June/JuIy 1998


by Ali A. Mazrui

Director, Institute of Global Cultural Studies and Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities
Binghamton University, State University of New York at Binghamton, New York, USA

Albert Luthuli Professor-at-Large
University of Jos, Jos, Nigeria

Ibn Khaldun Professor-at-Large
School of Islamic and Social Sciences, Leesburg, Virginia, USA

Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large Emeritus and Senior Scholar in Africana Studies
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA

Walter Rodney Professor
University of Guyana, Georgetown Guyana

In international relations the ultimate confrontation between issues of power and issues of power and issues of conscience lie in the nuclear arena. In 1998 the land of satyagraha (soul force) and the land of the rising crescent in South Asia lost their nuclear innocence.

The country of Mahatma Gandhi, India, declared itself a nuclear power in May 1998. Who was in opposition? One answer was the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which detonated its own nuclear devices also in May 1993 in direct response to the Indian nuclear initiative.

A different answer to the question of "who is in opposition" to the nuclearization of Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan is the present nuclear Club of Five. While it is true that bombs have no religion, four Christian-majority nuclear powers (the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Russia) and one Confucian-Buddhist-Communist country, (The People's Republic of China) have claimed a monopoly. Four Christian countries are far and away the most important nuclear powers in the world - the U.S., the U.K., France and Russia - in spite of the fact that the use of nuclear weapons is fundamentally un-Christian.

It was nearly twenty years ago that I first raised in the Western media the spectre of a nuclearized Africa. I even presented to Westerners the scary scenario of an Idi Amin "doing a war-dance with a nuclear device." Idi Amin was the erratic dictator of Uganda in the 1970s.

I gave my warning when I gave the 1979 BBC Reith Lectures under the title of "The African Condition: A Political Diagnosis." But in reality I was not thinking of Idi Amin's Uganda as a future nuclear power. I speculated about a Third World challenge, including a future Nigeria, a future South Africa and conceivably even a future Zaire if that large and wealthy country succeeded in re-inventing itself at long last. In fact the Congo was the first Africa to have a nuclear research reactor nearly forty years ago.

In the nearly twenty years which have elapsed since my BBC Reith lectures, Nigeria and Zaire (now Congo) have moved further away from being potential nuclear powers. Their infrastructures have been allowed to decay dismally, and so much of their scientific talent has gone into exile.

As for the Republic of South Africa, as soon as the bomb was in danger of falling into Black hands, F.W. DeKlerk and later Nelson Mandela and his colleagues were persuaded to sign the Nuclear Weapons Nonproliferation Treaty.

Although the ideas I proposed in the USC Reith Lectures in 1979 about a nuclearized Africa are now further away from a fulfillment rather than nearer, we should on the eve of the new millenium re-open the question - especially against the background of India's and Pakistan's

accession to the status of declared nuclear-weapons states. But where does the United States fit in all this? And how relevant is Christianity?


The Democratization of the Nuclear World?

In terms of majority of population, the United States is the largest Christian country in the world. But it is also the only country to have used nuclear weapons on people (mainly civilians) - killing and maiming thousands in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. American political culture is sympathetic to the principle of equality in many different areas. After all, it was the American Declaration of Independence which declared that "all men are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights...". Many have linked American egalitarianism to American versions of Christianity. Yet the America of conscience is constantly in a tense relationship with the America of power.

But the most obstinate areas of resistance to equality in American experience have been resistance to racial equity in domestic policy and resistance to military equity in foreign policy. The latest version of the U.S. resistance to military equity includes U.S. commitment against nuclear proliferation without much U.S. effort to achieve universal nuclear disarmament. The largest Christian country in the world is also the largest nuclear power - and the most jealous of nuclear monopoly.

The U.S. seeks to guarantee a system of nuclear apartheid - according special nuclear monopoly to the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia and China to the exclusion of all others To use a Hindu idiom, this is the world of nuclear Brahmins with full entitlement to weapons of mass destruction.

If Africa cannot be taken seriously through the technologies of production and information, should it try to be taken seriously through the technology of destruction?

What India and Pakistan have done with their nuclear tests in May 1998 may have lessons for Africa. Although India is approximately the same size as China demographically, and will outstrip China in population in another twenty to thirty years, successive U.S. governments have treated China with far greater seriousness than they have treated India.

They have saluted India for being the largest democracy in the world, and then proceeded to ignore it. The West have tended to compare India only with Pakistan - which is less than one seventh the population of India. There is a reluctance to regard India as a rival to China.

On the eve of attainment of Black rule, South Africa allowed itself to be pressured into signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty instead of supporting India in its opposition to nuclear apartheid. Racial apartheid was ending in one country; nuclear apartheid persisted at the global level.

Nuclear apartheid is a world which consists, on the one hand, of Nuclear Haves who are under no special pressure to give up their own weapons of mass destruction, and, on the other, of nuclear Have-Nots who are punished when they presume to go nuclear or build arsenals of mass destruction.

Iraq has been threatened and bombed a number of times for presuming to have weapons which every permanent member of the Security Council (the U.S., the U.K., France, China, and Russia) have had with impunity. Four Christian countries and one Confucian-Marxist power have asserted nuclear monopoly.

While in the world as a whole the nuclear monopoly is controlled overwhelmingly by countries with Christian majorities, in the Middle East the nuclear monopoly is reserved for the single Jewish nation. In the 1980s I once served as Chairman of a United Nations Committee on Nuclear Proliferation. Even as long ago as the early 1980s there was no doubt among us that Israel was, to all intents and purposes, a nuclear power militarily. But our Committee softened our conclusion in order not to give the other countries of the Middle East justification to pursue the nuclear option in competition with Israel. As Chairman of the UN Committee, my hands were tied - but I knew I was helping to legitimize a Jewish monopoly of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

Western powers have started reducing some of their arsenals - but for the wrong reasons. They are reducing them not because the Western powers now regard nuclear weapons as evil but because the threat to their own security has eased since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In other words, if there is a new threat to the West, the West will re-nuclearize vertically.

Well, other countries have security problems too right now. What is nuclear sauce for the Christian goose? Should it not also be nuclear sauce for the Hindu and Muslim ganders?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization does not need three nuclear powers - the United States, Britain and France. It would reassure the world that the five permanent members of the Security Council would like to keep the number of nuclear powers to a minimum if Britain and France gave up their own. One way of stopping nuclear proliferation is to engage in nuclear de-proliferation - reducing the number of Nuclear-Haves already in being. Will Britain and France de-nuclearize? If they do not, the following scenario is likely:

The regime of nuclear apartheid in the twenty-first century will be shaken in three stages -

First, by the twin-rivalries between India and Pakistan, on one side, and between India and China, on the other. This could include a nuclear arms race in the region as a whole.

Second, by the potential nuclearization of Iran and Iraq.

Third, by the re-nuclearization of South Africa in the twenty-first century.

The regime of nuclear apartheid needs the culture shock of nuclear proliferation to cause enough consternation for the pursuit of universal nuclear disarmament. Nuclear weapons are evil. But in order to get the present nuclear-haves to give them up, we may have to scare them with additional nuclear countries.

But Africa would stand no chance of playing any historic role of breaking the global regime of nuclear apartheid unless it creates conditions which would help not only stem the domestic brain drain but drastically reverse it. We need to move from brain-drain to brain retain -

the retention of our best trained minds. We also need to add to brain retain the further accomplishment of brain-return - the repatriation of brain power back to Nigeria, Southern Africa, Kenya and the rest of Africa.

It has been estimated that up to. a quarter of the best trained Nigerian brain power may be in exile by now - working in laboratories, factories, schools, and commercial enterprises in North America, Europe, Southern Africa and elsewhere. More talent is moving out of Nigeria and


How can we achieve brain-repatriation? How can we tempt back home the African emigres? Many may not want to return permanently, but may be prepared to come and serve their country on specific assignments from time to time for periods of two, or three or more years

Brain-return is needed for general development, and not merely for nuclear research.

Many are eager to help rebuild their country and society - but the atmosphere has to be welcoming, the political conditions relatively transparent, and the economic policies less arbitrary and less prohibitive. The nuclear breakthrough for both India and Pakistan was achieved when some of their best scientists decided to go back home to their own countries.

Nuclear weapons are still disproportionately in the hands of countries with Christian majorities - the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Russia. But the weapons are themselves un-Christian un-Islamic, un-Judaic and evil. Yet the Judeo-Christian monopoly may need to be broken by proliferation to more and more non-Judeo-Christian countries - before we can achieve the Christian and Abrahamic ideal in which nuclear weapons are banished from all countries for all time.

But when can the world of power and the world of conscience be persuaded to reach such a rational goal?


End Note:

The lectures were published as a book the following year. See Ali Mazrui, The African Condition: A Political Diagnosis (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980)