For the Nation to Live the Tribe Must Die

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1. ‘For the nation to live, the tribe must die.’ Assess the validity of Samora Machel’s assertion with reference to examples in Africa and/or Asia.

It has been estimated that there may be some 600 to 1,000 different tribal groups or more in Africa. There are some whose territory may be 200 or 300 miles square. Inside each large territory may live more than a million people. The smaller tribes may have only two or three thousand people and some of the smallest have only a few hundred. Most tribes are no larger than 250,000 people, the population of only a medium-sized American city. To a number Africans today, the tribe is more important than the nation in which he or she lives. Subsequently it has been said that the African will think of himself as a Yoruba or an Ibo rather than, say, a Nigerian and quite obviously for the nation to exist as a unit which is the problem.

Tribalism; a distinguishing feature of the African continent which more than any other continent has seen the constant near perpetual reshuffling of the state through coups as a result of its offshoot nepotism. But what is this phenomenon and is it the case that the contempt it breeds is a hindrance to the growth of nationalism and its love child the unified nation. My issue with this term arises from the true understanding of what it connotes, a group of communities existing under a leader Upon first glance Machel’s assertions is indisputable, the tribe if this term even suffices the nature of this divisive concept and the degrees of separation it has the power to create between existing tribes encompasses race, class, language and culture can create a ‘tower of Babel’ complex within a nation as when the house is divided it can or may never stand.

A Tribe may be defined as any group of people numerically larger than the community to which members of an extended or perceived kinship group belong, they share common name, language, culture and eponymous origin and thus this unifying phenomenon transcends all aspects of life, within South Africa the indigenous population has no word for tribe, only for nation, such is the sense in which these affiliations are revered. These strong group identifications and there dangers they arouse are specified in Tajfel and Turners Social identity theory, which can be surmised as group identifications that are eventually connected with strife. This theory asserts that strong in group sympathies give rise to equally strong out group antipathies, and that, under the right circumstances these inter group animosities prevent peaceful co-existence[i].

Group identifications that are strong often generate psychic benefits from group membership and will develop beliefs about the macro level importance of their membership. In particular, they come to see their group as shaping their interests in the larger political and social relevance of one’s is often associated with belief in the necessity of maintaining group solidarity. This belief in the need for group solidarity tends to reinforce perceptions of inter group differences. Sympathy towards one’s own group sometimes gets associated and may generate antipathy toward other groups ultimately leading to political social disintegration and sectarianism. In my view the malady is incipient, sectarianism is the practice of identifying and being pre-occupied with differences, sectarianism though an issue in itself is heightened by scarcity of resources and deprivation, the divisive power that this causes has long been recognised as tribalism and was a key element in the ‘divide and rule’ nature of colonialism and has since been used to further individual political careers. Idi amin had a personal army from Nubian tribes who bore no allegiance to Uganda and therefore mercilessly defended his power despite the fact that thanks to Amin the situation in Uganda was dire, whereas had his soldiers been patriotic Ugandans then perhaps a coup to allay his rule may have occurred...
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