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July 21, 2007

Off for a bit

We're swapping the floods of Sudan for the floods of the UK for a few weeks. Back soon.

Posted by aheavens at 10:01 AM

July 16, 2007

Three trees

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We have a lemon tree and a grapefruit tree and a guava tree in our front garden in Khartoum.

Posted by aheavens at 12:22 PM

Life under sharia law #1

Malt-flavoured alcohol-free Barbican beer is not very nice.

Pineapple-flavoured alcohol-free Barbican beer is even worse.

Posted by aheavens at 11:27 AM

And now for the real news

So while the rest of the world was worrying about the latest on the UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur and coup accusations in Khartoum, I was dealing with a much more pressing question - does Sudan really need a sixth mobile phone licence?

Posted by aheavens at 8:11 AM

July 14, 2007

Homesick

Ethiopia's diaspora bloggers are feeling homesick. Here is a roundup of their posts I just did for GlobalVoices:

Expat Ethiopians reflect on the sounds and smells of home

The ties that bind expatriate Ethiopians to their home country dominated the Ethiopian blogosphere over the past few weeks.

Ethiopians living in the US, Europe and Asia came up with a series of emotional posts, exploring childhood memories, local food, music and the broader subject of national identity.

And here are some other great posts from the Ethiopian blogosphere which didn't really fit in with this fortnight's theme:

Three of Ethiopia's most popular bloggers have discovered they went to the same elementary school. It was aqumada who spotted the link to his fellow classmates - yemi of Don't eat my Buchela! and Fezzzzzzzzzzz of The Mongrel. "By no means, am I equating myself to these two ... I like to think of myself as a sane person:)" joked aqumada.

Ethiopundit published a passionately argued reassessment of Ethiopia's last emperor Haile Selassie. "The tradition that he represented was vital and its loss should be mourned. Without it Ethiopia lost her bearings and became lost in a miasma of defunct ideology."

Samuel Gebru published a defense of Ethiopia's ruling EPRDF government - a rare thing in the Ethiopian blogosphere. "Whether you're for or against the EPRDF as a political party and as the party-in-charge of the current Ethiopian government, deep inside, you know that Ethiopia, at this stage, seriously needs the EPRDF" he argued.

Seminawork has been keeping up a running commentary on the increasingly complex trial of opposition politicians and supporters in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has been swarming with rumours of the imminent release of the prisoners following a deal with the Prime Minister. Last week, those hopes took a blow when prosecutors demanded the death penalty. The sentence is expected on Monday, July 16.

Posted by aheavens at 9:07 AM

July 12, 2007

So this is what all the fuss is about...

DSC0002It is a dollop of Sudanese oil - Dar Blend crude no less - contained in a tasteful paperweight handed out at yesterday's opening of the country's new export terminal at Port Sudan.

According to Reuters:

The Dar Blend field is operated by Petrodar, a consortium comprising China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) with a 41 percent stake, Malaysia's Petronas [PETR.UL] with 40 percent, and state oil firm Sudapet with 8 percent. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec) holds 6 percent of Petrodar, while Al Thani Corp., a private company incorporated in the United Arab Emirates, owns 5 percent.

The "acidic" Dar Blend is of lower quality than Sudan's premium Nile Blend crude.

So oil comes in different flavours. Who knew?

Posted by aheavens at 3:06 PM

July 11, 2007

rveyt2004's photos

Some great, great shots of Ethiopia.

Posted by aheavens at 12:16 PM

More floods, more photos

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Men bicycle and wade through flood waters in Umdowanban, an hour's drive outside Khartoum. Flash floods have killed 20 people and destroyed more than 15,000 houses across Sudan a government spokesman said yesterday.

Here's the latest story.

Posted by aheavens at 8:54 AM

July 10, 2007

A bridge area

We pulled up at the side of the raised road where more than 200 people were taking shelter from surging flood waters an hour's drive outside Khartoum.

Fifteen minutes later, two uniformed members of the civil defence forces walked up and asked to see my photo pass.

At this point of the story you should know that all photographers - tourists as well as journalists - need to have a special pass to take photos in Sudan. The press one allows you to take photos of anything apart from "prohibited areas", military areas, airports, bridges or dams. The tourist one, I've heard, also bans photos of "defamatory" subjects - things that might make Sudan look bad - dirt and poverty and so on.

Back at the flood, the officer spent two minutes looking at my card, then said "No photos. I think there is a bridge here". I did a quick scan of the landscape - 360 degrees of flat, flat plains, flood water and a distant mosque. No bridge. "Where is the bridge," I asked? "Down there," he said, pointing down the flat, flat, featureless road. "But there isn't a bridge there," I said, grinning madly. (Quick tip. In situations like these, never get angry. It doesn't work.) "Yes," he answered. "But this is a bridge area."

Posted by aheavens at 3:29 PM

Grinning "victims"

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There's nothing funnier than a flood. Resilient schoolgirls in the Sudanese town of Al Elafoon refuse to play the clichéd role of devastated flood victims.

Posted by aheavens at 3:16 PM

Goodbye

One by one, the Ethiopian readers are leaving.

You can practically see it happening live by pressing 'refresh' on the page stats.

Two weeks ago, MeskelSquare was dipping in and out of Afrigator's Top Ten African weblogs. As I write, it is ranked 19 and falling fast.

How sad to be in decline.

Posted by aheavens at 8:28 AM

July 9, 2007

Unbelievable

Ethiopia prosecutors seek death in opposition case

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopian prosecutors demanded the death penalty on Monday for 38 opposition officials convicted of trying to overthrow the government, treason and inciting violence.

"Since they have been found guilty on all counts, they should be punished with the highest penalty," prosecutor Abraham Tetemke told the court, which adjourned for a week to consider the demand.

"The accused conspired to overthrow the government. In the process they have created havoc, destroying state and private property. They are also responsible for the deaths of security forces and because of this we request the death penalty."

Posted by aheavens at 1:40 PM

Baking bricks along the Blue Nile

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We had been driving out of Khartoum for about an hour yesterday when the Blue Nile suddenly snaked in on the left hand side of the road.

The sun was rising over a line of smoking, rectangular structures, built right up against the bank of the swollen river.

They were the kilns of traditional brick-makers who cut their building blocks from the river mud, then stack them up on top of furnaces, cementing them in to keep in the heat.

It was a scene straight out of the Old Testament - remember the Hebrew slaves who baked bricks a few hundred miles up the same river in Egypt in the times of Moses.

The Old Testament reference was doubly appropriate because we were off to see a flood.

Here is the story:

Sudanese lament loss of homes as flood waters rise

SENNAR, Sudan (Reuters) - Asad Ali Fadla was sitting down to dinner with his family when a wall of water swept down his street and smashed into his compound in Sennar town on the banks of the Blue Nile in southeastern Sudan.

And here are some more photo of the brick makers on Flickr.

The Blue Nile is the branch of the river that flows out of Ethiopia's Lake Tana.

Posted by aheavens at 10:35 AM

July 4, 2007

New neighbourhood #1

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Meskel Square is going to become a bit more photo focused. Here is a first glimpse at our new Khartoum neighbourhood Amarat. The mosque looks on to Africa Street, a busy dual carriageway that separates us off from the airport.

Posted by aheavens at 11:33 AM

July 3, 2007

Sudanese crackberries

The crackberry is coming to Sudan. And here was me thinking that all this sort of stuff would be impossible because of Darfur-inspired sanctions.

[Just in case you don't know, "crackberry" is the slang term for the addictive corporate email handheld the BlackBerry - produced by Canada's Research In Motion (RIM).]

Posted by aheavens at 12:49 PM

Role change

We are not ferengis any more. We are khawajas.

Posted by aheavens at 5:55 AM

Sudanese bloggers

I have been getting to know my new neighbours in the Sudanese blogosphere.

On the surface there are some similarities with the Ethiopian scene - lots of pseudonyms, lots of people from the diaspora (based in the UAE as well as the US), a smattering of aid workers, one lone gay and anonymous blogger and a small but vibrant group of locals.

The main difference is that, over here, it is the foreigners who are more political than the locals, with an ever-growing selection of US-based sites focused on Darfur.

Everyone I have found so far is listed in the right-hand column.

The Sudanese Thinker reflected on the recent terrorist incidents in the UK and their implications for Muslims worldwide in Britain's terrorist plot:

Anger and hatred are powerful intoxicants. I fear we won't wake up until it's too late. This cancer is spreading too fast within our Muslim communities.

The blog is written by Drima, a Muslim "Afro-Arab guy in [his] early 20s" enjoying his own "Islamic renewal" - also a fellow GlobalVoices writer.

Black Kush had a great dig at the Foreign Policy report which put Sudan at the top of its 2007 Failed States Index. His post asked Is Sudan a failed State?:

The Index may have used different indicators to arrive at this conclusion, but it is wrong. There is stability in South Sudan after twenty years of war, the East is quiet. Darfur is the only war-torn spot in the country now, and does not reflect the whole picture. You can call Sudan what you want, but not failed: ask Somalis and Iraqis what they think first!

JohnAkecSouthSudan coined a new acronym in MASDOFORPSIS : Many Sudans and Darfurs but one foreign policy, ridiculous.

Alex de Waal came out with a series of in depth posts on Darfur in the blog of the Social Science Research Council. His latest was on the claim of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon that climate change had a lot to do with the conflict. Read more in Is Climate Change the Culprit for Darfur?:

The most important culprit for violence in Darfur is government, which not only failed to utilize local and central institutions to address the problems of environmental stress in Darfur, but actually worsened the situation through its militarized, crisis management interventions whenever political disputes have arisen. In turn, violent conflict has worsened Darfur's ecological crisis. For many reasons, Darfur cannot now be reconstituted the way it was. What's needed is a new governance of Darfur that takes account of the challenges of the coming century-including the impact of future climate change.

Finally, BlackGayArab had an answer for some of his more critical readers in Sudanese & Gay!:

I got a sense that my blog is a problem for some of my native bloggers. I really don't know what's the problem. Is it because I'm Sudanese or gay or posting as Sudanese gay?..

Okay then, if the reason is because I'm Sudanese, I guess you are questioning my sudanese nationality. If that the case, last time I checked my passport was sudanese; which was 2 days ago.

Then, if it's matter of my sexual orientation, forgive me for saying this, it's non of anyone damn business. If you haven't heard or seen of any gays in Sudan then allow me to tell you "You Don't live In The Real World then".

Posted by aheavens at 4:54 AM

Straight talking Ethiopians

Just met yet another Ethiopian guy doing a bit of work here and there in Khartoum. He was the brother of a friend of an employee of a friend.

"So do you like Khartoum," I asked, as an opening gambit.

"No," he replied and walked off.

Posted by aheavens at 4:49 AM

Sorry Sista Angela

I just accidentally deleted your comment on the Bob Marley concert in Meskel Square. Please have another go and I will be more careful this time.

Posted by aheavens at 4:47 AM