Just as it was an enabler of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism, tribalism has also manifested in post-colonial Africa in the form of divisive, exclusionist, conflicting and destabilising politics of ethno-geographic identity, which has proven to be an anathema to the collective development of black African states in the contemporary world.
The killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black American man, by a white police officer, on May 25 in, Minneapolis, Minnesota, has once again opened another sad chapter in the ever contentious issue of inter-race relations in contemporary America. So gruesome was this particular case of Floyd’s murder that it has sparked off spontaneous protests and riots across America and beyond, against what many believe to be a perennial, racism-motivated, police brutality of black Americans. Footage of Floyd’s dying moment from suffocation, with his neck pressed hard by the knee of a White police officer, as he lay flat on the ground, with his hands tightly cuffed behind him, reveals a scene similar to that of a horror movie. George Floyd, a 46-year old black American father of one, can be heard saying, under his dying breath, to his White tormentors: “I can’t breathe.” But unfortunately deafened by racism, the white cop ignored Floyd and continued applying pressure and choking him, till Floyd gave up from suffocation, after nine minutes of torment.
Notwithstanding the fact that the main culprit in this latest episode of police brutality has been sacked from duty, arrested and charged with murder, Americans across racial divides have poured onto the streets of major cities of the United States to protest this death that has become too many. The demise of George Floyd, which has been blamed largely on what many describe as institutional racism against blacks and other people of colour in white-dominated America, has sparked off a renewed conversation about inter-race relations around the world. In Africa, the continent of origin of black Americans, there has been an outpouring of emotions over the killing of one of their brethren and the expression of solidarity for the massive “Black life matters” protest matches against racism and police brutality across the United States.
However, in expressing solidarity and support for black Americans against racism in America, black Africans appear to be conveniently forgetting their own problems of broken intra-race relations, which has manifested in the form tribalism; a problem that is no less prejudicial than racism. While, there is no denying the reality that America has a big problem of institutional racism on its hands, Africa has a even bigger problem of entrenched tribalism. And tribalism is worse than racism because the latter is hate for others, while the former is hatred for one’s own self. Whereas the white race appears united in its racism against other people of colour, the black race is divided along tribal lines in acrimony, prejudice and hate for each other, as expressed in the most bestial form of discrimination ever known to man. The problem of tribalism in Africa, which predates the coming of the white man to the continent, has been at the core of a weakness that served as enabler of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism.
With an inglorious history of institutionalised slavery, as the major destination of the human cargo shipped out of black Africa, America became a cauldron of inter-race relations between the descendants of former slaves and those of the slave owners, which is very touchy and raw. The image of a white man choking a black person to death, with his knees rammed on the neck of the black, understandably evoked the horrific memories of slavery in America. Unfortunately, the guilt of the evil trans-Atlantic slave trade is not one that should be borne by the white slave merchants and their plantation owner brothers alone.
Identity politics has left many a black African state divided and destabilised due to acrimony, discrimination and marginalisation arising from ethnicity, and resulting in violent armed conflicts across the continent. The tribal wars…have resulted in the slaughter of more black Africans than the white racists have done in the entire history of America.
The evil trans-Atlantic slave enterprise was a joint venture between white merchants and black African tribal chieftains. The culture of slavery in Africa predated the trans-Atlantic slave trade, as black Africans had been enslaving their fellow black Africans of different tribes from time immemorial. And as the demand for human cargo exported to work the plantations of the new world increased, so did the ceaseless wars of black African tribal chieftains against their neighbours escalate in order to capture more people for sale to the white man. Therefore, the guilt for the trans-Atlantic slave trade is a shared one between the white slavers and their collaborating black African tribal war lords. This tribal division among black African peoples wto be further exploited by Europeans in the colonisation of most of continental Africa.
Just as it was an enabler of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism, tribalism has also manifested in post-colonial Africa in the form of divisive, exclusionist, conflicting and destabilising politics of ethno-geographic identity, which has proven to be an anathema to the collective development of black African states in the contemporary world. Identity politics has left many a black African state divided and destabilised due to acrimony, discrimination and marginalisation arising from ethnicity, and resulting in violent armed conflicts across the continent. The tribal wars between the Dinka and the Nuer in South Sudan; Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda; Hawiye and Marehan Darod in Somalia; Luo and Kikuyu in Kenya; the Fulani, Tiv, Jukun, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, etc. in Nigeria, have resulted in the slaughter of more black Africans than the white racists have done in the entire history of America.
As a direct consequence of the social instability brought upon black African states by the entrenched culture of tribalism, not much economic progress has been achieved in post-colonial Africa. Tribalism has bred nepotism, cronyism, favouritism, influence peddling and all other forms of corrupt practices, thereby reducing the region and its peoples to a dark condition of socio-economic destitution. This situation has created a huge army of economic refugee out of black Africa, desperately trying to escape the impossible living conditions back home, through the land, air and sea, into the more prosperous Europe and North America. In addition to colour differences, the economic destitution and prevailing conditions of social savagery in black Africa is robbing off negatively on the image of black people all over the world.
A people steeped in self-hate will stand on a weak moral ground and be pointing accusing fingers at other people for hating them. When the Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Itsekiri, Ijaw and Urbobo tribesmen hate each other, it is in reality black African people hating themselves. When the white police man choked George Floyd to death, it did not matter to him if he was Hutu, Tutsi, Xhosa or Fulani. All that mattered was his black skin. Without prejudice to the fact that America is still having a problem of racism, it will be unfair not to acknowledge its commitment and deliberate efforts at evolving into a more a racially inclusive nation, more than any other country in the world. On the contrary, many black African countries are retrogressing from inter-tribal to intra-tribal conflicts.
Black Africa must begin to take full responsibility of what has become of its pitiable socio-economic conditions of strife in the midst of poverty. Africa is not innocent of its own problems and there has to be a shift from “how Europe underdeveloped Africa” to “how Africans are under developing Africa” as the theme of confronting this monster of self-hate.
While America has extended civil rights to descendants of freed slaves and immigrants, black Africans of the ancestral slave heritage are still socially ostracised, derogated, demeaned, discriminated, marginalised, excluded and treated as outcasts in the most inhuman manner in their home continent. Whereas America achieved a major milestone as a leading racially inclusive nation in the world, when in 2008 Barack Obama, a black American, was elected president of the United States, black African states are still plagued by indigene/settler dichotomy and minority/majority tribal supremacy. That is why it was easier for Obama, a black American, to be elected president of white majority America, than would have been possible for Obama, an ethnic minority Luo, to be elected the president of his majority ethnic Kikuyu native country of Kenya. Racism is bad but tribalism is worse, as there is no greater tragedy that can befall a people than self-hate.
Due to the low level of integration and assimilation of the people of Black Africa, Ilhan Omar had to take refuge in faraway America, following the destabilisation of her native Somalia due to protracted intra-tribal/clan wars, where her success story as a refugee-turned-congress-woman is only possible. The story of Sesugh Uhaa, the black American wrestling superstar who was born to Nigerian parents of Tiv ethnicity in America, where his talents and potentials have been nurtured to success, may have been different if he was born in Taraba State in Nigeria. In that place, where ethnic Tiv people from neighbouring Benue State are regarded as non-indigenous settlers with very limited political and economic rights, his accomplishments in life would have been severely hampered. And that is if he is not mowed down in the perennial Tiv/Jukun tribal wars.
Black Africa must begin to take full responsibility of what has become of its pitiable socio-economic conditions of strife in the midst of poverty. Africa is not innocent of its own problems and there has to be a shift from “how Europe underdeveloped Africa” to “how Africans are under developing Africa” as the theme of confronting this monster of self-hate. The inability of many black African states to outgrow their primitive tribal territorial stratifications into more inclusive nationhood has secured for the African continent a permanent place at the bottom of the pyramid of human evolution.