Recent occurrences pointing to ethnic strife and primitive competition in Africa, Kenya included, are a major cause for worry. Essentially, of all the drawbacks that keep Africa circling over the same spot without making meaningful progress it is the persistent counterproductive inter-ethnic suspicion and animosity rife in many parts of the continent that is most irritating.
The real dilemma is that not even education seems capable of bringing cohesion to the fore as a prerequisite to peace and socio-economic development. Yet we know that most of this inter-ethnic me
Ethnicity takes the shape of belonging to a social group that hass is the handiwork of the political class which is forever working towards creating strife as a tool of political dominance and control.
But where does the notion that some ethnic communities are more superior than others come from? And why does unfounded ethnic supremacy find its way to government appointments and sharing of national resources so easily?
I am not insinuating that ethnic identity is a new phenomenon; neither do I wish to portray the ethnic identity in human beings as worthless. Far from it!
What we need to differentiate is the crucial difference between ethnicity and ethnocentrism.
s a common heritage or cultural roots while ethnocentrism is the tendency of judging another culture through the prism of one’s own culture and instantly condemning the other culture on account of non-conformity. When ethnocentric mindsets judge other groups relative to their own ethnic standards, they miss out on the magic of diversity humanity that comes alive when disparate cultures interrogate each other.
On the other hand ethnicity is a more natural phenomenon through which human society inherits identity. No one chooses to be born Kikuyu, Luo, Meru, Xhosa, Ndebele or Ibo. Instead, we find ourselves in a tribe or ethnic group long before we can understand its culture, traditions, norms and values. It is from our ethnic identity that we should derive a unique sense of belonging, worthiness and self respect. Regardless of which community one belongs to, mankind should learn to take pride in our own way of doing things as long as we are not obviously obnoxious to basics of universal human morality. It is from our ethnic identities that can and do derive and assemble a sense of nationhood.
On the other hand, ethnocentrism is a synthetic mindset, lazy and escapist at best. It is as a product of nurture rather than nature. Oftentimes, ethnocentrism creeps in when ethnic identities get bloated creating a false sense of self importance. With such a view of self and others, we easily start believing that ours is the superior tribe and the rest belong to lesser territory.
When the Kalenjin and the Kikuyu went for each other’s throats in the Rift valley in 2007/2008, this was the root cause. And the same demons are responsible for the Hutus and Tutsis holocaust in the mid-90s. Clearly, when we let this divisive theology of ethnic supremacy get to our heads we offer the political class a lifeline while at the same time opening doors for such tragedies as civil wars and massive rip-offs from externals scavengers.
Regrettably, opinion shapers have over the years, by design or by default, perfected the art of fomenting ethnocentrism and serving it, willy-nilly, to an unsuspecting lot of humanity buried under the rubble of poverty and therefore unable to question many odds directed at them by the so-called leaders. The latest manifestation of this madness is the current crisis in Africa’s youngest nation, South Sudan.
This is the tendency of evil manipulation by our very own that we as the Africans must warn our people against. The hapless must stop succumbing to games that politicise natural differences such as ethnicity, race or colour to any form of frenzy that can exacerbate tensions among communities.
If this continent is to change her fortunes, then we have to reverse vestiges of ethnocentrism and such like inclinations. Besides, for Africa to rise above her diminished status, we must turn off our warped sense of entitlement based on ethnocentrism and build our future on greater priorities and dreams that can transform for the better for all. Short of this, we shall loose while fighting over pointless concerns, a situation that only benefits those whose intent is to harvest Africa dry as we massacre each other.
It is outright stupid to entertain superficial rivalry when marauders are busy snatching our wealth and heritage.