"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


highly recommended

The relationship between nationality and ethnicity in Africa’s Great Lakes region is much debated – sometimes verbally, but more often violently. And this relationship is also a key component to any discussion on citizenship. Ethnicity is not intrinsically violent, despite media portrayals that suggest otherwise. But its relationship with national dynamics, specifically its position vis a vis national citizenship, has allowed it to become an object of manipulation for political elites and a substantial source of instability. Thus the role of ethnicity within the national arena remains unresolved, and this ambiguity is a critical driver in cycles of violence throughout the region.

Yet all too often this root cause of conflict is overlooked, with attention focused on the symptoms of conflict. Nowhere is this more the case than in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where discussions of the conflict tend to focus on its many tangible facets, including the role of minerals in exacerbating conflict; high levels of militarisation; and the chronic use of rape and sexual violence. All of these factors are extremely important and need to be addressed. Yet ultimately, they are symptoms of root causes that are driving the conflict. And if those are not addressed, peace and development cannot take root.
That's from Lucy Hovil's post at African Arguments on her and her co-authors' excellent new working paper Who Belongs Where? Conflict, Displacement, Land and Identity in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a must-read if you are working in or thinking about the Great Lakes region. It also provides particularly useful background as to the reasons that most academics studying the area do not consider the fighting there to be a "resource war," despite the myriad of press and advocacy reports that continue to call it such.


Blogger بنجامين گير said...

Isn't ethnicity just a euphemism for race? Why are people still writing about ethnicity as if it was something real? For a saner approach, please read Rogers Brubaker's articles "Ethnicity as Cognition" and "Beyond Identity".

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 2:41:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

No, in the academic literature there's a big difference between race and ethnicity. Race has to do with inherited physical characteristics (although most scholars still view it as a social construct) while ethnicity encompasses a broader range of identity markers (things like religion, language, culture, and shared history).

In my view, it doesn't matter whether ethnicity is "real" or not. What matters is that people behave as though it is real. It's hard to deny that on the basis of the available evidence.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 3:55:00 PM

Blogger بنجامين گير said...

Racists have always believed that race involves shared history and a broad range of cultural phenomena. Hence concepts like "Oriental despotism". If you look carefully at 19th-century racial ideology, I think you'll find a great deal of similarity with the current concept of "ethnicity". I suggest Adam Kuper's article "Return of the Native" (Current Anthropology, vol. 44, no. 3, 2003) for details.

It matters whether ethnicity is real or not, precisely because people believe it's real. When billions of people believe in a fiction, and that false belief leads to wars, inequalities and all sorts of other injustices all over the world, it seems to me that challenging this fiction becomes a very urgent matter indeed.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 4:06:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many thanks for posting this article. Although, in content, it contains nothing new, I hope that more people will read it and; thus, gain an understanding into the North Kivu conflict.

Also, I am deeply offended by the collective incrimination of Hutu people which seems to surface throughout the article. This idea that FDLR+ Interahamwe = Hutu is, at a minimum, very erroneous.

Categorizing Hutu as Genocidaires continues to legitimize Rwanda's dictatorship and exhaust all possibilities for dialogue.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 10:50:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

More research should be done on the meaning of Interahamwe to an average Congolese...For instance, does it mean Hutu or Tutsi?

Otherwise, the research (through their chosen quotes) seems to mislead that the majority of violence is perpetrated by Hutu/Interahamwe--which is probably not the case.

Also, the hatred towards Interhamwe--or the Hutu who migrated to Congo after the 1994 genocide might be more economical than their genocidal orientation.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 11:02:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

I don't think the report characterizes all Hutus as Interhamwe. That said, it's very clear that most Interhamwe were Hutus, and a good bit of the leadership of the FDLR are Hutus who were Interhamwe.

Could you give specific examples of pages or quotes where you think the report characterizes all Hutus as supportive of or part of the extremist groups?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 7:47:00 PM

Blogger Nkunda said...


Perhaps, I should have been more clear.

I don't think it is the report's objective to characterize all Hutus as genocidaires. But I do think the report, perhaps, wanting to be politically correct is quick to equate Interahamwe for FDLR.

While it is true that the FDLR is composed of some people who served in the FAR and Interahamwe militias, I stick to my earlier view that collectively incriminating the FDLR as a genocidal force leaves little room for a peaceful solution. Besides, I doubt that the primary motive of the FDLR is to wipe out Tutsi. I think they are more interested in power, and will certainly do anything to get it.

Yet the authors of the report are correct in stating that no amount of military power will solve what is essential a political problem.

Also, although the CNDP is composed of elements of the Rwandan army, you do not see this fact being highlighted. For instance, we wouldn't say the CNDP/Tusti/RPF.

That CNDP would seem as a more legitimate force is a dangerous double standard that exacerbates the feeling of exclusion among the Hutu community.

I hope this makes more sense.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 9:36:00 PM


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