COLONIALISM, VIOLENCE AND EMANCIPATION IN FRANTZ FANON: A CRITICAL APPRAISAL
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
The phenomenon of violence which occurs in our society almost on daily basis together with the works of some scholars on colonialism and emancipation was what provoked this research work. My interest to embark on this work was also captured by the colonization of Africa and Africa’s struggle for emancipation which was approached from different dimensions by some African scholars. Some of these African scholars fought for their independence through dialogue while others got theirs through either intellectual protest or physical violence. Frantz Fanon among other African scholars advocated violence for the emancipation of Algeria, hence he advocated same approach to Africa as a whole. But why would Fanon opt for violence?
The above question can well be answered if we reflect on how Africans were treated during the era of colonization. The abolition of slave trade in the nineteenth century ushered in another form of enslavement of the Africans called colonialism. This was made possible by the 1885 Berlin Conference that brought about the sharing and partitioning of Africa among some European countries like England, France, Belgium, Portugal, and Germany. The decision and action of these European countries “…were taken without any reference to the wishes and aspirations of the people about whom they took their decision.”1 Africans resisted but the imperialists were able to subdue them. Africa, however, became the colony of these Western States. The Africans were considered by the Westerners as having no soul or put in other words, living tool. They were oppressed, suppressed, marginalized, molested, discriminated against, treated as savages, and lastly as inanimate objects. The Africans lost their right, dignity and freedom.
Freedom as a phenomenon is paramount in every person’s life. When it is denied any person or group of people, there is the tendency that they would fight back to regain their freedom. To regain this freedom might take a violent process. Far from regaining freedom through violence, it could also be argued that violence is a phenomenon which appears to occur in the society almost on daily basis. John Odey captures it thus, “…every human society has within its structure some roots of violence which often tend to polarize the people into two main groups: the oppressors and the oppressed.”2 Violence is a phenomenon which naturally occurs in the lives of some human beings. It can come through psychological or physical means. As psychological violence, violence may take the form of discrimination on grounds of race, colour, religion and sex. As physical violence, it may take the form of brutality, aggression, cruelty and fighting. Adebola Ekanola opines, “A constant feature of society is violence in its various manifestations. People appear to be too quick in resorting to violence as a means of achieving desired ends without exhausting all non-violent alternatives.”3 Naturally, every human being would want to fight back when he or she is stroke at or when his or her right is infringed upon. To this end some see it “…as not only inevitable but necessary in society,”4 and it is there argument also that, “…social progress cannot be recorded without violence.”5
Dialogue did not interest Fanon neither did nonviolence tickle his fancy. He instead opted for physical violence and his main thesis was the struggle against oppression, and colonialism was the target of this fury. Fanon’s interest was captured by the ugly experience he had in Algeria. His philosophy of violence began with his experience of treating wounded Front Liberation Nationale (FLN) rebels which he joined and later became their journalist. His experience in the army also resulted to his positing violence as the solution to colonialism.
In the army, he experienced discrimination of the highest order. There, white French troops were separated from Black West Indians, who were supposed to be French citizens. Black African soldiers were also segregated from French troops as were Arab Africans, whom the French reviled and treated in their own soil like pariahs. Fanon’s experience in the army came at the time that the French confronted German fascism. He fought the war as an adolescent with all these experiences fresh in his mind. The segregation impact indirectly shaped his understanding of violence. He called this racism, “…the psychiatric disorder of colonialism.”6