COMMITTEE: AD-HOC COMMITTEE ON POLITICAL INSTABILITY
TOPIC: ESTABLISHING STABLE GOVERNMENTAL STRUCTURES INPOST-CRISIS STATES.
AGENCY: AL JAZEERA
By Thomas Wakiaga
How And Why Political Instability Is Still On The Rise
Have you ever asked yourself why African and Arab states are the countries most prone to political violence? What do the two have in common? For one, they have a history of Western imperialism; a system built on divide and rule with the aim of exploiting the area for raw materials to feed their insatiate industries. In the wake of this was tribalism and leaders continuing the legacy of corruption set by their Western predecessors and…violence.So what is political instability? It is the propensity of a government to fail and collapse under pressure from radicals and/or an unsatisfied populace.
Political instability is the fruit of the tree of imperialism. Africa and Asia’s three-century long season of foreign dominance was dependent on dismantling national unity and replacing it with tribal and ethnic intolerance. The scars of this are clearer now more than ever as phrases such as “I am Yoruba” or “I am Shona” have become inseparable from the way Africans perceive themselves. Take the 2007 post election violence in Kenya as an example. The extent to which the nation was divided along ethnic lines revealed itself in the way that one’s response to the question, “What tribe do you belong to?” determined whether one would live or die when the men wielding machetes invaded homesteads. Tribalism has become such a salient part of African culture that media stations are even able to make prognostications of the likelihood of a presidential candidate winning based on their appeal among different tribes and the overall population of those tribes. The question begs, what impact does ethnic politics have on political instability?
When a candidate’s main selling point is their ethnicity rather than their policy, they will have a tendency towards abuse of power. In Rwanda in 1994 the few who held power decided to entrench their control even further by means of an ethnic cleanse. Presently in Uganda their incumbent president prepares for his fifth term in office, a feat that he could only accomplish by first amending legislation. Political instability is encouraged by an inert population who do notread the fine print of the contract they sign on their nation’s future through their vote. According to research carried out on Kenya by Stephen Keverenge at the US-based Atlantic International University in 2008, 58% of respondents didn’t know that their parties even had manifestos.
Thus the rise of tribalism and the fall of nationalism and Pan Africanism have a positive correlation with political instability. Democracy fails to see the light of the day in the political scene in African and Arab countries, resulting in an unsatisfied populace who choose to take up arms against what they rightly perceive as injustice. The Arab Spring crisis was the result of generations of rule through impunity brought to an end by a combination of ordinary civilians fed up with the system.
Civiceducation is the solution to this quagmire. With everyday civilians being sensitized about their political power, they will finally be able tobe actively involved in their own governance. Politicians in politically unstable areas will at long last be held accountable for the promises and declarations that got them elected and failure to do so will result in their immediate dismissal. Democracy in the developing world will at last become a reality and not an empty title, as it is now.
The media also has an instrumental role in this process. Currently, state run media is used as a government propaganda weapon; vulnerable to abuse by the political elite whose intentions are to divide the nation and spread hatred. Instead, the fourth estate needs to be the people’s attorney and vigorously defend the common person’s interests at every opportunity. Looking at the developed world we see the rise of independent media, largely through the Internet has brought even greater transparency to journalism. Though the developing world’s online presence is yet to be considered as substantial enough to impact serious change across nations, in the coming years we will notice a paradigm shift.
In closing, let it not be said that this editorial endorsed a denial of ethnic culture. Rather ethnic diversity should be celebrated as opposed to politicized. Again, the mass media also has a role in helping to drive this change. By having multiethnic representation in locally produced arts the general public will grow to empathise with those of different backgrounds than them and soon we will see political instability in the developing world as a thing of the past.