The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

African Politics -- Sowing Division, Creating Enemies

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on October 10, 2020 06:03

4 users

Who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind. So states Hosea 8:7. Political power through dividing to rule is an ancient political tactic. Yet a strategy of creating enemies in order to build a power base is dangerous as a long term strategy.

It was Philip of Macedon, some 2300 years ago, who described the tactic of dividing your enemies. Colonial powers ruled Africa through playing ethnic groups off against each other. Post-colonial rulers found this a practical way of consolidating power, through creating "us and them" dynamics. As a short term tactic it has merits, because people are best moved by fear of an enemy.

In Zimbabwe, President Mugabe consolidated power for his Shona-based supporters by demonizing his erstwhile comrades from the Matabele ethnic group, leading to the Gukurahundi massacres. The enmity of a growing part of the population did not, in the short term, create problems -- power politics benefited an ever shrinking elite to the point that President Mnangagwa, with an economy tanking under 750% inflation per month could claim that he would "flush out ... a few rogue Zimbabweans" who were destabilizing the country.

British colonizers in battle against Matabele warriors. Public Domain, Richard Woodville, Wikipedia

In Kenya ethnic politics, based on colonial tactics, created marginalized populations and districts where Al Shabaab recruiters find willing listeners. Economic hardships including lack of jobs are the important drivers for radicalization, and underdevelopment clearly correlates with expansion of anti-government movements. Grievance against authorities and lack of confidence in the forces of law and order are some of the reasons why people are liable to extremism. Government is seen as looking after the interests of a few to the exclusion of affected populations. Police corruption, a fractured relationship between State and Citizen - there are red flags undermining the stability of the state.

Che Guevara in the Congo. Public Domain, Museo Che Guevara, Wikipedia

This is not new. Che Guevara developed the tactic of creating a focus of rebellion, then waiting for reaction by security forces. The heavy-handed anti-insurgent actions would then create fertile ground for recruitment of revolutionaries. Che's failed revolution and superpower reaction in the Congo sowed the seeds of ethnic and political tension still evident half a century later.

Modern politics in Africa and elsewhere lean heavily on lessons learnt from colonizers. Ever-decreasing circles are drawn of loyalty, unquestioning support, rejection of a demonized enemy. During a recent online seminar on the stability in Kenya a journalist lamented the problems of "patriotic" journalism that would not support the cause of violent extremism.

Allow me, gentle reader, to descend to basics: modern politics should be about building societies, creating consensus, encouraging dissent within the framework of democratic structures. Nelson Mandela, in his famous speech, defended his actions as a means to achieve harmony, equal opportunity and a free society. The failure of his successors to follow suit is a story for another day.

Mandela with outgoing Presient de Klerk. CC BY AS 2.0 Wikipedia

As many nations go to the polls leaders are advised: divisive tactics will lead to conflict. Leaders who choose the difficult path of reconciliation and natio-building deserve support. And I am talking about you, dear reader, who is about to vote.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on October 10, 2020 06:03

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Source: WashPost
2

The new president moves aggressively to shut down those who disagree with his agenda.

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest