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An article by Nestor Bidadanure in The Thinker abbreviated and reprinted by permission (full article available by subscription)
What is the main ideological factor that has led to so much violence around the question of identity in post-colonial Africa? Can the concept of culture of peace contribute to the establishment of lasting peace in Africa? And, if so, how?
Illustration of article from The Thinker (copyright shutterstock)
The legacy of freedom
“Each generation must, with little help from the past, discover its mission, fulfill or betray it” said Frantz Fanon in his book “Wretched of the Earth,” which was written in 1961 and which had a strong influence on the political consciousness of anti-colonial and Third World activists in his time. If we compare ourselves to the generations that have lived through slavery, colonization and apartheid, we can say with some caution, that the political reality of the African continent has generally improved today. The laws that legitimized the inequality and justified the occupation of territories of peoples of different cultures have been abolished. African leaders who are progressive have overcome the identity manipulations imposed by colonialism; they have unified the freedom fighters of their own country, organized pan- African solidarity, and promoted international solidarity with other peoples struggling for freedom. Despite the political and economic violence that many African peoples still experience, we should not forget the victories over oppression. Thanks to the peoples’ struggles, significant economic and social rights have been achieved in much of the continent. Human rights and gender equality have emerged to a certain extent from the ruins of discriminatory laws. We must remember that no right is natural: each area of freedom we enjoy today is the result of the epic battles in the past by peoples for justice and human dignity. The promise of freedom is the fruit of resistance.
In addition to the culture of resistance, we are also heirs to values and techniques of peaceful conflict resolution. In the face of tragedies such as apartheid, the genocide in Rwanda and the war in Mozambique, the African people have tapped into their ancient culture to break the impasse and reconcile those who have been bitter enemies.
Thanks to the legacy of the freedom fighters of yesterday, we can look ahead today with optimism and say with certainty that a better Africa is possible. In fact the major challenge of our generation is not to begin the story, but to keep it going, not allowing it to be stopped at midpoint of the long road traveled by the generations who preceded us in the struggle for freedom. For as long as war and poverty continue in even the smallest part of the African continent, the freedom promised by the fathers of Pan-Africanism will require other heroes to ensure its fulfillment. As long as people lack freedom somewhere in the world, no one of us can feel completely free.
Therefore, the mission of our generation, post-colonial and post-apartheid is the struggle for a lasting peace in Africa. To do this, it is essential to first understand the belief system that continues to enable the poverty and violence linked to identity in our continent. In other words, we must identify the major obstacle to the emergence of an Africa that is free, democratic and inclusive for which previous generations have struggled. An Africa where peace is no longer a dream but a reality.
It is our point of view that most of the political and economic violence suffered by the African peoples today is rooted in a system of thought we call the Radical Identity Populism (abbreviated PIR). So what is PIR and how can the concept of culture of peace serve as an antithesis to the prejudices that serve as its backbone?
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Radical Identity Populism
. . . In Africa, the decolonization in the legal sense has not been followed by an ideological break with the colonial model of governance by some of the political elite. Violence against the people has been perpetuated beyond independence. While the enemy for the colonialists was those who sought independence, now for the post-colonial elite who have not been mentally liberated from colonial prejudices, the new enemy has become the “other” who is perceived to be different. Discrimination against the colonized peoples has been replaced by discrimination against other ethnic groups, against other religions, against people from other regions, against foreigners … The colonial practice of divide and rule is continued today as the favorite political weapon of extremist elites. The phenomenon of crimes against humanity such as genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, the ethnic massacres in Burundi in 1993, the fratricidal war in Southern Sudan, the mass crimes orchestrated by the army of the lord, the LRA in Uganda and the DRC, the war waged by the radical Islamist organizations al-Shabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Qaeda and the Islamist state in Libya, North Africa and Mali are all rooted in theorized system of thought that legitimize extreme violence. . . It is against this phenomenon of Radical Identity Populism that the new generation of freedom fighters must struggle if someday Africa is to live in peace with herself.
By populism, we mean the political demagoguery expressed through the discourse of hate against others who are different. . . By identity, we mean the manipulation of real or perceived differences for the purpose of gaining or maintaining power. . . By radical, we mean the will to exterminate the other who is different. . .
Towards an Africa in peace
The Culture of Peace is not a closed concept. It is a concept that is integrated with the elements of the peoples’ traditions for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and the diffusion of he values of peace. From this point of view, the philosophy of Ubuntu, the tradition of the Ubushingantahe in Burundi, the traditional and participatory justice of the Agacaca in Rwanda are all components of the Culture of Peace. Let us now consider the key constituents of the Culture of Peace in relation to the African situation.
1- Respect for life, for the human person and for his rights. . .
2-Access of all citizens to economic and social rights . . .
3- Peaceful conflict resolution and reconciliation . . .
4. Equality between men and women and the inclusion of diversity . . .
5- Democracy and freedom of expression . . .
6. Respect for the environment . . .
The Culture of Peace should be considered and taught as an ideal that ties together and strengthens that which has been torn apart. It is the antithesis of Radical Identity Populism, a theory of inclusion and reconciliation with which we can achieve the freedom promised, an Africa at peace with herself and with the world. It considers the differences within a nation to be a precious resource. It reminds us that there is no national identity except the diversity, both cultural and human, of all its citizens. The Culture of Peace demands all the human rights for all the people, because, as always, it is poverty and ignorance that continue to provide the fertile soil for the growth of identity demagogy.