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NAMIBIA’S STANCE ON THE ICC FROM FRANTZ FANON’S PERSPECTIVE

By Paul T Shipale
“Time will come when Namibia will have to reconsider its position on the International Criminal Court (ICC)”, commented the Right Honourable Prime Minister, Nahas Angula. This come hot on the heel of a similar announcement by the Minister of Justice and SWAPO Party Secretary General, Hon. Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, who said Namibia will not comply with the ICC’s warrant of arrest of African leaders, such as Col. Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and the President of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir.

I should hasten to say that as a foretaste, I wholeheartedly support Namibia’s stance which lately seems to take centre stage as one of the leading Pan- Africanist giants in Africa in terms of its foreign policy. Needless to say, is high time someone stands up to this court that seems to be created only to indict and prosecute African leaders. We know that Namibia is signatory to the Rome Statute since 2002 but like the recent abuse of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which was ostensibly enforced to protect civilian life but instead it appears to target civilian and the elimination of Col. Gaddafi, thus violating the letter and spirit of this UN Resolution, while also complicating African efforts aimed at finding a lasting negotiated political settlement to the Libyan crisis, similarly, ‘the ICC has lost its legitimacy to serve African interests’, if I am allowed to borrow the now commonly used phrase by the Western powers.

In fact, it is none other than these Western countries own citizens that are saying WikiLeaks has provided evidence of war crimes committed by the USA and other Western powers in Iraq and Afghanistan, if one judges from the comments made by former Iraq war veterans and former members of the British Special Air Services (SAS), as it was reported in the Namibia Today’s weekly newspaper of Friday, July 15.

Looked at from Frantz Fanon’s perspective, Namibia’s defiance of the ICC is justified. Indeed, the need to revisit Fanon’s views has never been greater since the bulk of Fanon’s work and life focuses on “imperial repression”, a phenomenon now visible across the Third World. As globalization proceeds with overwhelming military force to negate people and societies and suppress freedom and choices, one is tempted to foresee a “second wave of national liberation”, as Fanon put it, referring to a conversion between the self-awareness of the intellectual and the collective awareness of the oppressed masses. As the situation of the unemployed and marginalized in cities deteriorates while swallowing large and regular dosages of the bitter pill of policies of Structural Adjustment a la International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank of the Breton Woods Institutions, and as unorganized popular uprisings become regular events in the Arab- African region and elsewhere, Fanon’s work becomes as relevant as ever.

Concerning the institutional international system, Fanon spoke at length of the United Nations. The UN Intervention in Congo, which ended in the killing of Lumumba, made him see the UN practices as a model and vehicle for imperialist violence. Fanon’s references to the UN in “Toward the African Revolution” are quite relevant today. “The UN did not fail in Congo because of the difficulty of the situation,” he said, “…Partition, arbitration, and mandates are international legitimate tools used to torment and crush the resolve for independence and spread chaos, plundering, and havoc, as in the cases of Vietnam and Laos.” One wonders what his views would be had he lived to see militarized globalization and the events in Palestine, Iraq and Libya!

In a paper that was drafted and presented first at CODESRIA Seminar on “canonical works”- Accra- Sept 2003 and finally revised and selected for CODESRIA 30th Anniversary Conference in Dakar 10-12 Dec 2003, Helmi Sharawy says Fanon was not just preoccupied with probing the political or economic origins of colonialism; he dealt with colonialism as a situation of dehumanization caused by Eurocentricity and its negation of the other. He examined the significance of “colonial hegemony” and defined “colonial violence” in a broad sense, incorporating the way in which blacks would assume “white masks”. This early understanding of the concept of “negation” makes Fanon both a philosopher and sociologist. A whole chapter in “Toward the African Revolution” is a worthy reference for anti-globalization activists in the third world, for it throws light on the nature of global alliances. Fanon offers several hints here, some still relevant and others are controversial.

More importantly, Fanon calls for a redistribution of wealth and points to the decadent history of European domination for his rationale: For centuries the capitalists have behaved in the underdeveloped world like nothing more than war criminals for capitalism to increase its wealth and to establish its power.

Fanon took part in every African conference he could attend, including those held in Accra, Tunis, and Conakry. In Accra, his assault on the philosophy of nonviolence prompted Nkrumah to change his position and support armed struggle even in the framework of the Organization of African Unity. When the Algerian Revolution appointed him Ambassador of the Algerian Interim Government in 1961, he visited Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, and Mali, all the time making preparations to smuggle weapons to southern Algeria. In the course of his struggle to rally solidarity with national liberation, Fanon discussed among others, the role of the United Nations.

Fanon’s contemporaries would remember how he railed, at the All African Peoples’ Conference in Accra in 1958, at peaceful solutions and the non-violence approach. He was appalled by the influence Gandhi had on Nkrumah and other nationalists in Namibia, South Africa and Kenya who did not want to pick up arms and fight. That is why the first weapons used in the Namibia‘s struggle for liberation were obtained by the Founding President and Father of the Namibian Nation, His Excellency Dr. Sam Nujoma, from Algeria in 1961, under the leadership of the Algerian Prime Minister, Ahmed Ben Bella, probably from the smuggled weapons to southern Algeria by Frantz Fanon. In his constant search for a unified African stand, one with which to confront the unity of colonialism, Fanon maintained that the colonialists are not going to withdraw easily, he said, pointing to the situation in Congo and the assassination of Lumumba. In Fanon’s own word; “If we want to turn Africa and America into a new Europe, then let us leave the destiny of our countries to Europeans.

They will know how to do it better than the most gifted among us. But if we want humanity to advance a step farther, then we must invent and we must make discoveries. If we wish to live up to our peoples’ expectations, we must seek the response elsewhere than in Europe. For Europe, for ourselves and for humanity, comrades, we must turn over a new leaf, we must work out new concepts, and try to set afoot a new man. “ Fanon continued, “Today, we are present at the stasis of Europe.

Comrades, let us flee from this motionless movement where gradually dialectic is changing into the logic of equilibrium…” Lest we forget, on account of our massive resources, predatory societies and Institutions have historically preyed on us. Nevertheless, we can say with little fear of controversy that we have come a long way and have traversed much ground, travelling through a difficult historical terrain of long exploitation and servitude, fraught with painful and harrowing experience, while a century ago, we were only a few decades removed from the era of the Atlantic slave trade with the Western powers busy finalizing the borders of their rival colonial empires and ruthlessly, by iron and blood, stamping their rule on Africa through what they called “ punitive expeditions” and “pacification campaigns” used as euphemisms for colonial, genocidal wars and scotched-earth policies implemented in order to contain African resistance to colonial rule, wrote Prah.

A century later, the colonial system has come and gone, disappearing as surreptitiously as it had originally crept in on us, but not without a fight from the Mau Mau struggles in Kenya, through wars of liberation in Guinea-Bissao, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa with Africans sacrificing their lives in the quest for freedom which saw the slow but steady unraveling of colonial power. Of course, this was not welcomed by the arch-colonialist. In 1948 when the whites-only election ushered in the architects of apartheid, in 1960, Harold Macmillan, the then British Prime Minister in a speech to the South African Parliament in Cape Town, read out loud the writing on the wall to a chagrined and unbelieving white racist parliament, saying “The wind of change is blowing through the continent...” The Boers Nationalist Party politicians with their Prime Minister Verwoerd, architect of the apartheid system and a first generation immigrant from the Netherlands, were quick to chuckle gleefully and listened to Macmillan in a stony, unbelieving and coldly defiant silence in what has come to be known in the annals of the history of decolonization as the “wind of change” speech but in the end, they couldn’t have their cake and eat it.

Charles de Gaulle’s doleful view, in 1947, had been that loss of the French Empire when he confessed that, “what an agonizing ordeal it was to be then for me to hand over our power, furling our flags and close a great chapter of history!” Portugal’s empire was similarly unraveled only because the toll of the revolutionary wars in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissao and Cape Verde became eventually unbearable on the Portuguese military forces after depleting the Congos, Angola and Northern Namibia with slaves to Brazil and the Caribbean. Barely a century ago, between 1884 and 1907, King Leopold II, literally owned the Congo as private property (Domaine Privé), and acquired enormous wealth on the basis of atrocious exploitation of the people of the Congo. Similarly, the acme of the German atrocities and abominable history of the horrific and mind-boggling holocaust against Jews under Hitler is well known, but less known are the genocidal campaigns in South-West Africa-Namibia between 1904 and 1907, under the German policy of annihilation resulting in only 15,130 Herero left out of an original 80,000 and 9,781 Nama out of an original 20,000 including about 7,700 Herero and Nama prisoners of war who perished in the concentration camps. Furthermore, onethird of the Damara were decimated in these campaigns. Such was the staggering human cost of the atrocities of colonial barbarism and coldly calculated butchery in Africa. Based on these evidences, you can call me an opinionated who comment on all and sundry and try to belittle others to make yourself feel better but these are facts you can’t deny, let’s withdraw from the ICC, period!

Disclaimer: These views do not necessarily represent the views of my employer nor am I paid to write them.




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