Confusion because if the cause of such infernal conflict is tribalism, the word has little meaning for U.S. Blacks, for the grandchildren of slaves were detribalized, or perhaps more accurately, compressed into a single national tribe of Blackness.
Shame, because Blacks still feel a kinship for (an idealized) Africa, and thus, their calamities seem like ours, and, since the relatively recent end of colonialism, many African countries have had more than their share of calamities. Kenyan human rights activist and writer, Koigi wa Wamwere, in his 2003 book, Negative Ethnicity (Seven Stories Press/Open Media) records a harrowing event in 1998 Kenya, when a man named John Mwangi detailed what happened to him in the Makuru district of Kenya: I am down, and around me a big fire rages. Our village is razed and destroyed. There are screams everywhere. They are hurt and down. I inhale smoke and smell burning flesh, food, and timber everywhere. I see a man coming with a flaming torch for burning houses and food stores, a spear to stab my heart and sword to slit my throat and kill me as they have others. I think this is the end, but not yet. Please, don't kill me, I plead with whatever breath I have left. We are Africans. We are brothers. Without looking at me, he thrusts the spear into my side and cuts my throat. Die, die, you dirty louse, he says. I am not your brother. I am not your tribe. Tasting blood in my mouth, I slide into unconsciousness with that word ringing -- tribe, tribe - until the world falls silent. When I wake up, I am in the hospital, wrapped in bandages from head to foot. A Good Samaritan picked me up and brought me here. Several months later, I go to my village, but it is no more. Both the new house and the land now belong to him who tried to kill me. Because I am from another ethnic community I am evicted from my home and land and cleansed from the Rift Valley Province where anyone who is not Kalenjin is called a foreigner. I cry and ask, Why? No one answers. [pp. 9-10]
For Wamwere, tribalism (or in his term, 'negative ethnicity') has been a powerful tool used by politicians to communicate the notion of 'it's our time to eat.'
Wamwere tells a classic and chilling tale of when Jomo Kenyatta came to power after colonialism, and his government slew one of its own ministers, Tom Mboya, a prominent Luo politician. Luo riots shook Nairobi and Kisumu. Wamwere recalls how Kenyatta responded by forcing Gikuyus to take a loyalty oath. Those who didn't take it were beaten or killed. Wamwere explained that he too took the oath, partly in fear, and partly in fascination. This oath was against the Luos. This took place in 1969.
The notion of nation is a transient one; for nations come and go; tribe remains.
While millions of Africans suffer from malnutrition, millions of Americans and Europeans spend billions to try to manage their rampant obesity.
Tribalism? Negative Ethnicity? Or poor people fighting for scraps?