Letter: Tribalism takes place here, too

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your thoughtful leading article, 'Africa is not a lost Continent', (13 April) nevertheless repeats the familiar tale of tribalism, war, and failure of democracy. All too often, in some of the press, the story starts with the withdrawal of the white man, as if history, often authoritarian, violent and undemocratic, had no bearing on what follows.

We have had our tribalism, too, with wars in Wales, Scotland, and a continuing one with the Irish. Our often bloody, imperial conquest of a thousand alien tribes - hundreds in Nigeria alone - should make us hesitate about being too superior about African 'tribalism'. The history of 'our tribe', when examined objectively throughout what we call colonial, empire or commonwealth history, is quite sobering. We poked our long noses into everyone's business in the four corners of the world.

We did not always behave altruistically either in abandoning our former colonies, and occasionally, as in Nigeria, bent the Independence Elections to leave our friends in control. The consequences of that particular favouritism left up to two million dead in Biafra.

Your editorial is both sympathetic to Africans regarding the awful problems they face, and quietly hopeful. This is precisely the stance to adopt on the eve of the momentous elections shortly to take place in South Africa.

Yours sincerely,

HAROLD SMITH

Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire

12 April

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