Volume 2 Number 4
A Way Out of the Rut
01 April 1989

Another African leader, General Joseph Lagu, former Vice-President of the Sudan, also took part. As a guerrilla leader in the bush, he fought against the Arab North in Sudan's first civil war.

His Highness Alhaji Ado Bayero, Emir of Kano and political and spiritual head of 10 million Muslims in northern Nigeria, fulfilled a long-standing wish recently when he visited India to open the eighth in a series of `Dialogues on Development' at the Moral Re-Armament centre at Panchgani.

The theme of the dialogue, `For societies in a rut, is there a way out?' seemed to unite Africans and Asians with a resounding 'Yes' based on their varied experiences.

Another African leader, General Joseph Lagu, former Vice-President of the Sudan, also took part. As a guerrilla leader in the bush, he fought against the Arab North in Sudan's first civil war. Now he is mediating between the government and the rebel leadership in the current conflict.

Lives saved
In his opening speech, the Emir recalled the Nigerian civil war of 1967 - 70, after which he had been instrumental in helping restore peace and trust between the Muslim Hausas and mainly Christian Ibos.

During the intercommunal killings immediately before the war, he had saved the lives of hundreds of Ibos by hiding them in his palace.Subsequently, he said, `it pleased God to enable us to help heal the wounds and scars of the war by arranging the return of their property as well as all proceeds realized from rents in their absence. For their part the Ibos displayed a magnanimous spirit of clemency and gratitude to our people.'

The Emir concluded, `It is therefore our unshakable belief that the way out of international and intracommunal conflicts is for those of us who are privileged to be national or community leaders to be true to our conscience, admit our errors to ourselves, concede the rights of those on the other side and resolve to live in peace, fellowship and concord with our brethren.'

Rajmohan Gandhi, author and a grandson of the Mahatma, noted that the presence of the Emir and the General established an important connection between India and Africa, Islam and Christianity. `The Hindus of India are here to greet Muslims and Christians, the Sikhs and the Parsis and members of other religions.' Gandhi said that, just as we know of certain truths but do not allow them to enter our lives, we are aware of Africa across the oceans but do not allow her to touch us. `But now the electricity has been switched on. The connection has been made,' he said.

Sixteen nations, including six from the African continent, were represented among the 90 delegates assembled.

A Japanese Professor of Structural Engineering, Dr Masahiro Kawaguchi, spoke of the pain he had faced when his wife had died. While in the past he had found life aimless and full of frustrations, he said, ,she was alone, praying to God and waiting for me to change'. From this he had understood an important principle, `that when we are loved we can change'.

He related experiences of working in Korea, which had once been a Japanese colony. Once, travelling on a bus on Korea's Independence Day. he had been talking in English with a young Korean when an older man reproached his young friend.

`On this special day, why do you speak with a Japanese in English? This is Korean soil. Let him speak Korean.'

He discovered that this man's uncle had been forcibly taken to Japan as a labourer by the Japanese military government and finally killed.

`I had read these facts in text books, but only now did I face the living facts,' said Prof Kawaguchi.

He said that it was the acceptance and friendship of a Korean fellow researcher, who `loved me first', that had helped him to overcome his frustrations.

Bureaucrats blamed
Bureaucracy was the subject of one of the most lively meetings at the dialogue, conducted by people who had held responsible posts in government. Professor SS Varde, a former Education Minister for Maharashtra State, spoke of the tremendous pressures that he had been under. He had been inundated with requests from people who wanted him to help their sons or daughters get into this or that college.

Faced with this, he went to many college principals and told them that this was not his job, and that `if you get any letter - and you won't get it from me, consign it to the dustbin.' Then he had a press conference in which he said that his job was to see that facilities were provided. `Influence peddling is not my job,' he said.

`We have a system with too much concentration at a focal point. Things which could be decided at a low level are not decided and the buck is passed on.'

Prof Varde gave an example of how a central government scheme with money allocated in the budget had been held up, and bureaucrats unfairly blamed, because the file relating to it had been sitting on the desk of a State Minister.

`I have imposed a discipline on myself,' said Prof Varde. `A file will leave my office within three days of my receiving it. If the decision is not made, someone will suffer. Sometimes bureaucracy gets a bad name for the things the Ministers have done.'

Two Ethiopian students who were studying in nearby Pune spoke of their decisions not to dodge bureaucratic red-tape by paying bribes to officials. For one it meant getting a learner's licence to drive the scooter he had been using for some years; the other had decided to pick up his resident's visa which he hadn't troubled to do as it seemed easier to bribe his way through.

They also spoke of the rift between Indians and foreign students. `They don't like us and we also don't like them.' But, one said, `I have decided to work to create a good atmosphere and convince Indians that we are also human.'

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