16.07.2008 Feature Article

Ethnic Conflict In Africa - The Need To Search For Remedies

Ethnic Conflict In Africa - The Need To Search For Remedies
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Ethnicity induced conflicts in Africa keep on recurring in various parts of the Continent and the earlier solutions were found to solve the problem the better it would be for all.

One fact that must be accepted is that with the emergence of nation States at the demise of Colonialism people of different ethnic background were lumped together and this historical antecedent must never be lost on African politicians.
Ethnic group with large numbers were put together with those with not so large a number hence in almost every African country has majority and minority ethnic groups living together.
According to UN Report on Ethnicity and Development in 2004, accommodating people's growing demands for their inclusion in society, for respect of their ethnicity, religion, and language, takes more than democracy and equitable growth.

Also needed are multicultural policies that recognize differences, champion diversity and promote cultural freedoms, so that all people can choose to speak their language, practice their religion, and participate in shaping their culture - so that all people can choose to be who they are.
In recent years the Human Development Report has argued strongly that this is as much a question of politics as economics - from protecting human rights to deepening democracy. Human development is first and foremost about allowing people to lead the kind of life they choose - and providing them with the tools and opportunities to make those choices.

The 2004 Report builds on that analysis, by carefully examining-and rejecting-claims that cultural differences necessarily lead to social, economic and political conflict or that inherent cultural rights should supersede political and economic ones.

Instead, it provides a powerful argument for finding ways to "delight in our differences", as Archbishop Desmond Tutu has put it. It also offers some concrete ideas on what it means in practice to build and manage the politics of identity and culture in a manner consistent with the bedrock principles of human development.

The Report makes a case for respecting diversity and building more inclusive societies by adopting policies that explicitly recognize cultural differences - multicultural policies:
* Cultural liberty is a vital part of human development because being able to choose one's identity is important in leading a full life;
* Cultural liberty allows people to live the lives they value without being excluded from other choices important to them such as education, health or job opportunities;
* Several emerging models of multicultural democracy provide effective mechanisms for power sharing between culturally diverse groups;
* Power sharing arrangements have broadly proven to be critical in resolving tensions; and
* Multicultural policies that recognize differences between groups are needed to address injustices historically rooted and socially entrenched.

There is no doubt that there are many protracted conflicts throughout the world, of which many are ethnic conflicts.

In Ghana for instance, the Kusasis and Mamprusis ethnic conflict in Bawku in the Upper East Region and that of the Konkombas and Dagombas in the Northern Region that occurred in the past could be cited as some of the examples of the ethnic conflicts experienced in Ghana.

One cannot rule out the fact that these wars have created several refuge problems.

In today's world, there are more than 25 million internally displaced people. Over 15 million of whom are Africans. In West Africa, the Liberian Civil War alone displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

The Ghanaian media has reported that as a result of the recent upsurge in ethnic conflict in Bawku in the Upper East Region in Ghana, many people sought refuge in the neighbouring countries, including Burkina Faso and Togo thereby putting pressure on their limited resources.

There is no doubt that in the world today, there is an upsurge of inter-ethnic animosities and most of them have resulted in violence and genocide.

Recent history has shown that man has become intolerable of his neighbour on account of linguistics, religion, racial and ethnic differences to the extent that the benefit of global accomplishment of Science and Technology which he should have harnessed to improve his lot and put into building power around himself, is rather the opposite. Man rather prefers to use the benefit of the application of science and technology in harming his fellow being.

Historically it has been proved that colonialism in Africa carried within itself the seed of ethnic conflict. The arbitrary demarcation of boundaries fragmented Africa into smaller weaker status without giving much attention to the prevailing socio-cultural peculiarities of the people.

Also the infamous policy of separate development in certain parts of Africa and the policy of indirect rule through which the Colonial Authorities were able to govern by using minority groups accounted for some of the inter-ethnic conflicts on the continent. A case in point is that of Burundi and Rwanda. These two groups find their origin in the colonial policy of indirect rule where the Tutsi minorities were imposed on the majority Hutus.

Another cause of ethnic conflict in Africa is the challenge associated with political tension, especially in the nations that are emerging from one party and dictatorial regimes into democracy.

Several nations are faced with the opposition fighting to dislodge incumbent regimes that have unyielding commitment to remain in power. In such cases elections are staged and managed to offer a front to legitimize the stay of the already entrenched rulers.

In such cases, as in Kenyan and Zimbabwe just to mention a few have already succeeded in creating situations in which out of despair, aggrieved opponents organized rebellions based on ethnic backgrounds against the incumbent.

The Media, especially the foreign ones have also contributed in fuelling the ethnic problems in Africa.

Media sensationalism has undermined the security of State in several aspects.

Either for reasons of political bias or poor professional judgment, a reporter is capable of drawing on a single inconspicuous event from incredibly diverse perspectives to create an impression which for example could suggest that a whole nation is under siege.

People often read disparaging comments on Africa whereas nothing is heard about the savage ethnic blood bath in Europe.

Until Africa Journalists are prepared to assume their rightful role in the coverage of events on the Continent and until adequate facilities are made available for dissemination of news on the Continent to be analyzed from the prejudicial perspective of the foreign media, Africa would continue to be portrayed in a negative manner.

Conflict resolution, like all human endeavours, is dependant on a number of factors all of which are human centred. There are indications that Africans would have to resolve their own problems in the future. The developed countries are more interested in wars of the rich as against wars of the poor. The cases that occurred in Liberia and Somalia underscore the fact that there is the need for Africans to develop their own remedies for conflict management and resolution.

The United States for instance makes no secret of the fact that their involvement in peacekeeping and conflict is tied up with their financial interest and the strategic location of the country in turmoil.

The question is therefore on how Africa can solve its own conflicts in its own domain independently. It should be first and foremost recognized that solutions to ethnic conflicts lies ultimately with the factions at war.

It should be pointed out that military options have only succeeded in halting the evil design of the fighter for so long as there is pressure on him.

The enormity of the task for the African peacemaker lies in the fact that the root causes of the problems that he has to confront with are so congenital in origin that the ultimate solution may lie more in appealing to the conscience of the fighters than influencing them to make peace.

The traditional mechanism for resolving peace during inter-clan conflict is very appropriate and should be applied when ethnic conflicts explode.

Meetings of Clan Elders adjudicate the conflict and determine appropriate compensation for the aggrieved person.

It is well noted that one of the obstacles for confronting the search for remedies for Africa's conflicts is the absence of good faith on the parts of the warring factions. Leaders break peace as often as they are signed.

There is the need for clear and transparent commitment on the parts of those at war to seek peace.

In search of ethnic conflict remedies, the full collaboration and support of all actors in the peace process are essential. There is also the need for Mediators to be seen as neutral. There is no time to waste, sustainable solutions should be found to ethnic conflicts in Africa and the time is now or never

A GNA Feature by Samuel Adadi Akapule

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