Whether you are Zimbabwean, Ugandan, Ghanaian, Nigerian or South African we all have pre- conceived ideas about other tribes from our respective countries. These stereotypes are passed down from our parents or elders. We accept these notions and soon they become part of how we assume certain groups should behave. Tribalism has become the core and foundation of the African society. African identity is based on what tribe you belong to more so than what your nationality is. Greater importance is placed on tribal identity than national identity. Is this type of identity a blessing or a curse for African nations?

Former Kenyan president Moi describes tribalism as a cancer. Africa has had many examples of this cancer, ethnic cleansing such as the Buganda tribe of Uganda during Idi Amin’s rule from 1971 to 1979 where 800 to 1000 Buganda’s were killed. Nigeria’s massacre of over 8 000 Ibos in January and July of 1966. Equatorial Guinea's killing of 80 000 people particularly from the Bubi and Bioko tribes from 1968 to 1979. Then there are recent examples of ethnic cleansing: the Rwandese genocide that occurred in 1994 where 800 000 Tutsi's and pro-peace Hutu's were killed. Finally, in 2003 the Sudanese conflict in Darfur where Omar Al Bashir has been accused of masterminding the destruction of three tribal groups in Darfur. So what is really going on? Why are there so many examples of the destructiveness of tribalism? Are we so backward in our ways that we can justify killing people based on their tribe and ethnicity? Are there factors that we fail to recognise?

Ghana’s first President Dr Kwame Nkrumah who was a supporter of Pan-African ideology emphasised the necessity of involvement of all ethnic groups for the progress of Africa. Something to ponder over is why his efforts and ideology have not had more impact. Could it be nationalism and self-interest? Is it interference by western countries in order to maintain their "own share" of our continent? That is open for debate; we have to have a good understanding of the questions raised if we are to improve the quality of governance in Africa.

We must recognise that we are a unique continent. Our issues are distinct. We cannot use a ‘cookie cutter approach’ when implementing western ideology of governance in Africa. African countries are not homogenous. Our governments need to be representative of all Africans and not one majority tribe. All issues in government should be examined using dual standards; a tribal and a national standard to ensure that no ethnicity is left out. Many conflicts in Africa are the result of one ethnic group believing they are being marginalised, however irrational these beliefs may be. This approach would minimise feelings of marginalisation. State and tribal interests should be balanced. African tribes are an identity that will be part of our heritage and culture for many generations. We need to recognise the weaknesses of tribalism and the misunderstandings that it sometimes causes. This acknowledgement will enable us to tackle some of the issues that continue to cause social decay on our continent

All Africans should be proud of their cultural and tribal heritage but not at the expense of another tribe. Our diversity should be used to create a society that is cosmopolitan. To the Zulus, Xhosa and Vendas of South Africa, Tutsi's and Hutu's of Rwanda, Ashanti and Ewes of Ghana, Ibos, Hausas, Yurobas of Nigeria, and all the other tribes I have not mentioned, this is our reality. We could use it to our advantage or let it be the cause of our demise. Let tribalism no longer be seen as a noose around our necks. As diverse, as we are we have a lot in common. We share many of the same belief systems.

We are all Africans!

source - online