Opinion|Tribalism remains the biggest threat to peace in Africa

According to Africa News, 45 people have died as a result of ethnic fighting, the attack against the Ruop was carried out by the Pakem fighters in retaliation for the attacks that were carried out by a group of Ruop youths.  The fighting was very heavy, it left more than 45 people dead and much more injured. The military has since been deployed from the state capital to try and stop the violence that has seen the burning down of houses and property.

These tribal clashes are not new in Sudan for example, the Ma’alya and Rizergat ethnic groups had multiple clashes throughout 2014 that turned into an all-out war in the oil-rich region of Darfur. This left a lot of people dead and many more injured from both ethnic groups.  The conflicts were about land rights and shared resources have lasted for more than ten years. The conflict in South Sudan has seen people flee Sudan into neighboring countries and Sudan itself. There have been nine big refugee camps that have been created but to According to Rev. Michael Didi, the fighting follows them even in the refugee camps. And because of this, each ethnic group are put separately even in the camps.

This ethnic fighting is not confined to Sudan, almost everyone will remember the genocide in Rwanda where members of the Hutu majority murdered about 800,000 Tutsi minorities. Ordinary people were incited by local officials to take arms against there neighbor.  The brutality spread throughout the country with shocking speed, no one spared Women, Children and the elderly Tutsi’s. Another country that is still being damaged by the effects of tribalism is Congo, as it was reported a couple of weeks ago, there was an insurrection by an ethnic in one of the towns in Congo that so members of another killed. So why do Genocides, Slavery, Holocaust or ethnic cleansing happen?

Firstly, dehumanization, dehumanization is described as “the process of equating others with an animal, insects or disease until it overcomes normal human revulsion” to murder    According to dehumanization usually is what gives ideological justification for treating people in the most inhuman way. By dehumanizing people, you start believing that killing them is doing a service to society. this one of the reasons Slavery took a long time to abolish, Black people were viewed as half man. During the holocaust, Nazis referred to Jews as rats, Hutus called Tutsis Cockroaches.  On the other hand, dehumanization is true and not true in one sense, this is because White people during slavery treated their animals a lot better than they treated there fellow human beings.

Secondly, according to Dr. Gregory Stanton discrimination is another reason genocides happen. This is due to the fact that when you have the ruling class, caste or ethnic group that think they are better than others and these groups are in power.  They tend to enact laws that separate and segregate groups of people that they deem inferior. In South Africa, Black people were not allowed to live in the same neighborhoods as white people. In Rwanda, the Hutus limited Tutsi’s access to medical schools and civil service. Even in Zimbabwe under segregation, black people were not allowed to do a lot. The result of systematic oppression and discrimination is that the oppressed eventually revolt.

Philip Carl Salzman in an article that was published in the middle east forum also found that the Arab world is also deeply tribal, this tends to affect the everything from family relation to governance. The membership is based on being a descendant of a common male ancestor,  the members of the tribe are deemed to share common interests and have obligations of solidarity with one another. Descendants of other ethnic groups are views as different and are seen as opponents, sometimes enemies”.

In saying that though Africa, is multi-ethnic/multicultural, and will always be multicultural, so then how does Africa live in peace in the midst of our deep cultural differences. Firstly Africa needs to unite around shared norms and ideas and not race-ethnicity and color. Ideas like the rule of law, where no one is above the law, not even the chief. As is the case in Congo. Another way is to debate ideas in the public square, like western countries continually do, over the centuries western civilization has debated and refined ideas about, politics, economics, constitutionalism, and justice. The systems we have now in western countries are a mixture of Greek, Roman and Christian school of thought.

Finally, Africa is big and very diverse, cultural practices differ from country to country and often from town to town. Not every cultural idea should be given equal standing in a society. Africa will only move forward if it sets one overarching standard that everyone has to follow regardless of their status in society.