Archive for October 21, 2011

Chinese Communist Party to work with SPLM, says CPC senior leader

Posted: October 21, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

Li Changchun (R), a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, meets with Pagan Amum, secretary-general of South Sudan's ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 21, 2011. (Xinhua/Ding Lin) (xzj)
Li Changchun (R), a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, meets with Pagan Amum, secretary-general of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 21, 2011. (Xinhua/Ding Lin)

CPC to forge stronger bonds with South Sudan’s ruling party, says CPC senior leader

Li Changchun (R), a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, meets with Pagan Amum, secretary-general of South Sudan's ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 21, 2011. (Xinhua/Ding Lin) (xzj)
Li Changchun (R), a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, meets with Pagan Amum, secretary-general of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 21, 2011. (Xinhua/Ding Lin)

BEIJING, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) — Senior Chinese leader Li Changchun vowed on Friday to cement friendly relations with South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), to boost healthy and stable growth of China-South Sudan ties.

Li, a Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the pledge while meeting with a delegation led by Pagan Amum, secretary-general of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Li said China was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with South Sudan since the country was founded in July this year.

Hailing the good start of bilateral ties, Li said China fully respects the rights of the South Sudanese to choose their political system and development path.

“We are willing to further enhance political trust and win-win cooperation with South Sudan on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, to promote long-term, healthy and stable growth of our relations,” Li added.

Concerning party-to-party relations, Li said the CPC and SPLM, as ruling parties, bare the same historical tasks of enhancing governance capabilities, boosting social and economic development and improving people’s livelihoods.

Under the new circumstances, it is of vital significance for both parties to further consolidate and develop their relations, he said.

The CPC is ready to cement friendly cooperation with SPLM, Li added.

In response, Pagan told Li that South Sudan regards China as a sincere friend and strategic partner.

He said South Sudan hopes to learn from the CPC’s governance experience, and facilitate bilateral substantial cooperation in such areas as economy and trade, resources development, culture, and education, he said.

Pagan also said he appreciates China’s support for South Sudan’s efforts regarding national independence and sovereignty.

China recognized South Sudan as an independent country on July 9 this year.


South Sudan’s independence celebrations.

Rashid El Sheikh, Sudanese Communist Party, interviewed by John Foster

October 19, 2011 — Morning Star — Africa’s newest state, the Republic of South Sudan, came into being on July 9. Its secession from the north has transformed the political dynamics of a region rich in natural resources and which still suffers from the legacy of Britain’s long colonial rule.

The original state of Sudan emerged from the bloody wars of conquest waged by Britain in the 1880s and 1890s. The region’s previous rulers were Arab feudal landlords. Britain sought to rule the new colony by pitting the Islamic north against a south that was first Christianised and then used as a base for the mass commercial farming of cotton. Sudan achieved formal independence in 1956 and the new state entered a period of neocolonial economic control administered through a concordat with the economically reactionary Arab clans of the north.

At the same time, these years also saw repeated challenges by more progressive nationalist elements and Sudan’s relatively large working class, largely a product of its commercial cotton production. In the 1960s Sudan had one of the largest communist parties in Africa.

The past three decades have seen a tangled series of governmental alliances involving interventions of both Western imperialist interests and regional power players, particularly Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The left, the Communist Party and the trade union movement faced savage repression. So did ethnic groups such as those in Darfur which challenged the Khartoum government.

In the south the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army under John Garang waged a military struggle originally with some backing from the Soviet Union.

In the past decade the Khartoum government of Omar al-Bashir has fought to maintain control at a time when the geopolitics of the region were transformed by the discovery of large reserves of oil in the south and centre of Sudan.

A peace settlement was brokered with the SPLA forces in the south under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005. This promised a referendum on secession within six years alongside measures to institutionalise power sharing with the SPLA and democratise structures in the north.

Unstable situation

Leading Sudanese communist Rashid El Sheikh argues that it was the failure to adhere to this agreement which made a Yes vote for secession by the south almost inevitable. Rashid, who is a member of the solidarity and international relations bureau of the Communist Party of Sudan, UK and Ireland, sums up the new situation as unstable, potentially very dangerous but also pregnant with the possibilities of progressive change.

“The political base of the government of President Bashir is among sections of the merchant bourgeoisie, some Islamic financial and business forces and militant Islamic fundamentalists.

“While it previously had some backing from Saudi Arabia and some Arabic states, this appears to have been weakened. Bashir himself and other members of his regime are indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court.

“Bashir’s government now faces a serious economic crisis. The secession of the south has deprived it of 75 per cent of its oil revenues. It is now struggling to pay the estimated 70 per cent of the budget allocated to the army and militias.

“In the south the new government is a broad coalition built round the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement. It is preoccupied with establishing a new administration in face of an almost complete lack of infrastructure and harassment from the north.

“Its political manifesto is a secular, progressive program based on the unity and equality of all Sudanese. It seeks to create a civil secular society that does not privilege particular religious or ethnic groups and proposes to use the oil revenues and other resources to develop education, health and the productive base of the economy.

“Currently it faces demands from the north for exorbitant charges, up to US$32 a barrel, for use of the oil pipeline that crosses North Sudan territory to the sea.

“The north has also sought reassert control over the oil-bearing territories across its southern border through a mixture of armed force and electoral manipulation.

“It delayed the process of popular consultation agreed under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Instead it forced snap elections in less than free conditions”, says Rashid.

Blue Nile and Kordofan

In Blue Nile this manoeuvre failed and the SPLM won the majority of local parliamentary seats but in South Kordofan it succeeded. This gave the regime the ostensible authority to round up militants of the SPLM, demanding the immediate disarmament of SPLA forces counter to the CPA.

A near civil war situation now exists in both provinces with huge human and resource costs.

In terms of international relations, the Bashir government has sought to strengthen links with Iran. In August the Central Bank unsuccessfully sought a loan of $1.5 billion from Qatar and other Gulf states.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to Sudan is an indication of a new turn in the relationship between the two despotic states.

First vice-president Ali Osman Taha has visited Tripoli to establish links with Islamic groups in the new Libyan Transitional Council. Much less successfully, Bashir himself visited Egypt where he was met with a cold reception.

In the midst of this turmoil, Rashid notes that external imperialist forces are seeking to enhance their influence and to secure oil concessions in both the north and the south.

“This will present a growing problem for the future”, he says. “We also believe that the role of the People’s Republic of China in continuing financial, diplomatic and other forms of aid for the government of [North] Sudan is mistaken and harmful and runs counter to the interest and aspiration of the majority of Sudanese people.

“Internally the Bashir regime has stepped up repression — seeking to impose a more rigorous form of Islamic rule and to eliminate internal opposition. Five times over the last month Bashir regime’s security forces have seized every copy of Al Midan, the paper of the Sudanese Communist Party, currently published three times weekly. Our party is not proscribed but we expect action against it in the near future. Other opposition forces face similar harassment.”

The Communist Party now forms part of a broader alliance that unites virtually all the opposition forces — the Umma Party, the Democratic Unionist Party, the SPLM (North), two Ba’athist parties and elements of the trade union and student movement. The general secretary of the alliance is Farouk Abu Eissa, former secretary of the Arab Lawyers Union.

The alliance of Sudanese political forces is demanding a constitutional convention attended by representatives of all political and civil organisations in order to secure the consent to rebuild a democratic civil Sudan following the independence the south.

At the same time the Communist Party is giving support to the increasing movement of resistance on the ground — currently mainly led by youth, student and women’s groups.

“Small demonstrations are occurring daily in Khartoum and disseminated through social media,” says Rashid. “They are met with police repression and arrests. But they continue and are growing in frequency and size.

“At the same time the plight of the general population is becoming more and more desperate. Some 7.5 million of the north’s 30 million populations live in Khartoum and the shanty towns around it. They are finding it impossible to buy food and basic services. Prices have trebled in a year.

“Beyond Khartoum the authority of the Bashir government is facing challenges both in the southern provinces, in Darfur and in the east,” says Rashid.

“The rank and file of the army is increasingly restive as it is forced to engage in repression while its own wages are either unpaid or rapidly losing value.

“For the government of President Bashir the situation appears unsustainable.

“The demand for a more secular and democratic Sudan, one that is capable of developing an equitable and socially just economy, cannot be suppressed for much longer.”

[John Foster is Communist Party of Britain international secretary.]

Hope springs anew in South Sudan

Posted: October 21, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan


Publication Date: 2011-10-21

— SCIAF’s partner organisation, Sudanese Evangelical Mission, speaks of ‘a good beginning’

One of SCIAF’s partners in the world’s newest nation of South Sudan has told the SCO that the situation in his country is much more optimistic following its declaration of independence earlier this year.

Gulliver Ishmael of the Sudanese Evangelical Mission (SEM) said that the people of South Sudan were ‘very hopeful’ since succession from Sudan and there had been ‘a good beginning.’

One of the SEM’s main areas of focus is working with the disabled and improving their lives and Mr Ishmael believes that independence has made that struggle easier.

“One of the main things we do is work on building the confidence of people who are disabled so they believe they can contribute and move forward,” he said. “We try to help children back to school, train teachers so they are comfortable having disabled children in their class and set up small businesses so they can support themselves. We are definitely seeing a better working environment now.”

Rocky road to independence

The road to independence for South Sudan has been a long and troubled one, with decades of civil war wracking the region prior to a peace deal in 2005 that led to the succession of South Sudan. The legacy of the war is a brutal one.

“Many people lost limbs to mines, and there are still large numbers of mines in the country, and a lot of our work is with the victims of landmines,” Mr Ishmael said. “Also there are many people who grew up during the war so never had any access to education so we now run adult education classes to help them learn to read and write.”

The SEM, an ecumenical Christian group, formed as a result of the war.

“Many South Sudanese had fled to refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda during the fighting,” Mr Ishmael said. “And the SEM originally worked doing things like sharing Bibles in the camps.”

When the people returned to the homes, the SEM started trying to help people more broadly, he added, as the situation was desperate.

“It’s only recently we have seen any wheelchairs at all in South Sudan,” he said. “People who had no use of their legs would pull themselves about on their arms. We still have to bring wheelchairs in from Kenya so now we are trying to build more in South Sudan itself.”


Efforts like this have been made easier by increased freedom of movement that has come with independence.

“We are seeing a better working environment,” Mr Ishamel said. “It’s much easier for us to travel to other countries, before it was very difficult to access email and the telephone network would go out all the time. It was very difficult for us to communicate with SCIAF for example but it’s much easier now.”

SEM is using the new freedoms to lobby the South Sudanese government to do more to help disabled people.

“We are trying to lobby the government to have them take on more responsibility in helping disabled people,” he said. “Obviously they have a great many things to deal with but they seem to be willing to listen to us.”

The government does have many challenges to tackle as South Sudan remains a country with many problems, he said.

“The infrastructure is still very bad, many of the roads are terrible and it’s very difficult to reach remote areas,” he said. “But people are very hopeful the new government will make a big difference. Expectations are very high but we are feeling positive.”

South Sudan keen to end border rows with neighbours

Posted: October 21, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

Map and borders of South Sudan |

By MACHEL AMOS in JubaPosted Thursday, October 20 2011 at 17:35

South Sudan said on Thursday it is seeking a “soft” resolution of the multiple border rows that it faces with the neighbouring Kenya and Uganda.

There is already a dispute at the south-western part of the country, where locals say that the Ugandans of Moyo district have encroached 16 km into their farmlands.

In the country’s Eastern Equatoria state, local authorities have notified the governor and indeed the president that Ugandans have illegally crossed their border and occupied Limu village.

And at Nadapal at the border with Kenya, there are claims from the communities on both sides that the other is unnecessarily encroaching on their land.

“It is really something serious, people are moving in with bulldozers, grazing, making roads and building clinics and offices in our territory,” deputy Interior minister Salva Mathok said.


Mr Mathok said South Sudan has until; now sought to first sort out her fragile northern border dispute with her erstwhile foes in Sudan, but in vain.

“We have many problems facing us with the North. So we don’t want other problems facing us at the back,” Mr Mathok said.

“We will negotiate it and we will get the result. We will negotiate it peacefully and handle it.”

South Sudan Says Black Market Currency Trading Fuels Inflation

Posted: October 21, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

By Jared Ferrie

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) — Central Bank workers in South Sudan may be involved in black market currency trading that is fueling inflation in the newly independent nation, the deputy finance minister said.

The employees are able to buy dollars at the official rate of between 2.9 to 3.3 pounds to the dollar and sell them on the black market, where the U.S. currency fetches as much as 4 pounds, Marial Awou Yol said yesterday in an interview in Juba, the capital. Ministry of National Security agents are probing all businesses that can trade in foreign currency, including banks, insurance companies and exchange bureaus, he said.

“We have ordered them to be positioned, or embedded, into mainly the central bank, because it looks like there is connivance between some staff of the central bank and these mobile bureau exchange owners” operating on the street, he said.

Consumer prices jumped 61.5 percent in September from last year as the cost of food surged, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Oct. 18. South Sudan gained control of about 75 percent of Sudan’s oil production, the third biggest in sub- Saharan Africa, when it seceded on July 9.

Police in Juba said last week they detained more than 20 people who were exchanging money illegally on the streets.

Yol said the government hoped that further investigations would lead authorities to the “invisible guys” who are profiting from illegal currency speculation.

Food Prices Soar

The price of food, the largest contributor to the inflation index with a 71.4 percent weighting, advanced an annual 65.3 percent in September, the Juba-based statistics bureau said in a statement on its website.

The central bank this month said it was doubling to $200 million the weekly amount of foreign currency allocated to financial institutions.

Yol said such measures would only be effective if security agencies are able to prevent illegal speculators from profiting on the black market.

“If no safety nets are out in place, it will be like pouring water into a bottomless hole, so we have to safeguard against more leakages in the currency market,” he said.

Yol said the surge in food prices coincided with the frequent closure of borders to trade between South Sudan and Sudan after fighting erupted this year between government forces and rebels in Sudan’s border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.

He also blamed illegal checkpoints demanding payments from trucks carrying imports from Uganda, South Sudan’s southern neighbor, for the price rises. The authorities have shut down roadblocks operated by members of 44 government institutions and 65 other groups, he said.

–Editors: Karl Maier, Nasreen Seria

To contact the reporter on this story: Jared Ferrie in Juba, South Sudan, at jferrie1

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin

S. Sudan welcomes US military help to fight LRA

Posted: October 21, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

Lords Resistance Army (LRA) fighters arrive at an assembly point in Owiny Ki Bul, 160km (100 miles) south of Juba, Sudan, September 19, 2006. REUTERS/James Akena

JUBA (Reuters) – South Sudan is welcoming U.S. military assistance to help fight Ugandan rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) accused of murder, rape and kidnapping children, officials said on Friday.

Last week, President Barack Obama said the U.S. was sending 100 military advisors to central Africa to help battling the LRA operating in Uganda and lawless parts of South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a letter to Congress, Obama said the first troops had already arrived in Uganda and would be deployed to South Sudan, the CAR and Democratic Republic of Congo subject to their approval.

On Friday, newly independent South Sudan welcomed the U.S. military cooperation with its army, known as SPLA, to help hunt down LRA leader Joseph Kony.

"It is agreed. There was a high military delegation prior to that announcement which discussed all the details of it together with the SPLA," Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told Reuters.

"It is logistical help, a capacity training programme and support for all the four countries to contain the LRA. It will start immediately because people have already agreed on that," he said, without giving further details.

SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer said: "There are already coordinated mechanisms that have been combating LRA so the new LRA advisory will be an addition."

"Their most important role is the provision of air surveillance and information," he said of the U.S. assistance.

The LRA, which says it is a religious group, emerged in northern Uganda in the 1990s and is believed to have killed, kidnapped and mutilated tens of thousands of people.

LRA leader Kony has been indicted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

LRA commanders have been operating in the wild and largely lawless border regions of the DRC, Central African Republic and South Sudan in recent years.

Although now thought to number just a few hundred fighters, the LRA’s mobility and the difficulties of the terrain have made it difficult to tackle. Attempts to negotiate peace failed in 2008 after Kony refused to sign a deal to end the killing.

UN-backed peace talks seek to end violent ethnic clashes in South Sudan

Posted: October 21, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan


Special Representative Hilde Johnson

21 October 2011 – Two ethnic communities that had previously engaged in violent attacks in South Sudan took part in a series of United Nations-backed peace talks which seek to put an end to conflict in the country’s Jonglei state that has resulted in more than 600 casualties this year.

According to a news release issued yesterday by the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the two-day peace building and reconciliation effort, which concluded earlier this week, aimed to establish a dialogue between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities and boost security in the region.

Hilde F. Johnson, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNMISS, who has been supporting authorities in preventing a further escalation of communal violence, met with Government officials and local chiefs and stressed the need to hear from both communities and ensure the continuation of the reconciliation process.

“We have air surveillance over the territory daily to monitor the situation on the ground [and] we have deployed a team to engage with the communities,” Ms. Johnson said. “We managed collectively… to hold back retaliation. Now we have to make sure that the peace and reconciliation process we supported comes to a successful completion.”

The reconciliation efforts are led by the South Sudan Council of Churches and began earlier this month after a consultative workshop between the council, the UN and Government officials in the state capital, Bor.

Ms. Johnson met with the state Governor Kuol Manyang Juuk, who promised that his administration would support the peace building process.

After reports of the first attacks in the region, UNMISS responded by deploying troops to the two counties to deter a counter-attack and has been working with local police forces and the military to strengthen security in the area.

The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

William testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives about his experiences living in a refugee camp and being resettled as a refugee. He advocated for the needs of refugees and made policy recommendations about how best to serve and protect refugees around the world.

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Read William’s testimony and visit our Facebook page to watch William speak about this testimony.

Prof Taban Mokotiyang Rekenet Lo Liyong is a marvellously gifted man of letters and his unconventional writing style and flamboyant personality have established him as one of Africa’s literary icons.


Prof Taban Mokotiyang Rekenet Lo Liyong is a marvelously gifted man of letters and his unconventional writing style and flamboyant personality have established him as one of Africa’s literary icons.

Posted Friday, October 21 2011

Lo Liyong: Literary icon who delights in ruffling feathers

In Summary: “Eccentric scholar Prof Lo Liyong has courted controversy with his dismissal of East Africa as ‘a dry, desolate, barren stretch of wilderness where literature has simply refused to sprout’”

Sporting a grey goatee and wearing a cream-coloured flowing robe, an old leather bag in his hand and a brown Scottish style cap on his balding head, he cuts the image of a magician in a Nollywood movie.

But Prof Taban Mokotiyang Rekenet Lo Liyong is a marvellously gifted man of letters and his unconventional writing style and flamboyant personality have established him as one of Africa’s literary icons.

Since the 1960s, he has courted controversy, beginning with his dismissal of East Africa as a literary wasteland, “a dry, desolate, barren stretch of wilderness where literature has simply refused to sprout.”

It is a charge he would repeat time and again, but most passionately in 1975, when he wrote in the 50th edition of the respected literary journal Transition in a piece titled: East Africa, oh East Africa I lament thy literary barrenness.

Despite his advanced age, Prof Lo Liyong still walks with a spring in his step and has a combative nature which belies his slight frame.

Prof Lo Liyong was in unapologetic mood when Saturday Nation sought him out in Nairobi last Thursday.

“I am fed up talking to myself. Africa has ceased to produce intellectuals. I don’t come here to cause mayhem. But I come to continue the revolutionary fire we started four decades ago,” he said.

Few exceptional Africans

But slipping back to his intellectual pride for which he is well-known, the dean of the Faculty of Arts, Drama and Music at the University of Juba says: “Some critics write that I am controversial but with all the stupidity in Africa and the world these days, which intelligent man or woman would like to follow the herd or pseudo-leaders? I consider myself my own man.”

He continues: “Okay, we do have few exceptional Africans. (Chinua) Achebe created popular literature which resonates well with the African way of narrating a story.

“Soyinka showed us what can be done with the big vocabulary; (Kamara) Laye produced classics. But in terms of really understanding what the European mentality is all about, only Ayi Kwei Armah and I have got it right.”

Armah is the author of the seminal novel The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born which expresses the “rot” that characterised post-independent Ghana in the last years of founding president Kwameh Nkrumah and the frustration many citizens of the newly-independent states in Africa felt after attaining political independence.

Prof Lo Liyong says Africa will only get it right when it decides to pursue excellence and has harsh words for the parallel system of university education, saying it has robbed Kenya of its academic heritage.

“Let the parallel students be taught by parallel lecturers, but every African country should set aside a centre of excellence to produce the continent’s Nobel laureates.

If you had allowed yourselves to have parallel runners you will not have excelled in athletics,” he says.

Dismisses Nobel Prize

His statement is not likely to go down well with many, including his colleagues in the academia, given private sponsorship is a multi-billion shilling industry providing a lifeline, not only to thousands of students who are not absorbed through the Joint Admissions Board, but also to the professors who see it as meal ticket to shore up their earnings.

Prof Lo Liyong dismisses Nobel Peace prizes, saying they are a mark of weakness. “It means you turn the other cheek when you are slapped.

“We need genuine Nobel prizes in chemistry, physics and mathematics and we cannot produce them in the current state of things,” he laments.

Defending his unconventional style of writing and speech, he describes the English language as a “prostitute with whom we have all slept in our different ways,” saying it has succeeded because it is malleable and there are so many versions of it.

He has often been accused of using sex innuendos in his writing, a charge he dismisses with a wave of the hand.

“All these conflicts boil down to sex. And if it is easier to use that language to drive the message home faster, why not?” he poses.

The eccentric scholar says no one can live off writing fiction in Africa. “But that is no excuse. Those of us who have salaried employment owe it to our society to write works of art and publishers too owe it to society to publish them.

“For every 10 textbooks you publish, you should publish two books for intellectual enhancement of Africa — serious novels, poems and works of literary criticism.”

True to his style of commenting on almost everything under the sun, he has no kind words for “fake faiths” whose leaders, he claims, are living in opulence at the expense of hapless faithful and challenges writers to expose them in novels.

“Why is nobody writing about this scandal of using the Lord’s name in vain? How can they use poor women’s last pennies to buy planes and fleets of cars?”

He claims that some pastors are using wireless electric shocks to fell people in churches so as to sell their miracle theories.

Because of this no-holds-barred approach, for which he has earned the title of East Africa’s literary enfante terrible, Prof Lo Liyong has received praise and criticism in equal measure.

And the don’s detractors are in droves. One of them is Maseno University history professor William Ochieng, who accuses him of having made Nairobi his Centre for Invective Dispensation (CID), where he would criticise every aspect of the ivory tower and leave the campuses aflame with clamorous debate.

He says true to the poet’s name, he is now taban (Arabic word for tired) and has lost relevance in today’s literary dispensation.

“Taban no longer deserves publicity and can only be dotted as a museum piece. He lacks p’Bitek’s artistic bravura and Ngugi’s restless soul. His classroom and public lectures are unstructured and rigourless. He punches his colleagues without regard to reason,” writes Prof Ochieng.

But Narok University College lecturer Solomon Waliaula says Prof Lo Liyong’s place in African literature is assured because of his unique writing style.

“Literature is different from history, which is about currency of thought. His writing represents a watershed in African fiction, incorporating as it does both folk elements and the most self-conscious kind of European fiction,” says Mr Waliaula.

Wanted to kill me

But perhaps the 72-year-old scholar’s fame lies in his contribution to the ‘On the Abolition of the English Department in 1968’ which sought to position African literature at the centre of the education system.

Together with the late Henry Owuor-Anyumba and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, he called for the educational system to emphasise oral tradition (as a key traditional African form of learning), Swahili literature, as well as prose and poetry from the African-American and Caribbean societies.

According to his own accounts, he was born in Sudan and carried on the back to Uganda to escape “a malevolent relative who wanted to kill me.”

“But in 1978, I dumped my passports at the immigration offices as I no longer wanted to be a man of two minds and two nations.

“To crown it all, I went to my village and vied for the position of MP to reestablish my credentials,” he says, clearing the air over what his critics said was his taking up Ugandan nationality to escape conflict.

He was briefly a member of the Regional Parliament of Juba during the regime of President Gaffar Numeiri between 1982 and 1985, where he is said to have been a vociferous backbencher in the mould of the philosopher Bertrand Russell.

So what is his contribution to the development of the new nation, South Sudan, which recently got independence after decades of war with the Arab regime in Khartoum?

“The work we are doing in South Sudan is unique. We are trying to decolonise from the Arab north as well as from European influences,” he says rather defensively.

He says he will soon build a unique university to be called African Continental University to inculcate practical education and theoretical disciplines in students.

“Last week I also translated my Wer Pa Lawino (The Defence of Lawino) into English. Now is the time for philosophers to assess where we are coming from, where we came from and where we are going to.”

Prof Lo Liyong obtained his BA in Literature from Howard University, USA, and Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, USA, where he was the first African to graduate from the Iowa Writers Workshop.

On completing his studies in the US, the tyrannical regime of Idi Amin prevented him from returning to Uganda. He instead came to Kenya and taught at the University of Nairobi.

He has also taught at international universities in Papua New Guinea, Australia, Japan and South Africa.

The father of six has published over 20 books which include Carrying Knowledge Up a Palm Tree (1998), an anthology of poetry that addresses various contemporary issues and follows African progress in recent history.

Some of his works of fiction are Eating Chiefs, Frantz Fanon’s Uneven Ribs, Another Nigger Dead and Words that Melt a Mountain which demonstrate Taban’s ability to experiment on various stylistic devices.

In one of his most controversial assertions, he rejects long-established literary conventions defined by Aristotle for effective writing.

In The Uniformed Man (1971), he calls for readers to approach text in a different way, that is, not to follow the usual conventions of literature such as “introduction, exposition, rising action, etc. up to the climax”. Instead, text should be unconstrained by expectation and read with a consistent appreciation for “each word, phrase, or sentence”.

Some critics, however, think that he has overdone it. “If age gives one poetic freedom to say anything, then we can only say that Taban, occasionally, overstretches this freedom,” writes Masinde Muliro University’s Prof Egara Kabaji.

He says his play Showhat and Sowhat does not conform to the basic structures of a play and is lacking of any edifying stylistic form.

The book revolves around two families: those of Mr Showhat and Mr Sowhat.

Showhat is a rich man with an ego that has eclipsed his reason. He is given to boasting and showing off. On the other hand, Sowhat is a pauper, but proud in his own way.

The main conflict arises when Shiney puts Sowhat’s daughter in the family way. The case is brought up to a judge who rules that the two should exchange homes.

What is even more interesting is that My-show, Showhat’s wife, conceives and gives birth while living with Sowhat!

Prof Lo Liyong says this outrageous solution is what Kenya, and other African nations need if they are to become true states.

“The play is a comment on Kenya’s politics and its disillusion. I say intermarry and you become states or you remain with the current attitude and you all perish.”

“But which producer is capable of staging this play in its present form without annoying himself or without annoying his audience?” wrote Prof Kabaji in a recent issue of the Sunday Nation.

Prof Lo Liyong defends it saying it is it is “a very serious book containing murderous jokes.”

“That book and The Colour of Hope are about youthful rebellion. Those who have ears let them hear; those who have eyes let them see.

“ If every time I have to sit down to explain what I wrote, then it goes to confirm that I was right about the literary desert,” he admonishes.

“No Kenyan is talking about the post-election violence. Instead, people like Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o are writing folk tales.

f we don’t change our attitude about one another, the next election could even be worse. Give a chance to these Sheng-speaking young people. And that is what I am saying in the books,” he explains.

Prof Lo Liyong traces the failure of the African continent to the first generation of African intellectuals. “We, the pioneering philosophers, writers and academics were the second troupe of the decolonisers.

“But the problem arose when some of us did not critically relate with the new black rulers. I remember when people like Armah were criticising Ghana’s founding father Kwameh Nkrumah , saying the beautiful ones were not yet born, we were critical of him at the time.

“Even Ngugi was calling Kenyatta the black messiah yet there is no saint,” he says.

CHINUA ACHEBE: The laureate-in-waiting

Nigerian author Chinua Achebe gestures during a news conference

Nigerian author Chinua Achebe gestures during a news conference

Posted  Thursday, October 20  2011

The 2011 Nobel Literature Prize has already been awarded, and Africa’s Chinua Achebe, perennially taunted as a worthy contender, has to wait another year.

The same goes for Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who was heavily tipped by literary punters to win last year. That was curious. The nominees are only revealed after 50 years.

The literature prize is given to “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”.

So, why, for instance, has the 81-year-old Nigerian, widely considered “the most significant African writer of the 20th Century”, been given short shrift by Nobel’s Swedish Academy over the years?

This year’s Nobel Literature Prize went to Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer. His works comprise 15 collections of poetry, among them The Great Enigma and The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Transtromer.

Transtromer’s austere, polished poetry exploring themes of seclusion, emotion and identity, won the nod of the Swedish Academy “because through his condensed translucent images, he gives us a fresh access to reality”.

The 2010 prize was claimed by Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, another European — leading to accusations that the Academy is biased against non-European writers.

Those claims were given more impetus by the fact that the highly secretive Academy comprises 18 members — all Swedes — who have exercised historical notoriety in picking writers who critics have deemed, on average, as “minor, inconsequential, transitional or obscure, with the bulk of their yellowing works out of print,” contends Burton Feldman in The Nobel Prize: A History of Genius, Controversy and Prestige.

The Academy, notes Feldman, has overlooked more deserving literary heavyweights — Russia’s Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekov and Vladimir Nabokov; Frenchman Emile Zola; and James Joyce, the Irish novelist and poet.

Famous snubs also include America’s Gertrude Stein, Arthur Miller, John Updike and Virginia Wolf — creating a mazy understanding of the Academy’s selection process.

While nominations are by invitation from qualified persons and organisations, in Africa, there has never been a bigger brush-off than Chinua Achebe. Things Fall Apart, his seminal, prescient and introspective effort of 1958, is considered Africa’s best literary work yet.

Elegantly written in spare prose, sprinkled with cubicles of Igbo wit and axioms, the “archetypal African novel” set in colonial Nigeria as a canvas of modernity’s onslaught on culture has been read and studied worldwide, and its characters; the tragic hero Okonkwo, Nwoye, Unoka, Ikemefuna and Obierika, celebrated.

It has been translated into 50 languages. The most for any author, dead or alive.

In 2005, Time magazine named the “milestone in African literature”, Achebe’s magnum opus, one of the ‘best 100 English language novels written since 1923’ — the year Time was founded.

Things Fall Apart thus sits pretty on the shelf of noteworthy reads: Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Ernst Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird.

While Achebe has been the perpetual laureate-in-waiting, Africa has had other Nobel Literature winners: Albert Camus, the French-Algerian (1957), even though Nigerian Wole Soyinka became the first African-born writer to win it 1986.

Soyinka is famous for his protest plays — The Lion and the Jewel, The trials of Brother Jero, Kongi’s Harvest, The Interpreters (a complex read), Season of Anomy; and fictionalised memoirs Ake and The Man Died.

He was, however, awarded for his collection of poetry because he, “in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones, fashions the drama of existence”.

Egypt’s Naguib Mahfouz, author of 50 novels, was honoured in 1988. Mahfouz survived an assassination attempt in 1994 from Islamic fundamentalists who were angered by his portrayal of God in Children of Gebelawi. He was honoured with a state funeral when he died in 2006, aged 94.

South Africa’s Nadine Gordimer became one of only 12 women Literature laureates in ’91. Among her works include A Guest of Honour and In the Heart of the Country, which dwells on political issues and psychological tensions of a racially divided Rainbow Nation.

Gordimer, now 87, was awarded because “through her magnificent epic writing she has, in the words of Alfred Nobel, been of very great benefit to humanity”.

Another South African, turned Australian, the recluse JM Coetzee who doesn’t drink, smoke, laugh much or eat meat, went to the Embassy of Sweden in Stockholm to receive his Nobel in 2003.

The author of the acclaimed Waiting for the Barbarians and Disgrace was awarded because he, “in innumerable guises, portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider” and his work features “well-crafted composition, pregnant with dialogue and analytical brilliance”.

But, give or take, are these laureates superior in edge, readership constituency, influence, readability, historical peg and overall contribution to understanding the arcane facets of cross-cultural literature in Africa than Chinua Achebe?

Few African writers, the aforementioned laureates inked in, have highlighted the continent’s glorious heritage, juxtaposing its post-modernity, colonialism and neo-colonialism better than Achebe.

And not just with Things Fall Apart.
Achebe’s other works, no less important, include The Trouble with Nigeria, his blunt and brave critique of 1984; A Morning Yet on Creation Day, his 1975 collection of poetry; and the essays Hopes and Impediments (1988) and Home and Exile (2000).

The successors of Things Fall Apart — minus Okonkwo, its protagonist — include No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, A man of the People and Anthills of the Savannah.

But it’s Things Fall Apart, dubbed “the most significant African novel of the last 50 years”, that remains the substratum upon which succeeding works of African literature were erected.

Indeed, Achebe’s body of work, in total, blends cultural, socio-political, religious and secular components to advance a deeper understanding of not only the Igbo, but African culture as well.

Feldman notes that the Swedish Academy casts a favourable eye on “activist writers” fronting visible social or political causes. Achebe has hardly been critical of his country like the exiled Soyinka and Gordimer.

In his will, Alfred Nobel stipulated that winners should have the most outstanding work in an “ideal direction”.

For a dozen years since 1901, the Nobel Committee interpreted a literary work’s “ideal direction” as a “loft and sound idealism”, universal interests that the snubbed writers — Achebe’s confinement to African cultures and Ngugi’s hangover with colonial themes — are seemingly short of.

During World War I, “ideal direction” equalled ignoring writers in combatant countries as a way of the Academy’s neutrality in the war, and hence the heavy roll call of winners from Scandinavian countries, which were not at war.

Since 1901, the Academy has never explained how winners are arrived at outside the citations. But favouring European authors has received criticism over the years, even in Sweden, which has more literature laureates than all of Asia.

To cement this perception, listen to Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, who in 2008 told the Associated Press that “Europe still is the centre of the literary world”.

Asked why American writers rarely won, the last having been Toni Morrison, author of Beloved and Song of Solomon in 1993, he offered that “the US is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature… that ignorance is restraining”.

In 2009, Engdahl was replaced by Peter Englund, who trashed Engdahl’s sentiments, agreeing that the Nobel Literature Prize was “Eurocentric” and that “we tend to relate more easily to literature written in Europe and in European tradition”.

Englund, however, did not escape scathing criticism when that year’s winner was the obscure Romanian-German Herta Muller. Most professors of literature and critics, charged the Washington Post, had never heard of the authoress of Everything I Possess I Carry with Me.

Knut Ahnlund, a member of the Academy, resigned after Austrian playwright Elfriede Jelinek won in 2004. Ahnlund called her writing “a mass of text that appears shoveled together without trace of artistic structure”, adding that her winning had “caused irreparable damage” to the award’s standing.

That reputation had been dented when the 1997 Prize went to Italian leftwing playwright Dario Fo, a lightweight even in his country, noted The Independent.

The Academy sometimes favours neglected genres from which illustrious luminaries are picked to re-divert attention to them.

Indian-British writer Salman Rushdie and American dramatist Arthur Miller were favourites that year, but their winning would have been “too predictable, too popular”.

Graham Greene and Nabokov were passed in 1974 in favour of Swedes Eyvind Johson and Harry Martison, a joint win, despite their glaring anonymity beyond Swedish borders a the time.

Something else.

To win the Literature prize, you must have one toe in the grave: Transtromer is twisting 80. Vargas Llosa is 75. The youngest ever winner was Rudyard Kipling, he of the famous poem, If.

Kipling won the 1907 Nobel Literature Prize at 42 “in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration”.

If Professor Chinua Achebe never wins, he will go down as one of the greatest “laureates who never was.” And Nobel Prizes are no longer awarded posthumously.