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The 37th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers


of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC-ICFM) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Accords
Official Status to the MILF Delegation
Prepared by

Maulana M. Alonto
Member of the MILF (Moro) Delegation to the OIC Conference

          The 37th Session of the OIC-ICFM which was held in Dushanbe, Republic of Tajikistan,
from May 17-20, 2010, ended on a high note of optimism and expectations as noted in the
various resolutions it passed and approved at the end of the three-day session.  The OIC’s 57
Muslim member-states believe that they can collectively and positively cope with and bring
solutions to the myriad problems and challenges now facing the Muslim Ummah.

          Significantly, this was the first time that the OIC-ICFM or the OIC in general held its
meeting in Central Asia, and in Tajikistan at that, which is a landlocked nation-state and
formerly a Soviet socialist republic with a 98% Muslim population. Tajikistan declared its
independence in September 1991 when the break-up of the Soviet empire in the same year
became inevitable. Since then, it has returned to the Muslim World with which it identifies itself
today.

         In this 37th Session of the ICFM, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Tajikistan was
elected the chairman. The beautiful city of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, was declared the
Islamic “Cultural Capital of Central Asia.”

          Among the urgent problems that were addressed at the session is the Question of
Muslims in Southern Philippines which the OIC-ICFM came out with in the form of Draft
Resolution No. 2/37-MM.  In said resolution, particularly items nos. 7 and 8 respectively, the
OIC-ICFM states that it “welcomes the resumption of the negotiation between the Government
of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the agreement to
establish an international contact group…”; and “urges the MNLF and the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) to unite their efforts for the peace and development of the Bangsamoro
People  and requests the Secretary-General to continue to deploy  his good offices to bring
them closer and to enhance the coordination between them” as well as “Takes note of the
invitation of the Secretary-General of the representatives of the two fronts to convene a
preparatory meeting between them, and welcomes the agreement of the MILF to participate in
the meeting and urges the MNLF to respond quickly to the invitation…”

          Earlier, the OIC Secretary General for the first time extended an official invitation to the
MILF Chairman, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, to the Dushanbe 37th OIC-ICFM session. The MILF
Chairman positively responded to this invitation by heading a 4-man MILF delegation to
Tajikistan. The three other members of the delegation are Said Abdulwahab, Mohandis Adnan
and Maulana Alonto, all from the Central Committee of the MILF.

         The MNLF, in the person of its chairman, Prof. Nur Misuari, and one other companion
based in Qatar, also was in attendance.

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         It was the MILF delegation, however, that was accorded the official status as a delegation
by the OIC-ICFM. It was officially referred to as the Moro Delegation.
MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim, as head of the Moro delegation, was extended all the
courtesies and privileges befitting his status as such, including a chauffeured Mercedes Benz
limousine for his use and a regular protocol officer from the Tajikistan Foreign Ministry as his
escort. The three members of his delegation were likewise provided with an official car. As with
all the Foreign Ministers and heads of delegation the MILF chairman was also given a distinct
security identification lapel pin (bearing the symbol of the 37th OIC-ICFM symbol) – the same
lapel pin that was provided to the Foreign Ministers and other heads of delegations - that
allowed him to attend all official functions (except for the closed-door Working Session exclusive
to OIC member-states only), including the dinner on the eve of the opening day given by the
Tajikistan President Imamoli Rahmanov at his private residence just outside Dushanbe,
exclusively for the Foreign Ministers and heads of delegations with observer status attending
the OIC-ICFM. Not even Prof. Nur Misuari, who used to head the MNLF delegation in the past,
was given such a pin and/or the courtesies and privileges extended to Chairman Murad. In fact,
Chairman Misuari and his sole companion only received their identification tags on the first day
of the session. The MILF delegates’ IDs and copies of the Programme were delivered to the
hotel by the official protocol officer on the eve of the opening day.

          As head of the Moro delegation, Chairman Murad was interviewed by the Tajikistan
television news network upon the arrival of and special reception for the Foreign Ministers and
delegations at the Dushanbe international airport at dawn of May 17. Another interview of him
by a TV network was made on the second day of the session, May 19, at the venue of the
OIC-ICFM meeting.

         The Moro delegation, both MILF and MNLF, was billeted at the Pochyackt Hotel at
downtown Dushanbe. Delegations with observer status were also accommodated in the same
hotel.
On the opening day of the session, May 18, Chairman Murad was made to occupy the seat
reserved for the MNLF as official observer. Out of courtesy to Misuari, however, he voluntarily
vacated the seat and offered it to Misuari later on in the session. Chairman Murad also offered
Misuari to share the official limousine assigned to him but the Tajik protocol officer strictly
enforced the rule that only Chairman Murad can use the vehicle as the officially recognized
head of the Moro delegation. This gesture of humility on the part of Chairman Murad impressed
members of the OIC General Secretariat and the Tajik Protocol Officer.

         In the afternoon after the opening ceremony and the lunch break on the first day of the
session (May 18), Chairman Murad and Chairman Misuari were called to a closed-door special
meeting by Ambassador Hassan El-Mesry and Ambassador Talal Douz, chairpersons of the
OIC Minority Affairs. Ambassador El-Mesry holds the distinction of being the OIC Special Envoy
to the Peace Process in Southern Philippines.

         The special meeting was held at the instruction of the OIC Secretary-General, His
Excellency Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, to the El-Mesry and Douz to bring together the MILF and
MNLF chairmen to discuss the unity of the two Moro Fronts. Chairmen Murad and Misuari were
allowed one companion each from their respective delegations in the exclusive meeting.

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Chairman Misuari brought along his sole companion while Chairman Murad was accompanied
by Maulana Alonto.

To recall, it was the MILF that proposed to the OIC a year ago the unity of the two Fronts
inclusive of the factions of the MNLF and sectors of the Bangsamoro people. This concept as
proposed by the MILF brings Moro unity and representation in the international community,
particularly in the OIC, to the level of a nation – the Bangsamoro nation. The MILF proposal as
such was very much welcomed by the OIC Secretary General who is hard pressed by the
persistent lobbying of the Philippine government among OIC member-states for an observer
status seat in the OIC. If the Philippine government succeeds in attaining observer status, the
likelihood that it would replace the MNLF or Moro representation in that body for that matter,
which still enjoys such a status, would be great. This was what happened to the Patani Muslims
of Southern Thailand who are deprived of a voice in the OIC because it is the Thai government
that sits at the OIC as observer. Similarly, the Chechen Muslims are deprived of representation
in the OIC because it is the Russian government that has the observer status. 

        In that special meeting convened by the Ambassador El-Mesry, the two chairmen of the
Moro Fronts agreed to the OIC’s proposal to unite and coordinate their efforts to advance the
Bangsamoro cause. Chairman Misuari was at first not keen on the idea of unity, citing several
reasons, including personal, for opposing it. But due to the persistence of El-Mesry and Douz
and the logical arguments put forward by Chairman Murad, he finally relented and agreed. For
one, Misuari was made to realize that without Moro unity in purpose and in action - as argued
by the MILF - Moro representation in the OIC, in the light of the fragmentation of the MNLF into
several factions, stands the great risk of losing it to the Philippine government.

          As a result, thus, of that special meeting, an agreement for unity and coordination was
drawn up by the OIC Secretary General for the two Front chairmen to sign. The unity
agreement, wherein both parties are mandated to formulate the mechanism to animate such
unity and coordination through the facilitation of the OIC, was signed separately by the two
Front chairmen on the second day of the session, May 19.

         On the closing day of the OIC-ICFM, which was the third day and last day of the session,
May 20, Chairman Nur Misuari was permitted to deliver a report to the OIC-ICFM on the result
of the tripartite meeting in Tripoli, Libya, wherein a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was
signed between the MNLF and the Philippine government. When he, however, spoke beyond
the scope of his report, he was told by the Secretary-General of the OIC to cut short his speech.

         At the close of the session, the OIC Secretary-General reported and announced to the
Foreign Ministers and all delegations present the signing of the unity agreement between the
MILF and MNLF chairmen.

         The MILF delegation, meanwhile, submitted a Report as well as a written Statement of
MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim to the OIC-ICFM General Secretariat. Copies of these
two documents were widely disseminated among the Foreign Ministers and the delegations.

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