From Fanon to Africa, With Love, [II]
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 social, economic or ethnic rivalry in any part of Africa, I am reminded of Dr. Frantz Fanon, the ethno-psychiatrist born in the Caribbean island of Martinique, who became a revolutionary, working on behalf of the Algerian Revolution, and writer of the classic The Wretched of the Earth.
Fanon’s work was widely read on several continents, and remains worthy of study, not least because the insightful thinker predicted how African leaders would rule, if they didn’t unite the continent’s various peoples, and failed to develop truly independent, and socialist governing systems.
It is almost painful to read him today, over 40 years after his publications (in English)—so accurate and cutting is his analysis. Yet, the truth remains, that many African states have Black presidents and prime ministers who presided over systems that are tied with a thousand chains to the old colonials powers, which continued under new management, old exploitative relationships.
Indeed, in Toward the African Revolution (1967), Fanon wrote of the global significance of the imperialist’s murder of Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected president of the Congo:
Africa must understand...that there will not be one Africa that fights against colonialism and another that attempts to make arrangements with colonialism... Our mistake, the mistake we Africans made, was to have forgotten that the enemy never withdraws sincerely. He never understands. He capitulates, but he does not become converted. Our mistake is to have believed that the enemy had lost his combativeness and his harmfulness. If Lumumba is in the way, Lumumba disappears. Hesitation in murder has never characterized imperialism. Look at Ben M’hidi, look at Moumie, look at Lumumba. Our mistake is to have been slightly confused in what we did. It is a fact that in Africa, today, traitors exist.
They should have been denounced and fought. The fact that this is hard after the magnificent dream of an Africa gathered together unto itself and subject to the same requirements of true independence does not alter facts.... Let us be sure never to forget it; the fate of all of us is at stake in the Congo. [pp.192-197]
In February and March, several African states had food riots (or should we say, “hunger riots?”) Some countries have sold staples at lower costs in special stores. Other countries have reached almost apocalyptic levels of hyperinflation where their currency is virtually worthless.
In general (at least as of several months ago), the following were equivalent to one U.S. dollar: in Algeria, 65 dinars; in Cote d’Ivoire, 420 francs; in Nigeria, 118 nairas; in Tanzania, 1,396 shillings; in Malawi, 140 kwacha. Only in one African country, Ghana, was its New Cedi equal to a dollar.
Half a century after most African states gained independence, and the continent is still a social, economic and political basket case.
Fanon (if he were still alive) would weep.
[Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove, 1966; Fanon, Frantz, Toward the African Revolution (New York: Grove, 1967)]
—PrisonRadio.org, October 29, 2008