War is raging again in South Sudan, bringing its usual catalogue of abuses, misery and civilian suffering. Government forces have apparently made substantial gains in Unity State – but have been accused of terrifying crimes. Witnesses who spoke to Amnesty International gave chilling accounts ‘of the government forces setting entire villages on fire, killing and beating residents, looting livestock and other property, committing acts of sexual violence and abducting women and children.’ Other similar reports came from, for example, UNICEF. Needless to say, the SPLA has denied the claims. Meanwhile, Riek Machar’s SPLM-IO rebels, together with Johnson Olony’s Shilluk militia, known as Agwalek, launched an assault targeting the Upper Nile oilfields, after Olony had taken the state capital Malakal. Given the record of these forces, there is every likelihood that they committed abuses too. On Monday, the SPLA said it had regained control of Malakal. On Facebook, the usual crowds of keyboard warriors have been fighting their virtual battles and applauding the triumphs of the actual soldiers on the ground. Government supporters have been particularly effusive in praise of ‘King Paul’, Paul Malong, the bellicose SPLA Chief of Staff, who is receiving much of the credit for his army’s recent […]
When Sudan’s Vice-President Hassabo Abdul Rahman declared on 22nd March 2015 the “non-existence of any signs of extremism or [related] terrorism” in his country, the irony could not have been greater. Just a day earlier a group of nine Sudanese university students, four women and five men, had traveled in secret to Turkey and then into ISIS-controlled territory in Syria. Most of the students, who are all in their early twenties, were born and raised in the UK and returned to Sudan to attend university. They all studied at, or recently graduated from, the University of Medical Studies and Technology (UMST) in the capital Khartoum. UMST is the country’s top private university for rich kids. Political activities there are strictly prohibited. However, Ahmad Babikir, the dean of student affairs at UMST, acknowledged that some radical Sheikhs were allowed to give speeches and lectures at the university under the auspices of the Islamic Civilization Association (ICA), an extracurricular student body. Regardless of whether these students went to Syria to fight with ISIS or not, the fact that UMST, which is owned by a member of the ruling party, Mamoun Hummidah, who is also the Khartoum State Minister of Health, allowed only […]
If this was a boxing match the referee would never have let it go the distance. Omar al Bashir received 94% of the vote in overwhelmingly one-sided elections that were boycotted by the opposition, criticised in the West and even by the African Union, and failed to excite the Sudanese. The contrast with the 2010 polls – flawed though they were – was evident. Five years ago, opposition politicians campaigned vigorously, even if many then dropped out of the race, and ordinary Sudanese were engaged. For a brief period it seemed as if democracy might take hold in Sudan. In the end, the 2010 elections were a disappointment. The international community’s failure to strongly criticise the irregularities, through fear of jeapordising the upcoming referendum on southern Sudan’s future, sent a strong message to the Sudanese: elections don’t matter. The lesson appears to have been learnt. This time round, Bashir was faced with a list of opponents so little known that even he may not have heard of all of them. In time, these elections may be given the same sort of status accorded to the 1996 and 2000 polls, the first two the president won, which scarcely merit a mention […]
Five years ago, the center of Khartoum was dominated by campaign posters showing President Omar al Bashir—and advertisements showing a handsome young man drinking a non-alcoholic beer called Champion. Some Sudanese joked that the election was a two-horse race between Bashir and Champion. The National Congress Party won that election chiefly by mobilizing its 5.4 million members, who accounted for most of the 7.3 million votes cast in northern Sudan, and the 6.5 million for President Bashir. Last week, probably less than 40 percent of the 13.8 million voters showed up at the polls. The National Electoral Commission says that 4.8 million voted. This reveals an interesting fact: the total number of voters was fewer than the NCP members in 2010. Perhaps Champion won this time. Alex de Waal is Director of the World Peace Foundation.
It looks like a funeral, it sounds like a funeral – but it isn’t, not really. The men pick up an angharaib, its wooden frame partially covered by a white shroud. A crowd look on, some sheltering from the sun in a makeshift condolences tent. The video, filmed on a mobile phone, picks up lamentations and prayers. But there is a light, almost mocking edge to the voices, and the occasional whoop, ululation or laugh makes the gathering sound more like a celebration than a wake. On the funeral bier, the corpse is not that of a human being, or even an animal. Instead, a tree with abundant green leaves is about to be buried. The tree, of course, is the symbol of Omar al Bashir’s National Congress Party. I don’t know where or when the video was filmed. Some have suggested Abu Hamad, in River Nile state, where an independent candidate (formally of the NCP) beat the NCP nominee, one of a handful of independent candidates who won seats at these elections. When I showed the short film to a NCP supporter, he went quiet, and then insisted that “everyone in Sudan loves Omar al Bashir” and his party. […]
The below comic was produced as a collaboration between the World Peace Foundation, the Cartoon Movement and the Justice and Security Research Programme of the London School of Economics. Written by Alex de Waal, who many consider to be one of the world’s leading experts on South Sudan, and drawn by Victor Ndula, one of Africa’s leading comic artists as well as editorial cartoonist for the Nairobi Star, the 8-page comic explains how South Sudan was bankrupt and at war within just three years after independence. To scroll between the pages use the right and left arrow keys on your keyboard.
Bona Malwal, Sudan and South Sudan: From One to Two, London, Routledge, 2014. Bona Malwal’s political memoir is a complete resemblance of the man himself: argumentative and plain-spoken, partisan and selective, infuriating, fascinating, disorganized and wide-ranging, eloquent, essential and completely unique. Every South Sudanese and Sudanese should read it, all of it. Like Bona himself, his book, Sudan and South Sudan: From One to Two, has to be taken whole. For fifty years, Bona has been a fervent South Sudanese nationalist who has (mostly) advocated self-determination and secession. Like Sudan’s modern history, this has been no easy or straight path. Bona was a minister in Jaafar Nimeiri’s government following the 1972 peace agreement, and thirty years later was an adviser to President Omar al Bashir. One of the most compelling parts of his book (pp. 121ff.) is the few pages he devotes to the July 1976 invasion by Sudanese exiles and (allegedly) Libyan mercenaries that reached Khartoum, and during three days of fighting, were on the brink of capturing the city. As Minister for Information, with control over the technology that allowed Radio Omdurman to continue broadcasting from Juba, even while its headquarters in the capital were in the hands […]
Yesterday I had the opportunity to put a question to Luis Moreno Ocampo, former Prosecutor of the ICC, who was visiting the Fletcher School. The question was a clarification on footnote 3 on page 12 of the July 14, 2008, public application for an arrest warrant against President Omar al Bashir. The footnote reads: “The Militia/Janjaweed are described using various terms such as “Janjaweed”, “Fursan”, “Mujahideen” and “Bashmerga”. Janjaweed literally means “a man (a devil) on horse”. Historically in Darfur Janjaweed has referred to armed robbers or bandits mounted on horses or camels. In more recent times, however, the term has been used to refer to members of tribes mainly from Ma’aliya, Mahamid, Northern Reizegat, Jalul etc. who have volunteered to fight for and with the backing of the Sudanese Government.” I asked Moreno Ocampo for clarification as to whether the Ma’aliya were indeed Janjaweed. He didn’t duck the question or say that his memory on this detail might have failed him. Rather, he insisted that yes they were Janjawiid and he had the evidence. When I pointed out that no literature on Darfur had ever, anywhere, made this claim, he dug his heels in and insisted that the details […]
An internal African Union report, the conclusion of a pre-election assessment mission to Sudan, concluded that that the polls would not be free and fair. The report states that ‘the necessary conditions and environment for the holding of transparent, competitive, free and fair elections as agreed in the AU principles governing democratic elections have not been satisfied.’ The report puts the blame squarely on the government: ‘The existing government’s security measures put substantial restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly and do not provide an environment for free participation in the electoral process.’ This, broadly speaking, is what the Sudanese opposition and Western countries have said about the polls. The government has shrugged this off as the work of disgruntled opposition parties scared of participating in the election and revealing their lack of nationwide support, or of foreign countries with bad intentions towards Sudan – President Bashir made a pointed reference to the former colonialists in his last speech of the campaign. But it is harder to brush off this similar – if internal – judgment from Sudan’s African brothers. The report also recommended that the AU should not send an observation team to the polls, in part because […]
The great Sudanese painter Rashid Diab has a recurring motif in his work of the last few years: a tableau of several women, depicted by the splashy colour of the bright tobe they are wearing, standing all alone in a vast desert. Visit a polling station in these elections, and you may well see something similar: sand, space and not many people. On the first day of this election, a public holiday, it wasn’t unusual to find polling stations in which the turnout was ten percent, sometimes a lot less than this. At a polling station in Omdurman, located in a school near the house of the late Sudanese politician Ismail al Azhari, only 120 votes had been cast by 5pm on Monday, although 1,990 people are registered there. During the half hour or so that I spent there, more people sat down to drink tea opposite the school than came in to cast their vote. One photo doing the rounds shows electoral officials apparently dropping off to sleep while they wait for a voter. Others – circulated with some glee by opposition supporters or those not keen on the government – show empty polling stations. It’s impossible to develop […]