Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On Arabs, Israel and Black Africa

Recently, I read a very interesting article “Black Africa and the Arabs”. The Article was written in Foreign Affairs Magazine (one of the best, most interesting Magazines EVER!) by Ali A. Mazrui in 1975.

It mainly discusses the affects of Arabs (and Islam) on Africa, especially on east and west Africa.
Here are some interesting points mentioned in the Article…

On the influence of Arabs (through 12 centuries of contact, enslavement, trade,cooperation, and settling)…

“In the secular field the Arabs have up to this time played two major roles in black Africa: first as accomplices in African enslavement, and then in the twentieth century as allies in African liberation”

Wikilpedia: Slave Trade Routes

“Swahili, now adopted as a national language by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda (and spoken as well in Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi), has come to pose the most serious indigenous challenge to the role of English as a lingua franca in Africa... Perhaps over 20 percent of the basic vocabulary of the language comes from Arabic-including the name of the language itself and much of its political vocabulary (like words for "president" [raisi], "minister" [waziri], "law" [sharia], "department" [idara], and "politics" [siasa])”.”

“Whereas the spread of Islam through East and West Africa provides a cultural bond, it also, in some cases, serves to reinforce separatist tendencies”

“In Africa as a whole, however, it would be misleading to emphasize only those cases where Muslims and Christians have made uncomfortable bedfellows. We should not forget that while the United States was trying to make up its mind in 1960 about whether to elect its first Catholic president, the Muslim voters of Senegal had already affirmed their support for their Catholic leader, Leopold Senghor. Islam in Africa has sometimes shown levels of magnanimity higher than those it has attained in its ancestral home in the Middle East.”

“...OAU in Afro-Arab relations were revealed. The organization is, on the one hand, becoming a mechanism by which the Arabs can politically influence black Africans. On the other hand, it is also evolving into a mechanism through which black Africans might seek economic concessions from the Arabs.”

On how European imperialists tried to build a moral case for their colonization of African nations…

“…the attitudes of most black Africans toward the Middle East at that time were either indifferent or hostile. The Arab slave trade featured prominently in the version of African history taught by English schoolmasters in East Africa, for the British liked to justify their colonial presence in East and Central Africa by arguing that the original motivation was to suppress the Arab slave trade. With one stroke colonial policymakers could discredit both the Arabs and Islam, while at the same time giving their own imperial presence a high moral justification.”

On the change in perception of Africans towards Arabs...

“The Arabs, however, under Nasser's leadership, did perceive the interrelationship between the Middle East and Africa and began to play a role as allies in Africa's liberation”

Gamal Abdel Nasser (x-Egyptian President)

“One of black Africa's foremost ideologists, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, showed some awareness of these bonds even in his more conservative days during the first two years of Ghanaian independence. As Nkrumah became more radical he was less inclined to recognize the Sahara as a legitimate political divide. Symbolically, Nkrumah even married an Egyptian woman to emphasize the solidarity of the African continent”

“The other stimulus to black radical identification with the Arabs was the place of the Arabs in the vanguard of anti-imperialism in the Third World”

On Israel’s cooperation and ties with African Nations:

"Israel entered into special agreements of cooperation with a number of African states: in 1960 with Mali, Upper Volta, and Madagascar (now the Malagasy Republic); in 1961 with Dahomey; in 1962 with the Ivory Coast, Uganda, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Cameroon, Gambia, and Burundi; in 1963 with Nigeria and Tanzania; in 1964 with Togo and Chad; and in 1965 with Kenya"

“The voting pattern of Israel in the United Nations has demonstrated how much a part of the Western world that nation is, and how influenced by its connections with Southern Africa its policies have been. When nationalist opinion in much of Africa was aroused against Moise Tshombe's bid to pull Katanga out of the Congo (and protect Western mineral interests in that province), Israel sided with Tshombe in many U.N. votes on the issue. The Arabs were not slow in pouncing on this Israeli ambivalence”

“…the Southern Sudanese Anyanya whom the Israelis were aiding in their fight against the government in Khartoum. In February 1972 a peace settlement for the Sudan was at last reached between contending Sudanese parties at a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Reports from Southern Sudanese sources at that time indicated that the Israelis were almost the only ones of their major advisers who were opposed to the peace settlement.)”

“General Idi Amin started the new trend when he broke off Uganda's relations with Israel on March 30, 1972”

“On November 28, 1972, Chad also broke off diplomatic relations with Israel, partly to reduce Arab involvement in Chad's own civil war

"... on December 31, 1972, the People's Republic of the Congo followed suit.”

“Niger broke off relations in January 1973, followed closely by Mali. In May, Burundi joined their ranks and then Togo in September...”

“President Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire) surprised the world by doing likewise. He explained that he had been forced to choose between a friend, Israel, and a brother, Egypt, and also criticized Israeli territorial expansionism.”

“...states like Kenya, the Ivory Coast, and Ethiopia (under Haile Selassie), which broke with Israel toward the end (soon after the war), did so partly because they did not want to be isolated from continental African diplomatic trends or break ranks with other members of the OAU.”

“Some commentators who should know better (including African journalists) have suggested that Africa broke off relations with Israel for the sake of cheaper oil from the Arabs. Such an analysis distorts the sequence of events. By the time the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) dramatically raised the price of oil, much of Africa had already sided with the Arabs...”

Mood: just another day...

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