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African Worldviews on Land and Links to Conflict

The African worldview is unique and its influence on activities in the continent is both great and diverse. Issues to do with land rights, state, property and ownership are subject to the unique view point from the African lines of thought. African perspectives on issues such as these, to a larger extent, characterize conflicts across the continent both in the past and in contemporary time. Another very important area of concern regarding conflict in Africa is characterized by what is referred to as autochthony.  This is simply a claim of the community to be the original or indigenous settler of a certain territory, it therefore directly relates to land and ownership.

The traditional African perspectives on matters such as land and ownership of property are directly informed by the African worldview which in its essence is good. The problem which one could like to address is the origin of conflicts. The fact that traditional African worldview is good is so much incompatible with the many conflicts which have hit the continent in the past and many more others being experienced today. This is quite perplexing and unraveling such a puzzle calls for deliberate efforts. 

Africa has the potential to develop but the development process has been substantially derailed by civil conflicts and wars since one of the major draw-backs in the region is its high scale armed and unarmed conflicts. Most of Africa’s wars are closely related to inter-ethnic conflicts which are mainly informed by the incompatible perspectives to different issues among the inhabitants.

In the traditional African setting, land belonged to the community. Everybody had to utilize land in regard to how much he needed and the size of the family. All members of the society had equal access and rights to the use of land. The value of land was not really measured by economical parameters. On the contrary, land value was based on other strong cultural ties and beliefs such as indigeneity (act of being indigenous). Societies attached both their origin and identity to land. It would be absurd and almost an abomination to think of an African society without land. It is land that confers a home to a people, in other words, people can only claim belonging basing on the fact that they possess some piece of land without which they belonged nowhere and hence were considered ‘no people.’

Therefore, land forms part of the identity of the African traditional societies. People occupied land which had been handed to them from their ancestors and as such land carried not only the physical and utility value but also spiritual and ancestral dimension. The economic value of land is just a survival interest and at times its contravention can be tolerated but the spiritual, ancestral and identity dimensions attached to land in traditional African society is a vital interest and as such never to be compromised. With the latter perspective, society has the right and duty to defend the land that rightly belongs to it. Compelled by this perception and the obligation underlying it, societies are ready to fight and even die in defense of their land.
African Worldviews on Land and Links to Conflict African Worldviews on Land and Links to Conflict Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on February 10, 2017 Rating: 5

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