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A response to Fatoumata Toure

Anne Khaminwa acknowledges to her thoughts on what Kenya can learn from Haiti.

Dear Fatoumata,

Thank-you so much for taking the time to read my article. As you can imagine as a writer, I am honored when anyone takes the time to consider my ideas. But I disagree.

Pan Africanism itself is an elitist ideal. It does not come out of any real relationships between the peoples of different countries that are populated by African peoples. Most Africans can't even agree to live in peace with the diverse ethnicities within their national borders, much less to find common cause with distant countries.

Most of the points you raise actually support my contention that, for better or for worse, whether one likes it or not, whether it suits one's political/ideological inclinations or not, all those problems befell Haiti as the frist black republic. If that is the case, why not abandon that approach?

Here in the Americas for example, the failure of Reconstruction to uplift the South in the second half of the 1800s, after the Civil War, was due in part to blacks wanting to establish, black-only communities. This led to progressive Northerners withdrawing their support for the social and political changes made after the Emancipation Declaration. The outcome of this is such that listening to contemporary discourse on race in America, it would be very difficult to appreciate that white Northerners fought and died for the cause of black emancipation.

And yes, for some and arguably for enough people to have made the colonial venture proceed so quickly – how else could two average sized countries, England and France have gained control over such a large land area in such a short time – colonialism did have its benevolent aspects. In Kenya for example, landless Gikuyu gained access to land by squatting on white-owned farms. Even in contemporary times, one must wonder whether the type of tragedy that took place in Uganda for example would have occurred had it remained under British rule.

Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth has been quite influential although I think that Albert Memmi's The Coloniser and the Colonised is a more nuanced discussion of the dynamics of colonisation. Fanon himself was from Martinique. At independence, that island nation's leader, Aime Cesaire chose to remain in the French department system and to forgo outright independence in favour of the benefits that would accrue to his countrymen through their continued ties with France. How has that choice benefited the people of Martinique? How have they fared in comparison to, say Haiti?

Fanon thought that his countrymen lacked a sufficiently well developed radical consciousness. As depicted in Isaac Julien's video on Fanon, many elderly Martinicans did not even consider themselves to be African. So Fanon went to Algeria in search of an adventure.

At a time when participation in mutinational economies is a given, that 'colonised' identity is an asset. Don't sell yourself short. That is how we gain access to resources beyond our borders. Here we are communicating in English, on the Internet – a Western language in a Western technology. Why not appreciate the opportunity, be thankful and work to further improve the conditions that made this conversation possible?

The challenge that the people Waweru sought to enlighten face is how to find jobs in an economy that is not yet big enough to accomodate them. This challenge does not lend itself to all these -isms and schisms. It is actually a very practical supply and demand problem. Kenyatta had one solution, 'Rudi shambani' he extolled the urban poor. 'Return to the rural areas.' But human nature being what it is, this has not happened. Another might be to become producers of valuable products that can be sold to the complacent elites, tourists etc. for a profit.