Africa: Two Nations, One Destiny?

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The discussion of the oppressive history in the relationship between Africans and Arabs has not happened openly until now when it serves imperialist interests in isolating Arab Muslims.

Editor’s Note: The following presentation was delivered by B.F. Bankie at a Global Afrikan Conference held in Paramaribo, Surnimame on October 4, 2004. We are printing the presentation here because we feel the issues dealt with regarding the relationship between Arabs and Africans and the oppressive history that has defined this relationship is one that demands public discourse. Up until recently this has been a relationship that has been discussed mostly in whispers by Africans afraid that public discourse would prevent an anti-imperialist unity necessary to contend with U.S. and European imperialism. 

However, now that such a discussion seems to serve the interests and agendas of the imperialists, especially U.S. and British imperialists, there is an abundance of public discussion concerning the oppression of Africans by Muslims and especially Arab Muslims. Virtually every white imperialist medium avails itself to the issue of Arab and Muslim oppression of Africans in Africa and currently in Sudan. 

We of the African People’s Socialist Party are no less aware of the history of oppression that exists between Africans and Arabs in Africa and the significance of that history when it comes to determining the future of Africa as a united and liberated whole. However, we are not interested in advancing the foreign policy objectives of the U.S. or any other of the imperialists with their vicious life-drenching grasp of Africa and its resources. 

Therefore, we are naturally suspicious of the need of imperialists to expose Arab or Muslim oppression in Africa while obscuring their own current and historical involvement in looting Africa of its resources, both human and material. 

We are printing this piece by Bankie because we believe that this discussion is one that must be seized by genuine revolutionary, anti-imperialist African Internationalists with a vision of a liberated and united Africa under the leadership of the African working class allied with the poor peasantry. 

We are hoping that printing Bankie’s piece, notable for its inability to mention imperialism at all, will initiate a discussion of this issue in a manner and forum that will forward the struggle to destroy imperialism and advance the liberation  and unification of Africa and her children scattered worldwide. 

Internationally, it is generally accepted that there exists within the African continent two nations — the Arab Nation and the African Nation. Certainly, the Arabs as a people, be they in the Middle East or within continental Africa, distinguish themselves from the blacks who are, in general, found south of the Sahara. That was why they created their Arab League in the 1940’s, to bring the Arab Nation together within one structure.

This is also the perception of the peoples of the world in general about the peoples presently living within continental Africa. Africa is seen to be peopled by two nations, the Arabs in the north and the Africans south of the Sahara. It is therefore odd that these peoples, especially the Africans living south of the Sahara, should have chosen a structure uniting Africa north and south of the Sahara, as their vehicle of choice to defend their global interests.

This “wisdom” comes from the hindsight of the year 2004, whereas the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was established in 1964 and converted to the African Union (AU) in 2002-2003.

Edward Blyden [regarded by some as the father of Pan Africanism] taught us about the African Nation. It was a term used by people such as Marcus Garvey. However, in the past we never had a clear definition of what constituted this entity. The importance of Sudan is that a study of it leaves no room for doubt as to what constitutes the African Nation, and what is African Nationalism. It is suggested that both these definitions are important for the Global Afrikan Congress.

Many Africans believe that with the ending of settler colonialism in the southern region of Africa, which is now engaged in the struggle for economic emancipation, the frontline of the struggle for Africans would shift to the northern borderlands of the African Nation. In the past, this area was grossly neglected by Africans in general, as the global struggle, led by the anti-Apartheid Movement, took shape in the south. So Southern Africa was liberated, with independence coming to Namibia in 1990 and majority rule to South Africa in 1994.

Meanwhile the Torit Mutiny of August 18, 1955 in Sudan had marked the commencement of yet another phase of war in Sudan. Sudan is the longest on-going war zone in Africa. War in this area was never discussed in the OAU as this war was defined as the ‘internal affair’ of the Arab League, not to be discussed by the OAU. Egypt was fearful that the waters of the Nile might fall into hostile hands.

“Black Africans constitute the majority of the population of Sudan. In the North of the country and in Dar Fur, many of these Black Africans have been Arabised and Islamised… They are Pan–Arabists, and they support the Arab nationalist fight of the central government in Khartoum against the South Sudanese African nationalist fight…”

To put the Sudan fight in context, war in the Afro-Arab Borderlands, stretching from Mauritania on the Atlantic Coast, through Mali, Niger and Tchad to Sudan on the Red Sea, has been going on since time immemorial. Cheik Anta Diop, the Senegalese nuclear physicist and Egyptologist, established in western scholarship that Egypt was originally populated by Africans. Africans originally populated present day Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and Morocco. The Arabs came to Sudan through the Nile Valley after conquering Egypt, passing through the desert from Libya and Maghreb.

Africans were, and continue to be, pushed southward in the Borderlands. In Sudan, the battleground today is Dar Fur, where an Arab militia known as the Janjaweed hailing from Libya and northern Tchad, have been armed by the government of Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan, to push the African farmers off their lands.

Only 39 percent of Sudanese regard themselves as Arabs. However, Sudan is a member of the Arab League and is seen as part of the Arab world. It is correct to say that Sudan is predominantly Muslim, although no demographic statistics are available on the country’s religious composition.

Black Africans constitute the majority of the population of Sudan. In the North of the country and in Dar Fur, many of these Black Africans have been Arabised and Islamised. So much so, that in the past these Africans considered themselves to be Arabs and not Africans.

They are Pan–Arabists, and they support the Arab nationalist fight of the central government in Khartoum against the South Sudanese African nationalist fight, in keeping with the policy of using a black against a black.

So in one country we find Arab nationalism fighting African nationalism. This is the strategic significance of Sudan in the understanding of the African Nation. The ruling elite in Khartoum serve as the advanced guard of Arab nationalism, and as the defenders of the interests of the Arab League and Egypt, they are steadily determined to push southward the interests of Arabia. Succeeding governments in Khartoum have played this role.

Hassan Al-Turabi, once the speaker of Sudan’s parliament and the ideological power behind its Islamist revolution now languishing in prison in Khartuom, aggressively asserted an intention to push southwards and even capture Kampala, in Uganda, and thus insert a dagger into the heart of black Africa.

It was such a government which hosted the international terrorist Osama bin Laden in Sudan as he fought against the Southern

Sudanese African nationalists, no doubt using weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against the southerners, such as poison gasses. South Sudan was considered a front of the global jihad.

It has to be said that South Sudan was jointly administered from 1898–1956 by Britain and Egypt. The elites, which ruled Sudan after its independence in 1956, including the Mahdi, were all committed to advancing Arab interests southwards in Sudan at the expense of the Africans. A similar ruling group, mainly Arab in composition, pursues a similar policy in Mauritania. Throughout the Borderlands, Africans are enslaved by Arabs or by Arabised Africans.

The challenge, which is now being realized in the face of international opinion, is to reverse the marginalization of Africans in the Borderlands. African enslavement by Arabs predates by a millennium the European encounter, and continues today. We claim reparations and restitution for this crime against humanity.

Some of us are calling for the creation of the African National Organization, linking Africans south of the Sahara with Africans in the Diaspora.

We are saying that the problems of the Borderlands of the African Nation require a solution from the Africans themselves and need a decisive African intervention.

We say that the government of Sudan is at war with its own people on all fronts. That it is illegitimate and is not sincere in the so–called peace talks with the South taking place in Kenya. In fact, these talks were designed to neutralize the South whilst Khartoum pacifies Dar Fur before returning to fight the South.

The Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society (CASAS) in Cape Town, South Africa, together with the Drammeh Institute of New York, USA on February 22, 2003 called for a civilization dialogue in Johannesburg between the Arab and African peoples to chart the way forward in their relations. It is suggested that the proper forum for this is the African Union.

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