Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 27 December 2003

Sudan and Libya Did the Right Thing

Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, Arab News

RIYADH, Dec 27, 2003 — The Sudanese government did well by agreeing to give up half of the income from the country’s oil production, as did the Libyan government by admitting its weapons program and agreeing to get rid of its stockpiles.

These are two lessons in how to beat political reality, something that the Arab mentality has missed for decades. That such a sense of reality has long been absent explains the state of chaos and the extent of the destruction that we have lived through for more than half a century.

Our failure to deal with reality is reflected in our inability to handle the problem of the Palestinian refugees, leaving five million Palestinians without identity, land or country and confining them to camps.

Generation after generation has grown up there. The same logic is behind the present situation in Iraq.

Some may be surprised that Sudan can be said to have been wise by giving up half of its people’s greatest wealth, or that when agreeing to renounce a program for strategic weapons, the Libyans also took a wise decision.

The reason is that without these concessions, Sudan could tomorrow lose even the one half of the oil wealth it still has, and Libya would have no weapons at all in the future, not even kitchen knives.

Although Libya has denied there is any link between its decision and what happened to Iraq, I think Tripoli did learn its lesson, and that is good.

This was something Saddam failed to do, because he was a man who throughout his life never learned any lessons.

Saddam was the epitome of an arrogant and stupid leader: He attacked Iran despite the huge army that country possesses and invaded and occupied neighboring Kuwait despite the looming danger.

He maneuvered to keep the weapons the whole world watched him use to kill his own people like insects.

Then he refused to step down and instead slammed the backdoor that was being kept open for him firmly shut. He refused to go into exile and insisted on war, which he promptly lost.

It is not shameful of Libya to have learned the Iraqi lesson - better to give up a few weapons programs than give up the whole country.

Nor by the same token is it shameful for Sudan to have chosen peace over war and the sharing of wealth over total loss. It is wrong to persist in making the same mistake over and over again; admitting a mistake is always the right thing to do.

In the minds of many the Sudan problem is no more than a war to restore dignity and rights that should never have been compromised, and compromise with an enemy with whom there must never be any peace.

We have been living with these myths for far too long. The other side, in the case of Sudan, is Sudanese too. Any concession given is a kind of sharing between brothers.

There is no dignity in fratricidal wars, and there is no defeat in sharing wealth among brothers.

Sudan lost more than one million lives in a war that should have never happened in the first place.

The so-called acts of bravery of the past were mere acts of stupidity, for which millions of Sudanese paid with their property and their blood.

Despite the enormous losses, we should applaud the Sudanese government for the rational position it has adopted and the courage it has shown to put an end to this family conflict.

Southern Sudanese are Sudanese citizens, Khartoum is the capital for all, and the country’s wealth is a common wealth. I wish our Palestinian brethren would be equally reasonable.