Tag: <span>First World War</span>

World Day for Cultural Diversity Portraits of World Citizens.

World Day for Cultural Diversity, for Dialogue and Development.

Featured Image: These students together in a public school in the capital city of Nigeria celebrates World Day for cultural Diversity for dialogue and development on May 21st of each year; which is a significant event anchored by United Nations. By Joemadaki, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

In December 2002; the United Nations General Assembly; in Resolution 57/249, declared that 21 May each year should be the World Day for Cultural Diversity, for Dialogue and Development. The Day was created as a response to the destruction of the Buddha statues of Bamiyam in Afghanistan in 2001.

Thus the day has a double theme.  The broader aim is to create an enabling environment for dialogue and understanding among cultures. Achieving a true rapprochement of cultures must be nourished by a culture of peace and non-violence and sustained by respect for human rights.

The second theme, closely linked to the destruction of the Buddha statues is the protection of the cultural heritage of humanity at the time of armed conflict. In light of the subsequent destruction of UNESCO selected heritage of humanity sites in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Mali, I will stress the protection aspect by looking at the post-World War I efforts of Nicholas Roerich as an example of non-governmental mobilization.

“Only the bridge of Beauty will be strong enough for crossing from the banks of darkness
to the side of light”.

                                                                                                                      Nicholas Roerich.

Buddha of Bamiyan (reconstitution)

Buddha of Bamiyan (reconstitution). By MOs810, Saiko, Adam Jones Adam63, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Nicholas Roerich.

One of the spiritual visionaries of the 1920s-1930s was Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) a Russian and world citizen; a painter and researcher into cultures. Nicholas Roerich had lived through the First World War and the Russian Revolution; and saw how armed conflict can destroy works of art and cultural institutions.  For Roerich; such institutions were irreplaceable, and their destruction was a permanent loss for all humanity.

Thus; he worked for the protection of works of art and institutions of culture in times of armed conflict.  He envisaged a “Banner of Peace” that could be placed upon institutions and sites of culture which would protect them; as the symbol of the Red Cross is supposed to protect medical workers and medical institutions in times of conflict.

Nicholas Roerich

Nicholas Roerich (between 1940 and 1947). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Banner of Peace.

Roerich mobilized artists and intellectuals in the 1920s and early 1930s for the establishment of this Banner of Peace.  Henry A. Wallace; the US Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice-President was an admirer of Roerich; and helped to have a formal treaty introducing the Banner of Peace — the Roerich Peace Pact — signed at the White House on 15 April 1935; by the 21 States of North and South America in a Pan American Union ceremony.  At the ceremony; Henry Wallace on behalf of the USA said:

“At no time has such an ideal been more needed.  It is high time for the idealists who make the reality of tomorrow, to rally around such a symbol of international cultural unity.  It is time that we appeal to that appreciation of beauty, science, education which runs across all national boundaries to strengthen all that we hold dear in our particular governments and customs.  Its acceptance signifies the approach of a time, when those who truly love their own nation will appreciate in addition the unique contributions of other nations and also do reverence to that common spiritual enterprise which draws together in one fellowship all artists, scientists, educators and truly religious of whatever faith.”

Henry A. Wallace

Henry Agard Wallace, 1888–1965, bust portrait, facing left. (1940). By Photo copyrighted by D.N. Townsend; no renewal in the U.S. Copyright Office, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Hague Convention.

After the Second World War; UNESCO has continued the effort; and there have been additional conventions on the protection of cultural bodies in times of conflict — such as the Hague Convention of May 1954; though no universal symbol such as the three red circles proposed by Nicholas Roerich has been developed.

Conserving a cultural heritage even in times of peace is always difficult.  Weak institutional capabilities; lack of appropriate resources and isolation of many culturally essential sites are compounded by a lack of awareness of the value of cultural heritage conservation.  On the other hand; the dynamism of local initiatives and community solidarity systems are impressive assets.  These forces should be enlisted, enlarged, and empowered to preserve and protect a heritage.  Involving people in cultural heritage conservation both increases the efficiency of cultural heritage conservation; and raises awareness of the importance of the past for people facing rapid changes in their environment and values.

The Hague Convention.

The First International Peace Conference, the Hague, May – June 1899. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Systems of knowledge that ultimately become critically important.

Knowledge and understanding of a people’s past can help current inhabitants to develop and sustain identity; and to appreciate the value of their own culture and heritage. This knowledge and understanding enriches their lives and enables them to manage contemporary problems more successfully. It is important to retain the best of traditional self-reliance; and skills of rural life and economies as people adapt to change.

Traditional systems of knowledge are rarely written down: they are implicit, learnt by practice and example, rarely codified or even articulated by the spoken word.  They continue to exist as long as they are useful; as long as they are not supplanted by new techniques.  They are far too easily lost.  It is the objects that come into being through these systems of knowledge that ultimately become critically important. The objects that bear witness to systems of knowledge must be accessible to those who would visit and learn from them.

As Nicholas Roerich said in a presentation of a draft of the Pact; largely written by the French jurist Dr George Chklaver:

“The world is striving toward peace in many ways, and everyone realizes in his heart that this constructive work is a true prophesy of the New Era…We deplore the loss of the libraries of Louvain and Oviedo and the irreplaceable beauty of the Cathedral of Rheims.  We remember the beautiful treasures of private collections which were lost during world calamities.  But we do not want to inscribe on these deeds any words of hatred.  Let us simply say: Destroyed by human ignorance — rebuilt by human hope.”

Thus for the World Day;  let us work together to preserve the beauty of the past and create beauty for future generations.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Simone Panter-Brick - Gandhi Book Reviews

Simone Panter-Brick: Gandhi and Nationalism.

Featured Image: Gandhi spinning at Birla House, Mumbai, August 1942. By Kanu Gandhi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Path to Indian Independence (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012, 225pp) Simone Panter-Brick.

Simone Panter-Brick had written two earlier books on Mahatma Gandhi: Gandhi against Machiavellism: Non-violence in Politics; and Gandhi and the Middle East.

Here, in a book written just before her death; she deals with two key concepts in the thought and action of Gandhi: swaraj and dharma. Swaraj is best translated as self-realization; as in the Self-Realization Fellowship of the Indian teacher; Paramahansa Yogananda in California. “Gandhi and Swaraj” would have been a more accurate title of the book than “Nationalism”; but fewer people would have known what the book was about from such a title. As Panter-Brick points out:

“Swaraj is formed of two Sanskrit words: swa (self) and raj (rule). Thus, it can be construed either as rule over the self – the spiritual assertion of every person – or as self-rule – participation in the political affairs of the nation as citizens fully conscious of their rights and duties. For Gandhi, it was both.”

Dharma.

Dharma is a term used by Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists. Buddhists do not normally speak of their own religion as ‘Buddhism’; but usually refer to it as ‘the Dharma’ meaning truth; the law as in the sense of the natural law which sustains the universe.

Dharma in Hinduism also means order in the sense of the law of the universe; immanent but made known to humans through awakening; the basis of moral life. In a narrower sense; dharma means duty – often caste duties or loyalty to the rulers of the country; into which one has been born through the working of karma.

It is in this latter sense – the duties that Gandhi felt to the Empire – that the book develops. The book is especially useful for those of us who try to use spiritual concepts within the political field; where words take on other meanings; and can also be understood by others in different ways than intended.

Paramahansa Yogananda with his book “Autobiography of a Yogi”. Paramahansa Yogananda, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

My life is my message.

The understanding of the ways spiritual concepts are used in political life is made even more complex; in the case of Gandhi in that he was not a thinker in terms of systems; but in terms of action. “My life is my message.” Most of Mahatma Gandhi’s writings were newspaper articles reacting to specific events and letters; often in reply to letters asking specific questions.

Copies of his letters were kept by his secretary, Mahadev Desai; and make up much of the many-volume Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi’s effort at systematic writing; in particular his 1909 Hind Swaraj; was used on the eve of independence against him by those wanting to establish Pakistan saying that Hind; which Gandhi had used as an old name for India really meant Hindu; and that Gandhi saw no place for Muslims in Indian society; and deliberately overlooked any Muslim contribution to Indian civilization.

Gandhi and Mahadev Desai, at Birla House, Mumbai (7 April 1939). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

As Panter-Brick points out:

“Gandhi’s entry into politics sprang from the firm belief that a citizen has rights and duties, and that he, as an Indian, had a duty to perform. This Indian conception of one’s life task is best expressed in the word dharma or righteous performance of one’s duty in life”.

Born into a family whose function was that of diwan, chief administrator of a princely state; both his family and he saw his dharma as that of a government administrator; probably of a larger state than Porbandar administered by his father. As the princely states were autonomous; but under the control of the British Empire; Gandhi stressed his individual duty to the British Empire. He had lost his caste standing by crossing the sea to study in England – there being a caste prohibition to crossing a large body of water.

Thus; the only dharma he had was a responsibility to the British Empire. However; dharma for Gandhi had to be considered as a self-imposed direction for duty and not imposed by tradition.

Quit India.

Thus in South Africa; he helped to create a medical corps for the English – the 1,100 strong Indian Ambulance Corps – in the 1899-1902 war against the Boers; and again for the government in the 1906 short-lived Zulu Rebellion in Natal.

On his return to India at the start of the First World War; he had tried to recruit Indians to serve in the British Army. He failed in his efforts as individuals; who were not already members of military castes felt no dharmic duties to serve the Empire.

Gandhi’s sense of duty to serve the state of his birth ultimately gave way; when the British Raj was too slow to react favourably to Indian nationalism, granting too little, too late. Moreover; Gandhi was surrounded by Indians in the Indian National Congress; who had never felt any dharmic duty to the British Empire. They wanted to rule India without the British. They had in their hearts the slogan; which they did not use publicly until 1942 “Quit India”

Gandhi’s Vision of Swaraj.

As Judith Brown; another specialist on Gandhi’s thought, writes on the evolution of Gandhi’s vision of swaraj :

“that was to be markedly at odds with the vision of political independence held by most of his colleagues in the Indian National Congress and the country at large. For him, swaraj was not a matter of Indians ejecting the British and stepping into their shoes and seats of power…It was a great enterprise of moral regeneration of a whole people and a transformation of their society, a righting of the wrongs and weaknesses that made colonialism rule possible, and ultimately a transformation of the processes of governance.” (1)

Home Rule.

Gandhi long hoped for Home Rule, Indian independence within what later became the Commonwealth; that is, national government with foreign policy set by consensus of all the member states having a Home Rule status. He had translated into English himself his Hind Swaraj giving the title Indian Home Rule. India had been accepted as a member of the League of Nations although not independent nor having Home Rule status. In fact, the Aga Khan; considered to be an Indian; had been President of the League of Nations Assembly.

For most leaders in the Indian National Congress; it was not foreign policy which mattered but; “who ran things on the ground” in India. The Indian National Congress took advantage of every possibility to extend its control at the local level. Thus; Congress was ready when the Government of India Act was passed in the British Parliament in 1935; to take power through elections set for 1937 down to the provincial level of governance.

Stanley Bruce chairing the League of Nations Council in 1936. Joachim von Ribbentrop is addressing the council. By Commonwealth of Australia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

You might read: The League of Nations and its unused Peace Army.

Create a Political Vacuum.

From 1937 until 1940; Congress controlled the internal affairs of India; gaining experience in administration that would have paved a smooth road for governing the country at Independence in 1947.

However; at the outbreak of the Second World War; the Congress High Command instructed all its provincial governments to resign in protest at the Viceroy’s declaration of war on Germany; without consulting with the people of India. (Hitler; of course, had consulted no one before attacking Poland).

The immediate result was to create a political vacuum; into which Muhammad Ali Jinnah; also a British-educated lawyer and President of the Muslim League; stepped. Jinnah was aware that London badly needed some show of loyalty in its major imperial possession; and presented himself along with a vague concept of “two nations” – one Hindu; the other Muslim and the need for a “Pakistan” for the Muslim population. (2)

 Mohammad Ali Jinnah – Founder and 1st Governor General of Pakistan (1876-1948). By Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of Pakistan., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Quit India.

Congress formulated a “Quit India” Campaign of immediate independence for India. Japanese troops were in Burma on the frontier of India. Along with the Japanese; there was a fairly strong contingent of Indian soldiers; who had been captured in Europe by the Germans and then sent to Asia to help the Japanese. These Indian troops were led by the Bengali leader Subhas Chandra Bose; who had played an important role in Congress politics and was a close friend of Jawaharlal Nehru. The British took the Quit India Campaign as a sign of treason in wartime and jailed much of the Congress leadership until June 1945 when the war was over in Europe.

The days of the Empire were limited.

With the end of the Second World War; events speeded up. In 1945, 1st Viscount Wavell; who had been military Commander-in-Chief in India during the war was named Viceroy. Wavell knew the situation well enough to understand that the days of the Empire were limited. He called for an interim government that would be based on a combination of Hindu and Muslim leaders: Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister, Vallabhbhai Patel, the organizational strong man of Congress at Interior, and Liaquat Ali Khan, Jinnah’s deputy, at Finance.

Photograph, silver Dimensions:Framed: 13 1/4″ x 11″ Description:Black and white portrait photograph of Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru with hand to chinThe photograph is inscribed to President John F. Kennedy.
Historical Note:This photograph was presented to President John F. Kennedy during Prime Minister Nehru’s state visit to the United States on November 9, 1961 in Newport Rhode Island. By White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Mahatma Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi was largely on the sidelines as the administrative structures were being decided. As Panter-Brick writes:

“The Mahatma wanted to represent all Indians but not all Indians accepted that claim. He was too democratic for the autocratic princes and their vast estates. He looked too Hindu to the Muslims, too unorthodox to the Brahmins, too anti-class war to the Communists, too pro-landowner for the Socialists, and even in his party, too leftist to the right, too secular to some, too religious to others – and too non-violent to the politicians.”

Thus leadership moved to Jawaharlal Nehru; who also wanted to represent all Indians; but as Congress was over 90 percent Hindu, he was seen as a Hindu spokesman with Ali Jinnah for the Muslims.

Studio photograph of Mahatma Gandhi, London, 1931.Elliott & Fry (see [1]), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Jawaharlal Nehru.

Jawaharlal Nehru had been brought into Indian politics by his father, Motilal Nehru; an important lawyer and an early Indian Congress leader in the 1890s. Motilal, interested in spirituality; was a member of the Theosophical Society and a close co-worker with the Theosophical President; Annie Besant, and her Home Rule efforts. Motilal felt that his son needed a Western education to be able to play a real role in Indian politics.

Thus; he sent Jawaharlal to be educated in secondary school and university in England. The separation resulted in that Motilal and Jawaharlal had distant father-son relations; and Motilal passed on few of his spiritual interests to his son.

Jawaharlal and Gandhi developed much of a father-son relation; Gandhi serving as the replacement for the distant Motilal and Gandhi; who had bad relations with his own children; saw Jawaharlal as his son and heir.

Annie Besant, half-length portrait, seated, facing slightly right, clad in the style of the Aesthetic Dress movement (1887). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Congress Party.

Jawaharlal Nehru was basically a secular thinker; but who understood the need to make a religious appeal to the Hindu base of the Congress Party. As Nehru wrote:

“Sacralisation of the national movement? I used to be troubled sometimes at the growth of this religious element in our politics, but I know well that there was something else in it, something which supplied a deep inner craving of human beings.”

The “deep inner craving” seemed to express itself by Hindus and Muslims each wanting to govern without the other. Suaraj came to two states; with no spiritual transformation of the leaders. We have had since ‘nationalism’ in its narrowest sense; with wars between India and Pakistan; and the division from Pakistan of East Bengal; become Bangladesh.

Never in South Asian history did so few divide so many, so murderously.

Partition was imposed from above by the British; but no Indian leaders proposed forms of association; which would have provided autonomy without division. Some ideas of an Indian confederation were suggested; but the details had not been worked out. So division seemed to be the only solution. As has been said “Never in South Asian history did so few divide so many, so murderously.” Gandhi boycotted the celebrations of Independence held among riots, massacres and refugee flows. Over a million were killed in a short time; and there were some 18 million refugees and exchanges of population.

Thus; we see the importance of discussing and finding a consensus on the structures of a state. There were no Federalist Papers debates at the time of Indian Independence. Demands for the creation of Pakistan may have been a political move rather than a “final status” demand on the part of Ali Jinnah. Administrative structures may seem dull in contrast to the ideology of political independence; and the righting of social evils. But as Gandhi and Nationalism points out well; without clear understanding of the type of state desired and broadly acceptable; the door was open to religious chauvinists and their simplified divisions.

Notes.

1) See Richard L. Johnson (Ed). Gandhi’s Experiments with Truth (Oxford: Lexington, 2006)
2) For a good biography see Stanley Wolpert Jinnah of Pakistan(Oxford University Press, 1984). Wolpert is also a biographer of Gandhi, see his Gandhi’s Passion: The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Rene Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens.  

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Robert Muller Portraits of World Citizens.

Robert Muller: Crossing Frontiers for Reconciliation

By Rene Wadlow.

The time has come for the implementation of a spiritual vision of the world’s affairs. 

The entire planet must elevate itself into the spiritual, cosmic throbbing of the universe…

I dream that all governments will join together to manage this beautiful Earth

and its precious humanity in Peace, Justice, and Happiness”  

                                                            Robert Muller (1923-2010).

Robert Muller, whose birth anniversary we mark on 11 March; was the former Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Service of the United Nations, and, after his retirement, he served as Honorary President of the Association of World CitizensHe was brought up in Alsace-Lorraine still marked by the results of the First World War.   As a young man, he joined the French Resistance movement during the Second World War when Alsace-Lorraine had been re-annexed by Germany.  At the end of the war, he earned a Doctorate in Law and Economics at the University of Strasbourg. Strasbourg was to become the city symbolic of French-German reconciliation and is today home of the European Parliament.

Determined to work for peace having seen the destructive impact of war, he joined the United Nations Secretariat in 1948; where he worked primarily on economic and social issues.  For many years, he was the Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Council.  His work with ECOSOC brought him into close contact with NGOs whose work he always encouraged.

The Thinking of Robert Muller.

In 1970, he joined the cabinet of the then Secretary-General U Thant; who was Secretary-General from 1961 to 1971.   U Thant had a deep impact on the thinking of Robert Muller.  U Thant’s inner motivations; we’re inspired by a holistic philosophy drawn from his understanding of Buddhism, by an intensive personal discipline, and by a sense of compassion for humans.  

U Thant had been promoted to his UN post by the military leaders of Burma; who feared that had he stayed in the country; he would have opposed their repressive measures and economic incompetence.  Although U Thant was reserved in expressing his spiritual views in public speeches; he was much more willing to discuss ideas and values with his inner circle of colleagues.  U Thant held that:

“The trouble of our times is that scientific and technological progress has been so rapid that moral and spiritual development has not been able to keep up with it.”

You might be interested in reading: Burma’s Military in a Political Hole.

Muller agreed with U Thant’s analysis.  As Muller was a good public speaker; he often expressed these views both in UN meetings and in addresses to NGOs and other public meetings.  Muller became increasingly interested in the views of the French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin; who had lived the last years of his life in New York City. For Teilhard, as he wrote in Phenomenon of Man:

“No longer will man be able to see himself unrelated to mankind neither will he be able to see mankind unrelated to life, nor life unrelated to the universe.”

Oe Thant in transit at Schiphol during a press conference, Oe Thant (1 July 1963). By Jac. de Nijs / Anefo, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

A Sense of Humanity.

Muller saw the UN as a prime instrument for developing a sense of humanity; as all members of one human family and for relating humans to the broader community of life and Nature.  As Muller wrote:

“We are entering one of the most fascinating and challenging areas of human evolution. In order to win this new battle for civilization, we must be able to rely upon a vastly increased number of people with a worldview.  We need world managers and servers in many fields.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1947). By Unknown author unknown author; CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>; via Wikimedia Commons.

You might be interested in reading: Teilhard de Chardin: The Noosphere and Evolution Toward World Unity.

Albert Schweitzer and Norman Cousins.

I had the pleasure of knowing Robert Muller well as he was often in Geneva for his UN economic and social work and, at that time, had a home in France near Geneva; where he did much of his writing.  Muller was also deeply influenced by the thinking of another Alsatian, Albert Schweitzer; who had also spent most of his life outside France.  I had known Albert Schweitzer when I was working for the Ministry of Education of Gabon in the early 1960s.  Both Schweitzer and I, influenced by Norman Cousins; had been active against A-Bomb tests in the atmosphere; and so I had been welcomed for discussions at the hospital in Lambaste. For Muller; Schweitzer with his philosophy of reverence for life and the need for a spiritual-cultural renewal was a fellow world citizen and a model of linking thought and action.

For Robert Muller; the UN was the bridge that helped to cross frontiers and hopefully to develop reconciliation through a common vision of needs and potential for action.

Albert Schweitzer (14 January 1875 – 4 September 1965). By Bundesarchiv, Bild 145 Bild-00014770 / CC-BY-SA, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

You might be interested in reading: Albert Schweitzer. Reverence for Life.

Norman Cousins Picture: Apurva Madia, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

You might be interested in reading: Norman Cousins: A Pioneer of Track II Diplomacy.

Note.

For two autobiographic books, see Robert Muller. What War Taught Me About Peace (New York: Doubleday ) and Robert Muller. Most of All, They Taught Me Happiness (New York: Doubleday, 1978) .

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Darfur Appeals

Continuing Instability in the Darfur Conflicts.

12 Mar 2021 – Despite the removal after 30 years of power of the Sudanese military dictator Omar Al-Bashir and his subsequent arrest; stability has not returned to Darfur; where fighting began in 2003. Although the Darfur conflict has faded from the headlines; it continues producing many refugees, internally-displaced persons, unused farmland, and political unrest.  The joint African Union-United Nations force (MINAUD); has not been able to produce peace.  Peacekeeping forces need a peace to keep;  and during the past 13 years there have been lulls in fighting; but no peace to keep.

The Darfur conflict of western Sudan; is a textbook example of how programmed escalation of violence can get out of control. Neither the insurgencies nor the government-backed forces; have been able to carry out good faith negotiations; or deal with the fundamental issue of how to get cattle farmers and settled agriculturalists to live together; in a relatively cooperative way.

South Sudan.

Darfur (the home of the Fur);  was always marginal to the politics of modern Sudan and to the two phases of the North-South civil war;  which took place from 1954-1972 and from 1982-2005; ultimately leading to the creation of a separate State, South Sudan.  Darfur;  about the size of France; had been an independent Sultanate; loosely related to the Ottoman Empire.  It was on a major trade route from West Africa to Egypt; and so populations from what is now northern Nigeria, Niger, Mali; and Chad joined the older ethnic groups of the area: the Fur, Masalit, the Zaghawa, and the Birgit.

However; Nomads from Libya also moved south into Darfur.  As the population density was low; a style of life with mutual interaction between pastoral herdsmen and settled agriculturalists; with some livestock developed. Increasingly, however; there was ever-greater competition for water and forage; made scarce by environmental degradation and the spread of the desert.

A “Marriage” was Desirable.

France and England left Darfur as a buffer zone between the French colonial holdings — what is now Chad — and the Anglo-Egyptian controlled Sudan.  French-English rivalry in West Africa had nearly led earlier to a war;  and so a desert buffer was of more use than its low agricultural and livestock production would provide to either European colonial power.  It was only in 1916,  during the First World War; when French-English colonial; rivalry paled in front of the common German enemy; that the English annexed Darfur to the Sudan; without asking anyone in Darfur or Sudan;  if such a ‘marriage’ was desirable.

Thus, Darfur continued its existence; as an environmentally fragile area of Sudan.  It was marginal in economics; but was largely self-sufficient.  Once Sudan was granted its independence in 1956; Darfur became politically as well as economically marginal.  Darfur’s people have received less education, less healthcare, less development assistance; and fewer government posts than any other region.  Southerners were given government and administrative posts; in the hope of diminishing the violent North-South divide.

Share the Wealth and Administrative Reform.

There was no such incentive to ‘share the wealth’ with Darfur.  Its political weight was even lessened; when Darfur in a 1995 ‘administrative reform’ was divided into three provinces: Northern Darfur, Western Darfur, and Southern Darfur.  Some areas that were historically part of Darfur; were added to Northern and Western Bahr El-Ghazal.  The division of Darfur did not lead to better local government; or to additional services from the central government.  It must be added that Darfur’s political leadership had a special skill in supporting national political leaders; just as the national leaders were about to lose power — first Al Sadig al Mahdi and then Hassan al-Turabi.

The Black Book.

In 2000; Darfur’s political leadership had met to draw up a Black Book; which detailed the region’s systematic under-representation in national government; since independence. The Black Book marked the start of a rapprochement between the Islamist and the more secular radicals of Darfur; which took form three years later with the rise of the more secular Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Islamist-leaning Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

However;  at the level of the central government; the Black Book led to no steps to increase the political and economic position of Darfur.  This lack of reaction convinced some in Darfur; that only violent action would bring recognition and compromise as the North-South civil war had done.

Little Red Book.

The two Darfur groups, SLA and JEM; started to structure themselves, gather weapons and men. The idea was to strike in a spectacular way; which would lead the government to take notice and to start power and wealth-sharing negotiations.  Not having read the “Little Red Book” of Mao; they did not envisage a long drawn out conflict of the countryside against the towns of Darfur.

By February 2003; the two groups were prepared to act;  and in one night attacked and destroyed many of Sudan’s military planes based at El Fasher.  The Sudan military lost in one night more planes than it had in 20 years of war against the South.

The Evildoers on Horseback.

However; the central government’s ‘security elite’ — battle hardened from its fight against the South starting in 1982;  and knowing that the regular army was over-extended and tired of fighting— decided to use against the Darfur insurgents; techniques which had been used with some success against the South: to arm and to give free reign to militias and other irregular forces.

Thus; the government armed and directed existing armed groups in Darfur — popular defense forces and existing tribal militias.  The government also started putting together a fluid and shadowy group; now called the Janjaweed (“the evildoers on horseback”).  To the extent that the makeup of the Janjaweed is known; it seems to be a collection of bandits of Chadians; who had used Darfur as a safe haven for the long-lasting insurgencies in Chad;  some from Libya’s Islamic Forces; which had once been under the control of the Libyan government; but left wandering when Libyan policy changed.

The SLA or The JEM.

The Sudanese central government gave these groups guns, uniforms, equipment and indications where to attack; but no regular pay. Thus; these militias had to pay themselves by looting homes, crops, livestock, by taking slaves and raping women and girls.  Village after village was destroyed; on the pretext that some in the village supported either the SLA or the JEM; crops were burned, water wells filled with sand.  As many people as possible fled to Chad; or to areas thought safer within Darfur.

Darfur represents a classic case of how violence gets out of control; and goes beyond the aims for which it was first used.   There have been splits within both the SLA and the JEM; mostly on tribal lines, making negotiations all the more difficult.  Darfur is also a classic example that U.N. military forces do not create stable civil societies. There is yet much to be done; and there are very few positive signs of necessary action.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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