June 2011 - Posts
by Isaiah Abraham
June 30, 2011 — I find an article written yesterday (June 29, 2011) by a Southern Sudanese researcher Dr. John A. Akec about Gogrial contribution nationally and international offensive and tasteless. I must debunk it against him not the entire Gogrial people. Dr. Aketch blew the horn of Greater Gogrial so loud that his self inflated pride analogously reminds me of a Biblical Pharisee who stood aloft in the temple and prayed thus: “ God I thank you that I’m not like other men”, (Luke 18:9-11). Mr. John exactly wanted to portray other Southern Sudanese as ‘robbers’, ‘evildoers’ and ‘tax collectors’.
The good professor moreover didn’t end his ‘holier than thou’ lecture but twisted historical facts about the liberation struggle for the people of Southern Sudan to suit his home boys and girls. He had attempted to make Mr. Kiir wiser than Solomon, and Ms Wek more beautiful than Diana of Britain, a design we all know is typical of Dinka people. The truth of the matter is that Gen. Kiir is wise because Southerners are wise and the same is true with Alek Wek. It is Southern Sudan that makes anyone somebody, and not the other way round! The party he leads to be specific makes anyone!
Kiir inherited anger, frustration and ‘dogged’ determination long enough right from the time of Fr. Saturino down to Garang, and nothing here he had achieved singlehandedly through his wisdom to liberate the people of Southern Sudan. Even Garang, if alive, couldn’t claim to have liberated Southern Sudan. It is the combination of efforts from 1947 to 2005 that count not an individual whose fate smiled at him once at a time in the process of the struggle.
It would be affront to our martyrs if we allotted an award or recognition to one individual or a few. I am talking here about national contribution Dr. John highlighted in his Gogrial elevation piece. International award is a different thing all together as the choice doesn’t necessarily mean celebrities or achievements.
Dr. Akec must not get carried away about ‘his people’ individual contribution so to insult the intelligence of other Southerners. Southern Sudanese have made it collectively to this end, I must repeat myself. Any success by an individual or group in any part of our land was for a larger good of all Southern Sudanese. Southern Sudan at the moment needs a tone that unites not a voice that scatters. We want to brag together as one people, not as sections or clans.
We have all suffered or contributed, and by any measure each individual in the South has contributed nationally or internationally. There is no point therefore for one section of our society to push itself above others as if the freedom for the people of Southern Sudan was the work of Gogrial people. There are similar stories in Bari, Shilluk or Nuer but these people don’t go public to make mounts about what their daughters or sons have achieved for the nation. May be people need to know what constitutes national contribution. Becoming a minister alone doesn’t make anyone a contributor for the struggle of the people of Southern Sudan.
Mr. Professor your naked gloat about Gogrial on the expense of other Southern Sudanese has blinded you to spew venom against critics of Gogrial kitchen Government. You have easily forgotten, sir, that you were few nights ago one. Was that not you Mr. Akec who has written extensively against the government of your people? You claim wildly that Kiir has stolen election, wasn’t that substantiated by facts on the ground? Were you not the one who labeled GOSS as government that is run by good fighters but not good managers’? You said Kiir regime has done much in the past six years compares to previous years during Addis Ababa Accord, what are you telling our people brother here? Don’t you care that your brother Government sits over a dented government ‘dogged’ by corruption, largely orchestrated by your home boys? Do you want to mention the Baaks, the Achuils, the Manutes etc?
Dr. Akec if it weren’t corruption how did you become a Vice Chancellor of a college within a span of few years after you graduated with a PhD? could your part time lectures in South Africa make go up like that? How many Southerners with many years in classes in colleges holding ‘proper’ PhDs that never made it to head universities? You have been quiet and now started to shower praises to Kiir, is that normal really? Someone thought you are reaping were you never sowed. Where on earth could an associate professor becoming a Vice Chancellor within two years.
If I look at some people you said have contributed for the liberation of the people of Southern Sudan, it makes me pluck a demur against anything positive you have done about Southern Sudan. Please brother, leave Hon. Aleu Ayieu Aleu alone! This man is a hero; he was fought fiercely by the then Col. Salva Mathok around Cueibet, Lakes State, when your hero (Mathok) was still a Sudanese army Officer. Let Aweil people brag not Gogrial, otherwise you are making mockery of anything and spoil a good celebration for us all. I must stop here for the sake of our martyrs in Gogrial, some of whom aren’t in your today’s list.
Isaiah Abraham lives in Juba; he’s reachable at Isaiah_abraham@yahoo.co.uk
Recognising a prophet in his home continent?
By John A. Akec
June 26, 2011 — Bad news travel fast. Good news travles slowly but can also travel fast. That is the reality of our highly wired-up and networked global village, the world. For example, the unlucky South Sudan Member of Legislative Assembly Hon. Aleu Ayeny Aleu, received bad press last week when he was unable to take hard questions from journalists on some articles related to media freedom in South Sudan’s interim constitution, and instead chose to walk out of a public consultation meeting in Juba’s Nyakuron Cultural Centre. Instantly, everybody heard the unfortunate incident and what a flood of bad-mouthing the legislator had to endure!
In contrast, I thought to share with my readers some good news. And the news being that President of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit, fashion super model Alek Wek Athian, together with founder and former boss of Zain mobile telecom giant, Mo Ibrahim, are the three Sudanese who appear on the list of 100 top most influential Africans. The list was compiled and published by the London-based New African magazine. It also contains Bishop Desmond Tutu, President Nelson Mandela, Jonathon Goodluck, Jacob Zuma, Professor Wangari Maathi, writer Chenua Achebe, Kofi Annan, and Wael Ghonim, the Facebook blogger credited with organising the Egyptian revolution, among others. Having two South Sudanese in this illustrious list is a great credit for the people of the nascent nation. It signals a very promising start.
And for all the controversy stirred up by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in the last decade, Mr. Mugabe too is listed amongst the top 100 most influential Africans living today. The list is not ranked in any particular order of importance or significance, according to the magazine editors.
Commenting on the publication of the list by New African, a commentator for The Economist makes clear the distinction between being famous (well known faces with no real influence on the world around them), and being influential (that is being one or more of "opinion-shapers, doers, agitators, groundbreakers, and myths busters..."). This clear distinction between what is influential and what is famous is something I never reflected on nor thought about before. For me, famous has always appears to be synonymous with influential. Now I know and have learned something for which I am forever grateful.
Despite the generosity of the African culture and people, the continent has rarely taken the full credit in regards to its contribution to global good. This is now changing. According to Baffour Ankomah, editor of New African:
“This is the first Top 100 Influential Africans issue of New African.
“Our continent has produced, and continues to produce some impressive individuals from all walks of life who are having a profound impact not only on Africa but on the international community. The names on the list I am sure will be discussed the length and breadth of the Continent. And the list in itself is not necessarily an endorsement as such but what it does show is the diversity of skills, talents and personalities amongst Northern and Sub-Saharan Africans in contemporary times, and who are driving change across the continent and beyond.”
New African editor is right. The South Sudanese born supermodel Alek Wek has been in fashion world since 1995 and there is no slightest suggesting that she is quiting the limelight anytime soon. In words of New African editors: Alek Wek "inspires many African girls to say they are beautiful just as they are."
The North Sudanese of Nubian origin, Mo Ibrahim, an electronic engineer and telecom business tycoon turned-philanthropist, sold his mobile telecom business (Celtel) for US $ three billion and devoted his time promoting good causes that include good governance in Africa by awarding very generous monetary prize annually to a retired African president who has done exceptionally good things for their country during their term of office.
And prominently on this prestigious list was President Salva Kiir Mayardit, the president of the autonomous government of South Sudan who, according to the magazine, "using his dogged pragmatism, led his people through tough and tortuous negotiations to independence in 2011." The magazine hopes that in Kiir’s reign which will commence on 9 July 2011, South Sudan will witness improvement and peace. As a son of South Sudan, these accolades make me proud. As son of Greater Gogrial in Warap State, where Kiir Mayardit and Alek Wek originate from, I am doubly enthused.
It is worth reminding ourselves that we in South Sudan, have often criticised President Salva Kiir, not necessarily always fairly, for what he failed to do. Yet rarely acknowledging what has been achieved under his watchful eyes. Perhaps, this drives home the point that prophets are rarely recognised in their home town. The New African shows us the importance of positive encouragement. Ours does not always have to be criticism, more of it. Juba today and other South Sudan cities are is a far more lively than they were in dark years of war in mid 1980s/early1990s. That is if you were there at the time, and you happen to revisit Juba or other cities in 2011. We need to count our blessing and not only count what we do not have.
It is also worth noting that throughout the history of South Sudan, sons Greater Gogrial in Warap State, like their counterparts in other states of South Sudan have contributed enormously to the struggle and advancement of the cause of South Sudan in many spheres of life, ranging from politics to military to academia to judiciary to media to culture and sports.
We have a long list (not in particular order of importance) of influential names that include Apuk Paramount Chief Giir Thiik (who baffled British administrators with his dodged wisdom), Southern politician and statesman Bona Malwal (Sudan’s presidential advisor who recently announced his retirement from active party politics from 9 July 2011 to devote his time to research and writing. I wish Bona Malwal good health and productive intellectual output in his new choosen role), General Emmanuel Abur Nhial (second in command to General Joseph Lagu during Adis Ababa accord in 1972), General Kuol Amum (a fearsome Anya I movement commander and later SPLA commander), basket ball player Manut Bol, Dr. Lawrence Wol Wol (first and last South Sudanese to be finance minister in Khartoum), Dr. Justin Yac Arop, Ambrose Wol Dhal (one of earliest South Sudanese diplomats of immense intellect and one a group of liberal Southern politicians called Big Six), Kerybino Kuanyin Bol (a Sudan army officer who led Battalion 106 in historic Bor mutiny in May 1983 and thereby sparked SPLA long liberation war), General Salva Mathok Beny (currently presidential advisor for Security and SPLA Veterans Affairs), Justice Ambrose Riiny (first South Sudan chief justice), Justice Chan Reec Madut (Khartoum and Harvard’s trained judge who oversaw with Prof Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil the successful and historic South Sudan self-determination referendum in Jnauary 2011), Professor Matthew Atem Aduol (gynaecologist and 2-terms vice chancellor of Bahr El Ghazal University in Wau and currently founding vice chancellor of Rumbek University), Kornelio Koryom Mayik (founding general manager of Ivory Bank),Sister Amandit (an entrepreneurial-minded Catholic nun who founded and run a successful private girls school in Aweil before civil war broke out in 1980s to close it down), Nhial Bol Aken (the outspoken, yet fair-minded editor of the Citizen newspaper, who is always in trouble with police in Juba for his critical views), Jacob Jel Akol, the widely influential editor of Gurtong website, Dr. Jok Madut Jok (the Layola University Professor who did much to raise expose modern day slavery in Sudan through his books), Aman Aniek Atak (Alek Wek’s niece, and a promising young women civil engineering student who began at Imperial College and now completing studies at Cambridge University). The list is very long. These are self-made individuals who elected to indulge their passion in the society without fear. Let us thank God and the women of Greater Gogrial for giving so generously from their wombs to the advancement of South Sudan. And may the culture of allowing individuals to be different and free to persue their passions without hinderance endure in that part of our land.
Last but not least, my final words are reserved for Gogrial great son, the President Salva Kiir Mayardit. Congratulations for this recognition. You are in a very privileged position and you hold great potential to make a difference to the lives of millions of South Sudanese at this point in our history. Indeed you have already done much through your "dodged pragamatism." I pray that when it comes to making choices about your legacy as the first president of an independent South Sudan, that it will be working for peaceful coexistence of all our peoples; for peace and fearless freedom to reign across the length and breadth of our vast land; for prosperity that is not confined to privileged few; democracy that is self-evident; justice that knows no colour, status, or tribe; and rule of law that exempts no one, no matter how powerful. You are not to dwell on bradishing glittery yet empty slogans; nor engage in sweet talk during occasions that is never followed through with concrete actions, but to have deeds that are reality lived everyday by common man, woman, and child of South Sudan.
Mr. President, write these goals out at your door post. Let them decorate your chest. Tie them to your neck. Cling to them and let them direct whatever you do from rising of the sun to the time it sets. Let no self-interested kingmaker or temptations of power persuade you away from their sacred path. And may God of all truth be your wise counsellor, your protector, and your redeemer in your going out and your coming in: everyday, every hour, every minute, and every second.
The author is vice chancellor of University of Northern Bahr El Ghazal in South Sudan, and chairperson of Academics and Researchers Forum for Development, a think-tank and advocacy group formed by the South Sudanese academics and researchers. The writer edits a blog: www.JohnAkecSouthSudan.blogs.... To get in touch, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What will it take to halt the atrocities by two of the most wanted men in the world today?
by Samuel Totten
June 27, 2011 — If Slobodan Miloševi? had remained in power and wrangled a way to get General Ratko Mladic, the "butcher of the Balkans,” elected to the presidency of Republika Srpska, the world community would have erupted in outrage. After all, Mladic, recently arrested and facing a trial in The Hague, is allegedly responsible for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre — the worst atrocity perpetrated in Europe since the Holocaust — of some 8,000 Muslim boys and men.
Average citizens all over the world, as well as international and national leaders, would have likely denounced such an election, decried that fact that a killer was now deemed a “legitimate leader,” and likely demanded that Mladic not only step down forthwith but be turned over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Outrage over a dastardly crime in Europe, but outrageous complacence when a similar scenario plays out in Africa (and it has). In 2009, Omar al Bashir, the president of Sudan, who is wanted on charges genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC), appointed Ahmed Haroun governor of the state of South Kordafan. Haroun is also wanted by the ICC for the atrocities perpetrated in Darfur. He’s been charged with of 20 counts of crimes against humanity (including persecution, rape and torture) and 22 counts of war crimes (including attacks against the civilian population, destruction of property and outrage upon personal dignity).
Admittedly, complaints over Haroun’s appointment were issued by various actors and bemoaned, at least to a certain extent, in the media. But outrage? No!
More recently, Haroun “won” the election for governor of South Kordafan that pitted him against, Abdel Aziz al Hilu. Aziz, a former and highly popular commander of the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLMA), the rebel group that fought against the North during the infamous north-south war that took the lives of some two million people, was expected to win by a landslide.
Not only does it seem that the election was rigged, but it was an election in which one of the most wanted men in the world, Haroun, ran for and is now serving as governor. That is outrageous but where is the outrage?
Is the lack of outrage due to people in the West simply not caring what takes place in Africa? Is it due to the stereotype that all of Africa is rife with strife and thus nothing is surprising? Is it due to racism (the victims in Europe were white, the former and potential victims in Sudan are black)?
While both al Bashir and Haroun were instrumental in perpetrating the genocide in Darfur, they brazenly continue about their business. Al Bashir continues as president of Sudan and now Haroun is in control South Kordafan, a state located in central Sudan. Impunity reigns.
South Kordafan just happens to be the home of the Nuba Mountains people, a group that faced genocidal actions perpetrated by the Government of Sudan (GoS) in the early 1990s. A huge number of males from the Nuba Mountains fought with the south against the north during the course of the twenty-year civil war. As one can imagine, the people of the Nuba Mountains want absolutely nothing to do with al-Bashir, Haroun, or the GoS. Indeed, they were keen to join the south in the recent referendum that saw the people of the south vote massively in favor of secession, but the conditions set out by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) prevented that from happening.
The people of the Nuba Mountains fear that the government of the north will retaliate for their involvement in the war. They also fear that their lives under the GoS will revert to the way it was in the past, marginalized and oppressed, if not worse. Likewise, they fear the consequences of the recent announcement by al Bashir that he plans to ratify the constitution of Sudan to make Sharia law the law of the land.
Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of well-armed GoS troops bivouacking in the Nuba Mountains. Rumor has it that the people of the Nuba Mountains are also massing weapons, “just in case.” It is understandable why the Nuba Mountains people are on tenterhooks. They fear that they are sitting astride a tinderbox that will explode at the first sign of the proverbial match.
Hyperbole? Hardly. Just two and a half weeks ago al Bashir was in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordafan, where he reportedly threatened, “If the people here [meaning those in the Nuba Mountains] refuse to honor the results of the [gubernatorial] election, then we will force them back into the mountains and prevent them from having food just as we did before.” According to Article 2C of UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide (UNCG), under certain conditions, purposely and systematically depriving a people of food constitutes genocide.
According to sources on the ground in the Nuba Mountains, over the past three weeks fighting between GoS troops and the SPLM/A have exploded in various sections of the Nuba Mountains, including Umm Durein, Toladi, Angaruthu, Kadugli, and Heiban. A source, who must remain unnamed, informed me that “Aziz is back fully in military uniform.” Another source, who also must remain unnamed, told me over satellite phone this morning that “If Aziz goes down the entire Nuba Mountains will erupt.”
Undoubtedly, Bashir sees Haroun as his ally in controlling this region of Sudan, and as one who has the tenacity and viciousness to tamp down any resistance to GoS’ rule. Does he also see Haroun as becoming the architect of another genocide — this time in the Nuba Mountains? If that’s the case, so much for the international community’s comforting pledge of “Never Again!”
Samuel Totten who is a genocide scholar based at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville is reachable at email@example.com. His most recent book is An Oral and Documentary History of the Darfur Genocide (Praeger Security International, 2010). He was last in the Nuba Mountains in January 2011 conducting research for a new book.
By Zechariah Manyok Biar
June 28, 2011 — Independents come with change of behaviors of even troublemaker. South Sudanese are eagerly waiting for formal announcement of the Republic of South Sudan (ROSS) less than two weeks from now, and they are expecting positive changes to take place. Cattle raiders seem to be rushing to make sure that they finish raiding some cows before the independence because they believe that ROSS will never tolerate cattle raiding after independence. Some are now avenging the death of their relatives because they expect the rule of law to improve in ROSS.
Many people expect the ROSS where the freedom that we fought for over the last two decades will be now translated into reality. They expect the ROSS in which leaders focus much on the achievement of objectives rather than focusing on trivial achievements. People expect the ROSS in which program implementations are given priorities over allowances. They expect the ROSS in which programs are planned on time rather than operating in form of emergencies.
The people of ROSS expect a country in which human rights are respected. They expect a country in which its leaders love check and balances from both the opposition and the media for the improvement of services to their people. They expect a country in which leaders treasure wisdom and expertise for the betterment of the welfare of its citizens.
The people of South Sudan expect the ROSS in which the fight against corruption is real. They expect the leaders to know all the colors of corruption so that it does not elude them when they want to kill it. They expect a country where corruption is defined as both the enemy of human rights and good life of citizens.
The people of South Sudan expect a country in which competence and qualification of any citizen is considered more important in employment than just who the employer relates to. They expect a country in which its qualified citizens are attracted to build their nation rather than being pushed away to build other nations. South Sudanese expect diversity of civil servants in any office. They expect a country in which people are not intimidated for being independent minded.
South Sudanese expect a country in which minorities’ hatred of majority is condemned. They also expect a country in which the majority tribes are discouraged from threatening the minority tribes in any form. They expect a country in which dignity of individual is respected and protected.
The people of South Sudan expect a country in which property rights are protected according to what is written in the Constitution. They expect a country in which laws of the nation not individual opinions guide activities.
These expectations are real. Any failure in the realization of each of them would mean bad governance and their existence will become a culture in the Republic of South Sudan.
Zechariah Manyok Biar, BA. Edu., MACM, MSSW. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Steve Paterno
June 22, 2011 — The recently reached agreement on Abyei, between the regime in Khartoum and SPLM in the capital Addis Ababa will face difficulties in its implementations, since it is limited in scope and lacking significant implementation components. This agreement, which is a temporary arrangement, calls on withdrawal of both Khartoum and South Sudanese armed forces from designated Abyei area, where they will be replaced by a peacekeeping force, composed of Ethiopian troops. The agreement also calls for establishment of civil administration as well as rapid repatriation program for the residents of Abyei—the residents who were driven away from their homestead, due to forceful occupation of Abyei by Khartoum armed forces.
Even though the rule of engagements for these Ethiopian peacekeepers are not written yet, certain factors already make these troops a sitting duck, unable to protect themselves, like their counterparts, the UNAMID in Darfur. Since, these troops will act as a buffer, between the South and North, its mandate must not just be to protect civilians within its area of control in Abyei, but to also effectively monitor, intercept and prevent border incursions by armed groups. The major fear that will ignite the South-North conflict is this very border incursions by armed groups. Therefore, the mission of the peacekeeping forces is not to allow these elements across the borders. These armed groups may not necessarily be regular Khartoum armed forces moving with their tanks, but they may consist of proxy militias on horse backs, carrying only AK47 and swords. Unless we are not aware, the bulk of the ethnic cleansing in Darfur is the work of irregular Khartoum’s armed groups, which can be replicated along the South-North borders, if allowed.
This will then mean that the mandate for these peacekeeping troops is to authorize them to engage any armed group that crosses the designated boundaries. Such will require swift responses, mobility and capacity to engage in large scale firefights with any of these armed elements.
Second, the most important component, which is missing in this agreement is lack of air support to supplement the operations of the ground forces. These peacekeeping forces, the civilians, humanitarian personnel as well as the border regions of South Sudan will continue to remain vulnerable to Khartoum’s air assaults and bombardments. Khartoum already made it clear that its targets extend against UN aircrafts. The regime has just impounded a UN chopper and detained its passengers, who included diplomats from USA and UK. The regime vowed to shoot down UN planes that fly over the contested region. Most of these UN planes are low flying helicopters and twin engine planes, which are susceptible to any ground to air attacks. Not only that, without air patrol, Khartoum will use its planes to supply militias inside South Sudan. Only air patrols as part of the peacekeeping mission can prevent Khartoum’s air aggression, deny its supply capabilities and deter the intimidations.
Third, the number of the Ethiopian troops to be deployed in the area is only one brigade. These troops can easily be stretched thin, given the vastness of the land and number of different armed groups who roam the area. These number of troops can never be able to respond into any attacks within its mandated territory, unless their number is increased as well as their mobility is enhanced.
Fourth, the ability of these troops to effectively halt border incursions is limited by geographical location, because their mandate only allows them to operate within Abyei area as defined by Permanent Court of Arbitration. This geographical limitations provides Khartoum with free hands to still interfere with the affairs of South Sudan. For example, Khartoum armed forces will heavily deploy at Heglig, an oil reserves town, which is only a stone throw away from Unity State of South Sudan. They will then use this location as a springboard to carryout their activities inside South Sudan, including supplying the South Sudanese militias who are operating out of Unity State on behest of Khartoum. That is why this agreement must have been comprehensive in nature by trying to address South-North borders as part of resolving the Abyei issue. The problem of Abyei and South-North borders are one and the same. They ought to be treated as such, because at stake is South Sudan territorial integrity and stability.
Fifth, this agreement fails to comprehensively address other related conflicts in the Nuba Mountains as well as the looming one in Blue Nile State. Remember, the reason for the tensions in these areas is due to Khartoum’s attempt to forceful push SPLA who are from those areas to be deployed to the South of 1956, borderline. The current conflicts in these areas have direct repercussions to the South-North tensions, and ifleft unresolved, may eventually ignite a full scale war. It has been Khartoum’s tactics to move from one conflict into another. Now, the regime feels comfortable to wage the war in the Nuba Mountains. Next, it may go to Blue Nile, Darfur and make a full circle back to Abyei,just as it has done before. That is why in order to deal with Khartoum, the issues must be addressed comprehensively, where members of the regime are pressured in every front to deny them any opportunity or room for wiggling.
Sixth, the agreement mistakenly given the power of appointing and dismissing members ofAbyei civil authorities back to President Omar al-Bashir, just as it has done previously. This is a déjà vu, because President al-Bashir will delay confirming SPLM nominees and frustrate the whole process for establishing a workable administration in the area. He may even reject some of the SPLM nominees outright or dissolve the entire council, wily-nilly, just as he has done in the past. The administration of Abyei should be given under the UN mandate, which will provide services for the duration of specific period until the time it will administer Abyei long delayed referendum.
Seventh, this agreement once again makes a mistake of authorizing Khartoum and South Sudan to provide funding for the Abyei area administration. It is already obvious, Khartoum is not going to provide its portion of the budget for the area, which as a result, will cripple the delivery of services. Abyei budget should have been drawn exclusively from its own oil reserves, and only when the budget falls short then Khartoum and Juba will chip in. The Abyei budget should have been put under the management of the mandated UN run administration of Abyei.
In conclusions, the real burning issues, which are the major reasons for the tensions, are far from being resolved as of yet. These issues must be looked into as a whole and comprehensive solutions are found. More importantly, implementing mechanism must be the core of all the agreements and the rule of engagement for the peacekeepers must be strengthened, so that the peacekeepers don’t just remain as a sitting duck to the Khartoum’s onslaught.
By El-Tahir El-Faki
June 21, 2011 — During the height of the Darfur crisis the Islamic regime of President Bashir lead massive ethnic and genocide campaigns against the indigenous Africans to replace them with Arabs from countries such as Chad, Central Africa, Niger, Mauretania and Mali. While the international community was concentrating on the Darfur crisis, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) was reminding all concerned that the issue was national requiring holistic solutions. Furthermore it stressed that it would only be a matter of time before Bashir would repeat the same scenario in Kordofan. The indicators were clear and copious. The Nuba of Kordofan are indigenous multi-religious Africans who are mostly supporters of the SPLM and perceived by Islamic regime of Bashir as infidels whose rich and fertile lands must be evacuated and given to the Arabs. Thanks to the intervention of the international community and SPLM for not allowing the Islamic Jihadists project to materialise. A period of relative peace and stability ensued until the recent events on the 5th of June 2011.
When the Darfur problem broke out in 2003, Kordofanese with farsighted vision rushed and joined (JEM) and have overtime grown to a sizable group within the movement. What concerned them was its manifesto that categorised the Darfur crisis as part of an all Sudanese problems and has always included Kordofan in every aspect of its negotiations with the Government of Sudan (GoS). The international community was in no mood to mandate the inclusion of Kordofan parallel with the solution to the Darfur crisis. At every level JEM has been considered an intransigent element and a spoiler of the peace processes due to its nationalist aspirations and on its stance regarding Kordofan. In 2006 in Abuja and for the last two years in Doha, Kordofan has been utterly excluded on the same grounds even though Thabo Mbeki’s report unambiguously stated the problem a Sudanese one that requires holistic approach.
President Bashir unilaterally ordered the disarming of SPLA Joint Army Unit and gave them one week to do so. The CPA mandates the SPLA to remain in the area until the 9th July 2011 when it expires. On the 5th of June 2011 war suddenly erupted in Kadugli, the capital city of South Kordofan, between the Sudanese armed forces (SAF) and the SPLA units under the command of General Abdel Aziz Al-hilu. The incident took place when the SAF went to disarm the SPLA units with fatal confrontations. GoS accused SPLM northern sector of instigating the tragic events in collusion with foreign agents to muster discord in bid for regime change. Now Kordofan has exploded and thousands of Nuba have already perished at the hands of Bashir’s troops. Reports from the region estimated that hundreds of thousands including women, children and the elderly have by now joined the uncountable millions of the internally displaced in Sudan.
Following the incidents on the 19th of May 2011 in Abyei tensions ran high leading to massive build up of heavy military presence in South Kordofan. The rising tensions spiralled when the SPLM Northern Sector accused the NCP of rigging the gubernatorial elections in favour of the indicted and ICC wanted war criminal Ahmed Haroun and refused to participate in his government.
Fighting rapidly erupted and has involved the entire Nuba Mountains. The SAF resorted to its indiscriminate old tactics in Darfur. MIG-29 jetfighters and Antanov aerial-bombardments preceded the artillery shelling to pave the way for ground forces, popular defence and allied militias to pillage and burn the Nuba villages down. The cities of Kadugli, Dilling, Kouda, and Taloudi witnessed extensive air raids killing civilians and destroying their properties. The bombing terrorised civilians in Kalimo in Kadugli, Taferah, Kaiga Al-Khayil, Hajar al-Nar, Abugeibaiha, Miri, Dilling, Lagawa and Kouda and drove them into displacement. The livestock on which the population depend did not escape the assault and thousands perished as result. ‘Nuba Survival Foundation’ estimated that more than 40,000 inhabitants fled the city of Kadugli in fear for their lives. Hundreds of thousands of people including children, women and the elderly left their mountain dwellings into uninhabitable situations. It is painful to describe the appalling living conditions they are now experiencing. Mines have been planted in and around Kadugli while dead bodies litter the streets and remained scattered in the centre - strong reminder to the Nuba of what awaits them. Three civilians lost their lives when a mine exploded and a lorry was blown up killing six people instantaneously. SAF, popular and Arab militias are hunting down supporters of the SPLA and Nuba in house to house search. Those found were subjected to brutal executions and their homes looted or burnt down. Families and individuals who fled the area and managed to reach El-Obeid, the capital city of North Kordofan, were subjected to inhumane interrogations or sent back.
GoS resorted to usage of food as weapon of war by refusing to allow access for independent observers or international NGOs to assess the needs of the population and deliver humanitarian aid. Reports are rife that Arab militias have been allowed to apprehend and kill Nuba or destroy their homes and villages. The incidents in south Kordofan increasingly emulate the systematic ethnic cleansing and genocide campaigns in Darfur orchestrated by Ahmed Haroun while he was Interior State Minister. He is the same thug who years back in 1990s committed serious human rights abuses in the Nuba Mountains before he was assigned to Darfur to conduct a campaign of genocide. Undoubtedly most areas of South Kordofan are facing major humanitarian crisis. The Nuba describe it as ‘Rwanda genocide revisited’ in their Mountains. Tenth of thousands of children, women and the elderly people are left in appalling conditions where the heavy rains make access to food extremely difficult.
The plight of the Nuba has not come out of the blue. The Islamic Regime has supplied the Arab tribes in the region with sophisticated weapons. Recently it deployed more than 200 tanks to South Kordofan, to quell what it alleges as armed mutiny and insurgency. These are the same sequels that led to the Darfur crisis. The government agenda towards the Nuba people are beyond doubt clear. The appointment of the war criminal Ahmed Haroun as Governor is a strong testimony to the genocide intentions of Bashir against the Nuba people. It is the starting process of Darfurising the Nuba of Kordofan. He is the same person who in 1990s was behind the ethnic cleansing of the Nuba. In a nutshell having orchestrated the Darfur genocide, Haroun is the right choice for GoS to complete the unfinished job to ethnically cleanse the Nuba People and bring in Arabs to occupy their lands.
On the 15th of June 2011the ‘Nuba Survival Foundation’ issued a press release condemning the government’s aerial bombardments of cities and villages across the Nuba Mountains which resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Nuba people.
It is high time for the international community to act swiftly to exert pressure on the GoS to halt all military assaults in south Kordofan and contain the crisis before it becomes a Rwanda-like genocide. Protection of civilians by allowing UNAMIS to play tough against the perpetrators must take priority. It should not be left for GoS to hinder the NGOs to deliver assistance to the civilians in need. Robust international efforts are urgently needed to help the internally displaced Nuba to return to their original homes before Arabs occupy and settle in them instead. And for those who lost everything compensations must be paid by the government.
The Nuba of Kordofan have experienced painful historical discrimination and marginalisation in all aspects. While President Al-Bashir and Ahmed Haroun are both wanted by ICC for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity they committed in Darfur, Nuba have no confidence in their promises. Justice must be sought for the victims through the ICC.
And finally Nuba civilians deserve protection. The continuous air attacks by the Sudanese Air Forces must be neutralised. A no-fly-zone in the Nuba Mountains has become a necessity. The evidence of civilian sufferings has surfaced and has become media-clear. The obligation for the International Community to protect the Nuba requires urgent intervention.
The author is Dr. EL-faki. He is the Speaker of JEM/Legislative Assembly. He can be reached at email@example.com
by Steve Paterno
June 18, 2011 — In 2005, the world, led by the USA,rallied to bring a comprehensive peace in Sudan, which ended decadeslong war. However, six years down the road that peace is seriouslycrumbling. The regime in Khartoum never honored its part of the dealin maintaining peace. Instead, it choses to wage war. Hence, theworld is once again call for action as it is presented with yetanother opportunity to stop Khartoum’s aggressions. The aggressionscan be stopped by enforcing buffer zones that can halt Khartoum’smilitary advances as well as cripple its capabilities of slaughteringinnocent lives.
The notion of imposing a buffer zone tostop Khartoum’s aggression is not a new phenomena. This suggestionhas been making rounds ever since, aptly, by individuals who nowoccupy high positions within US government. In 2006, serving as a asenior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Susan Rice, the currentUS Ambassador to UN, proposed a more radical military approachagainst Khartoum. Writing an op-ed for The Washington Post, Riceargued that the only language Khartoum understands is “crediblethreat or use of force.” She went on to outline that in order forKhartoum to “relent,” the US must take the lead in exertingmilitary pressure against the regime—the pressure that involvestrikes against its airfields, aircrafts, military assets and alsoimposition of a blockade on the Port Sudan waterways. Rice insistedthat if the rest of the world could not support the US on this plan,then
America must go it alone, just as ithas done throughout the history.
US Vice President Joe Biden andSecretary of State Hilary Clinton all echoed Susan Rice’s sentiment,before they took up strategic positions in the current USadministration. The then, Senator Joe Biden, declared that in anydiscussions on Sudan, the use of force must be put on the table,because “those kids will be dead by the time the diplomacy isover.” President Barack Obama actually shared the same sentimentlike these top officials of his administration. During his campaignfor presidency, he summed his sentiment pretty well by saying, “wecan’t say ’never again’ and then allow it to happen again. And, asPresident of the United States, I don’t intend to abandon people orturn a blind eye to slaughter.”
Now Sudan is at its critical juncture,where these top members of US administration are in better positionsto translate their political rhetorics into concrete policy, strategyand then swing into immediate action. In other words, it is time forthe administration not to “turn a blind eye to the slaughter” inSudan, which is ongoing. The plan awaiting US action is not asradical and ambitious as suggested by Ambassador Susan Rice in 2006.The US only needs to play a minimal role to augment what is alreadybeing suggested in many circles; the establishment of buffer zones onthe flashpoints.
South Sudan, which is the victim ofKhartoum’s aggression vowed not to pursue war, at least at this pointin time. South Sudan government actually calls on establishment ofbuffer zones so as to stop the aggression and prevent another all outlong war between the South and the North. Ethiopia has taken thiscall of establishing buffer zones seriously by offering to deploy itsneutral troops in the war affected areas.
What is now left of US is to provideair support to patrol the demilitarized zones. US already has astrategic military base in the region, located only a flight away inDjibouti. The US war planes will easily have access to Sudanese airspace by flying from Djibouti over Ethiopia and into the intendedtargets, without having to necessarily get permission of passing overany hostile territory.
The objectives of this ’operation tostop genocide’ is to practically halt troops movements from enteringthe demilitarized zones, intercept Khartoum airplane bombers, andeliminate any threats against the air patrols as well as the peacekeeping forces and humanitarian personnel on the ground.
Such an operations can easily gainlegitimacy from around the world. Ambassador Rice, who is a proponentof this plan need to table a UNSC resolution to provide aninternational mandate for the action. The US Congress has twochambers full of members who have ever been concerned of Khartoum’saggressive nature and threats. The US Congress of recent isconducting hearings on Sudan and all the testimonies of the expertwitnesses attest to the danger of lack of actions in an event thatthe aggressions perpetrated by Khartoum is not stop. So, the USCongress gets the message very clear. As far as the regional politicsis concern with such a plan, Ethiopia is already taking a practicallead, which actually overshadows any need for African Unionblessings.
Therefore, if the only languageKhartoum understands and can relent is credible threat and the use offorce, then buffer zones enforced by neutral ground troops and airpatrols will just be the right fit. Otherwise, Khartoum regime,which has survived for decades by waging wars against the innocentpeople, will continue with impunity.
Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Zach Vertin
Abyei is burning, again. After months of rising tensions and international attempts to diffuse a crisis between political factions and armies from Sudan’s North and South, Khartoum’s armed forces recently launched a combined ground and air offensive on the hotly disputed region, displaced tens of thousands, and dissolved the local government. Three weeks on, reports of looting and burning continue while the military remains as an occupying force. Their immediate withdrawal is critical if there is to be any chance for a sustainable solution in the troubled territory itself, but also to prevent Africa’s largest country from plunging back into war and spoiling South Sudan’s long awaited independence—now just one month away.
Straddling Sudan’s contested North-South border, sparsely populated Abyei is roughly the size of Connecticut; and despite popular misperception, its current value in terms of oil production is negligible and thus not the primary driver of conflict. Abyei has long been geographically, ethnically, and politically caught between North and South; the dispute at its core pits southern-aligned Ngok Dinka communities who reside in the area against nomadic Misseriya Arabs who migrate through the territory to graze huge cattle herds during the dry season.
Though beset by occasional conflict, the two communities lived in relative peace—even cooperated and intermarried—for generations. But the area has been a flashpoint in recent years, and as southern independence and the partition of the country became increasingly certain, uncertainty over the territory’s own future (whether part of North or South) stoked existential fears among its communities. Meanwhile, high stakes politics between elites in Khartoum and Juba meant the dispute assumed a character and a complexity far removed from this rural tract of land. Growing antagonism at the national level in turn served to harden positions on the ground, and the die of new conflict was all but cast.
With no feasible settlement on the horizon and Southern independence fast approaching, the two sides have sought to assert control of the territory—both in public rhetoric and, more tangibly, through aggressive posturing on the ground. Weeks of intense engagement from U.S., United Nations, and African Union officials had helped prevent the situation from boiling over, but a recent clash initiated by Southern forces sparked a disproportionate response from Khartoum’s army, and untold consequences.
That unwarranted attack gave the North’s military enough of a pretext on which to advance, take Abyei in breach of existing agreements, and assert control of the territory ahead of 9 July. But the maneuver is far more than a simple move to new war. In fact, despite dangerous rhetoric over the course of the last year, both North and South calculated that the cost of a return to war outweighed any potential gains—an equation that holds true, albeit tenuously, today.
Thus, Khartoum’s capture of Abyei—and aggressive posturing elsewhere—is aimed at exhibiting strength to domestic constituencies, influencing negotiations over the future status of the territory itself, and strengthening its hand at the negotiating table—where talks between North and South toward future arrangements on oil, debt, currency, security, citizenship, and their shared border have not yet produced a deal. In fact, the two sides’ negotiating teams were trading proposals on economic issues at the time of the invasion. Thus, while Abyei is important to Khartoum and its Misseriya constituency, it is also being used as a bargaining chip.
But the ruling National Congress Party in Khartoum—led by ICC-indictee President Omar al-Bashir must also consider the ramifications of its strategy, and its potential effect on the party’s survival and on the normalization of political and economic relations between Sudan—long a global pariah—and the international community. While the regime has rarely shuddered at condemnation from the West, failure to withdraw its forces from Abyei (and continued endangerment of civilians) could send them further down the road of international isolation and unduly punish ordinary northern citizens.
Bashir and his party have suffered politically from the impending partition of the country; they will lose a majority share of the country’s oil—the primary revenue stream—to the South come July, and they will for years be saddled by some or all of the country’s staggering $40 billion debt. That’s not to mention the still unresolved conflict in Darfur, which perpetuates both domestic instability and the ire of the international community.
Eager to see a resolution of Sudan’s conflict and a peaceful referendum on independence, the Obama administration put forward a path to normalization between Khartoum and Washington—two capitals which have long loathed and misunderstood one another. It pledged Sudan’s removal from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list (Khartoum once hosted Osama Bin Laden), an exchange of ambassadors, support for debt relief, and ultimately a lifting of U.S. economic sanctions.
But among the prerequisites was a peaceful resolution of the Abyei deadlock—something the recent invasion puts at considerable risk. Khartoum does not fully trust the U.S. offers tabled, and knows that stability will continue to be the top American priority in any case. But the White House and the State Department will not entertain all of Khartoum’s excesses, and thus promptly made clear that an overplaying of the regime’s hand could complicate—or even halt—the normalization package. This could well cost Khartoum more in the long run than it stands to gain from its current strategy.
Even more immediate is the possibility of a return to war in Abyei and elsewhere along the North-South border. Khartoum knows that South Sudan prefers not to risk jeopardizing its recognition as an independent country by getting embroiled militarily in Abyei or beyond—and as such may continue to squeeze the South for concessions. But the South’s deep-seated commitment to Abyei should not be underestimated. Nor should the risk of unintended escalation be ignored, particularly in a place where the proximity of ill-disciplined forces and proxy militias and the intensity of emotions make for a dangerous cocktail.
This op-ed was originally posted at International Crisis Group’s On the African Peacebuilding Agenda, www.crisisgroup.org. Zach Vertin is a Sudan Analyst with the International Crisis Group. He divides his time between Sudan and Nairobi, Kenya
President Obama failed to make good on his campaign commitments to Darfur; unless he takes strong action, urgently, he will have failed in the face of the second genocide on his watch, currently accelerating in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan
June 14, 2011
Recalling President Bill Clinton’s massive moral failure in the face of the Rwandan genocide of spring 1994, many spoke of Darfur as President Obama’s "Rwanda moment"---the moment in which he was obliged to choose whether or not to commit truly substantial American diplomatic and political resources to halt the ethnically-targeted human destruction that has raged for more than eight years. As I’ve recently noted, candidate Obama virtually invited such a framing of his actions, declaring: "The government of Sudan has pursued a policy of genocide in Darfur. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children have been killed in Darfur, and the killing continues to this very day" (April 2008). But more than three years later the situation has not improved in Darfur; rather, a grim genocide by attrition continues, and Obama’s incompetent special envoy, former Air Force General Scott Gration, made no progress on the key issues. He failed to secure a peace agreement (or even the trust of Darfuris), and he produced no improvement in access for humanitarians or freedom of movement for the UN/African Union peacekeeping force. Conditions are if anything worse than when candidate Obama spoke, and his "Rwanda moment" has passed. He has failed.
But the consequences of General Gration’s incompetence extend to critical issues that remain unresolved between Khartoum and Juba, the capital of what will be in less than a month the independent Republic of South Sudan. Most pressing is the genocidal violence that has exploded in South Kordofan over the past week and threatens to take all of Sudan back to civil war. There are increasingly ominous reports of mass executions and the ethnic targeting of civilians, especially those with origins in the Nuba Mountains---including women and children. Arab militias armed by and allied with the Khartoum regime are going house-to-house, searching out "SPLM (Southern) sympathizers," who are either summarily executed or detained. The fate of a great many of these people is unknown. Numerous reliable accounts from the ground make clear that Khartoum’s military aircraft are again engaged in the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets throughout the Nuba. Churches have been burned in Kadugli (the capital of South Kordofan) and church staff murdered. Most terrifyingly, a humanitarian situation that is already desperate is deteriorating rapidly: Khartoum has engineered a security crisis that has produced mass evacuations of humanitarian personnel from South Kordofan, and if this is not very quickly reversed, vulnerable populations that have fled up into the mountains will die from exposure, malnutrition, and dehydration.
General Gration came to his position without significant diplomatic experience or knowledge of Sudan; his conviction, evident from his first pronouncements, was that we should make friends with the men of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party, and that they in turn would become reasonable and accommodating. His notorious policy of appeasement was most conspicuously on display when during an early trip to Khartoum he declared diplomatic success was more likely if the U.S. offered the regime’s génocidaires "cookies," as well as "gold stars" and "smiley faces." Out of such foolishness are genocides sustained.
Gration, having failed in Darfur, was just as ineffective in securing full implementation of the North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005). Khartoum refuses to negotiate in good faith on border delineation, oil revenue sharing (approximately 75 percent of Sudan’s reserves lie in the South), citizenship and civil rights for southerners who remain in the North, and a host of economic issues, most pressingly the $38 billion in external debt that the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime has run up. Khartoum is pressing Juba to accept a significant percentage of this debt, even as none of the money borrowed was seen by the people of the South except in the form of military hardware directed against them. This intransigence and unconstrained pursuit of self-interest is the ultimate consequence of ill-informed and expedient diplomacy.
But most critically, Gration failed to deal effectively with the two most obvious flashpoints for renewed civil war---the contested Abyei region and the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan (immediately to the north of the border with the South). Indeed, many blame Gration for Khartoum’s intransigence on Abyei, and ultimately its decision to seize the region militarily. For in mid-May Khartoum responded to Gration’s various offers of treats, including yet further compromises on delineation of the contested border area, by taking full military control of Abyei---a move that was foreseen by a number of analysts, and indeed had taken de facto form by March 2011. These military actions violated not only the key Abyei Protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, but also a "final and binding" ruling by the Permanent Count of Arbitration in The Hague (July 2009). In the immediate wake of Khartoum’s military move, more than 100,000 Dinka Ngok have fled for their lives to the South; this represents the entire estimated Ngok population of Abyei prior to the invasion.
An early UN assessment of the aftermath of the regime’s brutal military seizure of Abyei---an area a bit smaller than the state of Connecticut---found that the actions by Khartoum’s military and militia forces---including killings and ethnically-targeted destruction of property and food stores---were "tantamount to ethnic cleansing." But shamefully, senior UN officials, in their own effort to accommodate Khartoum’s sensibilities, toned this down dramatically, suggesting only that these actions "could" lead to ethnic cleansing. The spineless Ban Ki-moon declared flatly, "It is far too early to claim that ethnic cleansing is taking place." Ban was evidently not interested in the mass of satellite and ground photography depicting precisely ethnic cleansing, or the testimony of hundreds of those interviewed once beyond the range of Khartoum’s security forces. Nor did Ban think it important to consider the extraordinary statements by former U.S. State Department Ambassadors-at-Large for War Crimes, speaking about the evidence of "crimes against humanity."
Humanitarian conditions are poor for those who fled Abyei and for many there is no assistance at all. Khartoum has thrown up an economic blockade on goods moving from North to South Sudan, including fuel. This has had the effect of leaving many relief organizations without mobility. A large number of the displaced are dehydrated and badly weakened. And in the voice of the survivors we can hear a despair that will only deepen:
"…life for the [human] bargaining chips [in negotiations over Abyei in the wake of Khartoum’s military seizure of the region], meanwhile, has been miserable. For Mary Achol, it has meant eating leaves. On a recent morning in the border town of Agok, Ms. Achol slumped in the meager shade of a thorn tree, her belly rumbling from the nearly toxic mix of wild plants she ingested, a baby sweating profusely in her arms. During the chaotic exodus out of Abyei, Ms. Achol lost two other children. ’Maybe they died of thirst, maybe they were eaten by lions,’ she said. ’I don’t have a lot of hope.’" (New York Times, June 5, 2011, dateline: Agok [South of Abyei])
All this has predictably set the stage for the much greater violence rapidly unfolding in South Kordofan State, which abuts Abyei and lies immediately north of oil-rich Unity State in the South. For the past week events long warned of have exploded into violent ethnic slaughter and widespread military violence (including repeated cross-border bombing attacks just south of South Kordofan, in South Sudan’s oil-rich Unity State). But it’s not at all clear whether the Obama administration appreciates the enormous differences between South Kordofan and Abyei, in particular the potential for large-scale genocidal destruction.
Certainly the administration’s response to the seizure of Abyei was far too muted and lacked a clear articulation of specific consequences if Khartoum failed to abide by a UN Security Council "demand" that the regime withdraw militarily. This only encouraged Khartoum to believe that there would be an even less forceful response to military action in South Kordofan, which is geographically clearly in the north. Gration, who had no diplomatic skills or instincts, has been replaced by Princeton Lyman, a seasoned and widely respected career diplomat, with much experience in Africa. But Lyman seems out of his depth in dealing with the men in Khartoum, and there are signs that he only now realizes how dangerous the situation in South Kordofan has become in recent months.
The local events that led to the rapid escalation of violence in South Kordofan are not fully clear, but the premeditation that defined Khartoum’s seizure of Abyei---and which the Obama team now acknowledges---is again clearly in evidence. Indeed, reports from assessments groups like the Small Arms Survey (Geneva) going back to October 2010 have made clear that the military build-up of regular military forces and particularly ethnic militias has been massive, and was undertaken with brutal ambitions. Tanks had rolled into Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan, within hours of the first shots. El Obeid, the primary military base outside Khartoum, lies just north of South Kordofan, but connects by road to Kadugli, and puts the regime’s advanced military jet aircraft—including MiG-29s—within easy flying distance of the Nuba Mountains, a region the size of Austria in the middle of South Kordofan where fighting will be concentrated. Significantly, the Nuba Mountains are nowhere contiguous with South Sudan.
The ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse people of the Nuba sided militarily and politically with the South during the civil war, and feel deeply threatened by Khartoum’s ideological Islamism and Arabism. A gathering of Nuba civil society and military leaders made this point emphatically when I traveled to the region in 2003. Commander Ismail Khamis, the senior military officer at the time, declared with both anger and resolve: "Khartoum does not consider us to be human beings." There is much justification for this view; indeed, immediately before the self-determination in South Sudan (January 9, 2011) President Omar al-Bashir declared:
"If south Sudan secedes, we will change the constitution, and at that time there will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity ... shari’a and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language."
That leaves little room for the Nuba in the north, even as they were vaguely promised "popular consultations" in the 2005 peace agreement. But these have proved meaningless in the wake of Khartoum’s rigging of the May gubernatorial election, which brought to the post an indicted war criminal and a primary executioner of the Darfur genocide, Ahmed Haroun. Haroun, who has been acting governor of South Kordofan, was clearly brought in to undertake some very nasty business, and the reports of the past week are consistently of ethnically-targeted executions, destruction of churches, the killing of church officials, and widespread bombing in the Nuba Mountains themselves. We have no way of now how many have fled in South Kordofan but the estimates are growing with terrifying speed; the UN estimate for Kadugli now exceeds 50,000, and people continue to flee, desperate to escape the ethnic killings.
Human Rights Watch reports "tens of thousands of people" fleeing toward el Obeid; the town of Dilling to the north is reportedly completely deserted; virtually all civilians have fled from el-Fayd; and there are almost hourly reports from Nuba on the ground and in the diaspora that the number of women and children fleeing to the bush is growing rapidly. The World Council of Churches, with close ties to the people of the Nuba, reports that as many as 300,000 civilians are besieged and cut off from relief assistance. Humanitarian conditions have deteriorated precipitously, with critical shortages of water and food already reported; these will only grow worse, and more deadly. Khartoum’s forces have permitted the looting of UN World Health Organization warehouses in Kadugli, which contained critical medical and other humanitarian supplies. Roadblocks have been put in place in some areas, "preventing medical and humanitarian access," according to the UN High Commission for Human Rights.
Ominously, we also know that President al-Bashir and his top advisor, Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e, have given a "free hand" to military forces in South Kordofan, and this is a license for the slaughter of highly distressed civilian populations, overwhelmingly non-Arab and conveniently labeled "SPLA sympathizers." The nature of the violence is all too familiar from Darfur and from the previous genocide in the Nuba Mountains in the 1990s (very few dissent from this characterization of the ruthless killing and displacement of the time, as well as an accompanying total humanitarian embargo). Human Rights Watch reports receiving "credible reports" that:
"…[Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF] soldiers and Popular Defense Forces, a militia force, deployed in large numbers in Kadugli and other towns, targeted a number of civilians they suspected to be SPLM members. The forces carried out house-to-house searches and set up checkpoints, where they stopped civilians trying to flee the violence and killed some of them, according to witnesses. Reports from the ground indicate that military personnel arrested people who had sought refuge inside the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) compound, in violation of international humanitarian law. One of those arrested was later found dead."
…forces carried out house-to-house searches and set up checkpoints, where they stopped civilians trying to flee the violence….
The echoes of Rwanda become louder, and we are seeing mainly what is occurring in Kadugli, which lies west of the Nuba Mountains, Khartoum’s real target. The highly reliable Sudan Ecumenical Forum has declared in outrage that "[other civilians] have fled to the Nuba Mountains, where they are being hunted down like animals by helicopter gunships" (listen to a June 13 BBC interview with John Ashworth, senior advisor to the SEF). Reports of indiscriminate air and artillery attacks are too numerous to catalog, as the ethnically-targeted destruction of non-Arab people in the region gathers pace. There are also a number of reports that Nuba civilians have been collected in cattle trucks (in one instance witnessed by a security office of the UN High Commission for Refugees); that these human round-ups are being conducted by Arab paramilitary and militia forces, including the notorious Popular Defense Forces (PDF), is extremely ominous. Most chilling are the repeated reports, from various quarters, of mass graves in the Kadugli area.
The militia and paramilitary forces are in one sense the Interahamwe of South Kordofan, and once loosed, once blood lust is in the air, violence (including reprisal attacks) will be extremely difficult to restrain. The fact that Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces---and those fighting in the SPLA are themselves nearly all from the Nuba Mountains---are evidently defeating Khartoum’s regular forces on the ground in a number of locations may not prevent Khartoum from achieving its largest goal. For that goal is the same as it was in Abyei and in Darfur: to "change the demography" of South Kordofan. Here we should recall the ominous words of Musa Hilal, the primary Janjaweed leader in Darfur:
"The ultimate objective in Darfur is spelled out in an August 2004 directive from [Janjaweed paramount leader Musa] Hilal’s headquarters: ’Change the demography of Darfur and empty it of African tribes.’ Confirming the control of [Khartoum’s] Military Intelligence over the Darfur file, the directive is addressed to no fewer than three intelligence services---the Intelligence and Security Department, Military Intelligence and National Security, and the ultra-secret ’Constructive Security,’ or Amn al Ijabi.’"
(Alex de Waal and Julie Flint, Darfur: A Short History of a Long War 2005], page 39)
The White House issued a belated statement about “Southern Kordofan” on Friday evening (June 10), and it was a first step---but far too tentative and lacking in the force necessary to change the thinking in Khartoum; and it gave no true sense of the scale of atrocity crimes we know to be occurring. One would of course expect the administration to be "deeply concerned by ongoing developments in Southern [sic] Kordofan." But it will take threats made a good deal more forcefully to effect change in the killing fields:
"The United States condemns reported acts of violence in Southern [sic] Kordofan that target individuals based on their ethnicity and political affiliation. Accounts of security services and military forces detaining, and summarily executing local authorities, political rivals, medical personnel, and others are reprehensible and could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. We call on the UN to fully investigate these incidents, and we demand that the perpetrators immediately halt these actions and be held accountable for their crimes."
But the UN has a terrible record investigating atrocity crimes in Sudan, whether in Darfur, Abyei, or South Kordofan; a "UN investigation" is likely to take many weeks or months, even if access could be secured from Khartoum (a highly unlikely development); moreover, a UN investigation will be quite incomplete, as the UN force in South Kordofan, UNMIS, has completely lost the trust of the Nuba. Indeed, Egyptian elements of UNMIS in the region have repeatedly been accused of turning away those seeking UN protection, assisting in ethnic round-ups, and of raping Nuba women in the Kadugli area. They should be immediately replaced, although they have already disabled UNMIS as a protective force, now feared and hated by those who were to have assist been assisted.
We know what is happening, given the very substantial reporting, including desperate emails and phone calls from the ground, satellite photography, as well as many accounts from those in the region with contacts in South Kordofan. We know what is happening, and waiting is not an option. As Sudanese church groups have declared:
"Only … urgent international efforts can halt what is threatening to become a repeat of the mass atrocities, war crimes and protracted humanitarian crisis the world witnessed in neighbouring Darfur over the past decade, in Abyei in recent weeks and during the previous war in the Nuba Mountains in the early 1990s." (June 10, 2011)
But instead of promising decisive action to halt Khartoum’s genocidal ambitions, the White House statement of June 10 equates the responsibilities of Khartoum and Juba:
"Although the United States has demonstrated a commitment to forging closer ties with Sudan, grave violations of international humanitarian law as have been reported to take place in Southern [sic] Kordofan will negatively impact this process and put Sudan on a path toward deeper international isolation. We also call upon the leaders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in South Kordofan to avoid reprisals and other human rights violations, to agree to a cease-fire, to provide full access to the UN and humanitarian agencies and to cooperate in a UN investigation of the reports of such violations."
In this key final paragraph the Obama administration spends as much time admonishing the SPLA as it does warning Khartoum. This "moral equivalency---a perverse legacy of the Gration era---is wholly misplaced in the context of South Kordofan. The ethnic killings, the summary executions, the indiscriminate aerial bombardments (only Khartoum has an air force), the use of heavy artillery against civilian targets, the destruction of churches and murder of church officials---these are singularly the responsibility of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime. As well blame the Tutsi resistance in Rwanda for the actions of the Hutu killing machine.
When I was in the Nuba in 2003 I heard again and again the same simple declaration: "we have no way out." This meant that lacking geographic contiguity with the South, there was no physical exit and the only choice was to stay and fight for their traditions and lands. Led by Abdel Aziz el Hilu, a formidable military commander, they will fight to the death rather than surrender to al-Bashir’s vision of what North Sudan is to become. No one in the Nuba has forgotten the genocide of the 1990s.
But the cost of such defiance, given the overwhelming military force---regular and militia---Khartoum has put in place, will be devastating. The hundreds of thousands now besieged and without humanitarian relief are deeply endangered, as relief organizations are withdrawing rather than deploying. Khartoum has shut down the Kadugli airport for all humanitarian transport, and has deployed instead military aircraft. It is also now the "hunger gap," the period between fall/winter harvest and the next round of harvests beginning in October. Mortality will swing sharply upward in the coming weeks and months unless humanitarian access is secured and protected.
Ethnically-targeted human destruction, genocide, need not make use of machetes, or even more sophisticated instruments of destruction. As this regime has learned over the past 22 years, the cheapest way to wage war on the African peoples of Sudan is by pitting ethnic groups against one another and then denying humanitarian access. We saw this in the Nuba Mountains in the 1990s, in South Sudan at many points during the civil war, and most recently in Darfur. That it has begun again in the Nuba brings us full circle in the regime’s savage history of genocidal counterinsurgency wars. The Nuba were largely invisible during the first genocide, even as we know now that hundreds of thousands were killed or displaced. But this time it is as clear as April and May of 1994 in Kigali.
President Obama confronts his second "Rwanda Moment," and how he responds---now---will determine the moral character of his historical legacy for decades.
Eric Reeves has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. He is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide.
By Steve Paterno
June 12, 2011 — The journey started on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. There were only my aunt and myself in the isolation. Then a huge truck drove by and stopped for us to hop on the back, the African style. My aunt went on the passenger side, while I proceeded on the driver’s side of the vehicle. I quickly discovered that there were no any ladder on the side or anything that will make it possible to climb on the truck. The truck was extremely too high from the ground, unlike any I have ever seen. I wondered for a minute how did the driver, who was the only person I could see from my vantage point, got up there.
I then held on the bottom part of the truck that I could reach and stretched my left leg as far as it could go. Miraculously, I made it safe on the truck. My aunt also got on top. I noticed, she struggled too, but in her case, she used the help of the door, as I saw the door on the passenger side was opened to make it easier for her ascension.
As I discovered, there were few passengers already on the truck, but one cannot see them from the ground. I complained to them that how was it difficult for me to get into the vehicle, when by age eleven, I was already an expert in climbing into fast moving trucks. I even bragged that the first time I ever driven a vehicle, (of course, besides the trees fenced in our home, which I used to pretend as a baby to be my vehicles), was at age eleven. That was when my uncle caught me jumping into speeding pickup truck he was driving. He gave me a couple of beating and forcing me into driving. I went on to tell them that even though the driving test was a failure, I proved to know things about driving and jumping into vehicles, even if they are on full speed.
Anyway, those passengers were never seem to be interested into what I was saying. I quietly tell myself, “to hell with them!” They could be people who don’t know how to strike a conversation, or worst yet, they could even be anti-social.
One of the gentlemen forced his way, intruding into my personal space. I had to give him the right of way. I was bewildered for his lack of manners, on how he could not even excuse himself. “How can he just intrude into my space?” As I watched him moving, I began to contemplate that may be the guy was motivated with my small talk of jumping off speeding vehicle. I certainly did not want to be responsible for his death, in case he jumped. By some luck, he never jumped, but instead he banged the roof of the cabin. The driver acknowledged him and he made some hand signals and mentioned something about gas.
Few distance down the road, the vehicle suddenly stopped. Up to that point, I was clueless as to where we were and even where we were going, leave alone where we came from. My aunt seemed to know the routine. She climbed down and said something incoherently. The only word I understood was “gas.” I seemed to comprehend that she was saying, she will be waiting and after the refueling, she may be able to get herself some gas too. Even though that was not what she exactly said. I was not ready to bother by asking what she was really saying.
By then, I remained on the truck as it was turning into a more muddier road than the one where were in. From that vicinity, which include some few buildings, and alleyways, I figured that the truck was just going to refuel and will turn around the circle back to the main road.
Feeling with excitement, I was already thinking of the experience of riding on the back of the truck. I could not wait to tell my American friends about the experience, but by then, my mysterious journey ended abruptly.
I continued my journey, alone and on narrow muddy alley, footing. I only had a backpack, strapped on my back. I played with clay on my hands ,while walking around and observing keenly. At one point, I was thinking ’what the heck’ I was doing with the clay like a baby. My hands were actually dirty, because of the clay.
Well, I was already on the market street of Torit, my home town. There were a lot of vendors, all playing busy. I passed by tailors, who were stretched up along the corridor. Though I was closely watching them, they never seemed to take notice of me. I was concerned a bid, because I didn’t want them to think of me as a thief. I quickly formulated my response, in case they confronted me with questions. I was going to say that, I really do admire their skills and work. I would have loved to posses the same skills and do such kind of work just as they were doing.
I was surprised, when most of those teen hustles, those boys who run around in the market, looked different than the native of the town. They got the crawly hair with shade of light skin. I knew they were not Mundukurat, though they can pass for one, judging by their looks. I just concluded that they must have been fathered or mothered by none native, but they were sure belong to the town. The reason is, they were actively doing whatever that they were doing with level of confidence.
As I strolled down the street, I ran into a mysterious Mundukuru, who was a soldier of Khartoum armed forces. I immediately noticed this fact, because he was in his uniform. He was sitting on stacked of firewoods and reading a newspaper. Upon seeing me passing by, he immediately stood up and greeted me. He said to me that he usually see me around, but never had a chance to talk to me. I told him “no, sir! I don’t think you ever saw me before. More ever I am just new in town.” He was like, “no, no, no, no! Don’t say that.” He then continued to tell me that it was the right time. That in few days, all the Mundukurat I saw in town will have to leave. He then veered out of context, he said, “you people need to study.” I was like, “say what?”
As I continued with the walk, I saw three unattended babies, sitting quietly along the street. They could not have been no more than four years old. I approached them and reached in my backpack to hand them pieces of candy. I felt a pinch on my index finger as my hand was already deep inside the backpack. I pulled my hand out and saw a shrimp looked alike creature, sticking out of my finger. The pain was excruciating. In a panic, I rubbed the creature into the finger of one of the babies. The baby started screaming. I saw the sting sinking deep in my skin as well as on that baby’s skin. I quickly removed the sting, before it went deeper. I then tried to remove the one on the baby. After long struggle, the sting popped out and flew right inside my eye. I was like, “ouch!”
I wanted to confirm my worst fear from those babies if they saw where the sting flew and landed, because I knew it ended up on my right eye. All the three babies were telling me that the sting flew out just slightly off my left lower arm. I was like, “what do babies know, anyways?”
Well, I did not believe them, because the thing was in my eye and I could feel it. As I was rubbing my eye so hard, I woke up. I have to immediately jot this down so that I preserve the details, before they got lost. Now I can properly examine my eye, because, it is really itchy.
I would have appreciated very much someone with insights and powers of interpreting dreams such as a Joseph, a Daniel, a Ngundeng, etc.
Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at email@example.com
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies
Journalists Reporting on Sexual Violence against Women Face Criminal Charges
Contact: Osman Hummaida, Executive Director
Phone: +44 7956 095738
3 June 2011 — On 29 May, proceedings brought by the prosecutor of the Press and Publications Court against Professor Omar el Gerai, a journalist and activist, and Abdallah Sheikh, the editor of Ajras Alhurria, began in Al Shemali Court in Khartoum North. The two journalists are being tried for an article published 6 March by Professor el Gerai in Ajras Alhurria entitled “Rape…under Sharia law”, (available here in Arabic). The article detailed the brutal treatment of the youth activist and Girifna member Safiya Ishag, who was raped multiple times and subjected to torture in National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) custody following her participation in the 30 January demonstrations in Khartoum. In his piece, Mr. el Gerai called for a formal investigation.
Prior to the initial hearing, the lawyers of Professor el Gerai and Mr. Sheikh had only been told informally of the charges leveled against their clients under the 1991 Sudanese Criminal Code, and were told by the prosecutor that they would have to wait and see on 29 May. They have since been charged with defamation, and their trials postponed to 21 June. Mr. Sheikh is facing seven separate complaints: four filed by the NISS, one by the military, and one by the ministers’ council. Judge Modather ab Rasheed, who will hear the case, has stated that he will first hear the evidence introduced by the relevant authorities.
Professor el Gerai and Mr. Sheikh’s case is not an isolated incident. Several other journalists are facing criminal charges brought by the NISS for reporting on Ms. Ishag’s case, including:
• Faisal Mohamed Saleh, a human rights journalist and columnist for Al Akhbar. His case was also presented to Al Shemali Court and its proceedings have been delayed till 28 June. • Amal Habbani, a prominent journalist and women’s rights activists. She is expected to appear before the Court on 12 June. • Faiz al Silaik, former deputy editor in chief of Ajras Alhurria. Mr. al Silaik is facing seven cases filed by the NISS, police, military, and Ministers’ Council. Some of these cases have come before the Court, and some are still pending within the prosecutor’s office.
Ahmed Osman, editor in chief of The Citizen, an English language newspaper, Dr. Nahid Mohamed Al Sassan, writer with Ajras Alhurria, and Al Ayaam have all been announced by the Clerk of the court, but have not been contacted or formally informed of charges by the Court or their potential trial dates. All have been filed by the NISS. Newspapers contacted by ACJPS appeared unaware of proceedings against their staff. Activists intend to monitor the trials and appear in court in solidarity with the journalists. A campaign to support them by providing technical and financial support for their legal fees and draft editorials has been established, called the Sudanese Campaign for Freedom of Opinion and Conscience.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies calls on the government of Sudan to drop the charges against Mr. Sheikh and Professor el Gerai and their colleagues, which seem motivated by a desire to prevent public discussion of NISS conduct rather than a desire to protect the reputation of individual security agents. Allegations of defamation presume that the allegations against an individual are false. In this case, ACJPS believes that Ms. Ishag’s testimony is credible and deserves to be heard. Freedom of expression is guaranteed under Sudan’s international commitments, as well as Article 39 (1) of the interim national constitution.
Further, there are serious concerns that Mr. Sheikh and Professor el Gerai will not receive a fair trial, as their lawyers have only just been informed of the charges against them. ACJPS sees this incident as undue interference in the right to mount a defence and, as such, a serious breach of fair trial standards. The right to a fair trial is articulated in Article 34 of the Interim National Constitution of Sudan, Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Additionally, the proceedings against the journalists who reported on Ms. Ishag’s case sends a very clear message to survivors of sexual violence that not only they, but also those who may seek to support them, may be victimized again. This is likely to dissuade women (and men) who have reported being raped or threatened with the prospect of it from coming forward. Ms. Ishag’s bravery has already forced her to leave the country; other activists have likely suffered similar trauma and stay quiet.
By Anne Bartlett
June 11, 2011 — Today, Darfur is old news. Complex, seemingly irresolvable problems, fractured armed movements and the failure of the uprising against the government have silenced the outcry over what is happening in the region. Even today, the arrest of Ratko Mladi?, the architect of the Srebrenica massacre seems to generate little reflection about what power can do to innocent people, when in the hands of an amoral maniac. In Jebel Marra people do not need to be told. They know. They know today and have known for the last ten years what it means to be on the receiving end of an amoral government and the self-interested behavior of the international community.
This of course begs a question: What is happening in Darfur? The answer is that for many people in Darfur, they are in a much worse situation today than at the height of crisis in 2004. Today, however there is no hue and cry. Today, few seem to care. Why? As a start, a blind eye has been turned to the behavior of the Government of Sudan in the Jebel Marra, since this fits with the current agenda of the international community. In the ensuing media blackout, a bombing campaign that was started in January 2010 continues daily in eastern Jebel Marra with endless carnage. At this point however, bombs are not the only concern. Saddiya, as we will call her, died recently in Nyala hospital from the toxic outflow from the bombs. Equally deadly, yet much more difficult to see, she was rendered more and more weak over time from the toxic cocktail that she was exposed to. Brought down the mountain to an under-resourced hospital in Nyala, it simply wasn’t possible to diagnose what was ailing her. She therefore died a long and painful death, aged 36. Her four children lost their mother to this silent killer; they had already lost their father a few years ago at the hands of the Janjawiid.
In the Jebel Marra, her mother, struggles on. She is now close to close to 70. She was bombed out of her village in the mountains last year and forced to run for her life. Her cows, which she had tended over many years either perished, or those that were left had to be sold. The money she got for them allowed her to buy some dried tomatoes which she tried to sell in the market in Nyala. Before she could get there she was robbed by the bandits that have been brought in from West Africa to occupy the land that once belonged to her and her family. Today, after farming all her life and bringing up ten children, this old lady does not have enough food. For her, life is its own form of torture. Today, life is almost too much to bear.
Her son also knows about torture. He experiences it every day. Arrested a month ago in Nyala University compound for complaining about what was happening to his family, he now spends his days in Nyala’s NISS headquarters. His life is a living nightmare. Allowed to visit the bathroom only once every 24 hours, he is beaten if he is forced to urinate outside of this time. Starved of sufficient food, denied the ability to wash – even to wash himself in order to say his prayers – he is guarded by people who call themselves Muslim. Musa Kasha, the Governor of South Darfur sits on his hands, pretending that he has no control over what these people have been subjected to, when he himself is deeply responsible. In the vastly overcrowded prison, unshaven men sit talking to themselves in 50 degree heat. Many of them are losing their minds. Mental breakdowns are the norm for the people of Jebel Marra since there is no reason to hope.
This is but a snap-shot of one family from Jebel Marra, Darfur. What did they do to deserve this living hell? They were born in Darfur. They were born in a time when people talk about genocide, but do little else. They had the misfortune to be forcibly assimilated to a nation, Sudan, that neither cares about their rights nor what happens to them.
The question today, is what we are all prepared to do to help these people? Are we prepared to allow Darfur to be wiped clean of its people; to have them herded into camps like cattle; to have their aggressors now police them while living off their land? Is Britain prepared to ignore its historical responsibility for creating this situation in the first place? Is the international community prepared to accept its responsibility for standing by and doing next to nothing? These questions and their answers require more than soul searching from all of us. On this day when a genocidaire from the Balkans is finally held to account, the question is what are we all going to do to bring the Sudanese government to account and to end the agony of the people of Darfur?
Anne Bartlett is a Professor of Sociology and International Studies at the University of San Francisco. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
by Toby Collins
Hawajat  in Sudan are stubborn; running away from something or towards oblivion; or in the wrong place. I had been sold on Sudan with stories which I half believed and in retrospect, I was guilty of all the aforementioned.
- Coffee for sale in Medani souq, the Republic of Sudan (photo: Heidi Erickson)
The British Ambassador’s bodyguards in Khartoum, the capital of the Republic of Sudan, were bored out of their minds. The ex-Foreign Legion haulier I met in Juba, the capital of the soon to be, Republic of South Sudan, was drunk out of his mind. In the isolated pockets of excess people exhibited strange behaviours like animals in captivity.
Many of my Sudanese friends fought for excess and spoke about their Romantic environment without fear of disjointedness or pretentiousness or cliché or embellishment of the truth or self-aggrandisement. This is an ode to them, not about them.
There are still Bohemians in Khartoum; sometimes eating, sometimes drinking and always smoking in barren rooms with noisy fans. They embrace the verbose and do not glorify brevity. They tell long, lyrical stories that, if I had free abandon, I would link to a slower and more rhythmical pace of life, an inherently nostalgic light and the desert. I might even stretch to the haboob, great dust storms which march from the deserts into the towns and eat away at the buildings, returning them to powder. But the metaphorical mention of hour glasses makes me wince. Perhaps if this was a translation I could get away with it.
Fierce rocks in the desert
I lived in a small town in the desert on the Sudanese side of the Ethiopian border. It was the metropolis of the Gedaref state where private and alien groups of people met and bartered. The water was brown and the wind was always hot. Most people used the remains of the train track as a thoroughfare. We jumped between the beams high above the deep, dried-out river to where we smoked shisha  at night. Once we saw a goat with a cardboard box stuck on its head in the riverbed – the spectators were going berserk and after three months there, I understood why.
Eid Mubarak 
Sometimes I took the bus across expanses sparsely populated with nomads and their camels, armed with a bundle of security papers to the bright lights Khartoum. This time they played Rambo III, where he joins forces with the Afghans, against the Soviets.
Near Souq Arabi, there is a man who sells the books which he shouldn’t. Unless someone is privileged enough to go, or to know someone going overseas, this is the man they have to see. Although censorship of this kind is becoming harder with the massing digital cloud, the availability of controversial texts in Arabic is still limited. For the majority, internet access is still found in the internet cafés, monitored and with rudimentary censorship (perhaps courtesy of a deal struck with the CIA). When the internet enabled phone is cheap and cheerful, the second digital revolution will take place.
Partly by imposed isolationism, the old traditions of Sudanese poetry have a solid footing in the modern Sudanese psyche.
A bag of tombac  was being passed around and people were beginning to lie back onto the grass or pick at what remained of the spiced yoghurt; peanut, tomato and chilli; wet dates; sweet pastries; gorasa ; assida ; kissra ; and abray .
I asked a friend if he had heard of the Sudanese poet, Gely Abdel Rahman. He smiled.
We were breaking fast in a packed, chattering park to the east of the Nile; the north and thankfully downwind of the fish market; the west of the tank waiting outside the TV station, since the media savvy Darfurians crossed the desert in pick-up truck to storm the city in 2008, hoping to address the nation with the state’s own apparatus; and a stone’s throw from the house of the great-grandson of the Mahdi – the self-proclaimed messianic redeemer of Islam. He fought General Gordon in 1880s and his great-grandson studied at Oxford and was Prime Minister of Sudan in the 1960s and 1980s. The statue of colonial Britain’s Gordon which was in Khartoum, where he died, is said to be resting at the bottom of the Nile. What the Nile definitely has contained is gallons of Khartoum’s booze. In 1983 people watched as the then president, Nimeri poured it in, to mark a new era of harsh sharia  law, which has been memorialised in song.
There were shifting, sprawling groups of friends and families, with children darting about in sweet and balloon induced stupors.
It was my first Eid and therefore the first time I had had a fast to break. The sun had set and a Hadendewa man in a white jalabia  sold us his coffee. He was a descendant of the warriors Rudyard Kipling described in his poem ’Fuzzy-Wuzzy’ – they broke the symbol of military and empirical might, the British Square.
We drank from a fist-sized pitcher, hammered out of aluminium cans, kept warm by coals on a tray, held precariously above his head, poured into tiny bell-shaped cups, more than half full with sugar. Rich, thick and spiced. Coupled with the tombac, mind and stomach were gently fizzing. My friend recited a lengthy Rahnman poem from memory.
The day before I broke fast in Souq Arabi with my friends at the phone shop. It was eerily quite without the traffic. The shopkeepers laid mats out on the street and waiting in long lines, either side dishes of food. Everyone was waiting for the muezzin  to announce the departure of the sun. There were a couple of false starts but I didn’t mind – some tea ladies from the Nuba Mountains, hiding behind a parked car had already ushered me over to eat with them.
After eating, a man of some religious seniority came to lead people in prayer. He pointed at me with his stick and asked those around me if I was going to pray with them. He gave me a relaxed smile and I went for some coffee.
The ontology of Sudan’s poetry
In the second half of nineteenth century there were two major waves in Arabic poetry which are the fundamentals of the majority of contemporary Sudanese poetry: The first was the rediscovery of classical Arabic poetry. This renaissance was spearheaded by the Egyptian, Mahmid Sami al-Barudi and Syrio-Lebanese, Maronite Nasif al-Yazif, who showed little Western influence in their work.
In the second wave, English and French literary influences started to creep in. It was dominated by the Diwan poets, most of whom studied English Literature. The Mahj group, from the Syrian Diaspora in North America were also significant. They expressed a sense of being in a culturally alien environment. Unlike the Diwan, their otherness had been thrust upon them. They had forgotten some of their traditions but the nostalgic nuance of their work gave the impression that it was an unwanted forgetting. The Apollo group focused on the second generation of English Romantic poets and romanticised England.
In the 1940’s a new form of Arabic poetry came out of Iraq and took hold in Lebanon, Egypt and then spread throughout the region. It was less constrained by the traditions of rhyme and meter.
In the 1950’s Free Verse was de rigueur. Form was the albatross around the poet’s neck.
In the 1960’s Arabic poetry gained more direction. The political context of the time meant that modernity became synonymous with rebellion so there was something to kick against. Understanding life rather than describing it became the focus. Modernity meant access to information was freer but it also meant personal isolation.
Some of the dice of the recent Arab uprising have been thrown and there are plenty of unpredictable African countries in the mood for insurrection, yet to come to the table. Poets will be there to log the existential crises of the process and inshallah , in doing so, create solidarity and empathy.
The elephants’ graveyard
To get to the park in Omdurman, I had changed at Jackson bus station, which takes its name from a member of the British colonial administration. It is alive with place names proclaimed by conductors: ”Arabi, Arabi, Arabeeeeey!”, “Shooada, Shooada, Shooada”, “Bahribahribahreeeeee!” They slap the sides of their buses like unruly cattle . The only sense not assaulted is taste – tankards of fresh, thick, icy mango juice. That day I drank water from the bucket. Boys carrying buckets of water and ice clink their metal cups together patrol the station. The dubious provenance of the water makes it all the more indulgent.
Sat on the bus I was hit by wave after wave of nostalgia for things I had never experienced. The light had the right mix of red, yellow and grey to make the jallabiat outside glow. Old Sudanese music played on the radio. The tassels around the driver swayed like Sufi  dancers.
Everything had been in the sea. Everything was washed up on the shore a long time ago. Everything was covered in a fine red dust. The sky was darkening and everyone in the bus was rolling and pitching gently, in silence, thinking about longer journeys, looking about without seeing a thing. I really was smiling. I had an inexplicable and very powerful sense of contentment, as though lots or pernickety frets had converged into a manageable cloud.
The conductor held folded money between his fingers. He casually kept count of the payees and the change they were due. He resolved disputes between passengers who were insisting on paying one-another’s fare. He listened out for the clicks of the passengers fingers and relayed it to the driver with a “kisss kisss” which told him to stop. He hopped off the bus as it moved, his footsteps in perfect harmony with the bus.
People from other worlds
There was a man who wandered around Gedaref with a bag string, calling out his job again and again for hours. He fixed the beds that most sleep on, string tied to a frame - cooler than a mattress. Another aged man rode a tricycle at speed while playing a home made trumpet – announcing his unrefrigerated ice cream for sale, for a limited time only.
There were two little girls in the shop opposite. They used kittens as boxing gloves. They ran barefoot on the rocks. Their younger brother, a baby, had Downs Syndrome. The family joke was to call him Cini – Chinese. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh. I know on some days they didn’t have enough to eat but would insist on giving me coffee, thick with sugar. When the mother pounded the roasted coffee beans with a hunk of iron, she sang in rhythm, with her daughters.
The shop next door was run by an Eritrean man who was all for Hitler because he hated Jews.
The teaching assistant at university risked her marriageability by eating an hibiscus ice lolly in the park with me.
There were young men proud to have lost their virginity to Ethiopian prostitutes in the brothels on the border.
Tribes and hearsay
The Beni Amir and Hadendewa (both Beja) wore black waistcoats over their jalabia and carried ornate swords and had dramatic hair. They sold milk from aluminium urns just off Million Stupid Street.
The Rashida wore platform shoes and their women were heavily veiled, with ornate jewellery pouring out of every available gap in the fabric. They fled Saudi Arabia a century ago and they smuggle Iranian arms from Eritrea to Palestine and keep their money in holes in the ground. They rebelled against the government as the Rashida Free Lions, then joined with the Beja Congress to form the Eastern Front in a rebellion against the Khartoum regime.
The Mbararo women were topless at home in their tents and had powerful sorcerers whose hijab  of powdered lion forehead protects the wearer from bullets. They chose their husbands, who had meticulously coiffured hair and wore multiple watches with their colourful robes. A doctor saw an Mbararo sorcerer in the village of Elephant’s Stomach draw a donkey in the sand and make it materialise.
The first time I met some Mbararo, they were wearing different clothes from anyone else around. One had cat whisker shapes scarred into his cheeks. My friend knew their language but they refused to acknowledge they were Mbararo. Subsequently we were told it is a derogatory term. However, they put me in contact with a chief who invited me to come to Elephant’s Stomach in the cab of his son’s lorry (there were fifteen other passengers clinging to the cargo on the back).
I went to Elephant’s Stomach and saw a man holding a hijab in his mouth stab at his stomach with a knife. It was in candlelight, he was overweight, I don’t know how sharp the blade was and I don’t know how many layers he was wearing; it was still arresting.
I went to a place where I was sold water in a bowl with ice served with a soup spoon and it was the most delicious water I have ever drunk. That night under a mango tree a generator powered a techno cassette and a single light bulb. All that was recognisable was a thick, sludgy beat. People danced in and out of the darkness. When the generator died there were just the rustles of nature and humanity and a hint of moonlight.
After the British colonisation of northern Nigeria in 1903 there was mass migration out of the country. Mbararo had taken the same route across Africa on Hajj , through Sudan, for centuries.
Their cattle are larger zebus than most used by northern Sudanese, linking them them to South Sudan.
Their allegiance in Sudan shifts. They are perceived by some as enemies of the north and south. They are not particularly popular with ex-car mechanic and current president of the Republic of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir.
Key to their social system is foulanite – self-denial, modesty and toughness. Something which the elders feel is being lost.
There are no lions in Sudan, they were eaten or fled in the war between the north and south.
I saw women with tattooed faces when I went to a crumbling coral city called Suakin. This is where pilgrims used to depart Africa on the Hajj. It was lit by candlelight, there was no electricity. A few miles down the road in Sinkat, I wanted to get a lift to Erkowit – a place where New Zealanders flew RAF planes to attack Italians in Eritrea - and was picked up by the security services. A man without uniform put me in the back of a truck and drove me around the state all day. There are rumours of Palestinian freedom fighter training camps in the area.
So, I was on the back foot. Rather than the neatly codified Orientalism I had hoped for, I was barraged by waves of otherness. This otherness stretched out to the horizon. I had heard of a few Sudanese poets, but they seemed preoccupied with a romantic past which I assumed would be overarching in the present. I was struggling to marry what I had imagined and what I was experiencing. I was powerfully aware that I was an alien and I was subject to Sudan’s sleight of hand.
Going about town
En route to the shisha place we went past the gun shop and the abandoned cinema. Past outdoor TVs, to the gym on the edge of the football pitch. The gym equipment was made up of bits of old lorry – cogs on an axle and so on. That’s where we got rushed by the police.
At night we sat there and smoked shisha and talked of distant lands where women wandered the streets in bikinis. That night a primary school teacher from a village on a dirt track was talking about Wasteland. For many of the younger people in Gedaref I represented either debauchery or freedom and for many of the older generation either oppressive colonialism or sagacity and resolve,
The legacy of colonial rule lives on in a generation of English students trying to learn from teachers who don’t know English, being taught The Wasteland and Shakespeare. They learn from text books riddled with spelling mistakes.
A line of policemen emerged from across the football pitch. Their guns were illuminated by moonlight and the licks of orange light from the shisha coals. They did not stop. The nonchalance with which they carried their guns was intimidating. Without shouts and without fuss everyone stood up from their collapsing chairs and ran, and the police chased.
We met there the following night and no one seemed to know what had happened or why. Someone was muttering about the Ja’aliyyia administration, some of whom consider themselves to have patrilineal descent from Prophet’s uncle, Abbas. It was out of character.
The poetry book left on the train
I was collecting contemporary Sudanese poetry for a book and was interested in how it related to a long history of lyricism in Arabic and in Sudan in particular.
Near the vegetable market on the edge of town, in an area populated by immigrants, on the flat, low-walled roof my friend’s house we were sitting on paint tins and drinking aragi . The air was still dusty and there were stragglers, pieces of rubbish still floating about in the trail of the haboob, which had long since cut the power. After an hour or so of hitting the paint tins like drums, revelling in the cool breeze that always follows the storm, the mood became solemn like clockwork, and I asked the assembled about Sudanese poetry. Drinking from the same cup like this, everyone gets drunk at the same time and when drinking is an act of rebellion, there is a sense of comradeship, a sense which is fortified by drunkenness. It also stilts development; there are some very old teenagers in Khartoum.
After a few days I met someone from the party in a café near my home that sold liver and beans. He handed me a folder of yellowed photocopies and told me how he came by it:
SudaNow was a magazine of value in the eighties. It had short stories and poems of a different calibre to what you will find today. There was more freedom at that time and people could remember what Sudan was like when we were really free. This new generation have never known and the arts are dying.
We are going through a difficult divorce. Everyone is thinking about separation now so they can’t think about rebellion. Sudanese protest when they are hungry anyway.
We were speaking just before the 2011 referendum vote in which South Sudan voted overwhelmingly to secede become an independent state. The plebiscite was a condition of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which marked the end of more than two decades of civil war between north and south Sudan. The Republic of South Sudan is scheduled to declare her statehood in July 2011.
With the director of the Goethe Institute in the eighties I compiled these poems. These are what we thought were the best poems of the eighties. She fled the country, I can’t remember why, she was married to a Sudanese man. She was carrying a copy of the collection with her back to Germany for publication. She left her copy on a bench at Cairo train station. I don’t know what happened to her.
The poetry book did not contain what I expected. There was the spattering of colonial ghosts which I had expected – sunburnt wives of diplomats desperately romanticising their surroundings - but there was poetry written by South Sudanese which I did not expect and the content was predominantly racy and universal.
Khediry, the translator of the poems is old and blind. He lives to the north of Khartoum, and travels by donkey. I wondered how these translations could retain their lyricism, but Sudan is a place familiar with translation.
Arabics in Sudan
Daragi or Randog or Sudani, the Arabic of Khartoum is clearly suited to poetry. In the east of Sudan, bordering Ethiopia, there is a spattering of Amharic ’shoya shoya’ or ’little little’ or to translate it further, ’a little bit’ in the East, becomes ’tinish tinish’.
In South Sudan the ’ayn’ is softened and are more distinct melody is added. It’s something like the -ch from loch but with the retching muscles doing more work. In Darfur their Arabic is eloquent and archaic.
Across Sudan there are hundreds of languages. In the north many have Arabic as their second language. In the South, Arabic is perceived by some as the language of the oppressors. English is is the official language but for many it is the third, after a tribal language and Arabic.
Communism, atheism, alcoholics and other affectations of middle-classery
I used to exchange lines of poetry with my friend in Khartoum.
Now the Sudanese youth text poems to each other. They have condensed ancient poems and they are alive again.
Poetry in relevant in Sudan. Perhaps this has something to do with the Koran – many Sudanese learn great tracts of it off by heart and it is lyrical. The Koran, unlike the Bible, for its followers, is the verbatim word of God and is written in a difficult, archaic Arabic is for some, at times incomprehensible.
Some of the poets in Khartoum sit in the concrete remains of the bars their parents frequented. Glugging from scuffed water bottles of booze, sometimes with perfunctory cardamom pods in them. When some of them say they are communists, they mean they smoke. Some women conceal it with their headscarf in public. Some drink because they don’t want to be there. Some drink because they feel apart from Sudan and a part of it. Some drink because they are tortured by the security services.
But, there are some who successfully embody this bi-polarity of environment and people. The bar of rebellion is so low and the suppression is so systemic that the kicking is inward.
There is a precise word in Sudan – Gatia’a, a kind of Schadenfreude gossip.
I went to an apartment furnished with a string bed, fan and scrawls all over the walls, to meet a studious man watching Inland Empire on his laptop. Through a translator I recommended Antichrist to him and he was very pleased. That night I was accused of working for Mossad, and I was not sure if it was a joke, but it ended in hugs as everyone gradually converged to an international proto-language of slurs and slow, wide gesticulations.
Sitting with a tea lady on the roadside, with patterned scars on her face, the air rich with bahoor , with her singing in a Nuban language under her breath was, for me, exotic. For the man who had spent his life in an environment where the women on billboards cover their hair and tradition dictates that a guest should only ever be asked about the length of their stay after a month has passed, it is hard to imagine how Lars von Trier sits.
It is less difficult to imagine how T. S. Elliot, Philip Larkin or even James Joyce sit. Their abstraction and aesthetics are far more fluid. What unified it all was their sense of otherness. Not only outside the cultural context which they experienced, but occupying a singular space outside time.
That these artefacts are experienced by a clique, driven on by a claque whose payment is membership to the clique, where some of the women are perceived by some to have less robust moral outlooks, and that they meet in secret places and do the secret things they see codified in fiction, unifies them. That is not to say that these are acts alien to Sudanese society. But, the alchemical combination of history, personalities and circumstance means some of them are creating something worth sitting up and listening to.
A friend left Khartoum and headed north to make his millions in a gold rush last year. When he came back, everyone knew that he had failed, knew that he had been as foolish as *** Whittington, but the way this was dealt with was alien to me, but joyous. Upon his return we went to the grassy bank of the Nile where Southerners sell aragi – they walk back and forth, darting into the bushes and emerging with bottles.
Anyway, he tackled it head on. He described his experiences in minute detail, with necessary prompting from his friends. He orated his experiences, which involved the death of scores in pits in the desert, with all the nuances to suggest that there were truths in every twist and turn of the tale and he ended with a punch line – “the only people making money were the Rashida hiring out the metal detectors.”
I went to a town north of Khartoum with a friend who was after a cure for recurring headaches. We went to visit a Sufi preacher who when he heard my name asked “why not three ’b’s?” in perfect English. There was a storm outside. The streets that had been alive with the song and dance of Dervishes  and their drums, were rivers of mud ferrying torch-lit raindrops and umbrellas.
We were all huddled in the low ceilinged room. Its, walls, steps and wood shiny and smooth. It was full of cats sheltering from the storm, who seemed quite at home in the hushed, reverential confusion. A Dervish recited an epic poem about the Sufi preacher, everyone was waiting for a minute with. He sat cross legged on a palm mat, grinning into the middle distance. A man at his side was on fly duty, ensuring that none remained on the preacher for an irreverent length of time, yet the preacher had a monstrous hair growing out of a mole on his face like an antenna.
He prescribed my friend a treatment we got from another room. The room was full of men writing sections of the Koran with special ink on special paper. They lent on wooden boards. Everything was stored in alcoves in the walls. The relevant section was transcribed and folded small. My friend stewed it in water which she drank and bathed in over the next few days.
The other poets
There are other cafés in Khartoum where you can buy bad coffee. This coffee costs the same as a meal for five. But, it offers escapism. There are young Sudanese who take rebellious brunches. Many of them were schooled overseas. They discuss cupcakes at length and pretend they are in Sex in the City without the sex. Too many of them are poets. There are open mic nights where they read poems about a nebulous and toothless peace as if they were not connected war. The civil war between north and South Sudan ended in 2005. But, this artificiality in itself, is interesting and some seem aware of it and are bound to make good use of it.
The languages of South Sudan
The South is a very different place. But... there is something indescribable that links it with north Sudan. Despite the dissimilarities in landscape, faces, cultures and religions, the sum of the sameness is greater than the language, history and heart parts. It has something to do with pace and movement and the Nile and stories and the quixotic.
The ’natural units’ of administration, as the British officials of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan described its tribes speak languages that fit into the band of sub-Saharan languages which crosses the continent from Senegal to Eritrea, what Diedrich Hermann Westermann described as Sudansprachen. They tend to have logophoric pronouns. For example, he thought he could understand is ambiguous in English – the two hes involved could be the same person, or they may not be. Logophoric pronouns disambiguate this.
Romantic poets and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army
Once upon a time I was in the Nuba Mountains, the edge of the Republic of Sudan, where the Republic of South Sudan begins / will being. There were no buses so to get from place to place we had to catch a ride. After a night of harassment by the police we went to the market square to look for someone ticking one or all of the following figure of authority boxes: old, with a big stick, strikingly white jalabia, sunglasses. We found our man and drank tea with him. He put us on the back of a lorry carrying troops from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army south. It was scorchingly hot and bumpy and unnerving. We watched their AK47’s bounce around in the spare tire. By hour three they had had enough of eyeing us up we had run out of places to look, to avoid eye contact. There was a studious looking soldier with glasses who seemed to have some authority. He asked me a question I heard a thousand times in Sudan: “What is the best way to learn English?” I wittered on about the BBC World Service and remembered that I had a book of Wordsworth in my bag. He read I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud out loud. We were passing baobab trees in bloom, his rank was painted onto his shoulder with oil paint. This was not the transubstantiation of a donkey or magic teabags or the voice of a nation.
He thanked me for the book which I had not planned to give him as and we came to a group of Joint Integrated Units . He took off his glasses and stared them down. As someone from a dreich land it still does sit right when the flowers are in bloom and the light is clean and yellow, for the mood to be so dark. He turned back to us and smiled and asked to us to spend the night at his family’s home.
Originally published by The Conversation Papers
The above article expresses the views of the author, not Sudaneseonline.org.
By Isaiah Abraham
June 4, 2011 — Southern Sudan has gone through difficult times in its turbulent contemporarily history. We have before us a choice of going to war to defend our motherland or talk while Arabs curb away our rich and beautiful pieces of land using gun points. The Juba leadership and the public were beaten by events in Abyei in that the influential top figures of Southern Sudan were left with few options. The dilemma then is this: here around the corner (few weeks in fact) the Big Occasion of our lives, then a stab in the back by an archenemy of our people, should the South at this stage turn from the journey or should we eat the humble pie of aggression, abuses and humiliation until after July. The author sees no point of ‘turning our cheeks’ to Arabs or go public to swear that our leadership will not return fire or strike back under any circumstances. This inauthentic and unreal if not an oversight statement that doesn’t augur well to the public given the damage and lost Southern territory to Arabs
But as if that isn’t enough, Mr. Pagan Amum, the SPLM Secretary General went underground or hiding at a crucial time when his voice is badly needed. This man has never shy of speaking honey and butter about what is best for the people of Southern Sudan. The public is prodding as to what had happened to the fearless, the very Caleb of Southern Sudan, the hero of heroes and the Messi of Southernona.
When Comrade Pagan opens his mouth, the National Congress Party (NCP) scampers for media refuge and the smearing campaign against him and the entire Southern Sudan. Dr. Barnaba can talk yes but he lacks imagination, he’s too economical with information and not assertive. Mr. Amum uses information forums to speak to the people on what hasn’t even been said and should have been said. His silence therefore has left a huge vacuum to the Government of the people of Southern Sudan.
Speculations are that Mr. Amum isn’t well and is somewhere in one of our neighbors countries recuperating, but that isn’t enough to be believed. Others say Mr. Amum is a devastated man after his alarm earlier in February this year was ridiculed by some within his party and largely by the so-called Opposition Groups. Recall Mr. Amum charged that Khartoum has a mature plan to weaken Southern Sudan government using proxy ways. True to his words, we had had rampant militia insurgent cropping up, provocation through large scale build up of troops along South-North border and economic blockage. I don’t know whether there is an apologist who could refute him today.
But the most considered speculation suggests that Mr. Amum don’t want to be seen as contradicting his boss, Mr. Kiir about peaceful resolution of the conflict in Abyei and occupation of areas South of Higilij and Renk County. Gen. Kiir as everyone knows is a strict disciplinarian; you dare him you risk it! Remember when he gagged Hon. Aleu Ayieny Aleu when the later goes against the so-called official position that the fateful chopper that killed Dr. John Garang came down through natural circumstances, and not any foul play. Mr. Amum like me isn’t yet a student of new found school of Oslo for a peace laureate. In fact there is nothing like ‘taking anyone to war’; we are already there without the big man pulling anyone.
Strictly speaking however, there is another theory that could make anyone silence. The Southern Security forces especially the top brass at Bilpam have a portion of blame to the current military set back. The military job is to protect the national territorial of the people, if they could not get their military intelligence right and allow the Northern Army to build, hit and entrenched, what does that tell us about the capability of our men in uniform to secure our land. The Commander In Chief of our army has largely becoming nominal and the gap would have filled if Mr. Amum hasn’t been mum. That was just a by the way because this isn’t a time to blame but to start fix the problem.
Please Gen. James Oath, and Gen. Mamur don’t listen to Kiir new found song and affidavit of not taking the South to war. Who told him that others before him were war mongers? To sacrifice Abyei on the altar of diplomatic commission is suicidal and unacceptable! Abyei must be brought back by the barrel of the gun, the same way it was taken. I heard Garang saying the same lines when your rights are forceful taken away. July 9 whatever will not be affected whether fire ranges in Abyei or not. We don’t need the North to recognize us; already we are. Make reason for Cde Pagan to talk
Abyei youths hence must lead this process. They failed then to join the war but to school. They are Southerners 100% and their place in the military especially among non commission officers and junior officers is missing. Academic papers alone and international community wrath will not move Arab forces out of the Southern land called Abyei. Let those who stayed way then still keep away, men from Toposa, Lotuho, Bari, Nuer, Chollo, Dinka, Azande, Murle, Mundari and Acholi finish the liberation job. Faint hearted and ‘women’ are to shut up! Mr. Amum over to you!
Isaiah Abraham lives in Juba; he’s on Isaiah_abraham@yahoo.co.uk
By Ahmed Hussain Adam
May 30, 2011— Darfur Conflict is more than 8 years old today. The UN described it as the world worst humanitarian crisis; the International Criminal Court (ICC) as well as the US State Department classified it as genocide. The ICC indicted the Head of the regime, ALBashir for masterminding with absolute control a criminal plan to destroy the people of Darfur. Yet, the international community failed to impose the norm of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in favour of the civilian populations in Darfur.
The human and economic costs of this conflict are horrific beyond the belief. The international and regional political responses to the Darfur conflict started in 2004, nonetheless, they failed to put an end to the conflict. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the international community and all concerned actors to reassess their approaches and strategies to formulate a holistic and bold approach to end the human suffering and restore peace and security in Darfur. It is time for a new beginning in Sudan. This is the only way forward, to guarantee a united, democratic and stable Sudan or rather Sudan minus the South.
Darfur is a key factor for the stability of Sudan and the region as a whole. ONCE it is less than a million square miles, Darfur becomes a majority in terms of number of the population (more than 45 percent of Sudan’s population) and land-size in the Sudan; with major implications. Thus, Darfur crisis has to be resolved within the context of the broader agenda of structural and democratic change in Sudan. The experience of more than 8 years of the negotiations manifested that, a peaceful and negotiated solution can’t be realised under the current regime. Nevertheless, Darfur can’t be resolved militarily.
In the spirit of a new beginning, it is imperative that, the people of Darfur including, the armed movements, to take a genuine pause and assess their cause, and answer some fundamentals questions; For instance, after more than 8years of war and suffering, what is the ultimate goal of the struggle of the people of Darfur, and how it can be realised, within the current shifting national, regional and international dynamics? As for the people of Sudan, in particular the elite in the Centre, can they afford to accept more fragmentation of Sudan after the South? Are they ready to live under chaos and total war? Indeed, the northern elite bear a historical responsibility to act and work for a democratic change in order to secure the unity of the remaining Sudan on new basis. It is also essential that, the international community should reverse its strategies and approaches in Sudan. Such new approach is vital to address the challenges of the post independence of the South, which will have direct consequences in Darfur and other remaining parts of Sudan. Independence of the South should close the page of war and hate, and open a new era of strategic relationship and co-operation, for the best interest of the peoples of the two countries.
The purpose of this article which consists of two parts first is to examine the political and constitutional impacts of the independence of the South Sudan, on Darfur. Second, presents the prospects of democratic change in Sudan. This is the first part, which will generally address the impacts and implications of the independence of South on Darfur.
In matter of weeks, the South Sudan will be declared as an independent sovereign state. This is will constitute a historical and landmark event by all standards. The declaration of the new nation in South will be on the 9th of July 2011. Such declaration will be in accordance with the time-lines of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which signed between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SPLM/A), in Nairobi January 2005. The CPA is theoretically designed to accommodate the South Sudan in a new political system of governance, whereby the Southerners are guaranteed to exercise their full citizenship rights without any form of discrimination. The CPA provided the People of the South with two options: either to remain within a united Sudan, provided that the unity would be attractive for the Southerners, or to separate and establish their own independent state. Regrettably, the NCP failed to make the unity attractive and convince the Southerners to vote for the unity option. Consequently, the people of South Sudan exercised their right of self-determination and voted overwhelmingly for separation. This new reality has tremendous legal, political and diplomatic impacts, not only in Sudan but also in Africa, as colonial legal boundaries now on play.
However, the historical precedent of the separation of the South has been setting an inspiring and attractive example for the marginalised regions of Sudan including Darfur. The root causes of the conflicts in Sudan are similar; there are a lot of common grounds and shared history between the South, Darfur and other marginalised regions of Sudan. The people of Darfur can now claim the right of self-determination as an option, to end their intractable conflict with the centre, if there is no hope to live in a country that is, equal, just and democratic.
Certainly, Darfur can’t continue that long with the existing status quo, it is matter of time before sizeable forces within Darfur may call for the right of self-determination. Such demand can be justified under many legitimate grounds including, the state of the continuation of the genocide (Kosovo precedent), and the legal, political and historical justifications. The fact that Darfur was an independent and sovereign Sultanate until 1916, until the British colonisation forcibly annexed Darfur to Sudan; such historical fact would make the claim of the self-determination for Darfur is incredibly sounding and strong case. In addition, Darfur case of self-determination is similar to that of Eritrea –“the colonial context of self-determination” or in other terms,” external self-determination”. No doubt, the current stalemate can’t be tolerated anymore; the marginalised peoples of Sudan are entitled to seek different options to end this political impasse, and realise their legitimate aspirations.
In Darfur, for instance, the military campaign has increased its intensity and brutality, shows no mercy for the civilian populations including women and children. The aim of the government has been all along, is to impose security and military solution. Sadly, genocide, rape, mass displacement, abduction of aid workers and destruction continue to be the main feature of the humanitarian and security situations in Darfur.
Regrettably, the UNIMAD and other concerned international institutions failed to fill the vacuum and provide the needed security and protection for the civilian populations, according to its mandate under the UN Security Council Resolution (1769) which passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, on 31/July 2007. Ironically, the international community succeed in the test of the responsibility to protect in Libya, whilst failed to impose its will in Darfur.
The foremost challenge to the State of the North Sudan is the Crisis in Darfur. The Conflict in Darfur, at all its levels is getting worse and far from being resolved or peacefully ended. Indeed, any objective evaluation to the ongoing Doha Political Process on Darfur, doesn’t give any hope that, the Doha Peace Process will bring about a lasting, just, comprehensive and inclusive solution to this Conflict. This is due to multiple factors and reasons:
First, the regime is still unwavering its stubborn strategy of security solution. This is the only known tool by this autocratic regime. The regime has never departed from the state of denial and deception. Thus, it failed to deliver any strategic concession on the table to convince the people of Darfur that they can get some symbolic rewards for their suffering and injustices.
Second, the armed movements failed to provide a genuine break through either to establish a broad and an inclusive single movement or to create a strong and an effective broad coalition.
Third, the AU/UN Mediation suffered from the lack of coherence, consistency and effective international support. However, it is true that lately, the Americans, British, Canadians and Europeans made some effective and semi permanent presence in Doha, in particular, Ambassador Dane Smith, the US Senior Advisor on Darfur, he proved to be a good listener with an excellent understanding to the issues of Sudan.
Furthermore, the divisions and bitter rivalry between some international organisations as well as international dignitaries, who have been assigned to work on Sudan and Darfur issues has significantly undermined the efforts of the Mediation and prolonged the suffering of the People of Darfur.
Fourth, both the State of Qatar as a host Country and the AU/UN Mediation exerted a lot of continued efforts to bring about a negotiated settlement in Darfur. Nevertheless, such efforts were intentionally undermined and spoiled by the regime in Khartoum. It has been evident that, the host country and the mediation lack the leverage over the parties in particular, the Regime. These are the main flaws of the Doha political process that, will lead to an imminent failure of the Process, if there is no rapid intervention from the key international players to save it. Let us be clear, even the current attempts by the State of Qatar and the Mediation to create a momentum for the Doha Process wouldn’t have tangible results. It is obvious that, the regime is manipulating, vetoing and dictating to derail the whole process, and continue with its one-sided and internal measures.
Having stated that, the failure of Doha will drastically push the crisis in Darfur to a new phase of violence and chaos which may affect the reset of Sudan. In such circumstances, the dynamics will open the way for military options by the belligerent parties to survive.
The Conflict of Darfur can be defined as intractable conflict, however, the humanitarian and security situation reach stage of explosion. Therefore, one would highlight three options for Darfur to be resolved: a just, comprehensive and inclusive negotiated settlement, or a clear victory and regime change or a separation of Darfur from Sudan.
Based on the regime’s track records in dishonouring the agreements, it is not realistic that one would imagine a negotiated settlement in Darfur under the current regime. The wise words of the Late Dr John Garang, are still echoing “the regime is too deformed to be reformed”.
In addition, the position of the Regime on the nature of the State in the North after separation of the South, yet, provides another example about the difficulties in realising negotiated solutions for the crises of Sudan. Al-Bashir didn’t give any room for speculations about the nature of the future state in the North! The Head of the regime in Khartoum declared in many occasions that, after the separation of the South, the new state in the North would be an ethnically pure one, in terms of its racial, religious and cultural dimensions. According to Al-Bashir, the State in the North will be an Islamic and Arab state. Al Bashir’s fascism, extremism and ignorance made him oblivious of the diverse nature of the North, and that the North isn’t one entity, it is neither pure Islamic nor pure Arab. Therefore, such short-sighted and extremist views, will never lead the country to peace and tranquillity, rather, it will push it to a new phase of wars.
With the current deadlock, the marginalised peoples of Sudan, including Darfur have no options, either to change the regime or impose the right of self-determination and follow the example of South. Status quo isn’t an option. However, the option of the separation entails tremendous challenges, it can’t be realised without unity and international support. In my view the solution to the crises of Sudan including Darfur requires a surgical solution of the dislodging democratically the current regime from power. This process would yield structural change in the system of governance.
In the concluding remarks, one would emphasise that, if the current status quo continues to prevail, it is very likely that, the scenario of change can take a violent and bloody shape. It is possible that, the armed movements from the marginalised regions of Sudan which have been suffering for decades, from persecution and historical injustices of the centre could advance militarily and change the regime in Khartoum by force.
Undoubtedly, if political deadlock continues without hope of swift and concrete resolutions or change, Sudan may cross the threshold of a new phase of chaos and fragmentation. It is likely that, Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile may follow the path of the South and secede. It is worth mentioning that, secession of Darfur will affect Kurdofan. Having stated that, it is up to the Sudanese peoples with the support of the international community to realise a meaningful, peaceful and democratic change in Sudan, to avoid the scenario of fragmentation and new phase violence in Sudan. It is important that, any change has to be genuine and structural.
The armed movements and the political parties require genuine democratic and organisational reforms. It is crucial that, the movements and the political parties should avail the youth and women the opportunities to lead and spearhead the change. This is the only way that, the movements and the political parties can be of relevance, and part of the forthcoming democratic change in Sudan.
The leaders of ruling NCP have to make their choices carefully, either to be part of the change or join the class of the ousted dictators.
In my view, only structural and democratic change which restructures and redistributes equally the power and wealth of the country for all its peoples including the marginalised majority, can maintain the country secure, united and stable.
The Author is a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University in the City of New York, can be reached at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org