MOST Ethno-Net publication: Combating Racism, Ethnicity...


Racism, Xenophobia and other Forms of Intolerance in Africa,
UNESCO / ENA, 2001

Leveling the Playing Field: Combating Racism, Ethnicity
and Different Forms of Discrimination in Africa

Nantang Jua & Paul Nchoji Nkwi (eds)


This draft document was prepared by a group of African scholars from Ethno-Net Africa (ENA) as a reflection paper related to issues being discussed at the Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Intolerance. Ethno-Net is a multi-disciplinary research network created to identify and analyze causes of ethnic conflicts in Africa, monitor these as part of an early warning system, and seek possible solutions. The network also looks at ways of promoting ethnic conviviality.

A workshop was held between 18-19 August 2001 at the Hotel Equateur in Libreville, Gabon to examine issues relating to racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance in Africa. The objective was to further enhance understanding of such issues, find out the various manifestations of these phenomena and suggest ways to combat them. During the two day workshop, participants examined the concepts and issues involved, listened to reports on the various manifestations of discrimination from various parts of the continent, considered the national as well as the international dimensions of the problem; reviewed the activities of ENA, in the general understanding of the issues involved vis-à-vis the mandate of ENA; examined the challenges facing ENA and suggested a way forward.

Participants at the workshop noted various points and some key issues regarding racism, ethnic exclusion, xenophobia and the various other forms of discrimination and intolerance relevant to the African context. These points are presented in this draft document. The document also presents some background information on ENA's programme. The purpose is to use the opportunity offered during the World Conference in Durban to inter-act with NGO's and various other groups to explore ways to enable Ethno-Net to network with other institutions. Again the idea is to consider specific areas for the follow up of the implementation of the Plan of Action to be adopted by the Durban Conference. This draft paper will be further enriched with results of the Proceedings, at the Durban World Conference.


Africa has gained notoriety and is fast becoming irrelevant as a result of its ubiquitous conflicts that tend to arrest or even reverse the growth and development of the continent as well as erode ethical values necessary for the existence of its communities, and hinder the growth of a national consciousness. These conflicts are often reported in a sensational manner by the media which generally overlooks the complexity of the origins and causes of such conflicts. On the whole, the causes are multi-dimensional and involve various inter-related political, economic, cultural, social and psychological factors. These factors include: the unequal distribution of resources, the politicization of ethnic groups, the manipulation of religious differences, and social exclusion.

Historically, the friendly cohabitation of cultures has always been an African reality, in spite of sporadic wars or conflicts. Changes started creeping in with the advent of colonization and the implementation of the divide and rule policies by colonial rulers and the use of tribalism as a political tool. Most of these have been reproduced and exacerbated in the post-colonial African State. Largely because of its sociological composition and the prevailing tendency to define the individual or self through communal self-regarding frames, discrimination has stubbornly remained in the mainstream collective consciousness, irrespective of the adoption of national unity as a mantra by the post-colonial state. That is, people do not have a sense of active connectedness in respect of shared values such as language, "traditions" and history which are fundamental in the consolidation of a community. This does not only give rise to differences, it also causes discrimination. It affects not only peoples but also states whose boundaries are not co-terminus with those of the ethnic group considered as the only moral territorial community in Africa. Ethnicity provides the social cement that binds individuals together, providing them with security and certainty in a state that is becoming increasingly distant and disconnected from the population.

Discrimination, in so far as it denies a group of people their full human rights on account of their race, color, ethnic origin, descent (including caste), gender, age, religion or national origin, is an attack on the very notion of universal human rights. It has been seen as an assault on the fundamental principle underlying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - that human rights are everyone's birthright and apply to all without distinction. Commitment to the promotion of this moral principle is emphasized in all international human rights instruments as well as in the Charter of the United Nations. One of the purposes of the Charter is to "achieve international cooperation… in promoting and encouraging respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion". These rights are reaffirmed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights with an added emphasis on group rights.

Legal backing was given to these commitments when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled more than thirty years ago that protection from (racial) discrimination is one of those obligations that, by their very nature "are the concerns of all States. In view of the importance of rights involved, all States can be held to have a legal interest in their protection… and such obligations derive… from the principles and rules concerning the basic rights of the human person, including protection from slavery and racial discrimination". This obligation is also provided for in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) which calls on all the states signatories to the convention to protect people from discrimination emanating both from private individuals as well as from the state. African states, collectively and individually, reaffirmed their commitment to promoting these principles. Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, states that "every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status". An international normative and legal basis has thus been established for preventing racism and other forms of discrimination. Yet not all States have ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and action to incorporate anti-discriminatory provisions into national legislation and policy is often a long drawn-out process. Despite international principles and commitments, contradictions still abound as shown by the ubiquitous nature of conflict in the continent. Disregard for the persons of other ethnic groups or the relegation of people of other ethnic origins to the bottom of society's symbolic social ladder has led to the development of what has been termed identity security or perceptions. This generally concerns a group of people who feel that their identity, in particular their cultural and ethnic identity, is being threatened and consequently withdraw themselves in response to these threats, irrespective of whether they are real or only perceived. By and large, the non-respect of these instruments has exacerbated the practice of discrimination, some of its logical spin-offs being the dramatic increase in instability in multiethnic societies or states as well as the centrifugal tendencies that sometimes accompany them.



Africa in Hegel's thesis, a thesis which still holds true today, "is the Unhistorical, Undeveloped Spirit, still involved in conditions of mere nature, and which had to be presented here only as on the threshold of the World's History". This Hegelian perception provided the basis for considering slave trade and colonialism as forms of racial discrimination. The vestiges of slavery and colonialism are still visible on the continent and their legacies are at the root of underdevelopment. These two practices arose from prejudice or overt antagonism against others based on a belief in one's superiority and confounded morphological with genetic differences. It provided justification for the colonial master's assumed ontological superiority and lead to the sociopolitical discrimination and economic exploitation of groups of individuals within the state. This was done through attributing certain moral, intellectual and social defects to these people on the basis of their biological endowments.

Until recently, the practice of institutional racism through apartheid state policy in South Africa. Though this practice earned it pariah status, it enabled white South Africans to see their state as the space for the symbolic affirmation of their superiority. To reverse this, the post-apartheid Constitution in South Africa guarantees that "everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit from the law". In addition, and in validation of the principle of accretion in the growth of the law on human rights, the Constitution mentions that, the state as well as private individuals "may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language or birth" (Section 9 (1), (3) and (4)). That constitutional provisions do not deter the violation of these rights was evident in a report identifying racism and the legacy of apartheid as a "major problem affecting the development of a human rights culture" in South Africa's National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. This report was taken into account by the Cabinet and the National Parliament, after public discussion (our emphasis) and submitted to the UN in December 1998.

Though the National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in South Africa recommended measures to improve the law and also law enforcement practices, and also proposed measures for training and public awareness-raising on problems of racism, changes are difficult to bring about. Evidence of this was provided by the broadcast of a secretly made police "training video" on state television in November 2000, which showed white police officers deliberately encouraging police dogs to attack three captive black men. Generally, apartheid still seems to be an institutionalized practice in the police force which condones private acts of racism motivated by racial prejudice. In one case, five white members of a private security outfit known as BBR beat 19-year-old Archie Nqubelane in the Johannesburg area on 20 February 1999 for purportedly stabbing the father of a BBR member earlier in the day. When the police arrived at the scene, they instantly arrested Archie and his friend, Douglas Mtunyana. They were presumed guilty rather than innocent. Even a complaint filed by the Nqubelane family was treated with cold indifference as police investigators showed little interest in the case. Court action was finally taken against two of the BBR members in November 2000 on two counts of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

Racism is not the prerogative of any one group. The practice of reverse racism is just as pernicious and insidious as racism. Normally, it is used for purposes of political engineering by the state. Because of the CNN factor, the world will not soon forget the violence meted out on white Zimbabwean farmers. The violence is supposedly occurring with the tacit approval of the government. It should be borne in mind that court rulings and the need for an orderly land reform programme were completely ignored by those covering the incident.

Slavery in its old or original guise is supposedly just a historic memory. Despite the 1926 League of Nations Convention against slavery, which is now considered as part of customary international law, the practice is still rampant in some African countries. Sudan is one such example where many northerners from the Baggara tribes of Arab origin and Muslim faith, have abducted southerners, predominantly Dinka from Bahr el Ghazal, culturally African and practicing traditional religions or Christianity, and people from the Nubia Mountains and Ingessana Hills. Estimates of southerners enslaved in northern Sudan range from 5,000 and 15,000 to more than 100,000, the majority being mostly women and children (cited in Amnesty International, 2001).

Even though states today are increasingly becoming more committed to outlawing this practice, slavery-like practices are increasing in some countries as a result of poverty and economic underdevelopment. Assailed by new and partly irrational anxieties in a morose economic environment, some people have been forced to sell their children into slavery. People will not easily forget the tale of the "misery child slave ship", MV Otireno, that sailed between Benin and Gabon with its unwanted human cargo. Although, it docked into the Douala port (Cameroon) carrying more than 250 child slaves aboard, only 30 of them were found aboard when it was searched off the coast of Cotonou (Benin) on April 17, 2001. Most of these children provide indentured labor to their "masters". Some of these minors who earn mere pittances still manage to send some money back home for the basic needs of their families. Bold measures are being taken by some governments such as those of Ivory Coast and Nigeria to curb this practice. The Nigerian Immigration Service was reported to have rescued 51 children being ferried to Gabon in March 1994, 73 in January 1996 and 150 in February 1997 (cited in Adepoju, 2000, 387).

Trafficking in children contravenes the provisions of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which entered into force on November 29, 1999. Article 29 (a) of the Charter requires signatory States to take appropriate measures to prevent the abduction of, sale, or trafficking in children for any purpose or in any form, by any person including parents or legal guardians of the child. This prohibition was meant to combat the different forms of child labor that exist on the continent.

The use of the term ethnicity has gained much currency in scholarship over "tribalism", a term coined arguably to describe the African specificity, which is being discarded because of its pejorative connotation. Ethnicity is "the active sense of identification with some ethnic unit, whether or not this group has any institutional structure of its own, or whether it has any real existence in the pre-colonial epoch" (Young,1965,234). Ethnicity is a fundamental social fact of life. Yet one needs to distinguish between its moral and strategic versions. When conceptualized as internal, these cognitive valuations engender moral ethnicity.

Strategic ethnicity is usually concerned with the distribution of tangible goods such as the unequal distribution of employment opportunities, fiscal or natural resources, high status positions and political apportionments. Claims, it should be noted, can be made not only on resources but also symbolic goods. Such claims to status and moral ascendancy or superiority engender symbolic ethnicity. Essentially, these claims are a public affirmation of legitimacy where they are contested and can lead to, or serve as a basis for, a foreclosure of the other.

Ethnic groups could be defined as historically given and/or constructed collectivities which have both objective and subjective characteristics, that is, their members acknowledge sharing common traits such as language, culture of religion, as well as a sense of belonging (Stavenhagen,1996). However, group moralities or the "repertoire of culturally specified processes" are necessarily external because they suppose an external audience, without whom they make no sense and have no externally derived framework of meaning. That is, these may also be processes of external definition or other-directed processes used by one person to frame another. At its most consensual moment, an ethnic group may be a validation of the other's internal definition(s) of themselves. But if conflictual, as in cases where groups are pre-occupied with the maximization of inter-group differential rather than with the maximization of payoff alone, there is the imposition by one set of actors upon another of a putative name or characterization which affects in significant ways the social experience (s) of the categorized (Jenkins,1994). It is the failure of political exchange prompted by the incompatibility of sectional moralities that causes conflict in this instance. Intra-group conflicts which are just as devastating, as exemplified in the case of Somalia, should not be ignored.

Delineating strategic from symbolic ethnicity can be problematic as demonstrated by contemporary African history where there is seemingly an organic link between them. There is compelling evidence of the capacity of these two forms of ethnicity to cause conflict in multi-ethnic states confronted with the problem of devising an acceptable strategy for fostering a national consciousness. This is not alleviated by the fact that control of the state and its retention by any ethnic group is fought over because it symbolizes its collective prominence. This is understandable for identity implies the establishment of limits and limits generate tensions. But the implications are extremely disturbing for they lead to the establishment of an ethnic rather than a civil state. And officials in these states are notorious because of the enormity of their power.

The foregoing, especially the tendency to see State construction in terms of a zero sum game, does not foster ethnic conviviality. The genesis of this tendency has been traced back to the colonial state. In the case of the Great Lakes region, the colonial state constructed identities and gave them a hierarchy. This begins to explain the ethnocides in the region. In Rwanda, for example, it caused the population to be divided into those who backed the President or the "Rwandese" and the ibiyitso or the accomplices of the enemy. The Hutu militia or interahamwe, that was armed by the government in just 100 days in 1994, exterminated up to one million ibiyitso who by some convoluted logic were mostly Tutsis! Despite the attempt to ascribe collective guilt to all Hutus, it must be noted that only about ten percent of the Hutu population participated in the killings. Ostensibly, in retaliation for the collective harm suffered by the Tutsis, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and its armed wing the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) (which became the national army in June 1994) have summarily executed numerous unarmed Hutu civilians. The law took on a Tutsi face as members of this group acted with impunity. That Hutus confounded this with state violence was not surprising. In the face of this threat to their collective existence and given that violence provokes counter-violence, Hutus invariably got locked into a spirit of revenge.

Differential treatment by the State in response to perceived violence can generate ethnic violence as well as obstruct the healing process among groups that have suffered from persecution at some period in the history of the post-colonial State. Burundi is a case in point where Hutu-dominated armed opposition groups in a persistent cycle of violence and reprisals have murdered more than 200,000 defenceless civilians since October 1993. To avoid death, Tutsis fled into displaced people's camps and are referred to as les déplacés. Displaced Hutus who have avoided these camps and other built-up areas are referred to as les dispersés. Purportedly to counter this insurgency, the Burundian government or State instituted a policy of camps, creating a new group of displaced persons or regroupés. Administrative units known as collines were emptied of their populations in December 1996. Contrary to official figures of 200,000 victims, independent sources estimate the number of victims as being between 350,000 to 500,000. That the desire for revenge by Tutsis on Hutus underlies this policy, is brought to the fore by this remark: Il faut vous y habituer, leur disent les militaires qui les gardent, les autres (Tutsi) ont mis plus de deux ans pour s'habituer aux camps de déplacés. (''You will have to get used to it,'' the soldiers on guard mocked them, ''it took the others (Tutsi) more than two years to get used to displaced peoples camps.'')

Conditions of "detention" are, however, different. Whereas Tutsi déplacés have been involved in the deliberate destruction and looting of houses belonging to Hutus, Hutus régroupés are being forced to join the army in search and destroy missions against Hutu insurgents. In addition, they are being forced to undergo what is described in official parlance as "re-education" and "de-toxification" programs.

Such treatment clearly violates international obligations entered into by these countries. Notable among these is the African Charter on People's and Human Rights which recognizes the right to life and prohibits torture, cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment and the right to freedom of movement or residence within a State. As noted in a decision by the Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and Freedoms in the Commission nationale des droits de l'homme et de liberté/Chad Communication 74/92 in its Annual Activity Report (AHG 207): "The African Charter, unlike other human rights instruments, does not allow parties to derogate from their treaty obligations even in emergency situations". Besides, as this inhibits rather than fosters the healing process, ethnic hatred stays in the group's or collective memory and is not allowed to recede from their consciousness.

In a period of accelerated flows, one is witnessing a pattern of accelerated closures which engenders problems of citizenship for people displaced either as a result of natural or man-made disasters. This has been exacerbated as migration increasingly becomes permanent rather than circular, prompting changes in the demographic ratios as well as modifying the sociological mix of the population. This pattern has given rise to territorial ethnicity, as "sons of the soil" are determined to bar access to the others. Consequently, the political lexicon of discrimination is being enriched with the coinage of terms such as autochthones (indigenous) and allogenes (non-indigenous peoples). Advocates of territorial ethnicity argue that populations should not move around or away from a given area.

Autochtony and Allogeny can be used as markers of ethnic conflict at three levels: national, regional and international. At the national level, conflict is exacerbated by competition over political goods. Insofar as political pluralism changes modes of access to these goods, categorization into autochone and allogene can provoke conflict, especially when this gives rise to the perception that group identities determine voting patterns. Such perceptions resulted in the eviction of Anglophone Bamilekes from the Centre and South Provinces during Presidential elections in Cameroon in 1992. Anglo-Bamilekes who were seen as the "les ennemies dans la maison" (the enemies within the home), had their businesses sacked while they themselves were chased away from these Provinces. Patterns such as this render problematical the analytical determination of a group's "threshold of tolerance". Democracy may therefore be a constraint rather than choice and one's sociological marker the litmus for his political convictions.

The use of terms such as autochtone and allogene at the regional and international levels gives rise to xenophobia. At the regional level, this has caused Africans to be discriminated against by other Africans. In South Africa, other Africans, whether asylum seekers, refugees or undocumented migrants, have been victims of physical and psychological violence. As the situation deteriorated, the National Human Rights Commission brought together various stakeholders to prepare the Braamfontein Statement on "Rolling Back Racism" in October 1998. Essentially, this statement denounced the belief that foreigners are "fair game to all manner of exploitation or violence or to criminal, arbitrary or inhuman treatment". Again, in order to check the growth of xenophobia, delegates in the National Conference on Racism held in August 2000, confirmed that the newly democratic South Africa has the "duty and responsibility to provide sanctuary and express solidarity with the plight of refugees and asylum-seekers". The obsession with sending away the other, causes people to overlook the fact that cultural contact leads to a creative tension that helps to propel a society forward.

Articulation of policy statements against xenophobia in public space begins to serve as an indication of a government's political will to respect Article 12 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights. Besides recognizing the right of every African to live in any country of his/her choice, the African Charter provides that any non-national legally admitted into a country can only be expelled after due process and forbids the practice of refoulement or mass expulsions of non-nationals. Despite this, government officials in some countries have actually fanned the flames of xenophobia. This occurred in Guinea following President Lansana Conté's indictment of refugees accusing them of harboring rebels responsible for cross-border attacks into Guinea from Liberia and Sierra Leone. He declared that the refugees "should go home" and added: "I am giving orders that we bring together all foreigners in (Guinean) neighborhoods, so that we can know what they are doing, and that we search and arrest suspects… Civilians and soldiers, let's defend our country together. Crush the invaders." Undoubtedly, this violates the provisions of international law that deal with a state's responsibility toward foreign nationals.

In addition to the struggle over power or for control of the state, conflict among ethnic groups can also be triggered off by the struggle for control over natural resources. Illustrative of this is the conflict pitting the Ijaw against the Iteskeri ethnic groups in the Delta region in Nigeria. Both groups claim ownership over one of the most productive oil wells in the area, knowing that validation of this claim would attract more resources to their community in line with the principle of revenue derivation. Similarly, it would allow them bargaining power that could be used to demand added compensations and privileges from the Federal government. Their readiness to fight over these privileges was demonstrated in March 1997 following the outbreak of violence in Warri, a large "oil" town, caused by the decision to move the local government headquarters from Ogbe-Ijaw, an Ijaw town, to Ogidigben, an Itsekiri town.

As a result of sporadic outbursts between March and May 1997, hundreds of lives were lost on both sides. Ijaw youths also targeted and seized six Shell flow stations and held 127 workers as hostages during this period, because of Shell's suspected support for the Itsekiri and the fact that it caused pollution in the area. This caused Shell to suspend production in the area. Protesters considered this invasion of the installations as a way of rendering visible and prominent their demands. An uneasy calm reigns in the area as the communities look on each other with mutual suspicion. Bringing a halt to dialogue, it has caused both communities to maintain a capacity for violence. No wonder violence erupted again on June 2 1999 causing the death of more than 200 people.

In other instances, conflict was prompted by the decision of the comprador class-qua-state to provide an enabling environment for the activities of multinational companies. The world was morally shocked when Sani Abacha decided to execute Ken Saro-wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). They were charged with the murder of four pro-government leaders and their activities caused the three major oil companies operating in the Port Harcourt area to loose some US $200 million in 1993. Approximately 200 Ogoni were killed as a result of the protests by March 1995 and Ogoniland became a zone of military occupation where extra-judicial killings were rampant. Bopp van Hessel, former head of the Environmental Studies in Shell gave these protests added credence when he stated that Shell had not heeded warnings that its operations in the area were causing widespread pollution. Despite this admission, the Ogoni continued to be detained and killed by the army until the end of General Sani Abacha's regime.

Religion has also become another area where identity conflicts are manifested at a moment when secularization has slowed down or is suffering from reversals. This is not unusual, for religion generates "spaces of memory and legitimacy", "consecrations" whose power and social efficacy prove decisive in determining "elective affinities". Since religion "permeates all social life", politicized religion or religious extremism tends to contribute greatly to the exacerbation of conflicts in their proselyitisation phase. Just like colonialism, conversion, in the final analysis is a process of blotting out history in the individual consciousness and replacing it with 'the history of others'. It provokes violence or ethno-religious conflict since it is often linked to the perception of the unwantedness of the religious Other who has different "spaces of memory and legitimacy". This is the plight of Christians in Northern Nigeria. Because of this difference and in the name of religious purity, religious extremists or fundamentalists have attacked and killed the religious Other. Killing in this instance has a liberation potential as the presence of the Other pollutes one's religious space.

Recognizing the vulnerability of indigenous peoples, the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria in 1993 urged governments to "take concerted positive steps to ensure respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, on the basis of equality and non-discrimination, and recognize the value and diversity of their distinct identities, cultures and social organization". Generally, this was tantamount to an undertaking by governments to recognize these peoples who are often relegated to the bottom of society's social ladder. But actual practice has tended to contradict the intent of this undertaking.

ENA disapproves of the use of the term "indigenous people" in the African context. It may be more appropriate to talk about marginalized groups or peoples. The Batwa pygmies in the Great Lakes region who inhabit parts of Rwanda, southern Uganda and the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for instance, have been dispossessed of almost all their land. Considered of extremely low status, they are forced to live in segregated communities and in some cases are not allowed to use the same facilities or to mix socially with other groups. Yet the various States have made little effort to protect them.

In some cases, the plight of marginalized peoples is worsened by the absence of legal protection which often results in a denial of justice. In Kenya, for example, the Tinet people, who are forest dwellers and honey gatherers (between 5,000 and 10,000), were evicted by the government from the Tinet forests (part of Kenya's Mau forest) in May 1999. The Ogiek community, supported by the Catholic Church, sought judicial redress from the court. In a March 2000 ruling, the Court upheld the right of the Kenyan government to expel them and even denied that the Ogiek were indigenous to Tinet.
Violation of the rights of these groups is more flagrant when their lands are seized or expropriated for economic reasons. The Baka pygmies in the East Province in Cameroon suffered this fate recently with the Chad-Cameroon pipeline project. Despite official reports, a pygmy admitted on Cameroon national television that the project is a threat to their way of life. This is a violation of the basic principles that were affirmed by Agenda 21 and adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. It states succinctly: "national and international efforts to implement environmentally sound and sustainable development should recognize, accommodate, promote, and strengthen the role of indigenous people and their communities". That this has not elicited any reaction from the indigenous communities concerned is not just attributable to a greater capacity to endure suffering on their part but also to their lack of means to make themselves heard in the public sphere.

If racism occasions discriminatory practices in general, women as a group are more vulnerable to these practices in many African societies where patriarchy generally prevails. Women are often relegated to the private space. They are caught between customary and civil laws, none of which protects them adequately. Against this backdrop, those from marginalized groups are apt to suffer from double discrimination and consequently double exclusion. In recognition of this gender discrimination, one of the strategic objectives of the Beijing Platform for Action states: "Many women face additional barriers to the enjoyment of their human rights because of such factors as their race, language, ethnic origin, culture, religion, disability or socio-economic class or because they are indigenous people, migrants, including women migrant workers, displaced women or refugees". There is a current demand by women African regional networks and national organizations in Africa today for measures to be taken against the discrimination faced by women as part of the Durban Plan of Action, since racism may be considered as gender discrimination. Both forms use pseudo-biological criteria to discriminate against the victimized group.


In order to tackle some of the above issues, ENA has carried out studies in the domain of comparative research, monitoring and evaluating ethnic conflicts and social changes that invariably generate other forms of intolerance in Africa. Inspired by the UNESCO-MOST initiative on social transformations, it has generated research findings on various forms of conflict as well as on conviviality in Africa. These findings are posted on its web site, and have been brought to the attention of some policy makers. This has been done, not only with a view to giving these findings visibility and prominence but also with the aim of providing governments with data needed for the resolution of (potential or simmering) conflicts. These activities are providing a basis for an early warning system in a manner that goes to affirm Ahmed Salim Ahmed's observation that "you cannot prevent conflict unless you are well informed and in a timely manner about what the potential conflict is all about".

ENA has been involved in capacity building among African scholars. To this end, it has conducted a series of technical workshops designed to endow young scholars with the necessary skills for conducting good comparative research and using the state of the art computer software. Building this pool was seen as a necessary step for the creation of the national ENA structures which are now operational in a number of countries.

ENA has established a close working relationship with other Pan African associations such as the Pan African Association of Anthropologists (PAAA) and the African Political Science Association (AAPS). Though conflict monitoring and resolution are not the focus of these associations, they are however, among some of their main concerns. Rather than struggle for turf, ENA believes that by pulling together the resources of these Pan African Associations, research results can be maximized and used in policy formulation.
However, early on in the life of ENA, it was realized that there was a need to build a constituency of scholars who would play a pro-active role in combating discrimination. ENA is conducting various activities, and is in the process of planning its visions and work for the future.

As indicated above, this was essentially concerned with building the network and assigning it specific objectives. For this purpose, the first workshop which led to the creation of ENA was convened by UNESCO in Nairobi, Kenya in 1995. Objectives set for ENA were; (1) to plan and design the activities of the proposed network; (2) to analyze the pertinent issues and propose a meaningful follow-up; (3) to design policy studies and assessments on ethnicity, culture, and nationalism; (4) to seek to incorporate research findings into university social science teaching curricula at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Realizing that this was a rather bold and ambitious agenda, a group of scholars from 25 pilot countries met in Bamenda (Cameroon) from 5 to 9 January 1997 to finalize the monitoring and evaluation instruments, identify gaps in knowledge and map out ENA's research priorities. Scholars at the Bamenda meeting were also asked to devote some of their energy to creating national ENA Committees in their various countries.
Encouraged by the results from the field and also noting that there was a need to build the capacity of some of the young scholars involved in the Network, ENA organized two more workshops which gave them the tool kit needed for effective research into and monitoring of ethnic conflicts.

A workshop was held in Yaounde (Cameroon) from 1-4 September 1997 for Francophone countries while another was held in Legon (Ghana) for Anglophone countries in mid September 1997. More than 35 young scholars were trained as a result of these seminars and some of them are at the forefront of research on ethnicity in their countries today. Generally, at the end of these workshops, it was decided that a national

ENA Committee headed by a Coordinator be set up.
Each national coordinator was assigned the task of creating a national committee, as well as guiding the work of the network. To guarantee the continuity of the project, the national committees were advised to liaise with the national UNESCO Commissions and offices in their countries for support and advice.

The national coordinators were required to inform the various national UNESCO Commissions in their countries of the results of their workshops and seek their support in implanting Ethno-Net. National networks were to carry out research at the local level with their own funding as well as any funding that may come from ENA, using state-of-the-art technology in collecting data. With the help of UNESCO, another workshop was organized in Yaounde (Cameroon) in December 1997 to train the researchers in the use of technology for data collection. This was extremely important as ENA was to create a web page and researchers were to send information electronically for posting on this page.
ENA in this phase of the operation managed to create a hard and software data base on ethnic conflicts and conviviality for twelve countries. It is coordinated by the ENA Secretariat in Yaounde and which is posted on a website.

ENA has published the following documents:
- "Selected Bibliography on Ethnic Conflicts"
- "Rapport Général de Ethno-Net Afrique"
- "Ethno-Net, Multi-Ethnicity and Multi-Culturalism in Africa"
- "Démocratisation et Rivalités ethniques en Afrique" - with CIREPE
- "Democracy, Decentralization, Good Governance and Media" (in Central Africa)

A conference on ethnic conflicts in situations of complex political emergencies was held in Douala (Cameroon) from 21 to 23 May 2001. The proceedings will be published in a book.

Not all the objectives set out in the Short Term Plan have been achieved. Logistical problems have been one of the biggest hinderances, causing interest in some countries to wane. For instance, ENA has not been able to live up to its initial commitment of providing funding for the various national offices. Given that they are therefore self-financing, it is not surprising that some of them have not functioned maximally. The young researchers involved do not have the resources to invest in the project, despite their willingness to do so.

In the initial plan, the Douala conference was supposed to bring together scholars, NGOs, human right activists and other members of civil society to brainstorm on relevant issues. It however fell below this mark as only scholars were involved. Teething problems encountered in the first phase of the project have not made it possible for ENA to forge a close partnership with governments and other institutions. As a result, ENA could not invite them to participate in a conference which some governments might interpret as a forum where scholars would indict their performance. The communication gap would be filled if ENA prepared background papers and sent to these governments in advance.

ENA plans to organize a training workshop for scholars working on issues related to intolerance and ethnic discrimination for the southern African region in 2002.
Realizing that disagreement over issues of citizenship have been at the root of most conflicts in post-colonial Africa, ENA is planning to organize a conference addressing problems surrounding this concept.

Action-oriented research will be continued in different African countries to review existing knowledge and generate new data on key issues of ethnic conflict and intolerance, and at the same time explore ways to encourage ethnic conviviality.

ENA's conviction that knowledge of conflicts could lead to their resolution has been the rationale behind the dissemination of data collected from various groups, especially NGOs that are a vehicle for popular participation in Africa. Liaising with NGOs is also important because of their input function in policy making and the enormous capabilities that they have in the area of interest articulation and aggregation. To this end, ENA has been working closely with human rights associations and National Human Rights Commissions in several African countries. Commissions are set up by their various governments. To enable it yield better results, we believe that this relationship should be more structured and formal. The need for this partnership is imperative especially with NGOs involved in human rights protection. Notable among these are church affiliated NGOs. This was brought into clear focus by the impact that a group like Association for Christians Against Torture (ACAT), has had in Cameroon in the case of the "Bepanda 9" where nine young men were summarily killed by the forces of State violence .
Given the proliferation of NGOs in Africa and the capacity problems that they face, ENA should work with different types of NGO's:

At the national level: sensitize them on the existence of various forms of discrimination and make them aware of the need to combat them.

Organize workshops with or for NGOs to train participants in ways to detect the various manifestations of discrimination. Some of these workshops would be for the training of trainers. That is, since most of these NGOs have a national spread, its members who benefit from the training could in turn train others in different parts of their country.
Create a national federation of NGOs or networks interested in matters of discrimination. Given the specificity of each country, this federation would have to develop a strategy for lobbying its government.

The various federations could provide policy inputs to the governments, especially on issues of discrimination. Thus, they would have a crucial role in policy advocacy.
They should lobby their governments to create Special Commissions for the monitoring of discrimination.

To effectively combat racism and intolerance, the federations could work, not only with the central government, but also with municipal authorities, law enforcement officers and the press.

At the continental level, ENA should work with the various national federations for the creation of a continental NGO civil society forum that would be accredited by the African Union.

Create an African Regional Network for Tolerance and Non-violence.
It is proposed that ENA and other NGO's should lobby the Union to name a day for combating racism and the celebration of differences in Africa.

An organization similar to Transparency International should be created with a view to monitoring discrimination using a Discrimination Perception Index.
The Forum would work with other movements that have a global spread to lobby international organizations to adopt measures for putting an end to discrimination in Africa..

Creation of an ENA web site, using the UNESCO site as a mirror. Training in management of the site will be required.

International organizations: NGOs should lobby these organizations and have them ensure that African States honor their obligations with respect to the treaties that they sign. That this can be effective if reinforced by the experience of political conditionality in the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). Essentially, a commitment to ending discrimination which often results in the exclusion of some of a country's manpower from participation in the development process should be a conditionality. Discussions on discriminations should be placed on the agenda.

Though the role played by laws in reversing some of the current trends cannot be denied, it is clear that they cannot by themselves, lead to a change of attitudes. Attitudes can only be changed through the socialization process, both the formal and informal processes.
With this in mind, ENA will seek to elicit interest and support for incorporating some of the findings of its research into university research and teaching programmes, at undergraduate and graduate levels

NGOs can likewise promote new values that are discrimination-free. Assuming that discrimination produces low-intensity violence in the society, schools can be used to redress this by incorporating peace building education into their curricula as it is done in countries that have been plagued by war. Peace building education adopts the bottom-top approach and therefore allows communities to be involved in it since it is based on their experiences. To achieve this, teachers would have to adopt the approach of Paulo Freire's pedagogy of education. It is an interactive approach that seeks to create opportunities rather than impose solutions. Furthermore, it has a higher capacity to lead to transformatory politics.

Textbooks could be produced using the same guidelines as those promoted by the Council of Europe in the Tbilisi Initiative. Ethno-Net, in cooperation with all the stakeholders, would therefore develop educational textbooks using not the "triumphalist, polemical or even vindictive style" but rather ones that are "neutral and realistic, and free of ideological and political stereotypes".

Each society, taking into cognizance its specificities and with a view to democratizing the educational process, should promote popular theatre dealing with themes related to intolerance and discrimination in order to heighten awareness of these phenomena and suggest ways to combat them given societal contexts.


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© The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author
and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNESCO.

© Les idées et opinions exprimées dans cet article sont celles de l'auteur
et n’engagent pas la responsabilité de l´UNESCO.