African governments must stop their complicity in ethnic conflicts

African leadership continues to pursue a delusional values based political project that deliberately and selectively exploits perceived differences between human beings simply on the basis of ethnicity. Africa must stop educating its young people to be proud of tribal labels more than they pride themselves in being humans. Ideas, and not ethnicity, should be the centre around which African interpretations of individual worth evolve.

People cannot, as a direct function of subjective social labels of race or ethnicity or religion or sexuality, be ascribed superior status within any self respecting society. Perceptions of superiority based on ethnic origin are borne of delusional and scandalous reasoning which in turn feeds into some fatalistic sense of entitlements. It is this reasoning that continues to plague the continent; it costs valuable time in local development as much of it is spent feuding, if not attempting to resolve a feud; it costs millions of African lives and costs billions in lost earnings and potential investment.

Tribalism and all other socially determined discrimination is antagonistic to Africa’s human, social, political and economic development. African governmental functions are severely impacted upon by ethnically biased policies that promote corruption, patronage, selective application of laws and protect incompetent bureaucrats who happen to belong in the ‘correct’ social labels.

It is often easy – but with limited merit – to blame Africa’s internal conflicts on the proverbial invisible Western hand, that is a fraction in a complex web of unresolved historical socio-political problems; if a society’s core is strong, it is difficult for external forces to infiltrate. African internal systems are already of themselves weak due to lack of trust among different social groupings; tribalism – and not the West – is Africa’s Achilles’ heel.

Ethnic and/ or religion based conflicts across the African continent are evidence that it is extremely wrong for states to express particular cultural or religious biases; African leadership must not, either directly or indirectly, be seen to be suppressing freedoms of sections of the population to express their belief systems neither should they nurture any such belief systems. Ideally, it must never be the responsibility of the State to control membership to particular socio-cultural or religious institutions; certainly, public funds must never be used to build or nurture churches and mosques. Such membership should remain the private matter for individuals and their communities.

Nothing is ever worth killing for. Rational humans should never find themselves taking pleasure in maiming or killing fellow humans for belonging in a different ethnic group. Bearing in mind that membership in any of these socially crafted classes is often not an individual choice but an accidental function of birth; it is thus neither safe nor fair to link any person’s value to their socially ascribed identity. Beyond the subjective social descriptors of implied superiority and inferiority based on one’s race or ethnicity or gender or religion, human beings are incredibly similar.

Categorising people into ethnic or racial or religions groups seems rather simplistic and inadequate; the most comprehensive and exhaustive grouping of people would be placing them into the three classes of good, bad and indifferent and that is it! No person can ever be better than the other simply on the basis of their ethnicity or religion or race or gender or sexuality and any other socially induced interpretations of self-worth. A Nuer child is not to be better than a Dinka child just by belonging to the Nuer tribe but through his or her contributions to society.

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