In the end, Africans escaped the blanket “Australasianisation” of their destiny by the Arab conquest, 800 years before the Europeans achieved this murderous goal elsewhere in the world. This was because Africans were continuously re-grouping and re-defining the future trajectory of their defence, existence, and development by utilising the flexibility occasioned by the sheer size of their (continental) homeland. In addition, they were successful in interweaving the arterial cultural fibre that bound their peoples in order to cope with the inevitable social stresses in regions that had become destinations for the migratory shifts of population, leaving any territories lost or severely threatened by the Arab/islamist emergency.
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe (August 2007)
It did not require some extraordinary insight to predict the utter failure of the July 2007 Accra summit of Africa’s heads of state – not so much the indifference shown to the vaunted theatrics of the so-called “continental union government” performance by Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi but the assembly’s deafening silence over the ongoing Arab-driven genocide against the African people of Darfur. This failure is indefensible. Just as the 1966-1970 Igbo genocide (post-European occupied Africa’s foundational genocide which the Arab/islamic World, in concert with Britain, the former Soviet Union and the Nigerian state executed, resulting in the murder of 3.1 million Igbo) and the subsequent genocides in Sierra Leone, Rwanda and the Congos, African leaders have yet again failed to confront and halt another mass slaughter of an African people. Just as in all the pre-Darfur continental genocides of the past 41 years in which 15 million Africans were murdered, the world appears, yet again, to watch at the sideline as another nation of Africans is being systematically destroyed by an African state run by a ruthless minority Arab/islamist hegemonic grouping. A total of 200,000 Darfuri have so far been murdered.
Despite Gaddafi’s pre-summit boisterous campaigns across Africa to publicise his “union government” ambition, the Arab nationalist, who has turned his country into some religio-dynastic fiefdom since he seized power in 1967 after a coup d’état, has obviously scant democratic credentials to present to the current frenetic African discourses geared to the reworking and transformation of Africa’s debilitating sociopolitical spaces of dictatorship, militarism and genocide. Africa’s strategic goal in these early decades of the new millennium, it should be stressed, is to dismantle its extant genocide-states and create extensively decentralised new state forms of organic coherence that not only halt the slaughtering of four decades but also embark on the construction of African-centred polities of advanced civilisations.
Imperium & Lebensraum
Furthermore, Gaddafi must have known, all along, that the overwhelming majority of Africans are vehemently opposed to be dragged and boxed into another conqueror/genocide-state, à la the existing ones – Nigeria, the Sudan, the Congos, Central Africa Republic, Chad, whatever! This is whether or not the envisaged contraption is more territorially expansive than the status quo or if it is subsumed under some creeping Arab/islamist imperium, which is essentially what Gaddafi’s “union government” quest ominously prefigures. Gaddafi had indeed in 2001 appealed to Arabs, including those domiciled outside Africa, to support and join this contraption as the “only [living] space we have” for the future (Chris Akiri, “US of Africa: A dangerous proposition,” The Guardian, Lagos, 23 July 2007), a point already taken up so aggressively by the Sudan which has been settling thousands of Arabs on Darfuri lands “cleansed” of their African owners as the genocide intensifies (The Independent, London, 14 July 2007).
It is precisely because of the overriding importance of the “Darfur factor” in present pan-Arab political calculations on Africa that Gaddafi was generally unperturbed by his “union government” failure in Accra. On the contrary, Gaddafi returned home from Accra very satisfied that he had ensured that Africa did not discuss the raging Darfur genocide. Gaddafi had in effect converted the well-known pan-Arab long-term goal to seize the whole of Africa to a more “immediate” task, a smokescreen that dominated the conference proceedings and kept Darfur off the agenda! Yet, Gaddafi’s diversionary trail on Darfur must be exposed for what it really is: the Darfur genocide, in 2007, tragically illustrates the grim realities of Africa-Arab “relations” of nearly 2000 years which Gaddafi and other Arab expansionists and some of their African religio-political allies cannot ignore.
Serial aggression and expansionism were the interlocking dual tracks that codified Arab’s policy to the African World right from the outset. In the 7th century of the last millennium, a rampaging Arab/islamist army invaded Africa from across Arabia in the northeast and seized the great African civilisation of Kemet (“ancient Egypt”). It later expanded this conquest westwards to cover the 3000 miles of territory to the continent’s northwest Atlantic coast – the so-called Maghrib. Africa lost one-third of its territory that the Arabs still occupy to the present day. Essentially this occupation has continued, thanks to the tapering off of the African resistance in Kemet and elsewhere in north Africa and the dispersal of millions of survivors to the neighbouring regions of central, eastern and western Africa.
Soon, the Arab/islamists converted their north African occupation and their later cultural hegemony in Sahelian west Africa into a profitable conurbation for the enslavement and export of Africans as well as non-human resources such as gold (particularly) to the Arab World, Asia and southern Europe. At the height of the occupation, the Arab/islamists exported two million enslaved Africans per annum to the Arab World (Chinweizu, Decolonising the African Mind, Lagos, Pero, 1987, p. 129.) and extensively depleted the gold reserves in the Sudan, Mali, Songhai, Kanem-Bornu and elsewhere, which were transferred to enrich the bourses and palaces of the Arab World. Considering the magnitude of this export of African resources at the time, it is not without significance that the Arabs themselves have a saying, “Against the camel’s mange use a tar, and against poverty make a trip to the Sudan.” (Cheikh Anta Diop, Precolonial Black Africa, New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 1987, p. 136.) The role of the Arab World itself in the re-export of enslaved Africans in its territory to southern Europe (in addition to the Near-East and southwest Asia) during the period – a practice which dramatically doubled and, in some cases, tripled the “value” of the enslaved Africans – was such that in Naples, for example, 83 per cent of those enslaved there by the 15th century were Africans (Chinweizu, Decolonising the African Mind, p. 129). And, contrary to “conventional” wisdom, enslaved Africans worked Arab/islamist sugar plantations in Morocco as early as the 9th century AD, almost 600 years before the Americas!
Morocco itself would later on in 1593 attack, pillage, and seize prominent towns of Songhai, leading ultimately in its wake to the collapse of the Songhai state, ironically the most islamised of the Sahelian west African states. Parallel to these events in west Africa, Arab/islamist expansionism in east Africa, subsequent to the initial 7th century invasion of the north, soon spread along the Somali, Kenyan and Mozambican coastline and their occupation of the offshore island of Zanzibar, which they later transformed into a strategic colony for enslaved Africans.
“Australasianisation”, Africophobism, Double Jeopardy
From the above-mentioned coastal bridgeheads of east Africa, the Arab/islamists began to exert enormous influence into the affairs of the existing independent states of the African hinterland – in the east, central and southern Africa. In the latter two regions, as were the cases in north and western Africa, they pursued a scorched earth policy of brigandage, murders and the enslavement and export of millions of African peoples to the Arab World and elsewhere – a practice that actively went on well into the 16th century when it, in turn, was enveloped by the burgeoning European eventual attack and take-over of Africa. Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, the Zulu historian, recalls, most chillingly, the aftermath of the Arab enslavement of southern Africa: “no less than a hundred [nations] were wiped out completely [during the period] in Tanganyika, Kenya, the Congo basin and [Zambia].” (Chinweizu, Decolonising the African Mind, p. 129.) The Arab aggression was couched in the language of racist bigotry and attendant Africophobism that hauntingly anticipates Europe’s own rationalising efforts a few centuries later: “You Kafurs are not people. It is the will of Allah and the Prophet that we catch you and sell you, for you are not people … you have no souls. Allah gave you to us for servants.” (Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, “The Rout of the Arabi,” in Chinweizu, Voices from Twentieth Century Africa [London & Boston: Faber and Faber, 1988], p. 13.) Finally, in eastcentral Africa in the early 1550s, the Arab/islamists dealt a further blow to Africa’s independence. They overran the three “successor states” of Nubia, essentially the surviving bastions of Africa’s ancient Nile valley civilisations, thus extending their territorial stranglehold on the Nile further south to the river’s strategic middle stretches.
In the end, Africans escaped the blanket “Australasianisation” of their destiny by the Arab conquest, 800 years before the Europeans achieved this murderous goal elsewhere in the world. This was because Africans were continuously re-grouping and re-defining the future trajectory of their defence, existence, and development by utilising the flexibility occasioned by the sheer size of their (continental) homeland. In addition, they were successful in interweaving the arterial cultural fibre that bound their peoples in order to cope with the inevitable social stresses in regions that had become destinations for the migratory shifts of population, leaving any territories lost or severely threatened by the Arab/islamist emergency. Even then, the partial success of the Arab “Australasianisation” of Africa, albeit in the north of the continent, was a sufficiently timely warning to Africans that they required both eternal vigilance and a totally different mode of resistance to foreign aggression in future if they were to avoid the possibility of complete expulsion from their homeland or a distinct marginalisation therein.
Arab/islamist aggression on Africa paved the way to Europe’s later attack, underlining the very double jeopardy-character of the African holocaust. It is evident that a key lesson that Africans learnt from the former was crucial in enabling them to organise the permanent but flexible resistance that eventually led to the termination of the European occupation when it arose. This lesson is still pertinent as Africans reject any form of “unionisation” with the Arab World and respond robustly to the Darfur outrage and other mass murders programmed for the future. For the Arabs, genocide remains their historically trodden route to seek to complete their “Australasianisation” of Africa. The more recognisable or operationalising concept of this process of course goes by the following name – Arabisation/islamisation of Africa.
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of Biafra Revisited, African Renaissance, 2006.