Bona Malwal: a man who calls the spade a spade
A Sudanese scholar has portrayed an interesting pictures of how the African and the Arab Worlds are easily diverted away from their common cause, giving former colonial powers the lead to discuss the regions problems, while keeping a spectator position .
He wondered why Africa which possess vast fertile lands that can easily produce food and feed it people and beyond. But ironically African and Arab leaders are incapable of taking action, wondering whether this was explainable by, perhaps, the lack of leadership and vision in the Afro-Arab world, to bring this about .
In a lecture he delivered before the Afro-Arab Solidarity Conference, held in Khartoum, Sudan, 26-27 November, under the theme: the Political Independence and People's Sovereignty, Mr. Bona Malwal, a Sudanese intellectual from the south, presented a critical analysis of the relations governing Arab and African relations in the various political, economic, cultural and social domains .
He pinpointed that economic marginalization and exploitation have succeeded in keeping this very vital region of the entire world apart from each other. Clearly, the neocolonial approach and exploiters of the African and Arab world had made the correct calculation to keep us apart .
The politician-cum-intellectual, Bona Malwal former Minister for Culture, and presently a Presidential Advisor, has served many posts in his homeland, the Sudan, and has always been present in the political scene in the Sudan whether in the opposition benches or within the government .
BBona Malwal started his lecture with a political background saying that some thirty odd years ago, the late Egyptian President Anwar Saddat was inspired by an idea of an African Arab Union of great purpose, when he called the first Arab African heads of State Summit in Cairo. He related that he had the privilege to have been member of the Sudanese government who attended that Cairo first African Arab Summit. Large on the agenda of that summit was economic and political cooperation between the countries of these two neighboring regions, if not much else .
He referred to the statements of the African and Arab heads of state and government which called for economic and social cooperation in the development of the region. From that first Cairo Conference, emerged the establishment of important projects like the establishment of the Khartoum-based Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BEDA) .
Malwal said although the Arab Fund has played an important role in support of economic development in Africa, that it took thirty long years for the second African Arab Summit to take place in Tripoli, Libya, this year, tells a striking story of how the African and the Arab world are easily diverted away from their common cause for a long time. True, there have been numerous mini Afro-Arab summits in the interim, but nothing that had followed the Cairo Summit to inspire a continuous look at both the economic and social development of the Afro-Arab region. If anything, the interests of this region are becoming increasingly discussed by proxy by the yester years' colonial masters of the region. It is about time this process is ended and Africa and the Arab world come to grip with heir own interest, responsibility and problems .
In his paper, Mr. Malwal, stated that the Arab states of the region still possess large depot of oil reserve while Africa is increasingly discovering it own oil and other mineral wealth. The world remains ever thirsty of oil .
He then wondered how have the countries of the region failed to exploit such as opportunity towards their speedy development?
He stressed that while it was true that oil and other underground minerals needed to be converted into things more tangible for development, like cash, the first most important commodity to secure Africa and Arab world is food security .
“Africa bosses enormous fertile hands that can easy be converted into food production, to secure food security for the region. What is preventing this from happening is perhaps the lack of leadership and vision in the Afro-Arab world, to bring this about. Could our conference here today, in Khartoum inspire that? Perhaps. “Bona Malwal stressed .
To him, Africa and the Arab worlds were “not the easiest to intellectually speak about these days because this is the region that one might say has almost totally become marginalized in world affairs by the forces of neocolonialism”, adding that economic marginalization and exploitation have succeeded in keeping this very vital region of the entire world apart from each other .
He stated that it was clear that the neocolonial approach and exploiters of the African and Arab world had made the correct calculation to keep the two worlds apart.
“Now all they need to do is to pin us one by one to the charge of sponsors of international terrorism and to pick our political leaders up one by one at the time of their choosing and chare them with crimes against humanity and genocide. We can then stay in this underdeveloped corner of the world, afraid to communicate with one another. Also afraid of being tarnished with sponsor of international terrorism. Even try to avoid communicating with one another, we fear placing ourselves on e charge of sponsor of intentional terrorism. Te predicament of our situation as African and Arabs is that we can never be right as long as some of African and is that we can never be right as long as some of African and Arab citizens practice terrorism as an expression of their political grievances .”
Malwal drew the attention of his audience that for those who follow world events carefully, the charge of the sponsorship of international terrorism was now an important weapon with which to prevent the African and the Arab world thinking together and working together for the cause and the advancement of the wellbeing of the Afro- Arab person .
He referred to archaic clichés that continue to find expression in describing relations between the African and the Arab worlds .
“For instance it is easy to incite an African even an African intellectual not to speak of an African leader, tat the Arabs were the perpetrators of the crime o trade in human being called slavery. But the last continent to abolish slavery is the United States of America not the Arab world.” Malwal stressed .
He said that now that America has elected a black man of African origin as its president, it would be supposed that no one would say anymore that slavery or the type of practices akin to slavery ever existed in America. However he stressed that one has to consult with the ordinary African American to ascertain how free they are now even under their black president arrack Obama.
“My personal view about the history of any people or society is that it is continuously evolving. African American struggle for their rights as Americans not because they are seeking reparation from slavery but simply because they are Americans aspiring for equal rights with those other Americans whose parents and grand parents may have been guilty of the crime of slavery.” He underlined .
Malwal stated that it was sometimes something surprising that some Africans feel that they have not punished the Arab world enough for their role in slavery. Time has past by many decades for the African to still look for someone to punish for slavery. It is not time for the African leadership and the Arab world leadership to look for what can unite them that than what may have divided them in the distant past. Clearly there are many affinities between the African and the Arabs to allow for a new out look to their relations .
“Islam as a religion, ties Africa to the Arab world even much stronger that Christianity itself ties Christian African to christen Europe and the Americas. Notwithstanding the problem of the recent decades, physical and social developments of the afro Arab world are similar. Only the leadership of these two closely linked regions of the world have so far failed to develop mutual advantage between them.” Malwal underlined .
He stated that the largely desert lands and the seas of the Arab world were now awash with oil a very finite commodities which if it is not properly used, will disappear tomorrow leaving nothing for the upkeep of the increasing Arab population that we see today.
“Africa the closest neighbour of the Arab world has land that remains the every envy of the world. How on each can leaders of the two sides fail to realize the need for cooperation in developing mutual advantages for both their people? Only naïve political thinking is to blame for that.” He stated .
He went on to say that the well known exploiters of this world have incredibly offered the Arab the best security for heir oil money – the European the American banks. But the Europeans and the America and did not only offer the Arab safe keeping for their money, they have also attracted the Arab to their very expensive processed goods, services and product .
“So it is impossible not to believe that unless the political leadership of the Arab world think twice, the oil money will only be that money with only a market value with which to purchase highly valued goods, without a future.” Said Malwal .
He criticized political leadership in Africa who, when they assume the pinnacle of power in their respective countries, tend to use the position for their own enrichment and for their own vested interest .
“On the other hand it is disgusting that every one who becomes a leader in any part of Africa behaves exactly like the one before them exploiting the existing meager resources of the continent for personal aggrandizement. Expending these resources on themselves without a thought for the future generation of the country they lead.” He stressed .
What is to be done? He demanded. To explain this Malwal said Africans in particular must be made to think of the looking dangers of immediate future. It was obvious that it was fear of their resources being squandered in Africa that keeps the Arab world from investing their vast oil revenue in Africa. The potentials of African in industry agriculture, wildlife and water, are very well known. The Arabs seek a reasonable degree of responsibility, accountability and stability for them to invest in Africa. These requirements from Africa are not impossible to provide. So the problem in African is political leadership .
“Of course am not proposing any easy way out here. If the leadership of the African and the Arab worlds were to cooperate and work on this together then it is quite possible to achieve something in this field. But practices die very indeed. Indeed. The way forward is not impossible but it is not so easy either.” He argued .
He charged that the African and the Arab worlds suffered lack of political stability due to poor political leadership. Those who exploit the political divisions in this region, have a very well entrenched policy of keeping he region well divided. Is it plausible to say that Christianity and Islam both religions founded or born in this region should be allowed to divide the political leadership of the afro Arab world? .
He explained that while it might be true that the cause of world security problem may sometimes emanate from this region, these problems have hardly been the cause of this region instability, thee greatest insecurity for the African and the Arab worlds is not political insecurity but insecurity arising from lack of development, or insecurity arising from the exploitation of resources of the region by others. Nor can it be said that the leadership of the African world do not know what prevents their people from using their vast economic potential for development .
“It has always been very difficult to imagine how the African and the Arab political leadership cannot overcome their suspicion of one another. Nor can it be so difficult to apply the same rules that make the west trustworthy to the African and the Arab if the issue is regulations. Not it is my honest belief that the west is an accomplice to the corrupt practices of the African and the Arab worlds.” He wondered .
He wondered why were the likes of former Zairean President Mobutu Seseseko and the other permitted to plunder the resources of their state without apprehension, when they were in power? And after Maputo's death where is the stolen wealth of the Congo, one of Africa's richest countries even in spite of its political debacles? The Congo remains one of Africa's poorest states, in spite of its well recognized vast natural and mineral wealth .
He lamented that so much have gone wrong in Africa and the Arab world in terms of economic exploitation that it is hard to imagine that one conference ours here in Khartoum can change the course of events. But it is also true that in order to progress, development needs the first step. The Africa and the Arab people must begin to work together in their best interest .
“To do so we need to devise a method by which our government see us as their supporters, assistants and collaborators in development of our resources and people, not as their enemies.” He said, adding that enough was enough. “We shall put an end to the search for the overthrown of our regimes by bloody revolutions it has not worked in almost fifty years. We should recognize that. Can our conference here in Khartoum make a difference, I believe we can .”
It is no longer true to say that Knowledge is poor in Africa and that tit can only be attained from elsewhere. It anything at this time of our holding this conference can say that they type of expertise that the socio-economic development of Africa and the Arab world needs is very much here in Africa and in the Arab world. Clearly both the trained and manpower and the resources are in this afro Arab region. Only lack of trust and confidence, between the ruling political; elite of the region and regions vast technocratic skills was keeping the development of the region behind. If we can reverse this trend of mistrust then economic development and prosperity of our region which only socio-economic development can bring about, can begin .
Bona Malwal added that people in this region were starting their regional cooperate late and that conferences, such as the one organized in Khartoum about afro Arab cooperation were just beginning still “Our political elite is not with us yet. And they will not be, as long as our political leadership continues to believe that each time we gather here in Khartoum or elsewhere, we do so to plot their downfall .”
He said it was known that those who want to continue to exploit and to plunder the vast resources of this Afro-Arab region, would continue to tell political leadership in the region that the academicians and intellectuals have gathered, not to think aloud, about the future of your region, but that they were here only plotting to overthrow the ruling regimes of the region .
“Since the resources of this region are invisibly being controlled and since you here gathered will not go far enough without the support of your ruling elite in Africa and the Arab world, the prospect of much progress, in terms of change, in the way our countries are administered and managed, may be some distance ahead of us. But I also can see that the masters of yester years have shown their own weakness, in wanting to control and manage everything. Khartoum may therefore make a type of difference which may not have been possible to make, only a few years before.” He stressed .
Malwal criticized that former colonial masters have been thinking of skillful ways of exploiting political differences and divisions amongst us “ So daring have our colonizers always been that they create all types of neocolonial institutions, with which to control us.”
He argued that in recent years, they have created the so-call International Criminal Court (ICC), to which it seems, only the leaders of Africa will be removed from power and taken to The Hague, one after the other, until the new form of neocolonial control is established .
“Fortunately, it does appear that the African political elite is reading clearly the message of the ICC to Africa. This is a new and humiliating phenomenon, as colonialism itself was before its demise. Africa and the Arab world need to pay a very careful attention to this very clear political ploy.” Malwal argued .
He argued that it was said that the charges that the ICC brings on our leaders, are a result of the war atrocities in Africa. That may be the case. But, he wondered, to believe that this is the case, one needs to be persuaded that the wars, in which these atrocities are committed, exist only in Africa .
“Is that the case? If not, why do we hear only that The Hague is only trying African leaders? Are we being told that only in Africa's war crimes and atrocities committed? As we meet here in Khartoum, the newest case on trial in The Hague, is that of one of the former leaders of the Congo. He joins the former Liberation leader, Charles Taylor, whose trial continues in The Hague.” .
He drew that attention to the fact that in recent developments, political leaders of neighboring Kenya seem to have succumbed to the pressure of the ICC, to allow that illegitimate court to investigate the atrocities of the last elections in Kenya. Kenya, having of course made the mistake of signing up to a colonial court at Rome .
“The mirage of the ICC is truly and surely moving into Africa and nowhere else. Only African laws and judicial systems are being maligned and called inadequate” he stressed .
Bona Malwal has argued that the present Sudanese president Omar Bashir was the only ever serving president in the entire world, to be indicated by the ICC in The Hague, arguing that
the people of Sudan and indeed of much of Africa and the entire Arab world, have decided to ignore the indictment of President Al Bashir, who continues to enjoy the confidence of the Sudanese people, who only in recent months, have elected him with 68 percent of their votes and that President “ Bashir goes about his business at home and abroad without fear .
He concluded that it was true that politics being what they are and the ICC at the Hague being a political machination, rather than a court of law, there are political opponents and detractors at home, who would want the Sudanese leader sent to The Hague, so that his presidential vacancy is contested by all those who have always aspired for it .
“All wars, unfortunately, result all the time in terrible atrocities. They many civil wars that have ragged in Sudan for so long are no exception. But is adding insult to the war injuries inflicted by the internal conflicts in Sudan, to say that some court other than the Sudanese court is more capable of trying and punishing the Sudanese leaders? It clearly will not work. Not when the public in Sudan are so clearly mindful of their sovereignty and dignity.” He concluded .
Edited by : Mohamed Osman Adam