The border inside.

Author:Serumaga, Kalundi

Do geographically delineated borders, imposed on the continent during the 19th-century colonial Scramble for Africa have any real meaning when movement across them has been so fluid? Where do the real borders lie?

Borders matter to a dictator. They delineate the boundary within which his power must be deferred to without question, and also the point beyond which he can banish his enemies, and deprive them of an identity.

But in Africa, identity can be somewhat fluid, because the distinction between any two modern nationalities is largely arbitrary. Communities, and sometimes even actual families, were rendered citizens of different countries through the imposition of the new borders emerging from the 'scramble' machinations produced by the 1885 Treaty of Berlin.

There is a mismatch between where existing borders now lie, and the identities of the peoples found on either side of them.

If Rwanda's President Kagame really wanted to cut Rwanda and Rwandans off from their Ugandan neighbours, he would have first had to move his country's border over a hundred kilometres to the north to reflect the fullest claims of the ancient Rwandan empire, before then shutting it down, as he ordered in early March when the main Rwanda-Uganda border crossing was closed on the Rwanda side.

Alternatively, he would perhaps have to shrink the Rwandan nation to an area much further south, and 'disown' the many peoples whose small kingdoms and principalities were in 1911 forcibly fully incorporated into the existing Rwanda state by German colonial exertions.

Like a tussle between computer geeks

Such borders, like the dictators that need them, are obsolete. The current stand-off between Uganda and Rwanda comes across like two computer geeks having an argument over the ownership of a typewriter.

Rwanda has a long history of refugees and exiles, and Uganda has a long history of using newcomers in an attempt to resolve the foundational contradiction of its existence as a European entity imposed over several native ones. Many Rwandan refugees have ended up in Uganda, and gone on to have a significant impact on the politics there.

This is not a unique situation. The Argentinian Ernesto 'Che' Guevara is known for his revolutionary exploits in Cuba but his name was Ernesto Guevara Lynch, a descendant of the many Irish families that migrated from their country's economic ruin caused by centuries of British colonial domination.

While things did not get quite that far here...

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