“The condition of the native is a nervous condition introduced and maintained by the settler among the colonized people with their consent.” Frantz Fanon, 1961, The Wretched of the Earth
Fanon’s quote, repeated on the first page of Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga, seems to state that Fanon held the colonized people of Africa partly responsible for the colonial system of governing and, by extension, the oppression of the African people. Fanon notes the silence of Africa in the face of colonialism and her inability or lack of will to act against the colonial governments. However, by blaming the African people for inaction discredits much hard work by Africans at opposing the colonial states. Although a majority of Africans did not actively participate in revolt against the European colonial powers prior to the 1960’s, the colonial system was propagated not by lack of action by Africans, but rather the overwhelming military strength of the European armies. Indeed, many Africans did rebel against the European colonial system to protest increasing inequities of power and were occasionally successful, but only at the high loss of human life.
Fanon depicts this interplay of ‘colonial’ and ‘native’ actors as being largely a one-sided, colonialists’ affair; not only due to the military and political power of the Europeans, but along with the contributing factor of low rates of revolt. Yet, in this reprimand of the African people for their inaction against oppressive government policies and bureaucracy, Fanon also empowers them by exposing their nascent agency to stop these unjust actions by violently rising against the government.
However, contrary to Fanon’s opinion, violent revolt did occur, however the military prowess of the European colonial states quickly squashed any chance at a successful revolution, even with wide support of various ethnic groups such as that that of the Hut Tax Revolt and the Maji-Maji Rebellion. A direct response to un-informed British colonial policy, the Hut Tax Revolt began in 1896 when the British government imposed a tax on each village, reflective of the number of huts in each village. Opposition to this policy was wide-spread and for over two years, the Temne and the Mende tribes evaded British troops who were attempting to collect the Hut Tax. Although each individual traveling group was small, these tribal forces did occasionally gather in large numbers only when a “well-stocked [village] in [an] inaccessible [location]” was available. Until 1898, the Temne and Mende tribes struck quickly at vital British outposts, then fled from the battle to avoid major confrontation, “kill[ing] British officials, sack[ing] trading stations” . Similarly, in 1905, the German East African government instituted a policy that would mandate a quota of cotton from each individual, each year without pay or support from the government. Then, in 1905, beginning with peasants, spreading to the interior and then to the middle...