By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
Southern Sudan: Welcome to Freedom
Today, our African brothers in southern Sudan will be voting for separation from northern Sudan. It will be their independence day when they will declare their freedom from the racism of northern Arabs and start to face the gigantuan task of building their nation using their own resources. We hope that they will succeed where other Africans failed.
It is unfortunate that Arab racism has survived to this time in total disregard to the teachings of Islam and modernity. Like their counterparts among racist whites, the Arabs regard us as an inferior race. You may reach any level of scholarship or piety, to the majority of the white skins among Arabs, Indians, and other light skin races, you are not better than a slave, your ancestral status. To this day, the blacks are the only race that remain slaves in Arab nations of North Africa and African nations are not doing anything about it. It was not surprising that Osama deliberately insulted Obama during his inauguration by calling him 'abeed', a slave.
It is amazing to see how our position has not changed through the ages and one wonders whether there is civilization at all in human history. Where is civilization when Africans are thought to be generically stupid and subhuman by both those who claim to be adherents of the Bible and the Quran? Abu Zarr (May God be pleased with him) was not echoing the his own racial belief or that of his contemporaries when he called Bilal, the first musim Black, "son of a black woman" but that of his fellow Arabs. Though the Prophet (Peace be Upon him) has settled the matter by castigating Abu Zarr when he told him "you are a person in whom is Jahiliyya", it did very little to improve on our image in the eyes of Muslims from other races.
Abu Zarr's expression epitomized the perception and treatment of the rest of humanity towards us in all times and places: source of cheap labour for their men and sexual pleasure for their women, hence our role in building the pyramids and the convenient actors of sexual infidelity in A Thousand and One Nights and other books of Arab pornography. Today, as can be seen in the collections of Nancy Friday, the black man is also a notorious object in the sexual fantasy of white women in the West.
I visited the United States recently. One thing I set out to observe was the relationship between the two major races of that great country which is built on freedom and the dream of human achievement. I was not surprised that the gap between the races can not only be seen in its prisons, offices, restaurants and other public places but also it could be discerned even in the air that one breathes as he walks the street. A substantial population of blacks are so apprehensive that they believe that their annihilation will come soon, as a brother whom I met in Saint Louis told me. Let us remember that to date we have no record of what happened to the millions of black slaves that once lived in the Arab world. In what way were they obliterated? The insignificant number that remains are not more than the drummers we see on Arab TV channels entertaining their masters and their wives. We have not received a better treatment from scholars of those races either. Space would not allow me to quote them.
This is the atmosphere in which our black brothers in Sudan lived since independence. The British must not have seen them as fit to govern themselves, hence the decision to place them under northern tutelage. Even the liberal British historian, Sir Arnold Toynbee, agreed that the Dinka and the Shilluk are the best specimen of the frozen civilization described by V. G. Childe in The Most Ancient East:
"On the Upper Nile there dwell today people allied to the oldest Egyptians in appearance, stature, cranial proportions, language and dress... They are ruled by rain-maker magicians or by divine kings who were until recently ritually slain, and the tribes are organized in clans... It really looks as if among these tribes on the Upper Nile social development had been arrested at a stage that the Egyptians had traversed before their history began. There we have a living museum whose exhibits supplement and vivify the prehistoric cases in our collections."
If the intention of the white colonialists is to develop Upper Nile by appending it to the North, then they must be disappointed by now, for very little has changed in the lives of these people. They remain probably among the most backward even by African standards. Their images on cable television depicts just that much.
However, today they are making a choice that is neither Arab nor British, but African. They will choose to end the millennia of slavery and derogation and walk into the world of freedom. They are leaving behind Albashir and his racist government and janjawid militia.
However, if African history is anything to go by, we must warn them not to repeat the mistakes of all African nations before them, which have substituted slavery to other races with another of their own. The picture of life in those nations, including Nigeria, is not, in comparison to the state of other nations, more than what Childe described above as "a living museum whose exhibits supplement and vivify the prehistoric cases in our collections." Our corrupt leaders have not disproved the historical notion that we are a stupid race, for only the stupid will steal the wealth of his brother and transfer it to where he will not have control over it, only the stupid will descend to the level of a roddent that accumulates what it does not need, and only the stupid would think that he would be saved by his wealth when he impoverishes the rest of his community. On the part of we the follows, our submission to our present state of affairs has not disproved the notion that we are subhumans who price their pride of being human below their desire to live under self-subjugation, the cowards who cannot sacrifice their lives for those of their children.
There is a civilizational challenge lying beyond the songs and dances that will fill the atmosphere of southern Sudan, beyond the joy that will fill the hearts of the Dinka and the Shilluk today. Just as they choose to separate from the North, they must also decide whether they want to live in misery and corruption that pervades the peoples in the surrounding countries of East and Central Africa or they want to build a modern society based on equality, justice and brotherhood. Fortunately, they have the oil wealth that is needed to achieve both.
As a warning, the southern sudanese must avoid exchanging one master with another. China, United States, Israel and many multinational corperations are courting them now in quest for their resources. They must resist the temptation of falling into another their trap just as they must do everything to avoid another war with the North that is set to engage them in another struggle. Both will strangulate them and turn them into another Congo. Finally, they must avoid the internal tendency to discriminate amongst themselves based on sentiments of tribe and religion. They must watch their politicians, that evil class which has ruined the rest of Africa by exploiting the two primordial sentiments.
Acquiring independence is one thing, managing it is another. Nevertheless, we join them, as our African brothers, in their prayers for w better future and celebrations of the present. We hope those in Darfur will one day also experience the same joy.
9 January, 2011