large portions of land from the Africans. This situation made many Africans to be alienated from their ancestral land.
  2. African traditional political system and leadership were maintained.
  3. Africans were economically exploited through forced labor, land alienation and tax payment.
  4. The white settlers were favored much in land distribution, employment, representation in legislative council and areas for settlements. They were also given loans for developing or opening settler farms.


This was the colonial system of administration whereby European officials at the top position, Arab Akidas, governed the colonies and Liwalis were at the bottom. The Germans preferred this system of administration in their metropolitan country to other methods of administrations.


The following were some of the strengths of direct rule:

The system solved the shortage of employment amongst the European population. For example, Germany offered employment to its people in the colonies it occupied. Hence, it managed to reduce the rate of unemployment of its people.

The system managed to suppress African resistances, since it ensured that the colonies had enough white military officials to safeguard their interests. For instance, the Abushiri war of resistance of 1888 was suppressed by the German colonial administration.


  1. The use of harsh and brutal means to make Africans meet colonial demands such as production of raw materials and paying taxes. Their approach led to many sufferings of the Africans that included death or imprisonment.
  2. It undermined the pre-existing African traditional rulers. For instance, the German administration in Tanganyika removed the African traditional rulers, replacing them with Arab Akidas, and Liwalis from the coastal areas.


There were various reasons that made the British colonial rule in Zimbabwe to opt for the direct rule administrative system. Some of those reasons were:

  1. The British aimed at having full control of Zimbabwe’s economy in order to have access to the natural resources such as the fertile land and minerals.
  2. Many settlers were stationed in Zimbabwe. Settlers were assured of employment to serve the administrative purposes of the colony.
  3. The Europeans lost trust in African traditional leadership after the Chimurenga uprisings of 1896 – 1897.
  4. Through using white mercenaries, armed white police officers and the native affairs department, the British managed to overcome resistances from the African communities that they controlled.


Direct rule and indirect rule had profound similarities (Comparison) as explained here below:

  1. Both were administrative system, which aimed at exploiting African, and providing benefits to the colonialists.
  2. Both systems utilized coercive apparatus like police, army, the prisons and the judicial to suppress the Africans who would resist against the system.
  3. Both had racial discrimination because whites were favored and considered superior race than African thus encouraged racial segregation over the Africans. All high-ranking jobs in the government were reserved for Europeans while Africans held the lower positions of jobs in their local areas.
  4. Both were racist in nature, because, German administration employed the use of harsh ness in their ruling the same to Britain in the whole process of the collection of taxes forces became to be common to intimidate Africans pay such Tax.
  5. Both were imperialist instruments of administration that aimed at exploiting the colonies to the maximum so as to meet the demand of capitalist. This is because in all levels land, labor and raw materials were taken from African.
  6. Both made use of African assistance in the process of promoting colonial exploitation e.g. the British indirect rule used local African chiefs. German direct rule made use of Akidas and Jumbes.
  7. Both encouraged conflict to Africans.
  8. Both systems of colonial administration used African traditional chiefs to supervise colonial works in their areas. However, African rulers who supported the colonial administration did not get full support from their people; they were regarded as puppets or traitors.


  1. The direct rule did not use traditional African chiefs as their intermediaries while the indirect rule used African chiefs. For instance, in Kenya the British used some Kikuyu chiefs as paramount chiefs, like Chief Koinange wa Mbiyu and many others. Germans used direct rule in her colonies in Africa including Tanganyika.
  2. The indirect rule practiced by the British did not experience great enmity from the Africans because African traditional chiefs were involved in the colonial administration and their subjects were loyal to them. This was not the case with direct rule employed by the Germans, since they experienced frequent resistances due to their harsh and brutal treatment of Africans.
  3. It was easy for the indirect rule administration to convince African traditional chiefs to mobilize their subjects to participate in various colonial tasks while the direct rule administration encountered difficulties in mobilizing Africans to perform their colonial duties and as a result opted to use force to make Africans participate in their various colonial duties. For example, the Germans in Tanganyika force southern people to work in their cotton plantations.
  4. The indirect rule system of administration had less costs of administration unlike the direct rule that required many Europeans to perform all tasks of administration hence high costs of administration.
  5. Direct rule was characterized by the use of force and racial superiority. For instance, the Germans considered themselves superior to other races. Brutality was also another characteristic of direct rule, whereby colonial administrators handled Africans brutally. On the other hand, the indirect rule system of administration used African local chiefs in handling their people and at the same time performing colonial duties.


The term assimilation means ‘similar to.’ The French used this term to refer to a system of administration that aimed at creating French Black Africans amongst the West Africans who would be French citizens. The French wanted the French Black Africans to enjoy the same status and privileges or suffer penalties like any French citizen in France.

The assimilation policy was first used in Indo-China and Algeria and later introduced in the four communes of Senegal-St. Louis, Rufisque and Dakar-in 1854 and spread to other French colonies in Africa. The assimilation policy proved to be successful when it was applied in Morocco. In Senegal, Lewis, a French governor, between 1854 and 1865, introduced the assimilation policy.


  1. The assimilation policy made European countries that employed the policy in their colonies to consider their culture and civilization as superior to those of the colonized people (Africans). The French believed that their culture was the best in the world, and that they had enlightened their colonies with their rich heritage of civilization.
  2. The French considered their colonies as overseas provinces, on this ground they aimed at transforming black men into French men.
  3. The French revolution of 1789, which gave the French the thought that their culture was the best and it was supposed to be applied in different parts of the world.
  4. The French wanted identical administrative policies to be implemented in all of its colonies in the world.
  5. The French aimed at making a class of Africans that would help them in international conflicts. This was so especially after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871 in which the French colonies Alsace and Lorraine were annexed by Germany. So the French wanted to create its allies in African colonies for their future interests, thus, they applied the assimilation policy in all its colonies.
  6. The French intended to create or establish a group of African French men who would assist France to facilitate colonial progress in the colonies economically, socially and politically.


The system of assimilation that was used by the French in administering the colonies had various features:

  1. The French regarded their colonies as their overseas provinces, thus the colonies were closely attached to France.
  2. African citizens within the French colonies enjoyed the privileges and rights that were given to any French citizen in the metropolis.
  3. The African colonies under the French rule were represented in the French Lower House of Parliament. This showed that there was political integration of the Africans with France.
  4. There was a close economic relationship between France and her colonies in Africa. The French currency was used in the colonies, an indication that the colonies were integrated to the metropolis country.
  5. They intended to make the Africans in the colonies to be good French citizens through dictatorship that forced Africans to learn French language, follow the French laws, apply French civil and political systems, be Christians and adopt French manners.
  6. They encountered many difficulties in West Africa, since their attitude towards African culture and the African chiefs was negative.


For the African to be regarded as fully assimilated the French colonial masters set a certain condition in which whoever who could qualify has to be given full French citizenship, such conditions are as explained here below:

  1. Must be an adult person over 18 years and a Christian in faith.
  2. Must practice monogamous (marry one wife).
  3. Must have passed and qualified military services
  4. Must abandon their culture and adopt the French culture
  5. Must be fluent in French language both written and spoken.
  6. NOTE: An African who complied with all above condition he / she was given French citizen ship.


  1. It argued that any African who wanted to become black French or Portuguese to abandon their African culture. The assimilated Africans were required to have looked and speak like the France / Portuguese.
  2. The African assimilees or assimilador were subjected to harsh colonial laws like others non-assimilated African e.g. forced labor.
  3. The assimilated African was considered civilized and hence allowed to hold high post in the colonial government.
  4. The assimilated African could be given scholarship to study in France. However, the French and not Portuguese only practiced this.
  5. Some of the assimilated African could be allowed to go and settle in France. This was not so in the Portuguese colonies.

`However, from 1920 to 1940 the French started to abandon the policy of assimilation while the Portuguese started to abandon it from early 1960, with the abandonment of this policy, they decided to introduced new policy called Association / mature assistance by incorporating the Africans in running the colonies in collaboration.


This was the system of administration applied by France after having seen that assimilation policy had proved failure in 20th C. the policy of association aimed to put the colonial subjects to be involved in the administration especially at the lower levels.

It was also a French colonial policy in which French had to respect the cultures of her colonial peoples and by allowing them to develop independently rather than adopting French civilization and culture. The policy came into practical in 1945 following the abandonment of French assimilation policy.

Generally, Association policy aimed at making participatory administration where by Africans associated (co – operated) with the French in the colonial administration and consolidation. E.g., Africans were supposed to supply military services, labor, pay taxes, while the French had to provide technical knowledge. Again, under association policy Africans were involved in the colonial administrative functions in the following dimensions.

Politically. The French respected political institutions of Africans and African rulers were involved in the lower level of administration Africans were also supposed to be recruited in the colonial army and defend the colonial interest.

Economically: Africans were supposed to pay taxes for development like, construction of schools, hospitals etc. they were also supposed to supply labor, which was essentially voluntary labor to the manual works such as construction of roads, railways and ports.

Socially: Africans were allowed to practice their culture freely, Europeans were supposed to respect Africans culture.


The reasons for the failure of the French assimilation policy

It is historically recorded that the French assimilation policy came to fail due to several reasons like;

(a) The policy was resisted at its grass root in France. The French scholars and politicians expressed their views that it was unwise and unrealistic for Africans to be transformed into Frenchmen.

b) The policy was expensive and difficult to implement because the colonial government had to use many funds to finance the project for instance building schools, buying textbooks written in French and so forth.

c) The policy-encountered opposition from the West African people especially the Muslims such as the Mandinka people under Toure.This is because their religion allows marrying more than one wife

d) The French legal system was based on French civil law whereas the Africans had diverse customary laws and traditions things, which made the policy implementable.

e) The spread of Islamic religion in West African communes became an obstacle to the spread of the assimilation policy since the system encouraged people to be converted to Christianity.

f) The African traditional chiefs discredited the assimilation policy because it threatened their authority over the assimiladors. The assimiladoes did not want accept being under the African chiefs, as they regarded themselves to be superior to them.

g) Due to strong resistance from France who opposed a policy of assimilation, since many assimilated Africans were allowed to get all rights like other French citizens such rights would not enable the colonizers to exploit the colonial subjects to the maximum. Thus, they had to abandon it to preserve their interests.

h) It was very expensive to assimilate the Africans, as many French elites/philosophers they criticized this system as they said that the system brought a burden to French tax payers, who paid taxes and benefited others so a need to incorporate Africans in administration.

i) Due to cultural barriers among the Senegalese who were practicing Islam, which allowed polygamy thus, they failed to adopt western culture of marrying only one husband.

j) Due to the need to reduce/avoid African resistance against colonialism, as the French spent a lot of their effort suppressing the resistance e.g. Samour Toure of the Mandika empire. Therefore, a need to co-operate with their local institution by becoming friends to Africans to easy exploitation.

k) Due to hard conditional ties to quality. Many African could not comply with the conditions given for the one to be regarded as real assimilated in relation to African culture like polygamy and any other conditions accompanied. (Traditions) thus the system of assimilation proved failure.

l) Due to inadequate resources to implement the policy. The policy needed many teachers to work in various primary and secondary schools in order to teach the French language and provide the colonial subjects with the basic education. The colonial masters failed to implement this, thus decided to adopt new policy. Inadequate

m) Due to poor infrastructures in the colonies. This made poor effective implementation of the policy since it was difficult to penetrate in the interior to reach the targeted colonial subjects because of thick forester valleys, and mountains, which made communication more than impossible in the interior.

n) Due to Language barrier. Many Africans got difficulties in learning the French language at the sometimes; many French administrators could not speak African local language, this created gap between colonizers and the colonized subject. Grasp.

o) The assimilation policy was rejected by Africans for their expectations were not met. This is to say Africans had no promotion to the key departments in administration, as all governors’ general was whites. Equally important there were few Africans membership which eventually forced Africans to be unwillingly to attend the French parliament by 1905.

p) The French people feared that African representatives in the National assembly were likely to highly influence the whites in policy and decision-making.


There is no doubt even among the bourgeoisie writers, that colonialism was a system that functioned well in the interest of the colonialist who was the European powers. But unfortunately some ill-fated historian do argue and say that colonialism had a lot of good that it brought in Africa for the benefit of Africans, that is completely false and misleading, colonialism had only one hand – it was a one – armed bandit. It had no any intention to develop African whatever was done in Africa were done to serve their interests, African just picked the remains that would not have been avoided.

Since its inception, colonialism had never intended to bring any development in Africa. In fact, even the capitalism, as mode of production that was introduced was not like that existed in Europe. In the list place, they feared to create capitalism that would be rivals. From the very beginning the tendencies of European nations was one of competition elimination and create monopoly.

For the first three decades of colonialism hardly anything was done that could remotely be termed as services to Africans. It was after 1945 that some social amenities were built as a matter of policy. The so-called developments of social services were distributed in a manner that reflected the pattern of domination and exploitation. The scanty social services were meant only to facilitate European exploitation to the African. They were not given to Africans whose labor was not directly producing surplus for export to the metro pole.

There for ironically speaking there some social services that were established by the colonialists that are termed as ‘development’ brought by the colonialists, which included introduction of western education and construction of school, hospitals, residential houses rail net works, roads, harbors ports, electricity and water services recreation centers processing industries, financial institutions, trade and money economy etc. this is not true all those social infrastructures that were introduced aimed at bringing development to the African But rather they were for specific purpose that served the interest of the colonialists. if in any case African benefited from such services, it was just coincidental. As we can expound below;

  1. Some social amenities like residential houses, recreation grounds, water and electricity were established for the white settlers and expatriates who wanted to maintain the standard of living like that of the bourgeoisie or professionals in the metro pole, they were more determined to have luxurious life in Africa because so many of them were surplus population that had been created by the industrial revolution, come from poverty in Europe and could not expect good services in their own land. Thus, facilities like residential houses, recreation centers, water and electricity were put in place as to keep them in the colony, but not to develop Africa.
  2. In colonial plantations and companies facilities like hospitals, schools staff quarters, running water and electricity were established because they viewed it as an economic investment, because some minimum maintenance of the workers healthy was necessary for their exploitation. Usually such facilities were inclusively for the workers of that particular capitalist concern, and the African who lived outside money economy were simply ignored and not allowed to use the services.
  3. Means of communication like roads railway, ports and harbors were not constructed in the colonial period so that African could visit their relatives and friends, or they were laid down to facilitate internal trade within African commodities. They were constructed to make business possible for the colonial companies and agriculture concession firms and for white settlers to transport their exploits from Africa to the coast and eventually to the metro pole, any catering for the African activities was purely coincidental.
  4. Financial institutions like banks and insurance companies were put in place, but the fact is that these institutions were more scandalously and neglectful to the indigenous people the banks like Barclays in case of East Africa did little to lend the local people. In British East Africa, an ordinance was passed in 1931 restricting financial institution from lending the native people only lending white settlers and colonial companies.
  5. Schools hospitals and hospitals were use as tools to exploit African labor to divide and to spread their culture, on top of that even the money used came from the Africans themselves not from Britain or France or Belgium tax payers but from African workers and peasants produced for European capitalism goods and services of a certain values a small proportion of their effort were retained by them in the forms wage, cash payment and extremely limited social services such as were essential for their maintenance of colonialism the rest went to the various beneficiaries of the colonial system.
  6. Further still the high proportion of the so-called development in the colonies went in form of roads or ports electricity railway roads etc were just necessary for maintaining efficient colonial exploitation of the African in the long run. In the short run, such construction provided out let for European steels, concrete electrical machinery and railroad rolling stock. Bu not to bring development as they do assert.


  1. Colonialism and imperialism never intended to develop Africa but practically there some development on the ground how would you reconcile such conflicting statement.
  2. Explain why colonialism in Africa did not transform Africa economies into capitalism like that of Europe.


Colonial state refers to the colonial extension of the metropolitan state; the colonial state was the first to be established after the scramble and partition before the establishment of colonial economy. The colonial state was to protect the bourgeoisie interests in the colonies. Thus, the colonial state was an instrument responsible for exploitation and oppression of the colonies. The colonial state was imposed from outside not from internal class struggle. Thus, it was the most violent.

The primary objective of the colonial state was to create colonial economy that would respond to the demands of the metropolitan economies. It applied all the means to ensure the establish of

Colonial economy is realized, through suffocating the self-sufficient African economy and establishes the money economy. Having no roots in Africa the colonial state used extreme violence to create such — economy. Methods like conquest and suppression of African up rising were adopted, scorched – earth policy of warfare were applied in the areas of stiff resistance, which however were violently suppressed.


  1. Colonial conquest, the violence of the colonial state was initially demonstrated in the process of colonial conquest itself. Most African societies put up stiff resistance against the colonial establishment, however they were violently suppressed. The colonialist used all kinds of violent means that may bring success to them, many African dies, not only those who were in the battle fields, but also hunger, famine and diseases claimed a number of lives.
  2. Destruction of African handcraft. Another violence of the colonial state in her bid to establish the money economy was manifested when it embarked on destruction of Africa’s handcraft. Throughout the colonial state the tradition crafts of Africans were declare illegal. In the Belgian colony of Congo, artisans had their limbs cut off when caught engaging in hand crafts.
  3. Collection of taxation, Violence of colonial state can also be traced at establishment of taxations to all adult African men. So as to force the African who operated self-sufficient economy to integrate into the money economy. Violence and force was very rampant during the collection and the enforcing of the taxation. The defaulters were tied up their hands together humiliated in the in the face of the public those who failed to pay totally were jailed to provide hard labor.
  4. The liquidation of African trading interest was another violent method applied by the colonial state to break the backbone of African self sufficient and sustaining economy. Africans violently were denied to participant in trade for example Jaja of Opobo and Nana Olum of Itsekir were crushed ruthlessly and deported to West Indies as to stop them from engaging into trade. It was only the European monopoly companies that were allowed to engage in trade.
  5. Land alienation and cattle confiscation as method to establish the money economy also show how colonial state was violent in her struggle to realize her objectives. African arable land was simply grabbed by the colonists, as to reduce African as mere suppliers of cheap labor to the colonial plantations and white settler’s farms to earn the meager wage that were given to them.
  6. In searching and mobilizing for cheap labor to work in the colonial productions, the colonial state demonstrated maximum violence; Africans were forced to work in mines plantations and on colonial infrastructures corporal punishment were applied as to ensure maximum exploitation of African labor force.


These were major instruments in establishment and consolidating colonial rule and colonial economy. These were the super structure of colonialism you may call them the arms of colonial state, they applied all mechanism to ensure the continuality of colonialism in the colony including coercion violence intimidation deportation, corporal punishment, legislations, and jailing, as to establish and achieve the colonial objectives and goals. Colonial state apparatus comprised three organs;

  1. Military organ
  2. Judicially/Prison
  3. Police


This was the backbone of colonial rule in spreading colonialism; the colonial army was to serve colonial interests, not to serve the majority indigenous people. It applied brutality and cruelty of the highest order ever seen in the world, it tortured the people and it happened that it created a big gap between them with the civilians.

Both the colonial army and the police were of mercenary character, trained only to use muscles as opposed to the brain. Education for soldiers was discouraged so much that a myth was created that the less educated a soldiers was the better he would be. They could not be recruited from cash crop regions because these people had property to protect, and if armed they would want to over through the system that prevent them from advancement.


  1. Most of the recruits were illiterates, it was believed that the more illiterate a soldier was the better he was thus basing on that notion many colonial military men were completely illiterate so as they can be able to serve the interest of their masters without questioning.
  2. They depended on orders and commands from the top colonial military without questioning anything thus they lacked professionalism
  3. They always lived in foreign land, i.e. they were not supposed to work on their home land so as to be coercive and merciless while executing their orders from colonial top officers since most of their operations were dominated by violence e.g. the Sudanese soldiers were brought in East Africa
  4. They were selected from unproductive regions where cash crops/mining did not exist especially in labor reserves like in northern Uganda so as they devote all their energies in serving colonial army and should not affect colonial production
  5. They survived on meager/low wages and sometimes without salaries so as they become more royal and obedient to the colonial bosses
  6. They were separated from the public, they lived in barracks and military quarters as to keep them away from civilian problems so that they can create a gap between the civilians and the military force
  7. The applied force and coercive means to the population like land alienation collection of taxes mobilization of labor and suppression of resistance.


  1. To defend the colonial state from foreign threats/ enemies like uprising of African against the colonialists from internal and external threats that would have threatened colonial interests
  2. To punish the African leaders who would appear to be stubborn and non cooperative to the colonial state by deportation, jailing, killing etc
  3. To alienate land from the indigenous people Africans, for the colonial plantations and white settlers.
  4. To provide protection to the colonialist against the Africans who would have harmed the settlers and colonial missionaries.
  5. To provide security and protection to the colonial agents like missionaries’ traders and explorers
  6. To suppress African uprising against colonial domination and to ensure the spread of colonial domination in region


The military organ the police also aimed to serve colonial interests of maintaining peace and – in the colonial state;

  1. To maintain law and order in the colonial state by ensuring that laws are not broken
  2. To collect taxes on behalf of the colonial government and arrest the defaulters on the behalf of the colonialists
  3. To ensure mobilization and constant supply of cheap labor to the colonial economy
  4. They were the watch dogs of colonial administration i.e. they were supposed to report and to take orders from the colonial administration
  5. To provide security for colonial agents like escorting traders and missionaries in areas of insecurity.


  1. The colonial judicially system its major objective was to justify colonial acts by using the judicial system, it was dominated by the white magistrates and judges.
  2. To punish law breakers by jailing people who were against colonialism though the judicial system
  3. To make laws and interpret them that under judicial supervision that helped colonialism in her objectives.
  4. It was the source of cheap labor; prisoners were taken to supply cheap labor in various colonial economic activities.


Colonial state administration refers to the administrative machinery established by the colonialists in the colonial state or it is the hierarchy of colonial ranks in the colonial states, i.e. commanding orders and regulations from the top to the bottom, e.g. territorial level district level and grassroots level.

The structure of colonial bureaucracy reflected the general division of labor within the world capitalist system. Thus the top position, in both administration and military, were reserved for Europeans. The middle cadres were reserved for the Asians and Arabs in eastern Africa and Lebanese and Syrian in western Africa. The African occupied the lowest position. The use of Arabs and other Asian facilitated the colonialism because these people had no political base internally, they could only struggle to accumulate wealthy but not to throughout the colonizers. This is why they occupied the commercial sector.


  1. It based on segregation and racism. The Europeans occupied to responsibilities with high ranks, followed by Asians, Africans were in the last class in administration, e.g. a governor was a European, clerks were Asians and Africans were at the lower level ranks doing odd jobs like cleaners and gate jeepers. A similar reflection appeared in the social services and residential areas occupied by each category. Thus, the best social serves such as schools and hospitals were for the Europeans.
  2. It was oppressive in nature, i.e. it was dominated by strict orders and commands especially from the top officers of the Europeans e.g. all able men have to pay taxes to give community labor
  3. It was dominated by regional imbalance. This is to say that ruling class came from productive areas and dominant society some societies were made to act as labor reserves hardly penetrated into the ruling class, e.g. in Tanganyika the Haya and the Chagga were in the bureaucracy/administration system of the colonialists while the Waha were labor suppliers. The labor reserves were under developed in absolute terms. Denied of cash crop production a sound communication system and schools, the only through which they would earn money was to sell their labor – power. While cash crop producing areas were provided with better communication so that both manufactured and raw materials can easily transport system.
  4. In addition, it was characterized in the manner that within a given colony there were areas reserved for supplying military personnel. Both in the army and the police were of mercenary character, trained to use only muscles as opposed to the brain for example in Uganda the northern part of Uganda was preserved for army and police.
  5. Another feature of colonial state was sycophancy. Towns did not develop as productive centers, as has been the case of Europe but as administrative centers. The African bureaucracy that merged reflected this One’s position did not depend on One’s wealthy but on one’s administrative post. Thus, a petty bourgeoisie’s class was created with no economic base.
  6. Sex biased. Women were segregated from the administration and were not allowed to participate in the colonial bureaucracy, their work was to supply family labor and support food production
  7. Routenisation, the colonial bureaucracy operated along daily routine and strict regulations so as to maintain quality and impartiality.
  8. It was too hierarchical with the long chain of command from the top to the bottom whereby any issue to be implemented at all levels were supposed to sign on it.
  9. It was subordinate in nature discipline oriented i.e. Africans were supposed to obey the Asians and Asian obey the whites.


The colonial state administration had three major phases characterized with different approach. Reflecting the demands of capitalist at any given time

THE FIRST PHASE 1820 – 1920
  • This first phase covers the period from the scramble and partition to the 1920s i.e. 1820 – 1920 this period was characterized with search for colonies in the continent and attempt to impose effective occupation.
  • It was also characterized by the colonialists trying to consolidate their rule after the end of the period of scramble and partition and acquiring areas of influence.
  • It was during this period that rise and fall of company rule like IBEACO in British East Africa GEACO for Germany East Africa. That resulted into direct colonialism where by the colonial government sent their own governors to take over their areas of influence colonies
  • It was characterized with militarism; coercion and suppression of anti-colonial elements.
  • It was this period that African begun resisting the imposition of colonial domination.
  • It was characterized with the creation of mercenary army as the principle arm of the colonial bureaucracy to defend the interest of the colonial state.
THE SECOND PHASE 1920 – 1945
  • It was characterized by establishment of colonial economy after the establishment of colonial state and all the effort of colonial bureaucracy targeted colonial production
  • This is when the colonialist had to establish their culture, to the Africans about their religion, dressing, eating manners, the way of dancing etc.
THE THIRD PHASE 1945 – 1960s.
  • This phase was characterized by intensive exploitation of African resources as European nations were trying to revamp their economies from the capitalist crisis of World War two. The peasants were forced to increase production of cash crops on one hand and the penetration of Multinational corporations on the other hand.
  • It was characterized with the establishment of import substation industries especially in the settlers’ colonies
  • African became much involved in the colonial administration as they were being prepared for self-determination. Class of petty bourgeois was created, after many colonial powers intended to give independence to many Africa colonies.
  • During this phase, Africans were promoted to high ranks and it witnessed the rise of vibrant elite class of the Africans who were in the colonial bureaucracy that intensified struggle for independence.


The term class refers to large group of people distinguished by the position they occupy in the system of social production by their relation to the means of production, by the role in the organization of labor and by the share of the social wealth, which they dispose of, and mode of acquiring it.

In the colonial bureaucracy created various classes in the colonial state as one of the best way of maximizing exploitation in the colony the classes that were created by the colonial state which included

  • Wage earners these comprised unskilled labor force that worked on colonial plantations, mines and infrastructures were paid low wages and worked in poor working conditions.
  • Peasant class these were the backbone of colonial agriculture most of the based in rural areas and engaged in agriculture as the major economic activity, they live in vicious poverty since most of their output were bought on low prices.
  • Salaried workers/petty bourgeoisie these were colonial civil servants that included administrators’ doctors, teachers most of the were professional European Asians and few Africans.


  1. introduction of cash crop production in the colonial state in these areas where cash crop was grown stratification within the cash crop growers were formed, with those areas were cash crops were not cultivated were by such people became labor reserves for productive areas.
  2. Through colonial subsides to some peasants while abandoning others, the colonial government gave material support to the peasants who were able to cultivate more than 20 acres of land and those who would cultivate more than 10 acres of land by doing so it created stratifications among the peasant Rich peasant middle class peasants and poor peasants.
  3. Trough land alienation African fertile soils were taken away by the colonialist and distributed to the white settlers making African to become in the class of cheap laborer who would supply their labor force to colonial plantations and to settlers’ farms.
  4. The government and financial institution selective way of giving loans, loans and credit were given only to the Asians and Europeans which led to create stratification to specific people especially African to remain cheap laborer provide or wage earners.
  5. Colonial education, this was instrumental in breeding social and economic classes in the colonial state the colonial education was only provided to few African while leaving the majority with totally no education to make them chief suppliers of labor in the colonial state.
  6. Racist policy, this was a deliberate colonial state policy to segregate the African basing on the color of their skins it was the Europeans that were given top priority in economic political and social aspect during colonial period followed by the Asians and making African the third class.


  1. It was not organized to meet the interest of Africans but to meet the colonial interests’. It affected Africans in the following ways;
  2. It instilled inferiority complex among the Africans
  3. It led the subordination of Africans to the foreigners
  4. It led to the intensive exploitation of human resources since many Africans were paid law wages.
  5. It integrated Africans in capitalist economy under colonial bureaucracy
  6. It promoted racism among the Africans where by only the European and Asians were considered more than the Africans were.
  7. It created stratification among the Africans alienating some Africans from their societies
  1. Discuss the role of colonial state apparatus in establishing and consolidating colonialism
  2. The colonial state was the most violent Discuss.
  3. How did the colonial police and army maintain law and order during colonialism?
  4. What were the features of the colonial bureaucracy?
  5. Discuss the nature and characteristics of colonial bureaucracy.