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
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
VARIOUS MANIFESTATIONS OF DISCRIMINATION AND INTOLERANCE IN AFRICA
A. RACISM AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
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.
AND SLAVERY-LIKE PRACTICES
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,
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.
AND ETHNIC CONFLICT
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
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
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"
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
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
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
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.
AGAINST MARGINALIZED GROUPS AND PEOPLES
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.
PLAN OF ACTION: ENA AND LEVELING OF THE PLAYING FIELD
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
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.
AND UNDERSTANDING DISCRIMINATION: ON GOING ACTIVITIES
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
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
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 FOR THE FUTURE
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
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
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.
EDUCATION TO COMBAT DISCRIMINATION AND FOSTER PEACE
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
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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.