Monday, May 26, 2008

Tent life

This time in Sudan I'm living in a tent more than a hut. Every time I mention my tent to people they don't really understand the living in a tent concept. It's not a pop-up tent like you carry with you when backpacking. It's more of a safari style tent which you get in the nice hotels when you go on Safari in places like Kenya. (but believe me I'm still roughing it...) Some of the tents are even en-suite tents where you have a separate room as your bathroom with flush toilets and everything you have in a real bathroom. Of course you still end up showering with lizards and various other creatures, but when I can get a tent with my own bathroom I'm in heaven!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I traveled last month to the Agok/ Abyei area (on the frontline of the North-South border). Under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the Abyei area got special status (because it was basically an unresolvable issue at the time). As soon as I landed I saw that the area felt distinctly different from other places that I have been in Sudan. The tension was palpable and there was talk from everyone in the town that people were just waiting for the other side to make the first move for the fighting to break out. Soldiers had moved their families out of the town, which is never a good sign... Then last week fighting erupted in Abyei destroying the town and displacing some 10's of thousands of people. NGO's (including my colleagues) were evacuated from the area leaving with nothing but what they had with them at the time they heard the first gunshots. The fighting here is especially worrying because of the importance of the area (OIL!, and their still as yet unresolved status under the CPA).

Enough! recently wrote a good factpiece about the importance of Abyei in ensuring that the CPA is implemented:

The BBC recently covered the story much better than I can:

Or watch the video coverage by Al Jazeera:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Beautiful Things

With all of the ugliness around sometimes it's better to just focus on the small things, the things that I will always find beautiful no matter where I travel to in Sudan:

A child's smile
The beautiful nature
Breathtaking sunsets

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Trouble in Khartoum

The latest news out of Khartoum this week. I'm glad right now that I'm in the South and away from the fighting. The conflict in Darfur is separate from the civil war in the South, but in order for peace to stick in South Sudan the conflict in Darfur must be resolved.

From Sudan Radio Service:

12 May 2008 – (Khartoum) – Seventeen Sudan Armed Forces soldiers are confirmed dead and more than 15 wounded in an attack by the Darfur anti-government group, the Justice and Equality Movement, on Saturday in Omdurman.

The number of JEM soldiers killed has not been confirmed. However, Sudan Television reports two commanders of the movement, convoy leader Mohammed Salih Jabra and the intelligence chief Mohammed Nouri-Din, were killed.

No specific information about the number of civilians killed or wounded is yet available.

Sudan Radio Service Khartoum bureau producer Nichola Mandil reports that on Sunday the Governor of Khartoum state, Dr. Abdelalim Al-Mutasi, announced that a curfew is being imposed in order to help security organs search for any JEM fighters who may still be in the capital. The curfew means people will be restricted to their homes from 5 p.m. until 10 a.m. the next day.

Mandil says despite the curfew, Khartoum itself is starting to return to normal, with only Omdurman still off-limits.

[Nichola Mandil]: “From eastern Sudan, Port Sudan and Kassala, people are coming to Khartoum by bus. From Gezira, Madeni and from El-Obeid the movement is fine. Only movement is restricted in Omdurman and also in some areas from Khartoum-North. But otherwise in different areas the markets are opened, but only to enter Omdurman is not possible at all and from Omdurman to enter Khartoum is not possible.”

Mandil quotes Governor Al-Mutasi asking citizens in the capital to respect the curfew and report what the governor called “suspicious movements.”

Meanwhile, Sudan Television is quoting sources within the Sudan Armed Forces as saying they will pay 250 million Sudanese pounds for any information that leads to the capture or death of JEM leader, Dr. Khalil Ibrahim.

On Sunday, Dr. Ibrahim told the BBC that he was in Khartoum and was headed to the Republican Palace in order to topple the Sudan government, but the Sudan Armed Forces says it has repulsed and chased the movement away from the capital. Early Monday morning there were some reports that Dr. Ibrahim has now been captured, but this could not be confirmed.

Some eyewitnesses in Khartoum told Sudan Radio Service on Sunday said that they saw many dead bodies lying on the streets in Omdurman and vehicles apparently belonging to JEM were destroyed and burning.

The eyewitnesses also said that they saw JEM soldiers moving all over Omdurman, especially around Suk Libya and even up to Suk Al-Shabi.

After returning from Saudi Arabia, President Omer Al-Bashir says that Sudan has cut diplomatic relations with Chad following the attack, blaming Chad for supporting and financing the anti-government group. Some alleged JEM soldiers who were captured appeared on Sudan Television saying they came from Chad.

However, Chad says it was not involved in the attacks. Speaking to Al-Jazeera television, the Chadian information minister called on the Sudanese government and all the Darfur movements to continue seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict.

But a peaceful solution seems further away than ever. Presidential Adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail says that peace talks between the national government and the Justice and Equality Movement would be suspended as a result of the attacks.

The attack on the capital had impact outside Darfur, as well. First Vice President of the Republic and President of the Government of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, condemned the attacks and announced the SPLM would postpone its second national convention, which was supposed to start in Juba on Sunday.

The attack also garnered attention from outside the country. The United States government says it is very concerned by the outbreak of violence in Khartoum and is urging both sides to exercise restraint. And UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also expressed concern about the fighting and called for an immediate ceasefire.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Since I’ve returned to Sudan I’ve made 2 trips to Juba (the capital of South Sudan). I complained before about how much I hated Juba and the dirtiness, the trash, the cost of living, but almost a year later I feel a bit differently about the place. People are putting up buildings, roads are improving, restaurants and hotels are opening, and generally you can see development happening (the development is even sometimes Sudanese driven finally). On this trip to Juba I had what could be a typical weekend for someone living in a big city in Europe or America. I went to the International Juba Film Festival, had 2 great (free) yoga classes in an air conditioned office/ studio, got invited to spend a Sunday by the pool, had long lunches with friends of great Lebanese food, Chinese food, and Indian food, and went to a fabulous party! The party I went to was at an actual bar… where you could get real drinks… and even ice-cream!! I also visited 2 friends who lived in real accommodations. One friend has an apartment which had nice furniture imported from Ikea, art on the walls, her own kitchen, satellite TV and a porch which overlooks the Nile. I spent another afternoon drinking good wine with another friend with an equally fabulous place while playing with their pet Dik-Dik (a very small antelope which had been domesticated and was as friendly as a dog). Maybe it was the fact that I got to see some of the wonderful friends that I have made in Sudan, or maybe I’m just tired of living in a tent in a place where you have to make your own entertainment- but this time Juba was ‘Jubalicious’. (well aside from the usual Sudan things and the recent rise in insecurity there...)