Tribalism In Africa: Treat Me Good, I’ll Treat You Better; Treat Me Bad And I’ll Treat You Worse

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I write for infoboxx which is an informational portal that attempts to enhance and empower the lives of our audience by delivering topical, educational, entertaining, and useful information.

Below is my first article submission to publication.

Ethnicity, tribalism and xenophobia all stem from an irrational fear of people based on their ethnic and tribal background, or country of origin. The notion of tribe and ethnicity is still a contentious subject in Sub-Saharan Africa. Some tribal nuances continue to reinforce our suspicions about other tribes. On my maternal side, I am an Assin from Nyakumasi Ahenkro in the Central Region of Ghana.

On my paternal side, I am an Akyem from Oda in Ghana’s Eastern Region. I was informed that my maternal great-great grandmother was married to a man from the Northern part of Ghana, and that my paternal great-great grandmother was Ewe. In South Africa, where I spent my childhood and early adulthood, I was very aware of the tribal tensions between Zulu’s and Xhosa’s, and Xhosa’s and Tswana’s. I have heard Tswana and Sotho women chastise Xhosa women in Johannesburg.

Some have gone as far as to tell them to stop speaking Xhosa in Johannesburg or else return to the Eastern Cape, a mainly Xhosas province. The Vendas and Tshonga who lived in the Northern part of South Africa, were seen by all the other tribes in South Africa as the lesser tribe and were often ridiculed for their dark skins and accents when they spoke English. As a foreigner in South Africa, I was called all sorts of names growing up. “Ama Ghana”; “Qwereqwere” (a derogatory name for foreigner) were a few.

I remember being chased down the road by children in my neighbourhood in the Ciskei. “Ama Ghana Hamba kuye khaya” (Ama Ghana Go Home) they would shout. I must have been 5 years old. This was my first xenophobic experience. I am not too sure how I internalized this experience as a child, but it left an indelible mark on my future interactions with black South Africans.

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