Wed. Oct 4th, 2023

By Johnson Ihunanya N

Conflict is a natural phenomenon. It is natural because every human being is born with unique characteristics that often determine their will, thought-pattern, interests, bias and actions.

Unconsciously,   everyone strives to protect and project their interests, neglecting that of others. So, we expect clash of interests, disagreements,   confrontations, quarrel etc. And when this is not checkmated, it escalates into a full-blown conflict. Africa in recent times has experienced various forms of escalations emanating from religious, political, tribal, economic, social and communal issues. As such, it takes a natural strategy to  resolve  the various prevalent conflicts in the continent, hence “The Ubuntu Philosophy”. Ubuntu Philosophy is an African philosophy coined from Zulu, one of the Southern Africa’s lingual structures.

Although there may not have been known major propounders of this philosophy, but we know it is African, with Desmund Tutu as one of the known most popular proponents. Ubuntu means, “I am, because you are”. The word “Ubuntu” is just part of the Zulu phrase which literally means that a person is a person through other people. It is a natural African philosophy. Africans were born with this lifestyle in them. It was not learnt, it was not taught, it was not imported; it is inherent in each and every African child, mother, father and even in our domestic animals. Down the line, this beautiful lifestyle and therapeutic culture got eroded.

Regrettably, Africans were exposed to numerous foreign and allien teachings, norms and ideologies that gradually impacted them, wearing away their  natural  identity. Hence this paper is a call to return to the ancient path  of  our  togetherness and solidarity. This return is a return to completely embrace   and   remarry the Ubuntu Philosophy. To do this is to follow the basic premises of this philosophy, as summarised below:

Communalism over Individualism

Direct individualism is strange and forbidden in the African culture. Direct individualism is the strict pursuance of personal goals over the interest of the community. It was a taboo to merely conceive such However, indirect individualism is the idea of individuals playing personal roles or enterprise for the ultimate goal of the community.

 Africans considered one another in every action they took, in the houses they built, in the size of farm barn to build, in the number of property to acquire, in the kind of technologies they invent, in the kind of dressing they used; others were always at the centre of their decisions. Recall the Ghanaian and Nigerian stories of one man who finishes cooking his meal, but does not go into his mansion with his doors locked and security personnels mounted, just for him to have his meal in his dining, but takes the pot of food outside and beckons on everyone around to come and join him to eat. Those who adhere to this communal  call  do not do so because of hunger, scarcity or lack, but because behind the call is the spirit of love, unity, compassion, togetherness and harmony. Where is that call today?

Respect for one another thrived, but respect for elders was superior. Within our communal spirit, our sense of respect was never lost. In fact the children had their communal group, same with the men and women. This was no form of class, but a mark of orderliness and respect. The hierarchy was not based on stereotypes, but on natural orders and peculiarities. With this setting, conflict may not have been completely avoided, but definitely, it was drastically reduced and controlled. What has happened to our respect for the elderly?

Additionally, Africans had a standard of measuring good success and what should be celebrated; they must be explained, verified and affirmed as product of hard work and not the contrary. Labour was dignified. Labour was rewarded and promoted. It seemed we believed that “He who would not work, let him not eat”. This thought-pattern promoted hard work, and discouraged fraud and illegitimate activities for money How did we miss the standard?

The Way Forward

The way forward is first to acknowledge that we have missed the mark at some points, hugely because of some influences that penetrated us. And secondly to reawaken in us the natural and original Africanness amidst the prevalence of several conflicts today. And to do this is to know that “You are because I am, and I am because you are’. Why kill one another when actually, that fellow depends on you to survive? Why dupe your brother to succeed when that your brother looks up to you for his security and protection Why fight with one another for landed property and wealth, when the wealth and land actually belong  to  none  of you, but to all of you? Why murder, deny other’s their rights, and unduly treat others when ideally, these are those you should be using your life to protect, defend and safeguard? Why bribing, killing and manipulating the process to acquire power, you’re merely going to suffer to serve the people and not to make wealth for yourself? A rethink of these questions should put us on the lane of sustainable peace and harmony in Africa.


Whereas humans are born with peculiar characteristics, which they somehow always strive to protect, conflict would continue to thrive. Hence this paper has recommended another natural and organic strategy in the checkmating of these conflicts; the Ubuntu Philosophy (I am because you are). Africans in particular should return to the ancient path of communalism over Individualism Superiority of respect for the elderly over respect for one another; and Dignity of Labour over “quick success syndrome”.

Through this path, a sustainable peace and harmony can be possible in Africa.

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