Foreign Intervention Predicament in Africa: Deploying Fanonian Psychoanalysis.

Author:Phiri, Stephen


The 'Pitfalls of National Consciousness' in chapter three of The Wretched of the Earth (1961), serves to analyse how Africa has contributed towards enduring problems and the continued dependency on foreign actors. It is ironic that in as much as psychiatrist, writer, philosopher, and anti-colonialist fighter, Franz Fanon (1925-1961), from the Caribbean island of Martinique is not of African nativity, his insights seem to accurately foretell the realities of post-colonial Africa. His influence has also had a profound impact on post-colonial thinkers both within and outside Africa. And in short, Fanon was the pre-eminent thinker of the 20th century on the issue of decolonisation and the psychopathology of colonisation, and his works have inspired anti-colonial liberation movements for over half a century. The author of the classic The Wretched of the Earth (1961), his analysis of the psychology of the colonized and their path to liberation outlines a singular insight into the rage and frustration of colonized peoples, and the role of violence in effecting historical change, and thus, the book also examines the twin perils of post-independence colonial politics: and the disenfranchisement of the masses by the elites and inter-ethnic and inter-faith animosities (the book has been translated into over twenty-five languages).

Hence, this exercise points to a continued dependency on external forces to solve Africa's problems and the long-held racial and social stereotypes that African people cannot solve their problems without external instruction and supervision. Also, a further look is presented involving other writings of Fanon to show that Fanonian (a perspective focused on or related to the work and writings of Frantz Fanon, a French-Algerian political philosopher born in Martinique) post-colonial readings help in understanding the African predicament.

In order to explore the African predicament and further try to understand the possible root cause of this predicament, this presentation will start by introducing an overview of the African predicament to solve its problems. The second section will further elaborate the African predicament under the heading 'stumbling block to the development of African led economic and security mechanisms'. This heading will further be divided into three subsections namely 1) the complications of Africa's economic growth, 2) the problem of security and conflict in Africa and 3) the complexity of Africa's role in solving African problem. After having outlined this predicament the exploration deploys the Fanonian psychoanalysis in order to try and understand the root upon which this predicament has originated. Finally, by way of caution, this exercise does not pretend to have absolute solutions or recommendations for Africa's continued dependency on foreign intervention. It merely states where the source of this dependency could be, and thus, the responsibility to design workable solutions and recommendations lies beyond the scope of this exercise. .

The African Predicament

With its history of colonialism, imperialism and foreign domination, Africa, understandably, looks askance at any continued foreign intervention in trying to solve the perennial problems that continue to haunt the continent. In 1967, Ali Mazrui authored Towards a Pax Africana: A Study of Ideology and Ambition, a book that talks about the change in African political outlook prior to and after independence. During anti-colonial agitation, African people were more inclined towards gaining "self-governance" (Mazrui 1967:ix) but after colonialism the quest for self-governance was transformed into "the African's ambition to be his own policeman" (Mazrui 1967:x). The quest for Africa to initiate African solutions to African problems stems from the realization that political independence would be hollow if Africa still depended on outside forces to chart or "police" the continent's destiny.

The ensuing study rues the fact that after more than fifty years of political independence, foreign intervention in Africa remains unabated. This condition is sustained by the way in which African leadership has not realized the promise of the fight against colonialism and imperialism on the one hand; on the other hand, erstwhile colonial powers are, to a large extent, encumbered with the moral guilt of colonialism and hence shoulder the responsibility of alleviating Africa's woes. However, outside intervention, especially from the West, has endured relentless attacks because African people are leery of both the motives and efficiency of foreign intervention. The change from the Organization of African Unity's principle of non-intervention to the African Union's principle of non-indifference (Williams 2007) breathed new life into the maxim "African solutions to African problems."

The call for Africa to be the principal player in solving Africa's problems has become more strident, especially after the application of Western-oriented practice of neoliberalism and democratic ideals have not brought the development they promised. However, it is noteworthy that the overriding role that external players, especially Western powers, have played has been supported by Western economic strength, a feat which still eludes most of Africa. Furthermore, economic strength in the international system has often been proportionate to political influence; this makes all the more understandable why Africa has historically been a recipient of not only economic aid but political and military advice, whether welcome or otherwise.

The role that Western powers play in Africa has also been discernible in institutions that are largely of Western origin like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. The role that these institutions have played in determining Africa's economic trajectory is manifestly obvious. However, the efficiency of the policies prescribed by these institutions has been criticized because of its lack of adherence to Africa's specific context and priorities (Glennie 2008). Certain African leaders have claimed that Western powers and institutions have compounded African poverty because of their imperious behavior in forcefully prescribing Western political and economic paradigms.

According to Thabo Mbeki "the further reproduction of wealth in the countries of the North has led to the creation of poverty in the countries of the South" (Mbeki 1998). Certain sectors of the developing world have been ambivalent about the World Bank in particular because of "its Western dominated structure" which seemingly promotes "the interests of Western countries and companies... [while showing]... insufficient understanding of local needs in the Global South" (Baker 2011:67).

Foreign intervention in Africa's security problems is redolent of Western economic purposes. In addition to institutions like the UN Security Council (UNSC) and the European Union (EU), individual outside powers such as France, USA and Britain have played a significant role in trying to manage Africa's problems but the success or lack of it of their efforts is debatable. The persistence of many African conflicts despite the interventions of these powers is proof enough to some observers that foreign intervention in Africa, especially when it pays cursory attention to Africa's input, is incapable of engendering lasting peace (Zartman 2000:3). It is this realization that has breathed new life in the search for African-bred and inspired solutions to the continent's problems. Jean Ping, the former chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, asserted that "the solutions to African problems are found on the continent and nowhere else" (Voice of Africa 2012; see also William 2008). Arguably, "the formation of the African Union (AU) was precisely aimed at finding African solutions for African problems" (Apuuli 2012) and reviving Pan-Africanism (Murithi 2009).

Regrettably, to date it seems the promise of finding African solutions to African problems seems to be beyond the reach of the continent. There is a paucity of evidence showing that Africa has worked in concerted effort to initiate and implement African answers to its challenges. The contribution that Africa seems to make in terms of economic, political and military welfare in Africa has largely been confined to implementing what non-African players have deemed necessary for the continent. Right from the time of independence, Africa's economic ideologies have largely been inspired by outside forces (Manning 1987); much of Africa south of the Sahara was enamoured of Soviet socialism because of its lack of a clear-cut colonial legacy but in the twilight years of the Soviet Union and the onset of structural adjustment programmes, coupled with Africa's continued economic malaise, prescriptions from Western Europe and North America were again taken up by much of Africa. This is in stark contrasts to the ideal of having African solutions to Africa's particular problems.

In "Who owns African ownership?", Franke and Romain (2014) amid an improvement in African influence in driving mechanism for peace, continued reliance on foreign support and capital to implement these mechanism undermine Africa's primacy. This is another hurdle that confronts Africa, especially after the much-vaunted shift from the OAU to the AU (Williams 2011:15). The foregoing seems to be in concord with the assertion that "the precise meaning of the concept of 'African-led Solutions' to African problems in general is still...

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