Sudan

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

read more

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.

Meroitic

Three ancient statues sit at a dig at el-Hassa, the site of a Meroitic town in Sudan in this undated photograph. Archaeologists said on Tuesday they had discovered three ancient statues in Sudan with inscriptions that could bring them closer to deciphering one of Africa's oldest languages. René-Pierre Dissaux/Section Française de la Direction des Antiquités du Soudan

Three ancient statues sit at a dig at el-Hassa, the site of a Meroitic town in Sudan in this undated photograph. Archaeologists said on Tuesday they had discovered three ancient statues in Sudan with inscriptions that could bring
them closer to deciphering one of Africa’s oldest languages. René-Pierre Dissaux/Section Française de la Direction des Antiquités du Soudan

The ancient African language that anyone can speak but no one can understand.

Sudan statue find gives clues to ancient language

KHARTOUM, Dec 16 (Reuters) – Archaeologists said on Tuesday they had discovered three ancient statues in Sudan with inscriptions that could bring them closer to deciphering one of Africa’s oldest languages.

The stone rams, representing the god Amun, were carved during the Meroe empire, a period of kingly rule that lasted from about 300 BC to AD 450 and left hundreds of remains along the River Nile north of Khartoum.

Vincent Rondot, director of the dig carried out by the French Section of Sudan’s Directorate of Antiquities, said each statue displayed an inscription written in Meroitic script, the oldest written language in sub-Saharan Africa.

“It is one of the last antique languages that we still don’t understand … we can read it. We have no problem pronouncing the letters. But we can’t understand it, apart from a few long words and the names of people,” he told reporters in Khartoum.

Obama’s not Kenyan

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He’s Sudanese.
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Sudan politicians claim stake in Obama heritage

Penetrating commentary

So here’s the quote that spoiled my breakfast this morning. It came in an anti-American diatribe from Alfatih Ziada, a columnist for the state Sudan Vision newspaper:

America has a leader (Bush) who is tough and assertive, willing to employ pre-emptive, penetrating power. Unfortunately, as we all know, and all Viagra users experience, he is a leader displaying the same fictitious masculinity that, when the rhetorical rage of patriotism, imperialism and Christian crusade ebbs, will, like a Viagra hard-on, shrink to reveal his true, pathetic natural manhood.

I thought one of the benefits of living under Sharia law was that you were spared this kind of imagery in the popular press.

Peace balls

It is amazing what you can achieve with a choir of sweetly-singing students, a bell and a bag of branded footballs.

PRESS RELEASE
UNAMID Deputy Head of Mission Delivers a Peace Message to the People of Darfur: Encouraged by the Rising Winds of Peace

El Fasher, 21 September 2008 – The Principal Deputy Joint Special Representative of the African Union –United Nations Hybrid Operations in Darfur (PDJSR) Mr. Henry Anyidoho expressed optimism about attainment of peace in Darfur.

Addressing the celebration in Al Fasher of this year’s International Day of Peace which took place at the State Legislative Council Hall, Anyidoho said “I can see the wind of peace blowing in this hall this morning, and I pray that it would take us to our destination”. He added that the sweet voices of students singing for peace in Darfur were a clear testimony of the advancement on the road to peace…

…He later distributed “Peace Balls” to all the schools invited, and also rang the peace bell to make UN commitment to the ideal of world peace heard far and wide, and to remind all that peace is a common desire for people everywhere.

Next stop Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Constant motion but no forward movement

Was re-reading some background papers on Sudan last night and came across this quote from commentator Alex de Waal:

“We must face the possibility of continued turbulence and paralysis in Sudan – a political process marked by constant motion but no forward movement.”

There has been lots of “motion” over the last year – everything from rebels racing across hundreds of miles of desert to attack Khartoum to peace envoys zipping across the world holding consultations and conferences. But very little, if anything, that counts as “movement”.