Jan 292010

American activism to end the violence in Darfur culminated with a rally on the Nation’s Mall in Washington D.C. in April, 2006. * It was a beautiful spring day. We see Barack Obama and George Clooney, Elie Wiesel, Al Sharpton, Garth Brooks, rabbis and imams and preachers, politicians from both sides of the aisle, Evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews, Muslim Darfuris and Christian Southern Sudanese immigrants, all come together in the cause to “end genocide”.

It was the first time in history that a social movement developed in response to an ongoing genocide, and the crowd there on the Mall that day felt empowered and hopeful that their efforts would bring results.

But over the course of the summer and fall, events in and revolving around Sudan began to overshadow that idealism. And so we begin to witness how that conviction and that idealism are pitted against the growing realization that there are geo-political and economic forces at play in Sudan’s complex story that will prove to be the country’s making or its undoing.

With the help of experts on Sudan, voices from within Sudan, and humanitarians and activists in the West, this film looks more closely at the wider context out of which the present crisis in Darfur was born, and the reasons behind the international community’s failure to stop what many call, “the first genocide of the 21st century”.

Throughout the film we see vignettes of everyday life in Sudan today, some hopeful in the sweetness of daily ritual and traditional family life, but we also witness the devastating effects that the ongoing conflicts within Sudan and the conflicts of interest on the part of outside actors on the world stage have on the day-to-day lives of the Sudanese people – we see a people struggling to feed their children despite the billions of dollars worth of oil that is extracted and sold from their ancestral lands.

Sudan is a theatre in which some of the most critical conflicts of the new millennium are being played out: Most notably the race for oil, which provides the Government of Sudan (GoS) with the motive and the means to carry out its genocidal policies; and the former Bush administration’s so-called “War on Terror”, which had made the GoS an ally in that war as Islamic extremists and terrorist organizations manoeuvre through Africa’s largest country. Indeed, Sudan is a battleground for militant Christianity and militant Islam.

“Darfur is a frontline now between cultures, like Somalia…” Jan Pronk, UN Special Representative to Sudan (2004 – 2006)

* The history of American activism for Sudan: Leading up to the 2004 US Presidential elections, evangelical groups and the Black Caucus were putting pressure on the White House to speak out on the violence in Darfur. The same groups had lobbied the White House to help broker a peace to end the civil war between North and South Sudan. Indeed evangelical groups have had a long presence in South Sudan, going back the days when Sudan was a British Colony. The Southern Sudanese are black and mostly Christian, as opposed to North Sudan, which is predominantly Muslim and Arab. Darfuris by contrast are mostly black and Muslim. It’s an important distinction to be aware of when attempting to understand the various elements that are at play in Sudan’s conflicts.

Jan 292010

Newshook, 2010
Sudan will hold its first nationwide general election in April 2010. Sudan’s President, Omar Al-Bashir, will run again for office. In early 2009 the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued a warrant for Bashir’s arrest, charging Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The election takes place against the backdrop of the ongoing crisis in Darfur, and a peace between North and South Sudan that constantly threatens to unravel.

The 2005 US-brokered Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended altogether 50 years of civil war between North and South Sudan mandates the clear demarcation of borders between the North and the South, a sticking point in negotiations because of oil found along the agreed-upon border. Control over oil fields and the equal disbursement of oil revenues – important for the continued development of South Sudan – play a big role in the ongoing conflicts within Sudan.

Those working to see that peace holds between North and South Sudan say the general election in 2010 will play an important role in the implementation of the CPA. And, in turn, whether or not Khartoum makes good on the peace dividends mandated in the CPA will determine whether or not South Sudan will vote to secede from Sudan’s National Unity Government in a referendum in 2011.

85 percent of Sudan’s oil is in South Sudan. If South Sudan were to secede it would take much of the country’s oil with it.

Easter Sunday, 2008 – South Sudan held its first midterm elections
A group of women delegates from the Women’s League of Upper Nile State stopped at the village where we had stayed the night. They were on their way to vote for the first time.

The late John Garang, South Sudan’s first President, had mandated that 25 percent of government positions should automatically be granted to women.

But women running for office are complaining that their male counterparts are not living up to Garang’s wishes, and that women in South Sudan continue to, “suffer exploitation and marginalization at the hands of South Sudan cabinet ministers,” according to the Deputy Chairperson of Women’s Affairs for Central Equatorial State, which includes, Juba, South Sudan’s capitol. The Chairwoman threatened not to vote for male contenders in upcoming general election.

* Interviews from Sudan are still in the process of being professionally translated.