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Author Topic: Clan/'Tribal' Loyalties: A Hinderance to Unity  (Read 7354 times)
Ayinde
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« on: October 27, 2016, 10:37:37 PM »


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaka

A clan is a closely related group of people under a single leadership, whereas a 'tribe'* may comprise many clans. Usually, clan members can trace their family history back to a common ancestor. Clan loyalties promote cohesiveness among small groups because members are aware of their extended family ties; thus, one is first loyal to direct family, then by extension, to the clan. Clan structures also usually ensure that marriages are exogamous, thereby eliminating close-relation inbreeding.
 
Clan and tribal loyalties have a valuable place in our history as within them are historical relationships and social structures that have allowed groups of people to survive. Having the responsibility of securing the clanship, elders were respected as the repositories of survival skills and knowledge. Today, with increased literacy and with the rapid availability of information via literature and technological conveniences, people can learn from far and wide, thus diminishing the critical role of the elder.

Clanship developed as the human population expanded and broke up into smaller, more manageable groups. Given that the immediate survival of the clan was heavily dependent upon group cooperation, western, materialistic individualism would not have been valued or encouraged. Individualism promotes greed, hoarding and ‘selfishness’, so it is understandable if these qualities are not valued within clan societies.  Surely, these negative attributes should not be acceptable in any society.

Once societies became complex, encompassing people who are not closely related, and who often have no memory of their historical ties, then clan loyalties that do not respect the rights of others can be to the detriment of all. Thus, our values today, especially since we are no longer entirely dependent on close family ties for our survival, and live among others who are not close family members, should be expanded to appreciate these realities. Loyalty to a clan or 'tribe' that is not respectful of the rights and values of others can only breed strife. Concepts of morality, compassion and most importantly empathy, would not be extended to others; thus people would remain with a distorted perception of justice and would lack social cohesion. This is evident in most societies today.
 
Clan and tribal loyalties that are not consciously evolving to embrace all people is a hindrance to proper social development and unity. These divisions are exploited by some whose sole intent is to steal resources.

When I advocate Conscious Self Development or Conscious Development (same thing really), I am speaking about people taking responsibility as individuals for developing their character among other social skills. I am speaking about individuals, while working among the collective, doing the work to learn and expand their awareness of our extended family so that we can have better relations with all manner of people. This work is about people developing to be the best they can be. Individuals should not wait on group-think to make personal improvements. People need to develop empathy and learn to act in the best interest of all people. This allows us more tools to address and redress historical wrongs. While respecting the rights of everyone, we cannot embrace all manner of people, including family members, who are not about developing themselves towards addressing historical wrongs like Slavery, Racism, Colorism and Gender inequalities among other ills that plague us today.

Slavery has demonstrated how strong clan and tribal bonds allowed Arab and European slave traders to make deals among different groups of Africans for them to capture and sell off each other. What developed on the continent left many African 'tribes' and clans with some measure of complicity in the Slave Trade.

Pan Africanism developed, in part, to deal with the shortcomings of clan and tribal loyalties in the hope of uniting African people on the continent and in the diaspora around the common goal of defeating colonial exploitation. Of course, the strength of clan loyalty is one reason Pan Africanism has not been so successful as the various class and caste loyalties associated with clan and tribal societies meant that many who felt they were benefitting from slavery and colonialism were wary of losing their ill-gotten status.


*Some people object to the use of the word "tribe" and I generally agree with them. However, in this context, I am unfamiliar with another word to use. Readers who have an alternative term are free to suggest it.
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Nakandi
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« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2016, 09:14:02 PM »

Ayinde you wrote, "Clan and tribal loyalties have a valuable place in our history as within them are historical relationships and social structures that have allowed groups of people to survive." There are still a great number of people who depend on group security for their physical survival today. Abandoning that structure would not seem to be in their best interest.

"Slavery has demonstrated how strong clan and tribal bonds allowed Arab and European slave traders to make deals among different groups of Africans for them to capture and sell off each other. What developed on the continent left many African 'tribes' and clans with some measure of complicity in the Slave Trade." I used to, and still somewhat find this argument harsh. Sacrificing a life for the group was a widespread practice that promoted survival, even within a clan or 'tribe'. In the case of the slave trade, the intra-clan sacrifice was replaced with inter-clan sacrifice (for the most part). Isn't saying that they were complicit a form of 'victim blaming'?

Clanship or tribe is about identity for many. If people move away from these structures, what identity are they to take on?

Furthermore, is clan/'tribe' loyalty different from patriotism?

I shared the initial commentary on my Facebook page. These two comments were made by two users;

"All the white clans are loyal to WS ...." and "Agree with reservations. In my clan we have Banyoro, Banyakole, Black and White Canadians, Gaelic people. But we still honour our ancestors. An open mind and a vision of advancing the goals of the clan is not something that comes easy, but it has enabled our survival many times over when bullets were flying in Uganda." Care to address them, Ayinde?

Lastly, I have been in discussions with continental Africans who are firm believers that such topics should be dealt with strictly by continental Africans. What is your take on this?
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Ayinde
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« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2016, 05:54:07 AM »


Members of two tribal groups threw rocks at one another across barricades on Tuesday in
the Mathare slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Credit Evelyn Hockstein for The New York Times  
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/02/world/africa/02kenya.html
I believe the use of this image constitutes fair use


There are still a great number of people who depend on group security for their physical survival today. Abandoning that structure would not seem to be in their best interest.

Unity among clans and 'tribes' across the continent will offer the best security. I am not saying that people must, or even could, simply abandon their clans, but they should start learning about the issues that are plaguing Africans on the continent and in the diaspora, and how traditional structures contribute to problems. They need to appreciate that a different approach is needed. Clans and 'tribes' should consider the history, experiences and views of pro-Africans in the diaspora towards building bridges to become a formidable force. People also need to encourage politicians to build bridges. Mutual respect must be developed to achieve this. The structures of caste and class, together with the undervaluing of women, are inimical to our interest.

Isn't saying that they were complicit a form of 'victim blaming'?

Saying that Africans were complicit in slavery is not victim blaming. Many Africans got involved in the slave trade to preserve their own clan/’tribe’ (This is understandable, but not a justification). Capturing and selling Africans into chattel slavery was wrong even for those who felt threatened. The limited scope of the bonds of clan and ‘tribal’ loyalties is why Africans could not put up a united front to fight against the trade in fellow Africans. Further, even after the brutality of the slave trade became widely known, and even when there were efforts to abolish it, some clans and ‘tribes’ lobbied for it to be maintained to preserve their profits. Certainly, those who profited from the slave trade cannot be called victims.

Clanship or tribe is about identity for many. If people move away from these structures, what identity are they to take on?

I agree that clanship/tribalism is one form of identity which has some purpose; what makes that kind of identity strong is that people are aware of their genealogical ties. However, in this modern era, people could develop, they could learn, and they could trace their history, not only to a clan or a 'tribe', but to all people on the continent, and discover connections all the way back to our earliest common ancestors. Thus, an African identity from the perspective of learning from all the diverse groups of Africans, especially with the knowledge that we all evolved from that continent, has a unifying effect beyond one’s own direct family, clan or ‘tribe’. Learning in this way can allow one to develop empathy with ALL Africans. In my opinion, this is in the best interest of all Africans as it gives us the unifying strength to combat the negative effects of white supremacy. If people move away from the limitations of clans, or if clans and their structures evolve to recognise their interconnectedness with all people on the continent then they would evolve to gain greater strength. The identities people can therefore assume would be one that is far greater than a clan or ‘tribal’ identity. In so doing, they would form bonds with and learn from Africans across the continent and the diaspora, even from our ancestors across the continent.

Furthermore, is clan/'tribe' loyalty different from patriotism?

Clan/ ‘tribe’ loyalty is like patriotism in that people are expected to favour whichever side they belong, even if the side is not deserving or wrong. This kind of loyalty is not in the best interest of the side that one favours, for it often rewards corruption and mediocracy among other ills, and usually denies meritocracy. Where they differ is that the bonds of clan and ‘tribal’ loyalty often run deeper as it involves the people who are very close—immediate family and friends—and social structures that are not that easy to disregard. Patriotism can easily shift from country to country or team to team.

"All the white clans are loyal to WS ...."

This is generally true; it is unfortunate that all African clans are not loyal to Black Empowerment -- the development of all Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. Divided Africans cannot defeat white supremacy.

There is little to comment on this response: “Agree with reservations...” because the individual should have spelt out what they were.

Lastly, I have been in discussions with continental Africans who are firm believers that such topics should be dealt with strictly by continental Africans. What is your take on this?

Those who believe that topics like this should be dealt with strictly by continental Africans are not considering the fact that many diasporic Africans have an interest in repatriating to the continent. This line of argument also does not take into consideration that we live in an ever-increasingly interconnected world where the problems that affect one country can easily spill over to affect persons elsewhere. The current refugee crisis is a good example of this. Part of the reason many continental Africans are risking their lives to escape problems in Africa (and who require us outside of the continent to assist) is because of the problems associated with the limitations of clan and ‘tribal’ loyalties, and the inability to unify all Africans to resist colonial and neocolonial exploitation. So, having these discussions is important for all Africans in and outside the continent to assist in alleviating problems that affect all of us.
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Zaynab
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« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2016, 12:39:53 PM »

The points brought forward in this post are important both for understanding the dynamism and organisation of African societies. There is disunity on the continent. In western societies individualism generally describes the various ways in which persons’ ‘Me, Me, Me’ attitudes shape their choices. Africa is like a larger representation of this. It is individualistic on a clan/tribal level (something I discovered while traversing tribalism in Africa). These connections have not aided the passage of valuable pieces of information which helped shape the way of life of African people in antiquity.

The past and its value system has eroded with time. The essence of the community as a unit has been gradually destroyed. Left now are empty traditions which place a greater focus on group affiliations than it does morality and compassion. Hence, there is greater value toward the clan rather than this or that life. This has done little more than affirm clan loyalties. An example of this is the Rwanda genocide (I am not dismissing the other forces which were at work here).

 Africa is not a country. This statement is often used to outline the size of Africa and to pay respect to the fact that diverse groups occupy this space. However, the above statement is also used by some to explain that there is no such thing as an African identity on the continent (Africa is a land of many different peoples). This point of view is not consciously intended to come across as malicious, but is instead used to affirm the distinctness among groups which can be positive, more so, without the attitudes that form a part of clan/tribe existence. With that said, Nakandi brought forward some nice questions which are not unique to her only, but may be the struggle of others given the reasoning on clan(ism) and tribalism discussed by Ayinde.

It is good that these questions were weighed and addressed. It leaves room for other curiosities to be brought forward and addressed in like manner.
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Nakandi
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« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2016, 01:07:45 AM »

I would like to discuss the ’t’ word - tribe

The word ’tribe’, especially when used in regards to an African context, has become a type of slur, and was perhaps initially meant to be one. Some people are therefore bothered by it; and while I understand them, I am not always bothered by it. For lack of a better analogy, I liken it to the term ‘nigger’. Internal use is completely different from outsiders’ use of the same term.

When a continental African asks me about which tribe I am from, I fully understand what they mean. They are asking about the group of people with whom I share a language that presently is not a sovereign group, and that is within a European geographical division of the continent (a country). I know that when they use it, they are not asking about a “backward inferior non political uncivilised” African invention, like Europeans or westernised groups usually mean.

Some Pan African diasporians have a fair understanding of the vast diversity within present day African countries, so I usually do not react to their use of the word. They too might want to know what additional identity one has to one’s citizenship. However, there are some Pan Africanists who look down on modern Africans, and only look to the ancient Egyptian civilisation as the African people to talk about. I usually reject their use of the word.

Like all slurs, the people of the recipient group react differently to them. Some continental Africans reject the word because of its racist connotations, and I get that. But when we are using a European language that was born out of a culture different from the one we are conveying, mismatches are bound to happen.

Most, if not all African languages have a translation for the term tribe, and most times it translates into “nation”. However, today’s definition of a nation does not fit the structure of these groups. Nation as used today could apply to pre-Arab invasion and precolonial groupings, not to the present ones ‘unified’ within one country. “Ethnic” has been proposed, yet it is not accurate either as several tribes can belong to the same ethnic group. Ethnic brings us back to an umbrella concept like an African country. The people share citizenship, but belong to different . . . tribes. (I am not aware of any African country that is made up of one group of people. Even the short-lived Republic of Biafra was made up of multiple groups.)

In verbal conversations, I usually ask, “which people are you from?” Persons with a continental upbringing OR awareness understand exactly what I mean. When a continental African asks me which country I am from I will answer Uganda. When they ask which tribe I am from, I will easily answer, Baganda. And if a person (usually a fellow Muganda) asks which clan I am from, I reply as a reflex, Njovu(elephant).
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Ayinde
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« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2016, 12:18:41 PM »

Nakandi, your contribution about the use of the word "tribe" in regards to Africa is greatly appreciated. I am quite aware of its racist connotations, but I am yet to find another word that addresses that specific sub-ethnic grouping among the many ethnic groups on the continent. I hope others come along and help develop this discussion.

I am offering this video extract from "Nuruddin Farah and Binyavanga Wainaina in conversation" as it speaks about some of what we are developing on this thread. I think though that some aspects of what he was saying came over badly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_-EWHEj5J0

Nuruddin Farah Speaks on Africa
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Ayinde
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« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2016, 02:24:08 PM »

There are some things being said in this video that are useful, depending on one’s view of development and the value of Western ‘development’. I agree that the nature of traditional ethnic loyalties and structures would make progress and unity very difficult to achieve. However, in the video, Nuruddin Farah questions the whereabouts of continental Africans as the west embarked on its feminist crusade. This line of questioning is where I disagree with his possible pro-Western idea of social improvement. Western concepts of feminism pale in comparison to what people can learn if they traverse the more egalitarian cultures in African history whose way of life span over one-hundred thousand years. A study of the Aka or Bayaka and other hunter-gatherer societies give better examples of male/female relations. Of course, I am not saying that we should go back to living as they did (although that would be way better than our current state) but we can traverse the wide and long span of African history for better models of social relations.  African history, before Arabic and European slavery and colonization, offers a variety of models of human socialization, some of which can solve present day problems.

Generally speaking, continental Africans seem to have accepted colonial boundaries and political structures as sacrosanct, and to an extent, western culture as superior.  I suspect that is the view of many African writers as they examine the problems and conflicts in Africa without a fair assessment of Africa’s history beyond their own ethnic group. People should examine Western concepts of development, but they should also examine African history to evaluate everything, especially social values, before accepting other people’s idea of development.
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Mukasa
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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2017, 10:05:09 PM »

For me, a Muganda, of the Kasimba clan, whose totem ..with so many other subsumed subdivisions which trace one's lineage up to the feet of his/her father. Clearly a very patrilineal based system. This means that one belongs to the clan of his father. Yet a certain level of respect is maintained for one's mother's clan.

A muganda cannot marry anyone within their father's clan, though there are exceptions for populous clans like the Ngabi (deer) or Mamba (clan) whose members can marry from subdivisions within their clans other than theirs.

Belonging to a clan bestows upon a Muganda a certain identity, for all newly born children are given a name that denotes the clan they belong to. At some point, occupations to be executed in the court of the Kabaka (the king) evolved to belong to certain tribes, for example, the Nte (Cow) clan is believed to be that of the Blacksmiths for the Kabaka or the Ngonge (Otter) clan is that of the barkcloth makers for the Kabaka (King). These occupations can be seen through the names which to an initiated ear resonate with the occupation of the particular clan.
How these clans came to be the holders of these respective roles, isn't so clear from the available literature. What one can see, however, seems to be conjecture or invented legends/myths, to me.
 

http://www.buganda.com/ebika.htm

Exogamy isn't prescribed just for one's clan, which is their father's clan, but also for their mother's clan. There is an exception here too. The Kabaka (King) belongs to his mother's clan not his father's just like everyone else. That way, every clan gets to produce a king, as it were. Though there exists a princely clan which he and his progeny belong to at the same time.

Question is, how do these traditions fit into the new changing Ganda/Ugandan/African/world societies or indeed a quickly globalising world?

A couple of years back, two lovebirds belonging to the Ndiga (sheep) clan made known to the female's parents their intentions to marry. Interestingly, they were resident in Botswana.

http://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1145623/clan-wedding-blocked-inside-story

As you can read from that link, Traditions and Custom were up held by the constitution of Uganda. So many years later, in retrospect, I found that court ruling unfair. Unfair because society's desires triumphed over individual desires.

I mean, really, by some degree of separation, belonging to the same clan doesn't necessarily mean such a union would be incestuous. Genetically, surely, if one belongs to a different subclan (essigga), there is enough genetic variation if they mated with another of a different sub-clan to mitigate the challenges of incest.

All that said, those tribes that practise exogamy, to a curious one, present interesting fodder for genetic studies. That is if exogamy presents unique attributes.
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Nakandi
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« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2017, 10:23:23 PM »

Question is, how do these traditions fit into the new changing Ganda/Ugandan/African/world societies or indeed a quickly globalising world?

This paragraph from Ayinde's first comment gives an idea to which direction to take in terms of the question above.
"...our values today, especially since we are no longer entirely dependent on close family ties for our survival, and live among others who are not close family members, should be expanded to appreciate these realities. Loyalty to a clan or 'tribe' that is not respectful of the rights and values of others can only breed strife. Concepts of morality, compassion and most importantly empathy, would not be extended to others; thus people would remain with a distorted perception of justice and would lack social cohesion. This is evident in most societies today."

My experience is that thinking outside a tribal identity is like giving up a personal identity. Even after years of being away from 'my people'. That is why I find this paragraph from the same comment a crucial one;
"When I advocate Conscious Self Development or Conscious Development (same thing really), I am speaking about people taking responsibility as individuals for developing their character among other social skills. I am speaking about individuals, while working among the collective, doing the work to learn and expand their awareness of our extended family so that we can have better relations with all manner of people. This work is about people developing to be the best they can be. Individuals should not wait on group-think to make personal improvements. People need to develop empathy and learn to act in the best interest of all people.(Emphasis mine.) This allows us more tools to address and redress historical wrongs. While respecting the rights of everyone, we cannot embrace all manner of people, including family members, who are not about developing themselves towards addressing historical wrongs like Slavery, Racism, Colorism and Gender inequalities among other ills that plague us today."
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