Point of VIEW.

A purely analytical perception...


SUDAN
Pathos Personified

page 1

Updated January 3, 2003

Sudan, Pathos Personified

Most people believe that to observe real human misery, one has to travel all the way over to India and visit the garden spots of Calcutta or Bombay. Others, are of the distorted opinion that Sierra Leone is a much better spot to get you jollies off if you are really into sadism, with the limbless people hoping around all over the place. There are even those about that think that living in beautiful downtown Belarus is the top spot because of the rules their despotic sadist of a leader has installed and I am sure that if we were to be introspective we could also choose many other vacation spots run by despots such as Iraq or  North Korea. However, our own vote as the hell hole of the universe goes to Sudan which fails in every single standard of human measurement, it looks like the wind has blown the countryside away and if you are hungry the only thing that is usually available is sand. 

This indeed  is one hell of a mess and because of that fact, we will spend a tad more time looking at the down and dirty of what is really going on here. The basic fact is this; a civil war has been raging in this country for years that has been particularly harsh on the geography and the people as well. It is because of this war that this country has the world’s largest population of internally permanently displaced persons. Currently almost a 100,000 of these people are in immediate need of food or they will probably starve to death. Another 2 million people will need help shortly or they may possibly join the ranks of those above. Worst yet, even if the food was readily available,. aid workers have been prevented from reaching at-risk groups due to the heavy fighting and the fact that neither side is willing to have any aid or comfort given to their protagonists.  Moreover, Sudan, mystically once conceived as the future breadbasket of Africa has suffered additionally from drought, poor crop rotation and a lack of good planting techniques along with the fact that rainfalls have been sporadic if at all and the top soil has been blown away. These statements are particularly disturbing because the country at one time had so much going for it.

"Sudan has been expelled from the World Bank, suspended from the IMF (and likely to become the first country to be thrown out of the International Monetary Fund entirely since the fund was created) and kicked out of both the Arab Monetary Fund and Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development. Sudanese Experience 100 per cent inflation per year. Sudan is a big, bad, ugly place with a belligerent, extreme Islamic government hell bent on choking the entire country under Islam's shroud. Khartoum is Terrorist Central. The county has become one massive training camp for suicide bombers, hijackers, assassins, car bombers, grenade chuckers and synagogue saboteurs. Three guys who were involved in the plot to assassinate Egyptian President Murbarak are in Sudan getting their hair cut and nails done and watching the V Channel, despite an OAU call for the government to hand over the thugs. IN all, there are an estimated 15,000 militants living or training in Sudan. The Allah's hornet nest hasn't gone unnoticed by the UN, though, who slapped diplomatic and travel sanctions on Khartoum in April 1997." (The World's Most Dangerous Places, Robert Young Pelton 4th Edition)

The State department put out an all points bulletin several years ago warning Americans coming anywhere near the place. That warning is still in effect today and is reprinted below:

WARNING (Issued December 12, 2000): The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Sudan because of the unstable security situation throughout the country. In addition to the ongoing civil war that affects both southern and eastern Sudan, the government of Sudan's control over its police and soldiers may be limited.

The government of Sudan continues to conduct a bombing campaign against rebel forces in southern Sudan. In addition, there has been rebel activity in and around Kassala, in eastern Sudan. Following a rebel incursion in Kassala in early November 2000, the government of Sudan authorities arrested an American relief worker in that area on suspicion of espionage and severely beat him. As a result of the rebel activity, the United Nations ordered all its personnel operating in Kassala to evacuate the area in and around the city. Other non-governmental organizations operating in Kassala evacuated their personnel as well.

The United States has no permanent diplomatic presence in Sudan because of concerns regarding the government of Sudan's ability to ensure adequately the safety of U.S. officials. While U.S. officials elsewhere in the region make periodic visits to Sudan, their ability to provide consular services, including emergency assistance, is severely limited.

U.S. citizens in Sudan are urged to consider their personal security situations in determining whether to remain in the country. Those who remain in Sudan should keep a low profile and stay alert to changing developments. Avoid large crowds and other situations in which anti-American sentiments may be expressed.

As they say in the world of politics, yesterday's friend is today's enemy and vice versa. Nothing lasts for very long in this strange whirlpool of socio-economic events which create national upheavals and armed borders. Afghanistan was a wonderful example of this turnabout-is-fair-play theory. First we were against the Russians and backed the Taliban and we were against drugs. Then we went to war and defeated the Taliban and started allowing the Afghan farmers to once again plant their high-yield crop, poppies because the economy had become so dismal and the Taliban were shooting down our planes with Russian weapons. Exigency is the key word in our national political protocol and in spite of the killing of over 2 million primarily Christian native Sudanese, it appears that Washington is ready to wheel and deal once again and make our enemy our friend.

While the Sudanese Civil War continues to rage out of control and there has been little superficial compromise between the warring parties, it would appear that the geo-politics of war are once again  at work and that the Clinton Administrations placing of Sudan on the United States' list of "terror countries" back in 1997, is soon going to be quietly rescinded. It has finally dawned upon the higher-ups in Washington logistical planning that Sudan just may be in a rather strategic position next door to the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force's new digs in Djibouti which controls the entrance to the Red Sea; next door to Egypt and only a stones throw from Iraq, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Nothing like a couple of wars in the neighborhood to make an administration take another look as to who one should be friends with even if they have bloody hands.

Sudan, still an almost totally lawless country has become a literal springboard for raids into Egypt by the evangelistic Wahabi extremists who would like nothing better than to undermine Murbarak's Government. Should it fall, the United States could pretty much kiss the entire Middle East goodbye. As a matter of fact, it could be a lot worse than that; should Egypt fall, and there are an alarming large number of fundamentalists living in that country thing better that they would like to happen, the position of the international cabal of conservative Muslim's will become dramatically enhanced and the world will  be slung back into another age which will make the the Dark Ages look enlightened. Europe will become a tinder-box and the Crusades of the next generation will be fought with atomic weapons leaving survivors in worst shape than those that died.  Hardly a pleasant thought. Because of the forgoing, Egypt is number two on the list of American largesse after Israel and there is little chance of that changing in our lifetime. Egypt; if you don't already understand, stands like the lad in Holland that held back the dike all by himself. So it is today.

There is no question that the United States is up to their eyeballs in working out the details of a comprehensive peace treaty between  the warring factions and the government in Khartoum. The United States is more than aware that Sudan, a country that could under peaceful conditions eventually assume its original manifest destiny of becoming the breadbasket of Northern Africa and the Middle East in spite of the fact that the farmland today lays mostly fallow. Moreover, agriculture is not the only natural resource of this country. There are boundless mineral assets in Sudan and if only their oil was properly exploited (It is anticipated that 500,000 barrels will be produced by the country in 2005 and output will continue rising from there) , the country could well become one of the world's biggest producers. With natural ports directly on the sea, the oil could be exported to the United States at only a fraction of the cost of comparable Saudi Light. Adding the strategic geographical implications to the equation, it is in America's best interests to see that hostilities in that country cease and that they cease now. However, at the moment, we are otherwise occupied in the area.

The creation of any truce or peace agreement is going to be like pulling teeth from a Saber Toothed Tiger; there are just too many bitter memories of what has already transpired and with so many people that have lost close relatives or children to the hostilities, there is not a lot of good feeling here. Moreover, with new guerilla organizations sprouting up like weeds in a rain forest such as the Sudan Liberation Movement, even the complex scorecard of enemies has become obscured. It has become a Herculean task even to determine which group stands for what and for how long. With all of these dissidents espousing righteous causes, at first blush it is hard to tell the guys from white hats apart from the bad guys. Yet; there is little question that most are in reality, lawless bands of armed "prairie privateers", making raids on whoever has food or treasure (the word treasure can take on numerous meanings depending on the pickings; a pig could be a treasure here under most circumstances) while waving a banner of proclaiming some high-bound religious or national cause.  

Some of the combatants do not have such high-bound theories that they are interested in presenting; they just go about their business. Many of these are the folks brought over by the major oil companies that are looking for the black gold. One of the senior officials of the Khartoum Government who defected to the south stated: "The oil companies, had built roads and airstrips that allowed government forces to pursue war against the south. According to Western diplomats and other  investigators, the government's helicopter gunships have been stationed at the airstrip at Heglig oil fields -- officially on to repel attacks, but they say, in reality to initiate them as well." The New York Times published an article entitled Oil Company Defends Role In Sudan by Bernard Simon which indicates that "Human rights groups, churches and trade unions, among other have assailed Talisman (the oil company that is producing fully 50% of Sudan's production in conjunction with the national oil companies of china, Malaysia and Sudan) saying that its oil operations are helping to prolong the 17-year civil war between the fundamentalist Islamic government, dominated by Arabs from the North, and non-Muslim blacks in southern Sudan. Proceeds from oil production have allowed the government to nearly double its military spending over the last three years. 

Meanwhile, the United States is talking the talk about ending sanctions and handing substantial aid to rebuild the country's infrastructure. However, we will have to make some dent in the rivalries that go back centuries. The country has more than their share of Muslims but Christians also make up a goodly percentage of the population. Moreover, there are the urbanites who passionately dislike the rurals and the rurals that are not found of those from the cities; the Arabs, who make up about 50% of the population aren't exactly excited about the indigenous African population and those folks that speak one language are for the most part unable to speak to those that talk another or those that live only a short distance away. This presently godforsaken place for some reason or other has evolved 110 different languages of which almost 30 are considered to be critically important in this country of somewhat under 20-million souls.

How do you forgive or sweep under the rug, the induction of child soldiers into the army, the dispassionate killing of relief workers, the thoughtless murder of women and children, the profitable selling of people into slavery and or prostitution, the army's refusal to allow relief supplies get to where they were to be delivered and the razing of valuable farm land to capitulation by starvation which has caused the topsoil to have been swept away by floods. Most important is the fact that to a degree the same Fundamentalist practices that we have observed in other Shari'a dominated Muslim countries which has caused an invasion of the rights of individuals to practice their own religion, women to take the rightful place in society or non-believers to even exist, is not only prevalent here but it is the law. (While it well may be the law, the women of Khartoum seem to be somewhat more liberated than their sisters in other countries with the same practices.) free Can the United States say that everything is now alright by waving some sort of magic wand with things continuing on tomorrow in the same manner they are today? You be they can and they will because they must. Sudan with all of its ugly freckles is going to be a-ok in our book.

The tide of peace is moving along smartly with negotiations breaking out everywhere. Most importantly, Hosni Murbarak from Egypt has even came to pay a call to Khartoum after 14-years of dire threats between the countries and at least one assassination attempt against Murbarak himself. (The United Nations Security Council lifted sanctions on Sudan for its involvement in that act committed in 1995 due to the fact that Sudan joined the American coalition against terrorism. As a matter of fact, Sudan on a bad hair day had even threatened to cut off Egypt water supply which would have led to war without passing go. Among the important issues that have been discussed was that fact Sudan would have to break with Uganda with whom it has formed an alliance of sorts. That treaty is considered one of the major issues to be worked through and does not seem to be standing in the way. Probably the main issue though is Sudan's major concern; that of Egypt's requirement for additional water to feed their rapidly growing population and the possibility that they could decide to make Sudan an unwilling plebiscite of Egypt.

However, this is balanced by the fact that the United States has shown that it has now more than willing to become the international enforcer or put another way, it has portable guns will travel. This new external jingoism has given U.S. guarantees new cache in a world that respects a "strong stick". When this country pulled out of Vietnam or failed to attack the Taliban during the Clinton administration, many considered us a "paper tiger" but George Bush has restored this country's credibility in its contractual obligations. Under the current negotiations, we would guarantee Sudan's sovereignty, and they would seemingly take our word for it. 

But in this world, there is a price for righteousness. In exchange for making Sudan this guarantee of sovereignty; the United States would be allowed to take a long-term lease at an excessive price for ports, airbases and naval facilities. This would have the dual purpose of destroying whatever relationship Sudan has with Iran at the same time the U.S. is shoring up its logistical position. These two countries, Iran and Sudan have become good friends of late, but Iran not only couldn't but wouldn't get involved in a war with Egypt over Sudan's sovereignty issues. Nor does Iran have the technical equipment to back up such a guarantee.  Interestingly enough, one could determine that the only reason that the United States would have to become involved in Sudan would have been the events of September 11, 2001 and later. However, in reality the ball was rolling well before that date and Senator Danforth, an Episcopalian minister, was appointed by George Bush five days before that event had occurred.

In reality, according to the United Nations; "Interest in Sudan among the Congressional Black Caucus, the influential Christian right, liberals, human rights activists and American humanitarian agencies - combined with a new concern with international terrorism after September 11, -- contributed to the increased engagement of the U.S. on Sudan.   Senator Danforth proposed a series of confidence-building measurers, including: a ceasefire in the Nuba Mountains; zones and times of tranquility in which vaccinations and other humanitarian interventions could be carried out: a commisssion to study and report on the issue of slavery; and an end to attacks on civilian targets - all of which achieved general, but not complete, compliance."  Among other things, amputations are still carried out with some regularity in Khartoum but that may not involve southerners.

This theory is probably correct but some of the reasons are not necessarily exactly the ones given in the report. Oil in some substantial quantities was discovered in the 1990s and by 1998 it was determined that the country may well be sitting on one of the largest deposits of oil in the world. This was both good and bad, at least as to many in the United States viewed the matter. The oil was controlled by the north which was totally dominated by the Muslims. The more oil that they produced, the more weapons that they would be able to buy to destroy the Christians in the south. Thus, either the oil had to either be shut off or an overall compromise had to be made. After all, it was the Christians that were being sold in slavery, not the Muslims. Both of these issues were close to the President's heart, Oil and Religion in some order of importance but number one and two no matter what. If oil had not been discovered our involvement would have taken more time to mature.

This leaves two issues to digest, the first and foremost is the fact that the Sudanese Government refuses to become secular and is adamant in wanting Shari'a to remain the ultimate law of the land. Even if that could be overcome, we would still be left with those friendlies up in the mountains, the Sudan Liberation Movement that has stated categorically that it is committed to killing everyone in sight no matter what kind of peace treaty is signed and who guarantees it. When an attempt to bring these folks to the table and try to appease them, it was asked what they really wanted; their statement was that they only desired "death to infidels" but would not define who the infidels were. It would appear that the issues remaining are substantive but at least an agreement to make an agreement is more than likely. The peace process is behind schedule but after 10-years, even a small step in the right direction is terrific.  

Sudan Peace Act

On October 21, 2002, President Bush singed into law H.R. 5531 which became better known as the Sudan Peace Act after both Houses had approved it, the Senate unanimously. Its salient features are as follows:                

  • Seeks to facilitate a comprehensive solution to the war in Sudan based on the Declaration of Principles of July 20, 1994 and the Machakos Protocol of July 2002.
     
  • Commends the efforts of the President's Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan, Senator Danforth, and his team.
     
  • Calls for: multilateralization of economic and diplomatic tools to compel Sudan to enter into a good faith peace process; support for democratic development in areas of Sudan outside government control; continued support for people-to-people reconciliation in non-government-controlled areas; strengthening of humanitarian relief mechanisms; and multilateral cooperation toward these ends.
     
  • Condemns violations of human rights on all sides of the conflict; the government's human rights record; the slave trade; government use of militia and other forces to support slave raiding; and aerial bombardment of civilian targets.

Funding Authorized for Use in Areas Outside Sudan Government Control

The Act authorizes to be appropriated $100 million for each of the fiscal years 2003, 2004, and 2005 for assistance to areas outside government control to prepare the population for peace and democratic governance, including support for civil administration, communications infrastructure, education, health, and agriculture.

Certifications and Actions

The U.S. President must certify within 6 months of enactment, and each 6 months thereafter, that the Sudan Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement are negotiating in good faith and that negotiations should continue.  If, under this provision, the President certifies that the government has not engaged in good faith negotiations or has unreasonably interfered with humanitarian efforts, the Act states that the President, after consultation with the Congress, shall implement the following measures:

  • Seek a UN Security Council resolution for an arms embargo on the Sudanese government
     

  • Instruct U.S. executive directors to vote against and actively oppose loans, credits, and guarantees by international financial institutions
     

  • Take all necessary and appropriate steps to deny Sudan government access to oil revenues in order to ensure that the funds are not used for military purposes
     

  • Consider downgrading or suspending diplomatic relations

If the Sudan People's Liberation Movement is found not to be negotiating in good faith, none of the above provisions shall apply to the Sudanese Government.

The Act also states that, if the President certifies that Sudan is not in compliance with the terms of a permanent peace agreement between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, then the President, after consultation with the Congress, shall implement the measures described above.

As with other similar provisions, these provisions will be construed in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional responsibility for the conduct of foreign relations.

The act goes on to discuss the fact that Sudan will not interfere with humanitarian aid and that the United States will attempt to provide as much assistance as possible to the needy. Furthermore, continuing war crimes will not be tolerated.

As usual this was an excellent start but it takes two to dance and as expected the Sudan People's Liberation Army was having none of it in spite of the fact that it seemed as though the organization was falling apart at the seams. Eventually they were brought to the table but it would appear that they were really looking for a autonomy of the southern part of Sudan. Although horrified at the prospect of the country being literally divided into two parts, an agreement of sorts was hammered out but the parties couldn't quite deal with the separation of the state of Abyei, southern Blue Nile State and the Nuba Mountains. The SPLA states that in spite of the fact that they are not in the south as determined by previous negotiations, it doesn't really matter. However, the issue has become redundant primarily because no one on either of the negotiating teams seems to understand what either side means by "autonomy." However, whatever else may happen, the two sides have signed a memorandum of understanding that states that they have agreed to allow: "unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas and for people in need, in accordance with the Operation Lifeline Sudan Agreement" (The Machakos Protocol).

The talks are being held in Nairobi, Kenya and at the moment appear to be bearing some fruit because neither side has left the table in disgust. Moreover, the North had made a major gesture toward peace; it had locked up Hassan Turabi, the spiritual leader of the radical Islamist movement and that is where he still is today. This seemed to get the ball rolling.

Everyone involved seems to agree on one point, after 20-years of civil war, it is time to try something else for a change. To some degree, the agreement has allowed a limited amount of free access to refugees to leave one area of Sudan to go to another and progress has been made in numerous areas. Various areas have been opened that were previously restricted, the United Nations has been able to deliver food supplies without interruption in substantial quantities and more importantly, these supplies have been utilized directly by those intended recipients. Unimpeded medical supplies and personal have been able to inoculate children against many of the indigenous diseases prevalent in Sudan. Numerous of the over 4 million displaced people wandering the countryside have been allowed to return to their homes and this has been relieving pressure on the city of Khartoum (at its peak, 1.5 million displaced people had made that city their home and most of these are black from the south.) as numerous of this refugees have sought shelter there straining already inadequate infrastructure facilities.

As to the almost impossible issue of Shari'a, it would appear that a compromise of sorts had been tentatively worked out which would keep the Islamic Laws in effect as they are being interpreted here but the letter of the law would be followed in the North and the punishments contained therein would not be applied in the South. While this was a major concession and represents an interesting fallback position, the South kept pushing for a referendum on self-determination. This self-determination issue was also a problem with both Libya and Egypt, both of which did not want to see the Nile under total SPLA control.

The Geography

 “Sudan’s beauty piques the imagination. It is a combination of a natural beauty that is complemented by man-made monuments that testify to the achievements of its inhabitants over the centuries. The majesty of Sudan is exemplified in the coming together of the two Nile Rivers. The Blue Nile and the White Nile rivers unite in Sudan’s capitol city of Khartoum. The little known ancient pyramids, reportedly older than the pyramids in Egypt, are in the arid Sahara Desert of northern Sudan.”  ([1])

Sudan is one-quarter the size of the United States and is equal to the dimensions of this country, east of the Mississippi River. Moreover, Sudan is the largest country in Africa, having a population of 35 million, which includes over one hundred different tribes and sub-tribes. Only 20 percent of Sudan's people dwell in its cities. Although a full census has not been taken in over forty years, at that time forty percent of the population was comprised of what might be loosely called Arabs. The country has been engaged in a violent civil war for the last seventeen years with the northern part of the country being accused of engaging in substantive anti-Western activities.  It has served as a home away from home for such noted international gadabouts such as the notorious Sheik Osama bin Laden and the more fiendish but now incarcerated Carlos "the Jackal".

 In addition, the ever-friendly country of Iran leases bases in both Port Sudan and Suakin, Sudan, where it stations and trains its soldiers while operating a radio station that broadcasts an Iranian brand of Islamic propaganda throughout the region.  Libya, Iraq, China and Malaysia all consider Sudan a client state, through which they are able to deliver dogma, test weapons and create strategic footholds in a critical area. The opposing forces in the south are aided by a peculiar combination of allies, Uganda, Eritrea and the United States.

Its History

Sudan began life as the Kingdom of Nubia, which came under occupation of Egypt from 2600 B.C forward. The combined civilizations of Egypt and Nubia were then called Kush and remained as such until 350 A.D. which just a tad under three millenniums; a long time in anyone's book. For the next 150 years, nothing much happened here, however in the 6th century, missionaries from Europe camped out here for a time and were able to convert a substantial number of the poverty stricken peasants to Christianity. The good work was not to last for long as a hoard of violent Arabs who had already put Egypt into their hip pockets, road through Sudan like the desert winds and the country reverted to the Muslim Religion.

However, nothing lasts forever in countries built on sand and Islam was eventually replaced by a strange socio-economic group called the Fun who had conquered much of the country. Basically these were black tribes from Africa who had occupied substantial other territory as well. This annoyed the Egyptians no end and in 1874 they came right back in and subjugated what they believed was rightfully theirs. That did last long as either in this Middle Eastern game of musical chairs. The empire building British conquered Egypt in 1882 and then extended their reach throughout the Sudan sixteen years later. Egypt and the Sudan at that time were combined, from a bureaucratic point of view to make Britain's dominance in the region just a bit more tidy. This conjugation existed for 57-years and became known as Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, a rather apt name for the combination.

By  the 1950's the British and the Egyptians had become co-guardians of the region and they jointly granted Sudan independence in early 1956. However, Sudan this experiment with independence was an abject failure as the country would have been far better off leaving well-enough alone. Since achieving their independence hey have not been able to manage at all on their own and have gone through a tragic series of extremely unstable governments. It started under the regime of Major. General Gaafar Mohamed Nimeiri who thought that Islam was the cat's meow. He ruled with an iron fist and brought a form of fundamentalist laws that had never been seen in these parts into play in the country. This annoyed the other countries in the northern part of Africa and did nothing to calm the nervous Christians in the south.

The Politics

Thus, the line was drawn as far back as 1983 when a revolution erupted between the Christians and the Muslims, or if you prefer, those living in the north and the south or even better put, between the those living in rural areas and those living in cities. The southern, Christian farmers were loyal to what was called the People's Liberation Army and those in the north were naturally known as the National Islamic Front (NIF) This has been a back and forth struggle with first one side getting the upper hand and then the other. The farmers in the south regularly attempt to starve out the north and those in north where the countries industrial and mineral wealth is located are able to purchase military equipment and conscripts to aid them in their fighting. This has been billed as a battle of good and evil. However, no one has been able to figure out which one is the good guy.

In spite of the rather minimal sophistication of weapons used in the fighting here, more than 1 million people have died because of the war but not necessarily because of war injuries; starvation and disease have probably been much bigger killers. Both sides pray to god when they torture their captives to death and no one in this battle to the death believes that they are not supported by a higher morality. Moreover, there is no terrorist needing a safe home that has not found people willing to aid his cause in this god forsaken place. Things got so bad in August of 1998 after the of inestimable Osama bin Laden did some nasty things to the United States from his sanctuary here, that the Americans felt honor bound to send a rain of intercontinental cruise missiles to tone him down. Sadly for the Americans, bin Laden had already left for Afghanistan and a salami factory was struck killing numerous innocent people. However, such is life in what is now the dust bowl of the region.

Keep in mind that even the always level headed president of the United States, Bill Clinton became suddenly peaked by Sudan's offensive attitude and launched large missiles at the country. He then went on to claim that they all squarely hit the targeted locations, a pharmaceutical facility suspected of harboring a germ warfare manufacturing plant that really produced sausages, but by this time Clinton had declared victory over terrorism and went on to more important affairs. as he had much bigger fish to fry. It seems that Monica Lewinsky was throwing a hissy fit that day over being made to wait regarding her really important personal matters that he was handling for her. Not wanting to miss out on his afternoon conference with her, the over heated American President declared victory over Sudan and went about these more pressing matters.

Not wanting to be disturbed again with this sort of dalliance, Clinton ordered the  American Diplomats to leave Khartoum and set-up residences in nearby countries; in the meantime, they still occasionally visit Sudan on diplomatic issues. Sudan persists in being the world's greatest humanitarian crisis, but tends, due to a growing number of disasters, to be what has come to be called a "forgotten tragedy".  Brian Atwood, USAID's administrator, so characterized Sudan before the United States’ sub-committee on African affairs, without regard to the country's anti-American activities.

In Bed With The Bottom of the Barrel

Moreover, various alliances were struck by the warring factions with rogue nations such as Iran and Iraq. These deals did not help in the least as they made the country a sitting duck for international frustrations. Iraq build biological warfare plants here and Iran berthed their inconsequential navy in Sudan's waters. While this was not good news, everything in Sudan can get much worse if you only wait and that is exactly what happened. 

Iran made a deal with Sudan which sort of makes them a permanent house guest. They have leased bases at the Port of Sudan called Suakin and these leases still have almost twenty years to go.  The Iranians are using the territory of Sudan as a training base and probably a jumping off point for their armed forces. Moreover, Iran has installed their own radio broadcasting station in the Port of Sudan and are on the air day and night blurting out their brand of propaganda. They have identified Egypt as a country deserving special messaging and are going at it 24-hours a day.  However, the downside of this exercise could bite them in the foot, as eventually Egypt may become so annoyed that they invade Sudan, there are already a number of other matters that Egypt is smarting over involving the former Siamese twin. Whatever, other problems that Sudan has with Egypt, they may be small compared to the fact that literally Iraq and Iran are sharing the same country. Next door is Libya and if that isn't hell on wheels I don't know what is.  

However, the rentals were primarily a method of bringing Northern Sudan additional hard currency. Considering the need for hard currency on both sides, the south  started collecting people that they could sell into slavery. The north seeing that this idea worked joined in. People were uprooted and civil libertarians all over the world screamed foul. However, the biggest buyers of these slaves seems to be international human rights agencies that think that they are helping. They are only making matters worse by basically going along with the practice. What happens is that these agencies buy the people back out of bondage, feed them, cloth them and give them medicines. Thinking that they now have completed their job description, they let them loose and before you turn around, these pathetic creatures are recaptured once again and once again they are resold. One international agency has indicated that it bought the same man back over six times that they are aware of.

However, the fate of under-developed countries seems somewhat unimportant to the United States. While we are rather generous with our foreign aid, in this case there is no legitimate recipient. One side is literally worse than the other. Sudan, whose name literally means "Land of Blacks", wins our vote for the most dismal place on earth.  If the country has a redeeming feature, we have yet to ascertain it.  The country’s total gross revenues are an astounding, $482 million, while its expenditures are $1.5 billion. Its external debt hovers at $25 billion. If one were to do a mathematical computation and allowed Sudan to pay down their debt with their entire gross domestic product and if you simultaneously assigned a 5% interest to what it already owes, the country would never get out of debt or pay off one nickel of its principal. Both Egypt and Kenya are its neighbors and its relations with them as with most countries are very poor to say the least. Sudan leads the world in unemployment with it hovering around 30% and rising; with most of those employed involved in government or military activities. Agricultural production is dropping like a lead balloon while the country's per-capita income scrapes the bottom of the world’s barrel, at a dismal $330.

The civil war continues to be fought with vigor, and there are no niceties among the combatants. Hospitals are randomly bombed, food supply depots are considered a military targets, and starvation is a typical military tactic. To make matters even more confusing in this land of desolation, the American Central Intelligence Agency runs the various southern armies, which are ethnically diverse and the people often hate each other as badly as they hate those that they are fighting them from the north. However, this is easy to understand when you take into account the fact  that these are the people who sold their ancestors into slavery.  Carol Bellamy, head of the United Nations Children's Fund charged on March 16, 1999 that the practice of slavery as related to women and children was continuing in Sudan and if anything is expanding at an accelerated pace. The northern military armies are trained a led by the Islamic Militant States, directed by Iran.

Conscripts of a Third Kind

In reality, when push had come to shove, the United States and Iran have chosen to air out their grievances on this little known battlefield, virtually using these pathetic people as pawns. The stakes of the game vary dramatically; one million people have already died of starvation, with apparently millions more to come.  Almost another million have died of war injuries, and six million people have been uprooted from their homes.

U. S. Senator Sam Brownback said, "tens of thousands of non-Muslim Sudanese live as slaves and are branded, beaten, starved and raped at their masters' whim. At the same news conference, Congressman Frank Wolf indicated that in addition to many of the problems that Brownback had been referring to, he said that two-million Sudanese have been killed in the 16-year-old civil war going on in this country. Under-paid northern soldiers were given whatever women and children they captured as booty; they were allowed to either keep them for whatever use they could find, or in the alternative, they could sell them. 

These senators were protesting Presidential Orders that stopped most trade with Sudan, tied up those of its assets that were in the United States, and bombed suspected Sudanese military targets. They did not mention, though, the all out war that the CIA was running in the South in an effort to overthrow the pro-Iranian, pro Iraqi and pro Libyan regime. In the most strangest cut of all, these countries which make up two-thirds of Bush's Evil Empire and who can't get along on their own borders seem to do fine here in Sudan.

Organizations such as NBC News, Christian Solidarity International of Geneva, the State Department of the United States and the United Nations have all accused the Sudanese government of directly, either condoning or participating in the slave trade. The State Department has publicly announced that members of the Sudanese militia kidnap both women and children for use in either the northern part of Sudan or in other countries including Libya.

  “Two years ago, Anisia Achieng Olworo, a Sudanese Christian, told Catholic New Times of Toronto that women and children were being sold at $35 a head. Last year, Gaspar Biro, the UN’s special reporter on Sudan, informed the UN Human rights Commission that slavery was one of Khartoum’s weapons of war and that children were being sold for as little as $15. At the same time, bishop Macram Max Grassis, a spokesman for the Catholic bishops’ conference of Sudan, confirmed that 30,000 people from his own diocese in the Nuba Mountains had been enslaved. And last year Kevin Vigilante, a physician at Brown University who had led a fact-finding trip to Sudan for the Puebla Institute, told a U.S. House joint subcommittee that slavery in Sudan is “one of the most shameful if hidden atrocities of our times.”  ([2]

“… the government has engaged in a campaign of "cleaning up" city streets by rounding up alleged street children and sending them to special, closed camps. Many alleged street children were not street children at all, but were actually living with their families, and were captured while they were running errands such as going to market. These children were, nevertheless, packed off to the closed camps, without any government effort to find out if the child had a family, where it was, and what if any problem caused the child to be out on the street. Thus children have been separated for years and many remain separated from their families.”

 “There are at least three basic human rights problems with the Sudan government's program for street children: 1) the government arbitrarily removes the children from their families without any legal process and holds them in camps for years, usually without notifying their families. Families search for their missing children without any help from authorities; 2) the government does not respect the religious freedom of the children in that it gives them an Islamic religious education whether or not they or their families are Muslims; and 3) the government violates the children's right to their own identity, including their name, when it gives some children new names in Arabic and denies their heritage. These practices, which have been going on for years, violate the United Nations (U.N.) Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

“Some children have been captured in military raids on their villages and taken into household slavery by their captors. Dinka and Nuba children have predominated among those seized and exploited in this way. The government denies the existence of the problem and has made no effort to stop the practice or to punish those who treat Sudanese children as slaves. In addition, underage boys are forcibly recruited into the army or government-sponsored militias, while at the same time the government attempts to focus world attention on the SPLA's use of child soldiers.  ([3])

The United Nations considers Sudan a rogue state and has imposed travel sanctions on the government. Fielding's DangerFinder does not mince any words about how it sees this strange country:

“The Ethiopians have had their hands in the pie since 1987. Khartoum has also sought the assistance of Iran and Libya, including MiG-25s flown by Libyans. Even Iraq and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) lent a hand by flying bombing missions over the south."   

Getting Rid of the Guy Next Door

Oddly, in spite of the assassination attempts against Egyptian President Mubarak by Sudanese radicals, which has caused antipathy between the countries for years, even worse news was on the horizon. It  seems that Uganda believes that both Egypt and Sudan should be paying a toll to use the waters of the Nile, which originate in their country. This could cut off any possibility of restoring agricultural production to either country and the prospects of this happening are considered not beyond comprehension, after all, Uganda is and has always been Uganda. The country knows that this type of action will not play well in front of an international audience so that have started justifying the contemplated action by saying that the money that they receive for selling the water that is rightfully theirs will be used to do research and purchase medicines to fight the HIV virus. Uganda seems to be offering an interesting trade here, starvation in exchange for AIDS. 

In the beginning, starting with location, the Sudan never had a chance. Maybe it is only the fact that is geographically located close to what well may be the "cradle of civilization" that has contributed to its getting old before its time. After all, man or his predecessors could be found in this region over nine million years ago. From early times, to this day, this pathetic country has exported slaves. Moreover, even in Homer's time, the slaves were traded for trinkets, and on occasion, an upscale, table wine. Kidnapers from northern Sudan delivered their hapless victims from the south to their foreign clients on consignment. This system made sense in those days; as people lacked a way of examining the merchandise first hand; after all, this product was highly perishable and no one was about to go to Sudan to look at it first.  Rejected goods were immediately eradicated as it would cost more to return these folks than they were worth and new merchandise delivered forthwith; so to avoid annoying legitimate flesh buyers, northerners referred to their southern brethren as "slaves".

Since slaves were the nation's only export, the land was not highly coveted by others, and for the most part, nothing to dramatic occurred within the country’s borders until the late 1800's when maps started recording the existence of Sudan. Being highly competent in geography, the British noticing that Sudan was close to Egypt with whom they had a relationship, invaded the country. They were lead by the vainglorious British General, Herbert Kitchener. Victorious, they struck a deal with Egypt and let them run the country as sort of a joint venture between the two nations. Sudan became a pet rock, lovingly cared for by the dynamic duo. The Sudanese were given everything to make the country be successful except capital, markets, scientific know-how, a middle class and most important of all, industry. In spite of these deficits, things worked out amazingly well until a well-intentioned Egyptian Nationalist, assassinated Sir Lee Stack, Governor-General of Sudan in downtown Cairo. This incident was particularly annoying to the British, known at the time for their administrative talents; clearly a taint on an unblemished record.       

Assuming a Leadership Responsibility 

From that time forward, until 1955, the British barred the Egyptians from Sudan; moreover, it was in that year that  the country was granted its freedom. A democracy existed in name only for a few years, when it was formally suspended in the name of "honesty and integrity" by General Abboud, who led an army junta that had taken over the country's reigns. Strangely, there were those in Sudan who regretted the loss of a democracy that really never even existed.  The Southern Regions of Sudan became bases for revolutionaries of every shape and size. In July 1976 two of the revolutionary leaders infiltrated Khartoum and Omdurman, killing and maiming more than their fair share, before the Sudanese government recovered long enough to put the conspirators out of their misery with multiple  mercy killings.

Islam broke upon the scene with a rush in 1983, when President Jaafer Mohammed al-Numeiry announced with great pomp and circumstance that henceforth the penal code would be linked both "organically and spiritually" to Islamic Law. Thus, the good things in life such as alcohol and gambling would henceforth be banned and that was particularly sad because this was all the people had. Sudan, which was not exactly an real exciting place to begin with, soon became dullsville personified and the several tourists that had visited the place over the last millennium vowed not to return. The biggest event of that year was the new President's attempt to turn the Nile into a beverage by dumping the country's entire liquor stock into the river in one fell swoop. The excitement was more than many people on the banks of river could bear.  A number of the observers, needing medical treatment, threw themselves into the river in search of its curative properties. However, others said that it was the joy of seeing the "Devil eaten by the Nile" was an overwhelming religious experience. These folks of course did not speak for everyone and most could not stand the pain of all that good booze being taking out of circulation and groaned in total disbelief. It was noted that farm animals that used the Nile for grazing and certain species of crocodiles started acting extremely unusual  and for a time were actually social.

 Nevertheless, at that time, Sudan was running an massive food surplus and for that and other inexplicable reasons, displaced people in the general vicinity seemed to think that Sudan was a fabulous place to live. Countless displaced people headed for the border, but for some odd reason, Sudan did not believe in the Islamic custom of welcoming refugees, who were dubbed "Guests of Sudan". The so-called guests arrived in such enormous numbers in Sudan that the United Nations called the situation  "a disaster of major proportions", and goodie two-shoes agencies around the world started bringing in relief supplies by the planeload. Poor weather and overgrazing had by this time annihilated the country's food surplus and turned the nation into a pathetic hoard of international beggars. Nomads wandering aimlessly across the country looking for three squares a day would root up whatever had the color green in it. This caused farm exports to drop to zero and imports were necessary to feed the now starving population.

For the people that worked the land, it didn't much matter one way or the other, as most of their property had been sold to various absentee cartels that had little interest in sustaining topsoil or preserving water. The Unregistered Land Act in 1970, mandated that eminent domain meant less than nothing. A dirt farmer who worked the land for his entire life could continue to work the land but would not be allowed to ever own it; the profits would accrue to the Northern Government or its nominees.  Less than 1 percent of the total grazing and farming land available in Sudan is owned by the indigenous population.  Professional carpetbaggers abused these agricultural assets and transmitted the profits to their overseas banks, leaving the land hopelessly scarred and desolate. Thus, as the landscape continued its deterioration, cartels lost interest when they could no longer profit, and with little else to do for a living, the  people began migrating to urban areas to beg. Strangely, in this forlorn land, the food only existed in the cities rather than on the farms, as urban areas were the centers of distribution for the world's charities. Believe statistics show that much of the food that was distributed in  the north was resold to other countries at a profit rather than trans-shipping to the starving people in the south.

 



[1] Sudan visit unveils atrocities, Mikal Saahir, Indianapolis Recorder, 6-3-1995

[2] For sale: people. (Slavery in Sudan) Commonwealth, 1/17/1997

[3] Children in Sudan, The Human Rights Watch

 

 

 

 

 

 

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