January2009

Reporting on Sudan: a master class

Me: “Hello Mr [senior government figure]. I’ve heard you’ve been arrested … Although I suppose the fact that you’ve just answered your mobile phone suggests that you haven’t been arrested … Is that right?”

Senior government figure: “Yes.”

Sudan skeletons

Reuters didn’t want this story yesterday. So here, in an exclusive Meskel Square production, is:

Centuries-old skeletons found at UK’s Sudan embassy
By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM, Jan 12 (Meskel Square) – Builders uncovered fragments of three, centuries-old skeletons buried deep in the grounds of Britain’s embassy in Sudan, officials said on Monday.
The contractors discovered the small pieces of skull and other bones while digging in the central Khartoum compound on Sunday, embassy spokesman Piers Craven told Reuters.
Police called in to investigate found the remains were up to 300-years-old, meaning they pre-dated the foundation of Khartoum as a major settlement in the early nineteenth century, he said.
“It is something of archaeological interest rather than anything more recent or more sinister,” said Craven adding officers had not been able to work out the gender of the bodies or their age when they died.
Historians say humans have lived for thousands of years at the site of Sudan’s capital at the meeting of the Blue and White Niles.
But it was little more than a fishing village until the 1820s when a Turkish-Egyptian expedition set up an outpost on the spot.
Embassy staff passed on the bones to the Sudanese police who were making arrangements for a re-burial, Craven added.

If you thought you had problems …

… here’s a rough list of the issues facing Sudan in 2009 that I put together for a feature I was writing . No doubt many are missing. Feel free to add more in the comments section.

The wildcards

  1. The International Criminal Court
    This is the only thing people are talking and thinking about in Sudan right now. What will happen when, as widely expected, the global court turns Sudan’s president into a wanted man?
    Expected: Any day now
  2. President Obama
    Will he follow President Bush’s lead and keep the “normalisation” talks going with Sudan? Or will he follow President Clinton’s lead and start ordering missile strikes on pharmaceutical factories?
    Expected: 20/01/2009
  3. The economy
    The global slump has slashed the price of oil – Sudan’s main source of export revenues. What happens when Khartoum and Juba stop booming?
    Expected: Happening now

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Cartoon Darfur

There is the brutally simplified version of Darfur – Arab militias vs “black African” villagers.

And then there is the cartoon version, brought to you this time by UPI:

There was the continuing genocide of Christian African tribes in Darfur in Western Sudan. The United States, the European Union, the United Nations and the African Union all proved totally useless in even stemming the violence.

Just for the record, there are no Christian tribes in Darfur. Everyone is Muslim. Everyone is black. And everyone is African (through the fact of everyone being Sudanese and Sudan being in Africa).

How to get from Sudan to Star Trek in one jump

Sadiq al-Mahdi, former prime minister of Sudan, is the uncle of Alexander Siddig, the actor who played Dr. Julian Subatoi Bashir, the chief medical officer in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

The challenge – to get this into a story by the end of the year.