Majimboism is a noun familiar to all residents of East Africa, a Swahili term that officially depicts a system that was intended to protect local rights, especially those connected to land. In the extreme, majimboism is code for certain areas of the country to be reserved for specific ethnic groups, fueling the kind of ethnic cleansing that has swept across the savannas and highlands of eastern Africa for years. It has become a household word that means simply tribalism, although there’s nothing simple about the way it’s played out. From one end of the spectrum to the other, political stalemate to genocide, much of the unrest in Africa may be laid at its root, and when the root is laid bare, such thinking reveals an obvious pattern: I choose the worst in my people over the best about anyone else, simply because they’re ‘my people.’

I have always expected more from the land of the free and home of the brave. “I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth” (John Adams). Use whatever word you like from whatever language you prefer, the result is the same. Life viewed through the lens of any color, distorts reality and prejudices decision-making.

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