EDUCATION

Managing Diversity in Contemporary African Society

INTRODUCTION

Managing diversity is a science and Africa needs leaders who understands the principle of the management of diversity. No family, no organization, no business, no state has a future if they don’t figure out how to manage diversity. In African politics we are always looking at who is from my village, who is from my town and opportunity and privilege is associated with having your own person in power. This is not the way to go. Managing diversity is about how the state can create infrastructures that will help a country move forward. In Africa toady, Religious issues come into play with politics. In Africa, there is how people feel because they are Muslims, or Christians or women.

Religion, ethnicity and other things have continued to injure African countries because we have not come to terms with the fact that power is not just about “our turn to eat”, rather we should see it as our turn to contribute; our turn to step out of comfort and face the most pressing challenges facing our communities. Going into power with the impression that it is “our turn to eat” simply means we are prepared to continue with the existing negative narratives or even make it worse. All of us cannot win the same prize but we can create an environment where all of us can cooperate and create a win-win environment. When you lose election in Africa you don’t have a chance to get back in and when you lose election in Africa it also means there will be no road to your village and there will be no water and you can even lose your life.

African politics will remain violent until we find an equilibrium in which we are citizens of a country. We are not suffering because we are Christians or Muslims or whatever NO, we are suffering because we are in countries that is malfunctioning and how to make that country work for the rich, poor and for everyone is a challenge. This paper looks at (1) the concept of diversity, (2) conflicts of diversity, (3) why there is conflicts of diversity in Africa and (4) how we can manage conflicts of diversity in contemporary African societies.

WHAT IS DIVERSITY

Diversity refers to the differences that exist among people, including their race, ethnicity, gender, age, language, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, and other characteristics. It is a concept that recognizes and values the unique perspectives and experiences that individuals bring to a group, organization or state. A diverse group, organization or state is one that actively seeks to include and respect people of different backgrounds and perspectives. Individuals and groups have different characteristics and the world is not homogeneous because there are different people of different backgrounds that makes the world heterogeneous or cosmopolitan. The difference is not a problem but the problem is how we live with these differences. Are we living side by side with one another or are we interacting and sharing based on equity and justice? Therefore divsersity is not a problem but the way we manage diversity can cause conflicts. Diversity only becomes a problem when issues are left unattained to.

CONFLICTS OF DIVERSITY

Conflicts of diversity refer to situations where differences in beliefs, values, cultures, and backgrounds lead to tensions and disagreements among individuals or groups or states. In other words, Diversity conflicts happens when one ethnic or religious group is dormanting the other and tends to marginalize or try to assimilate or crush other smaller ethnic group. When this happens, the people who feel marginalized or dominated tend to rebel.  When people of different cultures mix, they carry in them, a host of taught, values, norms emotions behaviors that were planted cultivated and nurtured in them by their cultures. Conflicts of diversity comes up when people become ethno centric, clan, based and tribalistic. People think that their values are the best and put their own cultures at the center while considering other people’s culture as premitive or inferior. When this happens the people who are excluded, and marginalized,  become rebellious. Diversity  conflicts can arise in various settings, including workplaces, schools, and communities, and states. Conflicts of diversity can have negative effects on individuals groups and states, including increased stress, decreased productivity, and reduced social cohesion’

CAUSES OF CONFLICTS OF DIVERSITY

The denial factor

One of the main causes of the conflicts of diversity is that many states deny the fact that there is diversity. They live under the pretext of “we are better together” but who are we? That is the big question many always ask because there is a problem with who people are. We live in a cosmopolitan planet with people from different ethnic groups, tribes, races, cultures, religions, etc, and managing these sets of different people in one society is always too difficult and Often causes conflict. America is a country of different identities, a county of plurality, and a country of multiculturalism but what caused conflict in America, was the fact that the people could not recognize and acknowledge these differences until after the civil rights movement.

Primordialism

Premodialist  believe that they are attached to a particular group through blood relationship.  They claim they have one ancestor and they are static. They don’t believe in change and change to them is betrayal to their ancestors.  This belief at times is not true because they don’t necessarily have one origin but only share a historical  experience but deeply looking into it there is no blood relationship. Premodialist believes that people are attached to their forefathers or ancestors in some sort of blood relationship and their history must stay the same as it was created by their forefathers this belief has made it difficult to make a parparadigm shift. Premodialist makes their people believe that their history is not supposed to be changed because if they changed, then they have disrespected their forefathers. All these manipulations are helping to create a conflict of diversity. This is the same with the instrumentalist theory where leaders tend to indoctrinate their people. They make their people see themselves as completely different from others and this has become a danger to collective idensity. When you instrumentalize your people, you make them hate other people and see other people as enemies. You are therefore separating people, and making the concept of collective identity put into question. Instrumentalists are enablers of conflicts of diversity.

Appearance

Conflict of diversity happens when one group of a society or state is discriminating another group because of the color of their skin. The Apartheid in South Africa depicted such a situation. Apartheid was a situation where the white minority discriminated against the black majority.  The whites in South Africa migrated to the country from Holland or Netherlands. The white preferred a system of separate development from the black. Appearance was a driver used by the whites to segregate against the black. They propounded separate education, trade system and separate residential areas in one country. This form of discrimination constructed hate, anger, and fear in the blacks South Africans which made them to fight until the system of Apartheid was defeated. Another example is the then republic of Sudan where despite the cultural differences, Appearance had a great role in that society. The Northern Sudanese who are lighter in complexion discriminated against the Southern Sudanese and this continued until the country finally separated. Appearance is in the center of many racial conflicts all over the world.

Economic disparities

Poverty and inequality are major issues in many African countries. Disparities in access to resources and opportunities has led to tensions and conflicts in most African societies. Every African citizen knows that, he or she has the right to share in the natural resources of a state but get frustrated when these resources are unevenly distributed and end up in the hands of just a few elites. The tendency in most African countries is that those from the ethnic groups apart from the ethnic group of the president are excluded and marginalized from the natural resources. When you lose election in Africa you have no chance of going back to governance and that means there will be no road to your village. The resources mostly go to where the president is coming from. These create frustration anger and fear in the minds of those who are marginalized and excluded.

Political instability

Political instability and the lack of effective governance has created an environment of uncertainty and conflicts in African societies. In Africa, there has been the resurgence of what they call illiberal democracy. Democracies that look like democracies but don’t work like democracies they conduct elections; they have judiciaries, they have political parties and in the final analysis they are a halfway house between the values of democracies and dictatorship and tyranny. Nigerian Bishop Hassan Kukah talked about this. A common practice in Africa is that, most African leaders govern their states from their ethnic lens. They will always exclude and marginalized people from other ethnic groups in the same country. They tend not to accept and recognize people from other ethnic groups. Once people from the other ethnic group wants to react, they are brutally crushed with the military of the state. In government, they mostly put people originating from the same region with them.

Discrimination and prejudice

Discrimination and prejudice based on race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation has created conflicts of diversity in most African states. When citizens in a particular state are deprived from having access natural resources especially those from the different ethnic group clans or tribes other than that of the president it creates frustration in the minds of those who are deprived and they may result to war.

Colonialism

Colonialism existed long ago but left a devastating effect on Africa till date. The colonialist ignored the fact that Africa was made-up of different ethnic groups and tried to put people of different ethnic groups together to form a state. A good example in Africa is Rwanda where before the arrival of the colonialists existed three groups that is: The  Twas who constituted 1% and were living in the the forest as gatherers. they are the Aborigines of  todays Rwanda. Later on came the hutus that constituted 84% who were the farmers and finally came the Tutsis who were  the cattle rearers and constituted 14%.the Germans  decided to put these three groups of people who  were  living independently together to form the state of Rwanda. As the Germans left Rwanda, the Belgians came in and introduce identity cards where ethnic groups were emphasized. This emphasis on ethnic groups made the people to concentrate on their ethnic groups more than their nation state. they believed that they could gain more advantages from the ethnic groups and not the nation when the colonial masters were about to leave they leave behind puppets that would continue with the policy of divide and rule. This is still ongoing in many African countries today that is why many African countries have stayed   divided on ethnic clinic or tribal lines until today. The colonialist poorly manage diversity which tend to have a long time effect on Africa.

Lack of credible Commitment

There’s a problem of credible commitment among African leaders. Most African leaders do not usually respect commitment they assume. Before a president comes to power in every state in the world, he or she takes an oath to serve the people and to ensure the provision of their basic needs. It has been proven in many cases that most of these leaders don’t respect their commitment. They come to power as though it is their own turn to eat and this has created conflicts in most African states. 

MANAGING CONFLICTS OF DIVERSITY IN AFRICA

Many conflict experts do not address deep-rooted issues in conflicts of identity or conflicts of diversity but pay much attention to power recourse and wealth distribution. It is important to address abstract issues like culture, language, religion, and gender to name just a few before moving to concrete issues. We must address the fact that minorities usually suffer acceptance, recognition, and confidence, and develop assurances in the minds of groups about their future. African governments must adopt strategies that make sure minorities and other groups within a country will no more be marginalized and indindignified. They will be respected, accepted, and recognized. To do that, the culture, history, name, and origin of indigenous people must be highlighted to the knowledge of every citizen of a particular state. The government must therefore promote the multicultural and pluralistic nature of a state.

Promote tolerance and respect for diversity

It is essential to promote tolerance and respect for diversity in all aspects of society. Managing diversity means preaching tolerance in states, organizations, and globally. This can be achieved through education, public awareness campaigns, and the promotion of cultural exchange programs.

Institutional mechanisms

There are various institutions that are able to contain manage or reduce conflicts of diversity. some of the institutions are federation and confederation which are able to guarantee the right of the minority and other people living within a state. By these institutions the central authority takes into consideration the existence of each ethnic group in the country and in a fair and legitimate approach allowing and recognizing each ethnic group to participate in the matters of the state without prejudice.

Protection of minority rights.          

Minority rights are an issue recognized by the international law. these rights are used to be minimize and discriminated upon by states. These are rights that persuade minority to be sure of their safety and void of fears of extinction, discrimination or assimilation. These rights are supposed to be protected and promoted in an ethnic religious cultural linguistic racial and in short pluralistic society. This should be accompanied by a positive public opinion and good faith of the government to accept and recognize minority.

Power sharing

One of the reasons promoting conflicts of diversity is the homogenization mentality of power and wealth to be in the hands of one particular ethnic group. Power sharing is the acknowledgement and respect of heterogeneity, pluralism, multiculturalism, diversity and difference. A state system incorporating the different ethnic groups found in the state to participate in the governing of the state proportionately in representative equivalent manner is very necessary in heterogeneous African societies. In this light representative government of equality in quantity and quality will help to promote sustainable peace and security within African states. This is a mechanism of structural and functional power sharing that will convince different ethnic groups to give off any slight idea of separation.

Address underlying issues

Conflicts of diversity often arise from underlying issues such as poverty, inequality, and discrimination. Addressing these issues can help to reduce tensions and promote social cohesion.

Customary law

Every Society of the world has basic laws used to pacify the society. In reality almost every Society of the world is engaged in establishing rules and regulations that will guarantee peace and security. Customary laws and traditional legal systems in their many varying forms contribute to provide a source of social stability.

Embrace inclusivity

Embracing inclusivity means ensuring that everyone has equal access to resources, opportunities, and services. This can help to reduce feelings of marginalization and exclusion that can lead to conflict.

Provide effective leadership

Effective leadership is essential for managing conflicts of diversity. Leaders must be committed to promoting tolerance, respect, and inclusivity and must be willing to take action to address conflicts when they arise.

Above all a peaceful world is attain only when the power of love is greater and much more acknowledged than the love for power.  Without which Africa will know on peace.

Shey Julius Nkuh

A Conflict Resolution graduate currently persuing Master's Degree in the University of Buea, Cameroon. Believes in the role of the media as an educational, informational and entertainment tool . He is also passionate about creating awareness to societal crisis. For this reason, has dedicated most of his time to charity. He derives pleasure in blogging and creating contents for you.

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