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Part.4. African’s Peacefull Means: Micro-cultural aspects of violence in Africa

AnalysisPart.4. African’s Peacefull Means: Micro-cultural aspects of violence in Africa

From the Book Peace By African’s Peaceful Means  By Raïs Neza Boneza


With micro-cultural aspects, we shall concentrate our inquiry on local culture and customs. Africans are divided into several races, fragmented within local communities by ethnic groups, tribal denominations, and clans. These different classifications are expressed in beliefs and customs which shape a ritualistic religion or ideology.


The  relationship  of  religion  to  both  conflict-ridden  and  pacific social orders from historical, sociological, theological and practical perspectives has contributed to peace and wars as considered in the context of just war, or holy war. In traditional Africa, religious wars did not really develop until the coming of missionaries and the expansion of Islam. We can assert that in the past, religion has been the basis for establishing theocratic states. A theocratic state is a structure. Archaeology is the scientific study of past human culture and behavior, from the origins of humans to the present. Archaeology studies past human behavior through the examination of material remains of previous human societies. Violence is legitimized  precisely because it favors those who belong to the state religion and marginalizes those of other faith communities. We s< /span>ee this in the example of President Idi Amin trying to convert Uganda to Islam. Theocracy in Africa should not be seen only as a result of imported religion, but also in the cultural concept of chieftaincy.  For  example,  in  the  Bantu  culture  the  chief  is respected, elevated and seen as representing God or even perceived to be God himself. The result of such conception has given rise to a chronic cycle of dictatorial regimes and the appearance of different “isms, such as Mobutism, Afro-centrism, tribalism, Ndugu-ism, Kabilism, Lumunbism, and others.


Violence in Africa is strongly rooted in the ethnic backgrounds of









the members of the community. The belief that one ethnic group is better than another is a classical belief which can be observed even today.




In general, an ethnic group can be described as follows:



A community by appellation and ideology.

A community of values

A community of aspiration or conscience for a given


Logical explanation from myths and tradition

Culture, codes and customs

That which constitutes the essential elements of




The rise of ethnic conflicts in Africa precedes colonization; it is integrated in the whole African social organization. Ethnocentrism is perceived in itself as a flagrant manner or a discriminatory practice of social rejection. In Africa, we are often in the presence of endogenous structural divisions that supply structural or latent violence, expressed through different forms such as swear words, threats, and insults.


* Afric
n violence development and the Bantu/Nilotic My









1.  History of the Virunga (Great-Lakes Region)




Figure 1Great lakes of Africa


The first population to inhabit the Virunga region were the Twa, from the Pygmoid peoples of
the Congo basin. It is believed that they probably lived in the area for several thousand years. The Twa were   hunter-gatherers,   dependent   on   the   plant   and   animal resources of the vast forest for survival. In contrast, the Bantu are physically and culturally different from the Twa.  The Bantu were agricultural peoples, using smallscale farming to obtain most of their food.
More efficient than the hunting-gathering lifestyle of the Twa, farming allowed the Bantu to live in small communities and to increase quickly in numbers. As the Bantu population increased, more and more of the forests were cleared for crops, an activity that led to the extermination of the Tw




The Bantu consisted of several tribes, the largest of which is the Hutu in modern-day< span style="letter-spacing: 0.5pt"> Rwanda and Burundi; the Shi’, Nande, and Buisha in D.R.Congo; and the Baganda, Soga, Nkole, Toro, and Nyoro  in  modern-day  Uganda.  Each  tribe  consisted  of  several clans, each ruling loosely  over a small area. These tribes were numerous and well-established when the next wave of immigrants arrived, this time from the northeast.


The newcomers originated from Ethiopia and Sudan and differed from  the  established  Bantu  in  many  ways.  They  spoke  Nilotic









languages;  they were taller, thinner. Different  from the   Bantu, they were pastoral, raising cattle for food. The Nilotics became numerically dominant in the drier savannahs north of Lake Kyoga. These people, often earlier Watutsi, migrated into the Virunga area from the northeast between about 1200 and 1500 A.D. Eventually the Tutsi politically dominated the more numerous Hutu and ruled the area when the Europeans came in force to take over around



2.  The rising of the Nilo/Hamitic ideology


We shall examine the historical origins and political potency of a mythology in Africa, especially in the Great Lakes, concerning ethnic or racial distinctions between the Bantu and Nilotic people. The Great Lakes region is composed of Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and D.R.Congo; it was, in the pre-colonial period, composed of very highly organized kingdoms such as the Buganda, Bunyoro, Rwanda or Azande. The colonizers did not want to admit that such organization existed in that area. The explorers argued that there must have been an exogenous influence from the Upper Nile.


In the 19th Century, the Hamitic Hypothesis exploded, support by people such as Jhon Speke, an English explorer of the Nile. It was inspired by the biblical tripartite division of the earth’s races based on imputed descent from the three sons of Noah Semites (Arabs and Jews, sons of Shem), Yefites (Europeans,  sons of Yafet) and Hamites (black Africans, sons of the cursed Ham) which had already granted theological imprimatur to the slave trade and apartheid in South Africa.  The ideology was supported by German colonialists and Belgian successors after the First World War in Rwanda-Burundi.


The Bantu and Nilotic ideology infects all< span style="letter-spacing: 0.05pt"> layers of society in the Great Lakes Region and dominates the thoughts of the average person in the street. It also continues to dominate Western interpretations of the ongoing crisis in the Great Lakes—e.g.the New York Times 1994, deplored a “Rwandan Tribal war between Bantu and Nilotes.”









The main lines of the Bantu/hamitic ideology elaborated by the explorers, the missionaries, the theoreticians and agents of the colonial conquest (1):


Burundi  and Rwanda  are populated  by three distinct  races: the Bahutu, the Batutsi, and the Batwa.  It is important to understand that the term race” was progressively replaced by ethnic group” or “tribe, in the media.

The Bahutu are «
farmers (of) Bantu race.   These « prim

Bantu » form « the big mass of the population.

The Batutsi are a « populates ministers hamites, (…) a class of lords conquering, come giants of the north; (they) penetrated the Great Lakes 400 years ago.»

The Batwa are « the remainders of  primitive population of small size and of type pygmd, that earn their living as hunters, and as servants to the other population.»


“Beside the physical characteristics of these three « races », there is the « mental characteristic » that distinguish the Mututsi « despotic » Muhutu « servile » and Mutwa «natural wild   and overwhelmed due to his social position of outcast ».”






Those manipulations  of t
he term Ham for Hamitic, or Kushite, have contributed to building up an African Hitlerist behaviour that has helped enforce the gap between Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda and Burundi, which ultimately resulted in the 1994 genocide with the minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus as its


3.  Afro-Hitlerism


Let us explore the development of cultural violence through some examples from the local languages of the Great Lakes region (Rwanda-Congo-Uganda-Burundi),  recalling local words used to justify exclusion and ethnic violence.


3.1. Abatemu in Kinganda (Uganda 1980-1986)










The Ugandan conflict can be explained as a struggle between the southerners and westerners in general, and more specifically as one between the Bantu people and the Northerners (particularly Nilotic Acholi people). Abatemu is a Kiganda word meaning killers,” which   has  been  used  to  threaten   the  Acholi   ethnic  group. Successive governments have promoted that cultural word, which has favoured the installation of a dictatorial regime clothed in a costume of democracy. While fighting in 1980 to topple the Obote government, the current president Museveni recorded in several documents the motivation of his NRM/Army  to pursue the war against Obotes UPC This general hostility against the Northerners was quoted in an interview for Drum Magazine in Nairobi during the peace talks of 1984:


“The problem in Uganda is that the leadership has mainly been from the north. The southerners who are mainly Bantu have played a peripheral role all these years since independence in 1962. A lot of blood has been shed. We want genuine elections and we are sure that if these were held the best candidates would win. We are not against the northerners as such and if a popular man from Acholi or Lango or even Madi wins, he will have our mandate. What we cannot stomach is a rigged election, such as the one we had in

1980. We are still prepared to talk to Okello as a military leader on the future of our country but we are not going to talk out of weakness. In fact our forces are already inside Kampala and soon we may surprise the world” (41).





From  this  statement,  we  may  understand  that  the  fundamental reason for the conflict in Uganda can be explained by a profound misunderstanding between people who have the same land in common. This cultural hostility has initiated a cycle of several civil wars, such us the current one by Konys LRA (Lord Resistance Army), a    movement whose abducted children have been categorized by the U.S. government as “international terrorists.









3.2.  Kulo Kwor ; Acholi (Uganda-Sudan)


In the monographic  thesis  by  Professor  Gingyera  Pinyewa,  the custom of Kulo Kwor is a recipe for a cultural, intra-familiar and community practice of violence which implies retaliation. He explains that Kulo Kwor is retribution, a legitimised use of vengeance among the Acholis. He has attributed the killings and burning of villages to that practice. Literally, Kulo means “to pay” or “to give, especially blood compensation; and Kwar means “life that has been killed. This practice is observed in several pastoral communities throughout the Nile Basin, such as Ethiopians and Somalis.


3.3. Ynyenzi  in Kinyarwanda  (Rwanda  1964-1994),  or The

Theory of the cockroaches”


In Rwanda, Ynyenzi is a word that contributed the separation this countrys society at the beginning of independence in the 1960’s, when the minority ethnic group lost its formal privileges to the benefit  of  the  majority.  Ynyenzi,  meaning  cockroaches, was used to designate the rebels, but that created a prejudice against one entire ethnic group, the Tutsi minority.


3.4. Nteramwe in kinyarwanda (1993 Rwanda-Burundi)


Nteramwe at the beginning of 1993 was a word meaning “togetherness, literally people who make things together. The MRND political party in power in Rwanda that year used the word to create a militia group to unite forces against the rebel invasion from Uganda. Nevertheless, after the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the word has been used to designate one ethnic group, the Hutu majority.  This  contributed  to the imposition  of an international cultural and intellectual embargo on one ethnic group seen as the promoter of massacre and genocide. Today it is almost impossible for a Hutu to seek asylum in another country. Considering events and history  in the Great-Lakes  region  of Africa,  the Rwandan- Burundi case is comparable to a cultural Hitlerism that has contributed to jeopardize one or both ethnic groups by creating a cycle of hatred. The Great Lakes region reacts as a matrix in East









and central Africa because the conflict and culture are inter-twined, which  explains  the  escalation  of  violence  in  the  Sub-Saharan region of Africa.


3.5. Nduguism in Swahili (East D.R.Congo 1990)


The word Nduguism appeared in the late 1990s in the eastern part of D.R.Congo with the uprising of ethnic clashes between locals and those considered to be Rwando-phone communities in the exZaire. Unfortunately, Nduguism (14) is not a Congolese speciality, but a global subSaharan ideology, which implies a different kind of  nepotism  (clan,  tribal),   racism,  ethno-tribalism,   and  selfinflicted African apartheid in these societies. That ideology is exemplified in Zimbabwe, where leaders used a racist and Afro- centrist behaviour to brutalize peasants for their own interest.

43.6. La theorie de la vermineor”The  Theory of the Vermin”

(D.R.Congo 1996)


This was promoted by the Kabilist government after toppling the Mobutist  regime.  It contributed  to igniting  ethnic hatred in the D.R.Congo,  especially in the eastern part of the country. Many people have been forced to leave the country and lose their nationality. In other cases, the ethnic clashes between Lendu and Hema since 1998, in the northeast of Congo (Bunia), which are another version of the Rwandan genocide, have inflicted further damage on the local structure of the populations, and reduced the potential of survival in the region.


The conflict  in Sub-Saharan  countries  is not a simple fight for power, as would be the case between two opposed political parties or a simple fight between tribes or ethnic groups; rather, it is a fight between groups of the same populations defending their own interests, but who behave as if it was a question of different incompatible   biological   types,   each   one   looking   to   seize supremacy and to be in total control, or to exclusively hunt and exterminate  the group  that  hinders  their  plans.  The fact  is that Africans have not been able to eliminate the negative view of their quantitative or morphologic variations. But by employing transcendent methodology those variations could avoid becoming a









problem that generates more violence, since diversity is one of the basic characteristics of all human populations.


People of different ethnic groups can coexist peacefully and at the end coalesce into a new political or social entity. Therefore, it is not only a fight between supposed ethnic entities that describes the African dilemma; we must not forget the ethnic-endogenous and pre-colonial  racism that has been reinforced  by hexogen agents imported  by  colonialism  and  internalized  by the autochthonous communities.





* The different theories and their relation to gender


When you educate a man you educate an individual. When you educate a woman you educate a nation. Malcolm X


Women are unfortunate to have grown up for many generations in societies that considered God as male. A woman never has her identity  affirmed  as a reflection  of the divine  if she lives in a society of a Father God. In trying to explore this aspect, I am not trying to give any sexual identity to a given Divinity. But through exploring  culture,  history  and  development,  we  are  trying  to explain an aspect that cannot be neglected, especially in terms of repairing African societies. In this view, women and men must realize that divinity has a female aspect as well that for thousands of years ancient cultures worshiped goddesses. As a first step for their  empowerment  in  Africa  as  well  as  other  parts  of  world, women might begin to experiment with the sacred side of their femininity in their own life, to see the divine in themselves and themselves in the divine.


According to Robert Graves (English poet and classical scholar,

1895-1985), th< /span>e earliest societies and religions were matriarchal. The moon (female) was thought to control the sun (male). In the Bantu culture, today it is said that Women are the stronghold in the education of society.









In contemporary Africa, societies have forgotten and hidden the highest position of the Queen Mother, Mother Earth, and the Goddess.   Diodorus of Sicily, who had visited Egypt some time between 60 and 56 BC, writes that the Egyptians had a law “permitting men to marry their sisters and that “it was ordained that the queen should have greater influence and honor than the king  and  that  among  private  persons  the  wife  should  enjoy authority over her husband.”


I am not suggesting that women should rule over men, or vice versa, but a complementary relationship between the male and female  principles  is  a  way  to  harmonize  and  to  perfect  our societies.  If  Africa  is  the  cradle  of  humanity,  then  we  can extrapolate that African women gave birth to humanity. In ancient Africa,  the Queen  Mother  was the source  of the royal right to office because she embodied the people’s wisdom.   The dowry granted by the husband’s family to the bride’s family was a guarantee that a woman was valued, treasured, respected, and an essential  member  of the family,  village  and nation.   In the 5th century  B.C.,  Herodotus,  who  had  visited  Egypt,  writes  that “women buy and sell; the men abide at home and weave.


In The African Origin of civilizations: Myth or Reality (1983) by

Dr. Cheik Anta Diop; it is stated that:


Female  dominated  system  of  society  with  descent  through  the female line is the basis of the social organisation in Egypt and throughout Black Africa. In sharp contrast there has never been any proof of the existence of a paleo-Mediterranean  matriarchy supposedly  exclusively  white.  The  absence  of queens  in  Greek, Roman or Persian history should be noted and yet in stark contrast during those remote epochs, queens were frequent in Black Africa. Negro matriarchy is as alive today as it was during Antiquity. In regions where the matriarchy system has not been altered by external influences (Islam) it is the woman who transmits political rights heredity is effective only matrilineal.


Another typical aspect of African matriarchy is the dowry paid by the man,  a custom  reversed  in European  counties.  The woman









holds a privileged position in Africa and so it is she who receives a guarantee in the form of a dowry in the alliance called marriage. Thus if the marriage is broken off it is to the man’s disadvantage


A few thousand  years  ago, many  goddess-oriented  civilizations were  destroyed  by  aggressive  Indo-European  tribes  who worshipped aggressive sky gods, and females lost their sacredness. That is an essential ingredient in the invasion of Africa by the newer monotheistic world religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, whose one god is male. It also took shape in the Iron Age, when men dominated  societies  in Europe  and the Middle East. The origins of patriarchal systems in Africa, and elsewhere, are a consequence  of an infamy or sacrilege resulting from the brutal violation of the sacred. Marduk, the Babylonian patriarchal figur
, murders his mother Tiamat and forms the cosmos from her body;  similarly,  Tlaloc,  the  patriarchal  rain  god  of the  Aztecs, began the foundation of the world by murdering his mother as soon as he was born from her body. In Greek mythology, myths describing  the  rise  of Zeus  over  the  Titans,  have  many  sexual conquests; the rape of Persephone by Hades, the slaying
of the Medusa by Perseus, and the slaying of the Sphinx by Oedipus, depict a transition from matriarchy to patri


In   conclusion,   peace   building   is   a   process   that   must   be participatory. Therefore, men as well as women must be involved in the process. A bird (society) with one wing (gender) can not fly as  it  is  said.  Women  play  an  equally  important  role  in  the resolution of conflicts.  In  the Kogtla” process (Kalahari Desert, Namibia; south Africa. see below), the Bushmen are conscious of this, and women are not excluded. In contrast to certain tribes that dont give the credence to women, the Bushmen promote participation of both genders in handling their community matters. An old African stor< /span>y explains mythically that “the reasons why many wars kill women, children and the elderly is because women give birth to those who will become the future soldiers and when they kill the women, they eliminate the children-to-be that would grow to be soldiers and take revenge. By killing the elders, they erase the memory of the past about how things were.









My  brief  opinion  is  that  African  women  are  victimized  by  an African  cultural  sexism  that  has  been  passed  down  and is still being  practiced  as  part  of  a  normal  and  acceptable  culture  in African  society.  Gender  issues  are  contradictory  to  the  usual cultural discourse that promotes respect and dignity of women, and still  not a priority  for African  societies.  African  societies  must work hard to end repression of women and to promote an appropriate representation at all levels by women.

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