One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

How do you say “Envoy” in Swahili?

I’ve been struck by how many news reports announcing the appointment of Scott Gration as Envoy to Sudan have prominently noted that the former Air Force general also speaks Swahili. This is great and all, as is the fact that he grew up in DR Congo, but Swahili is not a major language in Sudan. But, hey, it’s an African language, and Sudan is in Africa, so he’s basically already won over the confidence of the entire country continent.


March 18, 2009 Posted by | Darfur, Sudan | , , , | 3 Comments

When to bomb Khartoum…

Nick Kristof proposes a series of seriously tough measures that President Obama can take vis-à-vis the recalcitrant and stubbornly unrepentent survivalists running the Sudanese government.

The United States could target Sudanese military aircraft that defy a United Nations ban on offensive military flights in Darfur. The first step would be to destroy a helicopter gunship on the ground at night. A tougher approach would be to warn Sudan that unless it complies with international demands (by handing over suspects indicted by the International Criminal Court, for example), it will lose its air force — and then if it does not comply, to destroy all its military aircraft on the ground.

Thumbs up to bombing

Thumbs up to bombing

I’ve tended to agree with these relatively low-hanging aggressive actions, such as openly planning a mission to bomb Khartoum with enough seriousness to give Omar al-Bashir the willies, as was suggested, I believe, by Susan Rice, Tony Lake, and Don Payne in a Time article about two and a half years ago.  The problem is, what would be the immediate impetus for such an aggressive response?  To destroy a country’s air force for failing to reign in the chaos of a genocide that it unleashed nearly six years ago is hardly the most clear-cut or reflexively legitimate course of action.  This isn’t to say it isn’t warranted — just that such decisive action would have proved a lot more effective years ago (or, say, had Iraq not happened).

The situation now requires announcing some sort of ultimatum for the Sudanese authorities; and this is not nearly as neat a deal as it may seem on its face.  The génocidaires in Khartoum have survived this long not only because of the international community’s inability to commit to such game-changing steps, but also precisely because of their ability to fudge their way out of agreements and to baldly proclaim they are making concessions when they are in fact doing no such thing.  The tricky part for the Obama administration will be both to call this bluff, and, perhaps more importantly, to identify it at the appropriate time as a bluff.

(image of U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Rich Williamson from flickr user talkradionews under a Creative Commons license)

December 28, 2008 Posted by | Darfur, Sudan, U.S. Foreign policy | , , , | Leave a comment


In case you thought it couldn’t be any worse

Strong evidence has emerged of children and adults being used as slaves in Sudan’s Darfur region, a study says.

Kidnapped men have been forced to work on farmland controlled by Janjaweed militias, a coalition of African charities says.

Eyewitnesses also say the Sudanese army has been involved in abducting women and children to be sex slaves and domestic staff for troops in Khartoum.

But Khartoum said the report was “very naive” and called the authors ignorant.

Not at all surprised by the findings, and even less so by Khartoum’s obstinately combative reaction.

UPDATE: Beth at Passport saw it at the same time and has more.

December 17, 2008 Posted by | Darfur, Sudan | , | Leave a comment

An “intriguing proposal” to let Sudan’s génocidaires get off scot-free

Why The Economist thinks this might be a worthwhile solution to the whole false dichotomy of “peace versus justice” in Sudan is baffling:

Now Sudan’s most prominent opposition politician, Sadiq al-Mahdi, thinks he has an answer: what he calls a “third way” between hauling Mr Bashir to The Hague and doing nothing about crimes in Darfur. He suggests setting up an independent “hybrid” court for Darfur, which would have both Sudanese judges and international ones and sit in Sudan.

There is absolutely no way — zero — that Khartoum would allow this sort of initiative to have any meaningful judiciary power whatsoever. It would be a farce, an insult, and a step backwards. And as much as I hate to say it, the “hybrid” peacekeeping operation hasn’t panned out so well either.

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Darfur, Sudan | , , | Leave a comment

Peace = beer

The best thing to come out of the peace that ended Sudan’s long-running North-South civil war?  Beer.

Brewing was banned in Sudan 25 years ago under Islamic law.

Now, the international brewing group SABMiller says it will launch a new lager in Juba in the south of the country in February.

Cheers.  And if the worst does come to pass, and the North-South war reignites — anything but a remote possibility, unfortunately — the South should hope that the new brew doesn’t affect its troops as much as booze affects the Brits claim that booze affects German soldiers.

December 10, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Sudan | | Leave a comment

Journalism in Sudan

In addition to its renowned freedom of the arts, Sudan boasts a robust — and completely non-ironic — freedom of the press.

Police in Sudan have arrested more than 60 journalists during a protest against media censorship, witnesses say.

Not “arrested.”  Just consider them “censored.”

November 17, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Sudan | Leave a comment