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January 24, 2008

If you can't beat them...

...pay them.

Sudan: Darfur official reveals security plan

Text of report by Sudanese newspaper Ra'y al-Sha'b on 24 January

The officer in charge of securing roads in South Darfur State and the commissioner of presidential affairs, retired Col Ali Sulayman Abu-Duraa, has revealed of a plan to address the issue of outlaws who violate security and threaten citizens traveling on roads within the state. Abu-Duraa said the plan involved integrating these elements into the regular forces or assisting them by providing them with livelihood means so that they did not need to resort to criminal activities.

Could this tactic also be behind the recent hiring of Darfur militia leader Musa Hilal as a ministerial adviser?

Posted by aheavens at 11:21 AM

Hidden behind the closet

Amazing. The debate about homosexuality in Africa that started on Meskel Square almost three years ago is still going strong.

The range of opinions are shown in three recent comments, including one published today:

i have enough problems as is without someone condemning me to hell i do not understand why people have to judge is it cause it makes one feel better is that it there is no reason why i should wait till i die to burn in hell i have been in hell since i can remember our world is phobic not only to homosexuality but to everything that is different

I found this through a link from another site. Very interesting topic. I am Ethiopian, and it took me a few years to understand that people do not chose to be gay. Nature along with nurture play a great role. while i was in ethiopia, without exaduration i didn't know anyone who is or might be gay. may be i wouldn't know even I saw one, or they are so much hidden they might be behind the closet. who can blame them when the law said their sexuality is punishable by imprisonment.

Look folks, you are either a Christian or you are not. In other words, you are either a Christian or a homosexual. It just doesn't go together. If you choose to be gay or lesbian, you are denying Christianity because Christianity is black and white. Things are either acceptable or they are not, when it comes to homosexuality, it is not acceptable, period. Don't argue saying God loves everybody. God loves sinners too, but that doesn't change the fact that they are sinners.
the watcher's watcher

Posted by aheavens at 6:57 AM

January 23, 2008

It's raining

That might not sound like a very exciting statement to most of you. But I am assured by a Sudanese friend that the last time it rained in January in Khartoum was more than 30 years ago.

Generally, I would recommend anyone coming to Khartoum to come now - or any time from December to February.

Midday temperatures that are up around 45 degrees centigrade most of the rest of the year "plummet" to 30 or even the mid 20s. You can walk around the streets. Some nights you even have to sleep under a sheet.

You can also marvel at the bizarre sight of locals huddled in corners, wrapped up in sweaters and woolly hats with ear flaps, struggling to keep out the "cold" of what, in Scotland, would be a gloriously warm summer day.

Posted by aheavens at 10:17 AM

January 22, 2008

Potassium bromide and witchcraft

Only in Sudan.

Sudanese bakery owner fined for using witchcraft in court

Text of report by private Sudanese newspaper Al-Ra'y al-Amm on 22 January

The community security court in Khartoum Bahri has sentenced a bakery owner to a one year prison term after he was found guilty of using the banned Potassium Bromide substance in bread making.

The bakery owner was further fined 2,000 pounds [1,000 US dollars] because during his trial, he was caught touching traditional amulets, used in witchcraft, against the judge to escape being sentenced. The judge spotted the man in the act and ordered him to be searched.

The man was subsequently found to be in possession of papers and an amulet on which the judge's name was inscribed and other witchcraft-related scripts.

Posted by aheavens at 11:32 AM

January 21, 2008

Join the Janjaweed - competitive salaries available to successful applicants

Just found this fascinating passage in a panel of experts report to the U.N. Security Council from 30 January 2006 (the fourth link on the page):

40. Militia recruits were paid a relatively good salary for Darfur: $79 a month for a man on foot and $117 if he had a horse or a camel. Officers could get as much as $233. The weapons were provided in training camps.14 Training of all the newly recruited forces however was minimal.

Posted by aheavens at 12:04 PM

January 19, 2008

My first meme

Stewart Kirkpatrick has tagged me in the growing my week/month in media meme.

So, here goes:

What I've read

Almost every day, depending on stock of local news stand: The Citizen - typical headline "Where is your sense, Atem Mabior?"; Sudan Tribune - typical editorial "CPA Implementation Has Three main Pending Issues"; Khartoum Monitor - typical think piece "Where can we get the necessary information so that our path is not 'the way of death'?"; Sudan Vision - typical front page splash "Mavrikos Calls on US to Stop Capitalizing on Darfur".

Would love to add some Arabic titles to that list - maybe after another three years of language lessons. For now, I rely on reports from BBC Monitoring, colleagues, drivers and competing agencies to find out what they are writing about.

Four-day old editions of The Financial Times at Ozone, the inevitable khawaja hang-out in the middle of a roundabout in Khartoum 2.

Brought out in hand luggage: Mojo, Make, The Economist Christmas edition, Hello! - featuring a three-page spread on Gillian Gibbons.

If I'm allowed books, Agent Zigzag is the best thing I have read in ages.

What I've watched

DVDs on laptop: Grey's Anatomy Series 2 - all of it, much of it back to back; The Bourne Ultimatum - probably better on a big screen; half of March of the Penguins before falling asleep with son; Maisy - Animals, Peppa Pig - Peppa's Christmas and In The Night Garden - Hello Igglepiggle - repeatedly.

What I've listened to

Thanks to new broadband connection: BBC 6Music; BBC7 - Yes Minister; Radio 4 - Today, Desert Island Discs, The News Quiz, Spy School, Zine Scene, In Our Time.

Via iTunes: Car Talk

While trying out Songbeat: Three tracks from Grinderman.

What I've surfed

Duty visits: Sudan's state news agency Suna which only works in Explorer for some reason; ReliefWeb; The Sudan Tribune - different from the paper mentioned above and an essential read; Factiva; The Sudanese Media Centre - another state-controlled agency that will threaten to sue you if you call them that; Yahoo News - Sudan and Google News - Sudan.

Lots of Sudanese blogs, Makezine, Facebook, Matthew Parris and a weekly helping of food porn from Giles Coren.

I tag: Drima, Ersasu, Rob Crilly and Will Connors.

Posted by aheavens at 8:22 AM

January 18, 2008

Mud cameras in Kibera

The children of Nairobi's Kibera slum fail to give the international broadcast media the respect they surely deserve.

Posted by aheavens at 5:45 PM

January 14, 2008

So, how do you find Sudan?

There is a classic conversation that expatriates have whenever they arrive in a new country and start meeting the locals.

Your host sits down, looks you in the eye and says something like, “So, how do you find Sudan/Ethiopia/Lithuania/wherever?”

You then spend the next ten minutes earnestly singing the country's praises – “It's a fascinating place, beautiful countryside, everyone has been so friendly…” If you are in Eastern Europe, you then sit up the rest of the night drinking vodka toasts to “Better understanding between our two countries”.

Yesterday afternoon, I was invited round to a Sudanese family's house to celebrate the arrival of a new granddaughter. About ten minutes into the party, one of the family's sons sat down, looked me in the eye, and asked: “So, how do you find Sudan?”

I launched right in: “It's a fascinating place, wonderful to live so close to the Nile, the people have been so friendly, an endless supply of great stories for a journalist…,” meaning almost all of it.

When I finished, I looked round at the group of 20-somethings I had been speaking to. “You are joking,” said one. “We hate this place. There is nothing to do. Life is very difficult here. All we do is study and watch DVDs.”

“How long are you staying?” asked another. “Two years? Impossible. You won't last two months. My plan is to finish my medical studies and move to Scotland.”

Posted by aheavens at 5:41 AM

January 12, 2008

Modifications negatively affect content

Late on Monday, armed men opened fire on a convoy of more than 20 "white, clearly marked" United Nations/African Union vehicles traveling towards the west Darfur town of Tine. The attackers fired light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at the UNAMID supply convoy for up to 12 minutes, severely injuring a civilian driver and damaging a diesel truck and an armoured personnel carrier.

Soon after, the Sudanese Army's area commander called the peacekeeping UN/AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to admit the attackers were from the Sudanese army.

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that the attackers were from the Sudanese army.

On Wednesday, Sudan's ambassador to the U.N. Abdelmahmoud Abdelhalim Mohamed told reporters the attackers were not from the Sudanese Army.

On Thursday, Sudan's defence minister Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein told the independent newspaper Assahafa that the attakers were from the Sudanese Army.

On Friday, Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told me over the telephone that the attackers were not from the Sudanese Army.

About half an hour after the call, the Office of the Spokesman for the Armed Forces told Sudan's state news agency Suna that the attackers were from the Sudanese Army.

How to reconcile these apparently conflicting statements?

Step forward the The Office of the Minister of National Defence which released the following clarfying statement on Saturday:

Office of Minister of National Defence describes information reported by some media on incident of UNAMID troops in Darfur as subjected to modifications negatively affecting its content

Khartoum, Jan. 11 (SUNA) - The Office of the Minister of National Defence has issued a statement in which it described information reported by some international and local media attributed to statement by the Minister and other statements on the incident of the peace-keeping mission in Darfur, UNAMID, at Tina area in Darfur Monday as subjected to some modifications negatively affecting its content, pointing out that some hostile circles utilized them to serve their known objectives. The statement affirmed that it is not of the policy of the government to attack any peacekeeping troops. The statement stressed that the statement of the Minister of Defence did not refer to attack by the Armed Forces on the peacekeeping mission in Darfur, but it referred to an accident in movement of UNAMID troops in an area witnessing security tension and hostile movements from a number of parties, pointing out that these hostilities and movements was supported by the statement issued by UNAMID itself in this regard, which did not specify any certain party behind the incident. The statement pointed out that the Armed Forces had been in defensive positions and not attacking ones, adding that this conforms with what has been explained by the office of the official spokesman of the Armed Forces at the time, who denied that the Armed Forces had attacked the mission and the Sudan Mission to the United Nations also pointed to this. The statement affirmed that it is not the policy of the government to attack peacekeeping troops in the country, a matter that is proved by the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in the southern Sudan and Darfur Peace Agreement, where no such precedent was recorded against the Armed Forces. The statement went on to say that the Armed Forces had continued to support the troops of the African Union to accomplish its mission, as proved by the Armed Forces containing to the attack the African troops had been subjected to at Haskanita area, where the Armed Forces conducted medical evacuation operations and extended protection and logistic support to the personnel of the mission. The statement pointed out that the government and UNAMID had already agreed on joint investigation of the issue, adding that this come at the proposal of the government, a matter that affirms its confidence in the correctness of its position, a matter that was welcomed by the United Nations.

So, at last, the matter is settled.

Posted by aheavens at 3:41 PM


Thanks you for all your kind messages of concern. I wasn't arrested or PNGd or pushed under a bus.

I just ran out of interesting things to say.

If I ever had a blogging mojo, I lost it. Surely this happens to everyone once in a while.

Posted by aheavens at 12:15 PM