No to tribal, regional politics

“Africa is one continent, one people, and one nation. The notion that in order to have a nation it is necessary for there to be a common language, a common territory and common culture has failed to stand the test of time or the scrutiny of scientific definition of objective reality… the community of economic life is the major feature within a nation, and it is the economy which holds together the people living in a territory.

It is on this basis that the new Africans recognise themselves as potentially one nation, whose dominion is the entire African continent.”

The above quotation by pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah aptly sums up the need for African unity today than ever before.  This calls upon Africans to remain united in their quest to not only develop the continent and wad off forces that seek to exploit and divide it, but also for unity within nations.

When leaders of liberation movements in Southern Africa embarked on the fight to liberate their countries from colonial bondage in the 1960s, they made sure there was unity of purposes and that the struggle was not waged along tribal and regional lines.

That is why leaders like Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Samora Machel of Mozambique could host liberation movements from Angola, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe and provided them with material and moral support to wage the fight against colonial oppression and apartheid. This is why the liberation movements like Chama Chamapinduzi of Tanzania, Frelimo of Mozambique,  MPLA of Angola, and Zanu and Zapu of Zimbabwe took on national characters and were joined by people from all tribes in their countries in their quest for liberation.

In fact, in some liberation movements like Swapo and Zanu-PF, cadres were given nom de guerres as soon as they joined the fighting armies of PLAN (People’s Liberation Army of Namibia), Zanla (Zimbabwe National Liberation Army) and Zipra (Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army).  This was so that they would not be identified by the tribes or regions from whence they came.

Yet today, the scourge of tribalism and regionalism threatens the vision of founding fathers of liberation in the region.

The late Namibian revolutionary Andimba Toivo ya Toivo was miffed by this scourge when he said:

“I’m greatly disappointed by the current situation of tribalism in Namibia. I fought against tribalism, but today I’m hearing people mentioning Ndonga, Kwanyama, Damara, Herero and so on. My message to you… is that tribalism shall take you nowhere.

Many countries went to war because of tribalism.

I’m a different person, I helped setting out Swapo to unite Namibians under that organisation and I didn’t ask favours or position for having done that.

I went to jail for many years and I was ready to die and to suffer physically, emotionally and psychologically for the sake of this great nation. I am now done with my mission and very frail. I’m at the airport with my ticket now, waiting for the plane to come so that I go home to meet my friends… I will soon leave it in your hands. Young ones, remember, tribalism will take you nowhere.”

The late Zimbabwe revolutionary Joshua Nkomo also preached unity all the time and hated tribalism and regionalism.

Yet today, politicians engage in populist rhetoric by evoking the tribes or regions from where they come from when engaging in political discourse.

They allege marginalization and other such divisive grandiloquence to score cheap political points.

Granted, countries in the SADC region are a pot pourri of different tribes and regions, but no single tribe or region can claim to make up one country and it is this unity in strength and diversity that made the liberation movements stronger, resulting in the political independence that we all cherish today.

We believe evoking issues of one’s tribe or region of origin is a backward and cheap political posturing which will not build any nation. Why can’t we take a leaf and learn from the case of Rwanda? When the liberation struggles were waged in the region, this was not on the basis of one’s tribe or region.

Why therefore should politicians classify people according to the regions or tribe they come from? Does this not create a situation whereby countries in the region run the risk of being balkanized into tribal fiefdoms in future?

We believe the richness of the SADC region’s cultural diversity is what makes it unique and peaceful co-existence is therefore the key.

This ethnic diversity is what makes us a unique and rich cultural entity that even attracts tourists from other parts of the world.  As Nkrumah said, the forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart.

July 2017
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