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Sunday, March 6, 2011

'Revolutionary Libya' - An 'Afro-Arab Borderland'?

For the purpose of this debate I suggest that we revisit the notion of 'Afro-Arab Borderlands' as espoused by Garang, Bankie, Prah et al. below:

"The Borderlands is that area of Africa running from Mauritania on the Atlantic Ocean, eastwards through the Sahel, to Sudan on the Red Sea" - Bankie Forster Bankie

"A leading issue which needs attention is the relationship between Pan- Africanism and Pan-Arabism. Africans and Arabs need to define more clearly the separations, interpenetrations and intersections between these two movements. Without a solution to this there is likely in the future to be tension in the Afro-Arab borderlands, as we currently see in the Sudan and Mauritania" - Kwesi Kwaa Prah

"The issues the Borderlands raise date back thousands of years and it is suggested that the area provides a sharper, historically based, holistic definition of the African nationality than that hitherto offered by the black consciousness movements in the Americas and Southern Africa. In the Sudan, as in the Borderlands in general, exists a minority group of Arabised black people who do not consider themselves Africans and who participate in the oppression and enslavement of the majority African population. Clearly what is at stake is not a matter of colour, but a question of culture. A fact which was confirmed by the author on a visit to Khartoum in December 2002. The Borderlands teach us that the African nationality is primarily cultural, not race based" - Bankie Forster Bankie

"Let us also not forget that the crises and chronic human rights abuses of black Africans by Arabs are the root of the conflict in the Borderlands. The war in Sudan, the conflicts in Mauritania and the hot spots in many parts of the Borderlands stem from the insistence by Arab Muslims of spreading their hegemony southwards" - Mandela Kapere

"In the Sudan, as in the Borderlands in general, Africans have had to contend with Arab expansionism. In these circumstances they had to choose whether to Arabise and Islamise or to take the option of African nationalism" - Bankie Forster Bankie

"One of the programmes that all the Arab Muslim countries have been pursuing aggressively in Africa is that of Islamization and Arabization of the African people. I quote from the speech of Colonel Qadhafi delivered to the Muslim centre in Kigali, Rwanda, on 17 May 1985 and aired live on Radio Rwanda (Yoh, 2001):

First you must stick to your Islamic religion and insist that your children are taught the Islamic religion and you teach the Arabic language because without the Arabic language we could not understand Islam. Furthermore, you must encourage the children of Christians to embrace Islam and the doors of the Islamic centre, the Islamic school and hospital should be opened to the children of Christians. You must teach the children of Christians that Christianity is not the religion of Africans, that Islam is the religion of Africa, that Christianity is the religion of colonialism, that Islam is the religion of God. Christianity is the religion of the French, Belgian, German and American enemies. It is also a religion of Jews…. Muslims must become a force to defend their religion. You must raise your heads high in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Zaire. You must raise your voice high and declare that Allah is great because Africa must be Muslim. Africa is no Christian. Christians are intruders in Africa. Christians in Africa are agents of colonialism. We must wage a holy war so that Islam may spread in Africa.

Statements such as this from a head of state do more harm than good to Afro-Arab relations. Religion should be left to the individual and her/his god, rather than to be state managed and imposed on Africans. Islam like Christianity started in the Middle East. Both are therefore foreign to Africa and Africans, so the claim that Islam is the religion of Africa is insulting to the Africans. It is as if the Arabs through the Afrabians like the Qadhafis of this world have a duty to see that Africans are Islamised and Arabised. Yoh (2001) has recorded a long list of Arab organisations that work in Africa with the main objective of spreading Islam throughout the length and breadth of the continent" - S. J. Dima
"The establishment of the Afro-Arab ‘dialogue’, if needs be, will require as its principal interlocutors, from the African side, the people of the Borderlands who have coexisted with the Arabs, not the coastal peoples of West Africa, nor the central, east and southern Africans, who have in general chosen to ignore the problems in the Borderlands. It is with the people of the Borderlands that the Arabs north of the Sahel, the Moroccans, Egyptians, Libyans, Tunisians, Algerians (whose government, less we forget, needs to resolve its differences with the Berbers in their midst) et al that the dialogue may take place. Some Africans are saying that the issue of reparations for Arab-led slavery should not be addressed in this period, when the Middle East is being regime changed. Here again such tactical questions need to be answered by those living in the areas affected" - Bankie Forster Bankie

"In our country the Sudan, the unprincipled elites who took over power after colonialism were not individual thugs like Idi Amin and Bokasa, but a social group which is collectively and popularly known in the Sudan as “Jellaba”. But who are these Jellaba, where did they come from and how did they develop? The Jellaba (Afrabians) are a social group which has developed in the Sudan since the 15th century from elements of foreign and local traders including slave traders, and who have established themselves in trading centres which later became important urban centres and towns such as Dueim, Omdurman and Sennar. The Jellaba are a hybrid of different races and nationalities from the indigenous Africans, and the immigrant Arabs, Turks, Greeks and Armenians, who have interacted and intermarried in the long historical process which took place mainly in Northern Sudan. The Jellaba are therefore part African and Sudanese, but they choose to identify themselves as Arabs although very many of them are blacker than myself. The Jellaba are thus the so-called Arabs of the Sudan....I once asked a leading Northern Sudanese politician, whether he considered himself as a Sudanese Arab or an Arab Sudanese, and he found the question puzzling! I have attempted to analyse the Sudanese situation objectively and dispassionately in order to correctly identify the problem of the Sudan, for unless a problem is correctly diagnosed, a correct answer is difficult to find. I have argued here and established that the problem of the Sudan is the hegemony by the minority Jellaba of Northern Sudan, and for lack of a better “ism” I shall call the Sudanese problem the problem of “Jellabaism”. How do we solve the problem of Jellabaism?"- John Garang de Mabior

Ref: Pan-Africanism/African Nationalism: Strengthening the Unity of Africa and its Diaspora edited by B.F. Bankie & K. Mchombu (2008)

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