Archive for September 15, 2011

What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Philosophy

Tape Installation by Stephen Doyle. Photograph by Stephen Wilkes for The New York Times.

Riverdale Country School in the Bronx.

Published: September 14, 2011

Dominic Randolph can seem a little out of place at Riverdale Country School — which is odd, because he’s the headmaster. Riverdale is one of New York City’s most prestigious private schools, with a 104-year-old campus that looks down grandly on Van Cortlandt Park from the top of a steep hill in the richest part of the Bronx. On the discussion boards of, worked-up moms from the Upper East Side argue over whether Riverdale sends enough seniors to Harvard, Yale and Princeton to be considered truly “TT” (top-tier, in UrbanBabyese), or whether it is more accurately labeled “2T” (second-tier), but it is, certainly, part of the city’s private-school elite, a place members of the establishment send their kids to learn to be members of the establishment. Tuition starts at $38,500 a year, and that’s for prekindergarten.

Randolph, by contrast, comes across as an iconoclast, a disrupter, even a bit of an eccentric. He dresses for work every day in a black suit with a narrow tie, and the outfit, plus his cool demeanor and sweep of graying hair, makes you wonder, when you first meet him, if he might have played sax in a ska band in the ’80s. (The English accent helps.) He is a big thinker, always chasing new ideas, and a conversation with him can feel like a one-man TED conference, dotted with references to the latest work by behavioral psychologists and management gurus and design theorists. When he became headmaster in 2007, he swapped offices with his secretary, giving her the reclusive inner sanctum where previous headmasters sat and remodeling the small outer reception area into his own open-concept work space, its walls covered with whiteboard paint on which he sketches ideas and slogans. One day when I visited, one wall was bare except for a white sheet of paper. On it was printed a single black question mark.

For the headmaster of an intensely competitive school, Randolph, who is 49, is surprisingly skeptical about many of the basic elements of a contemporary high-stakes American education. He did away with Advanced Placement classes in the high school soon after he arrived at Riverdale; he encourages his teachers to limit the homework they assign; and he says that the standardized tests that Riverdale and other private schools require for admission to kindergarten and to middle school are “a patently unfair system” because they evaluate students almost entirely by I.Q. “This push on tests,” he told me, “is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human.”

The most critical missing piece, Randolph explained as we sat in his office last fall, is character — those essential traits of mind and habit that were drilled into him at boarding school in England and that also have deep roots in American history. “Whether it’s the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful,” he said. “Strangely, we’ve now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that.”

Randolph has been pondering throughout his 23-year career as an educator the question of whether and how schools should impart good character. It has often felt like a lonely quest, but it has led him in some interesting directions. In the winter of 2005, Randolph read “Learned Optimism,” a book by Martin Seligman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who helped establish the Positive Psychology movement. Randolph found the book intriguing, and he arranged a meeting with the author. As it happened, on the morning that Randolph made the trip to Philadelphia, Seligman had scheduled a separate meeting with David Levin, the co-founder of the KIPP network of charter schools and the superintendent of the KIPP schools in New York City. Seligman decided he might as well combine the two meetings, and he invited Christopher Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, who was also visiting Penn that day, to join him and Randolph and Levin in his office for a freewheeling discussion of psychology and schooling.

Levin had also spent many years trying to figure out how to provide lessons in character to his students, who were almost all black or Latino and from low-income families. At the first KIPP school, in Houston, he and his co-founder, Michael Feinberg, filled the walls with slogans like “Work Hard” and “Be Nice” and “There Are No Shortcuts,” and they developed a system of rewards and demerits designed to train their students not only in fractions and algebra but also in perseverance and empathy. Like Randolph, Levin went to Seligman’s office expecting to talk about optimism. But Seligman surprised them both by pulling out a new and very different book, which he and Peterson had just finished: “Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification,” a scholarly, 800-page tome that weighed in at three and a half pounds. It was intended, according to the authors, as a “manual of the sanities,” an attempt to inaugurate what they described as a “science of good character.”

It was, in other words, exactly what Randolph and Levin had been looking for, separately, even if neither of them had quite known it. Seligman and Peterson consulted works from Aristotle to Confucius, from the Upanishads to the Torah, from the Boy Scout Handbook to profiles of Pokémon characters, and they settled on 24 character strengths common to all cultures and eras. The list included some we think of as traditional noble traits, like bravery, citizenship, fairness, wisdom and integrity; others that veer into the emotional realm, like love, humor, zest and appreciation of beauty; and still others that are more concerned with day-to-day human interactions: social intelligence (the ability to recognize interpersonal dynamics and adapt quickly to different social situations), kindness, self-regulation, gratitude.

In most societies, Seligman and Peterson wrote, these strengths were considered to have a moral valence, and in many cases they overlapped with religious laws and strictures. But their true importance did not come from their relationship to any system of ethics or moral laws but from their practical benefit: cultivating these strengths represented a reliable path to “the good life,” a life that was not just happy but also meaningful and fulfilling.

Six years after that first meeting, Levin and Randolph are trying to put this conception of character into action in their schools. In the process, they have found themselves wrestling with questions that have long confounded not just educators but anyone trying to nurture a thriving child or simply live a good life. What is good character? Is it really something that can be taught in a formal way, in the classroom, or is it the responsibility of the family, something that is inculcated gradually over years of experience? Which qualities matter most for a child trying to negotiate his way to a successful and autonomous adulthood? And are the answers to those questions the same in Harlem and in Riverdale?

Levin had believed in the importance of character since KIPP’s inception. But on the day of his trip to see Seligman, he was feeling a new urgency about the subject. Six years earlier, in 1999, the first group of students to enter KIPP Academy middle school, which Levin founded and ran in the South Bronx, triumphed on the eighth-grade citywide achievement test, graduating with the highest scores in the Bronx and the fifth-highest in all of New York City. Every morning of middle school they passed a giant sign in the stairwell reminding them of their mission: “Climb the Mountain to College.” And as they left KIPP for high school, they seemed poised to do just that: not only did they have outstanding academic results, but most of them also won admission to highly selective private and Catholic schools, often with full scholarships.

But as Levin told me when we spoke last fall, for many students in that first cohort, things didn’t go as planned. “We thought, O.K., our first class was the fifth-highest-performing class in all of New York City,” Levin said. “We got 90 percent into private and parochial schools. It’s all going to be solved. But it wasn’t.” Almost every member of the cohort did make it through high school, and more than 80 percent of them enrolled in college. But then the mountain grew steeper, and every few weeks, it seemed, Levin got word of another student who decided to drop out. According to a report that KIPP issued last spring, only 33 percent of students who graduated from a KIPP middle school 10 or more years ago have graduated from a four-year college. That rate is considerably better than the 8 percent of children from low-income families who currently complete college nationwide, and it even beats the average national rate of college completion for all income groups, which is 31 percent. But it still falls well short of KIPP’s stated goal: that 75 percent of KIPP alumni will graduate from a four-year college, and 100 percent will be prepared for a stable career.

As Levin watched the progress of those KIPP alumni, he noticed something curious: the students who persisted in college were not necessarily the ones who had excelled academically at KIPP; they were the ones with exceptional character strengths, like optimism and persistence and social intelligence. They were the ones who were able to recover from a bad grade and resolve to do better next time; to bounce back from a fight with their parents; to resist the urge to go out to the movies and stay home and study instead; to persuade professors to give them extra help after class. Those skills weren’t enough on their own to earn students a B.A., Levin knew. But for young people without the benefit of a lot of family resources, without the kind of safety net that their wealthier peers enjoyed, they seemed an indispensable part of making it to graduation day.

What appealed to Levin about the list of character strengths that Seligman and Peterson compiled was that it was presented not as a finger-wagging guilt trip about good values and appropriate behavior but as a recipe for a successful and happy life. He was wary of the idea that KIPP’s aim was to instill in its students “middle-class values,” as though well-off kids had some depth of character that low-income students lacked. “The thing that I think is great about the character-strength approach,” he told me, “is it is fundamentally devoid of value judgment.”

Still, neither Levin nor Dominic Randolph had a clear vision of how to turn an 800-page psychology text into a practical program. After that first meeting in Seligman’s office, Levin and Randolph kept in touch, calling and e-mailing, swapping articles and Web links, and they soon discovered that they shared a lot of ideas and interests, despite the very different school environments in which they worked. They decided to join forces, to try to tackle the mysteries of character together, and they turned for help to Angela Duckworth, who at the time was a graduate student in Seligman’s department (she is now an assistant professor). Duckworth came to Penn in 2002 at the age of 32, after working for a decade as a teacher and a charter-school consultant. When she applied to the Ph.D. program at Penn, she wrote in her application essay that her experiences in schools had given her “a distinctly different view of school reform” than the one she started out with in her 20s. “The problem, I think, is not only the schools but also the students themselves,” she wrote. “Here’s why: learning is hard. True, learning is fun, exhilarating and gratifying — but it is also often daunting, exhausting and sometimes discouraging. . . . To help chronically low-performing but intelligent students, educators and parents must first recognize that character is at least as important as intellect.”

Duckworth’s early research showed that measures of self-control can be a more reliable predictor of students’ grade-point averages than their I.Q.’s. But while self-control seemed to be a critical ingredient in attaining basic success, Duckworth came to feel it wasn’t as relevant when it came to outstanding achievement. People who accomplished great things, she noticed, often combined a passion for a single mission with an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission, whatever the obstacles and however long it might take. She decided she needed to name this quality, and she chose the word “grit.”

She developed a test to measure grit, which she called the Grit Scale. It is a deceptively simple test, in that it requires you to rate yourself on just 12 questions, from “I finish whatever I begin” to “I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.” It takes about three minutes to complete, and it relies entirely on self-report — and yet when Duckworth took it out into the field, she found it was remarkably predictive of success. At Penn, high grit ratings allowed students with relatively low college-board scores to nonetheless achieve high G.P.A.’s. Duckworth and her collaborators gave their grit test to more than 1,200 freshman cadets as they entered West Point and embarked on the grueling summer training course known as Beast Barracks. The military has developed its own complex evaluation, called the Whole Candidate Score, to judge incoming cadets and predict which of them will survive the demands of West Point; it includes academic grades, a gauge of physical fitness and a Leadership Potential Score. But at the end of Beast Barracks, the more accurate predictor of which cadets persisted and which ones dropped out turned out to be Duckworth’s 12-item grit questionnaire.

Levin and Randolph asked Duckworth to use the new methods and tools she was developing to help them investigate the question of character at KIPP and Riverdale, and she and a handful of Penn graduate students began making regular treks from Philadelphia to New York. The first question Duckworth addressed, again, was the relative importance of I.Q. and self-control. She and her team of researchers gave middle-school students at Riverdale and KIPP a variety of psychological and I.Q. tests. They found that at both schools, I.Q. was the better predictor of scores on statewide achievement tests, but measures of self-control were more reliable indicators of report-card grades.

Duckworth’s research convinced Levin and Randolph that they should try to foster self-control and grit in their students. Yet those didn’t seem like the only character strengths that mattered. The full list of 24, on the other hand, felt too unwieldy. So they asked Peterson if he could narrow the list down to a more manageable handful, and he identified a set of strengths that were, according to his research, especially likely to predict life satisfaction and high achievement. After a few small adjustments (Levin and Randolph opted to drop love in favor of curiosity), they settled on a final list: zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity.

Over the course of the next year and a half, Duckworth worked with Levin and Randolph to turn the list of seven strengths into a two-page evaluation, a questionnaire that could be completed by teachers or parents, or by students themselves. For each strength, teachers suggested a variety of “indicators,” much like the questions Duckworth asked people to respond to on her grit questionnaire, and she road-tested several dozen of them at Riverdale and KIPP. She eventually settled on the 24 most statistically reliable ones, from “This student is eager to explore new things” (an indicator of curiosity) to “This student believes that effort will improve his or her future” (optimism).

For Levin, the next step was clear. Wouldn’t it be cool, he mused, if each student graduated from school with not only a G.P.A. but also a C.P.A., for character-point average? If you were a college-admissions director or a corporate human-resources manager selecting entry-level employees, wouldn’t you like to know which ones scored highest in grit or optimism or zest? And if you were a parent of a KIPP student, wouldn’t you want to know how your son or daughter stacked up next to the rest of the class in character as well as in reading ability? As soon as he got the final list of indicators from Duckworth and Peterson, Levin started working to turn it into a specific, concise assessment that he could hand out to students and parents at KIPP’s New York City schools twice a year: the first-ever character report card.

Back at Riverdale, though, the idea of a character report card made Randolph nervous. “I have a philosophical issue with quantifying character,” he explained to me one afternoon. “With my school’s specific population, at least, as soon as you set up something like a report card, you’re going to have a bunch of people doing test prep for it. I don’t want to come up with a metric around character that could then be gamed. I would hate it if that’s where we ended up.”

Still, he did think that the inventory Duckworth and Peterson developed could be a useful tool in communicating with students about character. And so he has been taking what one Riverdale teacher described as a “viral approach” to spreading the idea of this new method of assessing character throughout the Riverdale community. He talks about character at parent nights, asks pointed questions in staff meetings, connects like-minded members of his faculty and instructs them to come up with new programs. Last winter, Riverdale students in the fifth and sixth grades took the 24-indicator survey, and their teachers rated them as well. The results were discussed by teachers and administrators, but they weren’t shared with students or parents, and they certainly weren’t labeled a “report card.”

As I spent time at Riverdale last year, it became apparent to me that the debate over character at the school wasn’t just about how best to evaluate and improve students’ character. It went deeper, to the question of what “character” really meant. When Randolph arrived at Riverdale, the school already had in place a character-education program, of a sort. Called CARE, for Children Aware of Riverdale Ethics, the program was adopted in 1989 in the lower school, which at Riverdale means prekindergarten through fifth grade. It is a blueprint for niceness, mandating that students “Treat everyone with respect” and “Be aware of other people’s feelings and find ways to help those whose feelings have been hurt.” Posters in the hallway remind students of the virtues related to CARE (“Practice Good Manners . . . Avoid Gossiping . . . Help Others”). In the lower school, many teachers describe it as a proud and essential part of what makes Riverdale the school that it is.

When I asked Randolph last winter about CARE, he was diplomatic. “I see the character strengths as CARE 2.0,” he explained. “I’d basically like to take all of this new character language and say that we’re in the next generation of CARE.”

In fact, though, the character-strength approach of Seligman and Peterson isn’t an expansion of programs like CARE; if anything, it is a repudiation of them. In 2008, a national organization called the Character Education Partnership published a paper that divided character education into two categories: programs that develop “moral character,” which embodies ethical values like fairness, generosity and integrity; and those that address “performance character,” which includes values like effort, diligence and perseverance. The CARE program falls firmly on the “moral character” side of the divide, while the seven strengths that Randolph and Levin have chosen for their schools lean much more heavily toward performance character: while they do have a moral component, strengths like zest, optimism, social intelligence and curiosity aren’t particularly heroic; they make you think of Steve Jobs or Bill Clinton more than the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi.

The two teachers Randolph has chosen to oversee the school’s character initiative are K.C. Cohen, the guidance counselor for the middle and upper schools, and Karen Fierst, a learning specialist in the lower school. Cohen is friendly and thoughtful, in her mid-30s, a graduate of Fieldston, the private school just down the road from Riverdale. She is intensely interested in character development, and like Randolph, she is worried about the character of Riverdale students. But she is not yet entirely convinced by the seven character strengths that Riverdale has ostensibly chosen. “When I think of good character, I think: Are you fair? Are you honest in dealings with other people? Are you a cheater?” she told me. “I don’t think so much about: Are you tenacious? Are you a hard worker? I think, Are you a good person?”

Cohen’s vision of character is much closer to “moral character” than “performance character,” and so far, that vision remains the dominant one at Riverdale. When I spent a day at the school in March, sitting in on a variety of classes and meetings, messages about behavior and values permeated the day, but those messages stayed almost entirely in the moral dimension. It was a hectic day at the middle school — it was pajama day, plus there was a morning assembly, and then on top of that, the kids in French class who were going on the two-week trip to Bordeaux for spring break had to leave early in order to make their overnight flight to Paris. The topic for the assembly was heroes, and a half-dozen students stood up in front of their classmates — about 350 kids, in all — and each made a brief presentation about a particular hero he or she had chosen: Ruby Nell Bridges, the African-American girl who was part of the first group to integrate the schools in New Orleans in 1960; Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor whose self-immolation helped spark the recent revolt in that country; the actor and activist Paul Robeson.

In the assembly, in classes and in conversations with different students, I heard a lot of talk about values and ethics, and the values that were emphasized tended to be social values: inclusion, tolerance, diversity. (I heard a lot more about black history at Riverdale than I did at the KIPP schools I visited.) One eighth-grade girl I asked about character said that for her and her friends, the biggest issue was inclusion — who was invited to whose bat mitzvah; who was being shunned on Facebook. Character, as far as I could tell, was being defined at Riverdale mostly in terms of helping other people — or at least not hurting their feelings.

Randolph told me that he had concerns about a character program that comprised only those kind of nice-guy values. “The danger with character is if you just revert to these general terms — respect, honesty, tolerance — it seems really vague,” he said. “If I stand in front of the kids and just say, ‘It’s really important for you to respect each other,’ I think they glaze over. But if you say, ‘Well, actually you need to exhibit self-control,’ or you explain the value of social intelligence — this will help you collaborate more effectively — then it seems a bit more tangible.”

When I spoke to Karen Fierst, the teacher who was overseeing the character project for the Riverdale lower school, she said she was worried that it would be a challenge to convince the students and their parents that there was anything in the 24 character strengths that might actually benefit them. For KIPP kids, she said, the notion that character could help them get through college was a powerful lure, one that would motivate them to take the strengths seriously. For kids at Riverdale, though, there was little doubt that they would graduate from college. “It will just happen,” Fierst explained. “It happened to every generation in their family before them. And so it’s harder to get them to invest in this idea. For KIPP students, learning these strengths is partly about trying to demystify what makes other people successful — kind of like, ‘We’re letting you in on the secret of what successful people are like.’ But kids here already live in a successful community. They’re not depending on their teachers to give them the information on how to be successful.”

At KIPP Infinity middle school, which occupies one floor of a school on West 133rd Street, across from the M.T.A.’s giant Manhattanville bus depot, report-card night last winter fell on a cold Thursday at the beginning of February. Report-card night is always a big deal at KIPP schools — parents are strongly urged to attend, and at Infinity, almost all of them do — but this particular evening carried an extra level of anxiety for both the administrators and the parents, because students were receiving their very first character report cards, and no one knew quite what to expect.

Logistically, the character report card had been a challenge to pull off. Teachers at all four KIPP middle schools in New York City had to grade every one of their students, on a scale of 1 to 5, on every one of the 24 character indicators, and more than a few of them found the process a little daunting. And now that report-card night had arrived, they had an even bigger challenge: explaining to parents just how those precise figures, rounded to the second decimal place, summed up their children’s character. I sat for a while with Mike Witter, a 31-year-old eighth-grade English teacher, as he talked through the character report card with Faith Flemister and her son Juaquin Bennett, a tall, hefty eighth grader in a gray hooded sweatshirt.

“For the past few years we’ve been working on a project to create a clearer picture for parents about the character of your child,” Witter explained to Flemister. “The categories that we ended up putting together represent qualities that have been studied and determined to be indicators of success. They mean you’re more likely to go to college. More likely to find a good job. Even surprising things, like they mean you’re more likely to get married, or more likely to have a family. So we think these are really important.”

Flemister nodded, and Witter began to work his way down the scores on Juaquin’s character report card, starting with the good news: every teacher had scored him as a perfect 5 on “Is polite to adults and peers,” and he did almost as well on “Keeps temper in check.” They were both indicators for interpersonal self-control.

“I can tell this is a real strength for you,” Witter said, turning to Juaquin. “This kind of self-control is something you’ve developed incredibly well. So that makes me think we need to start looking at: What’s something we can target? And the first thing that jumps out at me is this.” Witter pulled out a green felt-tip marker and circled one indicator on Juaquin’s report card. “ ‘Pays attention and resists distraction,’ ” Witter read aloud, an indicator for academic self-control. “That’s a little lower than some of the other numbers. Why do you think that is?”

“I talk too much in class,” Juaquin said, a little sheepishly, looking down at his black sneakers. “I sometimes stare off into space and don’t pay attention.”

The three of them talked over a few strategies to help Juaquin focus more in class, and by the end of the 15-minute conversation, Flemister seemed convinced by the new approach. “The strong points are not a surprise,” she said to Witter as he got up to talk to another family. “That’s just the type of person Juaquin is. But it’s good how you pinpoint what he can do to make things easier on himself. Then maybe his grades will pick up.”

A month later, I returned to KIPP to visit Witter’s classroom. By that point in the school year, character language had permeated Infinity. Kids wore T-shirts with the slogan “Infinite Character” and Seligman’s 24 character strengths listed on the back. The walls were covered with signs that read “Got self-control?” and “I actively participate!” (one indicator for zest). There was a bulletin board in the hallway topped with the words “Character Counts,” where students filled out and posted “Spotted!” cards when they saw a fellow student performing actions that demonstrate character. (Jasmine R. cited William N. for zest: “William was in math class and he raised his hand for every problem.”)

I came to Witter’s class to observe something that Levin was calling “dual-purpose instruction,” the practice of deliberately working explicit talk about character strengths into every lesson. Levin wanted math teachers to use the strengths in word problems; he explained that history teachers could use them to orient a class discussion about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. And when I arrived in Witter’s class at 7:45 on a Thursday morning in March, he was leading a discussion about Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things Fall Apart.” Above Witter’s head, at the front of the class, the seven character strengths were stenciled in four-inch-high letters, white on blue, from optimism to social intelligence. He asked his students to rank Okonkwo, the protagonist, on his various character strengths. There was a lot of back and forth, but in the end, most students agreed that Okonkwo rated highest on grit and lowest on self-control. Then a student named Yantzee raised his hand. “Can’t a trait backfire at you?” he asked.

“Sure, a trait can backfire,” Witter said. “Too much grit, like Okonkwo, you start to lose your ability to have empathy for other people. If you’re so gritty that you don’t understand why everyone’s complaining about how hard things are, because nothing’s hard for you, because you’re Mr. Grit, then you’re going to have a hard time being kind. Even love — being too loving might make you the kind of person who can get played.” There was a ripple of knowing laughter from the students. “So, yes, character is something you have to be careful about. Character strengths can become character weaknesses.”

Though the seven character strengths aren’t included in every lesson at KIPP, they do make it into most conversations about discipline. One day last winter, I was speaking with Sayuri Stabrowski, a 30-year-old seventh-and-eighth-grade reading teacher at KIPP Infinity, and she mentioned that she caught a girl chewing gum in her class earlier that day. “She denied it,” Stabrowski told me. “She said, ‘No, I’m not, I’m chewing my tongue.’ ” Stabrowski rolled her eyes as she told me the story. “I said, ‘O.K. fine.’ Then later in the class, I saw her chewing again, and I said: ‘You’re chewing gum! I see you.’ She said, ‘No, I’m not, see?’ and she moved the gum over in her mouth in this really obvious way, and we all saw what she was doing. Now, a couple of years ago, I probably would have blown my top and screamed. But this time, I was able to say: ‘Gosh, not only were you chewing gum, which is kind of minor, but you lied to me twice. That’s a real disappointment. What does that say about your character?’ And she was just devastated.”

Stabrowski was worried that the girl, who often struggled with her behavior, might have a mini-meltdown — a “baby attack,” in KIPP jargon — in the middle of the class, but in fact, the girl spit out her gum and sat through the rest of the class and then afterward came up to her teacher with tears in her eyes. “We had a long conversation,” Stabrowski told me. “She said: ‘I’m trying so hard to just grow up. But nothing ever changes!’ And I said: ‘Do you know what does change? You didn’t have a baby attack in front of the other kids, and two weeks ago, you would have.’ ”

To Tom Brunzell, who as the dean of students at KIPP Infinity oversaw the implementation of the character report card, what is going on in character conversations like that one isn’t academic instruction at all, or even discipline; it’s therapy. Specifically, it’s a kind of cognitive behavioral therapy, the very practical, nuts-and-bolts psychological technique that provides the theoretical underpinning for the whole positive psychology field. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or C.B.T., involves using the conscious mind to understand and overcome unconscious fears and self-destructive habits, using techniques like “self-talk” — putting an immediate crisis in perspective by reminding yourself of the larger context. “The kids who succeed at KIPP are the ones who can C.B.T. themselves in the moment,” Brunzell told me. Part of the point of the character initiative, as he saw it, was to give their students the tools to do that. “All kids this age are having mini-implosions every day,” he said. “I mean, it’s middle school, the worst years of their lives. But the kids who make it are the ones who can tell themselves: ‘I can rise above this little situation. I’m O.K. Tomorrow is a new day.’ ”

For Randolph, the experience that Brunzell was describing — the struggle to pull yourself through a crisis, to come to terms on a deep level with your own shortcomings and to labor to overcome them — is exactly what is missing for so many students at academically excellent schools like Riverdale. And perhaps surprisingly, it may turn out to be an area where the students at KIPP have a real advantage over Riverdale kids. On the professional development day in February when I visited Riverdale, Randolph had arranged a screening for his entire faculty of “Race to Nowhere,” a movie about the stresses facing mostly privileged American high-school students that has become an underground hit in many wealthy suburbs, where one-time showings at schools, churches and community centers bring out hundreds of concerned parents. The movie paints a grim portrait of contemporary adolescence, rising in an emotional crescendo to the story of an overachieving teenage girl who committed suicide, apparently because of the ever-increasing pressure to succeed that she felt both at school and at home. At Riverdale, the film seemed to have a powerful effect on many of the staff; one teacher who came up to Randolph afterward had tears in her eyes.

“Race to Nowhere” has helped to coalesce a growing movement of psychologists and educators who argue that the systems and methods now in place to raise and educate well-off kids in the United States are in fact devastating them. One central figure in the movie is Madeline Levine, a psychologist in Marin County who is the author of a best-selling book, “The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids.” In her book, Levine cites studies and surveys to back up her contention that children of affluent parents now exhibit “unexpectedly high rates of emotional problems beginning in junior high school.” This is no accident of demographics, Levine says, but instead is a direct result of the child-raising practices that prevail in well-off American homes; wealthy parents today, she argues, are more likely to be emotionally distant from their children, and at the same time to insist on high levels of achievement, a potentially toxic blend of influences that can create “intense feelings of shame and hopelessness” in affluent children.

Cohen and Fierst told me that they also see many Riverdale parents who, while pushing their children to excel, also inadvertently shield them from exactly the kind of experience that can lead to character growth. As Fierst put it: “Our kids don’t put up with a lot of suffering. They don’t have a threshold for it. They’re protected against it quite a bit. And when they do get uncomfortable, we hear from their parents. We try to talk to parents about having to sort of make it O.K. for there to be challenge, because that’s where learning happens.”

Cohen said that in the middle school, “if a kid is a C student, and their parents think that they’re all-A’s, we do get a lot of pushback: ‘What are you talking about? This is a great paper!’ We have parents calling in and saying, for their kids, ‘Can’t you just give them two more days on this paper?’ Overindulging kids, with the intention of giving them everything and being loving, but at the expense of their character — that’s huge in our population. I think that’s one of the biggest problems we have at Riverdale.”

This is a problem, of course, for all parents, not just affluent ones. It is a central paradox of contemporary parenting, in fact: we have an acute, almost biological impulse to provide for our children, to give them everything they want and need, to protect them from dangers and discomforts both large and small. And yet we all know — on some level, at least — that what kids need more than anything is a little hardship: some challenge, some deprivation that they can overcome, even if just to prove to themselves that they can. As a parent, you struggle with these thorny questions every day, and if you make the right call even half the time, you’re lucky. But it’s one thing to acknowledge this dilemma in the privacy of your own home; it’s quite another to have it addressed in public, at a school where you send your kids at great expense.

And it’s that problem that Randolph is up against as he tries to push forward this new kind of conversation about character at Riverdale. When you work at a public school, whether it’s a charter or a traditional public school, you’re paid by the state, responsible, on some level, to your fellow citizens for the job you do preparing your students to join the adult world. When you work at a private school like Riverdale, though, even one with a long waiting list, you are always conscious that you’re working for the parents who pay the tuition fees. Which makes a campaign like the one that Randolph is trying to embark on all the more complicated. If your premise is that your students are lacking in deep traits like grit and gratitude and self-control, you’re implicitly criticizing the parenting they’ve received — which means you’re implicitly criticizing your employers.

When I asked Randolph to explain just what he thought Riverdale students were missing out on, he told me the story of his own scholastic career. He did well in boarding school and was admitted to Harvard, but when he got to college, he felt lost, out of step with the power-tie careerism of the Reagan ’80s. After two years at Harvard, Randolph left for a year to work in a low-paying manual job, as a carpenter’s helper, trying to find himself. After college, he moved for a couple of years to Italy, where he worked odd jobs and studied opera. It was an uncertain and unsettled time in his life, filled with plenty of failed experiments and setbacks and struggles. Looking back on his life, though, Randolph says that the character strengths that enabled him to achieve the success that he has were not built in his years at Harvard or at the boarding schools he attended; they came out of those years of trial and error, of taking chances and living without a safety net. And it is precisely those kinds of experiences that he worries that his students aren’t having.

“The idea of building grit and building self-control is that you get that through failure,” Randolph explained. “And in most highly academic environments in the United States, no one fails anything.”

Most Riverdale students can see before them a clear path to a certain type of success. They’ll go to college, they’ll graduate, they’ll get well-paying jobs — and if they fall along the way, their families will almost certainly catch them, often well into their 20s or even 30s, if necessary. But despite their many advantages, Randolph isn’t yet convinced that the education they currently receive at Riverdale, or the support they receive at home, will provide them with the skills to negotiate the path toward the deeper success that Seligman and Peterson hold up as the ultimate product of good character: a happy, meaningful, productive life. Randolph wants his students to succeed, of course — it’s just that he believes that in order to do so, they first need to learn how to fail.

Paul Tough (, a contributing writer, is the author of “Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America.” His book “The Success Equation” will be published next year.

Editor: Vera Titunik (

Beyond ‘New Atheism’


The Stone is featuring occasional posts by Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, that apply critical thinking to information and events that have appeared in the news.

Led by the biologist Richard Dawkins, the author of “The God Delusion,” atheism has taken on a new life in popular religious debate. Dawkins’s brand of atheism is scientific in that it views the “God hypothesis” as obviously inadequate to the known facts. In particular, he employs the facts of evolution to challenge the need to postulate God as the designer of the universe. For atheists like Dawkins, belief in God is an intellectual mistake, and honest thinkers need simply to recognize this and move on from the silliness and abuses associated with religion.

Most believers, however, do not come to religion through philosophical arguments. Rather, their belief arises from their personal experiences of a spiritual world of meaning and values, with God as its center.

In the last few years there has emerged another style of atheism that takes such experiences seriously. One of its best exponents is Philip Kitcher, a professor of philosophy at Columbia. (For a good introduction to his views, see Kitcher’s essay in “The Joy of Secularism,” perceptively discussed last month by James Wood in The New Yorker.)

Instead of focusing on the scientific inadequacy of theistic arguments, Kitcher critically examines the spiritual experiences underlying religious belief, particularly noting that they depend on specific and contingent social and cultural conditions. Your religious beliefs typically depend on the community in which you were raised or live. The spiritual experiences of people in ancient Greece, medieval Japan or 21st-century Saudi Arabia do not lead to belief in Christianity. It seems, therefore, that religious belief very likely tracks not truth but social conditioning. This “cultural relativism” argument is an old one, but Kitcher shows that it is still a serious challenge. (He is also refreshingly aware that he needs to show why a similar argument does not apply to his own position, since atheistic beliefs are themselves often a result of the community in which one lives.)

Even more important, Kitcher takes seriously the question of whether atheism can replace the sense of meaning and purpose that believers find in religion. Pushed to the intellectual limit, many will prefer a religion of hope if faith is not possible. For them, Tennyson’s “‘the stars,’ she whispers, ‘blindly run’” is a prospect too bleak to sustain our existence. Kitcher agrees that mere liberation from theism is not enough. Atheists, he maintains, need to undertake the positive project of showing how their worldview can take over what he calls the ethical “functions” of theism.

There are those — Dawkins, for one example; existentialists like Sartre, for another — who are invigorated at the very thought that there is no guiding power in the universe. Many others, however, need convincing that atheism (or secular humanism, as Kitcher prefers) has the resources to inspire a fulfilling human life. If not, isn’t the best choice to retreat to a religion of hope? Why not place our bet on the only chance we have of real fulfillment?

Kitcher has a two-part answer. First, he offers a refined extension of Plato’s famous dilemma argument in “Euthyphro” to show that contrary to widespread opinion, theism is not in fact capable of grounding the ethical values that make life worthwhile. Second, to show that secularism is capable of grounding these values, he offers a sophisticated account of how ethics could have evolved as a “social technology” — a set of optimally designed practices and norms — to satisfy basic human desires.

Kitcher’s case is open to serious objections, but it has the conceptual and logical weight that is lacking in the polemics of the scientific atheists. It also lets Kitcher enter into genuine dialogue with believers like the philosopher Charles Taylor, whose defense of religion in “A Secular Age” offers an essential counterpoint to almost everything Kitcher says.

For a long time, meaningful engagement between believers and nonbelievers was, especially in the United States, blocked by an implicit mutual agreement: religious belief was exempted from challenge, provided it remained within a private sphere of religious life, and was not asserted as relevant to any issues of public concern. Over the last few decades, however, conservative Christians have rejected this agreement, particularly over issues like abortion and evolution. The scientific atheists, led by Dawkins, rightly responded with their aggressive insistence that militant believers justify the claims they wanted taken seriously in the public sphere.

The resulting polemics cleared some murky air but now have little use except to keep assuring each side of the other’s perversity. Kitcher’s secular humanism reanimates the debate, promising much needed serious reflection on whether the divine can or should be eliminated from our moral lives.

Such a debate may not result in a victory for secular humanism. But even if it does, secular humanists would still face the much greater practical task of embedding their convictions in secular versions of the religious institutions, rituals and customs that even today remain vital fixtures in our social world. But Kitcher’s challenge, unlike Dawkins’s, is one that reflective believers have no easy way of evading, and meeting it may well seriously revise their understanding of their faith. 


Hope 4 South Sudan

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

Local missionary Whitney Smith rallies cause for African country
test4Sending Sudan hope

Submitted photo

Sending Sudan hope

Women in South Sudan pound produce to make meal. Fort Payne missionary Whitney Smith and her home church, Asbury United Methodist Church, are planning a fundraising event.

Whitney Smith is gearing up for another trip to South Sudan.

Smith is a missionary with World Gospel Mission and works as part of the Mango Ministries team.

She, along with her church, Asbury United Methodist Church, is organizing fundraising efforts to help her raise funds for her two-year trip and to raise awareness for missions and the newly independent South Sudan.

The fundraiser, Hope 4 South Sudan, is a 5K walk/run.

"I thought the race would be a good way to reach out to the community and hopefully gain a lot of awareness about Sudan and what I’m doing and how people in the States can help overseas," Smith said. "I want to let people know they can make a difference in South Sudan without actually going, because not everyone has the means to do that."

Smith said those who attend will have the opportunity to learn about the life of a South Sudan citizen and can enjoy South Sudanese refreshments.

The upcoming trip for Smith will have her living in South Sudan for two years.

"I will be part of a Holistic Community Development Team," Smith said. "We go into communities that have asked us for help and we’re there to be a partner and a resource. We hope to make it a more asset based focus rather than a needs focus. They have resources. We want to help them utilize those resources and help them become self-sufficient."

Smith said the group will also partner with local churches, so the transformation can come from a Christ-centered approach.

"Right now, about 15 percent of the population of South Sudan is Christian," Smith said. "The rest believe traditional African beliefs. We will also help them in areas of healthcare, agriculture, preventative measures and hygiene. In whatever ways they need help, we will be there for them."

The Hope 4 South Sudan 5K walk/run is Oct. 1 at 8 a.m. at the Wills Valley Recreation Center in Fort Payne.

Pre-registration is $20 and Race-Day Registration is $25.

All walkers and runners will receive a T-shirt.

Registration forms are available at Asbury UMC, Wills Valley Rec. Center and will be available at Boom Days Heritage Celebration on Sept. 18.

Registration can be completed online at

For more information, email Smith at whitneysmith121 or call the Asbury office at 256-845-4169.

Ten percent of the proceeds will go to benefit the Red Cross.

South Sudan woos foreign investors

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

South Sudanese during the celebrations of the independence from the Sudan on July 09 in Juba. South Sudan plansa major campaign to boost investment. AFP

South Sudanese during the celebrations of the independence from the Sudan on July 09 in Juba. South Sudan plansa major campaign to boost investment. AFP

By Mugambi Mutegi (email the author)

Posted Friday, September 16 2011 at 00:00

South Sudan is organising a series of international trade shows as it seeks to open up the country for foreign investors.

The country plans to hold trade fairs in Brazil, India and China by the end of the year. However, the first fair is scheduled for early next month at the Nyakuron Cultural Centre in Juba. The country’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry is in charge of the promotion.

Delegates from East Africa would be required to pay Sh235,000 ($2,500) for a package that includes visa and airport tax, return flight, accommodation in Juba, transport to and from the conference venue and the participation fee.

South Sudan requires heavy investment in infrastructure such as road, housing, education, health and other social amenities to spur economic growth.

Investment analysts have urged Kenyans to take part in these conferences since they will not only serve as networking forums but help them identify viable business opportunities and investment procedures in the country, which is a fast-emerging market.

“Given the underdevelopment present in the country the government is keen on acquiring capital to deliver the various services necessary for it to get on its feet,” Mr Eric Musau, an analysts with Standard Investment Bank said. “Foreign investment will be key in achieving this.”

With a population of about 12 million, the landlocked country relies on local industry to cater to its consumer goods demand, presenting a huge potential for foreign investors.

Several Kenyan companies such as Equity Bank, Kenya Airways and Kenya Commercial Bank have established their subsidiaries in South Sudan with many others expressing their interest to invest in different sectors of the economy.

The latest entrant is Family Bank, which has announced plans to finalise an acquisition deal by June next year as it catches up with other Kenyan banks, which have set up base in the country. “The buy-out will help us gain acceptance in the market and cut short the investment lead time,” said Peter Munyiri, the CEO of Family Bank. (Read: Family Bank plans buyout in S. Sudan)

Banks are rushing to open shop in South Sudan, which is fast morphing into a fertile ground for both local and international companies after its break from the North and subsequent declaration of independence on July 9.

Beer maker East African Breweries Limited (EABL) plans to build a 700,000-hectolitre plant in Juba next year, as a response to its competitor – Heineken, which has bought two Ethiopian breweries — as the two firms seek to frog leap one another in the race for marketshare in the country. (Read: EABL hit by Diageo’s bid for Ethiopian brewer)

EABL has already acquired land in Juba for this venture.


South Sudan Job vacancy Announcement.

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Jobs

Dear All,
Medair is seeking to recruit a suitable qualified Sudanese National to fill the vacancy post for Community Liaison officer & WASH Technician to be based in Juba with a frequent travel to the field in emergency response team within the ten states of south Sudan.

Please circulate widely.

NB:These position is open for South Sudanese nationals only.
those who wish to apply through email: apply to hr-juba

To the applicants.

Don’t reply to this email and don’t apply through it.

if you do so your application will not be accepted.

and considered.


chaplain K.

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International Rescue Committee – South Sudan is looking for suitable South Sudanese nationals for following positions.

1. Budget Officer (Juba)

2. Environmental Health Officer (Malualkon)

3. Community Mobilization / Hygiene Promotion Officer

Please refer to the attached advert for detailed job descriptions / position requirements. Applications can be sent by or before the closing date i.e. September 27th, 2011 to human.resources with position title clearly mentioned in the subject line. Alternatively, for Malualkon based positions applications can also be hand delivered at IRC`s office in Malualkon (Aweil East, Northern Behr-el-Ghazal).

Please note that scanned copies of supporting documents are not required to be submitted at this stage.

3 attachmentsDownload all attachments

Budget Officer JUBA.pdf Budget Officer JUBA.pdf
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Enviromental Health Officer MALUALKON.pdf Enviromental Health Officer MALUALKON.pdf
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Community Mobilization Hygiene Promotion Officer MALUALKON.pdf Community Mobilization Hygiene Promotion Officer MALUALKON.pdf
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Sudan: New Agreement Brokered; Sudanese Troops to Leave Disputed Abyei

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

September 15, 2011 – Sudan and South Sudan forces will pull out from the disputed oil-rich Abyei region to honor a newly brokered agreement between both sides. The United Nations has confirmed the news of the agreement, which would surely help defuse tension along the border.


Tempers had been running high along the border since the independence of South Sudan, which broke off from North Sudan on July 9, 2011 to respect a January referendum that took place in accordance with a 2005 peace deal between both sides.

Confirming the news of the newly brokered deal in Addis Ababa after briefing the UN Security Council, Edmond Mulet, UN assistant peacekeeping chief, said that the two sides would pull out their forces from Abyei between September 11 and 30. He added that North Sudan had earlier committed to withdrawing its troops only if an administration was set up in Abyei; however, it has now dropped that condition.

Abyei has been the bone of contention between both sides, with each staking its claim on the oil-rich territory. However, the fate of Abyei continues to remain undecided, as no referendum has yet taken place to determine who will hold the disputed territory. Besides Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile are other trouble spots between both sides and fighting has been taking place intermittently. The territories are still home to tens of thousands of people from ethnic groups that sided with the south during the civil war that preceded the south’s independence.

Before the signing of this agreement, Sudan and South Sudan had agreed to pull out from Abyei; however, neither side followed suit. The crisis began in May when North Sudan forces secretly occupied Abyei, triggering bloody violence and forcing over 100,000 people to flee from the region to South Sudan, which prompted the UN peacekeeping force led by Ethiopia to deploy peacekeepers in Abyei to demilitarize the region. More than 1,700 Ethiopian peacekeepers have been deployed in the region since last month.

If both sides respect Thursday’s agreement, it would ease the task of the UN peacekeepers in the region.

Situation in Sudan

Despite South Sudan’s joining the comity of nations as its newest member, peace with North Sudan remains uneasy due to demographic political, ethnic, and religious factors. Though oil is the bone of contention between the nations, the Arab chauvinism among the rulers in Khartoum always views domination of south as a necessary political measure. The Muslim-dominated north and Christian south are divided on the basis of religious feelings, which is also the core of their nationhood.

With a large number of oil wells and agriculture land lying in the zone of conflict, both sides view the disputed areas as a core to their national economic progress. This is the key reason for the simmering conflict that often erupts into military confrontation. It is always an uneasy situation for the peacekeeping forces stationed in Sudan, as they are never looked favorably by both the regime and local rebels. The peacekeepers have a mandate to maintain peace in the region; however, the human catastrophe due to drought and war for decades has added to their mandated tasks and humanitarian duties.

Humanitarian aid for the Horn of Africa, EUR 40 million for Sudan and South Sudan

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Economy

The 3109th Council meeting on General Affairs held in Brussels on 12 September 2011 approved an extra EUR 60 million for humanitarian and food aid in the Horn of Africa and EUR 40 million for Sudan and South Sudan. For the Horn of Africa (the countries concerned are Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda), EUR 30 million will be granted respectively for humanitarian and food aid, whereas for Sudan and South Sudan EUR 25 million will be allocated to humanitarian aid and EUR 15 to food aid.

These resources come in addition to EUR 64 million already committed from the EU budget in humanitarian assistance for the Horn of Africa and EUR 27.8 million made available from remaining funds under the European Development Fund. For Sudan and South Sudan, EUR 100 million in humanitarian assistance has been provided up to now.

Source: Council of Ministers

Israel finds support in newly-formed South Sudan

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

The world’s newest member in the community of nations got plenty of press coverage when it formally declared independence in July. But one aspect of South Sudan’s emergence went largely unnoticed: the establishment of official diplomatic relations with Israel. Far from a routine gesture, the mutual declaration of recognition between the two states could prove to be a significant boost to Israel’s strategic position, not to mention the positives that may come as South Sudan attempts to get its new state on a strong footing.

The leaders of South Sudan, a country with a feeble national infrastructure and a near-nonexistent formal economy after two decades of conflict with the north, will much appreciate the economic aid and leverage that comes with a new diplomatic relationship. But it is actually Israel that has the most to gain.

Israel’s diplomatic outreach extends a measure of goodwill to the people of South Sudan – who need all the help they can get as their country begins the long process of setting up embassies, forming an independent foreign policy, and building up their agricultural potential. But the new partnership with the South Sudanese Government also provides Israel with an opportunity to create a foothold in a region that is known to export some its instability into the Middle East.

At the same time that the Israeli people continue to raise questions over the rising costs of housing, food, and fuel, the diplomatic relationship with South Sudan has the potential to alleviate some of those problems – that is, if the Israeli government is serious about working with a country projected by some to be Africa’s biggest food producer. And while South Sudan certainly has years to go before its economy breaks free from the shackles of oil dependency, the technical expertise that Israel brings into the new relationship at least has a potential to make that transition a little easier.

Economics are not the only benefit for Israel. This new relationship could prove a huge boost to Israel’s global standing – and its strategy of Iranian deterrence as well. Over the past several years, Iran – Israel’s archenemy in the region – has been accelerating its own diplomatic push on the African continent in an attempt to compensate for its loss of markets in the west.

A concerted campaign by Israel to sponsor development projects in South Sudan, involve itself in promoting the country’s untapped natural resources, and build people-to-people contacts that are genuine and long-lasting would take a significant potential market and relationship from Iran as it tries to survive economic sanctions on its nuclear program.

In addition to using its hard power to slow down Tehran’s pursuit of an indigenous nuclear program, the Israelis will find it worthwhile to exploit soft power as well. Putting a good face on the African continent is one aspect of that soft power approach.

Partnering up with South Sudan also enables Israel – and by extension, the United States – to increase pressure on neighboring Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, whose government has capitalized on terrorism in the past. While Sudan has drastically reduced its support for terrorist attacks in the region after the September 11 attacks, Mr. Bashir’s country continues to serve as a place of convenience for those who would be more than happy to strike western targets. (Osama bin Laden resided in Sudan before traveling to Afghanistan in 2001.)

Elements of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, two groups that have launched attacks against Israelis this year, are also known to operate in Sudan, with or without the permission of Sudanese authorities.

Indeed, whether the Sudanese are complicit in the arrangement is not necessarily the most frightening aspect of this situation for the Israelis. The major concern is that armed groups are operating on Sudanese territory with relative impunity, ensuring that their fighters are well rested and their organization is at least healthy enough to survive another day.

What has been most worrisome to Israelis over the past few years are intelligence reports alleging that armed Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip have used Sudan as a transit point for smuggling weapons into the coastal territory. Israeli and US intelligence has indicated that Sudan serves as a layover for Iranian weapons destined for fighters in Gaza, an arrangement that Israel has tried to counter by bombing suspected weapons convoy sites on Sudanese territory.

Sudan losing a third of its territory to the South Sudanese will undeniably throw a wrench into the inner workings of these fundraising and arms procurement efforts. This disruption will continue, of course, only if South Sudan quickly undertakes the hard work of converting a guerrilla force into a coherent and law-abiding army – one that follows international human rights law, the laws of war, and is held accountable by the senior military and civilian leadership when the rules are violated.

None of this will come shortly or out of thin air. But having established diplomatic ties with dozens of countries around the world – including with an Israeli state that prides itself on its military record – South Sudan is not alone in the journey.

South Sudan may have been admitted to the United Nations as a full member state, but the work of building a stable nation has only just begun. Multiple challenges remain for the young country, ranging from meeting food security needs to ensuring that their soldiers can refrain from contributing to yet another conflict with the Sudanese Government on the contentious border. Israel can help with this transition, picking up a new ally at a time when it faces a significant bout of diplomatic turbulence.

Daniel R. DePetris studies security issues and Middle Eastern affairs at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, where he is an associate editor of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis. He has contributed to the Diplomat, Small Wars Journal, and Foreign Policy in Focus.,1

As the African Union meets today, Columbia University professor and Africa scholar Mahmood Mamdani joins us to give his take on the regional and global implications of NATO’s intervention in Libya, which he says threatens to increase the militarization of the African continent. Mamdani is the author of several books, including "Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror" and "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror." We’re also joined by Democracy Now! correspondent Anjali Kamat, who has just returned from 10 days in Libya following the rebels’ victory in Tripoli.

Mahmood Mamdani, teaches at Makerere University in Uganda and at Columbia University in New York City. He is the author of several books, including Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror and Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror.
Anjali Kamat, independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent. She recently returned from reporting in Libya.

AMY GOODMAN: Anjali Kamat is in Cairo, our Democracy Now! correspondent. She is just back from 10 days in Libya. Nermeen?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Yes, thank you. Anjali, I just want to read part of a report from yesterday’s Washington Post. This is a quote. "As Libya’s leader, Moammar Gaddafi regarded Islamists as the greatest threat to his authority, and he ordered thousands of them detained, tortured and, in some cases, killed. The lucky ones fled the country in droves. But with Gaddafi now in hiding, Islamists are vying to have a say in a new Libya, one they say should be based on Islamic law." Can you comment on that?

ANJALI KAMAT: Well, I think two things. On the one hand, it’s true, Islamists were heavily repressed under Muammar Gaddafi. And in the most infamous incident, in Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison in 1996, at least 1,200 prisoners, most of them thought to be Islamists, were massacred in a period of a few hours. Having said that, today, a lot of Islamists, people who identify as—variously identify as Islamist, are coming out and are free to speak. And what’s interesting is both Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the head of the NTC, made it very clear in his first public speech in Tripoli a couple nights ago that he wants Libya to be a civil state based on Islamic law, but that this would be a civil democratic state. And many progressive, secular human rights activists that I spoke to in Libya were not at all concerned about the power of Islamists, and they feel very strongly that Islamists should be included in the new political system, and they want Libya to be a democracy. The more you exclude people and push people underground, the more problems you create.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined here in New York by Mahmood Mamdani, who’s just back from Uganda after several months. He has written extensively on the global implications of NATO’s intervention in Libya. Professor Mamdani teaches both at Makerere University in Uganda and at Columbia University here in New York, author of a number of books, including Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror and Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror.

Can you talk about—can you respond to what Nermeen just read and Anjali’s description of what she saw in Libya and the implications of what’s happening in Libya for the continent of Africa?

MAHMOOD MAMDANI: I’ve never been to Libya, OK? So, what struck me about Anjali’s description is the backdrop is missing. The backdrop is the manner of change in Libya, the heavy involvement of external forces in expediting, rapid fashion, change in Libya, and that manner of involvement being basically bombardment. In East Africa, which is where I’ve been for the last eight months, this has been the cause of huge concern, huge concern because Libya is not atypical. Egypt and Tunisia might be slightly atypical when it comes to the African continent. Libya is far more characteristic of countries which are divided, which have leaders who have been in power for several decades, which have strong military forces and sort of formally democratic regimes, but otherwise really autocratic regimes, and where the opposition is salivating the prospect of any kind of external involvement which will bring about a regime change inside these countries. So there is a real sense of danger around the corner. What is going to happen to the African continent? That’s one thing.

Second thing is, the contention over Africa has become intense over the last decade. There has almost been a complete reversal of positions that existed during the Cold War, because, if you remember, in the Cold War we used to think of the Soviet Union as typifying a military approach and the U.S.A. standing up for some kind of development. Now it’s the opposite. Now it’s the Western Alliance—the U.S., NATO, etc.—which typify a military approach, and China is building roads all over Africa, and India is investing in industries all over Africa. So, the prospect of increased militarization of the continent is another great fear. The sort of autocratic leaders in Africa have responded to this by trying to enter into a strategic military engagement with the West, so that they don’t fall afoul of them, as Gaddafi did, in a way, and at the same time maintaining some kind of engagement, a strong engagement, on the ground with China, India, Malaysia, places like that. But it’s this wider picture, this picture of stalling internal reform combined with a rapidly shifting backdrop internationally and sort of previously dominant powers who are unable to think of any other strategy except greater military involvement to hold onto their influence.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to catch Anjali just before she leaves the studio in Cairo. What Professor Mahmood Mamdani is saying, this deep concern about the significance of the NATO intervention in the rest of Africa, as you traveled, was that expressed by progressive forces in Libya and also back in Egypt, where you now live?

ANJALI KAMAT: I mean, I agree with Professor Mamdani that it’s very dangerous, it sets a very dangerous precedent for the rest of the continent, and frankly, the rest of the world, if internal reform doesn’t go anywhere and then you bring in, you invite in, foreign intervention. Absolutely, it’s a terrible precedent. On the other hand, I was quite surprised by how few people in Libya seemed overly concerned by this. They took a very pragmatic approach, and they explained to me that it’s precisely because efforts at internal reform were continuously and brutally stymied by the Gaddafi regime that they were left with no other choice than to invite the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution for a no-fly zone, and moving on forward from that, which, again, as Professor Mamdani mentioned, resulted in a major bombing campaign.

Interestingly, traveling across the country, there aren’t that many—that much evidence of bombed-out sites within Libya, bombs by NATO. I saw a few areas where no civilians were living, no people were living. These are just infrastructure outside on the outskirts of Misurata. And within Gaddafi’s compound, certainly, there were some areas that were bombed out. And there were dozens, perhaps hundreds, of civilians who were killed in these attacks until now. We don’t have an accurate death toll from any side, which—you know, which, again, is something that we should—we should hopefully get more of and learn more about in the coming period.

In terms of the future, again, people are, I think, very—some people are wary that NATO will try and win greater concessions or it will try and exert—somehow wield greater influence in Libya. That said, many of the NATO countries already wield—were already very much involved in Libya, deeply embedded in the Libyan economy under the Gaddafi regime. And NATO countries continue to wield influence in Egypt and Tunisia, as well. And where this is very different from Iraq, I think is important to stress. And people said this to me over and over again in Libya, when I asked if they were worried that Libya is going to become Iraq or Afghanistan. They said this was a popular uprising, it was a mass revolt; it was not a foreign invasion to overthrow a leader. Furthermore, you don’t have NATO countries sort of functioning as the executive authority of Libya. You have Libyans in charge. You don’t have a coalition provisional authority or a figure like Paul Bremer dealing with the day-to-day activities, day-to-day governance of Libya. And this sort of future scenario is something that people in Libya would be very much against. In terms of expanding the sphere of influence, sure, that’s something that people are concerned about and will try and limit to the extent that’s possible. But this is also a reality in—you know, across North Africa, certainly in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco.

AMY GOODMAN: Anjali, we want to thank you so much for being with us, and we look forward to playing your reports next week, as you crossed Libya to bring the voices of Libyans to a global audience. Thanks so much. Democracy Now! correspondent Anjali Kamat, just back from Libya, speaking to us from Cairo, Egypt. Nermeen?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Mahmood, you talked about some of the anxieties in Africa regarding this intervention. And today there’s a meeting in Pretoria, South Africa, of the African Union. Can you say a little bit about why the African Union hasn’t recognized the interim authority of the National Transitional Council, even though individual members have, and whether this meeting might lead to such recognition?

MAHMOOD MAMDANI: Well, the African Union is in deep crisis itself. Without the vote of two of its leading members, South Africa and Nigeria, there would have been no U.N. intervention, no NATO intervention. And they know it. Having voted in favor of that intervention, now they are crying foul and saying that our efforts to mediate were ignored. So they appeared like a—just a useless body, a gathering where people can air their grievances, but nothing more than that. So they have to salvage themselves. The reluctance to recognize the transitional government in Libya is an admission that they don’t see an easy way out of this dilemma. So, they will probably—they will have to recognize it, if not today, then tomorrow.

Their problem is—you know, they have sat through a series of crises over the last few years. You had Ivory Coast, equally divided society. They thrust the Mbeki initiative on Ivory Coast. It was basically about getting the two sides to talk to one another, maybe even a kind of solution that was found in Kenya. Because, think of it. Kenya, after the election, was very similar to Ivory Coast. The government in power had lost the election. The opposition was crying foul, similar to Ivory Coast. And yet, the U.N. and the U.S. solution was not to throw that government out, but actually to force the opposition to enter into an alliance whereby the government kept on being the government, and the opposition was simply ensured that the next time around there would be a free election. So, why not in Ivory Coast? You know, the rules are changing from country to country depending on the interests involved. So, the African Union is sort of irrelevant.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of countries, I wanted to talk about the newest nation in the world: South Sudan. July 11th of this year, tens of thousands celebrated South Sudan as the country became the world’s newest independent state. South Sudan won its independence from Sudan in a January referendum, the climax of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of fighting with the north. While North Sudan was the first nation to recognize the new state, many issues remain unresolved between the two nations, including disputes over borders and oil payments. I want to play a comment from South Sudan’s first president, Salva Kiir. He’s the former military commander of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

PRESIDENT SALVA KIIR MAYARDIT: A happy day like this should not dwell on the bad memories, but it is important to recognize that for many generations this land has seen untold suffering and death. We have been bombed, maimed, enslaved, and treated worse than a refugee in our own country. But we have to forgive, although we will not forget.

AMY GOODMAN: The president of the new nation of South Sudan. Professor Mahmood Mamdani, your response? You’ve written extensively about this. Were you there on July 11th?

MAHMOOD MAMDANI: No, I wasn’t there. Look, I’m not very optimistic about what is likely to follow over the next few years. And the main reason is this. The SPLA was very successful on the ground. And the reason it was successful is because it shed the program of an independent South Sudan and called for a new Sudan. So, by adopting an all Sudan strategy, it was able to win over allies in the north, and the allies it won were precisely the border states, which are now in trouble. When the SPLM went for an independent South Sudan strategy, these border states in the north opposed it. They felt that they were being betrayed. They had joined the struggle with the SPLM, and now they were being left to the wolves, the wolves being the military in the north.

Independence has come. South Sudan is independent. It’s a sovereign country with borders. But the South Sudanese military, the SPLA, is integrated with the militias and different forces inside border states in the north. OK, now, what are they going to do? These forces on the ground feel a sense of loyalty to the cause of the people in the Nuba Mountains, the people in South Kordofan, the people in Blue Nile. So you have basically a conflict, no longer simmering. You have an active conflict in these border states, which has two dimensions to it. One dimension is an internal revolt, a popular revolt. And the other dimension is the involvement of what are now foreign forces. OK, this is the question that North Sudan has brought to the Security Council, right? But this is a worse situation than Ethiopia and Eritrea, because at least in the Ethiopian and Eritrean case, you had forces on two sides of the border. You had Eritreans inside Ethiopia, but they were all civilians. It began with an expulsion of all the Eritreans and then a confrontation of armed forces. You have—nobody knows the figures, but at least a million South Sudanese in the north today. So, shall we expect an expulsion in the coming months, and then shall we expect a military confrontation? Difficult to say, but I’m not very optimistic.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Mahmood, I want to turn now to the decade since 9/11. You wrote Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, about the relationship between the Cold War and what happened subsequent to it, including the 9/11 attacks and now the war on terror. So I just want to play a comment from this weekend’s 9/11 commemoration ceremony at the Pentagon. U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the United States will never stop fighting those who were responsible.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA: To this day, by these memorials to each victim, we pledge to never forget the enemy that made this happen, why we fight them, and why we will never stop fighting them, to make sure that what happened here and in New York City and in that field in Pennsylvania never happens again.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Mahmood, your comments?

MAHMOOD MAMDANI: Well, the problem is defining who they intend to fight, because those who carried out the attacks on 9/11 were not a state. They were not an army, navy or air force. There have been two wars since then, wars of choice, against existing states. Nobody believes and nobody claims anymore that these were involved in the fighting. So this has just become a blank check for what looks more and more like a rogue state to go around fighting whoever it wants to fight.

But I think the more serious question is its impact on American society itself. There is a huge problem at home. I mean, you know, one out of every six Americans is poor. Popular programs, welfare programs are being cut. The Cold War ended. The Soviet Union reformed, in some ways. The losing side has to reform, right? It’s the winning side which doesn’t reform. And it hasn’t reformed. And this is a program for not reforming. This is a program for continuing the militarization of the U.S.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So you see the poverty as a direct consequence of these wars that have been waged since 9/11?

MAHMOOD MAMDANI: Well, I see the poverty not as a direct consequence, but it changes the map, the choices, what’s at stake, in a sense. You know, Americans are led to believe by their public intellectuals and by their leadership that this enemy is not just these handful of people, but it’s a large section of the globe, something called Islam, something called Muslims, in a sense, and that it’s external. It’s external. I mean, there’s a complete reluctance to acknowledge the ways in which Islam is internal to the U.S., a complete reluctance to acknowledge that Islam in the U.S. is not simply the guys who came off the plane from South Asia and West Africa and Middle East over the last 10 years, but actually has been as old as the American republic. Around eight, nine percent of the slaves were Muslims. Half the Muslims in the U.S. are African Americans. Who knows that? Right? They all look at Park Slope and this, and they think that the Muslims are the people who came 10 years ago, five years ago, they are the rich sheikhs. But they are part of American society. They are Malcolm X. They are Muhammad Ali. You know, these are the Muslims of the U.S. And so, this inability to acknowledge that they are dealing with a group which is as internal, it’s not just external. It’s—I think these questions are not being confronted.

Sudan: war spread across “new south” into Blue Nile.

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

citizens of Blue Nile suffer bombings and denial of humanitarian aid

By Elizabeth Kendal

AUSTRALIA — The Arab-supremacist, Islamist regime of President Omar el-Bashir has long systematically marginalised (politically and economically) all Sudan’s non-Arabs and violently persecuted all those who dare resist Islamisation. Black African Muslims who oppose the racist regime are labeled apostate and targeted for elimination along with the infidels. Consequently, Khartoum has long been at war not only with the predominantly-Christian South, but with the entire non-Arab periphery. In fact anyone — including Arabs — who advocates religious liberty and ethnic diversity over Sharia and Arabisation is treated as an enemy. The most significant opposition has long been the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

Consequently, the secession of South Sudan was never going to bring peace to the Republic of Sudan, for while the South seceded, the problem — the regime in Khartoum — remained. As was inevitable, the secession of the South has only made Khartoum more determined to entrench i ts power and exert total control over coveted lands and resources.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) mandated that three regions — Abyei (straddling the North-South border) along with South Kordofan and Blue Nile states (both in the north) — be entitled to “popular consultations” through which the predominantly black African, largely-Christian, SPLM-allied tribes could determine their own futures. However, in total defiance of the CPA, the Government of Sudan (GoS) seized and ethnically cleansed Abyei in May 2011, before launching, on 5 June, an ethnic cleansing campaign in South Kordofan. As is their regular strategy, Khartoum is engineering famine in South Kordofan by means of aerial bombardments and denial of humanitarian aid, in order to use starvation as a weapon of mass destruction.


Sudan: Nuba genocide resumes, 24June 2011.
Nuba Genocide: US House Committee hears testimony, 9 Aug 2011.

In June, as war raged in South Kordofan, President el-Bashir postponed Blue Nile’s “popular consultations”, prompting Blue Nile’s elected governor, SPLM-North chairman Malik Aggar, to warn that war may indeed be imminent. For just as in neighbouring South Kordofan, the people of Blue Nile have no desire for Arab domination or Islamisation. In Blue Nile, just as in South Kordofan, the SPLA-North — which has long defended the peoples of Blue Nile and South Kordofan from Khartoum’s aggression — is refusing to disarm, and Khartoum is labeling this refusal an act of rebellion justifying military intervention in the name of defending national unity.

On 28 and 29 August, the GoS moved “significant military forces – comprised of Popular Defence Forces (PDF) [Arab militias] national security, and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) – with heavy equipment into Blue Nile state.” (source: Reeves / African Centre of Justice and Peace Studies)

On 1 September 2011, GoS forces attacked the home of Governor Malik Aggar in Al-Damazin, the capital of Blue Nile State before launching a full-scale assault on SPLA positions. Heavy military equipment has been deployed inside civilian areas.

On 2 September, President Bashir declared a state of emergency in Blue Nile and, in what is being described as a “political and military coup”, dismissed Governor Aggar, installing Major General Yahya Mohamed Khair as military ruler in his place.

Reports abound of massive GoS troop deployments, aerial bombardments and wide-scale displacement across the Blue Nile state. An estimated 50,000 people have been displaced, with some 16,000 having crossed the border into Ethiopia. Furt hermore, as in South Kordofan, the GoS is refusing to allow humanitarian aid groups access to the region. As food supplies run out, starvation will set in and we will witness yet another GoS-engineered humanitarian crisis.

Not only is the GoS moving to secure valuable resources (oil in Sth Kordofan and water and hydroelectric power in Blue Nile), the GoS is doubtless acting preemptively to hamstring the SPLM-North.

Now that South Sudan has seceded, Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile have become the “new south”. Today conflict is raging right across this “new south” as well as in Darfur in the west. Should Sudan’s other marginalised and persecuted peoples decided to fight — such as the Nubia in the far North and the Beja in the east — Sudan may well disintegrate.

Khartoum takes aim at the GoSS

Further to this, Khartoum has accused the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) of supporting rebel movements in the north. SPLM-N secretary general Yasir Arman, however, categorically denies that the GoSS is supporting the SPLA-North. (NOTE: As long-time civil war allies, soldiers of the SPLA-North carry weapons that have come from the South.)

GoS moves against the SPLM-North

The GoS has banned the SPLM-North, seized its offices and is arresting its members, not only in Khartoum but in all states across the North.

The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) reports that perceived SPLM-North supporters are being arrested througho ut Sudan. The ACJPS report provides a list of dozens known to have been arrested.

SPLM-N secretary general Yasir Arman has slammed the GoS for carrying out “arbitrary arrests” of SPLM-N members across the country and for the “closure of its offices and confiscation of vehicles and properties”. He also scoffed at the GoS, saying its plan to crush the SPLM-N was little more than “wishful thinking” and an “impossible mission”.

As Arman notes, the conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile started long before the separation of South Sudan. “The current conflict,” says Arman, “is a creation of [President Bashir’s] NCP [National Congress Party] in that they sowed the seed of the problem when they voluntarily destroyed the CPA; attempted to disarm the SPLA/N and rejected the Addis Ababa Framework Agreement. The SPLM/N and other resistance movements and democratic forces are determined to put an end the illusive NCP program of the second Islamic Republic (see RLPB 117 ), a Taliban Republic that is based on heavy human cost and loss, denial of diversity, ethnic cleansing, genocide and terrorism.

09/15/2011 05:05

It is a rare and truly remarkable honor to personally witness a nation come into existence.

It is a rare and truly remarkable honor to personally witness a nation come into existence.

While many of Israel’s more veteran citizens were afforded the special, even amazing, opportunity to see our modern Jewish State attain independence, those of us in the younger generations lacked that direct personal experience. I thought of this as I flew to the new nation of South Sudan recently and began working to forge positive cultural and economic ties with the embryonic country’s leadership.

All students of international relations know that Sudan in particular, and northern Africa in general, are areas fraught with tension, famine and, all too often, bloody warfare. While many factors drive these desperate conditions, in Sudan the primary obstacle to peace and economic development has been the presence of dictatorial Islamic forces committed to suppressing minorities and stifling contacts with the West. Sudan has been the scene of repeated mass killings launched by the regime, today based in northern Sudan, rendering the south a place where lawlessness, wanton rape, murder and narcotics and weapons trafficking were the norm.

The establishment of this nascent nation, South Sudan, which came into existence earlier this year, was born out of a sincere desire by the resident Christians to create a stable country modeled upon democratic values and an economy based upon honesty and transparency. While the citizenry is mired in desperate poverty from which it is unlikely to escape anytime soon, the decision by the people of South Sudan to join the community of nations is viewed as a source of tremendous hope for a brighter future.

Given that we as Israelis are surrounded by a region largely hostile to our very existence, it is critical that we always work to forge positive relationships with any and all parties who demonstrate an inclination to be our friends and allies.

I truly believe that such a hope exists within this new nation and therefore saw it as my personal and national obligation to forge bonds with South Sudan as early in its existence as possible.

LIKE ISRAEL, South Sudan is a nation born out of chaos and conflict. Like Israel, South Sudan lives with hostile neighbors at its borders. Indeed, just like Israel, its people live with a sense of resolve and confidence that their existence is a God-given right. I marvel at this ironclad determination.

I found in the South Sudanese government officials a real appreciation for these commonalities between the two nations. In particular, I was assured that the South Sudanese government would plan to open an embassy in Jerusalem, an act that would strongly position them as a trusted friend and partner.

While much of the Western world is responding with relative indifference to the creation of “yet another state” in North Africa, I strongly feel that the creation of this new nation deserves the attention and admiration of the entire international community. South Sudan’s is a story of national independence that can give all of us hope at a time of wrenching global uncertainties. Whether it be the Arab Spring, the continuing threats from Iran and North Korea or the constant spread of Islamic jihad into all corners of the world, we live in a time of great instability. The creation of South Sudan is proof that positive progress is still happening in the march of history.

I believe that Israel can have a real friend in South Sudan, precisely in a region where most would expect to find only foes. Fostering such friendship will not necessarily be easy. It will require dedication and vision, not to mention an Israeli commitment of limited resources. But I know that if we sow the seeds, some of which I and others have already planted, this new nation will be a source of pride not only for Israel but for peace-loving peoples all around the globe.

The writer is the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and chairman of the World Likud.

Sector Reforms Needed For South Sudan Police Service

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

John Tanza | Washington

Photo: VOA Somali
South Sudan senior security officers, during July 9th independence celebrations in Juba.

The newly appointed South Sudan Minister of Interior, Alison Manani Magaya, said the country’s entire police force lacks professionalism because of a history of poor training programs. Magaya said the police force will also have to undergo several reforms in its set up and operation.

The South Sudan Police Service consists of former members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), with most senior personnel being SPLA retirees. The police force has a reputation for being poorly trained, underequipped, and having most of their officers concentrated at headquarters rather than out in the villages of South Sudan.

Magaya, promised to embark on a set of reforms that will transform the force and instill professional work ethics among its senior and junior officers. The ministry of interior has also pinpointed some administrative and financial sectors that it believes will require immediate attention this year.

The South Sudan Police Service has been condemned by various human rights organizations for abusing detainees, among other issues. A UN report published last year accused the police of abusing new recruits at the Rejaf Police Training Center outside Juba. The center was later closed due to the controversy.

The Minister said his priority will be focused on recruiting more educated south Sudanese to improve the quality of the service of the police in the newly independent nation.

Please click on the link below, or at the top right hand of the page, to hear John Tanza’s interview with South Sudan Minister of Interior, Alison Manani Magaya.

Sudan border fighting challenge for Bashir

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:32pm GMT

Soldiers from Sudan's army celebrate after gaining control of the area, at the Blue Nile state capital al-Damazin, September 5, 2011. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

By Hereward Holland

JUBA (Reuters) – Fighting spreading along Sudan’s new southern border could develop into a coordinated insurgency and encourage efforts to mount a political challenge to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Clashes broke out earlier this month between the army and rebels loyal to Sudan’s opposition SPLM-N party in Blue Nile state, the third area along the border with the newly created South Sudan to explode into violence in recent months.

The Sudanese army is already fighting SPLM-N rebels in South Kordofan, an oil state west of Blue Nile. And the United Nations is enforcing a ceasefire in the disputed region of Abyei after Khartoum seized it in May.

"There’s a new ‘South’ in the north of Sudan. From Blue Nile to Darfur, people are seeking the restructuring of the centre," Yasir Arman, secretary general of the SPLM-N, told Reuters.

"This will put an end to Bashir’s regime," he said.

Apart from South Kordofan and Blue Nile, dissent is simmering in other regions such as Darfur and east Sudan, a neglected region which has seen an insurgency in the past and where opposition groups demand more development.

Analysts say instead of seeking political compromise, Khartoum is counting on the military to crush rebellions and wants to placate hardliners in the army who see the loss of the south as a humiliation.

Bashir has replaced the SPLM-N’s elected governor of Blue Nile, Malik Agar, with a temporary military leader and imposed a state of emergency.

The government blames the SPLM-N for the fighting and offers fighters who surrender the opportunity to become integrated into the regular army. It says the SPLM-N is an illegal party.

Some analysts say the fighting could push Agar, a popular SPLM-N leader who has built good working relations with Bashir’s party since the 2005 peace deal, firmly away from resuming talks with Khartoum.

"Khartoum believes that the only way it can survive is by cracking down, but I think that could backfire. There’s a possibility that this could fuse opposition factions," said Harry Verhoeven, a PhD candidate at Oxford University focussing on Sudan.

With much wealth and power concentrated in the hands of a few families in Khartoum, Sudan has faced insurgencies and armed opposition on its peripheries since independence from Britain in 1956.

While foreign investment has been on the rise since the 2005 peace agreement ended decades of civil war with the south, little has been done to develop infrastructure beyond the capital and central Sudan, which is fuelling anger elsewhere.

The government is building a huge new airport for Khartoum, but the capital of Blue Nile state, Damazin, has only a tiny airport, for example.

If the fighting continues to spread in a sustained way, it will put significant financial pressure on Bashir. Khartoum faces budget problems after losing 75 percent of its oil production when South Sudan became independent in July.


The SPLM party split into north and south along with the country itself earlier this year. The northern party now says it is looking to team up with rebels in the western region of Darfur, scene of an almost decade-long insurgency, on both a political and military level.

"We are going to have a political and military umbrella," the SPLM-N’s Arman said.

He said SPLM-N was about to sign an alliance with the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), two Darfur rebel groups which have some historical ties with southern-allied opposition.

He said he envisions a group with a single leader which would later include "all other opposition political forces."

Analysts say such an alliance could pose a threat since the SPLM-N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile has several thousand troops and some military hardware left over from the civil war.

"The combination of extensive (combat) experience and regional network of the SPLM-N with the ongoing ability of the SLM and JEM to hold ground and maintain pressure in Darfur suggests that such an alliance has considerable military potential that could change the dynamics of politics in north Sudan," said Sharath Srinivasan, director of the Centre of Governance and Human Rights at the University of Cambridge.

JEM spokesman el-Tahir el-Faki said an agreement would be inked in the next few weeks.

"The first process was the formation of a political and military process. The next step is discussing how that framework will work," El Faki said.

Analysts say the SPLM-N would be a fit for Darfur rebels who are searching for new allies after the fall of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who gave them support and allowed the use of his territory.

"It’s very clear that the SPLM-N have no other choice than mobilising their constituents for a popular uprising," said Fouad Hikmat at the International Crisis Group.

"An alliance would allow their forces to be more dynamic. I think it could be beyond rhetoric. It could go from an alliance to a joint command and create a wider opposition in the north but only time will tell if they can turn that into reality," he said.


Magdi El Gizouli, a fellow at the Rift Valley Institute, said the success of the planned alliance would depend whether it got any significant backing from abroad.

"Politically it’s good because it sounds like there’s a ring of rebellions in a big alliance. But militarily, they can’t link all these fronts, not with the number of troops that they have," Gizouli said.

"This is going to be a long war," he said.

Western powers are pressuring South Sudan to stay out of the fighting. Analysts say its army, the SPLA, might have some ties with fighters on the ground but Juba denies it supports them.

"With the historic relationship there it’s a temptation (to interfere) and it’s one we want them to resist because… they are in a position to encourage the peace process," U.S. Special Sudan envoy Princeton Lyman said last week in Khartoum.

To ease tensions in the poorly marked joint border area, Khartoum and Juba agreed to withdraw their forces from Abyei which both sides claim, the U.N. said last week.

"These offensives in Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile are a manifestation of a regime that is worried about their future," said Roger Middleton at Chatham House.

"The main threat is no longer just in Darfur. I don’t know if they have the military capability to walk into Khartoum, but they might not need to. If they can keep the government tied down then it opens the possibility that political opposition can take the advantage through a popular uprising in Khartoum or a coup," he said.

Uchumi eyes entry into South Sudan retail market

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Economy

A branch of Uchumi in Nairobi. The firm is eyeing the S. Sudan market. File

A branch of Uchumi in Nairobi. The firm is eyeing the S. Sudan market. File

By GEOFFREY IRUNGU (email the author)

Posted Thursday, September 15 2011 at 00:00

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Uchumi Supermarkets is eyeing entry into the South Sudan market as part of the listed retailer’s expansion drive to boost growth.

Chief executive Jonathan Ciano said Tuesday Uchumi would open a branch in Juba, which is likely to remain the newly independent State’s commercial capital “for at least a decade” even as plans are under way to relocate the administrative town to Ramciel.

“The change in capital will not affect our plans. If anything it may take ten years for the other city to catch up with Juba. You need to draw a parallel with Lagos and Abuja or between Dar and Dodoma. Commercial activities are still concentrated on the older cities even though the capitals have moved,” said Mr Ciano.

Uchumi is currently looking for business premises and does not have a firm date when it expects to have opened for business in South Sudan.
The retailer also plans to expand to other locations or add to existing branches in towns where it already has a presence. Areas targeted for opening new branches include Kisumu, Ongata Rongai, Kisii, Taj Mall (Embakasi), Gulu, Kabalagala, Quality Mall in Dar, Natete and Freedom City in Kampala.

The supermarket chain is facing increased competition in the saturated Kenyan market from retailers such as Naivas, Tuskys and Nakumatt; that expanded at a time that the firm was under statutory management.

Uchumi Supermarkets, which re-listed at the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) in May after a five-year absence, has returned to profitability. In the year ending June 2011, the company announced a pre-tax profit of Sh514.8 million compared to Sh433.2 million earned in 2010.

However, its after-tax profit was lower at Sh390.4 million from Sh865.1 million in the previous year, when it received tax credits due to a history of loss-making.

The company share was trading at Sh8.30 yesterday afternoon down from the previous day’s average of Sh8.40. This would suggest a P/E of 5.6 compared to the commercial and services sector average PE of 8.4 as at September 9.

East African Community (EAC) welcomes south Sudan to the fold

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Economy

EALA welcomes south Sudan to the fold / Passes resolution lauding the new State upon its independence

KIGALI, Rwanda, September 15, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ — EALA yesterday passed a…

KIGALI, Rwanda, September 15, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ — EALA yesterday passed a resolution congratulating the government and people of South Sudan following their landmark independence on July 9, 2011.

With that, EALA urged the EAC Partner States through the Council of Ministers to pursue sustained and increased trade, political and social co-operation with South Sudan, noting that all parties were expected to reap from the independence of the world’s youngest State.

The Resolution moved by Hon. Dan Kidega, EALA MP, received overwhelming support on the floor of the House. The Resolution noted in part that the struggles of the citizens of South Sudan were of regional, continental and international concern which resulted in to a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 to guide the future relations between the South and North Sudan.

“The relationship between the political leaders of the EAC and the South Sudan which are strong and cordial are expected to be intensified following the independence of South Sudan”, Hon Kidega said.

South Sudan attained its independence on July 9 2011 in a ceremony attended by world leaders and thousands of people from all walks of life. EALA was represented at the celebrations by the Speaker, Rt. Hon Abdirahin Abdi and a number of legislators. Two days later, the EALA delegation called on H.E. President Salva Kiir at State House, Juba where they held talks.

During the talks, President Salva Kiir Mayardit hinted South Sudan was ready to join the EAC to enable it begin to reap from the benefits of regional integration. H.E. General Salva Kiir hailed the EAC for supporting South Sudan and the Sudan during the period of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

“I note with gratification EALA’s efforts in ensuring peace in South Sudan prevailed. I am happy they were part of the struggle. The Assembly visited South Sudan to assess the state of preparedness during the period leading to the referendum and again at the referendum proper to observe the actual process. I thank the Rt. Hon. Speaker and EALA for this”, President Kiir added.

During debate yesterday, Members called on the EAC to reach out to South Sudan to join the bloc.

Making his maiden speech, Kenya’s Minister for EAC, Hon Musa Sirma urged the EAC to fast-track the process of embracing South Sudan in to the regional bloc. Hon Sirma called for commitment to the integration process. “We must not only implement the Treaty but be innovative if the integration process is to be strengthened”, said Hon Sirma, while adding his voice to supporting the resolution.

Other Members who rose to support the Resolution were Hon. Gervase Akhaabi, Hon. Leonce Ndarubagiye, Hon. Clarkson Otieno Karan and Hon Tiperu Nusura.

The Assembly resolved to empower the Speaker to transmit the resolution to the President and the Speaker of the Parliament of South Sudan.

© copyright Star

Torture Claims in South Sudan

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

By Noora Faraj
Al Arabiya with Agencies
A few days after the war in South Kordofan, Sudan, began, Ahmed was taken by security agents and subjected to interrogation.
He was accused of being a member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North.

The SPLM-N fighters participated in the civil war that finally ended in 2005, resulting in a peace treaty that allowed the south to separate from the north. Some members of the rebel army remained in the north under the government’s control.

Clashes erupted between the Sudanese army and loyalist rebels of SPLM-N on June 5th.

According to Ahmed, his captors took him to a room with three other men, who used a rocket launcher and rifle butts to beat him on his back. They then took him to another room, where they chained him to a chair and tortured him.

He said they strapped an electrical device to his feet and left shoulder. The electrocution he experienced resulted in the paralysis of his left side a few days later. He managed to escape the same day, when a fight broke out between other captives.

An Amnesty International investigation found that Ahmed was one of the luckier victims. Witnesses reported last month that SPLM-N members were responsible for various random acts of violence on people and homes.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick: A World Beyond Aid

Posted: September 15, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

World Bank President Robert Zoellick delivers address at GW on new global realities.

September 15, 2011

By Jennifer Eder

Women make up 50 percent of the global population and 40 percent of the global workforce.

In Africa, women are the backbone of communities, farming and producing 80 percent of the continent’s food.

But across the globe women own only 1 percent of the world’s wealth.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick wants to change that.

“We will not release the full potential of half of the world’s population until globally we address the issue of equality; until countries, communities and households around the world acknowledge women’s rights and change the rules of inequality,” said Dr. Zoellick during a speech at GW’s Jack Morton Auditorium Wednesday. “Giving women the right to own land; giving women the right to own, run and operate a business; giving women the right to inherit; giving women greater earning power; giving women greater control over resources within their households could boost children’s health, could increase girls’ education, could leverage entrepreneurship and economic productivity and could take us closer to that world beyond aid.”

With the World Bank/IMF annual meetings planned for later this month, Dr. Zoellick used his speech, titled “Beyond Aid,” to address the new realities of a world in which developing countries account for a growing share of the global economy and are taking a greater role in determining how the world is run. Dr. Zoellick called on countries to recognize the new order and work together to move toward a “world beyond aid.”

The event was hosted by GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

During his introductory remarks, Michael Brown, dean of the Elliott School, described Dr. Zoellick as one of the world’s leading thinkers about global problems and long-term solutions.

“He is in the vanguard in thinking in an inclusive, integrated way about the challenges of poverty, development, security, sustainability, education, governance and globalization,” said Dr. Brown. “It’s a complex equation, but that’s the world in which we live. Robert Zoellick is uniquely positioned to help us crack the code.”

Dr. Zoellick, the 11th president of the World Bank, described the organization’s origins in 1944 as part of the Bretton Woods system, designed to establish a framework for an international economic system. Then, the world was still at war and looking to rebuild for the future. Developed countries dominated the global landscape. However, today’s world, Dr. Zoellick said, “is not the 1944 world.”

“Adapting to this new world is about recognizing that we must all be responsible stakeholders now,” Dr. Zoellick said.

And yet many developed countries adopt a “do what I say, not what I do” attitude on issues such as fiscal discipline, free trade and debt sustainability, Dr. Zoellick said. This attitude ignores the fact that old hierarchies between developed and developing countries have been replaced with a transformed set of relationships.

“The rising economies will be joining new networks – of countries, international institutions, civil society and the private sector – in diverse combinations and changing patterns,” Dr. Zoellick said. “These new networks are displacing the old hierarchies.”

Dr. Zoellick said the global economy has entered a “new danger zone,” and Europe, Japan and the U.S. must be responsible stakeholders.

“They have procrastinated for too long on taking the difficult decisions, narrowing what choices are now left to a painful few,” Dr. Zoellick said. “Unless Europe, Japan and the United States can also face up to responsibilities they will drag down not only themselves but the global economy. The time for muddling through is over.”

The U.S. should slow its rate of entitlement spending on programs like Social Security and Medicare, reform its trade policy and adopt tax reforms that will boost economic growth, Dr. Zoellick said.

In today’s world, Dr. Zoellick said, countries must think about development differently. Solid economic policies and multilateral agreements can be just as important as monetary aid, he said.

“In a world beyond aid, assistance would be integrated with – and connected to – global growth strategies, fundamentally driven by private investment and entrepreneurship,” Dr. Zoellick said. “The goal would not be charity, but a mutual interest in building more poles of growth.”

For developing countries, this means mobilizing and leveraging domestic savings, encouraging good governance, investing in people, promoting small business and private investment, improving infrastructure and investing in connectivity, Dr. Zoellick said.

As part of moving beyond aid, Dr. Zoellick proposed a “50 percent solution” that would aim to encourage gender equality across the world.

“Simply put, it’s about changing policies and empowering every person, man or woman, not just providing aid packages,” he said.

At the end of his remarks, Dr. Zoellick said he enjoys speaking at universities because he believes there is “great potential and power from the next generation.”

“The issues I’m talking about here aren’t just going to be decided by the chancellors and the presidents and the prime ministers that are in office today. These are going to go on for a while,” Dr. Zoellick told the GW students in the audience. “These are going to be your issues and your questions.”