"The Algiers summit restored Senegal to its historical and symbolic place in Arab-African relations” Spécial

With the 31st summit of the League of Arab States held on November 1 and 2 in Algiers, Dr. Bakary Sambe, Director of the Timbuktu Institute, expert in transnational networks and a specialist and informed observer of Arab-African relations, returned to this organization. For him, with the invitation of President Macky Sall by the Arab League, we are witnessing a simple return of the history of Senegal to its place and its historical leadership.


Algiers hosted the 31st Summit of the League of Arab States on November 1 and 2. The Head of State Macky Sall, current Chairman of the African Union, was invited to this meeting by his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune. When asked by "Le Soleil" about the significance of this invitation, Dr. Bakary Sambe, Director of the Timbuktu Institute, an expert on transnational networks and an informed observer of Arab-African relations, explained that with Senegal's participation in this meeting, "we are witnessing a simple return of history and Senegal to its place and its historical leadership.

With the return of Senegal and the AU to the Arab League summit, Bakary Sambe believes that things are returning to normal because in the midst of the drought cycle in the Sahel, while the traditional European partners were hit by the oil crisis, the Arab countries had decided, during the sixth summit of Arab Heads of State held in Algiers (26 to 28 November 1973), to provide assistance to sub-Saharan Africa. He also mentioned the creation of Badea, the Special Arab Fund for Aid to Africa (Fasaa) without forgetting the fact that the Council of the Arab League in Tunis had approved the principle of creating an Arab Fund for Technical Assistance to Africa (Fataa).


Bakary Sambe, who devoted his doctoral thesis and several books including "Islam and diplomacy" (2011), "Contestations islamisées : Le Sénégal entre diplomatie d'influence et islam politique" (2018), to diplomatic relations between Senegal and the Arab world argued that "this Algiers summit has returned to Senegal the place that historically and symbolically belonged to him." He even sees a symbol because following the summits of Algiers and Tunis, for the first time, a joint Arab-African ministerial conference was held in Dakar from 15 to 22 April 1976, to examine the project of Afro-Arab cooperation, its content, its modalities and its means of action.


Impact of the 1976 Afro-Arab Conference in Dakar

Dr. Sambe explains that the holding of this 1976 Afro-Arab ministerial conference in Dakar was, at the time, the result of negotiations between Senegal and Arab countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which received a historic visit from President Senghor in its wake. "We must not forget that following this Dakar conference of 1976, there will be the first historic Afro-Arab Summit of March 1977. At the end of this summit, important decisions were taken to increase Arab public aid to African countries. And efforts were made by Arab oil-exporting countries to assist African countries," he says. The financial surpluses contributed, at the time, to the realization of projects in several African countries and, in particular, in Senegal with the realization of the dams of Diama and Manantali as well as the project of chemical industries of Senegal (Ics).


Senegal, a “link between Africa and the Arab world”

As for this summit, the specialist believes that it will also boost cooperation between Africa and the Arab world which are "old". "The relations between Africa and the Arab world are historically and geographically rooted. Let us not forget that one in three Arabs is African and three quarters of the surface area of the Arab world is on the African continent. The geopolitical reality with transnational networks and security and migration issues continue to remind us that the Sahara has never been an impassable barrier, but a real inland sea that has always invited people to move from one shore to another," explained Dr. Sambe.

Professor Sambe added that at a time when the continental free trade area is announced and that both Africa and the Arab world are in an unprecedented and irreversible diversification of their partnerships, a new opportunity is available for the two geopolitical sets complementary in every respect.

"The entry into play of a Senegal presiding over the AU and as a hyphen, socio-historical and geographical continuum maintaining the best relations with its African peers and its Arab partners, could be a considerable advantage to propel these relations to their best level ever," considers the Director of the Timbuktu Institute.

The summit is being held around the issue of reunification of the Arab world and Senegal as a country with good relations with all parties can have an important role to play. "The Arab world, like all our countries, is riddled with contradictions and differences among the members of the Arab League. I am among those who believe that Senegal, among other levers, the first country to host a summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in sub-Saharan Africa, could have a decisive role in strengthening these relations. Our country is one of the few in the Muslim world to be able to talk to all the others; it is this position that facilitated the presence of Senegal unanimously accepted at this summit," says the observer of the Arab world.


Return of non-alignment?

Dr. Bakary Sambe sees in the revitalization of cooperation between Africa and the Arab world the revival of non-alignment in a world where division is exacerbated by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. "It is as if the old concept of non-alignment is being revitalized and corresponds perfectly to the spirit of Third Worldism of the 1950s, following the famous Bandoeng conference at the time of charismatic leaders of the Arab world and Africa like Nasser and Nkrumah.

Today, it is a new Africa that meets an Arab world that is questioning itself at a time when the Senegalese presidency under the aegis of Macky Sall is succeeding in positioning the AU as a geopolitical reality that prioritizes the strategic interests of the continent and the diversification of partnerships as reaffirmed at the recent Dakar Forum on Peace and Security," said Dr. Bakary Sambe.



Oumar KANDE (Translated from French)

source : Le Soleil