Given the outbreak of violence and the targeting of fellow Africans, it is easy for to pile on and exacerbate situations by berating South Africa in totality. However, before traveling down the lanes of collective judgement, it is prudent to think twice about that course of action. Though we must condemn violence, we must be mindful not to assign blame to all South Africans for the transgressions of a fraction of society.
Incendiary rhetoric and talk of retribution will not bring back lost lives nor will they mend wounds that have been wrought at the hands of mob justice. Nothing will be gained by lashing out and denigrating one another, we need voices of sanity to emerge instead of being led by hotheads who react and ask questions never. What is needed the most is forbearance and the courage to speak against the bitterness that continue to fuel these random acts of bloodshed in South Africa and lesser forms of onslaughts that take place throughout the continent on a daily basis.
Though there is no excuse for targeting innocent souls and murdering in the name of retribution, if we are to prevent these deadly assaults from happening in the future, we must understand the root causes that are leading people to such extreme behaviors. Hopelessness and desperation drives people to commit unspeakable horrors, these actions we otherwise ignore when they are being done against each other shock our conscience when they are being done to us by one another.
Throughout Africa, every day countless thousands of people perish due to lack of food, water or access to health care—these too are acts of violence against our own people. Needless losses of life bleed into the recesses of our minds and we accept the suffering of people as the cost of doing business only to be snapped out of compliance when our group is attacked by another. This is the very form of tribalism that is driving the hostility towards outsiders in South Africa and the reaction it is generating from other nationalities is also rooted xenophobia.
Before we add logs on the fire of malice and point fingers out of wrath, we should really think twice about our own contributions to the ongoing anguish that is burdening the lives countless millions across Africa. Our continent has enough resources to enrich the world yet our people live shrouded in poverty, adversity and strife. Sure we can look outward and point to external influences that are ravaging the continent as invisible hands with lighter complexions plunder our resources while giving us donated rice in return. But at some point, we have to look within ourselves in order to liberate and redeem our own people.
Instead of vilifying South Africans for the excesses of a minority, let us ask hard questions about why we can’t work together, why we have distrust for one another and why we find it easier to idolize outsiders than it is to be there for one another. Wilhelm Stekel once said that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference, it is obvious to see hate being manifested in the form of burning tires and bloody machetes, the harder task is to understand the indifference evidenced by our refusal to unite for the sake of our collective prosperity.
How many more years will we suffer apart? How many more decades will we continue to let colonial borders and political ideologies divide us? How many more centuries will we let our differences deter us from having a united mindset? The key to our redemption is in our hands; if we embrace the value of partnership instead of maliciously competing with one another, the world will truly become an oyster before us.I am tired of saying “this is #Africa” whenever there is a bad development back home, I look forward to a day when I say “this is Africa” with pride when I see our people prospering collectively. #Ethiopia Click To Tweet
There is only one way to the Promised Land of self-sufficiency and that is through collaboration. We must pick up the mantle of a United Africa and work towards a new paradigm of continental solidarity. Doing so requires us to shed our tribal lenses and focus on our commonalities. Or we can choose differently and demonize each other, one act of violence begetting another act of violent rhetoric, only for the cradle of humanity to continue languishing in the basement of the global economy.
Lij Teodrose Fikremariam is the Chair of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. He is the direct descendant of Atse Tewodros II, the once Emperor of Ethiopia who united a fractured nation during Zemene Mesafint (age of princes) and imbued Ethiopia with a sense of togetherness that enabled them to eventually defeat Italy at the battle of Adwa. Lij Teodrose was born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia but grew up in America. He has a Bachelor of Arts from George Mason University and an Masters of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. Lij Teodrose believes in one Ethiopia and that a nation can only be judged by the wellness of the least among us.