How best to fight tribalism – academic perspective


Brow (2008) defines tribe as a grouping of people whose loyalty to their group is greater than their loyalty to a nation. It is against this background that tribalism should not be allowed to rear its ugly head in our beautiful country, Namibia.

Tribalism should not only be viewed as an African curse but rather a global curse. Belgium is currently in trouble, the country is likely to rupture into Flemish and French speaking.

Canada is in a similar tribal conundrum in the French Québec. In the past tribalism caused chaos in Czechoslovakia, resulting in Czechoslovakia breaking into Czech Republic and Slovakia. If tribalism thrives in Namibia, the repercussions are too ghastly to contemplate.

Studies have revealed that we can only fight tribalism effectively through nation building.

By nation building I am not talking about the common knowledge of shaping behaviour, values, languages, social institutions and physical structures, but I am talking about nation building at the emotional, spiritual and psychological level.

We should understand that nation-building does not only involve physical infrastructure development but rather fundamental principles of humanity that promote social equality and core existence.  Studies have further revealed that a nation can only be built if the backbone of tribal powers of the state is broken.

Get me well, I am not saying annihilate the tribal authorities in Namibia, my argument here is reduce tribal powers to strengthen nation building. It becomes too dangerous for a state to function properly if some tribes or groups of people feel they are loyal to themselves than to a nation. The hard question that arises from this argument is what could a state do in a situation where a certain group of people feel differently than the whole nation?

Well, studies have again revealed that we should introduce educational institutions to help council and educate the most radical members. Additionally, encourage intermarriage, encourage citizens to work in different parts of the country other than their own, restructure language policy in such a way that each learner is encouraged to take an indigenous language other than their own, as a minor subject – this should be compulsory.

If the above suggestions are fully implemented, nation building would be realised.

And in the long run our democracy will become viable and stable. We need to stop bickering about trivial issues such as tribalism, which do not grow us.

We should rather focus all our energy in promoting development and equal economic opportunities for all our people regardless of their colour, creed, race and sexual orientation. Capable young professionals should be given equal opportunities in the job market and they should not be judged based on the language they speak or surnames they carry.

Some social studies carried in sub-Saharan Africa have established that at least half of the educated young African professionals who do not belong to the tribes of those in power occupy strategic positions in governments.

It is too painful and disheartening to note that such things are still happening in certain parts of an independent Africa. We must fight tribalism tooth and nail. Africa has come a long way, we cannot afford to tribally divide ourselves now.

Finally, I should commend the Namibian government for its tremendous efforts in establishing national paraphernalia (national flags, anthem, holidays, army, national stadia etc.) but a lot should be done to unite our people at the emotional and spiritual levels.

For comment, contact me at

• Gerson Sindano is a final year Master of Arts in English student in the Department of Language and Literature Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Namibia


By Gerson Sindano



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