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A purely analytical perception...


SUDAN
Pathos Personified

Continued from page 1

Another unique cause of famine in Sudan were the large numbers of animals grazing on each acre of land.  Overgrazing and exhaustion of natural resources creates a never-fail scenario for agricultural disaster. However, if the state of affairs could be made worse, it soon was; the forests in the north were being burned down to in an attempt to create new land on which to supply food for the local populations. This land in turn was also destroyed; by removing most of the indigenous forage that had been used to feed livestock, produce the gum Arabic that brought in hard currency and the fuel that was used by the population for heat and energy, Sudan through bureaucratic bungling has destroyed what little they had left. Moreover, in the north, the land that was being cut out of the forest was never meant for agricultural production as the soils there are extremely fragile and once the trees were gone the topsoil blew away like Alice leaving Kansas in the arms of a tornado.  Yields since then have become abysmal or at times even worse and world agencies predict that  all forests in Northern Sudan will be denuded by the end of the year 2002 according to the world's top experts.

In M. Suliman's "Civil War in Sudan: The Impact of Ecological Degradation" he puts things in absolute perspective. "All the following disastrous factors have descended on the country within the life-span of one generation: 

1.         Micro-and macro-climatic change (the practically continuous Sahel drought since 1967)

2.        Diminishing and erratic rainfall and accelerating desertification (the floods and torrential rains of 1988)

3.         Near doubling of population in less than a quarter    of a century         (15.4 million in 1970 to 25.4 million     in 1990)

4.       Displacement - Both internal and external - of some six million                 people

5.          Doubling of livestock numbers within  20 years

6.          Deforestation on a massive scale

7.         Renewed civil war in the South, which is now  encroaching on the                west and east

8.       Aggressive expansion of legal and illegal rain fed  mechanized             farming from 0.42m ha (1 m feddans) in 1967 to 7.5 m ha (18m               feddans.) in 1989"

Great Plans, Bad Endings

Meanwhile, the Christian-African minority, chaffing at Islamic-Arab rule, started a miniature uprising, which rapidly spread, creating logistical havoc on food distribution points set up by numerous relief agencies. (This primarily bit them in the foot as it was the points that they were using that were destroyed) Fuel was added to the fire when leaders of the revolution in the south were able to point to the fact that what little infrastructure that existed in the country was being constructed in the North. Southern resources were systematically being diverted and what little still existed when the vicious circle began, soon diminished to almost nothing at all. In spite of the fact that oil was found in some abundance in the south, the country's only refineries were for some strange reason  located in the north. When the people in the South realized that they would not benefit from the black gold discovered on their lands, they attacked the driller's (Chevron) facilities, destroying an asset that could ultimately have helped the entire country. But then again, this is Sudan. Biting the hand that feeds them is probably the only way some of them can get a meal. And what would you expect in a country that is the world's longest civil conflict. Inconceivably, the country received its independence in 1956 and has internal strife for 33 or those 43 years.

Some magnitude of the aid being supplied the Sudanese is contained in a story in MSNBC entitled Sudan plods toward another disaster, "The United Nations World Food Program operates one of the largest humanitarian airdrops in history is Sudan. In 1998, WFP distributed 116,000 tons of food to 2.4 million people at a cost of $155 million. This year, (1999), WFP will increase food aid by almost 50 percent. Monthly deliveries range between 7,000 and 9,000 tons, for now. Five women, each with a 50 pound bag of maize on their head, trudge down the trail, returning from an airdrop near Gok Machar. Despite the increase in aid, rations have decreased. Two households must share one bag. Aid agencies are anxious to see WFP increase its food deliveries so they can in turn deliver seeds for cultivation before the strong rains arrive. If seeds are delivered before food aid, people will simply eat the seeds."

This disturbing theme recurred

Although agricultural potential was by far Sudan’s greatest asset, warring groups along with soil erosion have destroyed its potential, the country is large and not surprisingly, oil in substantial quantities was found there in 1999 by the Greater Nile Oil Project managed by Talisman, a Canadian exploratory company. Jim Buckee, the CEO of Talisman spoke of the find in almost mystical terms. He indicated that it had “spectacular potential”, quite a mouthful for someone out of the usually conservative oil industry. Talisman, a publicly traded company immediately shot up in price on the news brought great satisfaction to its stockholders. However, those people had not done their homework and seemed to think that drilling for oil in Sudan was similar to doing it in the rest of the world. Oil seems to have a cache that nothing else has, neither gold, diamonds nor anything. Large oil finds usually bring energy for the country’s infrastructure, work and money by the gob full. It causes the building of roads, ports, refineries and all of the necessary infrastructural accoutrements that are necessary to become a real country that can move the black gold to the ports.   

The fact that oil in large quantities was discovered in Sudan was not a one time miraculous event as the same thing had occurred almost 15-years earlier. If Talisman had checked its history books, it would have learned that it was the discovery of oil in the country that triggered the most deadly fighting that had occurred here in the almost half-century old conflict. They would have further learned that there is nothing new under the sun that won’t anger one side or the other or both. If one of the combatants strikes it rich, it only means that they will be able to buy more weapons and more soldiers with which to punish their opponents. Talisman naively thought that because of the elephantine nature of the find that there would be enough riches left over to satisfy both sides and this in turn would end the war. Were they ever wrong! 

Nevertheless, that is hardly the way things work in Sudan. In the area in which the find was made, there were no less than five different factions warring over who controlled the territory. And along with them were numerous warlords that regularly sold their armies to the highest bidder. Moreover, sanctions that had been placed on Sudan because of their support of terrorist activities, thus making it literally impossible to import the necessary tools and equipment necessary to create a petroleum industry here. Talisman also got a lot of heat from the folks in Canada that supported human rights. They felt that no country, which enslaved its own people, ought to benefit from anything and their arguments were so pervasive that the Canadian Government began an investigation into the charges.  But this was only the start of the problems that the Greater Nile Oil Project faced.   

It wasn’t more than ten-minutes after Talisman announced that they had discovered oil in large quantities and were going to build a pipeline to bring it out than the Sudan People’s Liberation Army indicated that this was just not going to happen. So far they have kept their world to the letter by blowing up the pipeline to Port Sudan three times. Talisman attempted to take the high ground by offering to build schools and hospitals in the area of the discovery and bring in all the fresh water that the people here could ever need for both drinking and planting. While these are normally considered superb inducements to normal people, the endless fighting in this country has caused the people to not believe in creature comforts or their provider. They hearken to the fact that alll of the benefits that are boasted about by the relief agencies more often than not come to naught when the army requisitions these goods by force and then sells them to the highest bidder. They were convinced that the same thing would indeed happen with anything that Talisman could provide. Talisman has proven their good intentions in any number of ways but to no avail, sadly, this oil will just not get to market as long as present conditions prevail.  

After years of frustration, Talisman may now be close to throwing in part of the towel.  In spite of not being directly affected by the proposed American ban on financing anyone doing business in Sudan, without the American capital markets the company was beginning to realize that the money raising process could be going nowhere. This reckoning is coming at a critical time for the company considering the fact that it has announced that it is able to produce oil at only $2.89 a barrel in Sudan. This is an excellent price when you look at oil selling over $20 a barrel.

Among others looking longingly at the Talisman project in Sudan is India's National Oil and Natural Gas Corporation who is bidding as small fortune for only a 25% stake. However, this sale would take the pressure off Talisman to raised money in the public arena and for its part, India seems not to give a damn about public relations. Moreover, from management's viewpoint, Talisman is a public company in Canada and its shareholders meetings have recently turned into near riots. "Dr. Buckee made his comments after the company's annual meeting, which was once again dominated by confrontation with human rights and religious organizations, as well as representatives of Southern Sudan. They accused the company and its shareholders of making "blood money" and of aiding Sudan's government earn revenues from oil it then uses to fund a civil war against the south. Some even suggested that Dr. Buckee should indicted for war crimes." (Talisman in talks with India over selling Sudan, Claudia Cattaneo, Financial Post, Canada, May 2, 2002.)

No Place For Comfort

The United States takes a very dim view of anything that goes on in Sudan and is not at all happy with Canada’s Talisman Oil’s role in that country. Keeping in mind that it was Sudan that gave comfort and shelter to an international terrorist, a bomber by the name of bin Laden, the United States Congress wanted to express their anger in a more fruitful fashion They called a vote express their outrage at Sudan’s human rights abuses which included the conscription of child soldiers, the sale of its people into slavery and the country’s continuing sale of diamonds for war materials. Furthermore and as an indirect slap at Talisman, they voted 422 to 2 to bar foreign oil companies that do business in Sudan from raising money in this country or having their securities listed on American exchanges.  

One of the reasons behind the slam at foreign oil companies is the fact that many of the oil companies operating in that country are actually aiding and abetting the civil rights problems. As Congressman Tom Lantos put it during the lightly debated bill, “We should not help foreign oil companies who are helping prolong this bloody slaughter, It is shameful that foreign oil companies could raise money in the United States and use it to back genocide.” Interestingly enough, as strong as the measure seems to be, it really has no teeth because every oil company operating in Sudan is doing so under a separate subsidiary. 

Bin Laden's Legacy In Sudan

For whatever reason, bin Laden, had to get out of town in a hurry. This was not something that he had been expecting because he had brought his family to Afghanistan and had laid down some serious roots. Bin Laden had a lot of money when he arrived and because the country was so poor he was able to purchase numerous businesses on the cheap. However, on September 11, 2001, President George Bush of the United States announced to the world in general but to the Muslim - Arab states in particular, "You are either with us or against us." Sudan although having leaders who were for the most part thickheaded, soon got the message and in the ensuing weeks coughed up 37 Arabs and Africans that they believed had ties to bin Laden. In the meantime, in their sudden urge to become helpful, they divulged certain secrets of his strange dealings in that country. We are only now sorting out all the details. 

In 1991, bin Laden arrived in Sudan from Afghanistan where he had been one of the leaders in that country's  fight against the Communists.  Having already warn out his welcome in Saudi Arabia he began moving most of his wealth into Sudan and started to get involved in various local construction and agricultural projects while keeping his hand in the terror game by setting up training camps for wanabee followers. Construction was an industry that he knew rather well as his family still owned the largest company of that sort in Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, he brought his basic cadre that were with him in Afghanistan with him along with all of his wives and children. Moreover, he brought much of the equipment that he had used in Afghanistan building all of those caves, tunnels and roads. With some of his money along with this horde of equipment he formed what became the al-Hijra Construction Company which was to become one of the largest private companies of that kind in Sudan. However, that was never to be. 

Partially in exchange for some of the favors that bin Laden had bestowed upon the North Sudan leadership and more probably because of his particular capabilities in building and financing, bin Laden's construction company was soon awarded the construction job on the brand spanking new 500 mile ultra modern highway that was to stretch from Khartoum to Port Sudan on the Red Sea without a stoplight. Even bin Laden should have seen the handwriting on the wall on that one. Government Officials said that the highway would be called Thaadi or Revolutionary road and would be an critically import part of the valuable infrastructure that would restart the rebuilding of the country. However, bin Laden had not read the economic history of the country and was soon stiffed by the government and at that point was out a cool $20 million. However, The Sudan Government was not real happy about this event either as bin Laden was considered to be a distinguished visitor to the country and had contributed mightily, more important, he still had more money that they could glom unto but the treasury was bare and the road project went up in flames. Officials agreed that something had to be done before the place got a bad name. 

As recompense for their bad faith, the government offered bin Laden the Khartoum Tannery which was built as a goodwill gesture for Sudan by the Yugoslavian Government. The now rundown tannery was hardly worth $20 million and it was not throwing off any cash flow to speak of, but bin Laden swallowed hard and accepted the bad deal because that was literally all that was on the table. Most observers put the value of the tannery at only a tad over a $1 million at best and we are sure that bin Laden was well aware that he was being fleeced. However, bin Laden at the time didn't have a lot of countries that could use his services and bit the bullet, took the tannery and tried to make the best of it. And what was his alternative, taking the matter to the Hague? You bet. 

An after the fact visit to the tannery to find out what kind of management bin Laden provided to the business was arranged for by the Wall Street Journal's Robert Block who wrote a piece on it called "In the War Against Terrorism, Sudan Stock a Blow by Fleecing bin Laden."   We set the scene and find Dr. Ibrahim al Rufai Abu el Hassan now managing the tannery. He is asked about his management abilities and after indicating in no uncertain terms that the man did not have a concept of what he was doing eventually gets to the point: "It was lousy management. I don't think they were qualified for this work at all. His previous peccadilloes were inappropriate improvements and he added poor record keeping to the mix." He cannot understand why the good doctor couldn't get to the point on this subject.

While the tannery is now back under Sudanese control, so is a lot of construction equipment. Furthermore it turns out that Osama bin Laden has kept track of his losses in this country and in talking to Arab newspapers indicated that the experience had cost him better than $160 million big ones. Moreover, when asked about the Sudan Government he seems to have closed that door forever by saying, that it was a "mixture of religion and organized crime." If any one is really looking for bin Laden, I really don't think that they are going to find him after that one unless he is six feet under the ground.

Escaping the Bitter Bullet

It is most apparent that neither China National Petroleum Corporation of China, Gulf Petroleum Corporation of Qatar, Lundin Oil Corporation of Sweden, TotalFinaElf of France, Talisman of Canada nor Nasional Berhad of Malaysia will be effected in the least. While this congressional grandstanding played great in front of the voting public at home, these congressmen were well aware that each and every oil company that was named had a subsidiary that was located out our reach. In addition, even if these folks were to pull out entirely, that wouldn’t mean that the flow of oil would be stopped for one second. I am certain that even given the slight possibility that Sudan did not have the necessary trained personnel to keep the oil flowing, adequately trained engineers would be arriving by the droves from Russia, Iraq, Libya and a host of other countries. Among other firsts, the American Congress leads the world in useless votes. We would believe that the next country to step into this breach in a big way will be China.  

David Mann, Talisman’s spokesman chided the American Congressional vote by saying, “Talisman's leaving does not stop oil production in Sudan. We play a role in trying to improve the situation there. We’re building clinics and hospitals. The tens of thousands of southern Sudanese have benefited from clean drinking water, education and medicine directly because of Talisman being there.” And sad to say, Mr. Mann is indeed correct.

A Canal No Less

When the Sudanese Government announced the construction of a canal to drain the Sudd Marshes of the White Nile. According to the misguided Northern rulers of Sudan, the drained land could be reclaimed and made suitable for agriculture, the water could be stored for the irrigation of both the drained area and lands in the drier north and lastly, any remaining water could be sold to Egypt who would pay dearly for the resource. Seemed like a decent plan. However, once again, the people in the south who for good reason did not believe that they would benefit from these changes, attacked the infrastructure and destroyed any hope of the project reaching fruition. Once again, they felt that the major beneficiaries of this project would be those in Northern Sudan, possibly the Egyptians but certainly not themselves, and they weren’t far wrong based on history.   

An Inequitable Distribution of Labor

Of the 800 bureaucratic posts held by the British in Sudan when they pulled out,  only four were assigned to the south with the suggestion having been made that the illiterate of Sudan's "down-under" were neither mentally or emotionally fit to manage anything but their local dirt farms and many in the north had even some questions on that score as to whether they weren't being a tad to optimistic.  On the other hand, those in Southern Sudan could not stomach being ruled by the very same people that had sold them into slavery and who had belittled even their mere existence. Local rivalries were not aided by the fact that there was literally no secondary education in Sudan schools.  Propaganda was the only education that many of new generation of Sudanese ever received; deep-seated prejudices died harder then ever before because there was no relief from the constant drumming of it into everyone's system.   

This quickly led to a new government, which suspended whatever constitution existed in Sudan and dissolved the National Assembly and all political parties. This in no way palliated the acute hunger pangs of the people, the drive of the revolutionaries or the felicities of the do gooders around the world. Everyone came to worship Sudan; here was a place where there was enough misery to go around and sadists could indeed have their money's worth.  What started out as a uncomplicated battle between the Black Christians and the Islamic Arabs aided by their Turkish and Slavic mercenaries, soon became a game of "who can capture the economic high ground and starve the other side to death". Who can broadcast the most vitriolic propaganda and who can starve out the most innocent women and children? This had indeed become a paradise for thugs.

Ending the Cold War Ended Aid

In addition, this became a place where these warring partners were able to bid for assistance from diametrically opposed governments. During the Cold War, any form of aid was resold to highest bidder, and eventually, when the Cold War ended, the that form of aid dried up like a prune. Egypt once again cast envious eyes at the water resources constantly being abused by their Sudanese neighbors. Worst yet, Islamic militants, seeking to replenish the beneficence of the cold war years, made a pact with the Iranian Government. In short order, the Iranians immediately began supplying military equipment that was far in excess of Sudan's capacity to understand or handle it. Moreover, this tended to fractionalize the situation even further and English became the language of choice in the south and Arabic in the north.

Even organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF came in for their share of blame. Both organizations were passionate believers in the theory that the Sudanese economy should be built around potential exports to the west rather than infrastructure enhancements that would benefit the masses. Thus, when crops were selected for their export value, little thought was given to whether this was advantageous for the land or even whether it would be beneficial for the people. The only thing that these organizations seemed to realize, was the fact that per-capita income in Sudan was in the toilet and the only way to flush it out was to begin a campaign aimed at raising export earnings. This philosophy championed by the World Bank in particular was also unsuccessful in many other regions of the world where it was practiced but no where did it cause the absolute loss of life that it did here.

However, to many economists around the world, when the this game plan was put into motion, it gave the impression of being a workable idea, but as prices simultaneously plummeted on international commodities, the plan requiring an ever-greater amount of production just to maintain the status quo. Moreover, just when things began to look up a tad, the land started to deteriorate from a combination of ongoing drought and over-production. Worst yet, loans to these international organizations could not be repaid and a greater percentage of gross domestic product had to earmarked for interest on these borrowings. Sudan tried hard to play catch up, nevertheless, the people were falling ever further below the poverty level.  As of this writing, unless Sudan receives massive loan forgiveness, the country's ultimate permanent economic collapse is absolutely irreversible.

Again we can look to M. Suliman’s, "Civil War in Sudan: The Impact of Ecological Degradation" for guidance on what affects just the loans of the World Bank had upon the country. 

"It is noteworthy that the Mechanized Farming Corporation (MFC), was established in 1968, upon request from the World Bank to secure its first loan for the so-called supervised sector and to facilitate credit to private farmers. 

The MFC supervised the expansion of mechanized agriculture into southern Kordofan, White Nile and Upper Nile Provinces. By 1975, the World Bank provided half of the total loans for the agricultural sector, specifically for private rain fed mechanized farming. 

The ecological and social stress caused by large-scale mechanized agriculture is well documented, and can be held responsible for three types of conflict: 

Conflicts between traditional farmers and owners of the big schemes, as documented by Ahmed: 

"Cultivators are forced to sell their labor cheaply, pastoral nomads are driven out of the best areas of their traditional pasture…and agro-pastoralists are forced to abandon one of two activities and change over to agricultural labor for low wages and a lower standard of living. 

Conflict among local people in the vicinity of the schemes, because of scarcity of cultivable land, obstruction of animal herding routes or in the search for fresh grazing land. 

Conflict between the state, as a major backer of the scheme owners, and the small farmers and pastoralists. This is the most serious of all as the state has often opposed the spontaneous resettlement of such people when stricken by drought. 

The World Bank was not alone in helping to create the catastrophe in Sudan. The International Monetary Fund, (IMF) also came in for more than its share of the criticism. The IMF literally forced the production of cotton in Sudan in exchange for an "adjustment program" in which interest or/and principal would be forgiven in exchange for the adoption of IMF policies. To some degree this great idea was sort of like robbing Peter to pay Paul, however, Peter in this case was already bankrupt and had nothing to give up. Thus, sorghum and wheat suffered and cotton became the cash crop. Sadly, agricultural production dropped to even more dismal levels than before, prices declined and the Sudanese had exchanged their heritage for a lot less than the proverbial bowl of porridge.

Many said, “we can’t either eat or sell the cotton, we were substantially better before we grew what they called the “Devil’s own crop”. So, the IMF had turned what began as a dismal situation into a terrible catastrophe and they literally have become stultified in not knowing what to do next. These guys historical seem to know the answers before they create the disaster, but after it has happened, somehow, they seem to lose their sense of reasoning. Grabbing victory form the arms of defeat has almost become their motto. A substantial number of Sudanese deaths from starvation can be directly attributed to the good thoughts and ideas prescribed as a cure by the IMF. Moreover, as if to add insult to injury, while the prices of all agricultural products declined even further,  the bottom literally dropped out of cotton due to global overproduction. Thus the name, “The Devil’s own crop.” 

Again we can look to M. Suliman’s, "Civil War in Sudan: The Impact of Ecological Degradation" for guidance on what effects just the loans of the World Bank had upon the country.

"It is noteworthy that the Mechanized Farming Corporation (MFC), was established in 1968, upon request from the World Bank to secure its first loan for the so-called supervised sector and to facilitate credit to private farmers.

The MFC supervised the expansion of mechanized agriculture into southern Kordofan, White Nile and Upper Nile Provinces. By 1975, the World Bank provided half of the total loans for the agricultural sector, specifically for private rain fed mechanized farming.

The ecological and social stress caused by large-scale mechanized agriculture is well documented, and can be held responsible for three types of conflict:

    1. Conflicts between traditional farmers and owners of the big schemes, as documented by Ahmed:

    2. "Cultivators are forced to sell their labor cheaply, pastoral nomads are driven out of the best areas of their traditional pasture…and agro-pastoralists are forced to abandon one of two activities and change over to agricultural labor for low wages and a lower standard of living.

    3. Conflict among local people in the vicinity of the schemes, because of scarcity of cultivable land, obstruction of animal herding routes or in the search for fresh grazing land.

    4. Conflict between the state, as a major backer of the scheme owners, and the small farmers and pastoralists. This is the most serious of all as the state has often opposed the spontaneous resettlement of such people when stricken by drought.

To make matters infinitely worse, hyperinflation gripped the country and almost all goods have skyrocketed out of reach of the population. Aggravating an already horrendous situation is the fact that Sudan went to the head of the class in 1990 by being declared "non-cooperative" by the International Monetary Fund. We are advised that this was the first time a nation was deemed to be non-cooperative by the socially correct IMF and therefore we would equate non-cooperative to mean "a country in which liars, crooks and cheats are in charge of the government and they speak in unison with a forked tongue." Things got even worse in 1992-3 when the IMF upped the anti by threatening to expel Sudan from the fund altogether for deception. A last minute reprieve was granted when Sudan made some minor concessions, which it has honored to some degree.

Hyperinflation Raises Its Head

However, as if not enough had gone wrong, in this biblically, Job-like” country, matters soon became infinitely worse, hyperinflation gripped Sudan and the price of almost all goods skyrocketed. A population that didn’t have any money to begin with, now found even the barest of necessities substantially out of reach. Aggravating an already horrendous situation was the fact that Sudan had gone to the head of the class in 1990, by being declared "non-cooperative" by the International Monetary Fund that had buried them to begin with.  I guess we can understand that, the people of Sudan apparently had enough of that brand of snake oil and were now of the opinion that the folks at the International Monetary Fund were really out to get them. While the particular evil motives were unknown, the folks around these parts had enough of the medicine men parading around as benefactors and said so. The result of this resulted in Sudan being ostracized. This became first time in recorded history that a nation was “deemed to be non-cooperative” by the socially correct IMF. Moreover, bad things got even worse in 1992-3 when the IMF upped the anti by threatening to expel Sudan from the fund altogether for deception.  A last minute reprieve was granted when Sudan made some minor concessions, that to some miniscule degree they have been able to honor. 

During this period though, Sudan's inflation was increasing at an astounding rate 163 percent a year and the country’s money supply was growing even faster. In order to pay bills, eventually the Sudanese Government whatever was left of it, was obliged to get into the printing business, which soon had the effect of making their currency which had little value to begin with, totally valueless. In addition, the Government's policy of continuously borrowing from the central bank to pay salaries and to finance projects without any thought of repayment or any attempt to balance the budget was not helping things a bit. Knowing that something had to be done and yet not have the slightest idea of what to do next, the government did the best they could when they jailed more than 50 people and closed eight foreign exchange houses. This created an even more fearsome disaster than any of the previous goofups had caused.

Naturally, severe penalties were on imposed on these folks. A court imposed prison terms ranging from six months to three years for hard currency brokers and sellers, palliating some people who were only against these people because they were against everyone. They had not the slightest inclining of what they were doing and how dependent the economy had become on them. However, having taken the action, naturally the government’s public relations mill announced these moves with a flourish and many people were heartened that the government had at last taken a step, positive or otherwise. They felt that an movement was better than the continued stagnation that was being foisted upon them. Unbelievably none of those arrested was ever charged with anything because of the simple reason that no one could ever figure out what crime they committed, yet, liquidity throughout the country has taken a severe pounding in that these happened to be the only people ever willing to take a position, one way or the other on the Sudanese currency.  Now there was no one will to buy or sell the stuff. Everyone became sellers and with no one around to prop up the market now and again, the axe fell and the currency became worth less than the paper it was printed on. Now the bureaucrats and the mercenaries could no long be paid. A tragedy had occurred.

We say, "another job well done"

Sudan News and Views reports that the : "The price increase on fuel announced by the new Minister of Finance, Abdel Wahab Osman, had sparked widespread outrage and protests. The price of a gallon of petrol shot up to 2,500 Sudanese Pounds from 1,700 and Diesel prices went up 60 percent to 1,200 S. P. from 750 pounds. Petrol has risen six-fold since April 1994, when it was just 400 pounds per gallon. The new fuel prices were quickly condemned by the pro-government Workers Federation, which demanded there immediate cancellation or a comparable rise in worker's wages. The leader of the Farmers Union also denounced the increases and said farmers would strike unless it was rescinded. Even the members of the newly-elected, National Assembly expressed their protest and called for the reversal of the decision." Well at least in the Sudan, everyone seems to be in agreement as to how bad things have become.

 The Sudan News and Views, then reported the government's position in the foray: "The Finance Minister told the assembly that the increases are a result of a budget deficit. He said the deficit had reached 9 billion Sudanese pounds and would rocket to 200 billion Sudanese pounds at the end of this year if fuel prices were not increased. He also said his government had subsidized fuel by borrowing from the Bank of Sudan. This in turn pushed inflation up another 102 percent. He said fuel prices had to be increased to raise funds to pay the salaries of government employees and to finance the costs of the civil war in the south. …Turabi sent assembly members on a long summer break for ten weeks starting from the first of July, apparently to avert the imminent confrontation."

 If you were granted a two and a half month vacation with pay, you would be grateful, would you not? Well, in spite of Sudan's problems these nervy characters demanded a huge increase in monthly salaries. They had been getting $30 per month, certainly a fair wage, at least in Sudan, enough to provide the necessities for their families, but these ungrateful legislators demanded in increase to the unimaginable figure of $200 per month. For shame. We say look at what civil servants earn, $7 per month, look at what private sector workers earn $12 per month and even university professors only get $30. Who do these folks think they are? To be fair, they are just like bureaucrats everywhere in the civilized world.

We soon received the answer to our question of why they needed this egregious increase, one of the Members of Parliament (MPs) piped up say that it was dangerous for them to take public transportation because of death threats and that they had no transportation allowances; "We fear assassination attempts on our lives in the public transport. (And you couldn't blame the population for wanting to do these suckers in one bit after what they had done to the country.} Although Sudan is a "peaceful" country, it has a strong opposition both at home and abroad. Something should be done to protect our lives and person as MPs'." Well, we couldn't disagree more, with rebels in the south and east, millions of exiles that sit in border countries wasting away in refugee camps while they wait for the war to end, we wouldn’t want to be an MP.

And what about the unfriendly  Egyptians in the east, the American Cruise missiles in the west, in the north Ethiopia who wanted to fry the whole bunch in boiling oil. Then we have there ever loving other neighbors  the peace loving nations of Eritrea and Uganda who both in some parts of the countries were still practicing cannibalism. Incidentally, these are the  front line states, which are currently being supplied literally unlimited military equipment by the United States, to begin the overthrow of the Khartoum Government, in the west and the mafia downtown.  Now that Eritrea and Ethiopia may have settled their differences, however, both of them may want a piece of Sudan and at this point the CIA may well give it to them.

With Friend Like These, Who Need Enemies?

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has recently announced that it plans to intensify its military campaign against the government along Sudan's borders, this group was formed along by the Beja Congress to plan and carry out military operation against Sudan in the region under which they have control. Moreover, elsewhere, The SAF is claiming that it is now engaged in a war to bring down the government of Sudan and replace it with forces from Eritrea, a home to other dissident groups have been conducting regular raids on the Sudan border. Confirming these concerns, the Sudanese government itself announced that troops from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda were poised to invade Sudan across its southern and eastern borders while the GOS is carrying numerous bombing raids in southern Sudan. All these matters would cause us to take some variance with the position that Sudan is the safest spot on earth, but from our point of view, if the MPs were to get their raise, I would think that the people would probably want to rise up and tar and feather this ungrateful bunch, no wonder the Sudan has so many problems.  

A Solution is at Hand

On the other hand, the MP's were so distraught over their low pay that it was suggested by many that all they really wanted to get even with the people who they felt were disrespecting them and the job they were doing. However, they were not far from wrong in this thinking.  But a solution was at hand; it was determined after long consideration that the government should resume the practice of amputating the right hand of convicted thieves in accordance with Islamic law. They were firmly convinced that the country's thieves should be held responsible for the trouble in Sudan and before you could shake a stick, the General Director of Sudanese Prisons indicated that he was carrying out the edict as fast as was humanly possible under the circumstances, but there were so many thieves and there were not enough skilled amputators. It didn’t take long before a call for new amputators went out and the resources were satisfactorily replenished.

Nevertheless, in spite of this amazing progress in this direction, the still agitated  legislators were hardly satisfied with what had been accomplished in terms of a raise vowed more and stronger measures to get their pay scale increased. It was suggested that the Taliban had some great laws based on Islamic practices that would really be good for the country and great for the people at the same time. If everyone became happy again, it then made sense that they could get a raise in salary. The legislatures started putting through a series of rules designed to improve everyone's disposition a breakneck speed; 

1.         In public transport , woman would be separated from men and must use different entrances. 

2.         Women may not sit next to drivers 

3.         Buses should display a verse from the Koran asking Muslims not to look at members of the opposite sex 

4.         Men and woman will walk in separate groups on marches 

5.      At public gatherings, theatres, cinemas, weddings, parties and picnics, a curtain must divide the men from the women. 

6.         Men may not watch women playing sports. 

7.        Sportsmen cannot wear tight or short clothes, which expose the body. 

8.         Co-education in schools is banned. 

9.         In higher education men and women students must sit apart 

10.     Women cannot go out after 7 PM except in the company of their husbands or other close male relatives. 

11.     Men must have good reason for walking along streets leading to schools for girls or places where women gather. 

12.       Card playing is prohibited in public. 

13.      Women performing Sudanese folk dances must wear long, loose-fitting costumes. 

Well, from our point of view, these are extremely constructive changes and we can see that a lot of thought went into the creation of this list. We firmly believe that these types of beneficial changes are going to make the population much more contented and more responsive to the legislature. With new laws such as those on the books, there doesn’t seem to be much question that the politicos will soon be seeing a raise in pay. 

It Was Obviously The Fault of the Women

If you look much deeper into these new Sudanese adjustments without the proper background information you could, well draw the wrong conclusions. In spite of how it appears, this was not strictly a religious decision. It was discovered during a two-day workshop on law-breaking, held recently in Khartoum, that there was an ever-increasing crime rate among Sudanese women. Some of the statistics are so staggering that we will quote exactly from the report, which appeared in Sudan News and Views. 

According to the director of the federal police, women are involved in drug operations, financial mismanagement, murder, illegal abortions, looting of cattle, as well as being involved in tribal conflicts and armed robbery in western Sudan. Police records for 1995 show that 1,122 people died as a result of crimes committed by women compared to 900 deaths due to crimes carried out by men.  We are left totally speechless by this report that is undoubtedly accurate because of the impeccability of its source. However, there is little question that there are not many people left to blame here for all of Sudan's problems and when all is lost it is good to blame those of the fairer sex.    

The fact that women increasingly resort to a life of crime, we believe is primarily  due to the Sudanese authority’s lack of concern for women's rights and more generally the harsh economic conditions within the country, which drove many women out of their houses and literally forced them into work as street vendors. Vendors are often harassed by the police and security forces, which carry out regular sweeps to physically remove them from the streets. Women vendors in the streets of Khartoum now reportedly carry knives, axes and sticks to protect themselves and to use them as weapons against the police who are rigorously trying to prevent them from earning enough money to feed their starving families.  

According to police statistics, there are about “40,000 women who earn their living selling tea on the streets of Khartoum, and if the authorities continue to prevent them from working, they are bound to react violently." Under Muslim law, not only should these women not be working but, in effect they should be in their houses starving to death, if that is their only recourse under the law. Earning a living is not constitutionally provided for the female element in this male oriented society. 

However, it turns out that almost every one of the people that died from those crimes were the women themselves due to the fact that the crimes the authorities  are talking about are nearly all almost universally abortion, which is considered against the law in Sudan. As to drug operations, no one was officially able to inform us as to any women in the country that had ever been convicted of a drug oriented crime, but bureaucrats were quick to point out that in such a large nation, this inevitably would occur and that is what they were referring to in their statement. You certainly would have a hard time refuting that argument and we would have to defer to their statistics. Moreover,  it appears that in some cases, the “tea women” had not given purchasers of their products the correct change, sometimes to little and sometimes to much, certainly indicating that some of these women did not even know how to count. This is certainly conceivable in a country where the education of women is far down on the list of government concerns. That of course is something that we cannot defend at all and is certainly deserving of a long jail sentence.

 

 

 

 

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