Letter: Tribal struggles in modern Africa

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Sir: Richard Dowden's article 'My tribe, not my nation' has aroused my interest.

Uganda and Ethiopia are among the poorest countries in the world. While Uganda as a national state was the result of recent colonial making, the Ethiopian state had been in existence for hundreds of years. For all that period more than 80 or so tribes have co-existed in relative harmony.

Uganda and Ethiopa are led by former guerrilla movements. Uganda's ruling NRM and Ethiopia's TPLF owe their present status to the alliances they forged with foreign interests. The NRM's military was dominated by Rwandese refugees at the time it put Yoweri Museveni at the leadership of Uganda. Those refugees, having consolidated the position of Museveni, use Uganda as their base to wage war on Rwanda.

Ethiopia's ruling TPLF is in power with help of now-independent Eritrean allies. Although the TPLF has delivered independence to the Eritreans, the latter cannot stand as a self-sufficient entity. They rely on Ethiopia for handouts. That dependency could not continue without the TPLF.

The NRM and TPLF cannot support changes that would bring in a democratically elected government to replace their guerrilla movements. That would damage the interests of their foreign mentors from neighbouring Rwanda and Eritrea. Without the Rwandese, Museveni could not survive militarily. Likewise Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia cannot survive without the Eritrean military muscle.

The regimes in both countries continue to violate human rights and are anti-democratic. Yet, to survive, they have to be seen as progressing towards democratic rule to attract the vital aid.

Yours faithfully,


London, W2