Wednesday, September 24, 2014

News Article by DPA posted on November 09, 2003

News Article by DPA posted on November 09, 2003 at 18:00:43: EST (-5 GMT)

Sudan prohibits U.S. officials from travelling to Dafur
KHARTOUM, Nov. 09, 2003 (dpa) -- The American Embassy in Sudan published a statement Sunday expressing regret that the U.S. Charge d'Affairs in Sudan, Gerard Galluci, and other representatives of the Embassy and USAID were prohibited from travelling to Nyala town in the South Darfur region of western Sudan.
The statement said that Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), a government establishment regulating the work of local and international relief organizations cancelled the trip despite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs granting permission to travel.
The embassy and USAID officials were travelling to Dafur, a region of extreme unrest, to monitor on-going aid programmes.
The statement demanded that the Sudanese government remove barriers to free movement and permit free travel throughout the country.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

03Khartoum 0963

Sadiq El Madhi is the great-grandson of El Mahdi, who declared himself the savior of Islam in the 19th Century. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Journal Entry for October 28, 2013*
October 28: Went to Darfur on Monday, leaving early on a WFP plane. Darfur means "land of the Fur" and was an independent Sultanate until 1916 when the British made it part of Sudan. Flying out with us was a new government minister brought in to deal with the conflict in Darfur, a grandson of the last Sultan. We went first to Geneina, close to the Chad border. We met there, and in our second stop El Fasher, with the local Wali (governor) and Emirs (tribal chiefs). Darfur, like everyplace in Sudan, has a rich mixture of different tribes and peoples. All are Moslem and all consider themselves Arab, though most would be judged as “African” by non-Sudanese. There is an age old conflict between farmers and herders and between cattle herders and camel herders. Many members of the government and military come from Darfur but the government has never given much attention or resources to the region. Then this year, a small scale civil war broke out and the government troops were beaten. The government then gave the camel herders guns and unleashed them on the others. Some 600,000 people lost their homes and had to flee the war. Most are still refugees. USAID is helping feed them and care for their children through WFP, UNICEF and other UN agencies. I went to Darfur accompanying the AID Director.

The people we met treated us very well because they know how much help the US has given them and because they need more help. We wanted them to know that we are ready to do more when the government ends the war.

Monday was the second day of Ramadan. Our hosts in El Fasher – where we stayed for the night – fed us four meals even though they were fasting. Ramadan is the holiest month in the year for Moslems. It is a month of peace. It begins on the first day of the 10th month in the Moslem calender when the first crescent moon is sighted after sunset. The faithful fast from sunup to sundown, taking no food and no water. Someone told me that Mohammed set up the rules in this way so that for that month, no one would have the energy to fight. I fasted today to see what it was like and I can say I was not anxious for strenuous activity.

I got the idea for fasting last night at breakfast. At around 6:30, when the sun goes down here, the faithful break their fast with a quick light meal before evening prayer. The traditional meal included dates, nuts, liquid and a mixture of sorghum and meat paste. We were invited by our hosts – who had spent the afternoon talking with us – to join them. We removed our shoes and sat on large turkish rugs laid out on the lawn(picture below).  After prayer, we joined them for a larger meal. They set up some tables for us and some joined us while most took their meal on the carpets. We ate outdoors under the gaze of a tame gazelle. At my table, one of the Sudanese suggested I try the fast because it would help clean out my system and make me feel better. So I did.

The sleeping quarters were very humble (and this morning there was no water.) But I did have a cigar and some bourbon with a couple of colleagues under the stars while evening prayer was called. We talked about war and peace and how good it can feel to be in Africa.

*Note:  see 03Khartoum 0959 below 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Photos to go with 03 Khartoum 0959

Russian-made Hind helicopter used in Darfur.  Photo taken October 27, 2003 in El Geneina, (see para 5 below).

The Iftar in El Fashar

Friday, September 5, 2014

03Khartoum 0959

US Embassy Khartoum and EU counterparts sought to alert capitals to what we knew by October 2003 was going on in Darfur -- state-conducted ethnic cleansing -- with no great success.  In Washington, focus was on the north/south Sudanese conflict.  Eventually aid flowed but no support for pushing Sudan government to end its efforts to push African Moslems off land to contain the rebel insurgency and no real support for AU/UN peacekeeping until 2007 when ethnic cleansing was more or less completed.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Journal Entry for September 27, 2003

I have now spent several weeks being driven from place to place through Khartoum.  I’m beginning to see things a bit better.  One of the reasons for this is the ample time one has for studying street life while stuck in Khartoum’s awful traffic.  Khartoum has somewhere around 5-7 million people in the extended urban area around the confluence on the two Niles.  I’d say at least a million of them are driving cars, riding in or on buses, trucks, scooters and motorcycles, plodding along on donkeys or walking at any one time.  Because only certain roads are paved and still fewer cut from one section of the city to another, all the traffic gravitates to the same half dozen routes.  During business hours – from around nine till six everyday except Friday – the streets are clogged.  Because many of the “paved” roads have obstacles of various sorts – holes, ripples, rough spots, train tracks – traffic often slows down even more and gyrates through a complex set of avoidance maneuvers, adding to the leisurely pace.  Through it all, the Sudanese patiently make their way by moving sharply to claim any open space and through liberal use of hand gestures.

I’ve observed that hand gestures, though in some sense equivalent to “signaling,” are quite different in effect.  As traffic moves along, people wishing to turn into the road will at the first opening edge out and claim right of way.  Someone in the car, driver or passenger, will wave the vehicle cut off to stop or slow down.  When the turn is completed, the two drivers will then exchange waves of “thanks” and “your welcome.”  Because all of this occurs in slow motion, it has a certain friendly quality, as if two villagers meeting in the town square.  This cuts the edge off what would drive motorists in other countries crazy.  Imagine moving down a road with paved area for two lanes.  Three lanes of traffic are moving down it, two in one direction and the third in another.  The two lanes in your direction are moving slow or approaching an intersection, the opposite “lane” is open for a couple of car lengths.  Off you go into that lane, against the flow of traffic to reach your turn or just to move ahead.  That third lane of traffic, now made a fourth, jerks over into the dirt until things sort out.  Now the time it takes for that fourth lane to reestablish itself creates just enough space for someone else – such as a bus driver – to edge into traffic from a side street.  Everybody is gesturing as circumstances demand.  Meanwhile an old women with a child will launch into the river of vehicles fending off the various currents with her own waving.  Remarkably no one seems to get angry – it is too hot – and there are few accidents. 

A brief word about women.  Almost all of the women in the street wear head covering.  My guess is that the non-Moslem women from the south are the ones wearing the brightly colored wrappings.  A good number wear what must be the more traditional black.  (The Arab males get to wear white robes and headdress.)  Only a few wear the complete chador.  But I can only imagine that under the black bulk are some truly sweaty and uncomfortable people.