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Published On: Thu, Dec 11th, 2014

When small isn’t beautiful

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By Aminu F. Hamajoda

The conflicts in Mali, Congo, CAR and South Sudan should be viewed with grave concern by Africans especially in concurrence to the doggedness of the European Union in battling for consolidation even in a period of depression. The trend of balkanization in the face of the challenges of the 21st century is not the best solution for the aggrieved people of Africa.

After close to thirty years of civil war in Sudan, there was hope that a division between North and South Sudan will bring peace and development. Not yet uhuru! Soon after the proclamation of independence for the South in 2011, droves of south Sudanese flocked back home in boats and buses only to find non-existent infrastructure, unavailable schools and jobs and perverse insecurity and corruption. In the North inflation skyrocketed, fuel prices increased, investments slowed and new conflicts arose about border and crude oil transportation. In desperation, the two nations agreed in 2012 among others things, for citizens of both countries to work and own property in either Sudans and other specific protocols in oil, security, trade, banking and culture. All these had existed in a unified Sudan! To crown it all, in 2013, the ugly head of ethnicity reared its head in Juba and a one-year-old nation is consumed in a tribal inferno with a former President of a united Sudan coming to the rescue!

As nations balkanize further, their competitivenessis bound to reduce. Modern city-states can be quoted as examples of ‘small is beautiful and successful’, but there are several catches there. All modern city-states like Singapore, Hongkong, and Dubai, are not landlocked and are multi-racial, multicultural, immigrants forming the bulk of their citizens. They are generally financial and trading centers relying on trade and manufacturing, real vulnerable factors of development. Similarly, military and geo-political power is non-existent in these city-states; they depend completely on western powers for their defense and can never feature in top ranking countries, because countries that are competing for the first ten positions as world economic powers (USA, China, EU, India, Japan, Brazil, Russia, UK, France…) have larger land mass, more population, and economies that depend much more on land, human capital, and manufacturing. Size is one factor that is driving European countries to form a union. Brazil will overtake Germany and France in 2028. Old Britain cannot compete with India, its former colony in 2030, and the USA will relinquish its baton to China by 2032, if we last that long.

Starting from this year, the number one effort by all African countries should be towards increasing mobility of people and goods by consolidating transnational cooperation (e.g ECOWAS, EAC etc) that will ultimately end in an African Union. This will require doggedness similar to that of EU, because it is not good for Africa after emerging from a damaging colonial political economy to succumb to a growing bitter conflict of ethnic nationalism and useless demands for separations. Studies have already shown that ethnic and separatists’ conflicts are just levers used by our current inept African leaders to garner support for their political and economic aggrandizements. The current situation in South Sudan and CAR are graphic examples of the shameful quality of post-colonial leadership in Africa.

If, therefore, ethnic and separatist conflicts stem from desire to access power and resources by African leaders, then the steps to take to mitigate these conflicts while striving for regional and African union are quite obvious. First it is time to stop this craze about autochthony (son-of-the-soil syndrome) as a definition of citizenship for it is not an African concept because historical records show that although ethnicity had socially defined people in Africa before colonialism, intermarriages and other inter-ethnic mixing of cultures and people were taking place. If this was not the case, every village area in Africa would have been an inferno of ethnic war before the coming of colonialism.

Similarly, the vicious ideology of autochthony is created to definitively eliminate the so-called non- indigenes by genocide and other forms of atrocities. Ivory Cost in 2002 and Plateau State in Nigeria are good examples of the callousness of autochthony conflicts. It is time to stamp forcefully before it becomes a monster, this fabricated narrow notion of citizenship in Africa. Failing to stamp it out will provide a portent weapon for the enemies of Africa to continue to destroy the black race. Rwanda was an example and the recent sparks in East and Central Africa are pointers to even more ethnic violence to come in Africa.

In addition to fighting the autochthony conspiracy, African countries need to overhaul their protocols of intervention and justice because they are keys to stemming conflicts. The current situation where at the African Union level, leaders are befuddled on how to solve conflicts is highly discouraging. This not the time for diplomacy, but for assessing situations, arriving at judgments and pronouncing solutions without fear and favour like our ancestors use to do. For instance there must be culprits in the present conflicts in Sudan and CAR. Without fear and favour political players must be judged and heavily sanctioned. Western paradigms in solving our problems are not efficient. There is apparently a need for AU to have an African Court in Addis Ababa that will try African leaders even if at the beginning nations may reject its rulings. At the national level, failure to obtain justice through public institutions is another cause of the cycle of violence in the conflict areas. Probably replicating Ghana’s model of conflict resolution, CHRAJ, across Africa nations may be a worthwhile exercise in providing an independent institution that documents and reconcile ethnic conflicts.

Apart from timely intervention and improvement in the justice system, national and regional security forces must be strengthened and diversified. It is time for the mooted African High Command Force to take off in addition to existing regional forces like the ECOMOG. More security personnel should be recruited at both national and AU levels that cut across ethnic and religious lines. Both in CAR and Sudan currently, deployed troops are not adequate to ensure civilian safety. Recruitment of security personnel must be ethnically and religiously balanced because research has already shown that ethnically representative security forces are very effective in diverse societies. Continuously depending on the West and UN for our conflict resolution after close to a century of independence will not augur well for Africa.

Lastly while striving for regional and African unity, each African country must develop and consolidate their strategies and institutions that will mitigate micro-nationalist and ethnic conflicts.

Dr. Aminu F. Hamajodavia


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