U.S. intelligence analysis of the situation in Africa are grim. The basic
problems are corruption, tribalism and raw materials (from oil to diamonds and
minerals) that enable warlords to sustain themselves, and their gun toting
followers, for years. Somalia and Congo are the worst examples of this sort of
thing. Then there's Sudan, where the government actually supports much of the
mayhem. Many countries are seemingly peaceful, but are actually ready to slip
in Africa are pretty basic, but most Western leaders are unwilling to deal with
them head on. For example, it's not considered politically correct to talk
about tribes anymore. Instead these distinct cultural organizations are
referred to as "ethnic groups" (which they often are) or
"clans" (which are subsections of tribes). But much of the world's
population still owes their primary allegiance to tribal organizations. Africa,
South America and parts of Asia are largely tribal areas. Europe still has a
few. But the Scots clans are largely just social organizations, although in
Eastern Europe you can still find functioning clans.
past few thousand years, tribes evolved (by more powerful tribes conquering
weaker ones) into kingdoms, and then, with the addition of robust economies and
a lot of bureaucrats, nations. So you tend to find tribes in less affluent
parts of the world. The majority of our planet's population is poor. But a
third of the world's population is in China and India, two places where the
strong tribes long ago conquered all the weaker ones. Africa, Southeast Asia
and the Pacific Islands still have a lot of unconquered tribes.
to fight a lot. Most tribes are agrarian, and there always are disputes over
land and crime. Tribes don't have the strong legal systems of kingdoms and
nations, so justice is seen as a personal chore. Within tribes, there usually
is a system of tribal elders who arbitrate these disputes. But when the
disputes are between tribes, arbitration is difficult, usually impossible.
Violence and endless blood feuds result.
the largest number of active tribes on the planet, over 500 at last count. The
nations of Africa are artificial creations, put together by European colonial
powers in the late 19th century. In the 1950s and 60s, most of these colonies
were given their freedom. These new African nations still had their tribes,
plus poverty and weak legal systems. The colonial powers enforced peace, often
with guns, but also with thousands of bureaucrats imported from Europe. After
independence, most of these bureaucrats went home.
animosities began to emerge very quickly after independence. Most of these
nations soon found themselves run by military dictators. It was ugly, but it
kept the peace. However, unlike the colonial bureaucrats, the locals were far
more corrupt, often because they were intent on taking care of their tribe at
the expense of everyone else. The corruption ruined the economy, as well as
making most of the population increasingly angry over the poverty and
democracy got it's chance again in the late 1990s, it was because Africans
realized that, unlike everyone else in the world, their economies had been
steadily shrinking through the 1980s. The end of the Cold War also eliminated
the ability to play off the superpowers against one another, thus eliminating
another source of income. They needed change, but democracy alone was not
generals replaced by politicians, tribal violence is on the rise again. A good
case in point is Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation. Nigeria has some 250
"ethnic groups" (most organized as tribes around shared customs,
language and culture) in a population of 122 million.
tribal warfare is returning. In the past, the various kingdoms that existed
before the colonial period had ethnic minorities that were oppressed, and they
have not forgotten. It's fashionable to blame all this on the European colonial
governments, but the one sub-Saharan nation that was not colonized, Ethiopia,
also experiences frequent civil war and rebellion because of its dozen or so
different ethnic groups.
No one has
yet come up with a quick solution for this problem. Historically, the only
thing that works is gradual absorption of many of the smaller groups into the
larger ones. This has been going on more rapidly in the last few centuries,
making it easier for many stable nations to form. Africans want to hold on to
their colonial era borders, even if it means constant threat of unrest. This is
preferable to the pre-colonial tribal warfare. But how do you keep the tribes
there is a problem is the first step, and most African nations are doing that.
They are stressing the need for national unity. But with corrupt police and
civil servants, plus rampant poverty, too many people still have to fall back
on the tribe for economic and judicial relief. History provides little comfort.
Everywhere else, tribes only faded away after centuries of increasing
prosperity and the development of honest and efficient government. Put more
simply, the central government had to compete with the tribal organization to
provide better living standards and legal systems. This works, it was working
during the colonial period. But it only works long term if the locals
themselves provide the judges, police, politicians and bureaucrats.
the tribal violence increases. In the last decade, nearly ten million have died
from tribal violence in Africa. Guns won't solve the problem. In fact, the end
of the Cold War has brought millions of cheap AK-47s to Africa. This has
increased the death toll, as assault rifles can kill a lot more people than the
traditional spears and bows. Indeed, previously only the bravest tribal
warriors went to war, because it was up close and personal. You had to be
tough, experienced and brave. With AK-47s, any kid can become a bad ass, blasting
away from a distance. Where in the past women and children generally were
spared, now they are the first victims of the AK-47 armed teenagers.
won't solve the problem of tribal violence, Honest government will. But you
can't easily buy that. The locals have to put aside centuries of custom to make
government work. That won't happen fast, and when it does, it will take a long
time to eliminate the tribal loyalties. Meanwhile, Africa is a grim example of
survival of the fittest. Resourceful and ruthless men, abetted by cheap guns
and natural resources to plunder, thrive, while proponents of civil society and
honest government cower in the shadows.