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The Salience of Ethnicity in African Politics

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This is a largely theoretical paper discussing the ethnic factor in African politics. The paper gives ethnicity a psychosocial meaning and examines the development or genesis of this phenomenon from "tribe in itself" to "tribe for itself." Several hypotheses on ethnic salience are examined in an effort to establish situations or circumstances that give rise to ethnic consciousness in politics. The paper also discusses the habitat of ethnicity-whether it is in the leaders or in the masses-and makes the argument that the tribal innocence of the masses should not be celebrated. The paper concludes with a speculation regarding the future of ethnicity in African politics in the background of the Marxist suggestion that ethnicity is epiphenomenon. The argument is advanced that a worker seeking power will manipulate ethnicity no differently than his bourgeois counterpart.

Affiliations: 1: University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe


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