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March 31, 2008

You want to leave Sudan? That will be $2,000

From today's Al-Intibaha newspaper.

Sudan: Interior Ministry sets strict exit visa regulations

A number of citizens yesterday protested in front of the building of the General Passports and Immigration Administration [GPIA] following the decision issued by police commander to set conditions for granting [exit] visas to sales representatives. These include paying a 2,000 US dollar fee and passing inquiries by the criminal investigations department. The Ministry of Interior has further implemented stricter measures on women travelling abroad.

An informed source said the decision was issued against the background of the great increase in immoral behaviour practised by Sudanese nationals abroad.

The source said the GPIA and civil registry had set up a committee to review these latest regulations which caused confusion to citizens and to put in place new regulations to correspond to developments abroad. He said the committee would present its report within two weeks.

It is the first time that I have heard of Sudanese nationals having problems with exit visas.

They have long been a problem for expats.

Most foreign charity workers have to apply for permission to leave the country whenever they want to go on holiday or move on to another job. You are always hearing stories of people missing weddings and funerals while ministry officials take their time over processing permits. One charity worker who was expelled from Sudan actually had to wait to be kicked out because his visa hadn't been stamped.

Foreign correspondents are allowed to apply for multi entrance/exit visas (at the end of an annual two-month-long $2,000 paperwork marathon that includes work permits, single entry visas and press cards). For the privilege of being able to enter and leave the country whenever you want, we also have to "pass" an HIV/Aids test carried out behind a grubby curtain in a corner of an office crowded with immigration police and officials. But that is a story for another day.

By the way, have any of you out there noticed this "great increase in immoral behaviour practised by Sudanese nationals abroad"? What are they getting up to?

Posted by aheavens at 2:17 PM

March 30, 2008

Searching for Sunny Supermarket

DSC_0002When most people arrive in Cairo, they head straight to the pyramids or the Egyptian Museum.

The first places I tried to find were Sunny Supermarket, Vesalakis general store, a branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken close to a motorway overpass, the Gezira Club playground & swimming pool, Shagarit Al-Durr street, All Saints Cathedral and the British International School Cairo (BISC) - all of them on the island of Zamalek.

Those are the landmarks I remember most clearly from the six years I spent there in the mid 70s and early 80s, aged six to 12.

People say you should never go back - because the reality will always be smaller and grubbier than the place you remember loving when you were a child.

That didn't happen in Cairo when I returned last week after a 26-year (yikes) absence. Some things seemed smaller, like BISC's old hall where we held our assemblies, put on plays and went to church every Sunday while the cathedral was being built outside. But everything else seemed bigger - mostly because everything else was bigger, much bigger.

Cairo was already huge back then. Now it is just overwhelming, something like the ultimate city. Shopping malls and squares and hotels and tower blocks and overpasses and suburbs and traffic piled up behind traffic piled up behind traffic.

I loved it. And the discovery of two new Zamalek landmarks - the Diwan Bookstore and the El-Cid Restaurant - more than made up for the fact that the Sunny Supermarket had shut down and Vesalakis had turned into a shoe shop.

Posted by aheavens at 11:36 AM

Six African books

Chris Abani

The blog siphoning off a few thoughts has started an Africa Reading Challenge in which:

participants commit to read - in the course of 2008 - six books that either were written by African writers, take place in Africa, or deal significantly with Africans and African issues.

The idea is that you then review them on your site.

Here are my six:

Naguib Mahfouz because I've already read two of his shorter books - 'Adrift on the Nile' and 'The Day the Leader Was Killed' and the Cairo Trilogy is supposed to be even better; Chris Abani because I've seen him talk at TED twice and, like Ethan, have vowed to read everything he's written; 'Khartoum' because it is supposed to be a ripping good yarn and may throw up a few story ideas; 'The State of Africa' because it's been on my shelf for months and should fill in lots of huge knowledge gaps; J.M. Coetzee because of 'Disgrace'; and 'The Translator' because it is about a Sudanese woman who moves to Aberdeen - which is our story in reverse, almost.

Posted by aheavens at 10:27 AM

March 19, 2008

Yes Ethiopian Americans can

Ethiopian Americans for Obama.

Posted by aheavens at 6:28 AM

March 18, 2008

Counting the clichés

Tech journalist Evgeny Morozov has launched a new site tracking journalistic clichés called Killthecliché.

I'm proud to say four out of his top ten chichés of "all time" have appeared in my copy within the past few days. They are "unrest", "insurgent", "amid" and "death toll".

I wish I could claim another of his "all time" media clichés which is "slain". But I am too damned British. We keep our upper lips stiff and say "killed", "murdered" or "shot dead". (Factiva shows only two uses of the word "allegedly" in the past two years though, which is a relief.)

Now that I have been found out, I suppose I ought to start making more use of my online thesaurus.

Brace yourselves for a run of articles about the contumacious members of Darfur insurrectionist aggregations.

Posted by aheavens at 6:52 AM

March 13, 2008

How I miss reporting from Ethiopia

Things were much simpler.

If something bad happened, and it happened somewhere north of Addis Ababa, it was the Eritrean government that was to blame. There was no doubt.

In Sudan, there are a lot more culprits to choose from.

Here are some of the stories I've written/contributed to/edited today:

Darfur mission may last 10 years-UNAMID general
KHARTOUM, March 13 (Reuters) - International peacekeepers may have to stay in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region for up to 10 years before seeing a resolution to the conflict, the force's commander said on Thursday.

Sudan rejects U.S. human rights criticism
KHARTOUM, March 13 (Reuters) - Sudan rejected U.S. criticism of its human rights record on Thursday, saying George W. Bush's administration was the biggest rights abuser in the world and had ignored big improvements made by Khartoum.

Chad says Sudan sent rebels across its border
DAKAR, March 13 (Reuters) - Chad on Thursday accused Sudan of sending anti-government rebels across the border into its territory as international mediators struggled to broker a fresh peace accord between the two neighbours. Sudan rejected the Chadian accusation as "nonsense", and there was no independent confirmation of an incursion.

South Sudan anti-corruption body "struggles" against graft
JUBA, Sudan, March 10 (Reuters) - Southern Sudan's Anti-Corruption Commission is struggling to fight government graft because politicians have failed to give it the legal powers it needs to do the job, top officials said on Thursday.

Posted by aheavens at 6:32 PM