A synopsis of the paper- ‘The experience of Africans under Arab colonialism and its antithesis’, delivered at the International Colloquium at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11-13 November 2008, on the theme, ‘Teaching and propagating African history and culture to the Diaspora and …’
The key to understanding Afro-Arab relations, past and present and the relevance of South Sudan to the future, is found in the reasons for the conflict in South Sudan of 1955-72 and 1983- 2005. The Commander-in-Chief of the Anya-nya liberation Army of South Sudan, Major General Joseph Lagu, and the Late Colonel/Dr John Garang de Mabior of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) stated that the root causes of the wars were cultural/racial, being the distinction between the Arab and the African. The Arabised mixed-race Africans of the centre, around Khartoum, sort to Arabise and Islamise the Africans of the periphery, including Southern Sudan. Here one should mention that Khartoum enjoys the support of the leading US Islamist, Louis Farrakan, who has received material support from the Sudan President Bashir. Farrakan and others from the African Western Diaspora deny that slavery exists in Sudan and forced Islamisation.
Denationalistion, by way of Arabisation, is also in evidence in Darfur in Sudan today, where the black Moslem ethnic groups, the Fur, Masaleit and Zaghawa are being demographically ‘cleansed ‘ by an Islamic militia and replaced by black Africans who are Moslems with a greater degree of Arabisation, such as the Taoureg of West Africa.
The issues that the Afro-Arab Borderlands raise, in places such as Sudan, date back a millennium, having deeper roots than the settler colonialism of Southern Africa and North America, providing a more historically rooted definition of the African nationality than that of the black consciousness movement. What we learn is that the African nationality is primarily cultural, not race based. This has profound implications for the African unity movement and is in keeping with Diop’s thesis on the African cultural origins of world civilisation.
Africa has an Eastern Diaspora, including Arabia and points east of Africa, in the Gulf states, the Middle-East, North Africa and Asia. More slaves were trafficked eastwards from Africa, than westward to the Caribbean and the Americas. The African Nation is constituted by Africa south of the Sahara, plus the Eastern and Western Diasporas, in the Americas, Europe etc. The unity of Africans can only be realized if premised on the unity of the African Nation.
African slaves were taken across the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf, to India and points eastwards. There had been the first out-migration of Black Africans out of Africa to populate the world. The Black people, such as those found today in Papua New Guinea, Australia and the Philippines are evidence of this. The Eastern Diaspora is ‘disjointed’. Research indicates its desire to reconnect, if not repatriate, back to Africa.
There can be no peace in the Borderlands, without a structural change in Afro-Arab relations. Such an adjustment must incorporate not only the admission of guilt but also atonement, raising the issue of reparations. There cannot be closure without an opening by the wrong-doer, to enable review and judgement. These are prima facie requirements to begin the Afro-Arab civilization dialogue.
Arab-led slavery of Africans and genocide, as found in South Sudan and Darfur, go to the core of Afro-Arab relations. These issues were hushed-up in the past. Now is the time to confront them. At the heart of the matter is Arab racism and hegemony. The Arabs arrived in Africa in the 8th century AD. Prior to their appearance the Egyptian civilization in the Nile Delta held sway, which was a Black culture, as were Kush and Ethiopia, before Egypt. The Arab penetration proceeded by the Islamisation and Arabisation of the Africans, who were denationalised and enslaved. This presence is therefore correctly called Arab settler colonialism. It’s antithesis proceeds by the establishment of the African Nation.
The Black Egyptian civilization, Arab enslavement of Africans and Arab colonialism are to be included in the curriculum reform agenda for schools, particularly in Arabia.
B.F.Bankie, September 2008, Juba, South Sudan