It is a great honor to have been invited to deliver this lecture in the name of Anwar al-Sadat, a great African leader and man who in his life faced and dealt with the complex challenges of making peace, whether within a single nation or amongst nations. One can, of course, not speak of Anwar Sadat without thinking of and paying tribute to his great mentor and presidential predecessor, Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser. His name shines brightly in the gallery of African heroes, liberators and statesmen; and we salute his memory tonight.
Many of you will remember that in Africa there were two blocs – the Monrovian group and the Casablanca group. The Casablanca group was the most progressive in its attitude towards the liberation movements in Africa and in relation to its attitude towards the Western world. Egypt under Colonel Nasser, as well as Morocco under King Mohammed V, and Algeria, Ghana and Mali were in the Casablanca group. It is in the light of this background that, in addition to Anwar Sadat, we think of Colonel Nasser.
It was thought proper to give as the title to our own autobiography the phrase “long walk to freedom.” I shall not pretend to be a literary critic even where it concerns a work written by myself. What I can say about that phrase is that it not only signals retrospectively the length of the struggle to attain freedom and peace; it is also, one hopes, a call to readers to be ever-attentive that the struggle for freedom and peace be a continuing one. We do not ever reach an end to that road where we can sit down and lay down our tools.
Recent events in the world have forced us anew, and perhaps even in new ways, to focus on the complexities of maintaining, establishing and consolidating peace in our planet. We were hopeful that the beginning of the new century was increasingly witnessing the dawn of consensus about the global responsibility for peace. The terrible audacity of the events of September 11, 2001 shook all of us out of preconceptions about peace and security in the world. It is not clear that we have yet fully comprehended the implications and consequences of what happened on that day, but surely the world will not be the same after those events. The events, executed with such cold-blooded efficiency in the heart of the most powerful nation in the world, reminded us that the entire world stands exposed to terrorism.
Acts of terrorism have of course not been confined to those we saw in New York and Washington on September 11. Many parts of the world – too many parts, in fact – continue to be haunted by this scourge that is terrorism. It assumes many forms and presents itself in the service of many causes. It was the perversely spectacular nature of the events of September 11 – and not that other lives lost are less valued than those – that focused the world’s mind anew on the threat of terrorism. It starkly confronted us with some of the implications of the ultimate lack of respect for law and convention.
We have had occasion to express ourselves publicly in support of the current military actions by the United States and Britain in pursuit of those they identified as the perpetrators of the acts of terror. We accept that the United States and Britain are bent on bringing to book the identified terrorists and that the unfortunate civilian casualties that arise are coincidental. We accept that they will and are taking all precautions possible within a war situation to minimize civilian casualties and suffering. But before I proceed, there are certain hard facts we must accept about this attack on the eleventh of September. The efficient manner in which it was executed shows that the preparations must have taken a long time indeed. I wouldn’t be surprised if those preparations took more than two years. What is disturbing is that the West, with all its technology, its intelligence services, its enormous resources, was unable to get a clue of what was being prepared. They only became aware when the attack was actually launched. That has serious implications and challenges some of the platitudes which the West has repeatedly told us: that they are superior in intelligence to the developing world. The fact that they had no clue whatsoever of such elaborate preparations has serious implications.
The tragedy of war – and therefore one of the main reasons why we should redouble our collective efforts to create a world in which war shall have no place – is that inevitably innocent civilians and bystanders suffer and die. In the process of war, infrastructure vital to the lives of ordinary citizens gets destroyed. This is undoubtedly happening again in the military activities conducted by the United States and Britain in Afghanistan. Those in that country – already so devastated by war and conflict – who refuse to cooperate with the international forces against terrorism, have brought this war on the country and are the ones in the first place responsible for this further tragic suffering.
We must wish that the military action needed in pursuit of the objectives against terrorism will be concluded in the shortest time possible and that world attention can turn to the other forms of action required to combat and eradicate terrorism, thereby creating a safer and more secure world for all. We trust that the international community and agencies will be giving all the humanitarian assistance possible to the people of Afghanistan, now already in the conditions of war and also in the longer term, as that country needs to be reconstructed after so much suffering. We must trust above all that in Afghanistan, and all over the world, democracy will be established and the interests and well-being of the people will be supreme.
We shall not be so arrogant as to dictate that the one particular form of democracy that we are used to and practice in our own country provides the answer to all situations. There are countries without the popular institutions we know, that provide the social and economic needs of their citizens to a far greater extent than many of the popular democracies. What one is asking for is that government serve the people and that their interests be the priority in national life. In a world where, as we are now witnessing, the pursuit of peace and the conduct of war sometimes coincide, it is absolutely necessary that our international and multilateral bodies become more effective as agencies for conflict management, resolution and prevention, and in the fight against terrorism. The manner in which virtually all of the nations of the world responded to condemn terrorism provides the basis for multilateral action, with the United Nations particularly key in this regard. The support that the United States and Britain have received from the international community for their action against terrorism must surely in future encourage them to lend their strongest support to making our world body an effective and potent agency for dealing with international issues affecting peace.
It is common knowledge that the first world war broke out in 1914 and ended four years after that. Twenty-one years later, the second world war broke out and ended in 1945. It is now 56 years later. There has been no third world war. Indeed, there have been many conflicts, civil and regional, but no world war. That is because we now have international bodies in which the majority of the states are members. The most dominant of all these is the United Nations, whose charter provides that members must seek to resolve their problems through peaceful means, and that therefore it is the duty of every country, big or small, to respect the United Nations. We condemn countries, no matter who they are, that avoid the United Nations and take action independently of the world body and violate the integrity of other countries, whatever the excuse is. In that way they are introducing chaos in international affairs. If they say, we can avoid the United Nations, although we are members, and go and attack another country, they have no right to do so. It is something that we have to condemn in the strongest terms. If you are a public figure, you don’t hesitate to criticize any country, even those countries that happen to assist in the development of your country. We must thank them when they do good, but we must criticize and even condemn them when they deviate from the basic rules the international community has laid out to ensure that problems are settled peacefully through negotiations and through respect for the international structures that have been created.
It is often warned that the current conflict should not be dealt with in a manner that divides the Islamic and nonIslamic worlds. We said right at the outset and also in our communications with President Bush two days ago, that any campaign conducted should be against terrorism and not against Muslims or Arab nations and people.
When this attack occurred, I made a statement in South Africa that was publicized very widely, in which I condemned in the strongest terms the attack of September 11. I called for the accurate identification of all the terrorists who were responsible, both as the masterminds and those who carried out these acts, and I said that they should be heavily punished. But at the same time, I said I hope this attack will not lead to the rise of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim feeling because it is not the Arabs, it is not the Muslims, who are responsible for this attack. Those who launched the attack and cover themselves as people acting in the interest of the Muslim religion are hypocrites. The Holy Prophet Muhammad made it clear that human relations must be based on respect for one another, and that problems should be solved through negotiations. We almost regard it as offensive to repeat that warning, as if Islam is in any way implicated. Leaders in the Islamic world have expressed themselves as strongly as any against terrorism, and those acts of terror have been strongly condemned. Islamic countries form as important a bulwark against terrorism as any other bloc of countries in the international community.
I must also add that when I came out of prison, I went to the Middle East, went round the Arab world. I was shocked because the Arab countries had been presented as countries that had no respect for democracy, where there are no votes, where there are no parliaments. Indeed, I found that there were no votes, there were no parliaments – and we want all countries, including the Arab states, to introduce representative governments. But the West must not bluff itself and think that when they talk of democratic government they are superior to the Arab countries.
There are certain respects in which the Arab countries, especially the Saudi Arabian kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Brunei, have served their people in a way that you do not see in the West at all. Saudi Arabia, for example, has free education from the primary level right up to university – and at university, the students are given an allowance of $400 a month. They have free health services. There are no taxes. Houses are so heavily subsidized that to get a house costs next to nothing. You don’t find that in the West. If you go to the center of New York, to Harlem, you will find that poverty is staring you in the face. Of course we find poverty everywhere, including the Arab countries. But from the point of view of treating their people well, the Arabs are doing far better than the West.
Talking about Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the leader of government has more contact with his people than do leaders in the West. In Saudi Arabia, the crown prince, who is now the virtual ruler, every Tuesday sees anybody who wants to see him. He sees thousands, listens to their demands and their complaints, and wherever possible tries to address them. Nothing of the sort in the West. And in a country like the United States of America, you cannot be a mayor, a governor or a president if you are not wealthy. I was reading the other day that a mayoral campaign cost one candidate $300 million. Where would a common man get $300 million to be able to be a mayor, to be a governor, to be a president? Students and all thinking people must understand the world in which they live. They must not be taken up by propaganda that in many cases is actuated by interests different from those of serving the nation.
The longer-term issues in the fight to eradicate terrorism – and this does not mean that these will have to wait for later to be addressed – concern the resolution of conflicts in many areas and the developmental needs of poorer countries and regions. It is appropriate in this Sadat lecture that we should point specifically to the situation in the Middle East and the imperative that a lasting and just settlement be found to that long-simmering conflict. Towards the end of 1999, we visited a number of capitals in that region and stipulated three conditions for finding a settlement. We repeat those conditions now:
First, the withdrawal of Israel from all occupied Arab territories.
Second, the unequivocal commitment by the Arab countries to the right of Israel to exist within secure borders. The aim of the attack by the Arab states on Israel in 1967 was to obliterate Israel from the face of the earth. Israel fought back and defeated the Arab army. So the Arabs themselves must make a clear statement that they recognize the existence of the state of Israel within secure boundaries, and also to establish diplomatic relations with that country.
Third, an international commission acceptable to both parties, to oversee the negotiations and implementation of these agreements.
This is what will bring about a solution. The Western countries, ever since the end of the Six-day War in 1967, have been trying to bring about peace in the Middle East, not so much peace for the Middle East. The main aim of each country was to make sure that it would have the honor of having brought about peace in the Middle East. As a result, there was competition. The United States of America and Britain would make a move. France would oppose that move. Russia would oppose France, Britain and the United States. That is why I suggested that we must have an international negotiating machinery composed of the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
I said this to President Bush the other day, after expressing my serious reservations about his refusal to meet President Arafat when he had met Mr. Sharon. I said, “Mr. President, that was a serious mistake. That confirms the perception that the United States is a friend of Israel and therefore not an impartial negotiator.” I said to him, “You must accept this proposal because it is the only one that will bring about peace in the Middle East.” I made it clear that I have never doubted the integrity of President Bush, the father of the present president. I never doubted the integrity of President Clinton. I said, “I do not doubt your integrity, but this is the perception, and your failure to see Arafat strengthens that perception.”
At the same time, I must indicate that President Bush to me appears to be keen to do the right thing. He appears to agree with the statement that was that was made by President Clinton when he paid a state visit to South Africa. He said, “We Americans have been asking the wrong question. We have been saying, what can we do for Africa? That was a wrong question. The right question should have been: What can we do with Africa? I side with the president. That was a radical change in the foreign policy of the United States. I complimented President Bush for having invited leaders like President Mbeke, President Obasango of Nigeria and other African leaders to listen to their views, their demands, and to try and shape the foreign policy of the United States in accordance with what the leaders are thinking.
There are many other parts of the world where violent conflicts continue to rage. In all of these the world, through the world body and regional organizations, needs to be involved, for the common concern of all of humanity.
In Burundi, for example, we have just managed with the assistance of the international community to reach a political agreement among the negotiating parties, with a transitional government of national unity installed on November 1. Now the support of the United Nations and the international community is required for peacekeeping activities and particularly for the development of that poor country.
Ultimately, the world must take common responsibility for social and economic development all over the globe. While the divide between the rich and the poor, with the latter vastly outnumbering the former, continues to grow, we allow fertile breeding ground for discontent and for extremism and terrorism. Our fight for peace is also and importantly a war against poverty and deprivation.
The challenges of finding peace are as complex now as they were in the times of Anwar Sadat. The events of recent times may just be the warning sound for us to take global responsibility for addressing the expressions as well as the underlying causes of terrorism and other threats against peace. The long walk to freedom, the constant struggle for peace, continues. It never was an easy road and is certainly not so now. We have to navigate many difficult twists and turns and find answers to complex moral and practical questions. A global partnership on all aspects of the quest for peace makes that road considerably more negotiable.
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