With several Middle East countries represented, it was inevitable that conflict issues would dominate the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Kampala. The forum that attracted 57 foreign ministers and 600 delegates ended last week.From Palestine to Darfur, Iraq to Afghanistan, member countries decried the violence, intolerance and discrimination afflicting the Muslim world.
Member countries like Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan (Darfur), and Kashmir (India-Pakistan), Somalia and Cote d’Ivoire—remain conflict-torn, and OIC foreign ministers vowed to act on this disturbing scenario.
“We condemn aggression…and we call for peaceful resolution of conflicts [like] the Sudan-Chad,” said Sam Kutesa, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs minister.
The five-day event that started with a Business Forum at the Imperial Royale Hotel and later the 35th Council of Foreign Ministers at Speke Resort Munyunyo, turned out to be a conflict resolution meet, with the Israeli-Arab feud in particular taking centre stage.
Most of the foreign ministers who spoke, tended to condemn Israel’s anti-Palestine policies in the Middle East.
“With regard to the Palestine-Israel conflict, we believe that Israel should completely withdraw [from the occupied territories]. And we support the [UN advanced] land for peace principle,” said Zainab Hawa Bangura, Sierra Leone’s foreign minister.
“The Israeli aggression against the Palestinians continues unabated… [And] the illusion of conducting negotiations has always proven to be an exercise in futility,” said Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Secretary General of the OIC.
However, while opening the meeting officially President Museveni reminded the delegates that while the Israeli-Palestine question was important, African countries in particular had a more pressing problem at home – Darfur in Western Sudan.
“It is unfair to expect black African states to support the Palestine cause when blacks in Sudan continue to be killed and displaced,” he said.
The President went on to preach tolerance, urging Muslims not to mind non-Muslims who eat pork unless it has been forced down their (Muslims) throats.
“Crises like Darfur and other daunting challenges require urgent remedies and concrete action beyond rhetoric,” agreed Ekmeleddin.
Delegates further agreed that terrorism contradicts the teaching of Islam, which advocates tolerance, mercy and non-violence, and called for co-operation in the fight against the problem.
“OIC is organising a high-level meeting with the United Nations General Assembly to affirm international consensus on developing a comprehensive strategy to combat terrorism,” said Azzedine Laraki, another OIC official.
But member states also condemned the tendency to connect terrorism to race, culture and religion.
“The OIC [is] concerned at attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations,” said Ekmeleddin.
Despite conflict resolution issues dominating the conference, there was enough time for local businessmen to showcase their products and network with investors mainly from oil-rich Arab countries. Also, the meeting was a blessing for the Uganda-based Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU) as members pledged Shs 47bn to construct a complex for the institution at Nakawa. The 10-acre site was donated by the Uganda government.
There was more reason for Uganda to celebrate as the OIC member states also asked the Islamic Development Bank to support Uganda’s infrastructural projects such as the proposed railway line linking Uganda and other Great Lakes region countries to West Africa.