Tribalism? This can be defined as “the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group”. As a result, the tribalist has disdain for and often disrespects the tribes they think are inferior to theirs. Such people, therefore, discourage association in any form be it marriage, work or friendship with tribes they deem to be inferior.
Tribalists think and preach that the men and women of their tribe or ethnic group are superior to others, and that as a result the others should serve and obey them. They try to impose the hegemony, the predominance of their tribes. Tribalist ideas and feeling are used most often to create a clientele who can help them to satisfy their selfish interests and ambitions
The reasons for tribalism and tribal discrimination may include the following:
The first is history, as many a tribalist traces the perceived superiority of their tribe to ethnic lineage. They will recount how their forebears defeated the other tribes in a war or a series of wars, or sometimes how their forebears enslaved the other tribes. Such people take pride in their history and no amount of persuasion can make them to see today’s reality. They believe that since their ancestors were “better” than the other tribes, so also are they now.
Another reason for tribalism is geographical location in relation to national resources and power. By this we mean that tribes which are endowed with abundant resources and opportunities often tend to disrespect people from other tribes who come to seek work on their land. Similarly, tribes which have the seat of power tend to think that they are better than others, and sometimes look down on them.
The above mentioned have been aggravated by politics. It is sad to say that most politicians either publicly or privately try to encourage tribal sentiments for their own selfish interests. Among the effects of tribalism is that it breeds nepotism. Once people feel that their tribesmen are better than people of other tribes, they tend to surround themselves with their tribesmen when they get into positions of trust.
Often tribalists are willing to hire people from their own tribe who may not otherwise be the best candidates for a given job. Such actions deprive the nation of the right people for the right job. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is arguable that the negative effects of tribalism permeate all African countries. Millions have been killed, maimed or displaced in civil wars in sub-Sahara Africa over the past 50 years, mostly because of tribal agitation. Most of us are living witnesses to the carnage that occurred in Rwanda and is still going on in Somalia. These countries have fallen into the abyss mainly because of tribalism. (The Point, 2010)
In terms of employment, people are given jobs based on tribe regardless of having low qualifications. Hence the inefficient use of available skills. Thus, the very rationale of being educated lacks meaning. Bad governance and lack of accountability has also been linked to tribalism as people do not question a government run by their tribesmen. Delivery of services is also hindered as the culture of impunity is also inculcated. Delivery of services in both public and private institution where tribalism is rampant is also highly affected by tribal affiliations and politics.
Tribalism in Africa has been a major stumbling block to democracy as well as socio-economic development. It affects every sphere of development, from social economic, political to educational spheres. In political spheres, tribalism persists since it provides an avenue via which state goodies and favors trickle down from those in power to their tribesmen. Therefore, loyalty to tribe is given ever greater relevance than loyalty to the country.
In the overall sub-Saharan African political ethos, so long as a larger chunk of the negative vestiges of colonialism predominate, ethnicity as a political tool in the long run may, of course, involve several thoughts in the dimensions of social sciences like anthropology or sociology in the academic world, but in practical politics, especially in the contemporary African context of increasing ignorance and backwardness, ethnicity or ethnic politics exist as a blatant, gruesome instruments of accumulating private wealth and an easy accesses to unearned political power. In short, ethnic politics is an excuse to the profession of brigandage.
In Kenya, the regime of Daniel Arap Moi took over power apparently to ensure the revenge of the Kalenjin ethnic group over the long predominance or alleged predominance of the Kikuyu. Logically, therefore, the security and safety of individuals in key positions of the regime rely on staying in power. In Ethiopia, the regime of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), spearheaded by the Tigrean Liberation Front (TPLF) and directed by Mr. Meles Zenawi, controlled central power ten years ago evidently with the intention of ensuring the predominance of Tigrean or other non-Amahara interests over the alleged predominance of the Amhara ruling class.
In 1964, the alleged “Arab dominance” in Zanzibar was revenged by a revolutionary seizure of Arab properties by the “Africans”. The rivalries between Igbo and non-Igbo groups in Port Harcourt, between Yoruba and Hausa in Ibadan (Nigeria) and other similar occurrences in the Congo Leopoldville, Rwanda, Burundi and others signify not ethnic conflicts per se but just sheer power struggles for the control of either major resources (wealth) or political power or both, by certain groups playing the ethnic card. (See H. Wolpe, Urban Politics in Nigeria)
Ultimately, the bitterness accruing from such irresponsible conducts for the sake of short-sighted and short-term gains plant poisonous seeds for potential disasters. The hatred of the Luo and Kalenjin towards the Kikuyu in Kenya can be paralleled with the joint resentment of the Tigrean and Oromo groups within the EPRDF towards the Amharas in Ethiopia. In both of those situations, the main issue is not as much on an equitable distribution of power as it is over the lion’s share of the spoils of power struggle. Even within obviously homogeneous societies, like Somalia, a complete internal harmony is an exception rather than the rule, let alone states shredded with a plethora of tribes. (There are more than one thousand distinct tribes with their own languages in Africa.)
There are several conflicts of interest even from among family members, which cannot be resolved by any sort of benign umpire from heaven, much less by pretending to be the protector of an “ethnic” interest, or even worse, national interest. There are gender conflicts, even age group conflicts of interest, conflicts of interest between the warriors (the bullies) and ordinary (humble) citizens, between the intellectuals and the licentious, and so forth. A well developed unitary polity with nationally applicable “rule of law”, which is ethnic-blind seems to be the solution, not the so called ‘representatives’ of ethnic interest. (Yohannes Chane Metiku, 2002)
It is my wish, now that the wars are coming to an end, to live happily in peace. All mortals from now shall live like one people, united and peacefully working forwards a common prosperity. You should regard the whole world as your country – a country where the best govern-, with common laws and no racial distinctions. I do not separate people as many narrow minded others do, I’m not interested in the origin or race of citizens. I only distinguish them on the basis of their virtue.
Let me finish saying that if our Gambia society permitted to do what their brain was capable of doing: their incredible entrepreneur skills, needed to make our society achieve development, happiness and living in peace and meaningful life. Moreover, it is the 21st century- no need any more to belief or relay as a social security: tribalism, fake ancestral lands; with that in mind- whether or not we are conscious of it, the alternative or choice is divisions, conflict, repeatable miserable gibberish refugee life.
“People who sow seeds of discord by preaching tribalism, racism and religious misunderstanding should find another place to go.” Mwai Kinaki
I dream of The Gambia where one day her citizens will continue to live as a family, where the joking relationship buried the menace of tribalism.
BY: SAIDINA ALIEU JARJOU