"The left claims that it’s fighting for equality. What it’s actually fighting for is a tribal society where the notion of equal rights for all is as alien as it is in Iraq, Rwanda and Afghanistan, where democracy means tribal bloc votes and where the despotism of majority rule invariably ends in terror and death."
Why does intersectionality include Palestinian Arabs but not minorities persecuted by Arabs like Yazidi in Iraq, the Copts in Egypt or the Bantus in Somalia? Why does it ignore Black-Black racism in Africa where dozens of different Black ethnic groups opress and persecute other minority Black ethnic groups? Discussed here are examples of discrimination and ethnic conflict in countries like Lybia, Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mauritania and Uganda.
Joanna Quinn from the University of Western Ontario wrote "The divisions within the country of Uganda are enormous. But the greatest of these appears to be related to differences in ethnicity. It is on this basis that the extreme violence that has been carried out since pre-colonial times has been perpetrated..."
Chrispas Nyombi from Canterbury Christ Church University & Ronald Kaddu from Kyambogo University wrote "In most African countries, people equate political power to economic benefits that accrue to the ethnic group of the incumbent leader. Those ethnic groups not in power would feel marginalised in some way or harbour the feeling that they are being excluded. In Uganda, ethnicity has always been linked to political and economic conditions, thus leaving some ethnic groups feeling socially and economically excluded. Social-economic exclusion refers to a dynamic process of being left out of social, economic, political or cultural systems which lie at the centre of integration within society. In Uganda, social-economic exclusion along ethnic lines, whether real or perceived, has played a significant role in the political upheaval in the post-independence era..."
"Uganda is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Africa, with over 40 ethnic groups. The people are mainly Bantu and predominantly live in the southern part of the mcountry. Bantu ethnic groups account for over 70 per cent of the country’s population. Nilotic ethnic groups make up 25 percent of the population and these mainly comprise of the Acholi, Langi and Alur ethnic groups from northern Uganda (15 percent) and Iteso and Karamajong from north eastern Uganda (10 per cent). The 2002 Uganda Census report places ethnic groups as follows: Baganda (17 per cent), Iteso (6.6 per cent), Ankole (9.8 per cent), Basoga (8.6 per cent), Banyarwanda (6%), Acholi (4.8 per cent), Bagisu (4.7 per cent), Langi (6.2 per cent), Lugbara (4.3 per cent), and other smaller ethnic groups are put at 30.7 per cent..."
Ethnic diversity often accompanies conflict for scarce resources such as power and wealth, and discriminative competition. Conflict over scarce resources is exacerbated by rapid demographic shifts with Uganda’s population growing at a rate of 3.5% a year.
In Uganda, ethnic diversity can be seen or perceived to motivate social economic discrimination, especially in the eyes of the Baganda. Although there is no defined policy based on ethnicity, it has been instrumentally used to meet political ends.
One way the ethnicity card has been used to entrench political power or access resources is through negative stereotyping. Stereotypes encourage the exclusion of a particular group based on conveniently constructed ideologies such as a perceived threat. For example, the Baganda are generally stereotyped as lacking in leadership qualities. The Banyoro are stereotyped as jealous and lazy, and the Banyoro in turn stereotype the Bakiga as unclean,arrogant and uncultured.
On November 24, 2020 Safia Farole reported in the Washington Post "In early November, Ethiopia’s federal government launched a military offensive in the country’s Tigray region...The Ethiopian state is structured according to the principle of ethnic federalism, with nine regional ethnic states and two federally administered city-states..."
"Did Ethiopia’s governing system contribute to the conflict? Ethiopia’s centuries-old monarchy fell in a 1974 military junta takeover, further contributing to ethnic tensions. Two movements in particular, the TPLF and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), pushed back against what they perceived as the domination of the Amhara ethnic group and the Amharic language. In 1991, the military regime collapsed and a resulting EPRDF coalition took power. Despite comprising only 6 percent of Ethiopia’s population, the Tigray enjoyed disproportionate power and influence in government after 1991."
Minorityrights.org reported "Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with an estimated 184 million people. It is also a country of stunning diversity, with some 250 different ethno-linguistic groups...Four groups – Fulani (Fula), Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo – account for around 68 per cent of the total population."
In 2019 Jenny Birchall wrote a report for the British government denouncing social exclusion in Nigeria "Religious minorities experience social, political and economic exclusion, as a result of differences with and discrimination from other religious communities, and treatment by state and federal government. Horizontal inequalities by ethnic group remain persistent for wealth, access to public services and education..."
Much of the literature on ethnicity and religion in Nigeria focuses on religious and ethnic identities as causal factors in conflict and instability. This literature examines, for example, conflict between Muslim herders and Christian farmers in the middle belt... World Bank analysis of social cohesion in Nigeria’s north east notes that social relations between ethnic clans, communities and extended families have been deeply damaged as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency and government response, and that economic, ethnic, religious, political and geographical divisions have hardened (World Bank, 2018, p. 10).
Religious minorities experience social, political and economic exclusion, as a result of differences with and discrimination from other religious communities, and treatment by state and federal government (Le Van et al., 2018, p. 26). The constitution bars federal and state governments from adopting a state religion and it prohibits religious discrimination, but it also allows for statelevel courts based on customary or common law (Idris, 2018, p. 12).
Although Sharia law does not technically apply to non-Muslims, non-Muslims in the north have been affected by related social norms, such as the separation of the sexes in schools (Idris, 2018 p. 12). Archibong (2018) argues that...horizontal inequality by ethnic group is persistent for wealth, access to public services and education in Nigeria. When disadvantage on the grounds of ethnicity and gender are combined, significant gaps in opportunities, particularly around education, remain strong in the north west and north east ethnic zones (Archibong, 2018,p. 343)...
In addition, state and local governments’ practices of treating ‘indigenes’ (‘original’ inhabitants) differently from ‘non-indigenes’ (who don’t live where their parents or grandparents were born) is the source of significant social exclusion. ‘Non-indigenes’ are prevented from owning land or standing in elections, and they face barriers in accessing education, social protection and public sector jobs..."
History.com reports "During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority in the east-central African nation of Rwanda murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority."
Henry Millar explained in 2014 in a report published by the University of Leeds "Hutu propaganda reignited the division between Hutu and Tutsi as Rwanda saw the birth of ‘Hutu Power’ following the 1990 invasion of the RPF (Mamdani, 2001).
The Hutu ‘Ten Commandments’ were published in ‘Kangura’, a government funded magazine which published hate-inciting propaganda about the Tutsi. Documents such as these laid the foundations of genocidal thinking as it rekindled the ideas of the ethnic inequality between Hutu and Tutsi.
The fourth commandment stated that ‘every Tutsi is dishonest in business. His only aim is the supremacy of his ethnic group’. This clearly shows the government depicting the Tutsi as a threatening ‘other’ looking to reimpose themselves upon Rwandan society as they had done post-colonisation. The eighth commandment proclaimed the ‘Hutu should stop having mercy on the Tutsi’ (Berry, 1999), this is a terrifying sign of what was to come in the following years..."
On April 30,2019 Kaitlin Smith interviewed Rwandan genocide survivor Jacqueline Murekatete in which she explained "In the case of Rwanda, the 1994 genocide against Tutsis rose from years of state-sanctioned discrimination against Tutsis...So growing up in Rwanda, I was well aware even before the genocide that Tutsis—my ethnic group—were considered second-class citizens…Between the years 1990 and 1994, you saw a series of dehumanization campaigns which portrayed Tutsis as snakes—as cockroaches that needed to be exterminated..."
Arab Racism against Blacks in Libya
The New YorkTimes wrote in the summer of 2018: "...In the Arab world, where racism is a deeply rooted yet rarely discussed issue, blackface comedy is facing a surge of criticism on social media, even forcing the occasional apology. But the practice remains widespread and acceptable enough to be a staple on major television networks.
"...The targets of that humor — most often from Sudan, a sprawling Arabic-speaking country in Africa — say there is nothing funny about it. “Blackface is disgusting and offensive,” said Sara Elhassan, a Sudanese writer in the United States. “It’s not just about skin color; it’s about stereotypes.”
Arab Racism against Blacks in Sudan
On February 7, 2011 Mathew Brunswasser reported in PRI (Public Radio International) about Arab racism against blacks in Sudan "...southern Sudanese consider themselves blacks while northerners see themselves as Arabs and treat blacks as second class..." the note goes on to explain how Sudan's former president Omar al Bashir would be considered black in America but in Sudan he is considered an Arab because "his color is not black totally..."
Arab Racism against Blacks in Somalia: The "Soft Hairs" vs. the Bantus
On February 13, 1994 The Seattle Times reported about racism in Ilhan Omar's Somalia. Ilhan Omar belongs to the Majeerteen Clan who are members of the Arab Darood family:. "Amid the hatred and violence that cut so many ways in Somalia, people of Arab descent with soft hair hold sway over those who wear the hard curls of an African."
The soft hairs, Somalis whose ethnic roots are buried in the sands of the Arabian Peninsula, own the businesses, carry the guns and run the political factions that are vying to replace deposed dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
Warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid is a soft-hair. Arab-descended Somalis have also robbed their hard-haired countrymen, many of whose ancestors were East Africans, of their farms and forced them into modern-day servitude that borders on slavery. "Somalia has a racism problem. It's one of the dirty little secrets that the civil war has exposed," said Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia scholar and U.N. adviser from Davidson College in North Carolina.
"The distinction is not color, but ancestry. The Somalis of Arab descent call their brethren "tiimo jereer" - hard hairs. Or, more honestly, "addoon" - slave. That is what many were a century ago and what they have become again since civil war ripped away what little protection they had.
"For lack of a more accurate term, aid workers call the East African-descended people Bantus after the group of languages many of their ancestors spoke. New deeds written Under Siad Barre's 22-year regime, the 300,000 or so Somali Bantus lost much of their land to government officials who simply wrote themselves deeds to the richest farms along the Jubba and Shabeelle rivers of southern Somalia. During the famine, those landless Bantus were the first to go hungry.
"When Siad Barre fell, the Somali clan gunmen came, again forcing Bantus from their farms, raping Bantu women and settling into a pattern of routine extortion that could only be called servitude by terror. 'We have to work for the people who stole our land. Our girls have to work as servants in our own houses,' said Aden Yusuf Aden, 28, a resident of Sagaalaad, a predominantly Bantu village on the banks of the crocodile-infested Shabeelle, 19 miles west of Mogadishu..."
In 2015 World Bulletin reported "Between the two only permanent rivers in arid Somalia, the Juba and Shabelle, lays one of the most fertile lands in the continent. For years, it has made Somalia the highest producer of bananas in Africa. It is Somalia's food basket and a land that has been fought over by successive warlords during two decades of war.
"This is the home of a minority community known as the Jareerwayne, or Somali Bantu, who number one million out of the country's population of 10 million, according to the UNHCR. Unlike their pastoralist neighbors, Bantus are a farming community. The Bantus, or Jareerwayne as they prefer to call themselves, are also different in physical appearance. They share negroid features of wooly hair and broad noses – unlike ethnic Somalis, who have Caucasoid features like milky hair and straight noses.
"'Our ancestors were brought to Somalia from Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi as slaves more than 400 years ago, mostly to toil on the fertile land along the Shabelle and Juba,' Hussein Abdi, a 36-year-old Somali Bantu living as a refugee in Nairobi's mainly Somali Eastleigh district, told the Anadolu Agency. But even after the abolition of slavery and Somalia's independence from Italy in 1960, the ethnic minority, which has been vital to the national economy, has felt marginalized, 'I fled Mogadishu ten years ago and sought refuge in Kenya,' said Ahmed. 'I couldn't take the fighting anymore, but above all I couldn't live like I was – a second-class citizen with no rights,' he lamented. 'We are always looked down upon in Somalia.'
"...The Somali civil war led to a large exodus of Somali Bantus who crossed over to Kenya, while others –who could trace their original tribes back to the time before their ancestors were sold in the Zanzibar slave market by Arabs and Swahilis – were resettled in Tanzania. Most of their homes back in Somalia were destroyed by invading clan militias and their farms taken by new migrating Somali clans..."
The Muslim\Arab Slave Traders
Wikipedia says: "Slavery in Somalia existed as a part of the Arab slave trade. To meet the demand for menial labor, Bantus from southeastern Africa captured by Somali slave traders were sold in cumulatively large numbers over the centuries to customers in Somalia and other areas in Northeast Africa..."
Desmond Berg wrote in April 30, 2018 on Sovereignnations.com "...some historians assert that as many as 17 million people were sold into slavery on the coast of the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, and North Africa, and approximately 5 million African slaves were bought by Muslim slave traders and taken from Africa across the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Sahara desert between 1500 and 1900 ( “Focus on the slave trade”. BBC). The captive slaves were sold in slave markets throughout the Middle East."
"...Ethnic Bantu slaves bought by Arab slave traders from southeastern Africa were sold in cumulatively large numbers over the centuries to customers on the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, and European colonies in the Far East of Asia (Gwyn Campbell, The Structure of Slavery in Indian Ocean Africa and Asia, 1 edition, (Routledge: 2003)..." Read more at A history of Arab Slave Trade in Africa.
David Gakunzi wrote in the JCPA in September 2018 "...The Arab slave trade was characterized by appalling violence, castration, and rape. The men were systematically castrated to prevent them from reproducing and becoming a stock. This inhumane practice resulted in a high death rate: six out of 10 people who were mutilated died from their wounds in castration centers. The Arab slave trade also targeted African women and girls, who were captured and deported for use as sex slaves."
"According to the work of some historians, the Arab slave trade has affected more than 17 million people. In the Saharan region alone, more than nine million African captives were deported and two million died on the roads. This despicable phenomenon was legitimized by Islam, as Christianity would later condone the transatlantic slave trade. For example, the Tunisian Arab historian Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) wrote that “the only peoples to accept slavery are the Negroes, because of their lower degree of humanity, their place being closer to the animal stage.”
"When they arrived at destinations, the captives were sold in the slave markets of Cairo, Baghdad, Istanbul, Mecca, and other centers. These slaves played various roles in the economy of the Muslim world. They were used as servants, harem keepers, laborers in fields, mines, and hydraulic yards, and as cannon fodder in armies.
"Ill-treatment sometimes led slaves to rebellion. For example, the revolt of the Zanj, which occurred near the city of Basra in Iraq in 869, lasted 15 years. Under the command of Ali Ibn Muhammad, slaves from East Africa and the Great Lakes region rose up, took control of many cities, and founded an embryonic state. They were defeated only in 883.
"The Arab slave trade had a tragic impact on the evolution of African societies. Some areas were completely devastated and depopulated. Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904) was a horrified witness of this traffic. He wrote that after the depredations of the Arab traffickers, 'the black blood flows toward the north, the equator smells corpses.'
"The Arab slave trade also promoted the development of racialist and essentialist theories that view blacks as inferior by nature. In many Arab countries this racism still exists; for example, the same words are used to describe Africans, blacks, and slaves..."
Slavery today in Somalia and Mauritania
Nikala Pieroni reported in November 12, 2015 on a site that has since been suspended that slavery still exists in Somalia "....According to many, Somalia is a state that is very vulnerable to modern slavery...city centers in both Puntland and Somaliland are used to transport people from southern and rural Somalia up into other parts of Africa...
The essay by Kathleen Fitzgibbon entitled 'Modern Day Slavery?' also brings up a situation that has been large in Somalia, the use of children in warfare. While she states that this does not just happen in Somalia, she explains that many children in Africa are abducted and forced to fight in civil wars, which Somalia has been a part of for many years. There is a desperation in small militias to produce enough power to fight, and forcing people into militaristic slavery is one way that this has happened..
There is also slavery in Mauritania. On its August 2019 issue Le Monde Diplomatique denounced the racism in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania "Ahmed made mint tea while Abdallah talked in a mix of French and Pulaar, a Fula language spoken in Mauritania: ‘Mauritania’s completely racist. Everyone knows, but no one talks about it. That’s off limits!’ At the top are the Bidhan [lighter-skinned Arab Berbers, ‘white Moors’]. They own everything. Then there’s us, the West Africans.’ Abdallah tapped his forearm with his index finger. ‘And at the bottom there are the Haratin. They’re Moors, too, and speak the same language as the Bidhan, but they’re black like us.’ He tapped his forearm again. ‘They used to be the Bidhan’s slaves and now they’re looked down on even more than us.’
Biram Dah Abeid was just 8 when he became aware of slavery in his home country of Mauritania. He saw a defenseless youth being beaten by a man—a common experience, his parents explained, for the thousands of Mauritanians still treated as chattels by their "masters." Biram himself was of slave descent; his own grandmother was born into slavery.
Biram promised that day that he would resist. And in 2008, he founded the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA-Mauritania). Alongside other Mauritanian antislavery organizations, such as SOS-Esclaves, IRA-Mauritania has sought to break the official silence that enables slavery to persist by using nonviolent tactics: reporting and publicizing cases, assisting victims and holding sit-ins and demonstrations. For this, Biram and his colleagues have been imprisoned on numerous occasions..."
On August 3, 2011 Sy Hamdu reported in Pambazuka News (a website that advocates for freedom and justice in Africa) about a conference in France to discuss the discrimination and enslavement of blacks in Mauritania "The conference held on Saturday 25 June 2011 and organised by Biram Dah Abeid gave rise to a particular interest and enthusiasm on the part of some of the main political actors and their associates within the Mauritanian diaspora in France.
In discussing slavery and state racism, our host Biram, president of the IRA (Initiative de Résurgence du mouvement Abolitionniste de France-Mauritanie), emphasised the ‘the ideological and religious foundations of slavery and racism with the state in Mauritania’....Biram returned to the central facts around slavery in Mauritania, notably the practice of guardianship – women and children are left to the cruelty of men and women, heartless masters with neither faith or reason.
"...'Where is the compassion of this community calling itself Muslim? What human values form their identity? What goes on in the heads of those men and women who exercise such cruelty, barbarism and cynicism? The inhumanity of these practices challenges our very confidence in what’s human when humanity is capable of undertaking such acts. An ideological, military and police machinery is consistently mobilised to this effect. There has never been any form of respite for the men, women and children assigned to the deadly status of slaves.'
"'Mauritanian society is deeply slavery-oriented and as such has produced deeply unjust inequalities. Certain techniques involving humiliation, torture and even being put to death are employed in the aim of keeping slaves dependent on their masters through fear, shame and submission.
"Biram explained this in strong terms; the master recognizes no right to a dignified life or free black existence as human beings. As a result, children and women remain without protection or security, being at the mercy of arbitrary, cruel and unbearable Moorish masters who defy contemporary humanity through the use of barbarous and wicked treatment and the denial of the most basic of rights. ... This system is rooted in an enduring ideological base, one which constitutes an untouchable and immutable dogma and which gives rise to a logic of extermination and annihilation of the moral and ethical character of black people.
"...Mauritania as a racist and slave state must be overcome for the purpose of building a fair, free and egalitarian Mauritanian society. This Mauritania will be one in which citizens have the rights of citizenship, rather than one in which black people are reduced to indignity under Moorish oppression..."
Black Lives Matter could make a difference in the lives of people of color if it tried to change the situation in the countries described above instead of rioting in the USA. It might do even more good if it told the Palestinian Arab advocates to fight Arab persecution of minorities and leave democratic Israel out of the equation..
Ezequiel Doiny is author of "Obama's assault on Jerusalem's Western Wall"