Monday, 2 June 2008

Sudan - A disaster in progress

PressTV's Middle East Today delves into the complicated issues dividing Africa's largest nation, Sudan.

It’s a country that is very rarely out of the news, but also a country that very few people actually understand.

To many people, Sudan is synonymous with civil war, ethnic strife, poverty and hunger. A little known fact, however, is that despite all this, the country still managed to be the sixth fastest growing economy in the world in terms of GDP last year.

Sudan also emerged as the world’s most unstable country on the Failed States Index, pushing Iraq into second place, probably not an achievement welcomed or accepted by the authorities in Khartoum .

But while Sudan may appear as a solid block on the map, on the ground, several regions with their own distinct cultures and languages maintain a vigilant watch on their neighbors; over the gunsight of an assault rifle.

Despite a ceasefire declared between the north and south in 2005 – a ceasefire both sides accuse the other of violating – there have been a rising number of armed clashes, leading observers to suggest the country may be on the brink of open civil war.

In the west, Darfur remains the focus of much international attention with alleged government attacks on tribes who are seeking regional autonomy.

Along its border with Chad , tensions remain high, with Khartoum accusing its neighbor of helping Darfur rebels, and two weeks ago Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared he was cutting diplomatic relations.

Sudan has more than 550 different tribes speaking some 400 distinct languages. But generally they are separated into two main groups, Arabs with Nubian roots in the north and non-Arab Africans.

This of course is an oversimplification, given that within those groups there are bitter rivalries and tenuous alliances.

A joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission has been the country since last year, attempting to enforce the terms of a Darfur Peace Treaty.

On Sunday, Khartoum ordered the chief of the mission, Brigadier Patrick Davidson-Houston out of the country.

His force was supposed to comprise 26,000 troops and police, drawn mainly from African countries. At the time of his departure, he had just 9,000 men under his command.

Middle East Today invited three Sudan experts to appear on the program to give their insights and help the rest of us try to get a better understanding a better understanding of what is actually happening on the ground.

After watching this program you certainly will not be able to boast in any way that you are now some sort of expert on Sudan and its complex issues. You will, however, be able to declare that from what you have learned, this is not a problem that is going to disappear from our television screens any time soon.

On the panel were, in London, Gibril Ibrahim Mohammad, Senior Advisor to the Justice and Equality movement.

In Khartoum we were joined by political analyst, Rabii Abdelatti.

And from Washington, Bill Fletcher, former president of Transafrica Forum offered us some sound advice.

Sudan - A disaster in progress on PressTV

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