Topics: Religion, Africa, United Kingdom Pages: 10 (3141 words) Published: May 9, 2015
1. Have ethnic and religious identities assisted or hindered the political process in postcolonial Africa?

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POLI1047: Politics & Dev in Asia/Africa
Essay 2
M Farrell

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1. Have ethnic and religious identities assisted or hindered the political process in postcolonial Africa? Africa was once a huge country and not a continent external forces changed this with alienation and fracturing it into a number of different countries. Many contemporary Africans were stripped of their identities and forced to submit to ‘greater’ Western ideologies. In order for these external forces to subjugate Africans effectively, imperial forces placed a huge significance on ethnicity and religion to justify their actions. African countries were externally imposed artificial borders drawn as a result of the 1885 Berlin Conference. The Berlin Conference legitimised European colonialism during the period of New Imperialism; the conference imposed political divisions that still exist in the continent. The major European powers, the United States and the Ottoman Empire all attended this conference in order to place rules for the colonisation of Africa. 'There were no representatives from Africa itself, reflecting a paternalistic view of indigenous peoples common at that time'1 . In just the space of two decades, all of Africa (except for Libya and Ethiopia) had been colonised by imperial forces. Colonialism enforced a ‘divide, conquer and role’ system in Africa, this contributed markedly to the current role religious and ethnic groups play in post-colonial African politics as it had manipulated the masses to see differences they might not have once seen. Missionaries were sent to Africa, to ‘civilise the lesser people’ with the word of God and justify imperialism. Ethnicity is a social construct and is a controversial concept and as a term has only emerged in the English vocabulary a few decades ago. Unlike nationalism, there is no link with territory or state, it is only origin that matters. Unlike race, ethnicity refers to the non-biological traits of human groups and is based on common culture and can also include religion, language, ancestry and history. It is one of the largest factors in shaping one’s identity. It is safe to say imperial forces politicised ethnicity and religion in the bid for the imperial domination of Africa. Africa, as a continent, is rich in the diversity of ethnic and religious groups; however as political entity, it has suffered much political fragmentation and instability. This text will look at whether ethnic and 1

Hodge, C. (2008) Encyclopedia of the age of imperialism: 1800-1914. A - K. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, p.83.

1. Have ethnic and religious identities assisted or hindered the political process in postcolonial Africa? religious identities have assisted or hindered the political process in post-colonial Africa. In order to discuss this effectively one will explore the case-studies of Somalia, Nigeria and Ghana. It will draw on the works of Alex Thomson, Bruce J Berman, Jenny Engström and the works of various other authors. This text will explore the themes of tribes and clans, ethnic conflict and also the involvement of churches in the political process in Africa to later conclude that ethnic and religious identities have...

References: Arthur, P. (2009) Ethnicity and Electoral Politics in Ghana 's Fourth Republic. Africa Today, 56
(2), p.4.
Carment, D. et al. (2006) Who Intervenes?: Ethnic Conflict And Interstate Crisis. Ohio: Ohio
State University Press, p.60.
Christie, K. (1998) Ethnic Conflict, Tribal Politics: A Global Perspective. Surrey: Routledge,
Hastings, A. (1997) The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and Nationalism.
Mwakikagile, G. (2001) Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria. New York: Nova Publishers,
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