Monday, October 24, 2005

Some observations on the new GOSS cabinet.........

As I look through the recently announced cabinet of Southern Sudan, its striking that we have once again lost the battle over the important portfolios to the National Congress. It is mind boggling that the SPLM leadership handed the portfolio of "Industry & Mining" to a representative of Omer ElBashir's party (albeit a southerner) after they adamantly refused to let us have Energy and Mining in the Government of National Unity.
The Northern ruling party used its prerogative as the senior partner in Khartoum to hold on dearly to Energy, and there is no logical reason that the SPLM should now roll over again and hand over the Industry and mining Ministry to a member of the National Congress. It is not questioning the patriotism of the selected minister to point out that a strategic position like that should have been held by the SPLM
and assigned to a strong and able fighter among the ranks of the Movement. The same holds for the Agriculture portfolio, an indication that the pledge by the leadership to "USE OIL TO FUEL AGRICULTURE" will not be seriously pursued since it is not high in the agenda of the movement as a political party and was thus thrown over to another party. This is very disappointing, and I hope that these strings of setbacks will stop at some point.
There has also been enough howling and protesting on list-serves about alleged scant representation by some ethnic groups. I understand if some groups feel slighted, and in a participatory democracy, they can cry foul. But I haven't seen any critiques that also rise above tribal grievances (legitimate as they maybe) to address glaring problems with the allocation of ministries and the placement of individuals based on their abilities and not just for the sake of political and sectional balancing.
At some point, we have to get to a time when the merits of the individuals or concrete issues like become the object of our debate as much as the representation of our tribes. After all, the history of our country has proven that the sons of some our regions did the most damage to their own people and regions. I would therefore, as a Southerner, be more concerned with the caliber of the people and not their lineage, since I am sure that their inclusion will not guarantee that they will wisely and fairly take care of me and you.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Thinking way Outside the box - Cow dung as a natural resource!!

Surfing the web looking for interesting and illuminating information has often led me in so many unexpected alleyways. In one of my recent forays, I came across this article from an Ohio State University research website about the potential uses of cow dung as an energy source.

The scientific details are certainly complex, but it is clear that it is a viable technological innovation that can certainly find great utility in Southern Sudan, where the source of cow DUNG is certainly plentiful.

Enjoy reading the article, and maybe we should all ponder how transfereable and scalable it could be in many parts of Southern Sudan.

Monday, October 03, 2005

A Retort to "Cut Crime Down in America by Aborting Black Babies

This is what the supposedly saintly Bill Bennett
had to say the other day about the crime rate.
Obviously, the controversial and clearly racist
remarks of Mr. Bennett show exactly the kind of base
and bigoted notions embraced by many people in the US.

From an entirely data driven point of view, there is
no obvious correlation between crime rates and the
race of the perpetrator of the crimes. When real
economists control for variables such as income level
and family circumstances, access to education and so
forth, race per se disappears as a compelling factor
in determining the propensity of a person to commit a
Mr. Bennett was commenting on a passage in a recent
book " FREAKANOMICS" that suggested an empirical link
between the declining US crime rates in the 1990s and
the landmark Supreme Court abortion legalization
ruling of 1973. But that passage in the book only
finds a causal connection between the two trends,
greater access to abortion and decling crime rates,
and does not per se suggest that the race of the
aborted fetus had anything to do with it. The authors
of the book reacted to this recent uproar on their
blog, and demolished much
of the fuzzy thinking that links race and crime as
disproportionately connected to the exclusion of other
factors. While many crimes are committed by black
people, the determining characteristic is not
neccesarily their race but rather their socio-economic
conditions while growing up.
Obviously, there is the other risk of swinging far
to the other side and impugning all lower income
people as prone to criminality, which is as immoral as
suggesting that blacks own the franchise on crime as
suggested by Mr. Bennett.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

African Governments Happily Doing Nothing!!!!

Like most Africans, I have pondered long and hard about the perpetually terrible state of our countries, and why we remain mired in poverty and conflict decades after decades. Like others, I can easily summon up my rage against the usual suspects: western subjugation going all the way back to colonialism, power hungry elites, an uneducated population, lack of a viable infrastructure, etc etc. These are all credible factors, and should certainly be assessed and dealt with by all who have the wherewithal and the desire to help the cause. Nonetheless, there is another factor that has been studied evenly, but that we should also address more. Before I venture any further, be forewarned that this article is about ills, so no rosy "on the other hand" turns of phrases here.

The governments of our African countries are essentially the first brigade in this multi-tentacled conspiracy to keep Africans poor and destitute. The biggest reason for their culpability is not just because they were and continue to be corrupt, that they perpetuate tribal and sectional divisions to dominate power, and that they strike treasonous deals with multinationals to sell their country's precious resources for the price of kickbacks.

These are certainly dastardly deeds, but I believe they pale in comparison with their systematic dismantling of the very foundation of modern state leadership. Corruption is bound to happen in any institution, and governments are not immune from such, but Africa's governments have exacerbated the ills of corruption by systematically diverting state money abroad while destroying the spirit of public service in the process. A recent article from the prospect magazine coherently lays out this argument as formulated by Matthew Lockwood in a book titled, The State They're In. It sounds rather grave to say, but most African governments are essentially setup and run without the slightest concern for the country's welfare. In Asia, many of the government institutions had their share of corrupt technocrats and politicians, but you get the sense that the graft was incidental to the larger enterprise of serving their country. In other words, corruption by the leaders and stakeholders was not the main show as it is in many African countries, but was rather carried out by some elements that can credibly be called public servants.

When the whole political infrastructure, civil service corps and assorted other institutions are dedicated to graft and power grubbing as an end in and of itself, it is safe to say that measurable progress is not desired as a goal. While the looted money from the depleted treasuries is stashed in Swiss bank accounts, the governments devote what is left of their resources to stifling the energies and industry of their people. It is not by accident that Agricultural innovations that are hundreds of years old and costing fractions in the world market are not deployed in the African countryside. Products that are produced in Africa lag in marketability because we have not kept up with the global quest for cheaper modes of production and faster vehicles of delivery. There is the perennial complaint about western governments subsidizing their farmers, but that’s only part of the problem, because we can not honestly argue that our own governments do enough to help the chances of our own farmers.

Nonetheless, the machinery of African governments is very efficient in directing the resources of their treasuries to buying arms and munitions in the world market. The supply chain processes in many African countries are fairly advanced in their military procurements, but they can hardly be expected to institute functioning water waste projects or healthcare systems to treat the millions in their own capital cities. They can buy fighter jets and state of the art radar systems, but implementing manufacturing plants for basic agricultural tools is beyond their abilities. They can certainly rig up whole cities for their oil multinational partners, but claim poverty when it comes to providing the same amenities for their people.

It is clear that many of these governments and their patrons are invested in the status quo, and would rather discourage the emergence of a better-fed and educated populace lest their grip on power be challenged. This article is full of generalized accusations, and certainly intentionally devoid of a lot of nuance, but if it gets you to look more closely at our very foundations of government, then it has served its purpose. As an African, it is sobering to realize that we got off on the wrong footing when the colonialist left and we continue to be lost in the wilderness. The whole enterprise is going nowhere, and it’s about time we admit it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Eriteria and the disillussion with the western Aid beaurocracy

I read this article today about a drastic step from the Eriterian government in its ongoing tug of war with the Western Aid agencies In Asmara. It goes to show how much real frustration policymakers in Africa are grappling with as they try to find a way to run their countries, accept foreign assistance and develop their people and infrastructure. It is hard to tell whether the Eriterians are right to suspend the operations of USAID, but I am sure it was precipitated by their realization that the foreign aid apparatus as setup is not working.

It is hard not to come to the bitter conclusion that Aid organizations are somehow, conciously or unconciously, invested in the dire status quo. The exorbitant administrative costs, the luxurious vehicles, the ample accomodation in third world capitals, the ready supply of good food and entertainiment, all in all, suggest that the institutions are employment bureaus for jaded idealists and not results oriented do-gooders. Actions such as the one taken by the Asmara government might herald a new dawn where the local african governments are decisive partners and players in the efforts, and not mere supplicants waiting for pronouncements and directives from the smug foreign consultants.

Oil contracts, Western Aid and Southern Sudan

As the new government of Southern Sudan starts operation in the next few months, it is worth examining some of the challenges that it will face. I say some, because the list is long and depressing, but also as a means of sifting and prioritizing these challenges. As we have all read and heard, there is what could only be mildly called a case of heightened expectations by our people, and anxious anticipation by many commercial and development institutions looking forward to working in Southern Sudan.

As an emerging oil producer, we should seriously pay heed to the experience of similar countries and regions that entered into concession contracts with big multinationals. A recent Economist article by Sanou Mbaye, a former African Development Bank economist, gave me pause and starkly outlined the acute unfairness inherent in the dealings between the African governments in one side, and the West with its Oil companies and financing institutions. In the case of Sudan, they are projecting production rates of 227,000 barrels a day, much of which will be extracted from the Southern region. Besides the usual culprits such as graft and corruption, the author illuminated the fact that the very contractual instruments that these extraction schemes are based are predatory and dishonest.

A stark example is that of the West African nations of Cameroon and Chad, both of which just struck oil deals financed by the World Bank with multinationals such as Chevron, Patrons and Exxon. The annual net returns for Chad and Cameroon from the exploitation of their natural resources come out to $62 Million and $18.6 respectively. The return for the World Bank, The European Investment Bank and the other Oil Multinationals is estimated at $4.7 Billion annually. Now, just try to wrap your head around those numbers and get some coherence out of them. It is inconceivable that the cost for the financing and operation of these oil concessions justifies such a disparity in returns for the parties. This just goes to show that there is a big gulf between what the World Bank means when it trumpets poverty eradication, and what its actions and lending practices impose on the ground in the poor capitals of Africa. All the talk about corrupt African governments falls short of the mark because it leaves out an integral co-conspirator in the looting of our treasures, and that is the global institution and its clients that work to facilitate this looting. In Chad, you are talking about the government potentially looting from an annual pool of $62 million dollars, while the Oil companies walk out with billions of dollar in broad daylight and without any shame. In fact, they walk out repeating the same refrains about corrupt Africans and how much good they are doing in these poor backwaters. Moreover, if we are talking about mere hundreds of millions in returns from the oil sector, then we should snap out of our dreams and recognize that Oil is not the source of salvation that many people are counting on. The Nigerian experience, where the par capita income of the citizenry hasn’t budged from $1 a day, should be a sober reminder that we need to cultivate other means besides counting on this finite natural resource.

In the context of Southern Sudan, it is important that the new GOSS enshrines transparency as a hallmark of their dealings in the Oil and Reconstruction sectors, and that the commissions mandated by the CPA be constituted to function without backroom dealing. It is also important that they stay vigilant when dealing with our more experienced partners from the government who have mastered the art of fudging the numbers and hiding the real costs and returns from the Sudanese people. The expectations of the people need to be tempered sufficiently back to the reality of reconstruction, especially at the scale needed in Southern Sudan. The leadership should use the bully pulpit of government to stress a new mobilization from everyone for development, much the same as the one we mustered for the recently concluded war. Investment in the educational and Agricultural sectors will thus produce greater reproducible results, and hasten the day when our greatest economic returns will come from sectors that produce finished products and services. No developed country in the face of the Earth got there by feverishly selling its natural resources to greedy speculators and swindler, while ignoring schemes that depend on a resourceful and active workforce. The tigers of Southeast Asia have shown us that fostering a climate of internal trade and cooperation, self dependency, realistic expectations, and open political participation can lead to poverty alleviation and prosperity faster than foreign aid and World Bank schemes. While it is true that we live in an interconnected world order dominated by some big players, it is wise to also start thinking clearly about ways to wean ourselves away from dependence.

A Cautionary tale

It has been a few weeks since the terrible loss of our leader Dr. John Garang, and people are slowly starting to heed the refrain that they should go back to doing their part in carrying the torch forward. There is no doubt that the enemies of this nascent peace agreement are plenty and certainly not limited to the radical elemants of Northern hegemony in Khartoum. Much ink has been and will continue to be shed by others about the notorious purveryors of religious zeolotry and regional hegemony against the marginalized peole of sudan, but I want to address the other threats that we rarely consider comprehensively.

In the context of Southern sudan, our biggest problem is the ignorance of some of our people and the forces that benefit and traffic in it, and the utter weakness of our political institutions. Well meaning Southerners have been duped by some of our opportunistic intellegencia to view everything in the lens of short term tribal and sectional advantage. Many of our communities are led by people who derive their legitimacy from trumpeting their tribal pedigrees, and not as national leaders who appeal across the board to all people. It is the tragedy of Africa, manifested clearly in Sudan, that political leaders do not have to pay heed to any measurable standards of performance and results. Instead, they relentlessly dedicate their life to jockeying for power till they die. Rarely have we heard a politician or what passes for political parties in our communities devise and present a blue-print for governance and development within a set timetable, and many of our politicians lack an overarching political philosophy that informs their positions besides the quest for power.

The political parties in the North present a terrible and dangerous precedent for governance, coherence and vitality, and their example should not be emulated in the South. Their track record in government can only be charitably called abysmal, and particularly that of the UMMA party. After 16 years of a military led government, the best that many of these parties could resort to is to jockey for short term influence in the centralized decision making apparatus in Khartoum. Their manifestos, if there are any, do not and have never contained any clear positions addressing the marginalized areas of the country, and the South in particular. They intentionally set about the corruption of whatever little political and civil society apparatus in the South through inducement and tribal incitement. It is therefore clear that the Bashir government only escallated what was clearly an innovation of the Northern Political parties, and the blame for the intractable problems of the country should be apportioned equally among these parties. Internally, these Northern parties have not revitalized their ranks since independance with the kind of diverse energy that ensures improvements in visions and practices.

We can go on and on tabulating all the ills and what they portend for our Southern Sudanese political climate in the next few years, but that can also be futile. There are some bright spots, and they should be augmented and reinforced by all concerned citizens. The SPLM, as the dominant player in the Southern region, at least during the interim period, is blessed with a coherent and clear vision that will certainly help immensely as it embarks on implementing real policies. I can already hear the refrain of others who think that coherence and clarity are not the hallmarks of these New Sudan vision. My consistent counter-argument has always been that by word and by deed, the movement has articulated and stood behind a simple clear reading of the Sudanese problem, and presented a resolution that is both idealistic in principle and pragmatic in practice.

The idealism is embodied by the vision of a secular, fair and just society where the rights of all citizen are protected without prejudice, and where the levers of power and the spoils of wealth and prosperity are distributed equally among all Sudanese. The geopolitical pragmatism is however clearly embedded in the detailed parameters of the CPA which allows for the unfortunate possibility that the Northern power elite is not mature enough, and certainly callous enough, as to reject a resolution that is both fair and transformative. It is therefore clear that the SPLM has fullfilled its pledge to defend the interests of the diversity of its constituents, both the hopeful segments who believe in a transformed Sudan, and the realists who have given up any notions that the political map in Sudan can be so drastically reformed. That is more than can be said for many of the critics of the movement who are ostensibly separatists by acclamation, but bona fide members of the Islamist National Congress Party of Omer Bashir. It is therefore hard to take seriously charges of incoherence from such quarters, given their own distorted positions. Back to the bright spots: the social upheaval caused by the war sent scores of our people to the North and the diaspora, and those multitudes will add to our shallow pools of educated people who can assist in their country's reconstruction. It is my hope that their experiences in societies that stress individual innovation and free critical thinking will enrich the fabric of their communities when they come back to participate. The women in the diaspora will hopefully return with an emboldened and proactive attitude towards the question of participating in the affairs of their communities, and that is a good omen too if the government's policies are structured to support that as promised.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Sossa in exile!!!

One of the pass-times that many Southern Sudanese love to engage in is discussing the foibles and peculiar behaviors of our fellow southern Sudanese in whatever situation they might be in. It is interesting in a sense because we all end up talking about "junubbin" in a detached and fairly critical manner, and implicitly suggesting that we speak of others. It's not a uniquely southern Sudanese propensity, because all communities engage in the same sort of social criticism and satire about their communities.

I always thought that this particular habit has undercurrents of condescension and derision that are not always productive in a community. Alas, while that point can be more comprehensively dissected by others, I think it would serve us all well to debate the effects that our forced exile and immersion in other communities in the Diaspora had wrought on our social conditions.

Thousands of young southern Sudanese adults are scattered all over the globe, and observing some of them in the myriad social occasions that bring them together highlights the intense affinity and yearning that they have for their homeland and people. It is clear that the initial alarm that many people back home had about their relatives and offspring essentially abandoning their homeland and disappearing into their new western societies is unfounded.

I believe many factors have combined to render such a possibility moot. One critical aspect was that the resettlement process of the refugees from Egypt and East Africa resulted in the formation of reasonably large numbers of Sudanese in certain US, Canadian and Australian localities. That has resulted in the formation of fairly cohesive communities that are self-supporting in their new environments, and not necessarily inclined or pressured by want or need to subordinate their intrinsic cultural identities in the service of being absorbed into the larger dominant community.

The resettlement regime by the UN also indiscriminately assessed all potential candidates and families without any pre-ordained age, educational or experience criteria. That was in keeping with the guidelines of the UN refugee charters, but had the indirect effect of bringing a very diverse pool of refugees that could essentially readily establish functioning mini-communities in their new locales. It is therefore possible to go to the Midwest in the United States or Sidney in Australia, and find a vibrant community teeming with young couples, workaday striving single men and women, wise grandmothers helping raise grandkids, fathers leading a typical seven offspring household... etc.

That is a great benefit in the sense that immersion into the new community now occurs in a more deliberate manner, and with the support, direct or not, of others who have gone through the process. Positive aspects of our cultures can still germinate and prosper in this new environment, while a slower accommodation of newer modes of living and learning that are positive can occur.

I believe that these unique sets of circumstances will make the overall project of turning this exile into a contributing factor t0 the development of Southern Sudan possible. These communities of Southern Sudanese in exiles can certainly follow the steps of other ethnic groups that found themselves in the same situation in the West decades ago. A very positive model is that of the enterprising Indian immigrants in the United States and the rest of North America. It has become an article of community pride for them to translate their success abroad into real contributions in their homeland. The Indian Engineering and Computer sector is the pride of Asia nowadays because much of the talent that achieved success in those fields abroad have redirected their energy towards utilizing that success, and their connections in the West, to drag their country into the 21st century. While most Indians remain destitute, the pace of education and innovation is slowly but surely making a big dent in the fight against poverty.

It seems irrationally optimistic to start dreaming of such undertakings for our people, but setting on the path to achieving those dreams starts with such simple insights and a healthy dose of confidence in our people. It is critical that the policy makers in Southern Sudan have the foresight to dream large, and then lay the ground and foster an environment where such dreams can be achieved. The policy makers have to strife to make it amenable for people to come and participate in development, encourage and assist their input on decisions, and generally incentivise people with specific expertise to work in the country.

It is a pity that we have such great affinity to politics, and very minimal regard for acquiring purely technical expertise that can return tangible benefits to our people. While it is laudable to spout off all day about representation and south-south dialogue, I wish our people will sometimes take a break and also start talking about plans to provide clean water, eliminate river blindness and assorted other plagues. I wish some of our leaders would one day resign from whatever post they have because their plan to dispense malaria antidotes or dig wells was being obstructed by the cabinet or some department. That would be a principled break from the usual bickering about seats on commissions and tribal or regional representations in the cabinet.

Anyway, I digress, but members of the communities of our people in the Diaspora need to be involved in ensuring that the human capital that we have here can produce maximum returns. It is clearly a numbers game that should not be allowed to organically work itself out, but should be nurtured and nudged in the right direction. Small gestures of appreciation to our youngsters who graduate from High School and beyond, incentives to encourage community involvement by kids in projects to assist other kids back home, and myriad other small scale projects will result in the development of a great core of southern Sudanese that will strive in the West while always making sure they never forget their homeland.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

This is just so funny!!!!..and really strange.........

It is a given cliche, a true one of course, that all of us are more similar than not. It is certainly true in a purely physiological or biological sense, but that is certainly not the case when it comes to our cultures and the little rituals and games we play.

I just thought of that after reading the blog of a black man teaching English to really crazy kids in Japan. I just had to post a link to his blog. It will make you laugh:)!!!!

Draft of the Interim constitution of Sudan...

Here's a link to the draft interim constitution as formulated by the SPLM and the Government of Sudan. The draft is now being discussed and updated by the newly established constitutional review commission.

There are many clauses enshrined in this document that, if formalized, will usher in real progressive changes in the protection of the rights of all citizens, and the institution of a fairer system of power and resource allocation. It is also true that some of its clauses will have to be adjusted once the other political entities voice their opinions during the review process.

What should never be tempered with are the cardinal issues resolved during the peace negotiations between the two parties. The complete implementation of the CPA is essential if any of the other demands of all the other parties can ever get realized. Any abrogation of the basic outlines of the CPA will render the whole process a sham, and spur on other forces to reignite the conflict. The sincere implementation of the CPA will give the upcoming government of National Unity the requisite popular support and moral voice to successfully and peacefully resolve the grievances of our fellow Sudanese in the West and the East.

IT has been a while!!

Well, I am back dropping a few lines after a fairly long hiatus. A lil less than a whole month to be exact; but who is counting?!!!!

I actually write this blog for me and the two people that I pay to periodically scan it and make me feel like I am adding something!!! I would get more readers, but it has been difficult to bribe and browbeat more folks at the measly rates I am offering....

Well, what did i miss pontificating about????

The biggest story playing around is the constitutional review process taking place in Khartoum. Notice that it is now a review process and not an outright constitutional writing commission. The outlines of the new Interim Constitution have been drawn by the SPLM and the Government before hand, and the process going on now is an attempt to marshall as much political support from other quarters as possible.

I am all in favor of that, because the two parties should be able to formalize the Naivasha Comprehensive Agreement into an Interim Constitution that by definition will serve to guarantee the implementation of that agreement. Having a full blown renegotiation of the basic parameters of the new constitutional arrangement in Sudan within the Commission willl result in revisiting the settlement of the war in the South. That should not be allowed, and the Northern opposition parties that have delusions of using the commission to regurgitate the whole process should be told to take a hike. A minimum requirement for participating in the political elections that will take place before the end of the 6 year period should be the explicit pledge to honor the CPA to the letter. It would be nonsensical to allow the Northern parties to contest the upcomiung elections while not abiding by the timetable set forth in the Naivasha agreement.

The traditional Northern political parties and their partisans have predictably cried foul over statements by SPLM and Government spokesmen outlining a clause correlating the explicit acceptance of the letter and spirit of the interim constitution with future participation in elections in Sudan. They are suggesting that the SPLM has sold its soul to the NIF and joined in a cynical pact to rule the country in a new dictatorial arrangement.

If there is any cynicism to be parcelled out, the Northern Political parties should have the lion's share. They have previously endorsed the CPA, but are now objecting to one of the core guarantees for that agreement. Without an Interim Consitution that enshrines the CPA as a binding obligation on any government ruling the country during the interim period, there is no definite guarantee of implementation. That is especially acute becasue the CPA also endorses nationwide polls halfway through the interim period, and those polls can bring to power any number of political groups in the country. Therefore, if those polls are fair and democratic, whats the harm in stipulating that whoever participates in them has to honor the implementation of the second half of the CPA timeframe. Only someone cynical and with ulterior designs, and additionally not sincerely committed to the agreement that ended the bloodshed in the South, would have trouble committing to such a clause.

It is important that we not get seduced by all the flowery language about democratic rule and plurality from the parties in the North that have not always practiced those principles. The war lasted for 23 years becase successive regimes in Khartoum refused to take the moral leap and resolve teh conflict fairly. Now remnants of those same groups are now saying that the CPA is not necessarily a faire resolution to the conflict, and that they would like to reserve the right to revisit its terms if they ever have the power to do so. They have not said so in as many words, but politics is about devining the intentions of others through the prism of their previous actions. It is clear that such an interpretation is reasonable, and I am glad that the parties to the CPA are taking due caution in protecting against such future shenanigans.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Billions of Promises to Keep

HERE is a link to Kofi Annan's NY times article on the Oslo Donors Conference on Sudan. It clearly illustrates the difficulty that many previous relief efforts had with converting pledges into hard cash.

It should only spur the future government to be wise and honest custodians of the people's money. The bulk of these reconstruction efforts will have to be locally driven, and powered by the ingenuity of the Sudanese people in leveraging their natural resources for their collective good.

A $4.5 billion pledge!!! Call the collection agencies!!!!!!!

The billions pledged for reconstruction in Southern Sudan have certainly made many of us hopeful and grateful. The question remains about how soon some of these funds will start to be used to address the immediate needs.

In a previous post I argued that it was unwise for the US government to literally link the delivery of their contributions to improvements in the plight of the citizens in Darfur. My argument was that the loser in the intransigence of the Khartoum government is the poor Southern brothers and sisters of the equally victimized Darfur civilians. I believe that it was mere posturing by the US administration to insist on such a linkage, and my hunch was confirmed by the Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick seeming to back away
from the finding of Genocide in Darfur. That finding was echoed and emphatically promoted by none other than former Secretary of State Colin Powell last year. It might thus be the case that the US government is pursuing a different policy on Darfur and not really closing the noose around the regime to compel it to act.

Back to the pledged; collecting the funds is not going to be easy from previous experiences, and the Norwegian Development minister dwelled on that possibility a lot during the conference.

My headline above not withstanding, I believe that the best way to attain maximum international donor relief is to expeditiously, transparently and aggressively start to spend some of the allegedly escrowed $1.0 billion in Oil money owed to the Southern Sudan government by the Khartoum government.

Resettlement of refugees and former combatants, mass vaccinations against diseases, small scale water projects, power generation and rehabilitation in the more populated towns, water projects and other smaller ventures should be staged and scaled all over the South with these funds. By showing the international community that a measurable degree of progress will be independently and locally achieved, we would then be in a stronger position to get even more assistance, both technical and financial.

That is why I am lamenting all the lost time in completing the constitution review process and the formal installation of the government in Southern Sudan. Clearly, the institutions in the South cannot have immediate access and proceed to spend these funds until they are officially constituted. I am sure that there are legitimate reasons for the delay, and we cannot discount the political jockeying among all parties as the main culprit, but I would hope that shortcuts and compromises would be made to expedite the process. Every month lost to all this zillion meetings and conferences is time that could have been utilized to bring some relief to some of our least fortunates compatriots back home.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

You Want South-South Dialogue??

South-South dialogue as a concept and a cause has been parrotted so relentlessly by so many people that it has now turned into a cliche almost. Its amazing that a fairly simple idea that should have universal appeal can easily be so politicized and co-opted. But that's what happens when pedestrian and even cynical political calculations become the lens through which we see everything.

But here's what I think of this dialogue and what its should be all about. ( I have the perogative to use that grave elder statesman intro here; cuz its my blog buddy!!!:)

This SS dialogue is not only about various political actors and parties demanding the convening of a conference in Nairobi with the SPLM leadership. Its not about Southerners in Khartoum, both government of Sudan supporters and die-hard opponents of the regime, demanding a share of the cabinet and legislature in the new SS government. It should be about a collective expansion of the arena to accommodate perennially ignored sectors of our communities.

Women and Young people remain totally marginalized from the affairs of their community, eventhough they are the fuel that continued to power the struggle throughout the last decades. I have yet to see many of the people demanding this dialogue actually put their slogans to work, and actually convene broad conversations with their people about the future of the country. The SPLM must be called upon to engage other voices in setting the course of Southern Sudan as the dominant political entity on the ground, but that's just one aspect of these overall efforts.

It is clearly evident that many of our elders think of these dialogue as one between them and their rivals for the leadership of Southern Sudan. It does not concern us poor commons, and if not for the stubborn rebels in Nairobi, it would have been convened a few years back in a Hotel there or in Switzerland, and we would have another ecumenical High Executive Council with the seats apportioned fairly. Then, Southern Sudan would have really engaged in dialogue and presented a united front to our enemies in Khartoum.

Is that the SS dialogue we want??????? I don't think so.

The daunting challenges ahead in Southern Sudan!!!

Thousands of our skilled expatriates must be thinking that now is the time to go home and possibly contribute effectively in the coming redevelopment of Southern Sudan in particular. But we all know that the challenges are plenty, and the groundwork for luring more of our people to actually go back and be agents of change and progress are not there yet.

But here is what I believe our seminal challenge will be during this anticipated reconstruction period. The challenge will be to resist the urge to think of progress and development as the sole provinces of our government institutions. The expectation that whatever monetary inflows from the oil revenues and international aid will be the only guarantee of the success of the reconstruction effort is a dangerous one that one must check.

Moreover, I think a greater factor in determining the future fate of our country will be the climate that prevails during the next 2 years. Law and order remain major components of guaranteeing this conducive social order. Equally critical is the transparency of the governing institutions during the transitional period.

Our various communities are edging slowly out of decades of displacement and anarchy, and currents of anxiety, distrust and trauma are flowing all over the place. The onset of rampant corruption, nepotism or abuse by the custodians of the new government in the South will reignite all these suppressed fears and totally destroy the rebuilding process.

These are primary challenges that all of our genuinely concerned people should contribute towards addressing with foresight and openness. Participating in the political and social discourse underway is the first step to make sure we are talking renaissance in 6 years, and not anarchy and war.

Norway Donor's Conference.. what gives?!!!

Like many Southern Sudanese, I followed with interest the buildup to the conference in Norway on donor commitments and pledges for reconstruction in Sudan. The latest news suggest that the pledge amounts exceeded the expectations and requests of the Sudanese and the various NGOs that conducted assessments on post-war needs.

What was a bit dismaying was how the Americans are now conditioning their pledges to the resolution of the Darfur conflict. Obviously, Darfur's situation needs to be resolved, and all Sudanese of all stripes would agree that a dominant strand in the NIF power clique in Khartoum was the main catalyst and instigator of the genocidal conflict in the region.

What should not immediately follow is to correlate whatever needed international assistance to the beleguered Southern Sudan to the political gymnastics taking place with regards to Darfur.

The two regions have suffered, among other marginalized areas, in the hands of successive Northern regimes, and now the International community is trying to use assistance to Southern Sudan as a stick to prod the Khartoum government to act more responsibly in Darfur. I don't see how denying the nascent authorities in Southern Sudan the funds they need to resettle people and start to reconstruct the war devastated South is an incentive for Khartoum's current rulers to hurry up and halt the war in Darfur.

That just shows, even with good intentions, some of the highest echelons of the western powers are clueless about how their policy positions really play out in the developing world. It reminds me of the hoopla made by the Americans at the begining of the Darfur crisis when they announced the denial of travel privileges and freezing of the assets of the leadership of the so-called Janjaweed Militias.

  • These tribal leaders are stooges of their masters in the government security forces.
  • They do not have assets that can be frozen in Washington.
  • They have never, nor are they inclined, to visit or hobnob with anyone in the West or even any other African capital.
Thats pure impotence masquareding as the new TOUGH INTERNATIONAL ORDER.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

White Nile again!!!!

The entreprenuers who started White Nile to such fanfare with their announcement about a deal with the SPLM for explorations rights in Southern Sudan are now taking their news-making act to South Africa.

Apparently, they are set to announce a new agreement for major mineral rights in that country.

White Nile fever spreads South

If you are enterprising enough, which I am not, get with Phil Edmonds or Andrew Groves and you might just become a millionaire mogul if the shares of the new venture blow from 10p to 137p as the White Nile shares did before being suspended.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

51 suspects, One tough jam!!!!

Here's a story about the noose tightening around the genocide suspects in Khartoum.

Political Suicide???

I am not sure what grand geo-political calculations the NIF government in Khartoum is engaging in with regards to the UN resolution on Darfur.

It is clear that they have totally misplayed their hands with regards to the outcome of the back and forth between the United States and the Europeans in the Security Council. They were caught off guard by the American compromise on the referrals to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, and their hopes of forever being shielded by their Chinese enablers with the threat of a veto did not pan out.

Now, their choices are pretty limited. They are now looking at potentially having some of their luminaries in Khartoum join Radko Mladic in the list of wanted genocide perpetrators, and without any potential political compromise that will save them and even some of their cynical pursuers in the Security Council.

This is rather bleak, because there would not be any need for any calculation and manuevering if they would carry out their MORAL and LEGAL obligation, and halt and destroy the mechanism of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Darfur.

But doing things the right way the first time has never been the strong suit of the ruling power elite in Khartoum. They prefer to let it burn while launching and supporting hateful religious crusades until they run out of options.

Kinda like the so called second coming of Sallah Eldin Al Ayoubi, Saddam Hussein.

Monday, April 04, 2005

WHITE NILE, the saga continues!!!

Well, I think White Nile might be back in the news again. A link to their latest news is below.

White Nile Circular expected April 14 or 15

More White Nile

I hope it all works out, because I hear the arrangement with the SPLM is structured in a way that is an innovation and an improvement on the usual setup that African governments enter into with the usual sharks, i.e. BP, Shell, Total..etc............

But then again, savvy oil entreprenuers like our friends at White Nile would certainly say that to set themselves apart...

PS......Dear Oil Multinationals, Do not sue me for calling you sharks...I am only kidding!!!!

Here's a Radical Idea!!!

I just perused a couple of the sudan-oriented websites, namely Gurtong and Sudan.Net.

These are immensely informative and useful portals for all news about Sudan and the developments in the country and abroad. But I am afraid its also true that one of their best features has been eroded by the incredibly negative debating that goes on in the discussion boards.

Gurtong is miles ahead of in readibility I must say, and not all posts are half-baked arguments from people trumpetting their latest tribal or sectional grievances. But a good chunk of it is, and thats unfortunate.

But whats more insidious is that the intentions and patriotism of every Southerner, both the various political leaders and fellow posters, is relentlessly questioned.

So, no matter how in vain it might be, here is a radical idea. Why not disagree in general without immediately assuming that your adversary in whatever debate is a disloyal, corrupt and good-for-nothing fellow or gentle lady.

Of course, thats not such a radical or original though. In fact, its one of my recycled nuggets of wisdom. I would imagine that all of us agree with that, but few of us practice it!!!!!

SPLM finally in Khartoum!!

Well, we finally have the 100+ SPLM delegation in Khartoum to jump start the implementation of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Its a good omen, at least, cuz now the rubber hits the road and the two parties can finally start putting some legs on their promises to implement fully the outlines of the agreement.

As usual, snags and obstacles loom all around us. The Northern traditional parties have their fangs out ready to do battle over the composition and outcome of the agreed upon interim constitutional commission.

Myriad southern groups, both ideological soul mates of the SPLM, and die-hard opponents, are looming in the shadows demanding their rightful place on the table.

I say rightful with reservations however, because many of the groups challenging the movement are asking for shares in the cabinet and various government seating arrangements, and not necessarily prepared to present a viable national political program for the future of Southern Sudan. At least the Northerners couch their disagreements around their varied positions on addressing the challenges and accomodating the demands from the south and the other marginalized areas.

Moreover, its unfortunate that many Southern groups formerly aligned with the Government are using blackmail by threatening to reignite the war if their demands for shares in the future dispensation of power in Southern Sudan are not accomodated.

I would hope, and many southerners would concur, that the wise thing to do would be to challenge the SPLM as a political party and offer alternatives that are more practical, forward looking and inclusive that what they believe the Movement is offering. Dangling the threat of resorting to being a proxy for the elite Northern power cabal within Southern Sudan is only irresponsible, and will certainly not reap any political dividents with the Southern Sudanese masses.

However, I must note that not all opponents of the SPLM and its leadership are sellouts, and not all of them are potential reincarnations of Mangosuthu Buthelezi in a Sudanese guise. As many of us remember, Buthelezi played an unfortunate role in fomenting violence and hatred among blacks in South Africa when he used his ZULU-based Inkatha Freedom Party to challenge the ANC after Mandela was released from prison.

A good number of Southern Sudanese have geniune disagreements with the SPLM, and I hope and pray that the SPLM will engage them fairly in the political arena and let the competing view points duke it out for the support of the people.

Who Am I ?????? I am Wau Nar, B&%$%

I am glad you are here perusing my tiny corner of the vast world wide web. Here's the 411 on me!!!Sudanese native residing in the outer margins of the cesspool of international politics and intrigue: Washington DC.

This is where the destinies of the world's billions can sometimes be compromised by the whims of a few. But, alas, thats a rant for another time!!!!

Anyway, I finally decided to join these non-stop rant commune inhabited by the infamous and the self important..i.e the blogosphere.

I wanted to see how much incredible idiocy i can wring out of myself for sports, after being the voluntary recipeint of an infinite amount.

So, enjoy yourself, and trust me, you won't be any wiser after getting your daily diet of recycled wisdom from the Herbsman himself. At least I am being honest about my limitations here...


The next conclave: would it not be great if Arinze gets the nod???

In a little more than 2 weeks, the college of cardinals will set about electing the next pope. Like most objects of fascination, this event will be the focus of much speculation, and as usual, many people will be placing their bets on who the choice of the college will be.

Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria has been mentioned over the last few years as a leading candidate to succeed John Paul II.

The standard refrain from vatican and church officials is that the selection process is not your typical political horse trading exercise subject to back room dealing. That' s a company line that is obviously belied by the history of these conclaves over the centuries, and the very fact that ideology and geographic considerations have played major roles in the elevations of many popes.

In Africa, the Catholic Church is now experiencing its greatests growth, and more importantly, its greatest challenge for the allegiances of millions of people. That would suggest that an African pope might signal a seismic reformation in the church and the expansion of its foundation beyond its historical base in Western Europe.

I would love to see Arinze get the nod, but his odds in my opinion are very low.