Many have suggested that the present state of affairs in the African continent in terms of governance and underdevelopment is all down to the impossibility of a random group of people to live under one roof within artificial borders. Some even go as far as to believe that further demarcation of individual countries into homogeneous ethnic groups would be a solution.
If we must tell ourselves the truth, there’s very little holding us together as a nation as we obviously don’t like each other very much. — Nwachinaemelu (@cchukudebelu) September 4, 2013
A little bit of history: We are all aware that most African states came into being within their present borders as a result of the 1884 Berlin Conference in what is often termed the Scramble for Africa. Since then, most have retained these borders. The few places that that dreamed to recreate the borders ended up in very bloody civil was as in Biafran/Nigerian war in the late 60s. Some ,after prolonged conflicts, have managed to negotiate a secession as in Sudan and Ethiopia/Eritrea.
Yet some others have remained in tact without any talk of dissolution. Some are enjoying much better governance than others and some have never even witnessed a military coup as with Senegal. A few questions come to mind: 1. Is diversity (a random group of people) really a recipe for disaster in terms of nation building? 2. Why do some states succeed where others fail? 3. Can we continue to blame the shape and composition of our borders for our predicaments. Looking up to Europe, it is easier and tempting to conclude that homogeneous states are a way forward as in the success of countries like Sweden, Finland, Germany etc where the masses at least share the same mother tongue and common history. The question however is whether success was just the outcome of homogeneity or proactive nation building.
If you argue for the latter, then what about the forcefully built nations like the Soviet Union that disintegrated so easily even after 70 years of its existence? But then you ask, If homogeneity was that good, why are countries coming together to form unions? Why are the most diverse cities in the world like London the most thriving? What about the United States of America that continues to welcome people from all corners of the earth to live and succeed within its borders?
These tend to suggest that it is not the randomness of people that is the problem. And by the way, talking about war and peace, very few countries in the world have avoided it completely: the Europeans fought two world wars, and the US and Russia both had their own internal civil wars in the process of nation building. But this does not mean we need to follow the same process. We need not reinvent the Dark Ages on our way to the promised land.
Is it possible that the “imposed” system of governance is just nor working? If that is indeed the case, why haven’t we changed it for something better after more than 50 years of trying. My conclusion is that the problem is the absence of a shared vision for the future and not a shared past. While it is really important to deliberate on our past and understand where we are coming from, we should put more emphasis on where we go from here. Very few politicians can articulate where they see their countries in 5 or 10 years time. They are more guilty of using ethnic and religious differences to divide and rule-something they accuse the colonial masters of. I think it is fair to conclude that the diversity of many African countries is a strength to be explored and not a weakness to mourn. The most important factor is getting a sense of direction.