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close this bookThe Courier N 140 - July - Aug 1993 - Dossier: National Minorities - Country Reports: Dominica, Mozambique (EC Courier, 1993, 96 p.)
close this folderDossier: National minorities
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentWhat are minorities?- some possible criteria
View the documentThe basis of prejudice
View the documentPolitical representation
View the documentInternational legal protection
View the documentThe minority lights trap
View the documentThe African context: asset or liability?
View the documentA policy overview
View the documentTowards a new system of protection
View the documentLinguistic minorities in the European Conununtry
View the documentCreating marginalised dependent minorities Relief programmes for refugees in Europe
View the documentIndigenous peoples
View the documentSome examples of minority situations

Some examples of minority situations

In this final section of the Dossier, we look at a number of specific 'minority' situations in both ACP and European Community countries. As Alan Phillips of the Minority Rights Group points out in kits interview (See 'Meeting Point'), there are estimated to be more than 7000 minority communities living in the world today. It is not possible to explain or analyse all the circumstances which lead to the emergence of minorities or which have an impact on their current existence within larger, usually state, entities. But in the case studies which follow, we seek at least to highlight the diversity of the subject, by describing a range of very different situations. Some of these involve conflict; others are trouble-free. They cover a range of ethnic, religious and linguistic questions and are intended to show, in brief terms, the historical background as well as the present state of play. Taken together, they reveal some possibilities for peaceful coexistence but also, sadly, the scale of the challenge facing those who would seek to confront prejudice and bring an end to the mutual suspicion which still characterises so many minority situations.

The Balkans and Central Europe

For students of history who prefer a simple life, the Balkans have always spelt trouble. Trouble in the literal sense in that this turbulent area has seen more than its fair share of political intrigues, ethnic disputes and full-scale wars. Trouble also in the intellectual sense because of the complexity of the issues.

Strictly speaking, the Balkans do not include countries such as Hungary or the Czech Republic (which are more properly regarded as part of Central Europe). In the context of a discussion about national minorities, however, these two contiguous regions share many common features. In particular, they both contain a patchwork of nationalities, religions and linguistic groups often thrown uncomfortably together within national boundaries fixed by external powers.

In the 19th century, as the grip of the declining Ottoman Empire loosened, the Balkans and Central Europe increasingly became a focus of nationalistic ambition and great power rivalry. In 1914, a political assassination in Sarajevo provided the spark that ignited the First World War. When the guns finally fell silent four years later, both the Ottoman and Austro Hungarian empires had been dismembered and, in the subsequent Versailles Treaty, the political map of the region was changed beyond recognition. But despite the creation of many new states, the underlying instability remained, with longstanding local rivalries exacerbated by the presence of significant national minorities inside the boundaries of many of the new countries. The Second World War, which might have served to bring the peoples of the region together against an external power, instead aggravated the problem as some 'nationalities' chose to ally themselves with Germany while others fought against them. This latter circumstance is part of the explanation for the bitterness which characterises the fighting between today's warring factions in ex-Yugoslavia.

In the subsequent four decades, what might be described as 'totalitarian stability' prevailed as most of the area fell under Soviet tutelage. Yugoslavia, although not part of the Soviet orbit-and potentially the most serious flashpoint-was held together by the dominant personality of Marshall Tito.

When Tito died, Yugoslavia did not immediately collapse, but the situation began to unravel as it became clear that the central (communist) state was unable to reconcile the competing claims of the country's various nationalities. When communism itself crumbled, the whirlwind was not long in coming. It began, on a relatively small scale, in Slovenia, moved on with increasing force into Croatia and has now engulfed Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Elsewhere, the ending of the communist system and the break-up of the Soviet Union had the positive effect of clearing the way for democracy. At the same time, however, it has removed the (admittedly coercive) constraints imposed by Moscow, which had prevented internal dissent and ensured frontier continuity.

As Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance have discovered in their efforts to bring peace to Bosnia, map-making in the region can be an unrewarding experience. It is possible nevertheless to identify different types of 'minority' situation, of varying degrees of complexity. In some parts, there are clearly defined territories occupied by 'nationalities' which are relatively homogenous but which are, or were, subsumed into a larger state. These may be either 'serf-standing' such as the Slovenes, or peoples who have a close kinship with a neighbouring state such as the Albanians of Kosovo and the Moldovans (ethnically linked to the Romanians). Elsewhere, there are minorities living in less neatly definable territories but who, nevertheless, are in the majority in a given area. Examples of this situation include the Hungarians in North West Romania or the Serbs of Eastern Croatia (who 'detached' themselves from the rest of the country in last year's fighting, displacing many resident Croats in the process). Finally, there is the case, best illustrated by Bosnia Herzegovina, of complex intermingling.

In an ideal world, none of these minority situations would have any practical significance since it should be possible for people to get along together, respecting each others' differences. Yugoslavia, however, shows how different reality can be. And once fighting has started, 'ethnic cleansing' takes place and atrocities occur, the prospects for reconciliation rapidly diminish.

Although the focus today is on the unfolding tragedy of Bosnia, there are numerous other potential trouble spots in the region. The aforementioned Albanian population of Kosovo is obviously in an uncomfortable position within the boundaries of Serbia-Montenegro. The territorial integrity of newly independent Croatia has been shattered by last year's fighting around Vukovar. There are large Hungarian minorities in Serbia, Romania and the former Czechoslovakia. The recently recognised' ex-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' is viewed with suspicion by Greece, which has its own province of Macedonia. The Turkish minority in Bulgaria is under pressure.

These are just a few examples which illustrate the potential for further conflict. And while some still express the hope that the so-called 'new international order' may ultimately provide a basis for peaceful coexistence, many analysts are dismayed by the response of the international community in general and the 'West' in particular to the Yugoslav crisis. There is a real fear that the ethnic battles, currently contained within the borders of the former Yugoslavia, could spill over into neighbouring countries. This may be unduly pessimistic, but the situation is obviously fraught with uncertainty. Perhaps the only thing that we can safely predict is that the 'Balkan question', which has played such an important part in European history over the centuries, will continue to trouble us for the foreseeable future.

The Maroons of Jamaica

Jamaica, which is itself a nation formed out of peoples of varying ethnic backgrounds, plays host to one of the more unusual minorities in the form of the Maroon communities. The Maroons have a fascinating and turbulent history which includes the intermittent waging of war against the British colonial authorities, working with the British to quell slave revolts and the acquisition of a special status which is still recognised today by the Government in Kingston.

In fact there are two distinct Maroon communities living in Jamaica's mountainous hinterland. The Accompong Maroons live in the bleak Cockpit Country while, 150 km to the east, the Blue Mountains are home to the so-called Windward Maroons.

The Maroons are not an indigenous race. Indeed, like the majority of Jamaicans, they are of mainly African descent and their unique lifestyle and status is something of a historical oddity. The story begins with escaped slaves during the period of Spanish occupation (1510-1655). At that time, the colonists were settled in the coastal areas and it was natural that escapees should take to the mountains to avoid recapture. When an English expeditionary force under Admiral William Penn attacked Jamaica in 1655, the Spanish, before abandoning the island, liberated and armed their remaining slaves who also withdrew to the interior. The idea was that they should harry the new colonial occupiers with guerilla warfare until such time as the Spanish could return. In the event, Spain never did recapture Jamaica but the plan otherwise succeeded-beyond the wildest expectations of those who had formulated it. For the former slaves and their previously escaped 'compatriots' were to prove a thorn in the flesh of the British for almost a century and a half. Over the same period, they developed for themselves a distinctive culture and social system, many of whose characteristics survive even in today's modern world.

The term 'Maroon' derives from the Spanish word 'cimarron' meaning 'wild' or 'untamed'. Certainly, to European eyes, the lifestyle of the early Maroons may have seemed primitive but the term probably owes more to their reputation as formidable enemies. During the First Maroon War, which dragged on from 1690 until 1739, British troops found themselves battling on unfamiliar and unfavourable terrain against a people who were among the earliest exponents of guerilla action. The Maroons, fighting on 'home' territory, were fully adapted to local conditions and, although the British ultimately gained the upper hand, their losses in both men and material were high. The legendary exploits of the 'Queen Nanny' who fought the British from her Blue Mountain stronghold have made this priestess a folk hero, not just of the Maroons but of Jamaica as a whole. A peace treaty concluded after the First Maroon War guaranteed both lands and freedom to these mountain people.

Thereafter, until the abolition of slavery by the British in the early 19th century, the position of the Maroons was somewhat ambivalent. In 1760, in accordance with the terms of the 1739 Treaty, Maroon forces were called upon to assist in the suppression of a slave revolt known as Tacky's Rebellion (Tacky being the name of the slave leader who was killed by a Maroon marksman during a running fight). But the Maroons also absorbed into their society a regular flow of 'Breakaways' -slaves who had escaped from the British plantations and taken to the hills.

By 1795, relations between the Maroons and the British had deteriorated and the Second Maroon War began in that year. It was reputedly sparked off by the fact that runaway slaves were used to administer floggings to two Maroons convicted of pig stealing. This time, the British were less accomodating in victory and several hundred Maroons were deported after the hostilities had ceased, despite guarantees that this would not happen.

Since the early 19th century, relations between the Maroons and the central government have been largely peaceful. Today, they still live in their remote mountain communities, retaining their identity, traditions and distinct society. They have their own local institutions which, in a throwback to their fighting past, are still headed by 'colonels'. Jamaican independence in 1962 brought no significant change to their status, with the new government in Kingston continuing to recognise their autonomy. Except in cases of murder, Jamaican laws are not applied, they are exempted from various taxes and their lands are protected.

Some older Maroons still speak Coromante, a language of African origin, although its survival is threatened by the pervasive influence of radio and television.

The unique history and culture of the Maroon peoples mean that it is difficult to draw any general conclusions which might be applicable to other minority situations. But it is worth recognising that the relationship they have with the Jamaican government is trouble-free principally because the latter recognises their right to exist as a distinct society. This is a situation which many minorities in other parts of the world would doubtless envy.

Northern Ireland

Over the past 15 years, the euphemistically-named 'troubles' in Northern Ireland have brought considerable suffering to the province. Violence in the form of terrorist acts has also spilled over into Great Britain, the Irish Republic and even, on occasion, the European continent. The Irish Republican Army (IRA), which claims responsibility for many of these attacks, seeks a united Ireland and, by extension, the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the province. It regards the British presence as a form of colonial occupation. Other splinter Republican groups have also been involved in terrorism from time to time. On the other side of the divide, there are certain 'Loyalist' organisations that have resorted to violence in pursuit of their goal of maintaining the political status quo. The republicans come from the Catholic population in Northern Ireland, who are a minority in the province (over a third of the population) but a majority in the island of Ireland as a whole. The loyalists are from the Protestant community (60% + in Northern Ireland).

It is widely recognised that only a very small proportion of the Northern Irish population is involved in bombings and shootings and the majority in both Protestant and Catholic communities do not support the activities of the terrorists. And while the anguish of individual victims cannot be understated, the scale of the violence needs to be put into perspective. There are cities in the United States and in many parts of the developing world where 'normal' violent crime poses greater risks. But the fundamental problem in Northern Ireland which remains unresolved is the deep sectarian divide between the two religious communities.

The schism in the Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation which led to the rise of Protestantism was a source of conflict in many parts of Europe. Where one or other religious group found itself in a minority in a particular country, it was frequently the victim of discrimination and persecution. In Britain, it was the Protestant tendency that ultimately prevailed, while Ireland remained largely true to Catholicism. The Protestant population of Ireland can trace their origins back to immigration, mainly from Scotland, during the early 17th century. Few would deny the suffering endured by the Catholic majority at various stages in the unequal relationship between the two islands. The activities of Oliver Cromwell, who was Lord Protector of England during that country's brief flirtation with republican government in the middle of the 1 7th century, were particularly notorious. In 1800, Ireland was joined to Britain and towards the end of the century the 'Irish Question' became a recurring theme in British politics as the franchise was extended and the Irish electorate voted increasingly for 'Home-Rule' candidates. Economic power in Ireland during this time was vested mainly in the Protestant landowning class.

During the struggle for Irish independence which culminated in the establishment of the Irish Free State (later to become the Irish Republic) in the early 1920s, the Protestants, who were concentrated in the north, fought to stay within the UK. The result was partition with six of the counties of Ulster remaining in the Union. These counties, however, contained a significant Catholic minority. The Constitution of the Irish Republic does not recognise this division and lays claim to the six counties. This is a serious bone of contention for the Northern Irish


It is widely acknowledged that Catholics in the new province continued to suffer from discrimination, in both political and economic spheres. Resentment among the minority built up until, in the late 1960s, large-scale civil rights protests spilled over into violence. British troops were sent to maintain order but their position was compromised when 13 Catholic protectors were shot dead by soldiers during a riot. The IRA (which had been intermittently active ever since partition) resumed its campaign of violent action and this has continued ever since. Protestant pare-military organisations subsequently entered the fray. As a result, bitterness and suspicion on both sides has increased. From time to time, hopes have been raised by the spontaneous revulsion of ordinary people to the violence. For example, in the 1970s a women's peace movement emerged which brought many Protestants and Catholics together, but the momentum of the movement was subsequently lost and the violence has continued.

Although laws have been passed in Westminster outlawing religious discrimination in the province, the conditions for a genuine rapprochement of the two communities do not seem to be very favourable. Today, the vast majority of Northern Irish people vote on sectarian lines although, on the Catholic side, the moderate SDLP decisively outpolls Sinn Fein, which has links with the IRA, while Protestant voters tend to favour the Ulster Unionists over the more radical Democratic Unionists. The Alliance Party, which is the only significant non-sectarian grouping, usually polls about 8% of the votes.

In other parts of Western Europe, where religious conflict is largely a thing of the past, the situation in Northern Ireland is a source of bafflement. Outsiders find it impossible to understand why religious affiliation should remain the defining feature of Northern Irish society when its significance, in terms of economic power relations, access to employment and so on, has all but vanished elsewhere.

For some, the closer cooperation which exists between the British and Irish governments is an encouraging sign. So too is the trend towards a more integrated Europe-the Maastricht

Treaty establishes a European Union as well as the concept of European citizenship which extends to all Northern Irish people irrespective of their national or religious loyalties. But the gap between the two communities is very wide indeed and there is a limit to what can be achieved by external initiatives whether in London, Dublin or Brussels. A genuine and lasting solution to the Northern Ireland problem must ultimately lie in the reconciliation of the two hightly polarised communities, whose political objectives (maintenance of the Union and the establishment of a United Ireland) are so clearly incompatible. Unfortunately, there seems little prospect of this happening in the foreseeable future and until it does, a political settlement would appear to be impossible. S.H.

The Ndebele of Zimbabwe

This year marks the centenary of a celebrated event in Zimbabwean history, an uprising in 1893 in the course of which 1000 people lost their lives opposing a British colonial army. Only part of Zimbabwe's population is celebrating the anniversary, however, because the dead they commemorate belonged to the country's minority ethnic group, the Ndebele, whose relations with the majority Shona are at a low point. Their rivalry goes back a long way.

The ancestors of the people nowadays known as the Shona, members of the Bantu group, first moved into the land occupied by present-day Zimbabwe in the 10th century AD, from north of the Zambezi river. They were farmers and successful traders who set up a powerful state centred on Great Zimbabwe in the south-east, followed after 1450 by a succession of other, more loosely structured kingdoms. For centuries these vied for power with each other and with Portuguese invaders coming in from Angola and Mozambique, until, in the first half of the 19th century, the Ndebele made their appearance in Zimbabwe.

The Ndebele were a group which emerged victorious from conflict between the Zulu tribes of what is now Transvaal and the Orange Free State in South Africa. Boers migrating northwards in search of land forced them to flee into southern and western Zimbabwe, which they conquered and took from the Shona in 1840. Ndebele territory was smaller than that of the Shona kingdoms which still remained, but was ruled with an iron hand, and folk memories of Ndebele severity in enforcing obedience from their Shona subjects are confirmed by the accounts left by white missionaries of the period.

In 1890 the British occupied Zimbabwe and colonists began to pour in from South Africa. Both Shona and Ndebele were driven from their land, robbed of their cattle and pressed into forced labour. Neither henceforward had any say in the conduct of the country's affairs. The Land Apportionment Act of 1930 drove both off land they had cultivated for generations and racial discrimination was institutionalized in all aspects of life. The two groups were lumped together by the white ruling authorities as 'natives' and the differences of culture and history between them disregarded.

Nationalist resistance movements which emerged in the early 1960s were not originally based on membership of one or other ethnic group, but it was not long before the Zimbabwe African National Union was seen primarily as a Shona party and the Zimbabwe African People's Union as predominantly Ndebele. At independence in 1980, after the common oppressor of both groups had lost power, some of the Ndebele began to feel that their interests were being made to take second place to those of the Shona, who outnumbered them by more than four to one. Intermittent but violent war was waged by dissidents in the Ndebele's traditional territory, Matabeleland, from 1982. The rising was put down with heavy bloodshed by government troops from the Shona-speaking north, and enmity between the two ethnic groups greatly increased. The fighting finally ended in 1987, when ZANU and ZAPU concluded a unity accord. In 1989 the parties merged, and since that time the Shona leader Robert Mugabe has been President, with Joshua Nkomo of the Ndebele as his Vice-President.

In independent Zimbabwe both Shona and Ndebele are of ficial languages, with English widely used for official purposes and in the media. The country's second university, after that in the capital, Harare, is being established in Matabelelend's largest town, Bulawayo. Efforts are being made to document and honour ZAPU members who died alongside their ZANU comrades in the liberation struggle-but not those, including many civilians, who were killed in the war in Matabeleland, and a sense of grievance and mistrust persists among the minority at the seemingly unshakeable hold on power of a ruling party dominated by the Shona, with help from Ndebele politicians whom some of their own ethnic group do not hold in high regard. A number of disaffected Ndebele academics, journalists and others have recently joined together to set up an opposition political party. Their public pronouncements cast the government in Harare in the role of an external power indifferent to Matabeleland's concerns, though there is no talk of separatism or secession. The degree of support these new nationalists enjoy has yet to be tested in any election.

On a different definition of the term, there is a case for saying that another national minority in Zimbabwe (and some other post-colonial countries) is constituted by the white people who live there. Those that disliked the idea of majority rule and were able to leave did so at independence; most of those that remain are natives of the country. In Zimbabwe they form 5% of the population and, since reserved white seats were abolished, are not specially represented in parliament. But that is another, equally complicated story.


The great 19th-century German statesman Bismarck used to say only three people in the world had ever understood what the Schleswig-Holstein question was about: 'The first one went mad, the second died, and then there's me ... and I've forgotten.' Joking apart, it was a question serious enough to provoke some five centuries of wars between two countries which are now fellow members of the European Community: Germany and Denmark.

There is a swathe of territory across the middle of the peninsula of Jutland in northern Europe, between the North Sea and the Baltic, known as Schleswig. In the mediaeval period it was a dukedom held by the King of Denmark; Danish-speakers lived in the northern half, which abutted on Denmark, and German-speakers in the south. To the south lay another dukedom, Holstein, which was wholly German-speaking but also belonged to the Danish Crown. As well as the internal frictions which these arrangements generated, the two dukedoms lay in a militarily and commercially important position and were constantly fought over by the neighbouring powers.

As for their inhabitants, from the outset of Danish domination the German-speakers in Schleswig and Holstein understandably resented taking orders from an alien potentate in distant Copenhagen. However, in European history until the late 18th century, the concept of being a citizen of this or that country did not exist; people and the lands they lived in (with the notable exception of Switzerland, be it said in passing) owed allegiance and obedience only to whatever king, lord or bishop ruled them. Only with the French Revolution and the rise of nationalism in the early 19th century did ethnic groups start fighting to organise themselves into nation states as understood today.

The dominant power to the south, Prussia, was gradually bringing one German-speaking territory after another under its sway? and turned its attention to Schleswig-Holstein. The Danish-speakers in Schleswig had no wish to become German subjects; nor did the Germans there and in Holstein want to remain vassals of Denmark. The battle for possession went on up to and including the First World War, at the end of which Schleswig and Holstein were held by Germany. However, Schleswig was still occupied by the two different language communities. By treaty it was divided in half and the northern part, entirely Danish-speaking, was ceded to Denmark. As for the ethnically mixed border area, in a referendum held in 1920 each parish was invited to say which country it wanted to belong to, and a dividing line between the two countries was finally worked out. This line was still only a compromise, since, to avoid creating enclaves, a few parishes which had opted to be German were given to Denmark and vice versa. A settlement agreeable to both sides was not finally reached until after World War II.

All is quiet on the Schleswig-Holstein front now. The communities who found themselves stranded on the wrong side of the border in the 1920 referendum still live there, but in peace. The peoples are racially indistinguishable, there has been much intermarriage, they profess the same religion, and in neither country is there any official criterion for defining whether a person is Danish or German beyond an affirmation by the individual concerned that he or she wishes to be so considered. So it is not easy to give precise figures, but there are now approximately 20 000 Danes living in German South Schleswig and a similar number of Germans in Danish North Slesvig (as the territory is called in Danish). The members of the two communities are nationals and citizens of the countries they live in, not of those whose language they habitually speak and whose culture they espouse.

In both countries the cultural rights of the respective minorities are recognised and protected by law. In each country private schools operating in the minority languages are funded by the state, on the same basis as schools teaching in the majority language. Naturally the majority language is also taught in such schools, and in practice the members of the minorities are bilingual. Television and radio programmes from the 'mother' country also help to preserve cultural links, and the minorities have their own newspapers and sports and cultural associations.

In their daily lives, both minorities in this predominantly agricultural area make their living in the same ways as their neighbours, from farming in rural areas and from trade and services in the towns.

Political parties representing their special interests have emerged on both sides of the border. In Denmark a party which cannot win a majority in an individual constituency is eligible to receive one of the 40 additional, non-constituency seats in Parliament, provided it can attain a threshold of 2% of the national vote. The party representing Germans in Denmark cannot muster even that 2%, so has no voice in the national legislature, but an of rice which the Federation of North Slesvig Germans has set up in Copenhagen receives a special subsidy from the state to help it represent its members' interests to parliament and government. The party set up by the Danish minority in South Schleswig is exempt from the 5% threshold for parliamentary representation applying in Germany, and has one seat in the Schleswig-Holstein state legislature, the Landstag.

Denmark and Germany do not interfere in the affairs of the speakers of their languages on the other side of the border, or provide any special facilities for them on their own side. A Dane of German nationality, for example, who wants to study at a Danish university is treated exactly like any other applicant from outside Denmark. Although some members of the minorities cross the border to work in the country whose language they speak, they enjoy no privileges other than those given under EC legislation to any national of the Community.

It might, indeed, be said that, by making the concept of the nation state less strong, the process of wider European integration has done as much as anything (local diplomacy and rising material wellbeing, for instance) to calm the passions and ambitions that for centuries used to drive this part of Europe into war. If only it could serve as a model for other, less happy parts of the continents

Hutu, Tutsi and Twa in Rwanda and Burundi

Rwanda and Burundi are two tiny countries landlocked in central-eastern Africa. They have similar characteristics and similar natural, sociological and economic constraints, including small size, rapid population expansion and poor per capita income, which puts them at the bottom of the LLDC category.

There are also structural barriers to development, in the shape of:

-dependence on the outside world, i.e. they are subject to variations in the price of coffee (which accounts for the bulk of their export revenue) and their external debt is mounting;

-demographic pressure, which threatens self-sufficiency in food and makes major social investments necessary;

-their landlocked position, which makes them dependent on transport facilities in the countries around them and pushes up production costs.

These economic constraints are aggravated by ethnic problems. The Tutsi minority (numerically, at least, at approximately 14% of the current population) has held power in both countries, to the detriment of the Hutu majority (an estimated 84%) and the Twa (a Pygmy approximately 1%).

After independence, which the two countries gained in 1962, their paths separated, with the Tutsi remaining in power in Burundi and the Hutu taking over the Presidency and the Government in Rwanda.

The two countries may have opted for different political solutions, but they both saw frequent clashes between their two main tribes. An unprecedented exchange took place, when Hutu took refuge in Rwanda and Tutsi exiles moved into Burundi. Tutsi from Rwanda went to many other countries too, including Uganda, where the ethnically related Hima tribe lives.

The determined struggle between the two ethnic groups becomes even more incomprehensible when one discovers that the Tutsi, Hutu and Twa all speak the same languages- Kinyarwanda, Swahili and French in Rwanda and Barundi, Swahili and French in Burundi.

More astonishing still is that the fighting went on despite the fact that for centuries the different groups shared political institutions and a social and religious system apparently without any serious obstacles to mixed marriage and inter-breeding.

The political role and sacred nature of the monarchy and the cattle-based system of feudal dependence represented values espoused by the whole population and, until colonisation (in the early 20th century), the rift between the groups seems to have been more social than ethnic. Some writers have said that the break was engineered by the Westerners' policy decision to ensure a balance of power by focusing on one group. Are they right?


The advent of European values and religious conversions aroused an awareness of social disparity in this country, which was reflected, some suggest, in the finding that ethnic identity made cultural identification easier.

But the situation of the minorities in both countries continued to be a source of hope and anxiety alike. In 1959, Rwanda began a revolution which toppled the Tutsi monarchy, did away with Belgian tutelage and, in 1961, set up the Republic. Independence and separation from Burundi were proclaimed together, in 1962.

The Hutu move to power heralded a period of disorder, which forced a large number of Tutsi to flee. This went on happening regularly afterwards and, in October 1990, expatriate Rwandans (Tutsi refugees and Hutu opposition, who joined forces under the banner of the FPR-the Rwandan Patriotic Front) attacked and took control of the northern part of the country.

Those in power reacted by making many arrests, but international pressure forced them to:

-free the political prisoners; -set up a multiparty system; -agree to a timetable for local, national and presidential elections;

-allow a transitional government to be set up, bringing together opposition parties and the former single party (the MRND);

-negotiate a peace settlement with the FPR, the first stage of which was the signing of a ceasefire agreement, effective from 31 July. This followed negotiations in Arusha in Tanzania, a country which has done its utmost for peace in Rwanda.

Hard-line Hutu factions contested the overtures made to other Hutu clans (particularly in the South) and to the Tutsi, and started fresh action against both. Most of the victims in the north west, the President's region, were Bagogwe (a Tutsi subtribe).

Government accords came up against problems. A plan for a government of national unity involving the FPR was signed in January 1993 and only needed the President's agreement, but procrastination and the announcement of further massacres in the north west prompted the FPR to start fighting again, which it did on 9 February. With the Rwandan army in difficulty, the Government strove to get the negotiations going again. They are still in progress and they should, it is hoped, lead to a peace agreement and, most important, the establishment of a political system in which all tribes can be represented, without discrimination, in the Government and in the institutions.


After 30 years of independence and Tutsi pre-eminence, Burundi has now come to presidential and national elections which should be the opportunity to emerge peacefully from three decades of single party rule and tribal clashes, the most serious of which were in 1965, 1972 (400 000 dead) and 1988 (5000 victims, according to official figures).

After this last massacre, President Buyoya realised that national reconciliation meant that power, hitherto concentrated in the hands of the Tutsi minority, had to be shared fairly and a commission of leading political, religious and military figures (12 Hutu and 12 Tutsi) was accordingly invited to tackle the problem of national unity. This led to presidential elections, which were won by Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu - clear indication of a strong drive to build a society with less tribal division. The results of national elections held on 29 June 1993, which should give a further indication of political trends, were not available when The Courier went to press.

The Twa

The future of the Twa, a Pygmy tribe making up only 1% of the population of Rwanda and Burundi, is another problem. They are the traditional allies of the Tutsi, but are held in apparent contempt by the two countries' main ethnic groups, which attract far more of the political observers' attention.

The Hutu are, typically, farmers and the Tutsi mainly herdsmen, but the Twa have stuck to the forests and a nomadic way of life as hunters and gatherers, which cuts them off from the rest of the country. The effect is to marginalise this tribe of artists (they are potters, dancers and musicians), for whom survival is becoming more and more of a problem.

This is less a question of political representation than of a cultural minority which is disappearing altogether, for the Twa refuse to integrate with ethnic majorities which shun them. They have tended to cut themselves off and their socio-political isolation (they practice endogamy, for example) is handicapping their chances of survival-which depends on the way the majority groups behave.



English or French? Cameroonuans divided

Cameroon, like other African countries, is deeply divided. On top of the usual political and institutional reasons for the rifts- which unfortunately appear to be widening-the rivalry between the French and English linguistic groups provides a further divisive element.

For a long time, bilingualism was Cameroon's international trademark: a good example of the peaceful coexistence of the languages of Shakespeare and Moliere. Things have changed, however, and for the past ten or more years it has been a source of deep resentment between the English- and French speaking parts of the country. But is it really the language question that is keeping them apart? Or is the English-French debate just a pretext for disagreements which are actually rooted elsewhere?

Some English-speaking Cameroonians claim that they were cheated in the reunification of 1961 and in the subsequent moves

from a Federation to a United Republic and then to the presentday Republic of Cameroon.

In support of this argument, they point first to the fact that, although English is a joint working language alongside French under the Constitution, it has lost ground, notwithstanding efforts to encourage bilingualism such as two-language teaching in a number of schools and the rule that either language may be used in the civil service. The English-speakers' second grievance is the actual role-or rather lack of a role-which they have had in the running and practical management of the state. Their third complaint relates to the management and use of the economic resources of western Cameroon combined with the question of regional development.

Resentment has mounted since the erratic beginnings of Cameroon's democracy. The English-speakers are again calling for a return to Federation but the Government rejects both the idea itself and any discussion of it.

Despite the obvious friction, the scale of the problem deserves to be questioned, particularly if one looks at it in the context of what has happened in countries such as Canada and Belgium, where there are 'competing' linguistic groups.

In fact, one could argue that the problem of the English speakers in Cameroon is not so much a 'national minority, issue as one which relates to the state institutions and the way in which they operate. After all, there are similar strained relations between the central authorities and other regions of the country, and these have nothing to do with the language question.


The Tuaregs

The Tuaregs are a topical subject of discussion and one better understood for a little history.

These people are Berbers descended from the first inhabitants of North Africa. They have their own writing and a language shared by the various brotherhoods. The Arab invasions of the 7th and 11 th centuries overwhelmed the Berber tribes along the coast, but the Tuaregs remained free by staying inland and defending the Sahara. Nowadays, there are Tuareg groups living in each of the main mountain areas of the Sahara-the Hoggar, the Air, the Tassili and the Ajjer-as well as in the dried-out desert lands of the Sahel. They are divided for the most part between Niger, which has the largest Tuareg population, Mali, with the second largest, and Algeria, although there are a few small communities also in Libya and Burkina Faso.

Their traditional way of life and nomadic existence are currently threatened by political and economic developments and by drought, the scourge of the deserts of western Africa for several years now. The pace of their lives has changed and many aspects of their culture have disappeared. Their social hierarchy has altered and their nomadic existence with it, so their day-to-day life is different too. The change is such that the whole future of the Tuareg community is now in doubt.

There are many reasons for this. The lorries which arrived to haul goods across the Sahara in the 1950s and 1960s are one of them, for there are now machines in place of the camels which used to carry millet, dates, salt, tea and other items in the big Tuareg caravans. The nomadic way of life, the trade and therefore the means of subsistence of the Tuareg people are clearly threatened.

Then there is drought, which has decimated herds of camels, sheep and goats, dealing another body blow to the nomadic way of life.

And, with the independence of the countries in which they live (Algeria, Mali and Niger), Tuareg freedom of movement was suddenly limited by border restrictions. The arrival of black governments in Niger and Mali in 1961 did not, from a Tuareg perspective, help matters- the Tuaregs traditionally had slaves, most of them black, and, although the hierarchies are now crumbling, the slavery issue still rankles with black people. In consequence, stratified systems of administration were established with the Tuaregs firmly at the bottom of the scale.

The Governments of Mali and Niger now have the problem of Tuareg dissidence to cope with. The situation began to deteriorate after the drought of 1984, when a wave of Tuareg immigrants headed for Algeria. The Algerian Government persuaded them to go back to their country of origin but the return was marred by unfortunate circumstances (the move was ill-prepared and aid provided by France was diverted). In 1990, Niger put down a Tuareg revolt. In the pursuit which followed, the 'rebels' crossed into Mali which was thus also drawn in. A 'Tuareg taunt' developed in response to the rebellion which was now firmly under way in both Niger and Mali.

In April 1992, the Mali Government and the Bureau for the Coordination of the United Azaouad Movements and Fronts signed a National Pact, providing for a ceasefire and conferring internal autonomy on the North region, where the Tuareg community constitutes an important part of society, as well as integrating Azaouad fighters in the Malian army. Despite what can still be visible tension, the trend is towards peace and a political solution to the problems.

In Niger, the riots started later and the Tuareg formed the Air-Azaouak Liberation Front (FLAA). This was recognised in January 1992 by the Niger Government, but the latter opposed any suggestion of autonomy for the northern part of the country because of the proximity of Libya, the Trans-Sahara highway linking Algiers with the Bight of Benin (tine 'uranium' road) and the fact that there were important uranium mines in the area. There is hope, however, for Mahamane Ousmane, the new Head of State (a civilian, democratically elected in March-April this year) seems anxious to negotiate and the FLAA is extending its truce indefinitely.

Nomadic tradition and geographical spread make the Tuareg issue difficult to address. Autonomy would mean that they could take over their own administration, but where would they do it and what would their political culture be?


Brittany is on the Atlantic Coast of Western France, in Western Europe. It is 34 000 km2 in area, which makes it roughly the same size as Belgium, and has a population of about 3 900 000, which puts it between the Irish Republic and Norway.

In 56 BC, this strongly Celtic part of Gaul was conquered by the Romans and known as Armorica, but the old culture reasserted itself in the 2nd-7th centuries AD, when Cells moved in from Britain-hence the name Brittany. By the time of the Carolingians, in the 9th century, it was fighting to keep its independence, finally establishing its historic boundaries after repelling Norman invasions in the early 10th century. Organised as an independent Duchy, its thriving maritime trade gave it regular prosperity, particularly in the I 5th century, when it had all the hallmarks of a modern state, with its own currency, tax system, courts, parliament and diplomatic corps.

The Capetian kings cast envious eyes on Brittany ('France's El Dorado', as they called it in the 16th century) and the French armies overran it at the end of the 15th century. The Breton army was defeated in 1488 and Brittany was annexed to France in 1532 under a Treaty of Union between two sovereign states- which mysteriously disappeared from the royal archives in Paris. However, the Bretons kept special rights until the Revolution abolished them in 1789, at which time the name 'Brittany' disappeared from the political and administrative nomenclature. It only reappeared in 1972.

An economy still prosperous when the 17th century began was to be ruined by the protectionism of Colbert, Louis XIV's finance minister, and the Napoleonic period, when Brittany's traditional maritime relations with the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula ceased.

Brittany has its own language, Breton (Brezkoneg), the only Celtic language spoken in continental Europe and still used in the western parts of the region by 250 000-300 000 people and

understood by 500 000-600 000. It has been written since at least the 7th century AD and printed since the late 15th century and has a wealth of literature. Some people in the rural parts of eastern Brittany speak Gallo, a Romance dialect similar to the Oil dialects of northern France (Norman, Picard, Poitevin and so on).

Brittany currently has to contend with a number of problems arising from its minority situation and its position on the periphery of both France and the European Community.

Economically speaking, it leads France's farming and fishing sectors, both of which are in serious difficulty. It has relatively little industry and what there is could well disappear. And, like other regions, it suffers from the lack of a regional development policy and from centralisation at every level (political, administrative, economic and cultural).

From the mid-19th century right up until the 1970s, the tendency was for young people to leave, which caused serious problems for the region and led to Bretons spreading across the globe (there are about I million of them in the Paris area and 30 000 in New York alone). According to recent statistics, the move began again in the mid-1980s, with Greater Paris, where 40% of the country's new jobs are created, as the main destination.

Brittany suffers from having no real political power. The Regional Council of Brittany, a body elected by universal suffrage since 1986, does not have the power to enact laws or regulations in any of the areas vital to the region and its budget is very small too. And the most industrialized region, around Nantes, which is historically a part of Brittany, has been separate since 1941.

Breton language and culture are taught to only a few children (0.3% of the primary school intake), under unreliable conditions. Breton is not much in evidence in the media (75 minutes per week on just one TV channel). The money allocated to it is minimal and, since it has no official status, it cannot be used by the public administration or in any official documents. In January 1993, a committee was set up, with the help of the majority of Breton MPs and local representatives, to get France to sign and ratify the Council of Europe's Charter on regional and minority languages and it organised a peaceful meeting of 2000 people in Quimper on 6 March.

The next 20 or 30 years will no doubt be decisive when it comes to deciding whether the Breton minority will gradually be assimilated into the dominant French culture or whether it can add more pages to its thousand years of history. The political integration of Europe can help a lot if it allows for the emergence of a new form of citizenship founded on pluralism and respect for all-even minority-cultures.
Yves Jardin

New Caledonia

Melanesians from South East Asia had been living in New Caledonia since 3000 BC by the time James Cook discovered it in February 1774. The island was annexed by the French in 1853 and turned into a penal colony, where prisoners soon outnumbered free men. Frequent uprisings by the indigenous people, the Kanaks, were suppressed forcibly and ultimately, in 1878, reservations were created for the Melanesian population.

In 1946, New Caledonia and the surrounding islands became a French overseas territory. In 1952, the Kanaks formed the Caledonian Union, which dominated the political life of the institutions there until the 1970s and, by virtue of being the main component of the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FINKS), is still one of the leading lights on the political scene today.

But the Melanesians did not get the vote until 1957 and, in 1958, the Europeans set up the Caledonian Assembly to defend the policy of keeping the territory in the French Republic.

With the nickel boom of the 1970s, many Europeans settled in Noumea and the surrounding area. Tension between the two main-European and Melanesian-communities mounted, notwithstanding the institutions and the economic and social plans which had been put in place.

The statistics show that Europeans were in fact in a minority, representing 33.6% of the total population as against the Kanaks' 44.8%. But it was the Kanaks who suffered economic and political marginalisation, putting them in a minority situation in their own country. The roles were reversed and cohabitation was bound to be difficult.

There had to be an end to the years of attacks which resulted in the deaths of both policemen and members of the FLNKS. In 1984, the tension during elections for the Territorial Assembly in Noumea was such that the French Government sent out troops to man barricades.

The Matignon agreements were signed after the presidential elections of 1988. They were the work of the French Government, the RPCR (the Assembly for Caledonia in the Republic, i.e. the anti-independence Caledonia RPR, representing the majority of Europeans) and the FLNKS (proindependence, representing the majority of the Melanesians). Their provisions included a 10-year moratorium prior to a referendum on self determination. The main aims were civil peace and a fresh economic and social balance for the territory, with political, economic and social responsibilities for the proindependence Melanesians from the start-a logical step after the creation of the three administrative provinces.

The three provinces are:

-The Loyalty Islands, almost entirely inhabited by Melanesians (98.1%, as against 1.3% Europeans);

-North Province, which, despite a large European population in some districts (Koumak), is 78.7% Melanesian and 15.7% European. This province has been in a position to move firmly into the international economic scene since a major nickel mining company was bought from Jacques Lafleur in 1990. New Caledonia is, in fact, the world's fourth biggest nickel producer and the Caledonian economy is dependent on the world market;

-South Province, which is 44.3% European and 25.8% Melanesian.

Ethnic and political divisions reflect the division of the territory itself, with North Province and the Islands controlled by the FLNKS and South Province by the RPCR. So running the provinces is a lesson in political management within the framework of what, in March 1993, Louis Le Pensec called 'decolonisation within the Republic'. Today, more than ever before, New Caledonia's future lies somewhere between self government and independence.