It Is About The Global Course Read Following Essay Write About 100 Words Half Fo

It is about the global course. read following essay. Write about 100 words. Half for the summary, half for what you think.

The Cycle of “State-Ethnicity-State” in African Politics 

 Okwudiba Nnoli 

The genocide in Rwanda in 1994 radically changed the attitudes of Africans and non-Africans alike toward ethnicity in Africa. The extent of the bloodletting shocked the whole world. In spite of the numerous cases of ethnic violence on the continent in the past, no one expected the carnage and brutality that attended the genocide. Worse still its perpetrators have shown no remorse. Both Rwanda and Burundi are still locked in genocidal wars in which the Tutsi are pitted against the Hutu. People are asking questions about the contribution of ethnicity to the state of affairs in African politics. Of particular interest is the reason why ethnic conflict in Africa has been so destructive.

This paper seeks to answer these questions. It suggests that past attempts to answer them failed because they are based on inadequate understanding of ethnicity in Africa. They tend to see ethnicity everywhere and to conceive it in a self-explanatory manner. They view ethnicity essentially as given and take very little account of its substratum. From this point of view interests arising from ethnic identities differ from one another because of socio-cultural and economic differences among the relevant ethnic groups. Hardly any serious thought is given to how and why individuals embrace ethnic identity in the first place, and the origin of the ethnic group interests.

Our view is that ethnicity in Africa arises from the projection of state power by those who control the state. The undemocratic character of the state means that in extending political authority throughout the country and organizing economic and social activities in the society those who control the state often inflict direct or structural violence on peoples and communities. Direct violence occurs when a punitive expedition is sent to perpetrate violence against a community for past misdeeds. A good example is the military expedition sent by the Nigerian government in 1999 to sack the town of Odi in Bayelsa state. This action was punishment for the disappearance of some policemen in the area. Structural violence occurs when decisions are imposed on communities without consulting them, and often against their will. An example is the imposition of the structural adjustment program (SAP) on the various communities in Africa.

As Ake argues, what occurs for the most part in Africa is violent aggression by the state against communities, ethnic groups, minorities, workers, peasants, religious groups and the political opposition in the routine business of projecting power to realize vested interests and to sustain domination (Ake, 1995). In other words, the violence does not need to arise from any articulated or perceived differences between the state and its victims. It is not necessarily related to any explicit struggle for state power. The differences and struggles emerge ex post facto from the unilateral actions of the state. A reckless abuse of power is often involved. This gradually builds up a critical mass of desperate enemies among the victims of state action. Ethnicity emerges as an inclusive framework for responding to this violence of the state.

For example, the resort to arms by the Banyamulenge ethnic group in the Congo (DRC) emerged ex post facto from the unilateral state policy of the Mobutu regime to divest them of their citizenship of the country. The result was a series of violent actions, reactions and coalitions that swept Mobutu Sese Seko from power and turned the Congo into a theatre of violent political struggles among local and foreign forces that are yet to be resolved. In Northern Ghana, the Konkomba-Nanumba war of 1981 is traceable to the generalized state-imposed structural violence that attended the country’s policy of SAP during the period 1980-1983. Those fleeing this violence to their ethnic homeland found themselves engaged in destructive socio-economic competition with neighboring ethnic groups that could not be resolved by other than violent means.

This state-ethnicity nexus dates back to the colonial period. The colonial state was undemocratic, ruthless and arbitrary. As a rule, it projected its power without consulting the people; invariably it acted against their will. Its policies completely changed the African political, economic and socio-cultural landscape. They produced a massive population shift, especially from the rural to the urban areas; alienated community land; destroyed local institutions; created new public institutions; redefined notions of physical and political space; and created new notions of citizenship. Unilateral and coercive actions of the colonial state played the leading role in forcing through these changes. This was the beginning of virulent ethnicity.

This ethnicity was reinforced by the ruthless projection of state power during the early post-colonial period. These were the heydays of the one-party sate and military rule. Increased centralization of state power, a widening of the scope of corruption, increased repression, the expansion and intensification of the process of class formation, the emergence of class factions, and massive changes in the agrarian sector formed the context for the evolution of new identities, redefinition of pre-colonial and colonial identities, and the manipulation of these identities for political and other purposes. Added to all this is the impact of the political, economic and ecological crises of the state on ethnicity and its growth.

Furthermore, the growth of ethnicity is promoted by the tendency of globalization to bring everyone into close proximity by shrinking everything into one small intimate space that has to be fought for incessantly. Shrinking physical space, increasing proximity and enforced intimacy cause tension and anxiety because they crowd people into ever-smaller space with all their differences and mutual suspicions intact. Even when globalization tries to induce common values, as for example through the global market, it does not reduce the tensions; if anything it increases them by inducing convergence on the same values and focusing demand on the same scarce resources (Ake, 1997).

Such tensions are compounded by the increasing openness of state boundaries spawned by globalization. Everyone everywhere is exposed to the unblinking view and judgment of a global society. There is no place to hide, no respite from scrutiny and assessment. One result of this trend is the tendency towards undermining the state. As the state is undermined it decomposes into its constituent linguistic, religious or ethnic components. The dismemberment of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia is illustrative. Globalization produces tensions, uncertainties and ruptures that cause serious changes in attitudes and orientations. The abstract universalism of civil identity in the nation-state is unable to contain these changes. This is because such changes elicit particularistic but holistic cultural identities such as religious or ethnic identities.

By all indications, African peoples have sought to resist oppressive state presence by embracing new identities, sometimes different from their pre-colonial identities. They have overwhelmingly embraced primary identities such as ethnic and religious identities. Their preference for primary identities is because of the generalized and cultural nature of the threat. Such a threat demands nothing but the crystallization of the self holistically. This is precisely what primary identities do. However, as self-reflexivity this type of primary identity takes itself and all its claims for granted but does not take rival identity claims seriously except in the confrontation by which it determines and invigorates itself by negation. Therefore and unfortunately, when the struggle against the threat (state violence) is waged (ethnic conflict) it is sometimes directed against the wrong enemies, other ethnic groups rather than the rampaging undemocratic state.

Unlike pre-colonial ethnicity, the ethnicity that emanates from these rapidly changing national and global conditions is fiercely competitive and intolerant of ethnic minority views and feelings. It is not aimed at promoting production and commerce as in the pre-colonial past but the control and monopolization of power and material resources. It seeks advantage in the socio-economic and political scheme of things. These characteristics are reinforced by the partisan nature of the African state in factional disputes, the extensive intervention of the state in economic and social life that makes the state a strategic instrument for power and wealth in Africa. Thus, one can understand the intensity of the struggle among ethnic groups to control and dominate the state.

Prof. Angela

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