How do you stop ethnic interests influencing politics?

The ‘family’ and ‘tribe’ are a traditional way of organising African societies. But they can also be a source of conflict. Unscrupulous leaders can stoke tensions or focus resources on certain groups.

In this week’s episode, Claude asks three guests from south, east and west Africa about how we can stop ethnic interests from influencing politics in Africa. Is the idea of ethnic groups at odds with the idea of a modern state?

Evan Lieberman is professor of politics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He’s just written a book about South Africa’s post-Apartheid democracy called Until We Have Won Our Liberty. He tells us how ethnic interests are sometimes inevitable.

Mutemi wa Kiama is an activist and community organiser from Nairobi, Kenya. He’s part of the movement Wanjikũ Revolution and the media organisation This Is Africa. He’s Kikuyu, the same ethnic group as the Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta. But he is very critical of how ethnic groups are used by politicians in Kenya.

Bakary Sambe is the Director of the Timbuktu Institute-African Centre for Peace Studies and is based in Dakar, Senegal. He specializes in radicalisation in the Sahel region. He thinks ethnic conflict can often have deeper causes.

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Bakary Sambe, Evan Lieberman, Mutemi Wa Kiama