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The tribal dimension in the division of the kingdom of Israel: a contextual study of 1 Kings 12:1-24 from the perspective of the struggle for national unity in Rwanda.

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This study aims to undertake a contextual analysis of the event of the division of the kingdom of Israel narrated in1 Kings 12:1-24. This text and its context are analysed in the light of the context of tribal conflicts in Rwanda, using the inculturation hermeneutical approach that makes the contemporary context of the reader the subject of interpretation. The interactive engagement between the two contexts is conducted in a way that allows insights from each context to enrich the understanding of the other. The socio-historical analysis of the Rwandan context showed that the 1994 genocide resulted from a long period of social conflict opposing the main social groups in Rwanda namely the Hutu and the Tutsi. Conflicts arose from the determination of elites from each social group to monopolize political power and to control resources, to the exclusion of members of the other social group. It was noted that the failure of the church to discharge its prophetic responsibility reinforced the perception that God was absent during the genocide. The literary analysis of the text narrating the division of the kingdom of Israel noted the theological interpretation that explained that event as a result of Yahweh’s punitive intervention against an apostate king, Solomon. However, literary analysis showed that the conflict involved socio-economic aspects and had much to do with the struggle for access and for the sharing of resources. Socio-historical analysis of the context of the division then revealed that, from the rise of the monarchy in Israel, the issue of the control and distribution of resources had been a challenge to unity among the tribes of Israel, generating conflicts that culminated in the division of the kingdom. Interaction between the two contexts of conflict, in Rwanda and in Israel, allowed for the identification of categories of players who had a share of responsibility in the conflicts. First, political leaders instituted patrimonial regimes that practised inequitable distribution of resources and privileges and antagonised social groups in both contexts. Second, the people, faced with the discriminative policies of their leaders, grouped themselves according to their shared interests or common challenges. Diverging or opposing interests among different groups exacerbated divisions, alienation and conflicts. Third, neighbouring countries and external powers had strategic or economic interests that led them to intervene in support of the warring social groups, thus aggravating the situation. Lastly, God’s servants, who were supposed to play a unifying role, failed in their prophetic responsibility, not only by doing nothing to denounce social injustices, but by openly supporting them and actively taking part in them. This study has reasoned that social conflicts result from diverging interests. They are a human responsibility, not imposed by God. Diverse social identities are not intrinsic obstacles to social unity. They jeopardize unity when they give expression to conflicting interests. Change for lasting peace and unity in Rwanda requires a change of attitude from the four categories of players identified as the key protagonists.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2010.