Sudanese week in Geneva — Interview with His Excellency Mohamed Yousif Abed Allah, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Sudan
Among the Sudanese, he is known as "Sultan" as he is the descendant of the Sultan of Darfur, a Sultanate that was dismantled by the British in 1916 after a rule of 500 years. His Excellency is not only a man of culture, but he has also been the Chief Negotiator in the Abuja Peace Talks between the Government and the Rebels in Darfur. He has also been Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs.
Q: What is your reason for coming to Geneva?
We are coming here to inaugurate the Sudanese Cultural Week in Geneva, organized by the Sudanese people who are living in Switzerland. We would like to bring them the culture of Sudan, their "home" culture. We would like their children to know what the history of Sudan is, what is the nature of the people living in Sudan, how those great people of the past were able to survive and to live together. It is also a way of explaining Sudanese culture to the people of Switzerland, which we believe is one way of presenting ourselves to the other parts of the world.
Sudan has been portrayed for the last fifty years as a place of war, a place of conflict, but Sudan is a nation. The Sudanese are a people with a history going back more than 7,000 years. They are a strong nation with a strong civilization, and therefore it must also be clear that this tiny part of our present history will soon be overcome.
Q: You said that you have more than 7,000 years of history. Are you now trying to market this to the rest of the world and thereby attract more tourists?
That’s one part of it. We would like to sell this rich history to the rest of the world. We are also saying to the people living in Switzerland that Sudan is a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural society, and all these different ethnicities are expressed in this exhibition. Therefore, we are able to unite ourselves through the diversity of all the different peoples living in Sudan.
Q: You said earlier that you would like the Sudanese living in Switzerland to know more about their culture. Are you afraid that they have become too "European"?
That is not exactly the case, but we feel that when somebody is living elsewhere they adapt to the community in which they are living. But they should not lose the connection with their origins and the place from where they come. When they are present here we would like them to be good representatives of our people. They can tell the Swiss how good the Sudanese are and in this way be useful to both communities.
Q: You are also the Minister of Youth and Sports. Are you going to discuss these subjects with the international community during your stay here?
Over the last twelve moths we have been making new plans for sports development in the country. We now have a clear picture. In the past, we had some problems due to conflict in the country, but now all of these pieces are coming together and we would like to reach all of these places. Sports for Peace and Development — we would like to unite people through sports activities and we would like people in different parts of the country to improve themselves by taking exercise. We have presented the project of a low-cost sports infrastructure to the United Nations, and we would like the UN to contribute in building the simplest form of sports infrastructure in war-affected parts of the country — in the South, in the East, in the West and in the North. We would like to receive the contributions of the rest of the world. Therefore, I talked to the Director of the Swiss Agency for International Co-operation, and he now has a copy of that project. We will also pursue this same idea with the Swiss people.
Q: Do you have a message for the international community?
We would like to say that the media is mostly concentrating on reporting the conflicts — making news out of conflict. We would like the media to work with us in the area of building peace in the minds of people. This means focusing on the peace culture, on the reconciliation issues, on peaceful coexistence, on tolerance and development issues. If we can concentrate on these issues, we are sure that the conflicts will be minimized and people will be able to commit themselves in areas that are useful to them and the rest of the world. Therefore, we would like to invite the international community to work with us on the Culture of Peace.