INTERVIEW with: Abdullah Zakariya Idriss: Director, International Center for African Studies (ICAS)

By: Mohammed Osman

The Arabs are in need for a new leadership, a new resurrection taking roots from the moderate Islam and fighting extremism.

-The Sudan is the world’s second richest country in terms of natural resources, yet with the poorest people.

-The year 2014 will witness a surge by Africa and introversion by America and Europe on their internal situations

-Mineral will be plundered from Darfur

Khartoum, (Sudanow)- Ustaz Abdullah Zakariya Idriss, the Director of the International Center for African Studies (ICAS), is a distinguished, whether you agree or disagree with him. He has acquired great respect by observers of the current complicated domestic and global political landscape. He has enriched the African experience with his theoretical and practical contributions in this definitive period in the history of the Sudan as well as the Arab and African countries through ICAS and his concern with the developments in the wake of the Arab Spring upheavals, the developments in Syria, the conflicts in Africa and the recent reshuffle in the Sudan. Sudanow interviewed Idriss following are excerpts: -

Sudanow: How do you view the current Arab scene under the present situation in Syria and the developments in the aftermath of the Arab upheavals?

Abdullah Zakariya: As regards the Arab countries, we cannot comprehend what is going on in them at present unless we understand the policies of the West led by America and the European Union towards the Arab nation, particularly the American policies. You may remember a statement by Condoleezza Rice that the US policy towards the Arabs is a creative chaos which means splitting the Arab states into 44 or 60 countries. This is the aim of the creative chaos. She went further to declare the guided chaos policy which provides that, after each Arab country in divided into mini-states; the Arab communities are destroyed, leading to the most alarming plan of eradicating the Arab nation with the Arab Spring which I prefer to call the Arab Winter, or the Arab severe frost with which America planned to annihilate the human-beings and flora.

sudanow.info.sdUnder those challenges, what is required to be done by the Arab leaders and thinkers, particularly the collective Arab intelligentsia?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:What is required of the Arab thinkers and leaders is to review their policies, starting with reconsideration of our relations with the rest of the world. Internally, we have first to keep the Arab community in each one of our countries and it is a fact that each country of our region witnesses divisions and armed violence from which many countries, particularly Libya, are suffering. This violence began to stretch to Tunis and there is now the violent catastrophe being experienced by Syria

which is confronting an attempt of a full-scale destruction of its people as well as all aspects of life. Moreover, we are witnessing an acute division in Egypt.

sudanow.info.sdHow can those divisions be checked?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:Unfortunately, we cannot discern any role being played by the Arab League. What we can only say is that we are in a critical and dangerous stage and we have to exert tremendous efforts to find a way out of this dilemma; but each Arab state is now preoccupied with its internal problems, while the most important Arab cause of Palestine has been entirely forgotten. I believe what may bring the Arabs together once again is the goal of liberation of entire Palestine from the sea to the river and from north to south. But we have regretfully lost the compass and each country has introverted and withdrawn within itself and we can barely hear what our faith dictates upon us as the single Arab nation on earth. The Arabs are the main fabric of Islam and with unity, integration and liberation of Palestine we will become the vanguards of this universe which has begun to split into multiple poles.

sudanow.info.sdThe reconsideration of policies, does it necessarily cover reconsideration of the existing institutions and as, unfortunately, the conflict in some Arab countries takes he faith as a pretext, how can this reconsideration be carried out?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:Religion should unify rather than divide us into mini-states. The Arabs are the fabric of Islam and the Holy Koran has been revealed in a fluent Arabic tongue.I do hope that the faithful nationalists in each Arab country seek to find an end to the internal disputes in their country and that the Arab League will play an effective role. I am optimist because the world has begun to change. It is no longer dominated by a single power; a group known as the BRICS comprising Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa, has now emerged as an international power. We, as an Arab nation, can make use of this multi-polar world by siding with any one of these poles because we suffer political and economic problems in each Arab state without exception. These problems expand the circle of poverty and make no room for any economic development project in the Arab world and withdrawal of each state within itself implies that the Islamic culture which unifies us is no longer a unifying factor and the sectarian disputes in many Arab countries stands evidence of this situation. We have to look for our interest with any power.

We are at present experiencing the worst situation the Arab nation has ever passed through and handling this situation requires a new leadership, rejuvenated awareness and a new serious culture based on moderate Islam besides checking any sectarian or doctrinal dispute in any Arab community. This must be done as soon as possible with adherence to the Holy Koran and Sunna of Mohammad the Prophet.

sudanow.info.sdHave the Arab Maghreb countries been affected by these disputes?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:All of the Arab states have been or are on their way to be affected. The Sudanese have to reconsider their position, especially as the Sudan has been known for its moderate Islamic Sufism and the future of the Islamic nation depends on this moderate Islamic Sufism.

sudanow.info.sdThe arena is now crowded with extremists, orthodox Muslims and jihadists. What is to be done in this situation?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:We have to deal with them leniently and if they do not respond favorable, we have to deal with them sternly. However, I am optimistic with the Godly promise that Almighty God would make Islam over-rule all other faiths.

sudanow.info.sdHow far can the Afro-Arab summit that was recently held in Kuwait contribute to consolidating the relations between the Arab and African countries?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:Historically, the Arab leaders played a major role in the liberation of Africa and in the Organization of African Unity (OAU). However, the African Arabs accuse the other Arabs of neglecting the African Continent. This is a strange accusation because the Arabs constitute the biggest nation in Africa and their countries make up one-third of the area of Africa. We are Africans and our country is an African and nobody can strip our Africanism; we are the biggest ethnicity in Africa

And we are the vanguards of renaissance in the Continent and the bearers of the banner of the African political and economic integration. And after the transformation of the OAU into the African Unity (AU) we wish the Arab countries would be the spearhead of the African Union. By the way, Islam spreads faster than all other faiths in Africa.

sudanow.info.sdWill the recent Afro-Arab summit contribute to this?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:Yes, it will. Actually, it is the other way round. The Africans are stretching their hands to the Arabs while the latter are incapable of integrating with the Africans. Yet, there is a positive sign in this respect which is that the rich Arab countries, particularly the Gulf States, have begun to show concern with investment in the African countries. This is a good beginning and I call upon the Arabs to play a substantial role in the African unity. The higher goal of our Center is the African unity and the other higher goal of ours is the Afro-Arab unity through establishment of an economic bloc which is envisaged to be the largest of its kind world-wide. This is because all natural resources have been exhausted in the other continents and they are available only in Africa. There must be an end to the dilemma of Africa being the richest continent with the poorest people; and this can be done fast in a multi-polar world. Just as the American West, Asia and Latin America have begun to unite, the Arab nation has to turn eastwards to Asia with which we have common spiritual bonds as well as common history and interests.

sudanow.info.sdIs there a clear vision of this Afro-Arab-Asian bloc? ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:Yes. Both the Arab nation and the African Continent are required to unite with Asia; there are historic ties linking the Afro-Arab peoples with Asia. I have a book on China largely focusing on a multi-polar world led by China and comprises the emerging economic powers of Russia, India and South Africa. Our relationship with China began with the Ingaz (the present regime. When America exacted economic siege on us, China drilled petroleum, enabling us to enjoy a renaissance by more than 10%, though this rate gradually shrunk after the secession of the South. Still, the Sudan is now one of the world’s richest countries and with cooperation with the emergent economic countries; the Sudanese economy can recover and grow fast.

sudanow.info.sdThe African countries are divided into Francophone and Anglophone, a situation which makes some of them in connection with Western circles, bearing in mind the interventions in Mali and the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR). How do you view this?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:This situation will not continue and is on its way to disappear. I can predict that in 2014 the United States of America and Europe will be preoccupied with their internal issues due to the financial crises in America and Europe, something which will offer the African countries a chance to free themselves from the Euro-American influence. American is heading fast from the economic shrinking to the recession and will break down and so will Europe. The world is moving fast towards the resources of Africa (by the world we are referring to Asia and Latin America.

sudanow.info.sdHow do you view the Sudanese-Gulf relations against the relationship with Iran?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:The Sudan has to bring closer the viewpoints of the Gulf states and Iran without any feeling of embarrassment. It should pose as a spectator because it is acceptable to both sides and it is in a position to try and convince them by logic into putting an end to the dispute between them.

sudanow.info.sdIs the Sudan psychologically prepared to play this role?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:The Sudan is qualified to do so if it comprehends Islam properly.

sudanow.info.sdAs a research Center, how do you take reports indicating that the Sudan is the world’s third poorest country and among the most corrupted states?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:I was a geography student in London in 1957-1960 when the United Nations earmarked 1960 a year for studies on the resources of the Globe. Those studies which became part of our curriculum, and the result was published in 1958 and said: “the Sudan, with an area of a million square miles, is the world’s second richest country in natural resources after an equivalent area of land in the Soviet Union.” Leaving the secession of the South aside, what is left of the Sudan is the world second richest area in natural resources; yet it is the poorest country. We have to check this contradiction as soon as possible.


ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:We keep asserting that we have the best investment act in the world but in fact we have the investment act. First, we have to correct this act, and then we have to fight corruption. There are countries which are willing to invest in the Sudan, including foremost Russia and China and the former has appointed an envoy who has been visiting the Sudan every three months and declaring that he Sudan is the key to Russian relationship with Africa, implying the Russian concern for investment in the Sudan. There are also visits by Sudanese officials to China. Why don’t we let China and Russia come, with their full capabilities, for investment in the Sudan? We are the richest people but our wealth is under our feet. The Sudan, for instance, is the top of the world in solar energy while China is leading in exploitation and production of solar energy. The Sudan can do without other sources of energy like petroleum, gas, atomic energy, etc. It is better for us to sit down quietly, recruit all scientists, all specialists, whether inside and abroad, and prepare studies to be presented to Russia and China for investment in the Sudan in a scientific way. The problem is how to benefit from countries which stretch out their hands. We are fast asleep and we have no government.

sudanow.info.sdTo speak frankly, even if we gather the scientists together, the studies they are going to conduct will not find their way to implementation. What do you think of this?

sudanow.info.sdThe unity of the domestic front, the political reconciliation and the national accord are resounding slogans in the Sudanese political arena. Do you think the new government is capable of dealing with those slogans?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:Let’s pray to God that the formation of the new government is successful and that every minister will carry out his duty properly. I am optimistic because we have reached the bottom and we must rise.

sudanow.info.sd Some opponents say that change is not enough if it not methodic, that is, if it does not deal with the method of the present regime. Do you agree?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS: Let’s keep politics aside. The circle of poverty is expanding and we have to concentrate all our energies, both as a people and a state, on the economy. There is no humiliation to Man as deep as poverty. Islamic Caliph Ali Ibn Abu Talib, may God honor him, said: “wherever poverty heads, atheism says ‘take me with you’” . Yet we assert that we have an Islamic regime. There is n humiliation greater than poverty. We, in the Center, have earmarked 2011, 2012 and 2013 as years for economy with the goal of checking the expanding circle of poverty so that the people can lead a dignified li. We have all resources and all countries are willing to invest in our country. We are asking the officials to be duly concerned with the economy and the people’s life. The media should persuade the government pay attention to this issue. I know that some foreign companies come and return due to the corruption and the investment act. We have prepared studies on the Chinese and Russian investments in the Sudan.

sudanow.info.sdIf we prepare a good law for investment, there is the problem of applying this law. Hat shall we do?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:We first prepare the law and then appoint a person who is concerned with the Sudan and who strives to upgrade Man to the level of life that suits him.

sudanow.info.sdHow do you see the consequences of the war in Darfur?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:Darfur is the Sudan’s richest region in minerals, ground water, rains, and flora and fauna, but life has come to a halt as a result of the war.

sudanow.info.sdWhat is the solution in your opinion?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:I am from Al-Fasher. The problem of Darfur can be solved by its people away from the government. If they leave the problem to us, we can solve in a matter of weeks.

sudanow.info.sdYou have been given the problem and the problem has not been solved, while Darfurians are now in charge of the dossier through the Regional Authority.?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:It is not question of authority. The tribal wars can be dealt with and we can solve the problem by ourselves.

sudanow.info.sdIf we keep the government aside, it is reported that some Darfur rebel leaders have relations with Western circles?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:All of them, not one leader. We know our people and we know how to amputate all this, but keep the away the government which has made a number of reconciliations but nothing has changed. We can contact the components of Darfur community from the region. Darfur was a paradise and its people were angels, you just hand the issue over to us and we are going to solve it. The modern tats are based on systematic lying and the Darfur problem cannot be solved with lying. We can solve it away from lying.
sudanow.info.sdWhat are the prospects of the political activity in the Sudan under the current economic situation?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:We are backward, politically.

sudanow.info.sdWhat is required of the Sudanese people, their political parties and civil society organizations for removing this political backwardness?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:In my opinion there no political party on earth. Ever since the end of World War Two the class dominating America and Europe has decided to snatch power from the parliaments and parties and give to the government (the executive authority)which exercises the economic, political, security, education, culture and information powers. The parliaments and parties have consequently become sheer decors. All these are the powers of the Sudanese and are in the hands of the government crew while the parliament is only a décor for the executive government. You may remember that when the sugar price was increased, the parliament only applauded. All the sources of power are in the hands of the government. The parties divide the Sudanese people and therefore, if we are serious about unifying the Sudanese people, we have to do this through their social forces, their associations, their trade unions and their professional organizations of doctors, engineers, etc. The Sudanese people will not unify so long as the parties exist. We need self-contemplation and expansion of dialogue and discourse with the executive authority which possesses all decisions involving the destiny and future of the people.

sudanow.info.sdIn case the authority shows willingness?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:I think it will be compelled to respond favorably, otherwise, it will be overthrown by a revolution of the hungry. We should not those who are holding the reins of power that the people are supporting them. They are not. We only need seriousness for confronting the officials. People have to discuss ways for laying down genuine programmes and we should not be guided by private political interests, whether to serve an Islamic movement, a national congress, parties or rebel movements. Those who are in power must sit down with all faithful. E , honest Sudanese nationals for drawing up programmes for 10 years. We have witnessed experiments which have failed but we have not asked ourselves why they have failed. In my viewpoint, we have to pay attention first to the Sudan, then to the neighbouring countries and Africa. We submit recommendations but nobody seems to have time to read those recommendations. I believe that the worsening and terrible situation

we have reached forces us to have all the faithful sit down together and make plans for the Sudan for the next 10 years. We have specialists and scientists inside the Sudan and abroad, most of them in America and Europe. I have proposed the establishment of a scientist’s city that accommodates the migrant scientists and provides them with lodging and stability. Russia and China can build technological universities and colleges and the migrant scientists are persuaded to come back home, the Sudan will change in months.

sudanow.info.sdWhat about the experiment of the National Congress Party (NCP)?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:In the beginning, the NCP unified the Sudanese people. After that Dr. Hassan al-Turabi turned the NCP into a political affiliation, brought the parties once again and thus divided the Sudanese people. Now the NCP returned to its previous status. I have published a memorandum on how the NCP can return to its starting stage.

sudanow.info.sdWhat form can the required change take for revitalizing the Sudanese economy?

ABDULLAH ZAKARIYA IDRISS:The most important element for change is to start with dramatically changing education because education has been transformed into a process of ignorance. We have to try to rid the Sudan from this ignorance. Secondly, our top concern should be for agriculture. It is noticeable that farmers are drifting towards the cities in a phenomenon known as transformation of the cities into rural areas. What is required is how to achieve an agricultural programme and this is possible provided willingness is available with a number of countries for helping us. With agriculture, small towns grow and industry flourishes. ALL kinds of minerals are found in the Sudan and are nowadays looted from Darfur and the government is unaware. We do not need a ministry of investment; all we need is to change the act of investment.

Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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