Africa is getting richer, but political violence and inequality is on the rise. There are now peacekeeping missions in 11 African countries. Or as one angry Nigerian wrote from Lagos: “Why is it that Africans seem to love killing other Africans?”
Nearly all conflicts in Africa is a mixture of poverty, ethnicity and religion. The impressive economic growth has not been translated into jobs for young people.
Terrorist movements and criminal gangs take advantage of the widening levels of inequality and opportunity. Poor, unemployed youth is a ticking time bomb. They are easily recruited to terrorist organizations and crime. Governments have failed to take political action.
Sometimes ethnicity is the real source for the conflict. However, some politicians use ethnicity to promote their own ambitions.
Ethnicity is an identity. The challenge is to build a unified nation with different ethnicities peacefully coexisting. Some countries, like Tanzania and Zambia, with a large number of different tribes, have succeeded. I don’t think the former presidents Nyerere and Kaunda have been given the credits they deserve for having achieved this.
The two ex-presidents understood that nation building in Africa means to give some room to ethnicity and traditional identity, but not allow it to dominate the political life.
Today we see two Africas: One is the new land of opportunity, economic growth, optimism and limitless possibilities for investors. The other Africa is the hopeless continent with poverty, hunger, corruption, crime and countries being easy prey for foreign investors and land grabbers.
Fortunately, some emerging African politicians will not use the ethnic card. They understand that failing to address Africa’s inequalities is a recipe for social unrest.
The question remains, however: Will this new generation of promising African politicians (or “cheetahs” as George Ayittey label them) ever reach power? And will they, once in power, change and only follow in the footsteps of their predecessors?