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13 - National Cohesion in Africa

Beyond Ethnicity and Ethnic Communities

from Part III - Conclusions and Policy Recommendations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2019

Hiroyuki Hino
Duke University, North Carolina and the University of Cape Town
Arnim Langer
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
John Lonsdale
University of Cambridge
Frances Stewart
University of Oxford
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This chapter suggests that social, political, institutional and demographic changes already observable in Africa hold out the possibility of national futures in which the manipulation of ethnic difference could cease to be the main route to political power. In the first of four sections it is argued that, although ethnic allegiances are powerful there are other, situational, identities round which human interests may gather. It is shown, secondly, that there is no single model or measure that can reliably relate ethnic diversity to economic development or the nature of governance. Since the early postcolonial years of “nation-building”, third, many civil society organisations have arisen in Africa, to promote not only ethnic interests but also such heterogeneous group identities as the urban poor in mega cities, women (often peacemakers), youth, and HIV/AIDS sufferers. While, finally, these organisations, including Pentecostal churches, may be led by “big men”, they nonetheless diversify and complicate the “big man” politics of ethnic difference that has rarely met such competition until now.

From Divided Pasts to Cohesive Futures
Reflections on Africa
, pp. 403 - 425
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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