Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Sunday, August 24, 2014
October 6: Went deep into southern Sudan over the weekend. Flew to Rumbek, the capital of "New Sudan" ruled by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). For hundreds of years, people have been moving down the Nile Valley through and to Sudan. (Spoke to a Dutch archeologist last week who runs a dig at one of the oldest known sites with signs of modern men – 200,000 years old.) Over the last few thousand years, people moving north have met other people whose ancestors had moved north and beyond even longer ago. So long ago, they forgot where they came from, as we all do. The more recent movements north have been by "Africans" and they have met "Arabs." The people have mixed, fought and lived among each other. The Arabs preyed on the black Africans, taking them as slaves, treating them as animals. The Africans – found mostly but not all in the south – themselves are split into hundreds of tribes, big and small. Some farm, some raise cattle. They too have fought with each other. The largest African tribe is the Dinka, the Nuer next. They are split into further groups that have also fought with each other.
When the British left Sudan in 1956, they left behind an old boundary separating north and south Sudan. The south has been fighting the north ever since. This became a war for the independence of the south and the SPLM became the prime liberation movement in 1983. The SPLM represents the Africans. John Garang has headed it for most of its existence. Garang lived for nine years in the US and received a PhD in agricultural science from the University of Iowa. I went to Rumbek to meet Garang and to greet a retired US four-star general who also was arriving in Sudan to meet with him and the government.
Rumbek is around 500 miles south of Khartoum. It is deeper in the rain belt and it rained right after we arrived on Friday afternoon. Bringing rain in Africa is considered good luck. It had not rained for 12 days and the sorghum needed water to finish growing by harvest time at the end of October. It also cooled things off a good bit.
The British had kept the Arabs out of southern Sudan during the colonial period to protect the people there. But that is all they did. No development or investment of any kind took place. Southern Sudan today is almost totally primitive. No paved roads, no electricity, no plumbing, no modern medicine, no telephones, no TV, no AC. Simple mud huts, water from rivers and wells, brutally hot days, nothing but hard work, survival, family and friends. When we attended a large SPLM ceremony on Saturday, Garang told us they had nothing to offer the guests but the good free air but we could have all of that we wanted. (Nevertheless, our visiting ex-general was given the usual village greeting for an important person: he jumped over a big cow held on the ground and with its neck freshly cut. The village then celebrates with a feast.)
Garang is very impressive: thoughtful, quick, subtle and farsighted. Not bombastic and clearly able to tolerate a bunch of rowdy “sons,” the younger leaders pursuing their own ambitions and who have at times been with him, then with the government and then back again. We met twice.
I stayed in a safari-type camp run by a South African company but with an American manager. They served bacon at breakfast and beer at the bar (under a tree). No sharia here. The Civilian Protection Monitoring Team uses most of the tent city to house the Rumbek team. Their job is to investigate possible abuses of civilians by the two opposing armies. The USG funds the CPMT and they flew me to Rumbek. I was apparently lucky the two nights I was there. With a fan blowing – the tents had electric power – I used a sheet at night and slept well. The days were hot. The CPMT also took me on a four-hour plane tour of the south. Took some good shots, including of a typical little village.
Note: The death of John Garang in July 2005 was a tremendous loss for Sudan and South Sudan. He had achieved a peace agreement and became 1st Vice President of Sudan before he died in a helicopter crash. The SPLM leadership he left behind has proved unable to work together and the country has descended into civil war.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
ARABIC PRESS REVIEW*
AL RAI AL AAM:
SUDANESE-AMERICAN AGREEMENT ON PRACTICAL STEPS TO NORMALIZE RELATIONS:
Sudan and the United States agreed to start practical and preparatory steps to normalize bilateral relations during the forthcoming phase.
Upon his meeting with Gerard Gallucci, US Charge before he returns to Washington, Dr. Mustafa Osman, Foreign Minister affirmed Sudan’s keenness to continue communication and coordination with the United States on all pending issues between the two countries.
For his part, Gallucci reiterated the US Administration is determined to take positive step immediately after the government and the SPLM sign the peace agreement.
The US diplomat who will discuss the horizons of relations between the two countries with the officials in Washington expressed his content of his country at the outcome of Dr. Ismail’s meeting in Washington.
He commended the Foreign Minister’s efforts exerted to normalize relations between the two countries. He applauded the President’s speech during the inaugural session of the National Assembly and welcomed the political leadership’s pledge to commit to realize peace and to expand freedoms, freedom of speech and organization in particular.
DR. GHAZI HELD CONTACTS WITH EL SADIG AND EL MIRGHANI ON THE POLITICAL FORCES’ PARTICIPATION IN THE TALKS
HE WILL HOLD A PRESS CONFERENCE ON SUNDAY
THE FIRST VICE PRESIDENT: THE PEACE AGREEMENT WILL NOT BE A POLITICCAL DEAL
THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: THE STATE’S EFFORTS WILL BE TOTALLY ENEAVORED TO COMPENSATE THE SUDANESE PEOPLE FOR WHAT THEY MISSED DURING THE YEARS OF WAR
EL SADIG EL MAHDI DISCUSSES NIVASHA AGREEMENT WITH EL BAZ
PRESIDENT OMER EL BASHIR VISITS CHAD TODAY TO HOLD IMPORTANT TALKS WITH DEBY
THE GOVERNOR OF SOUTH DARFUR: OUT OF CONTROL GROUPS ARE PRACTICING ARMED ROBBERY IN SOUTH DARFUR
TRIBUNAL FOR SUSPECTS INVOLVED IN SABOTAGE ACTIVITY:
Six suspects appeared before North Khartoum Criminal Court chaired by Judge Ismat Suleiman Hassan. They were accused of charges regarding practice of activity hostile to the established regime.
The Security organs seized this group and accused them of being financed by a foreign circles that were seeking to provide arms and military equipment through contacts with arms mongers.
This group requested to be supplied with 700 guns, grenade, military uniforms and officers’ and non-commissioned officers’ signs.
The complainant added before court that the group leased a house in Khartoum center and used it to practice its activity. A tight ambush was fixed and the group individuals were seized.
During investigation it was revealed that one of the 4 suspects affiliates to an armed faction in the south and has relationship with the US authorities and he is representative of a foreign figure in one of the major hotels in Khartoum.
A PLAN TO INCLUDE THE SOUTHERN RETURNEES IN THE NATIONAL CONGRESS
HEAVY RAINS IN KHARTOUM
SPLM OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: WE AGREED TO NEGOTIATE WITHOUT MEDIATORS AN THE ISSUE OF THE THREE AREAS IS THE MOST DIFFICULT
THE FOREIGN MINISTER TURNS DOWN THE BRITISH PROPOSAL TO DISPATCH INTERNATIONAL PEACEKEEPING FORCES TO SUDAN:
ALI OSMAN, FIRST VICE PRESIDENT: RELEASE OF FREEDOMS AND LIFT OF GRIEVANCES ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF THE FORTHCOMING PHASE
OMER EL BASHIR CALLS UPON THE NC TO BEAR ITS COMPLETE RESPONSIBILITY TO LEAD THE FORTHCOMING PHASE
FRENCH RESERVATION AND SUDANESE REJECTION OF THE PRINCIPLE OF SENDING PEACEKEEPING TROOPS TO THE COUNTRY
AL SHARIE AL SIYASSI:
International Intelligence reports spoke about a figure that had its account in one of the world Western banks reached $380 million US dollars. The Intelligence expressed its astonishment at this amount and said how could the fortune of a person in a country such as Sudan to be equal to 30% of the balance of payment!
EDITORIAL: THE PEOPLE IN THE PEACE FORMULA:
DR. GHAZI SALAH EDDIN AFFIRMED: THE FORTHCOMING PEACE PHASE DEPENDS ON APPLICATION AND THE OTHERS’ PARTICIPATION
THE US CHARGE COMMENDS AL BASHIR’S SPEECH AND PLEDGES TO URGE HIS GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT SUDAN:
GALLUCCI: THE UNITED STATES IS CONTENT OF DR. MUSTAFA’S VISIT:
The American Charge in Sudan commended President El Bashir’s speech before the inaugural session of the NC general conference. He pledged to address his government and to urge it for more support to Sudan to realize peace and development.
Dr. Mustafa Osman, Foreign Minister affirmed Sudan is keen to continue contacts and coordination with the Untied States on all issues remained between the two countries.
He reiterated Sudan appreciates the United States positive contribution to the peace process.
Yesterday’s meeting with the US Charge yesterday discussed the outcome of the Foreign Minister’s visit to Washington and the meetings he held with officials of the US State Department and the White House in addition to the Congressmen.
The US Charge expressed content of the United States at the outcome of the Foreign Minister’s visit to Washington and commended his efforts.
GARANG THREATENS TO SMASH THE LRA IMMEDIATELY AFTER SIGNING THE PEACE AGREEMENT
THE NC DELEGATION WILL MEET WITH THE SPLM IN RUMBECK TOMORROW
WASHINGTON AND KHARTOUM ARE FLIRTING WITH EACH OTHER!
THE US CHARGE COMMENDS AL BASHIR’S SPEECH AND PROMISES FOR A SHIFT IN RELATIONS
THE NC WELCOMES THE BRITISH PROPOSAL BUT THREATENS TO RESIST IT IF IT IS WICKED
THE NC APPROVES PARTNERSHIP WITH THE SPLM
THE GENERAL CONFERENCE CALLS UPON THE POLITICAL FORCES FOR A BROAD FRONT AND CALLS FOR MORE FREEDOMS
THE RULING PARTY APPROVES THE PRINCIPLE OF ALLOWING ALL PARTIES TO START THEIR ACTIVITIES AND CALL UPON THEM TO RENOUNCE BITTERNESS
THE STATE MINISTER FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS MET WITH THE USAID DIRECTOR IN KHARTOUM
*Note: Part of the Embassy's daily press review prepared by local staff (Foreign Service National -- FSN) in the public affairs office. The press reflected the messages/spin preferred by the government.
Friday, August 15, 2014
Note: Bishop Gabriel Zubeir Wako became a Cardinal on October 21, 2003. He survived an assassination attempt by one Hamdan Mohamed Abdurrahman on October 10, 2010. Cardinal Zubeir Wako took part in the election of Popes Benedict XVI and Francis.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Note: As of 2014, Sudan remains on the list of state sponsors of terrorism despite having been judged in 2013 as "remain[ing] a generally cooperative counterterrorism partner and continued to take action to address threats to U.S. interests and personnel in Sudan." It also remains subject to comprehensive US sanctions.
Monday, August 4, 2014
Friday, August 1, 2014
Journal Entries for visit to Nuba region (covered in 03 Khartoum 0861)
September 8: Writing here after a full day, not yet over, of touring the Nuba Mountains. It is rainy season so very green, and cooler than Khartoum. Fields full of sorghum. Met with people on both government side and SPLA side. Carried about in a big helicopter after flying in on an Antinov -- all flown by Russians.
September 9: The morning started before 7 today. It's now five pm. We traveled to the outlying sectors of the JMC area -- which is, as the commanding general points out, as big as Austria. We visited three sites and then came back to visit the market to see the development that happened since the ceasefire. We helicoptered around but it warmed up after the clouds went away. (It rained hard last night as I was falling asleep in my AC'd container. My head hurts because I keep hitting it on low doorways. But it was an invigorating day. I feel properly tired after a good day.)
Later. Ended a busy day as I did yesterday getting a briefing on the General's "veranda" while smoking one of his cigars. I visited a market today as well. Got some good photos. I feel overwhelmed by the work there is to do. But there are some good people trying to prepare for peace while taking advantage of opportunities to help the Nuba people make their ceasefire work. Off to bed under my mosquito net.
September 10: Flew the length of Southern Kordofan (home province of Nuba) to get to the capital of El Obied. Met the commander of the military central command. Spent around four hours in the air -- with stop in Dilling on the way -- to and from. On the way, read a bit of Churchill's River War. Read how 180 years ago yesterday, British General Hicks marched out of Khartoum toward El Obied with a force of mostly Egyptians and to his defeat and death at the hands of El Mahdi in the first big engagement of the war. The Sudanese commander today met me in the former British HQ of its Sudan camel corps. He recited his corps' history of battles -- which were all in the service of the British Empire. The living history here can give you whiplash.
September 12: Spent four days in the Nuba Mountains this week. Nuba is one of the three "conflict areas" in Sudan. These are areas outside the traditional south -- which the government and SPLA have been fighting over -- but where the SPLA has support among local black African groups. The Nuba people lived mixed with a group of black Arabs known as the Bagara. Some of the Nuba are Moslem, some Christian. The Nuba have for centuries been abused and hunted by the Arabs, who took them as slaves. The Nuban Mountains are piles of rock above otherwise flat plains. It rains in Nuba so crops can grow. But during the dry season, the land turns brown and the rivers dry. The only water is at wells and that is often not enough for everyone so there has always been tension between the Nuban farmers and the Bagara cattle and camel herders.
In 2002, the two sides agreed to a ceasefire in the Nuba. This began the current peace process. The Joint Military Commission (JMC) was created to monitor the ceasefire. I visited the JMC.
The Nuba area is as big as Austria. It’s 1½ hours from Khartoum by air but at least two days by road. We got there on Russian-made planes flown by former Soviet pilots and got around on Soviet MI-8 (Hip) helicopters. Because it is rainy season in Nuba, everything is green. Many of the rivers have water in them and the roads are often impassable because they have turned into mud or riverbeds. Most of Nuba is exactly like the rest of Sudan, flat as a pancake. But there are stony hills that are mostly just 600-1000 feet above the plains. The blacks have traditionally hidden in the hills to escape the slave-traders and to hide from the government army. The SPLA controlled some of the mountains but almost none of the plains. The Sudanese military could not dislodge the SPLA from the mountains. Stalemate and eventually ceasefire. Really simple to understand. In some places there were piles of spent ammunition casings and at one camp, they had found four bodies (skeletons) while clearing fields.
I visited all seven JMC camps in various parts of Nuba. I also met with the chief of the SPLA for Nuba in his mountain HQ and with the General in command of the military for the whole region. We flew over a lot of country and you can see a picture of a typical village of round mud huts surrounded by mud walls. People have cattle or goats and mostly grow sorghum. I discovered that sorghum looks a lot like corn without the ears. It is related to corn but in this case, the tassel part grows into clumps of seeds that mature and then get ground into flour.
We visited the market in Kadugli, near the JMC HQ. It had grown from a few shops to a large collection of people selling most everything. In one place they had the people selling things they made from metal, including teapots (made from inside out tin cans) and knives. Food, spices, plastic containers, bikes and bike parts, cloths, shoes, it is like an outside Third World shopping mall without the AC. In fact the smell is incredible. It’s Africa, a combination of excrement, earth, cooking food, spices, coffee, animals, people and everything. Strong, pungent but alive. Once my nose was sensitized to it, I could smell it on the wind as the helicopter approached larger villages.
Outside the camp, it was the 12th century. I sat at the end of the day watching little kids playing in the tall grass, women carrying loads on their heads, men walking their fields. No electricity, no running water, no relief from the heat other than the thick walls of the huts. I would not like to live that way, but in rainy season as the sun began setting, it was beautiful.