Khalid Albaih is a political cartoonist “from the two countries of Sudan,” in his words, who is now based in Qatar. His drawings appear at his Facebook page, entitled Khartoon! in a play on the name of the Sudanese capital. Katy Kalemkerian and Khalid Medani spoke with him in Montreal on November 9, 2014, and conducted a follow-up interview by Skype after the January 2015 attack on the offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, notorious for its regular caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in degrading or humiliating poses.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. South Sudan and Sudan had agreed to share oil revenue, oil was flowing again and, despite considerable problems, relations appeared headed in a slightly better direction. Both governments were drawn to China as a key provider and practical enabler of economic assistance, a political partner and international ally. In early December 2013, South Sudan and China had made progress on negotiations about a package of support to expand a serious non-oil Chinese role. Then, on December 15, the irruption of violence in Juba and its rapid spread to other parts of South Sudan changed everything.
The Republic of South Sudan is undergoing its most devastating round of violence since declaring its independence in July 2011. The fighting broke out in mid-December 2013, some five months after President Salva Kiir fired his vice president, Riek Machar, along with the entire cabinet. At a December 15 meeting of the ruling party, Kiir alleged that Machar had been planning a coup. Machar denied it. Kiir is Dinka and Machar is Nuer, respectively the country’s two largest ethnic communities at 40 and 20 percent of the population. The dispute between the two men quickly took on a decidedly ethnic character as Dinkas in the presidential guard tried to disarm their Nuer colleagues leading to fighting between Dinka and Nuer civilians in the capital city of Juba.
The March 2001 destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan, Afghanistan, introduced a new loanword into the Euro-American political vocabulary. The Taliban’s new explosion into world consciousness catalyzed, until September of that year, more hand wringing than substantive investigation of their social origins, political meaning and global import. Similarly, the July 2012 desecration of saintly burial markers in Timbuktu, Mali, tombs that were among the greatest monuments of Islamic Africa, has largely failed to register as more than cultural vandalism. These crimes against the cultural heritage of the Islamic world may presage far graver damage to the people of the Sahara.
After weeks of escalating border violence and heated rhetoric, war has returned to the Sudans. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) formally ended 40 years of civil war between north and south Sudan, and paved the way for the creation of the Republic of South Sudan, Africa’s newest independent state. But the CPA was comprehensive in name only: It left details of border demarcation, economic cooperation and political reform unspecified and without mechanisms for enforcement. During the six years of shared government between north and south mandated by the CPA, little progress was made toward settling these issues; instead of encouraging cooperation, the arrangement functioned further to bifurcate political power in the hands of the agreement’s official partners, the National Congress Party (NCP) in the north and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the south. The SPLM came to dominate a sovereign government following southerners’ vote to secede from the Khartoum-centered state in January 2011. Post-secession negotiations hosted in Addis Ababa have only inched along while both governments — as well as their various allied militias — have tried to use force to alter the facts on the ground.
Renewed conflict along the border between Sudan and South Sudan follows a predictable pattern, says MERIP editorial committee member Khalid Medani in an interview with KPFA radio.
The casual Sudan observer might conclude from recent news stories that George Clooney's arrest at the Sudanese embassy in Washington on March 16 has been the most significant event of the past week. It takes some digging to find any coverage of the preliminary agreement signed by representatives of Sudan and South Sudan in Addis Ababa on March 13, which is at least a step toward the settlement of disputes over borders, citizenship and oil revenues that have sustained diplomatic tensions and cross-border violence between the two states since the South's secession in July 2011.
On July 9, 2011, tens of thousands of South Sudanese gathered in the capital city of Juba at the mausoleum of rebel leader John Garang to celebrate the creation of their new state. Six months earlier, these jubilant crowds had voted in a referendum for independence from northern Sudan; more than 98 percent cast their ballots in favor of secession.
On July 9, 2011, South Sudan will officially become independent. When southern Sudanese voted in the January 9 referendum on independence, they sought to affirm their African identity and shed the Arab identity that they felt had been imposed upon them by successive regimes in Khartoum. They also signaled their desire to be masters of their own destiny, displaying their lack of trust in the north’s ability to meet their demands for fair sharing of wealth and power. But Africa’s newest state will continue to share characteristics with the “old” Sudan that, if they are not addressed, bode ill for its prospects of a peaceful, democratic future.
On February 7, 2011, the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission presented President Omar al-Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir with the results of the January 2011 vote on southern self-determination. It was a formality: During the three-week voting tabulation process, both presidents had publicly accepted the credibility of the vote and the overwhelming majority for southern secession, which turned out to be 98.83 percent. There was some apprehension that Husni Mubarak, then still president of Egypt, might resign on the same day. But Mubarak managed to hang on for another week, securing for Sudan second billing on Al Jazeera’s evening news when, 55 years after independence, it decided to split into two countries.
In January 2011, if they are allowed to, the people of the southern provinces of Sudan will almost certainly vote to declare the independence of South Sudan from the north. The referendum is to be the culmination of an armistice in the longest-running civil conflict in Africa, between the Sudanese government seated in Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) of the south. Said to have killed some 2 million people, and displaced 4 million more, the north-south war has largely been in abeyance since the conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed by the parties in Naivasha, Kenya on January 9, 2005.
Given that a large contingent of foreign aid workers and UN representatives has been on the scene in Sudan for a decade, why did no one foresee the current famine in southern Sudan, which is affecting more than a million people?
Intifada Chic We’re not really sure what this tells us about the present state of the Israeli Jewish psyche, almost two years into the intifada, but here are some of the designer T-shirts being sold these days in Jerusalem:
July 25 The predawn landing, with the swollen Nile below and a touch of freshness in the air, feels reassuring after two years away from Sudan. But at the airport exit a nervous officer holds back the passengers: security is tight since the inqilab, he mutters, using the Arabic word for “overthrow” instead of the official reference — “National Salvation Revolution.” The drive into town — usually a ten-minute dash, swerving around potholes and debris — slows drastically. Soldiers stop the car six times, scrutinizing the special papers that allow us to travel during the nighttime curfew. After this wary silence at night, what will be the mood on the sun-blasted streets during the day?
In 1988 Sudan reaped its best harvest in at least a decade, yet as many as half a million Sudanese may have died of starvation. Most were victims of the civil war raging in the southern provinces, and anarchy in the west. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the war zones, seeking refuge in camps in Ethiopia and other neighboring countries or in northern Sudan.