Rethinking frantz fanon in the co text of the Kenyan Decolonization experience, 1895-1992
Kisiang'ani, Edward Namisiko Waswa
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There is no doubt that the problematic of decolonization remains one of the most intriguing subjects in contemporary scholarship. With regard to the African continent, the mention of the term decolonization evokes profound emotions, debates and controversies, just as it raises some very fundamental questions. One of the questions that is often raised with regard to this subject is this: when did the process of decolonization in Africa actually begin and when did it end? Another question related to the foregoing one concerns the definition of the term decolonization. It: -for Africa, decolonization implies the dismantling of the European imperialist structures on the continent, has this so far been achieved? Is it possible to argue that, over forty years into the independence experience, Africa can confidently boast to be free of colonialism? These and many other stimulating questions have perennially consumed the intellectual energies of scholars and political theorists grappling with the historically complex relationship between the African continent and the Euro-American axis. Frantz Fanon is, possibly, a leading scholar and political theorist on the discourse of decolonization in Africa. Born in Martinique in 1925, Fanon spent most of his adult life in French North Africa. Indeed, he became the chief architect of the Algerian revolution that resulted into the political collapse of the French regime in Algeria. Throughout his writings, Fanon tackled critical colonial issues that embraced but were not confined to alienation, racism, exploitation, political participation, class struggle, liberation, socialism, culture, the nation-state, national leadership, neo-colonialism, tribalism and above all, violence. No doubt, these issues are crucial entry-points for anybody wishing to interrogate the structure of European colonialism in Africa. This study highlights and critiques some of these issues within the context of Kenya's decolonization experience. Given that Fanon's discourse on colonialism was derived from his own experience under French imperialism, this study appropriates some of his ideas to an alternative British colonial situation in Kenya in order to ascertain if his conclusions could polymorphously be employed to interpret any given imperial situation. Guided by Fanon's pessrrrusrn about what seemed to be Africa's premature celebration of independence in the early 1960s, the study adopts the view that, in Kenya, the formal colonialism which began in 1895 did not end with the political collapse of the British rule. Rather, the study looks at the attainment of Kenya's independence in 1963 as a well-calculated transitional move by the British to re-invent and Africanize colonialism so as to maintain their hegemony over the African country. Consequently, the study treats both the Kenyatta and Moi states as continuities in the colonial project which began in the late 19th century. To capture this reality, the study has employed the analytical devices of the postmodernist and the postcolonialist theoretical dispositions. Notably, through the post-modernist perspective, the study finds space to generally question the grand narratives of the West, some of which came to justify the installation of colonial rule in Africa while others have tended to influence the way in which the discourse on decolonization has been developed. On the other hand, the postcolonial theoretical standpoint has enabled the study to question Eurocentric forms of knowledge which seem to give Africa and its people certain identities of disability and inferiority and which have, in turn, justified colonialism in both its formal and hegemonic dispensations. Thus, through the postcolonial domain, the study enriches the counter-hegemonic discourse that. remains fundamental to the realization of the goal of true liberation in Africa. The study derived its data from both primary and secondary sources. While secondary data was fundamentally limited to library research, primary data was procured from the Archives and from the oral respondents. Finally, this study demonstrates that there is a lot of literature dealing with Kenya's experience with formal and informal variations of colonialism (for example Odinga 1967, Kanogo 1987, Ngugi 1980, 1981, 1986; Furedi 1989, Edgerton 1990, Rosberg and Nottingham 1966, among others), but no study has so far been undertaken to specifically interrogate Fanon in the light of the Kenyan decolonization experience. Consequently, this study undertakes a modest intervention to address this intellectual gap.