Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tribes or Nations ??

From The London Times

" Siphiwe Hlophe, founder of Swaziland for Positive Living (Swapol) led a 1,000-strong demonstration in the capital Mbabane to protest that eight of his 13 wives, plus their children and an entourage of bodyguards, maids and hangers-on, had chartered a plane to Dubai for a shopping spree. English public-school-educated King Mswati III, whose personal take of the national budget is half the health budget, is estimated to have spent £2.2m on the trip and is planning a huge 40th birthday party.

Swaziland has the worst HIV infection rate in the world; 31% for women.
It is also pathetically poor, with nearly 70% of its people living on less than 50 US cents (about 27p) a day.

In Swaziland the king and the ruling elite refer to the Swazi nation but pretend that Swazis are a traditional tribe, utterly obedient to the king and his chiefs. The king misuses tradition to appropriate the country’s meagre resources, prevent development and keep the people subservient.

What is the difference between a tribe and a nation anyway? Tribalism describes a frame of mind all human beings suffer from: a pig-headed “my group, right or wrong” attitude. In Africa people are always referred to as members of tribes, but how can 25 million Yoruba or 33 million Hausa people be called tribes? If they are, then surely the English, Welsh and Scots must be British tribes. Does the media refer to former Yugoslavia as tribal or the Israel-Palestine conflict as a land dispute between two semitic tribes. That’s how it would be described if they lived in Africa.

Africa’s problem is not tribalism as such, but the utterly incoherent nation states cohabited by different ethnic groups bequeathed to Africans half a century ago. Africans had no part in the creation of their nation states. At the end of the 19th century, Europeans drew lines on maps of places they had never been to. Fifty years ago the filled-in spaces became Ghana, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, countries that had never existed before. Suddenly pitched into independence, they had no sense of common nationhood. By contrast the ruling Europeans had always emphasised ethnic differences and suppressed any sense of nationalism.

Beneath the surface of Africa’s weak nation states lie old cultures, old communities, very different societies with their own laws and languages. Nigeria contains some 400 different ethnic groups. Uganda has more than 40. They lack what we take for granted: a common conception of nationhood and national citizenship. The unification of Africa remains a distant dream, and separatism is frowned on because it could lead to bloody disintegration..."

We also read that a meeting of more than 200 African kings and traditional rulers has bestowed the title "king of kings" on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The rulers, wearing gold crowns, sequined capes and colourful robes met in the Libyan town of Benghazi. Sheikh Abdilmajid from Tanzania told the BBC that the traditional rulers could play an important role. "The people believe in the chiefs and kings more than they believe in their governments,"
While Col Gaddafi told the assembled dignitaries "We want an African military to defend Africa, we want a single African currency, we want one African passport to travel within Africa,"

Socialist Banner declares that only through democratic de-centralised world socialism can the African peoples become united but also Africa will be unified with the rest of the world and enjoy common ownership of the worlds treasury.

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