As we open the new year of 2014, amidst a clamor by African presidents that they should never be prosecuted for crimes against humanity, world’s newest country South Sudan is burning in the fire of negative ethnicity as if drawn into it by an irresistible death wish.
Though many people have warned against dangers of negative ethnicity, many African countries continue to ignore the monster.
Consequently many have exploded as has South Sudan now and those which have not, instead of guarding against a similar eventuality, they laugh at the victim, as wood in the drying rack laughs at the wood in the fire.
As is typical of victims of negative ethnicity everywhere, in South Sudan, the Nuers are blaming Dinkas for their problems and Dinkas are blaming the Nuers for disturbing their turn to eat.
But why did South Sudanese not learn their lesson from Rwanda or Kenya’s post election violence? Why are they not able to discern the guile and false promises of negative ethnicity when it comes to them as a saviour? Is it because they do not understand the dragon or how it works?
The worst thing is when Africans and foreign friends live in the denial that negative ethnicity is the ideology that is burning South Sudan and most of Africa. A disease denied cannot be treated.
Negative ethnicity is neither ethnicity nor positive ethnicity that rightly celebrates our ethnic roots and ethnic diversity. Negative ethnicity is hate of others from other communities that we more popularly call tribalism.
Negative ethnicity that we fatally embrace is related to anti-Semitism and racism but Europeans, Americans and South Africans spend more time fighting their evil ideologies than Africans spend fighting theirs.
When ethnic elites are not at each other’s throat, they will look within their community for clans and tribesmen in other regions to fight.
Negative ethnicity was a tool of colonial conquest that British ruling minorities used to divide and rule their colonial subject majorities in Africa and Asia.
In Sudan, the Arabic North Sudan used negative ethnicity to divide Africans in the South. After independence, African elites did not eradicate but perpetuated negative ethnicity as a tool of scrambling for power and resources. But this scramble was bound to come to a head as it has now.
Much as Africans tried to free themselves from the comb-web of negative ethnicity, they have failed because capitalism, the system of unbridled greed and the Machiavellian principle of “the end justifies the means” has converted most African leaders into demagogues of negative ethnicity to attain or retain power.
Everywhere negative ethnicity operates against nationalism, idealism and multi-ethnic nation. As Samora Machel mourned that the tribe had killed the nation of Mozambique, in Kenya, patriots also mourn that the tribe has killed the nation.
The modus operandi of negative ethnicity is division, war and balkanisation of the nation. Right now, unless the Nuer military forces are quickly defeated by the Dinka military forces or a political solution to the problems is quickly found, South Sudan might balkanise into a Nuer South Sudan and a Dinka South Sudan.
In Africa, wars of negative ethnicity have killed more people than those killed by any other ideology. Thanks to negative ethnicity, Africa has witnessed ethnic civil wars, massacres and genocides in DR Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Rwanda, Burundi, Mali, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and now South Sudan. In Somalia, clanism – a mutation of negative ethnicity – has destroyed the whole country.
In most of Africa, negative ethnicity has become the ideology of politics, religion, government, counties, emotions, love etc. We even think with negative ethnicity, not minds. In Rwanda they call negative ethnicity the ideology of genocide.
Its theatres of operation include churches, institutions of learning, political parties, government ministries, public and private companies, media, police and army.
As the ideology of devolution, in Kenya and South Sudan, negative ethnicity has turned counties into ethnic enclaves wherein citizens are people from majority communities and foreigners are those from minority communities.
With the country split between citizens and foreigners, jobs and business contracts will go to citizens and crumbs to foreigners.
Surprisingly, negative ethnicity has strength because it comes to communities, never as an enemy, but as an ally, friend and saviour from ethnic enemies. Where negative ethnicity engenders ethnic discrimination, its beneficiaries always stand by it.
Negative ethnicity has given Africa its worst leaders. Rather than pick the best leadership, it dictates election of the best soldiers of the tribe rather than the best servants of the nation.
And though masses of ordinary people are the worst victims of negative ethnicity, due to their poverty of ideas, they are its greatest propagators. Instead of seeing themselves as poor workers and farmers, they see themselves as communities and enemies of other communities.
In Kenya, instead of working for ethnic equality, negative ethnicity glorifies tyranny of ethnic numbers. Unfortunately, this legitimisation of ethnic domination makes nonsense of national unity – 'we are one'. Ethnic minorities and majorities cannot be one.
Under President Kibaki, tyranny of ethnic numbers grew by leaps and bounds. It won an election and now forms a government of two communities.
In seemingly stable African countries, ethnic elites reconcile by sharing resources and use the divided ethnic masses to reach top of the food chain.
In ethnically-divided African countries, individuals cannot advocate political accommodation of other communities without being labelled traitors, just like moderate Hutus in Rwanda during the 1984 genocide.
To eradicate negative ethnicity, South Sudan needs a leader like President Nyerere of Tanzania. And as she learns she cannot survive divided by negative ethnicity, African countries that have not exploded yet must learn from her and Rwanda.