African viewpoint: Blood and borders
In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Nigerian Sola Odunfa thinks it is high time African leaders redraw the continent's borders.
The poor and helpless are always the victims when their rulers belch”
Blood, blood, blood all over Africa but, I ask, when will it end?
Over the weekend the people of Jos and some villages nearby were arranging for the burial of 14 more people killed in the long-running ethno-religious crisis in Nigeria's north-central region.
The total number of people slain in the past year tops 1,000, with many more injured.
I won't mention trouble-spots like Sudan, Niger, Somalia and the whole of central Africa, but focus on Ivory Coast as senior Nigerian government officials are seeking crucial international support for the use of military force to resolve the seemingly intractable political and electoral crisis there.Gbagbo's naivety
You may remember that President Laurent Gbagbo and his political foe President-elect Alassane Ouattara are entrenched in a fierce battle over the result of the 28 November election.
The electoral agency declared Mr Ouattara the winner but Mr Gbagbo will not step down.
It is not as if Mr Gbagbo's action constitutes a grave crime akin to the imposition of the death penalty on poor Ivorians - the poor and helpless are always the victims when their rulers belch - but his peers on the continent are apparently seething with anger at not only his stubbornness but also his naivety in allowing an opponent to win an election.
Therefore West African leaders have declared that Mr Gbagbo must quit office for Mr Ouattara or face the bombardment of his palace and wherever else he may be suspected to be holed up.
Other African leaders know it but they won't talk about it for fear of bringing the ghosts in their own lockers back to life”
Other African countries are likely to see their own future in the current political crisis in Ivory Coast.
Mr Gbagbo, a Bete from the west of Ivory Coast, draws his support from ethnic groups in the west and southern Akan groups that live around the coast, including in the main city Abidjan.
Mr Ouattara is a northerner. There are some southerners who do not accept northerners as true Ivorians. The problem of Ivory Coast at its most simple is: North versus south.
Mr Gbagbo probably knows that if he gives up power now, his supporters in the west and south may never taste it again.Swiss example
Other African leaders know it but they won't talk about it for fear of bringing the ghosts in their own lockers back to life.
To my mind, however, that ethnic sentiment is nothing to be ashamed of.
According to some social scientists it is a basic human tendency for people to move with their own kind.
Take away the strong Afrikaner influence and you will be able to predict how long it will take even the giant South Africa to begin to collapse”
The most stable countries in the world are those that are either ethnically homogeneous or have federal systems.
Multi-ethnic European states like Switzerland ward off internal conflict through a strict federal system which gives autonomy to every group.
Spain is still trying to solve the problem posed by its restive Catalans; the UK is gradually becoming an apostle of devolution.
Thus homogeneity and federalism in member countries make the European Union stable.
On the other hand African leaders are trying to build an African Union (AU) on the foundation of colonial borders.
A basic principle of the AU is that all countries must retain the borders they inherited at independence.
The principle is under great stress. This is why there are wars all over the place.
The only countries which have no such problem, to my knowledge, are Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho - and that's because they are ethnically homogeneous.
Take away the strong Afrikaner influence and you will be able to predict how long it will take even the giant South Africa to begin to collapse.
Current borders on the continent are colonial and against all human tendencies; they will remain the source of bloody conflicts until leaders of vision and strength emerge to change them.
I commend to all the commonsense in last week's statement by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga - the failed AU mediator on Ivory Coast - who said that mediation efforts should not be about imposing democracy and free and fair elections but about "avoiding a much greater disaster".
I tell you, I would rather have justice than free elections.