Is Sudan’s Darfur crisis getting too much attention?

Activists often say that the world is not paying enough attention to Sudan’s Darfur crisis. But could the opposite be true — that Darfur is actually getting too much attention, from too many organisations, all at the same time?

A rough count shows at least 10 international and local initiatives searching for a solution to the region’s festering conflict. Many of them are at least nominally coordinated by the United Nations and the African Union. But with so many parallel programmes in play, the opportunities for duplication, competition and confusion are legion.

Top of the bill on the international stage is the double act between the United Nations and the African Union. Their joint Darfur mediator — Burkina Faso’s low-profile former security minister Djibril Bassole – spends much of his time shuttling between capitals, holding closed-session discussions with rebels, regional powers, Darfuri intellectuals and civilian groups.

The most high-profile initiative is a project launched at the Arab League for peace talks between Sudan’s government and rebels hosted in Qatar. Those talks, currently stalled, are hosted “in coordination” with Bassole but their have their own separate identity — Qatar has made its own statements and has held its own meetings with rebels.

During one crowded fortnight in August, both Libya and the United States held separate meetings with different sets of rebel splinter groups, urging them to reunite ahead of talks, with mixed results…

Read the rest on Reuters

A tussle over trousers in Sudan

One moment everything was quiet on the streets outside the Khartoum courtroom where Lubna Hussein was on trial this morning, charged with indecency for wearing trousers.

The next, a three-way fight had exploded between riot police armed with crackling electric batons, women’s rights protesters waving banners and posters, and Islamists fuelled with righteous indignation and pious chants.

You couldn’t have asked for a better illustration of the opposing forces that have come piling down on Sudan’s government since the start of the case — opposing forces that also compete for influence at the heart of the Khartoum regime.

Women’s rights campaigners and other activists were the first to get involved after Sudan’s public order police barged into a party in the capital in July and found Lubna and 12 other female guests wearing trousers.

Read the rest on Reuters

Sudan story of the day

President Al-Bashir to address huge women mass rally Thursday
Khartoum, March 9 (SUNA) – President of the Republic Field Marshal Omer Al-Bashir is to address at the Council of Ministers Thursday a huge women mass rally, which is organized by the Secretariat General of the Working Women Association in Sudan in rejection of the allegations of the so-called International Criminal Court and to affirm support to the leadership.

Definitely one for the diary.

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