Trying to understand Sudan

Sudan is an African country for which I haven’t had a clear picture – yet clearly needs much greater awareness. 

A first personal impression of Sudan was the movie “Khartoum” starring Charlton Heston, with a dramatic final scene of General Gordon facing the marauding Mahdi in silence before being killed.  Through the wonders of Internet, here is that  scene to relive.   

Then Darfur, where my simplistic understanding has been that it is a conflict between Arab Muslims and African Muslims, focused in Darfur in the West of Sudan.  The reasons for the conflict are multiple but the Arab Muslim Khartoum government has been supported by the Janjaweed – militants who are part Darfurians and partly from other countries, while the African Muslims in Darfur include groups such as the Sudanese Liberation Army, and the Justice and Equality Movement. The Arabs tend to predominantly nomadic and the Africans predominantly farmers.

A few snapshots are here and here with a discussion in 2007 with a rebel leader in Darfur. Interviews with the leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) in 2008, Abdul Wahid al-Nur here  and here.  al-Nur seems quite supportive of Israel, and positions his SLM as a more encompassing movement while the Khartoum group are more supportive of Global Islamic Jihad.

The Sudanese refugees who are going to Egypt and Israel are predominantly African Muslim Darfurians but also some from Southern Sudan. See here, here, here and here. Many who initially fled to Egypt found discrimination there, so Israel has become more attractive. 

Then as a separate conflict, there has been a long running civil war (since Sudanese independence in 1956) between the North and South of Sudan – where the North is Muslim and the South is predominantly Christian. Simon Deng, a former South Lebanese Christian slave, is interviewed  here about the conflict, and speaks here in Jerusalem.

On January 9, 2011, a referendum is to be held in Southern Sudan to determine whether the area will break off from Northern Sudan to form a new separate country.  If the vote is to secede, the President will be Salva Kiir.

In Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald, Jason Koutsoukis writes articles here and here from Juba, the main city of Southern Sudan, about the upcoming referendum.   There are fears that Northern Sudan won’t accept the decision.  Also, it seems that the referendum will not go ahead in the borderzone of Abyei.  Koutsoukis interviews 2 South Sudanese Christians, who are now living in Sydney, but have returned to Juba to help their countrymen at this time.  There is tension but also excitement about the future possibilities. 

More about Sudan here, here and here

Hopefully the referendum will usher in a more positive time for Sudan which will then extend to Darfur… and also result in improved links with Israel.

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