TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Sudanese Peace Activist Safa Elagib Adam and Nigerian author Segun Afolabi

6 PM
CJSR FM-88.5 Edmonton

The crisis in Darfur specifically and Sudan generally is horrifying. According to some sources, Since 2003 between two and four hundred thousand people have been killed by the armed militias known as the Janjaweed; as many as two and a half million people, 75 to 85 percent of them women and children, have been displaced.”

Yet finding solutions to the problem is made worse by several factors, especially popular misunderstanding of the crisis and ongoing debate over the appropriateness of the term genocide. Worse still is the decision of a number of groups to exploit the crisis for their own political or even financial benefit.

The popularity of the “Save Darfur” campaign among groups traditionally indifferent to Afrikan suffering is more easily understood when scanning for anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias among the organisers. By their own descriptions, Sudan is a struggle of so-called Arabs against what they describe as “Black Africans."

Yet 99% of Sudanese would be called “Black” or “Africans” if they stepped foot in North America. When spoken by Sudanese, the term “Arab” may mean “Arabic-speaker,” “influenced by Arab culture,” or even “affluent.” And even though anti-Muslim bias is clear among many of the Darfur activists in the West, both sides in the Darfur conflict are Muslim.

Isn’t it strange that organisations and activists with limited or zero history in campaigns designed to end Sudanese or Muslim suffering have taken such a strong interest in Sudan now? After all, Afrikan suffering is far greater in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the suffering of Afrikan Muslims includes actual slavery in Mauritania.

Is this campaign and the need for real solutions to the complex problems of Sudan being manipulated by those who want to shift attention away from other conflicts, especially in the Middle East? What is clear is that a collection of powerful, prominent people with agendas not fully disclosed are either ignorantly or intentionally misleading the majority of people who desire real peace and justice in Sudan.

Regardless of who is manipulating whom on the global scale, in Sudan itself some of the best organising for peace, justice and development is being done by women. Safaa Elagib Adam is secretary general of and gender adviser to the Community Development Association, a group she co-founded in the 199os and which is based in the Sudanese capitol of Khartoum.

Adam has been called a bold voice for Darfurian women, working to ensure these vital stakeholders are involved in building peace. Though Darfurian women are at risk of being raped, beaten, abducted, or killed as they seek food and firewood, [Adam] reminds us that women are more than victims of war: ‘We are also stakeholders—real stakeholders—in the negotiation and in the peace process.’”

Adam’s work includes advocating for women’s rights and encouraging them to seek elected office, and creating of primary education and adult employment, especially for internally displaced persons or IDPs. She’s pushed for more open negotiations in the struggle for peace in Darfur, even organising the Gender Expert Support Team (GEST), “a diverse cross-section of Darfurian women representing non-governmental organizations, academia, the government, and rebel movements from across Darfur.... [She] successfully advocated for ... [the] participation [of GEST] in the 7th round of peace negotiations in Abuja, Nigeria. Although the members of the group had many different political views, they agreed on one important point: Darfurian women must be included in the peace talks. [Her worked earned GEST] the support of the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the African Union.”

In a crisis rocked by factionalism, the nonpartisan GEST created and presented a charter of women’s peace priorities to all negotiators during three weeks of deliberations. Their priorities included property ownership, economic empowerment, and human rights. Although the negotiations ultimately failed, GEST established itself as a presence and an ethical organising force; ideally, GEST’s influence under the leadership of Safa Elagib Adam will increase towards ultimate success.

Part of the quest for real peace in Sudan is the telling of the truth, truth which must be told by those experiencing it directly. Yet it’s common practice in the West for the various realities, historical and modern, of Afrikans to be presented exclusively by Europeans.

If you’d like to test that theory, step inside any chain or independent bookstore in Edmonton or most of Canada and look for the Afrikan History section.

The first thing you’ll notice--assuming the store has one--is that it’s almost certainly the last subsection of the History section, even though humanity began in Afrika and civilisation including writing itself probably began there.

The second thing you’ll notice is the names of the authors. Almost every book in the section will be written by a person of European heritage. Imagine the books in all the sections on Europe--Britain and France and Germany and the rest--written exclusively by Arab writers, or Chinese writers, or Nigerian writers. It’s inconceivable that it could actually happen. Yet the reverse is not the exception, it’s the rule. So long as the history of hunting is written by hunters, lions will never be heroes.

Segun Afolabi of Nigeria speaks to such concerns in our next discussion tonight. He’s the author of the short story “Monday Morning” (published in his collection A Life Elsewhere) which won the 2005 Caine Award, and the 2007 novel Goodbye Lucille (both published by Jonathan Cape).

On March 1st, Afolabi spoke with host Robtel Pailey of Pambazuka News on his experiences of winning the Caine prize, publishing in Africa, and diaspora and loss. He also discusses the impact that living in Canada had on him as a young man.


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