The New Times (Kigali)

Africa: Scholars Blame Colonialism for Regional Conflict

Policy analysts, scholars and researchers from Africa have partly blamed colonialists for the persistence of conflicts in the Great Lakes Region that resulted from the manner in which the countries were administered during the colonial period.

They made the observation yesterday during the opening of a regional high level conference on conflicts in the Great Lakes Region held under the theme, "Governance and Security in Africa: Assessing the Imperatives of Peace and Stability in the Great Lakes Region."

Organised by Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), the two-day forum aims to explore and understand the root causes and possible solutions to the persistent conflicts in the Great Lakes Region and their effects on governance.

The experts cited the killing of independence heroes, destruction of home-grown solutions and external political and economic interests in Africa as some of the major causes of conflicts in the continent.

"Most of the conflicts in the region have been ethnic-based owing to the colonial legacy that brought about divisionism among the people in order to rule them," said Dr Charles Kabwete, head of the Department of Political Science at the National University of Rwanda.

"Our societies in the pre-colonial era were organised even though there were some conflicts between communities but the post-colonial period was disastrous."

Kabwete stated that the colonial period was not good for the region but the situation has hardly improved since the colonialists left.

According to the head of the Democratic Republic of Congo-based Institute of Peace and Democracy Development, John Beya, colonialism is partly to blame for persisting conflicts in the region.

He, however, pointed out that African leaders should also take the blame for failure to organise themselves after the colonial period.

"African leaders always focus on their interests not the interests of the people they lead. We should think of cooperation in what we do to come up with solutions to the problems affecting our people," he asserted.

Beya noted: "Failure of making a successful transition from the colonial era to post colonial period by our leaders, is the root cause of the conflicts that have engulfed our region."

Organised as a series of open debates, the forum provides a uniquely open platform for researchers, policy analysts, academics and emerging talents to search for sustainable solutions to the root causes of instability in the region.

Opening the meeting, the Minister of Education, Dr Vincent Biruta, said the conference was timely amid instability in some parts of the region.

"We should use this opportunity to come up with the best ideas that would bring about sustainable peace and stability in our societies," he noted.

He stated that peace and security in the region would only prevail once leaders cooperate to develop their respective countries rather than sow the seeds of antagonism and violence.

The Chief Executive Officer of RGB, Prof. Anastase Shyaka, said that sustainable solutions towards a peaceful Africa would only be derived from good shared ideas among African policy makers and academicians.

"Well generated ideas are very fundamental and this forum provides an opportune moment to brainstorm the possible solutions that will address the root causes of conflicts in the Great Lakes Region hence stable and peaceful nations," he noted.

The region continues to face persistent conflicts mainly in the eastern DRC.

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