Nurturing a future of unity

Author: Henry Kamanyire. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • To truly break free from the chains of tribalism and prevent future conflicts, we must collectively commit to nurturing the next generation. 

As we  continue to celebrate International Day of Peace (September 21), the stark reality is that tribal conflicts continue to cast a shadow over many corners of the world. Lives are lost, properties destroyed, and the scars, both physical and mental, endure long after the dust settles. 

One of the most troubling aspects of these conflicts is how they often pit tribes against each other, with battles for recognition, supremacy, and control over resources at the heart of the strife. Uganda, is blessed with 65 different tribes, stands as both a testament to the beauty of diversity and a cautionary tale of its challenges. Nearly half of Uganda’s population is under the age of 14, which presents both opportunities and pitfalls in the fight against tribal conflicts.

It’s crucial to recognize that no child is born with tribalistic tendencies. Tribalism is not an innate trait but a learned behavior, often indoctrinated into children as they grow into adulthood. Generations have come and gone, but the specter of tribal conflicts remains, a testament to how the older generation passes down the torch of division.

As Robert Ricciardelli wisely observed, “Beware of the mind trap of mass consciousness. Your thoughts are not your own but have been conditioned by the mob of tribalism. Having a sense of belonging is wonderful, but it is disastrous when we diminish the other.” Children, during their informal education and growth, may inadvertently absorb tribal sentiments from parents, relatives, or peers. Worse yet, some may find themselves caught up in tribal clashes, their impressionable minds absorbing a toxic brew of hatred and prejudice. When children are exposed to these situations without the space to question the reasons behind them, they unwittingly become disciples of tribalism.

Tribalism, once indoctrinated into young minds, festers and evolves into unsolicited hate, often without a clear justification. This deeply rooted hatred becomes a fertile ground for tribal conflicts whenever a trigger, be it political, economic, or social, comes into play. Communities, in their intricate dynamics, are prone to triggers of conflict at both the household and community levels. When tribalism takes root, it becomes a ticking time bomb, ready to explode at the slightest provocation.

Even worse, some leaders, who should be beacons of unity and tolerance, either condone tribalism or remain silent, fearing that confronting the issue might dent their political capital or alienate them from their tribe.

Efforts to change perceptions and attitudes must start with our school going children. With funding from the European Union, KRC-Uganda is leading the charge in advancing peaceful coexistence and respect for human rights through the projects in Yumbe, Lamwo and Terego in Northern Uganda. 

They organize school debates, allowing children from diverse backgrounds to engage in discussions that promote peace and mutual respect. These debates foster unity among students from different tribes, including nationals and refugees.

To truly break free from the chains of tribalism and prevent future conflicts, we must collectively commit to nurturing the next generation. Children must be shielded from the ravages of tribal conflicts and guided towards embracing unity. Political leaders, church leaders, parents, and elders all have a role to play in fostering peaceful coexistence and respect.

As we continue to celebrate the International Day of Peace, let us reflect on how we can best nurture our children into becoming better citizens, free from the shackles of hate and tribalism. It’s a journey that requires dedication, empathy, and a collective commitment to building a world where diversity is celebrated, not feared, and unity prevails over division.

Henry Kamanyire,  Monitoring and Evaluation Officer