This is the interview with Alhadi Agabeldour, a Sudanese political immigrant in Belgium, a founder and president of African International Institute for Peace, a lawyer, a poet and an advocate of global peace and respect.
Could you please introduce yourself, your life and your organisation?
My name is Alhadi Agabeldour. I am originally from Sudan, exactly from Darfur region, where the civil war is going on. Since 2003, there has been a conflict between the local community and the government of central Sudan. The government of Sudan attacked civilians. The president of Sudan made genocide against Sudanese people and therefore, he is wanted by International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and the genocide. This is what happened in my region in Sudan.
I came to Belgium in 2009 as a political refugee and stayed here. I am a lawyer (Master’s in International Criminal Law), a social activist, a writer and a poet. I express my political ideas through writing articles, for example for Arab magazines. I also give interviews to international newspapers like Washington Post, Reuters, New York Times, France Press, Al Jazeera, different TV and radio channels. I was thinking how to develop myself here in Belgium. My friends from different countries and I started discussions about the possibility to make a bigger contribution and we created an organisation to work for human rights in 2013. And later, in 2016, we decided to establish a new NGO in Brussels – African International Institute for Peace (AFIIP), which is similar to European or American Institutes for Piece. Our main areas of work are peace, conflict mediation, development, democracy, human rights, and also culture. We organise workshops, trainings and conferences.
We started in Brussels, Paris and African cities. We have our representations in many African countries, like Malawi, Egypt, and Algeria; and we are planning to open new ones. In Africa, we also cooperate with University of N’Djamena, Institute for Peace Studies in Sudan, NGO from Malawi, and with the Minister of Education from Zambia. We have partnerships with some European organisations and the institutions of the European Union. We work as volunteers and try to implement our big vision for better future. We are optimistic to work as a new generation to build new peaceful world with respect to different cultures. We work not only for peace in Africa, but for peace in the whole world.
Could you name some of the biggest achievements of African International Institute for Peace?
For example, together with our Dutch partner, we organised “International Festival for Diversity, Culture and Poetry” in Rotterdam. We invited different people from all over the world. Speakers gave lectures about piece, dialogue and respect. Later, we did the same in Arab Cultural Centre in Brussels.
Another project is called “Live Together”. We made cultural conference in Molenbeek. Belgians think that Molenbeek is a dangerous district in Brussels; that is why our mission was to go there. Many poets, writers and journalists from Africa and Europe came to Molenbeek. That was a good way to show our solidarity and prove that we can live together.
We also join many different events. We participated in a big solidarity demonstration after the last terrorist attacks in Brussels. A few months ago, there was a huge African one-week conference in the European Parliament about civil society, investment, cooperation and development. We were guest speakers there.
As an immigrant and an international lawyer, could you tell me your opinion about the refugee crisis in Europe?
Europe is part of international community and the EU’s countries are members of the Geneva Convention, which they have to respect. Many refugees come from countries with conflicts and therefore they experience real risk for their lives. Some come legally, others – illegally crossing the Mediterranean Sea. But anyway, this is a refugee’s right to ask for an asylum in any European country after the proper investigation is made. According to the Geneva Convention, everyone has a right to rescue his life and ask for protection. Some nationalist parties in Europe have different ideas. However, the Geneva Convention is clear about protecting the right of all human beings. It is not about taking some people and rejecting others. Some refugees make crimes; others are more integrated, like me. I am integrated into the European life, I have a good network, I publish my works in different countries and I work with my organization for peace and solidarity.
Some people pay big attention to crimes made by refugees…
The big issue is not crime made by refugees, but crime in general. It does not matter whether it comes from refugees or Europeans. As I am a lawyer, I understand that when somebody makes crime, the law does not say if he is white or black, a refugee or a citizen of this country. I think, if someone makes crime, he should be sent to court. And there should not be anti-refugee propaganda because of this. I think, there is the biggest fascist ideology behind this. The EU should respect international law, human rights and cannot show such kind of discrimination. Just think what happened in Libya when the EU made big effort to save the country. President Nicolas Sarkozy decided to attack the regime of President Mu’ammar al-Kaddafi, which I find a big mistake. Now the EU should take the responsibility, to conduct dialogue on how to stop this immigration and make some development projects. It should support these countries and take refugees from there.
How could you comment on the rising terrorist threats?
Look, the majority of terrorists are not refugees, but people born here in Europe. People who made attacks in Paris and Brussels were EU citizens, born and educated here. The EU has no good and clear plan on management of international security. EU countries should work for good project to have proper education for its citizens, with perspectives for jobs and future. Everyone should feel being part of the big European community. This can be reached through education and respect to each other. People with extremist ideas should be put in jail, but not left for spreading their extremist ideas. Anyway, the reason of terrorism is extremism and not refugees.
What could you advise to young people, who can be influenced by terrorist propaganda? To their parents?
I think, young people should concentrate on their education and create their future, better than to listen to propaganda of terrorists. I think, terrorism is not useful for them. Terrorism is not useful for anyone. Parents should send their children to school, but also to look after them, work with them all the time. They should know with whom their children spend time and which media they read. People should live together, integrate in greater community and get a good chance for life.
What would you like to add in the end?
We are living in one world, which can be different in religion and various ideas, but there should be respect between people in this world. This is the best way to have a worthy life for everyone. Some crazy people make ideas of war attractive for others and we need to fight with this. The best way is diversity, multiculturalism and respect.