Algeria@50: A celebration of Frantz Fanon
Nana Kissi Yeboah
Algeria is a large country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa, with Algiers as its capital. and is the largest country in Africa, Maghreb and the Arab World.
It is also the largest of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea; tenth-largest country in the world, and is bordered in the northeast by Tunisia, in the east by Libya, and in the west by Morocco.
The country, which is a member of the African Union, the Arab League, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the United Nations, is also a founding member of the Arab Maghreb Union, and has an estimated population of 37.1 million.
Algeria attained independence on July 5, 1962, after more than a century under colonial rule, and now, at fifty years after independence, the country has built strong institutions that allowed it to embark resolutely on the path of democracy and rule of law.
In Accra, the 50th Independence celebration was marked with a symposium under the theme, “A Celebration of Frantz Fanon, First Algerian Ambassador to Ghana and Icon of Pan-Africanism,” last Wednesday.
The Algerian Ambassador, Mr. Lakhal Benkelai, speaking at the event, said this was a big day for the Algerian people, and a day for the celebration of members who sacrificed themselves for us to live in peace and dignity.
According to him, the celebration of their independence in Ghana had a peculiar significance, because of the country and its first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s support to the Algerian people in their struggle for independence.
Also, he noted that the first Algerian Ambassador to Ghana, Frantz Fanon, left a foundation between the two countries, for which Algeria would ever remain grateful. Thus, “Ghana is the most appropriate place to celebrate Fanon and pay homage to him.”
He eulogised Fanon as a Pan-Africanist, diplomat, and writer who played an important role in the establishment of an embassy for Algeria in West Africa, and served as “the symbol of our common destiny in an inspiring way.”
He pointed out that the role of Fanon in the lives of Algerians, especially, in the attainment of Algerian independence, deserved to be mentioned to the young people as a case study in the present struggle for Africa to achieve political unity and economic development.
Amb. Benkelai indicated that the Pan-Africanism effort of Algeria was to put the struggle of Africa within the international decision-making scene and processes in the United Nations Security Council, and fair participation within international economic sphere.
He explained that the Algerian Pan-African effort was “that we should have our political and economic resources in other to defend and promote our stand in this globalised world, and to achieve these goals, there is need to strengthen the African relationship.”
He observed that though Fanon did not live to see the independence of Algeria, for which he gave so much, Algerians honour his sacrifice through the adoption of his political ideas to which he dedicated his entire life.
In the struggle for independence, the Algerians suffered the most, thus, Fanon sought social justice for the people, such as free health care, access to education, and equality among all citizens, all of which Algerians were currently enjoying, he pointed out.
The Special Guest of Honour for the occasion, His Excellency the Vice President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, said Ghana’s own struggle for independence, and the eventual attainment of independence, sparked hope in a lot of people, particularly, Africans who were also fighting for independence, including Algeria.
He recalled that following Ghana’s independence, she became a force of hope for Pan-Africanism and Africans all over the world, which was emulated by Algeria in that “upon gaining independence, Algeria played a prominent role in joining Ghana in the liberation struggles of the rest of the continent.”
To him, though some countries, including Algeria’s struggle for independence, was more violent and bloody than that of Ghana, “What was common in the struggle was that it was carried out by ordinary people across the length and breadth of our two countries, who were imbued with nationalism and heroism, and were prepared to pay the ultimate price for the sake of the liberation of their countries.”
The Veep expressed worry that this sort of virtue and sacrifice was lacking in African societies in present times, saying that there was the need for African countries to constantly remember their heritage, to ensure development in that perspective.
He intimated: “Ghana, by the role it played in the liberation of the African continent, has an indelible heritage that we can never run away from, and that is why the lowest point of our history, in terms of our foreign relations with the rest of the world, especially with Africa, was when we succumbed and approved the taunt with South Africa at the height of struggle against apartheid.”
He further lamented that “Since then, we have seemed to mind our own business; of course, we have a lot of economic problems, that we didn’t have enough opportunity to even go poking our nose into other peoples business.”
He reminded all Ghanaians that “With the heritage that was given to us by our forefathers who fought for the liberation, we must always be mindful that it cast us in a certain role that makes us a nation that must fight against injustice wherever it is found.”
Additionally, he stated that Ghana must continue to solidarise with the progressive people of this world, in other to ensure that there is equity and justice for all people. Stressing: “That is Ghana’s role bequeathed to us by our forefathers.”
He further stated that Africa had a lot of work to do in terms of the integration project, and because of the role Ghana played in the liberation struggles, she must be seen to be accommodating, and lead the struggle for the integration of the continent.
He expressed regret that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah did not get the kind of support needed to unite Africa, because the newly-liberated countries and their leaders were just enjoying their first taste of freedom, and were not in a hurry to surrender their sovereignty to a continental project.
“We still remain in divided countries with our little anthems and flags, but common sense and logic teach us that we can only be viable if we unite our strengths and bring our people together.”
According to him, though the people could cross borders to each others countries without much difficulty, yet, the artificial borders remain, stressing: “Until, and unless we join forces to erase those borders, bring our people together, and negotiate and bargain as one economy and politic, we will continue to have these little individual struggles.”
Also, he paid tribute to Frantz Fanon, saying that his books were compulsory reading for young intellectual and progressives in the 70s and 80s, and especially his book, “The Wretched of the Earth,” was one of the most celebrated books on the decolonisation process.
He added: “All of us took pride in reading Fanon’s work, and we admired him as one of the greatest intellectuals in the progressive struggle.”
“On behalf of the President and people of Ghana, we wish to congratulate the Algerian people for fifty years of independence, and the role they continue to play in the liberation of the African continent,” he saluted the Algerian people.
A retired Diplomat, K.B. Asante, who delivered a lecture on the theme, stated that the struggle of the Algerian people for freedom to manage or mismanage their affairs, enabled Ghana to give practical expressions to the belief that “the Sahara unites and does not divide Africa.”
He recalled that Dr. Nkrumah had always maintained that Africans had always been ripe for self government, but were only robbed of that privilege.
He said it was in demonstration of this principle that Ghana invited Algeria to the Conference of Independent African States in April, 1958, and recognised the provisional government of Algeria before formal independence.
According to him, this bold action of Ghana was reciprocated by Algeria, which “became an active member of the small but dynamic Casablanca group of African States which fought for the liberation for the continent, and spearheaded the formation of the Organisation of African Unity in Addis Ababa in 1963.”
He said a critical survey of the international scene showed that Africans were being made to believe that an international community had emerged, which was more concerned about human rights and democracy, even in Africa.
“This community welcomes with joy, the dawn of so-called Arab Spring in North Africa, and tries to impose their kind of democracy on countries trying to fashion their own future” but, “the history of Algeria reminds us that things have not changed, and the pursuit of national interest determines action, and burns morals and values,” he pointed out.
He said the struggle for independence in Algeria was fierce, such that the Algeria nationalists were forced to terrorise the French settlers, while the French Army replied with massive reprisals and torture.
In his view, the history of the liberation of Algeria also helps the educated African to put stories of atrocities into perspective, because “Murder is murder, whether it is brutal or that of women and children.”
He said as Africans, we are in present times stampeded by emotion accounts to support regime change to suit those who wield so much power and influence, but Frantz Fanon reminds all of the Algerian experience, and “bids us to find true freedom in solidarity with our own disadvantaged compatriots, and with the ravishing Africa.”
Fanon also reminds all Africans of the duty and privilege of the intelligentsia in Africa, and believed that the educated should not simply copy, but realise the emancipation was a mating of two forces, he noted.
Furthermore, he said Fanon reminds Africans that imperialism fights against true liberation, and leaves in its way pictures of decay, which we must expelled. “He urges us to be a living part of Africa, and ensure that the structures we build provide freedom, progress and happiness for the people of Africa.”
Fanon also suggested that Africans should understand what political parties are meant for; study its formation with regard to the national character, and see to it that “we do not just copy foreign concepts, but remove the whiteman’s and be our true selves; be proud of our black skins and fend for ourselves.”
According to K.B. Asante, Ghana was lucky to have had Frantz Fanon as the first Ambassador of Algeria, because he worked tirelessly for Algeria and for Africa, saying, “We should salute a great son of Africa, and a physician who understood the human body and mind.”
He went on to say that Fanon asked Africans to be proud of their heritage and culture, because the future of Africans lay in African unity, and not in the collection of ineffectual states that could not even find enough work, food or shelter for the people.
He stressed that Fanon bids Africans to be proud of their heritage and not become the laughing stock of other nations in their conferences who would “tell us we are doing very well, whilst we languish in poverty and squalor.”
Another thing Fanon, a psychiatrist, tells Africans to overcome, is mental slavery, which he described in many forms in his books, as a major problem in Africa.
However, he expressed worry that despite this warning, the media is controlled by outside interests, and therefore, the news is often one-sided, such that when a regime change is wanted in an African country, the people are told that the leader is not good, and that he is molesting his own people.
Eventually, those who promote Africa unity are destroyed; those who want to develop their country are put away, and the fight to work and get the nations to move forward becomes difficult.
He also saluted Algeria on her 50th Independence anniversary, saying: “We take pride for our support in Algeria’s independence; and we take delight in other great activities of Algeria they have encountered in building a true independence.
“We congratulate the great people of Algeria and their unity, even at these difficult times, and their support for the rest of Africa. We wish the government and people of Algeria well in their 50th Independence; they have really come of age,” he concluded.
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