Recently, I have observed three television scenes that have reminded me of conflicts in Africa whose causes are a bit nebulous.
In Zanzibar, I saw people demonstrating for complete sovereignty. In other words, some people there do not want to be politically linked with mainland Tanzania, otherwise known as Tanganyika. In Mombasa, there were demonstrations of people demanding to know the whereabouts of their leader, a sheikh who is campaigning for secession of Mombasa from the rest of Kenya and the setting up of the Republic of Mombasa.
The third scene was that of Africans in Israel apparently objecting to being sent back to their countries. They were saying they were refugees, not criminals. Israel is a long way from black Africa. If they are real refugees, why did they not go to neighbouring African countries?
Whenever I look at the map of East Central Africa, I fume at the injustice inflicted on Malawians by those who were scrambling for and partitioning Africa. How I yearn for the days when our ancestors used to wander over large land masses without feeling conscious of migrating into foreign lands. The Malawi of today, which is only a fraction of its neighbours, we have accepted with resignation because the alternative would be quarrelling with neighbours. Way back in 1962 or 1963, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda had made a mild demand for Chewa and Tumbuka speaking parts of eastern Northern Rhodesia to reunite with Nyasaland in the revived Malawi. The leaders of Zambia Harry Nkumbula and Kenneth Kaunda were so furious that Dr Banda never repeated such remarks for the rest of his political life.
Why should people of Zanzibar wish to secede from Tanzania and why should the coastal region of Kenya wish to detach itself from East Africanâ€™s largest economy. It was easier to understand why South Sudan should secede from Sudan. the black south Sudanese had been treated as second-class citizens on account of their race and religion.
The African Union should sponsor studies of minority grievances in Africa and suggest remedies before the continent is aflame fighting secessionist wars. Indeed, what has dragged Kenya into the whirlpool of Somali conflicts is the demand by some of the rebels that the part of Kenya which is occupied by ethnic Somaliâ€™s should be re-annexed to Somalia.
Like Dr Banda, I cherish strong affection for Scotland and its people mainly because all the schools I attended before university were Scottish mission schools. Childhood influences do not easily depart from oneâ€™s life.
Because of this early upbringing, whenever I read that the Scottish National Party (SNP) wants to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom, I feel as alarmed as those Scots who prefer the United Kingdom to remain intact.
If the SNP wins in the referendum and the UK breaks up, African secessionists will be encouraged. African secessionists will similarly be enthused if the Basque secessionists triumph in Spain.
I have always admired the magnanimity of the English in handling minority sub-nations of the United Kingdom. It is as easy for the Scot, the Welsh and the Northern Irish to hold a top position in the politics, civil service and defence forces of the United Kingdom as the English. We know this from both current affairs and history. African presidents and majority tribes who want to keep their nations united have a lot to learn from the English.
Grievances of minorities in Africa emanate from ethnic discrimination. At the time of struggling against colonial rulers, all indigenous people were exhorted to join in the struggle. No one was refused participation in the struggle because he belonged to a smaller religion or tribe. But once independence was won, attempts were made to relegate some tribes or religions to second-class citizenship. Hence, the secessions we hear about, the most successful after 50 years of blood killing is that of South Sudan. But more needs to be uncovered about the conflicts.
Leaders of those parties which win general and presidential elections should exercise their power with goodwill towards all, and malice against none. Very often those to whom they are most closely related by clan, culture or creed demand priority considerations in government contracts, appointments to the highest positions in diplomatic service, the Army and the police. A president should not forget that his or her constituency is the whole country and should not be used by one group to persecute others.