During the 19th and 20th centuries, colonialism gradually receded from Africa, leaving behind it states whose borders had been determined by the interests of colonialism, not the natural division of humanity in Africa. Borders grouped many disparate tribes together which often were in conflict with each other, and in some cases tribes were divided between states. This situation created states whose populations struggle internally, and most were ruled, and are still ruled by one group which took control of the whole country. The tribe that is in control “buys” the loyalty of other tribes by political appointments and economic benefits, a phenomenon that creates a great deal of corruption in government.
The economy of the standard African state is controlled by the regime, which divides the wealth of the state according to its political interests. This situation causes groups who are not within the inner circle of the regime to be marginalized, and thus are under-developed, a fact which is reflected, among other ways, in a poor educational system. As a result of this, its people are doomed to be left behind in terms of vocational training, and they – a group that may amount to millions of people – are left to a life of poverty and unemployment because their area is under-developed in relation to other sectors of the state in the regime’s favor.
The internal division of the states between those in favor and those who are not, creates tension between the tribes, which adds to the accumulated tensions that have existed between the tribes for many generations. The result is tribal conflicts that degrade the situation and cause civil wars to break out in the states quite easily. Examples of this are many: Biafra at the end of the 60s, which split off from Nigeria, resulting in wars for independence that left hundreds of thousands of fatalities caused both by the sword and by hunger; Rwanda during the nineties was an arena of horrific acts of slaughter between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes; the Second Congo War (1998-2003) took the lives of more than five million people; Uganda experienced acts of mass slaughter in the days of Idi Amin; recently, Charles Taylor, a former dictator of Liberia, was indicted for crimes against humanity, meaning against his citizens; Somalia is experiencing persistent tribal warfare which, as of today, has cost the lives of tens of thousands, and its lack of government is responsible for the phenomenon of piracy in the Indian Ocean; bloody wars for 60 years between the Arab-Islamist government of Sudan and sectors of the Christian-Animist South, which, during the last year gained independence; the slaughter of hundreds of thousands during the past decade that the government of Sudan carried out against the people of Darfur, which is in the Western part of the state; in Kenya, bloody street riots break out between the tribes every time there are elections and in many other cases when there are bloody conflicts.
These conflicts stem from no other reason other than the demographic situation of the states of Africa, each of which is a combination of different groups who are hostile to each other and share no unifying factor. The modern framework of a state – institutions, a flag, a hymn and symbols of sovereignty – have failed in the most important task, which is to settle in the hearts of the people and to substitute traditional loyalty to the tribe with a new loyalty to the state. The differences between the tribes can even be seen in external appearance – height, color, shade, the shape of the facial features – as well as the level of education and development. These differences are clear and continue to be a basis for discrimination and various coalitions, and are used as a way to obtain the favors of the regime or to be excluded from them.
In the states where there is oil, like Nigeria, the population is divided between those tribes who profit from the oil, (usually those who live in areas from which the oil is extracted or in land through which oil is piped), and those tribes who see no earnings from the oil. The tribes with oil defend their interests with hoarded weapons, and the state can buy their allegiance only at a high price. However, many times, tribes sabotage the pipes in order to steal and sell the oil, and these acts of sabotage result in explosions and fires that leave hundreds of people dead, wounded and burned. In Sudan, oil is the reason for the war in the past few months between the state of Sudan, whose capital is Khartoum, and the new state of South Sudan, whose capital is Juba. It is from this failed state that many of the illegal aliens who came to Israel originated.
About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.
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