Conferences and Meetings

Conferences and Meetings

Vision of Bandung After 50 Years Facing New Challenges (40th Anniversary of Mahdy ben Baraka)

40th Anniversary of Mahdy ben Baraka

At the outset, I would like to extend my thanks to the Secretariat of AAPSO for inviting me to attend the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Bandung Conference. This invitation indeed honours my father’s, El-Mahdy ben Baraka, memory .He was one of the primary actors in the Afro-Asian Solidarity movement that extended to Latin America. He carried, in his heart and mind, the principles of Bandung. Eventually, he fell as a martyr on 29 October 1965 in his struggle against reactionary trends, imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and Zionism. 

Half a century ago, Bandung Conference was held. It was held at the opportune time – at the moment of strong belief on the part of some African and Asian leaders in the need to unify the struggle for independence and liberation from the political and economic hegemony of the old colonialism and to build new communities governed by dignity, freedom and social justice. 

Based on these principles, the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organization (AAPSO) was founded. Cairo was selected as a seat for the Secretariat to emphasize the central role that Egypt played then under Nasser’s leadership. 

When El-Mahdy ben Baraka joined the Secretariat in the early 1960s, this was after two whole decades of struggle against colonialism. He was born in 1920. His life was influenced by the historical events in the first half of the 20th century, namely, the struggle of the Third World peoples for political independence and liberation from the colonial domination. El-Mahdy ben Baraka did not sit on the fence but turned to be one of the key activists in history. His struggle and intellectual giving exceeded the Moroccan framework, developing with the progressive historical evolution and the proposed struggle context. This contribution further developed with the struggle of El-Mahdy and the political or organizational responsibilities he shouldered.

He was always keen to honour the interests and aspirations of the public; believed in the integration and solidarity of peoples. At the same time, he never abandoned his responsible and explicit critical view of his personal experience and that of the liberation movement. Concerning the events that led to the independence of Morocco in March 1956, he commented:

‘Why did the national liberation movement, being one of its founders, fail to realize the purposes of colonialism? Why didn’t we seek to clarify the purposes and the related consequences to the militants and to explain the need to identify the requirements of a radical liberation battle? Any revolutionary movement normally experiences several stages. Everything has to take place in daylight, there is nothing to hide. Everything has to be subject to a comprehensive analysis to explain the conditions to the public.’

In the same context, he explained his view as regards the independence of several African countries in the early 1960s as follows:

‘The African countries have to avoid the risks of neo-colonialism, once they declare independence. The independence that confines itself to the inherited structures of colonial domination is a ‘fake’ independence. In conclusion, it does injustice to the peoples and offers a chance for the imperialist exploitation to continue.

Our view of the forms of neo-colonialism in Africa shall remain imperfect if we do not pay attention to the risks associated with the reactionary forces in our countries. Imperialism has no chance of survival if it does not hide behind the interests of the reactionary elements.’ 

In the period from 1963 to 1965, after he was sentenced to death by default in the so-called ‘July Conspiracy’, he sought to strengthen the relation between his party and the liberation organizations in Africa and Asia. Through his work at AAPSO Secretariat, he developed strong relations, based on mutual confidence and appreciation, with the Third World leaders – heads of state and leaders of revolutionary and progressive movements. He further realized the sensitivity of this stage of liberation movement and the need to clearly expound the associated liabilities.

During the international seminar on Palestine, held in Cairo in April 1965, El-Mahdy ben Baraka delivered a presentation on ‘Israel and the Zionist penetration in Africa ‘. He denounced the role of Israel in Africa .It was more of the spearhead of neo-colonialism and an agent of the Portuguese colonial systems and racism in South Africa. He explained his view toward the Palestinian question:

‘The Palestinian cause today (1965) has entered in the framework of the global liberation movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is no longer a question of Arabs and Jews. It is an Arab revolutionary movement against colonial forces devoid of any racist fanaticism. 

The model that the liberation battle in Palestine has to follow is similar to the other models known in Asia, Africa and Latin America.’

With the 1960s, the need to extend the solidarity of Afro-Asian peoples to a third continent, Latin America, mounted. In May 1965, in Ghana, it was decided to hold the first conference on the solidarity of the peoples of the three continents in Havana in January 1966. El-Mahdy ben Baraka was appointed as Chairman of the Preparatory Committee of the Conference.This was the natural outcome of the respect and appreciation of the leaders of the liberation movements to his efficiency and profound knowledge of the struggle conditions as well as his ability to mediate between China and the USSR for the interest of the liberation cause.

In September 1965, the Conference agenda was announced. A call was directed to the world peoples, signed by El-Mahdy ben Baraka, Armando Hart (Cuba) and Youssef El-Sebai from AAPSO: 

‘There are entrenched links among the peoples of the three continents. All faced the same problems; all are threatened by the same hazards of despotism, aggression and military intervention. 

Our peoples have been suffering for centuries from exploitation and insult. They are doomed to an everlasting backwardness and are deprived of the good of their land. We are determined to put an end to this situation.’

The Conference was held in January 1966 in the absence of the man who strived to render it a success. The abduction and assassination of El-Mahdy ben Baraka on 29 October 1965 was part of a conspiratorial scheme to liquidate the symbols and elements that motivate and unify the liberation struggle in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The liquidation decision-makers and perpetrators of this crime were top-level figures in conformity with the stature of the victimized figure and the danger he constituted on the interests of reactionary trends, imperialism and Zionism. The political decision was taken at the highest level in Morocco. The decision was carried out at the hands of the Moroccan Minister of the Interior, Director of the National Security and his assistants as well as the guerrilla and mercenary. This was in collusion with members in the French, US and Zionist intelligence bodies. 

Today, after almost 40 years of this crime, there are still some ambivalent aspects in the case despite the remarkable actions taken due to the persistence and steadfastness of El-Mahdy’s family, attorneys and friends. Some key questions have not been answered yet: 

* Have all the individuals as well as the state bodies involved in the crime been identified?

* What are the conditions of assassination? 

* Who are the murderers? 

* Where is the body of El-Mahdy ben Baraka? 

These issues relate to the theme of this conference .The pursuit of truth as regards the destiny of El-Mahdy ben Baraka is not only a moral necessity to his family but also a struggle to disclose and denounce the criminal practices that victimized one of the most loyal advocates of  Bandung principles . What would the situation in the Third World have been like without the political assassinations of generations of   the cultured elite, trade unionists and political militants who advocated the aspirations of their peoples and countries like Lumumba, Cabral, Guevara, Allende and El-Mahdy ben Baraka ? 

AAPSO was founded immediately after the tripartite aggression against Egypt in 1956 as a reaction on the part of the active forces in Africa and Asia .Ever since, the Organization has morally and financially supported the national liberation movements in both continents. At present, AAPSO 

extends its activities  in line with those of the democratic and progressive forces worldwide that work against the criminal schemes of the USA and its allies and agents. This requires networking among these forces through new forms of cooperation and solidarity to realize the common objectives, the objectives of the Afro-Asian Solidarity movement since Bandung Conference.


El-Basher ben Baraka