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Colonialism in Fanon’s perception is violent in nature. Colonialism is violence in the sense that it took a violent process to invade and subdue Africa. It destroyed as Fanon observed, African socio-political, psychological, cultural and economic structures. Injustice which is also a dominant feature of colonialism is seen in the exploitative relationship that existed between the native and the settler as well as in the alienation of the native by the settler. In simple term, colonization was a violent process that destroyed old ways of life and robbed Africans of their means to live with dignity. Fanon, therefore, advocated through socialist revolution using violent armed means to fight the colonial power. He further stated that out of this violence a new, humane man would arise and create a new culture. The question now is, in the wake of this twenty-first century can violence be gladly upheld in actualizing a course? Will it be relevant even as we still experience neocolonialism? In our Africa of today, is it advisable to adopt violence in settling disputes even as we march towards development? Can dialogue be an alternative to violence in the face of disputes? These questions constitute a problem and this thesis seeks to make a critical appraisal of Fanon’s conception of colonialism, violence and emancipation. For this work violence serves only direct and short-term purposes while dialogue affords durable and long-term results. Finally, this research work made use of critical and analytical method.
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
In the entire globe with particular reference to Africa and the Middle East, uprisings and violent revolutions are on the increase. In Africa, violence is experienced in countries like Nigeria, Liberia, Rwanda, Kenya, Somali and Sudan. Violence often times arises as a result of ethnic hatred and its attendant physical clashes, violent revolution for emancipation and political assassinations. How justified then is violence? Must all fight or conflict be settled with violence? Are some people more violent than others? Can nonviolence ever be used to achieve a course? If Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jnr. used nonviolence to achieve their goal, where lies the justification of violence? If violence can sometimes be used to achieve a course, is it not wise to adopt it? In our world and Africa of today is it wise to adopt violence to settle disputes? How many individuals of today will be willing to pursue a course
through the violent means? Can dialogue be used in settling of conflict and disputes? If it can, how far can it go?
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
All these experiences made Fanon to posit greater violence as a measure to counter violence which is colonialism. He stated it clearly that, “Colonialism is
not a thinking machine, nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties. It is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater
violence.”7 He therefore, called on all Africans to indulge in decolonization through the violent process since violence and cruelty are the major features of colonialism. Succinctly put, Fanon believes that the true liberation of Africa from the colonial domination must be through violence. The question to ask is; In the present Africa, can the use of physical violence be used to emancipate ourselves even as we still experience neocolonialism? Can our arms match the sophisticated arms of our so called neo-colonizers? How best can we emancipate ourselves in isolation of violence? This thesis seeks to find the best alternative to violence in the face of conflicts and disputes.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Fundamentally speaking, every human being cherishes his or her freedom and right. When the freedom and right of an individual is infringed upon, it becomes a problem because such an individual will fight to regain his freedom and right. The question now is how does one regain one’s freedom? Through what means can one achieve one’s freedom? Though it is said that man is a free animal, it does not entail that man’s freedom is limitless. The limit of one’s freedom lies at the commencement of another’s. Hence, it is often said that “one’s freedom
stops where another person’s freedom begins.” It is therefore, inhuman for man to enslave or colonize another. Colonization has in its nature the features of depriving the colonized their right and freedom. It goes with suppression, domination, subjugation, exploitation and discrimination. The colonized that resisted the colonizers were brutally dealt with or silenced. Those who could not put up resistance died in silence.
The brutal way of suppressing the colonized takes the form of force, hence, violence. The attitude of the colonizers towards the Africans made Fanon to posit violence as the solution for decolonization. Is violence justified then? Some authors or scholars would argue that injustice, denial of another’s freedom and oppression are the chief causes of violence. They argue that the man who suffers from injustice often tends to reply with violence and this is the position of Fanon. Since injustice breeds violence, can there not be other ways to settle disputes or conflicts without the use of violence? Must it necessarily be with the use of greater violence? This research work sets out to tackle the problems posed above.
1.3 PURPOSE OF STUDY
What the Africans suffered in the hands of the Colonialists were savagery and dehumanization. The freedom of the Africans was trampled upon and their right
snatched away from them. It is an indisputable fact that man is by nature a free
being. Mondin captures it,
Man, beyond intelligence, is also highly free. Freedom is therefore, another title for his excellence and nobility and represents another great window for looking into the mystery of man, with a goal to acquiring a more correct, more complete, more adequate comprehension of him.8
Stressing further, J.Omoregbe opines, “man is by nature free; freedom is part of
his very nature as a rational being.”9 This rationality in man makes him to
understand as well as to see justice in the fact that his freedom is limited and that
his freedom stops where another person’s freedom begins. Now when
somebody’s freedom is deprived of him, naturally he would want to regain his
freedom. The process to regain this freedom might lead to violence. This
presents injustice as breeding violence. With the colonization of Africa and the
Europeans relationship with Africa which is exploitative, oppressive and
discriminatory, Fanon advocated for violence to be countered with greater
violence. He states, “Their existence together, that is to say, the exploitation of
the natives by the settlers, was carried on by dint of great array of bayonets and
cannon.”10 This made Fanon to see colonialism as “violence in its natural
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