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From Fanon to Africa, With Love


As the economies of the West and East tumble, tremors may also be felt in African economies, as heightened food prices push populations to the breaking point of near starvation.
 
In country after country the struggle for life becomes even harder, and it seems like leaders are more remote than ever.
 
Whenever I read of economic or ethnic strife in any part of Africa, I’m reminded of Dr. Frantz Fanon, the ethno-psychiatrist born in Martinique, who became a revolutionary, working on behalf of the Algerian Revolution, and writer of the masterpiece, The Wretched of the Earth (1966).
 
Fanon’s work was widely read on three continents, and is still worthy of study, not least because the insightful thinker predicted how African rulers would [mis]rule, if they didn’t unite, and didn’t develop truly independent and socialist, economic  and political systems.
 
Many African post colonial leaders, trained as they were in Eurocentric schools, sought to replicated such theories in African societies, which could only result in disaster.  Fanon is cutting when he describes the role of these Eurocentric African leaders, who were attempting to recreate little pieces of Europe in their former colonies.
 
In under developed countries, we have seen that no true bourgeoisie exists; there is only a sort of little greedy caste, avid and voracious, with the mind of a huckster, only too glad to accept the dividends that the former colonial power hands out of it.  This get-rich-quick middle class shows itself incapable of great ideas or of inventiveness.  It remembers what it has read in European text books and imperceptibly it becomes not even the replica of Europe, but its caricature. {141}
 
When leaders were trained in capitalist colonizing economic theory, the most important lesson they learned was how to recreate colonialism, not to destroy it.
 
Many African nations have been riven by deadly and destructive ethnic clashes, such as Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Mauritania, and beyond.
 
Fanon wrote in Wretched, that the "national bourgeoisie…which has totally assimilated colonialist thought in its most corrupt form, takes over from the Europeans and establishes in the continent a racial philosophy which is extremely harmful for the future of Africa". {131}.
 
Thus, long inculcated into the European practice of ‘divide and conquer’, African leaders exploit ethnic differences (so-called ‘tribalism’), to stir the pot between communities.  So, Hutus fight Tutsis, Zulus fight Xhosas, Kalenjins fight Kikuyus, and on and on, while communal unity seems like an unattainable mirage.  While people think of their ethnic identities, few  think of national identities, and fewer still think of what African unity really means.
 
Divided into clans, Africa remains ripe for the plucking by the new colonialists, who see it as a vast stealing ground, from which resources can be looted with relative ease.
 
Fanon foresaw this 1/2 a century ago.  Nkrumah tried to organize against it.
 
But, regrettably, we are where we are.
 
 
[Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove, 1966). Trans., Constance Farrington. {orig. publ'd: Les damnes de la terre.  Paris: Francois Maspero, 1961.; Fanon, F. Pour la revolution africaine. Librairie Francois Maspero, coll. ,,Cahiers libres., 1964; reed. La Decouverte, coll. ,, Redecouverte.., 2001.]

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