In the days of Antiquity there was a vast borderless frontier known to the world as Bilad as Sudan (or “Sudan” for short) which literally translates to “The Land of the Blacks” (known by the Ancient Greeks as “The Land of the Gods”!)
Today, Sudan is now a country with an extensive, well documented history. However, it is a history that leaves the majority of the world in a nebulous state of affairs, as with much of African history due to the multiple levels of misrepresentation laid down since the 18th century. Far from Afristoricals wanting to add to this confusion, this months’ issue will give you a fresh angle to precipitate the devastating trauma of what is happening in Sudan today.
When one attempts to write a piece on the history of the war in Sudan the first challenge greets you with not just one, but a series of impressionable questions of who and what is Sudan – why is this region perpetually in a state of war and strife – how many people have died and been displaced – is this war really 20 years old…?
These and many other questions generally remain unanswered and dwindle beneath the pressing issues evolved out of a warring region that seeing no end in its march towards battle.
Just last week more than 60 men, women and children were killed in “ethnic” clashes in southern Sudan, including people who drowned trying to cross a river to escape the violence. Another source of fuel to the intense fires in the deserts of Sudan is slavery. Slavery is widespread throughout Sudan, even today. Arab raiders from the north of the country have enslaved thousands of southerners, all of which are Black Africans. The Dinka people have been at the blunt end of this barbaric trade.
There is no end in sight to the violence and in order to fully understand why, who, what and when did this all begin, we have to honestly go back through the annals of history before arriving at a lasting solution to this tragedy. What is certain is that the solution will not be an easy or comfortable one.
The imposition of Arabic culture and Islamic values on the people of southern Sudan is a deliberate attempt to destroy African culture and heritage in that region. The national identity of Sudan is being moulded in Arabic and Islamic terms, as the northerners embrace Sudanese citizenship as a transition to full integration into the Arab world. The rights of the vast African majority, whose identity should be fully embodied into the character of the state of Sudan, are categorically undermined.
From time immemorial, Sudan represented the Land of the Blacks, the Nubian, the Ethiopian and the African de facto. Today, however, Sudan eerily replicates the state of play that once was a reality in Ancient Egypt, where within one country you will find two separate lands.
You may be wondering what happened in Ancient Egypt that would have anything to do with what is going on in Sudan today. Well, nearly 2,000 years after the appearance of the Egyptian astronomical calendar, in circa 2,326 BC, Africa experienced her first visit from peoples referred to as Indo-European language speaking peoples. In the north of Egypt (called Lower Egypt – present day Libya) you found these Indo-European speaking communities who, no sooner had they arrived, clamoured to sack and conquer the dominant Upper Egypt in the south, generation after generation, for a period that spanned 2,500 years. They eventually succeeded in sacking and displacing the indigenous population there.
To the south of Lower Egypt you found Upper Egypt (present day Egypt), which was originally called Khemet (Kemet), with its pioneering, pyramid building Black African civilisation who possessed well-versed religious, political, social, scientific and artistic practices dating back to at the latest 5,000 BC.
The unification of The Two Lands, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, hailed what looks like the beginning of the end for Black Africa in the region of North Africa, for no sooner had these new patriarchal civilisations settled within the borders of the Land of the Blacks (aka Upper Egypt, Bilad as Sudan et al), they began to dominate society peacefully through marriage to Black African noblewomen who held the birth rights of the family, by way of the matriarchal system of African society in those days. Patriarchy, which never fully understood the matriarchal system of Africa, took over to rule the roost and eventually the society.
Fast forward to 2009 AD and take a look at Egypt today, you will be hard pressed to find an indigenous Black African there, although they are still present in small numbers. The descendants of the union between the patriarchal Indo-European and matriarchal African noblewomen, embraced the patriarchal system of their paternal ancestors slowly abandoning the original African social structures.
The template for dominance had been set thousands of years ago in Ancient Egypt. Sudan henceforth is the modern equivalent of the African tragedy of The Two Lands of Ancient Egypt.
In the north of Sudan you have the Afro-Arab community, vehemently detached from their African identity and advancing steadfast to the quest of the Islamisation of Africa. They control the source of basic human needs to the southern region of Sudan and use food as weapons for conversion. The northern Sudanese have forced through an Islamised educational system in the south with the aim of killing indigenous languages and cultures, in order to accentuate Islamic and Arabic dominance. The revival of the slave trade in Sudan during the many decades of war with the south is possibly the most traumatic element of this dispute. Rape is used as a weapon of mass destruction with the resulting offspring from these attacks aligning themselves to the heritage of their unknown fathers to ensure the final nail permanently seals the coffin of African culture in eastern Africa.
In the south you find the displaced indigenous African community, traditional in their way of life and culture, coupled with the more liberal Christian community.
There have been many attempts in the past to resolve the many issues in Sudan, but to no avail. It appears that by skirting around certain fundamental issues, Sudan will never be at peace. You only have to look at the past 60 years to see the clear pattern emerging. A lot of Africans die; international community speaks out; current dictator concedes then breaks concession almost immediately; and we start all over again!
The genocide Jean Ping (our dear friend Jean Ping, who was featured in our last newsletter) is in denial as the body count surpasses 2 million people dead in recent times. One wonders how high the numbers of dead have to be before genocide is considered in Africa.
Subsequently, it was as if a hot rod of newly extracted Sudanese uranium suddenly poked Luis Moreno-Ocampo in somewhere quite unpleasant, in July 2008! The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) sprung into action and suddenly, after what can reasonably be described as 4,000 years of perpetual turbulence and “ethnic cleansing” in the Sudanese region, the ICC attempted to address the status quo and issued a warrant for the arrest of Lt. General Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, the military dictator currently in control of Sudan, in March 2009.
Al-Bashir was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region. Unfortunately, denial (or could that be ignorance) on an international scale stands firm, as the ICC rejected the indictment for genocide. The ICC was designed to be an apolitical, autonomous, judicial institution.
The predictable response from this barbarous dictator was to shut down 13 aid agencies that operate in Sudan to assist millions of displaced people in Darfur. The UN said that 1.1 million people will be left without food, health care and water.
The Christian world’s (represented through the ICC) attempt to address al-Bashir’s crimes resulted in disaster for those Africans relying on aid from these expelled agencies. The Muslim world’s response was to receive al-Bashir with open arms at the recent Arab League. Al-Bashir didn’t stop there. As a result of the confused state of affairs in Africa, al-Bashir predictably gained the support of Jean Ping’s African Union (AU), quickly followed by Afro-Arab states such as Eritrea, Egypt and Libya.
South Africa was the first country to show its disdain for al-Bashir, when newly elected President Jacob Zuma informed al-Bashir that he would not be able to attend Zuma’s inauguration. The diplomatic reason was due to South Africa’s legal obligations under the Rome Statue of the ICC! Botswana has also come out and distanced itself from the AU position. It is not known whether Botswana chose this route due to diplomacy or in direct response to the atrocities committed by al-Bashir’s regime.
US President Barack Obama has opted for discrete diplomacy in dealing with al Bashir, which will inevitably fail to yield any results. It is clear that the political ramifications of supporting the indictment of al-Bashir, as opposed to the immediate need for pre-emptive intervention in direct response to the ongoing genocide in Sudan, are at the forefront of America’s concerns and, as such, they are wavering on this issue.
US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton recently made the US position clear by stating “We will end hostility towards the ICC, and look for opportunities to encourage effective ICC action in ways that promote US interests by bringing war criminals to justice”. This statement can be easily translated into “We will co-operate with the ICC so long as they don’t indict any former US presidents for war crimes in Iraq”. What is this discrete diplomacy? Is it selective diplomacy or politics over humanity?
So, while America battle out their indifferences with the ICC and the Arab states in Africa rally together, again, it is obvious to Afristoricals that it is for sub-Saharan-African leaders to hold the likes of al-Bashir to account. Leaving this issue to the already indifferent international community to resolve, opens the door wide for the neo-Nazi himself, al-Bashir, to claim racial discrimination and make anti-colonial gesticulations towards the ICC, whilst embarking on the most savage ethnic cleansing exercise in the history of recent times – the worst genocide of Black Africans seen since the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
To date al-Bashir remains defiant. So confident in his reinforced ideology, shamelessly condoned by those in the Arab League and African Union, al-Bashir has now set his sights on expansion. So sure of his dominance and control in Sudan, al-Bashir has now embarked on empire building and has a firm eye on Chad, recently invading Chad borders, killing 247 people. Chad President Idriss Deby Itno led around 10,000 demonstrators through the capital, Ndjamena, on Wednesday 13th May 2009, stating “…columns of mercenaries paid by the Khartoum regime crossed the border to attack Chadian army positions, on board more than 800 heavily armed vehicles”.
This concoction of tragedies emerged from the same ingredients thrown in to the Ancient Egyptian scenario 2,500 years ago and, as far as Black Africans in that region were concerned, they are now almost extinct! First Egypt, then Ethiopia, then Sudan, then Chad and then, perhaps, the rest of Black Africa could be 2,000 years away from repeating history.
Ok, ok, I know – it may seem like a bit of an extreme analogy, but be very clear, the situation in Sudan is extremely extreme! The results of year upon year of war will also be extreme and whether for the betterment or destruction of Africans in that region remains to be seen.
It is time for African leaders to get serious about themselves and this issue, along with the many others, before they find al-Bashir knocking on their back door too!