Wednesday, January 14, 2015

One World, One Africa, One People

Africa’s  arbitrary borders have done much to foment strife and instability on the continent. Partitioning communities, the argument goes, has led to artificial borders, ethnic struggles, and spurred civil conflict and underdevelopment.

Look at a map of Africa and you will notice the many clean lines. Nearly half (44%) of Africa’s borders are straight lines or follow lines of latitude or longitude, splitting at least 177 ethnic groups in two or more countries. Four in ten Africans today belong to an ethnic group that has kin across borders. If we were to redraw Africa’s borders to have each ethnic group in their own country, we would have at least 2,000 countries. In some ways, people hardly recognise the arbitrary lines that separate them from their uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters living on the other side. But African borders, formidable as they seem (officially), are actually not as robust in reality, particularly if there’s a common ethnic group living on both sides, as these communities are adept at squeezing through the cracks. Generally, African governments generally adopt a “live-and-let-live” approach.

Having your community split by a border increases the risk of war, says this seminal study on the long-term effects of African borders, and makes conflict more deadly. One study showed that length of a conflict and its casualty rate is 25% higher in areas where an ethnicity is divided by a national border as opposed to areas where ethnicities have a united homeland. There are several reasons for this high risk of conflict, the researchers say – partitioning tends to generate irredentist demands, where ethnicities that are minority groups in one country want to unify with their kin across the border.

For example, the Somali are split between five different countries – so apart from Somalia itself, Somalis can be found in northern Kenya, southern Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti. At least three wars since independence in the 1960s have been driven (partly at least) by the desire of Somalis in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya to become part of Somalia. The Somali national flag is a white five-pointed star set against a blue background; the five points of the star represent these five “estranged” Somali groups.

The risk of conflict is also heightened because split ethnicities may fight to gain independence or obtain automony; one historical study documented that around 20% of civil wars in Africa have a secessionist undertone. Split groups are also more likely to be smaller, as a percentage of the total, in their respective countries, and so are likely to be marginalised and unable to access political power, and the benefits of patronage.
The Malinke of West Africa are among the most partitioned people in Africa, split into six different countries – Senegal, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire and The Gambia.
Similarly, the Ndembu are split between Angola, Zaire, and Zambia; the Nukwe, between Angola, Namibia, Zambia, and Botswana, the Alur, between Uganda and DR Congo, and the Ibibio between Nigeria and Cameroon.

The World Socialist Movement seeks a world where goods are produced to satisfy social needs rather than for profit; a democratic world system in which each person contributes their abilities to society and takes what they need to live in comfort. No borders or frontiers; no social classes or leaders. No buying or selling, no money or wages. A world of free access. Socialism will have no countries or classes that compete frantically with each other, so we can say emphatically that there will be no wars.

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