IT’S commonly held that in societies in conflict, or where political, tribal or religious differences are stark, political coalitions don’t work. Events in Afghanistan and Iraq might seem to validate that view. But, media reports of tribal or religiously motivated violence aside, if one digs beneath the surface, it is clear that when there is genuine will to help a country progress, coalitions can and do work.
A coalition is a lot like an arranged marriage. Two people from different families, for some common purpose, are thrown together into a union. At first, they have a challenge to get to know each other. If they focus on the things they have in common and put the differences aside, they often find after the passage of time that not only do they develop mutual respect, but sometimes love is the result.
Social groups are not all that much different. We are all different from each other in some way, but we all also have much in common. If we work to reinforce the commonalities and refuse to allow the differences to get in the way, we can accomplish much. America’s founding fathers, over 200 years ago, did much the same. Merchants, lawyers, farmers, and tradesmen from different backgrounds and different regions, sharing only the desire to establish a government that respected the rights of the individual, put aside their differences and formed a democratic nation that, while not perfect, has endured for over two centuries and served as a model for freedom-loving people all over the world.
Even in societies that have experienced violent conflict, or with marked tribal or ethnic differences, when there are people who yearn for freedom and dignity, the ground is fertile for planting coalitions and allowing them to grow into a diverse yet united nation.
Charles A Ray,
US Ambassador, Harare.