When Africa liberates itself from the yoke of dictatorial regimes, which foreign powers directly or indirectly support, then it can fully defeat poverty, regain its destined glory, and combat cultural imperialism, reviving its true colors and beauty. Africa’s self-determination relies on its independence from interest groups that only want to fully control its people and natural resources forever. It is through a genuine Pan-Africanism that Africa will finally set itself free from all sorts of demons.
African sons and daughters (White or Black, Arab or Bantu, Ethiopian or Cameroonian), regardless of their differences, must wake up and challenge the present scramble for Africa’s arable lands by self-interested foreign investors who are only concerned about their economies at the cost of the poor who die of hunger, diseases, and climate change.
Africa must not remain a site for depositing European garbage, USA’s food aid recipient, or a play ground for China’s satellite companies, which exploit its resources unfairly, bribing corrupt officials. As Obama said, “Africa does not need strongmen.” Africa needs bold leaders who stand up for their national interest and who are loyal to all under their leadership.
Our continent is rich: beautiful people, beautiful cultures, and fully untapped natural and human resources. Only those that want us under their control, they make the world and us believe that we are poor and are incapable of self-helping, crippling our mind from realizing its potential. Africa only lacks natural leaders who can take advantage of all these resources by educating their people and by allowing democratic institutions to flourish.
Although many blame tribalism as the main cause of disorder in Africa, the real causes are uncompromising men who love power more than they love their people. It’s the shortsightedness of these political opportunists and the unfair treatment of one tribe by the other that made tribalism a nightmare. I believe the best solution is not demonizing tribalism, but making it part of the solution.
Before the colonizers decided mapping Africa, various tribes survived for a long time celebrating their existence, either occasionally fighting one against the other or living in harmony as neighbors, culturally inter-mixing through marriages, religious conversion, and/or forced expansion. As obvious as it appears, tribalism predates the present national states of Africa, which colonialists eventually mapped out from scratch, except few countries that already had their own internal development as states.
After 50 or 60 years of independence, tribalism is still rampant in almost all African countries. No one has succeeded in permanently erasing it from the African psyche; it’s a deeply rooted social phenomenon—the crisis in Somalia, Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia are great examples. We shall only embrace it to make it work for our benefit—that way the political opportunists will also lose the gamble.
An English man, for example, is more proud of his English heritage than anything else. He lives next to a Scottish, sharing some common values and communicating without difficulty, not to mention they both consider themselves British nationals; nevertheless, the English sure would resist if one imposed a Scottish identity on him. One good example is the 2006 Channel 4 television’s show in the UK: “100% English.” The main goal of this show was to test whether the “ethnically English” participants were 100% English by looking at their DNA sample. If the Europeans can go this far to realize their ethnicity, then why does the quest for one’s ethnic identity become a BIG problem in Africa?
Colonialism and its aftermath can be one of the many answers to that question. The divide and rule approach that the Europeans implemented during the colonial era, it sure has had an adverse effect on how postcolonial states have been run. Hence, we see tribalism, or are taught to see it, as a BIG problem, while the Europeans wear it like a silk garment, without failing to advance their national or international interests.
Corruption, racial prejudice, and nepotism, based on tribal lines, remain also additional reasons why tribalism lies on the negative side of the equation today. However, there is no reason why we mustn’t cherish what is our own and discard or reform when it fails us; that exactly is how they do it. Our national values emanate from the various tribal values. There sure should be a way to make our political or social systems better based on those values instead of just importing ideas from outside. For example, forcing the Luo people to forget their identity cannot work in today’s political environment; nevertheless, allowing them to cherish it, giving them equal economic and political rights as the rest, can make them embrace their Kenyan nationality with pride, which will then eliminate any kind of tension based on ethnic or tribal differences.
I am hopeful that when every African state produces bright and visionary leaders like Mandela, who peacefully return power to their people, tribalism will cease to be a problem, but instead will be embraced because it will pave the way to tackle the actual BIG problems that our continent carries on its shoulders. Therefore, despite the bad news we see on TVs or read on newspapers everyday, Africa’s “problems” can eventually be resolved should there be a committed leader who can go beyond one’s ethnic or tribal heritage and reach out to all.
It may take time but ultimately Africa will be liberated from years of iron-fist rule. As the dictatorial regimes fall apart one by one, the majority of the poor people will finally regain their dignity.
With good education, leadership, and economic progress, ethnic or tribal related and other serious problems will become non-existent. As Obama acknowledged, Africa’s progress depends on African-based solutions that give priority to indigenous knowledge. Africans in Diaspora and other friends of Africa can also play a major role in transforming the continent from a war ravaged and poverty infested zone into conflict free and prosperous environment.