oa Journal of Psychology in Africa - Reactive ethnicity: some thoughts on political psychology based on the developments in Burundi, Rwanda and South-Kivu

Volume 10, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1433-0237



The motive behind the article is the notion that the ethnicity spread in Rwanda and Burundi is an answer to the process of disintegration of old cultural identities. In the kingdom of the Shi (South-Kivu) on the other hand, the ethnicity has never reached such a bloody dynamic, because there the cultural identity does not coincide with the national identity of the postcolonial Congo. The hostility against the Tutsi which has spread there today has more to do with the new situation of occupation, than with the helpless rage against the forces that invaded from Rwanda (and Uganda) and now directs itself against the Batutsi living in South-Kivu for hundreds of years (shifting of aggression). The ethnicity of Rwanda and Burundi, however, is seen as an instrument to veil the progressing disintegration of loyalties, solidarities, in short, of the basic process of modernisation that started with the colonial and postcolonial order. Consequently, the question on the state of emotion from which the ethnicity has evolved would not at all be a question on the psychological preconditions, but a question that develops from the psychic consequences of an extremely wide reaching cultural problem of domination. For that reason the concept of 'reactive ethnicity' is used. Its existence is not to be understood as political calculation but as a manifest product of a social order of discourse for conflict denial. The thesis is substantiated by ethnographic material of the political history and by an ethnopsychoanalitic interpretation of a case brought to court.

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