Archive for October 31, 2011

Fresh Scars on the Body Politic

Posted: October 31, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, right, greets his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir on Oct. 8, 2011 upon the latter's first official arrival in Khartoum.Ebrahim Hamid/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesSudanese President Omar al-Bashir, right, greets his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir on Oct. 8, 2011 upon the latter’s first official arrival in Khartoum.


Oh, to have been in that room in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, on Oct. 16. That’s when the leadership of the world’s newest country met with Xanana Gusmão, the prime minister of East Timor, the first new country of the 21st century [1]. Surely, Mr. Gusmão must have lectured on the nitty gritty of starting up a brand new country. And undoubtedly, talk must have turned to borders: how to demarcate, secure and police them. (Yes, such are the daydreams of borderspotters like myself.)

Not that these borders are necessarily the stuff that daydreams are made of. New borders are to geopolitics what fresh scars are to medicine — painful, and potentially inflammatory, but, for both countries involved, also inevitable.

East Timor has a few advantages over South Sudan. As one half of a relatively small island, its total land border with Indonesia is only about 150 miles long. And even though it possesses a quirky coastal exclave in western Timor [2], there are no major outstanding territorial disputes to speak of [3].

South Sudan, on the other hand, is not an island — except metaphorically, in a sea of troubles. In the months leading up to its independence, it became fashionable to label the oil-rich but dirt-poor country a “pre-failed state” — a France-sized nation with less than 100 miles of paved roads.

When it declared its independence on July 9, it not only inherited long borders with five neighboring countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic), it was also endowed with about 1,300 miles of new international border with its former antagonist and parent state, Sudan [4].

Joe Burgess/The New York Times

Both countries agreed to demilitarize a six-mile zone on either side of the new border, but such goodwill (or mere public show) can’t hide the fact that this gigantic horizontal gash across Sudan, snaking its way from the Central African Republic to Ethiopia, is still very much a throbbing cicatrix. Even though the breakup concluded decades of armed conflict between north and south, the secession of a quarter of the country must have been traumatic for the central government in Khartoum. Formerly Africa’s largest country, Sudan is now relegated to third place, after Algeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo [5].

”Rump Sudan” still looks unfamiliar on the map, incomplete, like a broken elephant tusk. Maybe it was a reluctance to officiate the passing of “Old Sudan,” a familiar cartographic Gestalt for its size if nothing else, that explains why Google Maps dilly-dallied for over two months after South Sudan won independence before finally putting the new country on the map, in mid-September. Old borders, after all, die harder in the mind than on the ground.

This new frontier, for all the blood that has been shed in its establishment, has proved to be far from a capstone on decades of violence. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which led to the referendum which led to independence, has transformed the rebels of the Southern People’s Liberation Army into a legitimate government. But in a depressing replay of what came before, it is now in turn fighting its own internal rebellions: as recently as last week, heavy fighting in Unity, a border state and the source of 98 percent of the new country’s oil wealth, claimed the lives of a large number of rebels — former and present.

And despite the “demilitarization,” tension between north and south remains, in no small part because of outstanding border issues. The peace agreement created the international border by dusting off the internal borders as they existed in 1956, when Sudan gained its independence from Britain. While that may have been the least-worst option — sidestepping both the border changes imposed by the north and those claimed by the south — it still is a bit like trying to fit into an old suit worn by a younger, thinner self. Expect discomfort, and be prepared for some ripping. In Sudan’s case, the likely conflicts center on two disputed areas, Kafia Kingi and Abyei.

Though historically a part of the south, Kafia Kingi, on the border with the Central African Republic, was transferred from the region of Bahr el Ghazal, now in South Sudan, to the region of Darfur, which remains in Sudan. But the South Sudanese would like it back, thank you very much. The (North) Sudanese can play pass-the-parcel with the issue, and claim — rightfully — that it wasn’t them what done it: the British colonial administration transferred the area in the 1930s.

Similarly, the British transferred Abyei from south to north in order to get to grips with a pastoralist conflict between tribes of Dinka (from the south) and Messiria (from the north). That ethnic conflict is still at the center of the local tug of war. Officially, the Abyei area has been declared a condominium: its inhabitants have dual citizenship of both the states of South Kordofan (in the north) and North Bahr el Ghazal (in the south), pending a referendum on which side of the fence they want to land on. But in fact, the (North) Sudanese army has taken over the area by force, clearing out officials and citizens whose loyalty lies with the South.

If, on a map, Abyei looks like the buckle on the belt of the intra-Sudanese border, the analogy is an apt one. The ongoing tension is a miniature version of the recently resolved conflict between the two states: the north has used its superior firepower to gain the upper hand and create “facts on the ground,” but South Sudan, now independent, can feed the resentment of its ethnically cleansed partisans with petrodollars. Abyei has the potential to become the flashpoint of the South’s irredentist frustrations.

If only that were the end to South Sudan’s border troubles. The world’s youngest state is also one of its poorest, and its government thus is relatively powerless to impose its will on its borders — which, even setting aside the tensions with its northern neighbor, are hardly settled. Recent months have seen the South Sudanese accuse the Ugandans of encroachment on their territory, for example. The underlying conflict is older, and involves cattle-rustling between the Madi and Kuku tribes, on the Ugandan and South Sudanese sides of the border, respectively. The South Sudanese feel, perhaps justifiably so, that the weakness of their state is compelling some within Uganda to force the issue.

The main area of contention is the unresolved demarcation in the Logoba/Moyo district. A recent meeting between presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Salva Kiir of South Sudan did not resolve the issue, let alone relieve the tension. “At every opportunity, the Ugandans take the advantage,” laments a South Sudanese blogger. “Now that the country shares borders with six countries, South Sudanese must think of guarding and maintaining” their “territorial integrity, no matter what cost. That is what it means and takes to be an independent nation.”

Indeed, inherent in the modern concept of a nation are its endowments with a capital; a government, with state regalia like a flag and an anthem; and not least fixed borders — plus the will and power to enforce them. Clearly, South Sudan still has a long way to go [6].

It will be interesting to see if South Sudan aims to honor this lofty ambition with regards to the Ilemi Triangle, a disputed area on the border with Ethiopia and Kenya. Ethiopia has always conceded that Sudan was the rightful claimant to this area, its uncertain status caused by vague wording in a colonial treaty.

As the current claimant, South Sudan could ask Kenya, the current occupant, to vacate the area. But some suggest that the Southern People’s Liberation Army tacitly granted possession of Ilemi to Kenya in exchange for support during the struggle. With more pressing matters on South Sudan’s table, my guess is that President Kiir will not be in a rush to ask the Kenyans to leave.

Ironically, in the way that enemies often tend to resemble each other, South Sudan’s border problems mirror those of its northern neighbor. Even after jettisoning the South, the Khartoum government has had to deal with a major internal rebellion — this time in Darfur, the enormous midwestern area of the country. Is a second Sudanese secession looming? Not likely — the desert region has been “pacified” by a combination of army firepower and local pro-government militia.

On top of that, Sudan is also subject to festering, if less-well-known border disputes with Egypt. The Egyptian-Sudanese border deviates from the otherwise straight line along the 22º north latitude in three areas, all of which are potential flashpoints. The first is the Wadi Halfa Salient, where Sudan juts north along the Nile for about 16 miles. This was intended by the British colonial authorities to facilitate the administration of several local villages, which were easier to reach from Sudan than Egypt. From the 1960s onward, Egypt flooded most of this area when finishing the Aswan Dam, displacing the inhabitants of around 50 villages — eliminating the salient in practice, if not on paper. Yet Sudan is not willing to concede the territory in either sense.

Two areas further east are the Bir Tawil Trapezoid and the Hala’ib Triangle. Bizarrely, both Egypt and Sudan claim the latter, but neither claims the former — making it the world’s only remaining terra nullius [7] outside of Antarctica.

In an otherwise harsh and unforgiving climate, both Sudans appear to have the right ecosystem where borders — and border disputes — flourish. It will be a region that borderspotters will keep their eyes on for decades to come.

Frank Jacobs is a London-based author and blogger. He writes about cartography, but only the interesting bits.

Mind-reading: The terrible truth

Posted: October 31, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Technology

This is an interesting article from The Economist Magazine. I got the audio edition from my subscription and then feel like I should post the printed version on the blog because, scary and eerily as it seems, the government would, sooner than later, be browsing our minds, just as we browse the net! Mind-Googling, Mind-Reading, Mind-browsing!

The CIA will be having a field day, not that it hasn’t been already! I guess the constitution should legalize lying since, as the article argues, it seems as one of our indispensable evolutionary traits.

Should this technology materialize, Emanuel Kant, whose theory of justice espouses telling the truth under all circumstances and all the time, would be celebrating in his grave!

Enjoy your lies before they last!!

PaanLuel Wel

Technology can now see what people are thinking. Be afraid

Oct 29th 2011 | from the print edition

DOUGLAS ADAMS, the late lamented author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, dreamed up many comic creations. One of his greatest was the Babel fish. This interstellar ichthyoid neatly disposed of a problem all science-fiction authors have: how to let alien species talk to one another. It did so by acting as a mind-reader that translated thoughts between different races and cultures. Universal communication did not, unfortunately, lead to universal harmony. As Adams put it, “The poor Babel fish has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.”

For the moment, mind-reading is still science fiction. But that may not be true for much longer. Several lines of inquiry (see article) are converging on the idea that the neurological activity of the brain can be decoded directly, and people’s thoughts revealed without being spoken.

Just imagine the potential benefits. Such a development would allow both the fit and the disabled to operate machines merely by choosing what they want those machines to do. It would permit the profoundly handicapped—those paralysed by conditions such as motor-neuron disease and cerebral palsy—to communicate more easily than is now possible even with the text-based speech engines used by the likes of Stephen Hawking. It might unlock the mental prisons of people apparently in comas, who nevertheless show some signs of neural activity. For the able-bodied, it could allow workers to dictate documents silently to computers simply by thinking about what they want to say. The most profound implication, however, is that it would abolish the ability to lie.

Who could object to that? Thou shalt not bear false witness. Tell the truth, and shame the Devil. Transparency, management-speak for honesty, is put forward as the answer to most of today’s ills. But the truth of the matter—honestly—is that this would lead to disaster, for lying is at the heart of civilisation.

People are not the only creatures who lie. Species from squids to chimpanzees have been caught doing it from time to time. But only Homo sapiens has turned lying into an art. Call it diplomacy, public relations or simple good manners: lying is one of the things that makes the world go round.

Minds matter

The occasional untruth makes domestic life possible (“Of course your bum doesn’t look big in that”), is essential in the office (“Don’t worry, everybody’s behind you on this one”), and forms a crucial part of parenting (“It didn’t matter that you forgot your words and your costume fell off. You were wonderful”). Politics might be more entertaining without lies—“The prime minister has my full support” would be translated as, “If that half-wit persists in this insane course we’ll all be out on our ears”—but a party system would be hard to sustain without the semblance of loyalty that dishonesty permits.

The truly scary prospect, however, is the effect mind-reading would have on relations between the state and the individual. In a world in which the authorities could divine people’s thoughts, speaking truth to power would no longer be brave: it would be unavoidable.

Information technology already means that physical privacy has become a scarce commodity. Websites track your interests and purchases. Mobile phones give away your location. Video cameras record what you are up to. Lose mental privacy as well, and there really will be nowhere to hide.

The Elusive Search for Peace in Darfur

By Brian Adeba
October 31, 2011

In mid July, a fringe Darfur rebel movement called the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) signed a peace agreement with the government of Sudan in Doha, Qatar. The Doha Agreement stipulates that the LJM will head an interim governing body called the Darfur Transitional Authority (DTA). In October, LJM leader Tijani El-Sissi returned to Khartoum to head the DTA. But analysts say the peace deal cannot solve the conflict in Darfur as long as Darfur’s main rebel groups, the Justice and Liberation Movement (JEM) of Khalil Ibrahim and the Sudan Liberation Movement factions of Abdel Wahid and Minni Minnawi, have not signed on to it.

In the meantime, JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim, who was living in Libya and prevented from returning to Darfur by the former Libyan government, is now back in the region following the demise of the Gadhafi regime.

Brian Adeba spoke to Eric Reeves, a well-known Darfur researcher and author of the book A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide about the Doha peace deal, the impact of Khalil Ibrahim’s return and future prospects for a comprehensive peace in Darfur.

Regarding recent developments in Darfur, what should we make of the LJM agreement with the government of Sudan and the return of the LJM to Khartoum?

Eric Reeves: There are a number of complicated and interlocked issues here. The peace negotiated in Doha and signed by the Liberation and Justice Movement is an agreement that has very little popularity in Darfur. It is not a basis for peace and indeed the regime in Khartoum will use this to say ‘We have made a peace agreement. We are not going to make any further agreements.’ That will make it very difficult to bring the other main rebel factions and the other ethnic groups into the peace process. There is already, in the displaced camps, great tension between LJM supporters and the vast majority [who oppose
the agreement].

The LJM is going to head the Darfur Transitional Authority. What is the significance of this move given the fact that there is, as you say, minimal support for the LJM in Darfur?

Eric Reeves: Tijani El-Sissi is a former governor of Darfur but he is not highly regarded by most of his fellow Fur tribesmen and particularly by the educated elite, particularly in the diaspora and in various professions. He does not command a lot of popular support. I am not sure whether anyone in the present circumstances in Darfur could, but he certainly does not and for him to try and exert control at the present time is quite possible going to be a trigger for increased violence within the camps for displaced persons.

On a related note, a referendum was supposed to have been held in Darfur in July, but that’s been postponed to next year. With the LJM in the mix now, what are the prospects of this referendum?

Eric Reeves: There is really no prospect of a meaningful referendum anywhere in Darfur. The registration process, voter security, tabulation, and integrity are just impossible. As long as the National Congress Party [ruling party] remains in control as it does, its security services will dictate the outcome of any referendum.

On another note, we have learned that the leader of the JEM, Khalil Ibrahim, has returned to Darfur. What is the significance of this return to Darfur?

He brings a commanding leadership back. On the other hand, many, including myself are very troubled by his past, by his stridency, by his connection to Hassan Al Turabi and the Islamists in Khartoum. He comes back and at the same time there are also a great many, particularly Zaghawa [one of the main ethnic groups from which the JEM draws support] mercenaries, who were working in Libya for Gadhafi. They have now, in many cases, returned with their weapons to Darfur. Probably, and in most cases, backed by Chad. This poses many problems because these guys are mercenaries. They are not rebels. They are men who are used to using weapons for pay. And in Darfur, opportunistic banditry, violence, extortion, kidnapping are all too common. And we may be seeing an uptake in that. I think we have to be concerned about the return of Darfuris who were serving as mercenaries for Gadhafi, and particularly well-armed Zaghawa. As far as an attack on Khartoum, which Khalil Ibrahim has attempted once and promised he will do again, he’s counting on a popular uprising to support this. The first time around [May 2008], there was no popular support—it was a suicide mission. Now it is a very different political situation. The northern economy is in shambles, there have been repeated protests, which have been immediately repressed, but they keep occurring. There is very high inflation, particularly since the government removed subsidies on sugar and petrol. Inflation is over 20 percent, unemployment is very high, and the government has no realistic budget, and is unable to begin to deal with its external debt of US$ 38 to 39 billion dollars. This is an economy deeply, deeply depressed. With much popular unrest there is going to be an effort by various rebel groups across the country, in Blue Nile, South Kordofan, Darfur [to try
to topple the regime] and that’s why the really brutal counter-insurgency efforts in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states are underway. This is likely to create a situation in which rebels do ally with one another and that makes an attack on Khartoum conceivable.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, which is active in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, has in the past talked of an alliance with other rebel groups in Darfur. How far has this move progressed?

Eric Reeves: It seemed to have stalled. I must say that Khalil Ibrahim is a big part of the problem here. He of course had a nasty role fighting southerners during the civil war. His agenda is very different from the other Dafuri rebels. He’s got much broader national ambitions whereas the Sudan Liberation Movements of Abdel Wahid and Minni Minnawi are much more focused on Darfur. So as far as I have been able to learn, there is no agreement even on principle, on how a united rebel front would develop. But if it does, and if there are effectively combined operations, then it would be a very potent force especially given how widely and thinly stretched the Sudan armed forces are.

Looking at the battle fronts in Darfur, everything seems so quite now. It looks like the rebel groups no longer have the clout to engage the Sudanese government in military activities. What is the future of the armed struggle in Darfur and how should the protagonists move forward?

Eric Reeves: Well, in the last year or two or perhaps a little longer, it was clear we were headed for a stalemate in which Khartoum controls urban areas and some of the countryside around the urban areas. But I think they [government] have given up trying to take Jebel Mara [a mountain range believed to be the base of the Sudan
Liberation Movement] or they are going to let humanitarian conditions deteriorate to a point where the people will be so weakened that will include a broader weakening of the rebel groups. [But] In war, men with guns are the last to starve. The situation in Darfur has gone on for so long now and it’s been so debilitating that I think we may see a drift into stalemate, especially since it’s clear that Khartoum had to divert substantial military resources to fighting in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. I track very carefully the number of bombing attacks Khartoum carries out and they are still occurring but they are less frequent in Darfur now even as they have picked up tremendously in Blue Nile and South Kordofan where they have seriously disrupted the agricultural season, right from the beginning of the rainy season [April] and right now the rains are ending and harvests begin and yet the Nuba people were unable to plant and tend crops. In Blue Nile, people will be unable to harvest crops [because of fighting that
flared up in September]. There’s a tremendous need for food aid and Khartoum is imposing an embargo and people are going to die very quickly. I think Khartoum’s goal is to crush the rebellions in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, retain Abyei and allow the status quo to remain in Darfur.

If the peace agenda was to move forward in Darfur, what would be required of the government and the rebel groups?

Eric Reeves: The rebel groups, of course this has been true for years, need to find a way to find a common platform. Right now they are absurdly fractured and the trouble began of course with the fact that the Darfur Peace Agreement negotiated in Abuja [in 2006] badly split the rebels, especially Abdel Wahid from Minnawi. But I think the real issue is the fact that in Khartoum, I believe we have seen over the last few months, a creeping military coup. Calling the shots now, are the most ruthless and most brutal men within the regime. The generals are those who are going to make decisions about how to deal with Blue Nile, South Kordofan, and Darfur. The evidence is that these generals are willing to renege on agreements. Nafie Ali Nafie [presidential advisor] signed an agreement with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North on June 28 and three days later, Omar El Bashir, clearly at the behest of the generals, renounced the agreement and talked about cleansing all of South Kordofan. Language like that is indicative of how militarily brutal this regime is at the moment and how dangerous, but also how vulnerable.

31 October 2011-(Juba) -At least 3 percent of the total population of South Sudan is living with the deadly HIV/Aids virus.

That’s according to the non-governmental organization, Family Health International or FHI.

The Senior Program Officer of F-H-I 360, John Bosco Alege said that a survey carried out by the Ministry of Health and its partners came up with 3 percent of the population living with the virus.

Mister Allege said the prevalence rates vary from town to town with the highest rates recorded in Western Equatoria state.

Alege]: “In South Sudan there are huge disparities in terms of prevalence. If you go to major towns like Juba, you go to Yambio, you go to Yei, Wau, Upper Nile and so on there are a lot of disparities in the prevalence. You will realize that currently, Western Equatoria state has the highest prevalence rate, I cannot quote it now because I cannot remember it off head, but it stands far beyond three percent, which means it is higher than the national prevalence that the ministry is working with”.

Alege said that intensive research needs to be conducted in order to establish the exact national prevalence rate.

Sudan Radio Service, a Project of Education Development Center

The AIDS Pandemic in South Sudan: Death from the bedroom

by Brian Adeba (written in 2001)

In the past, death in southern Sudan used either to come through war or famine. But now another avenue has been opened through an AIDS pandemic that is sweeping unnoticed in one of Africa’s unstable regions.

As the AIDS scourge continues to have a devastating toll on Africa, in southern Sudan rampant ignorance about the disease is set to make the situation even worse, so argue AIDS experts.

Largely, thanks to the 18-year-old civil war, the 45 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in the war-torn area have mainly concentrated their efforts on relief work and combating other primary health problems, leaving the HIV-AIDS issue literally untouched. The most dominant rebel group in the area, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) has not done better.

Even after establishing a civil authority and administrative structure in the territory it controls, it has taken the group’s leadership six years to throw its political will behind efforts to fight the scourge. It was only in April this year that the SPLA and the NGOS sat down to formulate a policy guideline to combat the AIDS pandemic. To date, southern Sudan is one of those areas in Africa where no comprehensive statistics on HIV-AIDS prevalence exist.

“We don’t have correct information about the standards of AIDS prevalence in Southern Sudan”, admits Dr. Bellario Ahoi N’gog, Chief Health Officer of the SPLA Health Secretariat. Dr N’gog then cites perhaps the only AIDS survey ever conducted in southern Sudan in 1998 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“What was got was that there was AIDS,” he said. The survey found out that the prevalence rates on the virus ranged from one to three percent of the population. The SPLA estimates that there are 12 million people in the territory it controls in the south. Critics have termed the UNDP survey as being not comprehensive. Some areas, especially those where there was fighting, were not accessible to researchers when the survey was being conducted.

The inaccurate and not so comprehensive statistics aside, the situation has been made grimmer by the fact that the rebel authorities lack the means to conduct their own studies on prevalence rates. “We have not had the means to make comprehensive surveys in all the counties of the New Sudan (a term the SPLA uses for the areas it controls in the South) and we think that the problem is bigger than that”, says Dr. N’gog. Dr. I.S. Sindani, a physician who has worked for the relief agency, Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA), confirms his fears.

For the past three years Dr. Sindani has carried out small-scale studies in two hospitals in southern Sudan. The situation in the main in Yei, which is the main headquarters of the SPLA paints an alarming picture “We collected data from patients dating January 2000 to June 2001 and 24.6 per cent of the patients were positive,” said Dr. Sindani.

For a single hospital to register such an alarming high percentage there is every reason to worry. Dr. Sindani also said samples taken from blood donors within the same period registered a 6.8. percent positivity rate. “These are people living in the community and everybody looks at them as normal people but they are giving it (HIV) to others. So it is quite a high rate,” he says.

Two years ago at the same hospital, Dr. Sindani’s surveys found out that only 18.6 percent of the patients were HIV positive. But Dr. Sindani is quick to emphasise that these are small studies, which are not community based and comprehensive. He believes the prevalence rate could be much higher.

Dr. Sindani is not alone in his fears. Dr. Margaret Itto the Health Co-ordinator of the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC), says a hospital the Council operates in the town of Nzara in Western Equatoria Province, has in the last two years been recording an increase in TB cases and resistance to treatment. She says in most cases this is an indication that HIV-AIDS is increasing among the people.

Ms. Judith Roba, a nurse with the NSCC who has worked in many hospitals throughout Southern Sudan, says the situation is getting worse. “In all these hospitals I have worked, I see the signs and symptoms of HIV everywhere”, she said. The main mode of transmission of the virus is through heterosexual sex but of late increased cases of pre-natal transmission are being recorded. This year alone 6.2 percent of HIV patients in Yei Hospital were said to be children below the age of five.

Currently it appears that the number of males living with the virus is more than that of females. But researchers like Dr. Sindani argue that this is because most of the women in Southern Sudan are in refuge in neighbouring countries. According to Dr. Itto, this is a main cause of worry.

“All the five countries neighbouring South Sudan have high peaks of HIV AIDS. With people moving in and out, we expect it (HIV) to be high”, she said. The area under SPLA control is a large swathe of land, perhaps larger than Kenya and Uganda combined. Four years ago, the SPLA forced out government forces from most of Equatoria and Bahr-el-Ghazel Provinces.

From the Ugandan town of Koboko, the road is now open up to northern Bahr-el-Ghazel and a whole market for Ugandan goods was created. And with it, an increase in the movement of people across the two borders ensuring the spread of the scourge from Uganda, a country that a few years ago had the highest prevalence rates in Africa. Counties near the border areas are suspected to be having high peaks of the virus. Other factors like wife inheritance, initiation rites, use of unsterilised needles and the movement of soldiers from one front to another encourage the spread of the virus, so says Dr. N’gog.

Perhaps the major obstacle in the fight against the virus is the rampant ignorance about it in Southern Sudan. The NSCC, which was among the first NGOs under the Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) umbrella to initiate awareness campaigns, estimates that only 58 percent of the population is aware about the disease. Awareness exists only around the border areas but deep in the interior, it is non-existent.

Even so, in places where one expects some knowledge about HIV-AIDS, it is mainly attributed to witchcraft. In some areas, people feel there are more pressing needs than awareness. An SPLA officer posed this question to this writer: “Which one kills faster- an assault on enemy trenches or AIDS?”

Awareness campaigns started in 1998, but not much has been done in this front. The situation is made worse by the lack of a wide reaching medium like radio, to disseminate awareness messages. Protective measures like the use of condoms is literally unheard of in most areas and in any case, the Catholic church which commands the largest following among churches in the South, is vehemently opposed to the idea.

Dr. Pius Subek, the Executive Director of the Sudan Health Association (SUHA), an indigenous NGO involved in AIDS awareness said his organisation brought condoms to a county called Kajokeji near the Ugandan border but not a single person came to ask for one. It is the same story in towns like Yei, Maridi and Yambio. Condoms are available in the shops and pharmacies, but there are no customers. Anyone seen with a condom is labelled promiscuous.

The fight against the scourge is also hampered by the fact that there is practically little or no co-ordination among the 45 NGOs in the health domain. As a result, individual NGOs carry out ill-planned and isolated campaigns in the areas they operate. No modalities are created to keep sustained awareness campaigns and soon these fizzle out.

However, AIDS campaigners are hailing as a milestone a meeting in April this year between the SPLA and the NGOS to formulate an AIDS policy guideline. During the meeting held in Natinga in Eastern Equatoria Province, SPLA leader, John Garang declared AIDS as the second enemy of the SPLA: the first one being the government of Sudan.

Garang also announced that the disease should be talked about in parades, churches, schools and courts of the “New Sudan”, whenever leaders find the opportunity. It is hoped that with this political backing of the SPLA, the fight against one of the world’s deadliest diseases may have just begun in one of Africa’s unstable regions. But for it to attain any tangible results a Marshall Plan might be required in the form of funds to kick start and sustain awareness campaigns since as Dr N’gog says the war on AIDS begun a bit late.

From AFRICANEWS – Koinonia Media Centre, P.O. Box 21255, Nairobi, Kenya
tel: +254.2.576175 (voice) Fax:- +254.2.577892 (fax-modem)
AFRICANEWS on line is by Koinonia Media Centre

Can we STAND TALL to face the Epidemic?

By Regina Akok

Warning! I’m not acting here as an HIV/AIDS expert, I don’t even belong to medical community, but I belong to human community, which allowed me to be inquisitive, not only that but passionate about health issues, and medical mysterious like many of you on this medium. In fact some of my favourite readings or shows have been about the medical field and health issues. I thought it’s important to access information, learning about prevention or cure for any epidemic like other diseases, and are considered essential part of human rights. I will share with you and some already know the basics about HIV/AIDS in terms of its history, what is it? And what are its social impacts on the victims and those surrounded the victims. What are some misconceptions that need to be changed? And how we need to change the way we look at HIV/AIDS as only an stigma attached to moral or ethical questions only, which hinders both prevention and cure, but as a disease that’s debilitating to all of us, physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, culturally, and economically. In fact, its negative impacts extends to the next generations if we are not careful enough as government, professional healthcare givers, educators, communicators, communities, youth, women, men, chiefs, religious leaders, the victims of the endemic and everybody else. What has been done to prevent it globally? What lessons can we learn from those experiences? I acknowledge it’s not an easy challenge that could be dealt with easy and ready made resolutions. So let’s start exploring because how could we deal with unknown? This is just an attempt to understand the issue.

To start off, what is HIV and AIDS?

HIV is a virus that destroys human immune cells. It weakens the immune system, and without appropriate medical care, it leads most infected people to develop AIDS. The term ‘AIDS’ stands for ‘Acquired humane deficiency Syndrome’. AIDS is a medical condition, and a person is diagnosed with AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off viruses. The history of AIDS is a short one; it goes back to 1970s, sadly, no one was aware of this deadly disease. In fact it was first identified or recognized in the early 1980s, in which an unprecedented number of people have been affected by the global AIDS epidemic. Since then the global AIDS epidemic has become one of the greatest fear and threats to human health and development. Simultaneously, much has been learnt about the science of AIDS as well as how to prevent and treat the diseases. Sorry to say, through the process our continent, sub-Saharan region of Africa has shared most of the pain and generations of souls have been lost because of HIV/AIDS. It is not a one person disease, when one is affected the whole family or community is hurt, starting with physical illness, psychological trauma, , deterioration of economic, reproducing parentless children as we saw in Uganda, orphanage, plus new sets of problems that are attached to that. In addition to stigmatisation that can extend to the next generation, placing an emotional burden on those left behind. I cannot even go there, that’s needs a whole book.

According to UNAIDS (2010) on the global AIDS epidemic, it is reported that for the end of 2009 about 33.3 million people are living with HIV, and roughly 2.6 million more people become infected every year with HIV, whereas 1.8 million die of AIDS. It is a staggering figure and scary as well, isn’t it?

We have learned that AIDS is passed from person to person through sexual fluids, blood and breast milk (in case of infected mothers). However, it has been reported that the common HIV infections are handed on through sex between men and women, sex workers, injecting drug users, and men who have sex with men.

Yet again, in many people’s psyche or mentality, HIV and AIDS are very much connected with particular group of peoples, which can lead to even a greater stigma and bias against people already thought of as outsiders. Stigma or shame is one of the reasons that delay fighting HIV or accessing the right treatment all over the world and could be the case in our beloved country, if the authorities are not sensible about it. It’s mainly problematic, thinking mistakenly that, well I’m immune to AIDS because I’m not that promiscuous or not a drug addict or not a gay and simply don’t belong to certain group of people or “the other”, its hookers’ problems not mine or it’s certain nationalities not South Sudanese, please give it a break already it has proven not to be true. The disease does not discriminate against anybody; it practises its fairness very well. Trust me; it’s not that far from your backyard. It affects adolescents, Adults men and women, religious people non religious people, wealthy, poor, those with high moral and those considered with low morals, well educated people and non educated, street people and those who live in mansions, blue, grey people as well as green people, young and old, including babies, those who live in rural areas as well as urban centres, those who reside in Juba a s well as those who live in Akouc (my own village in Twic county), South Sudan as well as America.

What is AIDS related stigma and discrimination? It means to prejudice, negative attitude, abuse and maltreatment directed at people with HIV and AIDS. Consequences range from being rejected by family, peers, and the wider community, by being offered poor treatment in healthcare and education settings, being avoided to socialize with. It is an erosion of rights, causing psychological damage, and as adding negative outcomes on the success of HIV testing and treatment. We can fight stigma through informative and helpful laws and setting policies which begins with openness. It takes courage to speak in public, in schools and empower those affected to use their experience as power of educating others. I know it’s not easy, especially in our communities.

That’s being said no policies or laws that will wipe out HIV/AIDS related discrimination. Stigma and discrimination will continue to exist so long as societies as a whole have a poor understanding of HIV/AIDS and the pain and suffering caused by negative attitudes and discrimination practices. Those fear and stigma need to be dealt with at government levels and community levels through simple tools like billboards like the one that I saw in Juba, translated in local languages, using visual aids, through schools, churches, mosques, villages, health centres, by including the already affected with the disease to be part of the solution. I’m sure I have not included every aspect that might help.

Let’s talk about what others have been doing to prevent the disease and what needs to be done in our situation before we regret it. Earlier responses to HIV prevention, which acknowledged that HIV can be passed to another person through sexual intercourse, even before the term ‘ABC’ approach for prevention was considered. It was obvious in the resources provided by the World health organization (WHO), the global program on AIDS, later succeeded by UNAIDS, governments and organizations around the world, that much attention was paid to abstinence principle (which could be discriminatory itself because not everybody knows how to self-discipline), fidelity and condemn use, which could prevent the sexual transmission of HIV, but was that enough, I mean did that control the spread of the disease? Before we reflect on that we may need to understand what is ABC strategy after all?

What is ABC approach of preventing HIV/AIDS spread?

•          Abstinence for youth, including the delay of sexual debut and abstinence until marriage

•          Being tested for HIV and being faithful in marriage and monogamous relationships

•          Correct and consistent use of condoms for those who practice high-risk behaviours

All the above points sound great but neglect other aspects such as cultures, social economic conditions, gender inequality, level of literacy, strength and willingness of the governments involved, stability of the nations and wars, lack of sex education and taboos and sets of problems surrounded the issue of sexuality, multiple partners and more. As early as 2004, UNAIDS called for a move towards a more comprehensive approach to HIV prevention because it appeared ABC approach was not enough, many people were still dying of AIDS. They thought of reviewing and assessing earlier approaches such as the above mentioned ABC approach and in fact to include realities of the inequality between men and women in many of the countries with a high HIV primacy, which explains, more women being infected with the disease.  Some organisations have recommended increasing on the ‘ABC‘ slogan to include social and economic aspects, particularly women’s rights. At one point, it was suggested that ‘DEF‘ were also added; representing ‘defending against gender-based violence’, ‘education: improving girls education’ and fix property and inheritance laws please see more on the (Global AIDS Alliance ‘Comprehensive HIV Prevention) and World Council of Churches (January 2005) “Working with People living with HIV/AIDS Organizations”

However, there are those who believe instead of that ‘one size fit all’, which means applying one model to all infected with the disease without looking at other circumstances that are specific to certain people, communities, or nations or regions. Those alternatives have meant shifting the focus from completely relying on ABC measures alone to considering other models that are more inclusive and culturally specific. Some of the debates believe it is important to discard ABC approaches altogether. Some argue, prevention plans must be tailored to the local context; which means to understand key drivers of the local endemic. It also means adopting more of a holistic approach (social economic, culture, beliefs, myths, gender equality, class and others). Each country has its own circumstances. For certain countries it might be that people are not open enough to discuss issues related with sex even among married people. Or because women are taught not to say no to their partners even if it was evident her partner is not committed to her alone. In other circumstances, the drivers might be inadequate and poor medical equipment, or lack of education about the disease or just government is being reluctant to address the issue or just being in denial.  That is why there is now general agreement that where the ABC approach is used, it should be balanced and that it should also been seen as part of a wider prevention strategy that, if appropriate, includes circumcision for men, harm reduction for injecting drug users in other countries, and preventing mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) for pregnant women. In the west they talk even about protecting the sex workers. For more information please see (Cates, Willard (2003) “The ABC to Z approach” Network 22(4))

It’s a responsibility of the government, health care system, professionals, nurses, education system, religious institutions, local communities, media and press, discussion forums like this platform, chiefs, women, youth, local NGOs, humanitarian bodies, individuals and mainly the victims of HIV/AIDS themselves. Who knows better and what else can be more effective and powerful than the living testimony. Personal narratives can be empowering and educating as long as they are not exploited; it has to come from them when they are prepared and feel save to talk about their own journeys on their own terms. The point here is not to be voyeuristic about their pain, but to allow them to reclaim their voices and turn the pain and suffering to a powerful tool. It’s healing process and has been used in different communities to give voice and face to their fear and by doing that they help the whole society. This is might not work in some societies or with some individuals.

In addition to that HIV/AIDS in South Sudan should be treated as an emergency situation. Our government needs to be proactive and not that only but aggressive about it. special funds needs to be allocated for epidemic diseases. It’s unfortunate, malaria killed many which is preventable, which makes the case for HIV/AIDS even more challenging. If we can’t face curable diseases as a country how would we deal with the most complex, It’s another issue.

In the end let’s benefit from the theme for World AIDS’ Day 2010 ‘Universal Access and Human Rights’. We know global leaders have pledged to work towards universal access to HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and care, recognizing these as fundamental human rights. Though valuable progress has been made globally in increasing access to HIV/AIDS services, yet greater commitment is needed around the globe and specifically in our own nation, Good luck with that.

Please check the following references for more information

UNAIDS (2010) UNAIDS report on the Global AIDS epidemic

WHO, UNAIDS & UNICEF (2010), Towards universal access: scaling up priority HIV/AIDS interventions in the health sector

Mutembei MK (2001) ‘Poetry and AIDS in Tanzania: changing metaphors and metonymies in Haya oral traditions: 144 cited in ‘The African AIDS epidemic: A History’ James Currey Oxford: 82

Costa, M in Nolen, S (2007) 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa, Portobello Books: 131

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report 2005, (Vol. 17


Sudan: Women Where Are You? the World Is Calling

Posted: October 31, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

By Dalia Haj Ali

30 October 2011

Almost a year after a disturbing video surfaced on the web of a Sudanese woman being flogged at a Khartoum police station, Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison wrote a letter directly addressing the woman in the video and indirectly all Sudanese women. She writes, not with pity nor advice but with encouragement for resisting a vicious regime and showing dignity under the most undignified and inhumane situations, saying, "You did not crouch or kneel or assume a fetal position. You shouted. You fell. But you kept rising…It also moved me to see your reactions; I interpreted them as glimmers of hope, of principled defiance." Morrison ends her letter with optimism, trusting that Sudanese women are fighting for their rights the best they can, she says, "Each cut tearing your back hurts women all over the world. Each scar you bear is ours as well".

This, to me, is a direct call of solidarity with the strife of Sudanese women. A reminder that we are not alone, and that the very little that is shared with the world–especially through visual online content and Satellite TV–is causing ripples of shock and creating sisterly bonds.

However, these bonds remain weak, and will not become stronger before women in Sudan and Sudan’s women’s rights movement start to communicate better within themselves and link with a wider following inside Sudan and with the outside world intentionally, frequently and directly.

The Sudanese women’s rights movement is one of the most vibrant in the country, and its struggle for women’s rights spans decades and has seen many successes. However, lately they tend to get too busy and forget to reach out to the rest of the world. Even within Sudan their reach, and their ability to change hearts and minds and to mobilize Sudanese women and men around pivotal issues that affect women’s lives, is lacking.

This is the not the first time that we have seen hands extending and calls of solidarity from the global community. We saw that in 2009 when the case of Lubna Hussien (dubbed the "trousers journalist") captured the imagination of the world. And again in early 2011 with the case of Safia Ishag, the young activist who was brutally subjected to multiple rape by state security agents in Khartoum, and was the first Sudanese woman to ever speak publicly of being raped.

Both these women where courageous and selfless by speaking up against injustices that were not only inflicted on them, but that are a daily reality for countless Sudanese women around the country. Rape (used most systematically in Darfur) and harassment by public order police for "indecent dress" (a problem all over the country) are the state’s "weapons of mass destruction" directed at the dignity and pride of women in Sudan. Lubna and Safia, gave these two forms of state abuse a face and a voice that talked to all Sudanese citizens and to citizens of the world.

Using Satellite TV channels and the Internet (mainly through the technical support of the Sudanese Diaspora community) these two women took tremendous risks and social pressures to tell their stories. They challenged a regime that capitalizes on a conservative society’s silence and shame when it comes to violence against women. Their personal stories were more compelling than any statistics and abstract reports from the human rights movement and international NGOs.

Their voices were hard for the regime in Khartoum to ignore, prompting the government to start its own propaganda to justify these acts by spreading despicable lies and rumors about these women–a usual tactic aimed at distracting attention from the real issues and that, unfortunately, Sudanese citizens fall for each time. The regime’s security agency went as far as filing a case against several journalists who wrote about the rape of Safia Ishag in national daily newspapers.

The women’s rights community was also quick to react, organizing protests, press conferences as well as initiating an ongoing campaign called, "No to the Oppression of Women". They demanded a transparent investigation by the state into the case of the woman in the video as well as Safia’s case; and that Article 152 of the penal code that justifies the flogging of women and men is eliminated.

Today article 152 is still in place and neither of the two cases were transparently investigated. In Darfur the incidents of the rape of women and girls are on the rise and in Khartoum the regime heralded its "second republic", and openly shared its intention to annul all rights under the Interim National Constitution (Sudan’s first constitution with a Bill of Rights) and return us to the dark ages and an extreme interpretation of Shari’a law that fits its needs.

Wondering why the human rights and women’s rights community in Sudan are not able to keep the momentum and visibility on issues related to violence against women and specifically the public order law and the targeted rape of women in Darfur and elsewhere, I directed my questions at some prominent women rights activists.

Niemat Koko, an old time activist and one of the founders of the Gender Center said, "we are constantly reacting and never following through an issue for a long time, because we are stretched thin with limited resources, and the problems and challenges are plenty". She added that, "the problem with the campaigns for Lubna and Safia is that we rallied around two personalities, that at the time gave us an opportunity, but the personalities eventually overshadowed the issues and that was a tactical mistake". A poster from a demonstration organized by Sudanese women residing in Kenya in support of the elimination of the Public Order Law, September 15, 2009, Nairobi. Nahid Mohamed Al Hassan, a young writer and activist and one of the founders of the, "No to the Oppression of Women" campaign, gave me a more nuanced critique of the campaign and the women’s rights movement in general. According to her the women’s rights movement lacks strategic direction and is not able to have in-depth discussions and to agree on the intellectual and legal framework linked to women’s rights. She agrees with Koko on the reactionary character of the movement and the lack of long-term strategic plans. And points to internal personal conflicts among the older generation of women in the movement, which tends to hinder constructive debate.

Al Hassan adds that, "although there is a lot of potential and talent, the organizational, human resource and funding challenges are stifling progress". She explains that most activities by the movement are funded through personal donations and that organizations that are funded are avoiding the real issues because they don’t want a clash with the government. For example, she says that, "no one is dedicated to working on CEDAW, because it is a delicate topic with the regime".

Al Hassan also adds that the women’s rights movement lacks a grassroots reach and is not able to mobilize the street. "When we organize protests there are about 50 women who are usually ready to hit the street on women’s rights or political issues". She clarifies that most of these activists belong to political parties and are not fully dedicated to women’s rights issues, because of the demands of their parties, which do not prioritize women’s rights. "In all honesty, the political parties are not committed to women’s issues. To them this is a distraction from the more important goal of regime change", says Al Hassan.

The author is a Sudanese human right activist. She posts weekly articles on her blog Thoughts, Hopes and Speculations.

South Sudan Grows Populations, And Face New Problems

Posted: October 31, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Socio-Cultural

by Frank Langfitt

Lujiazui, Shanghai’s financial district, includes the world’s third- and sixth-tallest buildings. The city’s population is 23 million.

Lujiazui, Shanghai's financial district, includes the world's third- and sixth-tallest buildings. The city's population is 23 million.
Frank Langfitt/NPR

Lujiazui, Shanghai’s financial district, includes the world’s third- and sixth-tallest buildings. The city’s population is 23 million.

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October 31, 2011

NPR’s Frank Langfitt has spent the past year reporting in two countries where the populations and the problems could not be more different: South Sudan and China.

The best way to travel in South Sudan is by plane. That’s because, in a nation nearly the size of Texas, there are hardly any paved roads.

Small planes are a common way to move around South Sudan, which has few paved roads. Many roads are impassable during rain.

Enlarge Frank Langfitt/NPR

Small planes are a common way to move around South Sudan, which has few paved roads. Many roads are impassable during rain.

Small planes are a common way to move around South Sudan, which has few paved roads. Many roads are impassable during rain.
Frank Langfitt/NPR

Small planes are a common way to move around South Sudan, which has few paved roads. Many roads are impassable during rain.

Earlier this year, I flew to Akobo County, near the Ethiopian border. On the hour-plus flight, I saw cattle herders and acacia trees, but mostly empty landscape. There was little sign of the 21st century — or the 20th.

I touched down on a dirt runway in a town of mud and thatched huts. Goi Jooyul Yol, the county commissioner, explained how the lack of infrastructure is holding his people back.

“Akobo is a county that is cut off from the rest of Southern Sudan,” he said. “The only way we reach other counties through the state is through the river. We have a seasonal road right now. As soon it starts raining, everything stops.”

South Sudan is the world’s newest nation and one of its poorest. Its success depends in part on whether it can build enough roads where few exist.

Without tarmac roads, the people of Akobo can’t sell their corn and sorghum to outside markets. So, most of its residents remain subsistence farmers or cattle herders, leaving the government with little way to raise revenue and pay for anything.

Children in South Sudan, one of the world's poorest nations, sit in front of traditional homes made of mud and thatch.

Enlarge Frank Langfitt/NPR

Children in South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest nations, sit in front of traditional homes made of mud and thatch.

Children in South Sudan, one of the world's poorest nations, sit in front of traditional homes made of mud and thatch.
Frank Langfitt/NPR

Children in South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest nations, sit in front of traditional homes made of mud and thatch.

“The operating cost in the county, we cannot make it,” Yol says, “but we do have a lot of potential.”

The population of sub-Saharan Africa is growing faster than any other region on Earth.

South Sudan has more than 8 million people, and it’s been growing in recent years for reasons beyond its fertility rate: Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Sudan’s civil war have returned home.

Akobo’s schools can’t handle the students they already have. The current class size is 200 to 300.

“Some of them don’t fit in the classroom,” Yol says. “They sit under the tree. When I heard it first, I didn’t believe it. But when I went and saw it, it is something mind-boggling.”


China is mind-boggling in a completely different way. While South Sudan has very little infrastructure, China has built more infrastructure in recent years than any other country. Some Chinese, though, fear the expansion has been too expensive and too fast.

China is the world’s most populous country with 1.3 billion people. Most of them are crammed along the country’s East Coast.

Despite its ultra-modern skyscrapers and paved streets, some Shanghai residents still transport items on carts.

Enlarge Frank Langfitt/NPR

Despite its ultra-modern skyscrapers and paved streets, some Shanghai residents still transport items on carts.

Despite its ultra-modern skyscrapers and paved streets, some Shanghai residents still transport items on carts.
Frank Langfitt/NPR

Despite its ultra-modern skyscrapers and paved streets, some Shanghai residents still transport items on carts.

You could walk for miles through the Sudanese bush and never see another soul. But in Shanghai, you sometimes have to walk on the street because there’s no room on the sidewalks.

China has slowed population growth by limiting urban families to one child.

Its challenge is moving the mass of people it already has quickly and efficiently.

China came up with one answer nearly a decade ago: a magnetic levitation train to one of Shanghai’s international airports.

The train glides along a rail and covers about 19 miles in around eight minutes.

But few people actually use the train. One passenger, a businessman surnamed Pan from East China’s Shandong Province, explained why.

“The train ticket is expensive, $6,” he said. “You have the subway, it’s cheaper. For less than a dollar, you can get to your destination.”

The Chinese government spent more than $1 billion building Mag-Lev, as it’s known, in 2002. Last year, the train ran at just 20 percent of capacity.

Unlike South Sudan, China has huge financial resources, but the lesson of Mag-Lev is this: You don’t just need money to handle a large population. You need to be careful where you spend it.

China is now focused on building a huge network of high-speed trains.

Chinese rail travel has often been a slow, crowded ordeal, but the bullet trains are changing that. Zheng Zhongyu, an acting student in Shanghai, says trips to Beijing are so much better these days.

“Before the train took 13 hours, now it’s five hours,” says Zheng, waiting outside the Shanghai Railway Station. “When I would take the train home, I couldn’t buy tickets. I’d have to stand the whole night. Now, buying tickets is very convenient.”

But last summer, two bullet trains collided, killing 40 people. The government blamed a lightning strike, but delayed releasing a report.

The crash left many Chinese uneasy. Some feel their government is building too much infrastructure too fast, because it can.

Back in South Sudan’s Akobo County, a problem like that is unimaginable and the needs of the population more basic. What Akobo requires — and is in the process of getting — is just a road people can drive on in the rain.

Seven billionth person on earth born today

FamilyGPFamilyGP – Fri, Oct 28, 2011 15:00 BST
Seven billionth person on earth born today
Today, the world’s seven billionth person has been born. It is impossible to say exactly where the seven billionth person on the planet has been born or who they are.
So the United Nations have chosen several newborn babies across the world to symbolically represent the global population milestone, including two baby girls Nargis and Danica who were born in India and the Philippines, respectively.
However, the stark reality is that if a baby girl is born in the developing world, her future is set to be far from rosy.
According to a recent report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) there is a widening gap between boys and girls in these regions of the world.
While they receive the same care and opportunities during early childhood, as they reach adolescence the anomalies in terms of health or education become marked.
“While there is little difference between boys and girls in early childhood with respect to nutrition, health, education and other basic indicators, differences by gender appear increasingly more pronounced during adolescence and young adulthood,” said UNICEF deputy executive director Geeta Rao Gupta.
If the seven billionth child born was a girl in the developed world, for instance in Europe, Japan or the United States, once she becomes a teenager she is likely to receive many of the same opportunities as her male peers.
Her education, health and career prospects may even exceed those of her male counterparts.
But if she is born in a region defined as ‘developing’ she is significantly more likely to be married as a child, less likely to be literate than young men in her country and, shockingly, should she be born in sub-Saharan Africa, is as many as four times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than boys her age.
A World Bank working paper examined the real economic impact of excluding girls from learning or work opportunities.
For instance, just one teenage mother in India can lose $100,000 (£62,052) in potential income over her lifetime, while a single girl in Ethiopia who has dropped out of school can expect to lose the equivalent of two months’ average pay per year.
The financial impacts on the national economies is bigger still: the cost to India of the 3.8 million girls having children at the ages of 15 to 19 is $7.6 billion a year (£4.7 billion) – enough to fill every single car in the US with a full tank of petrol 100 times.
The denial of education to 4.5 million girls in Ethiopia costs the country $582 million (£361 million) a year.
So beyond the headlines about the seven billionth birth – which will come 12 years after the six billionth, a baby boy in Sarajevo – UNICEF chiefs are urging developing countries to improve the education prospects of their female citizens.
Increasing the availability of good and long-term schooling for girls will have a ‘ripple effect’ and help to break the cycle of poverty in those regions.
“Closing gender gaps in all stages of childhood and eliminating gender discrimination – whether against girls or boys – are fundamental to inclusive and sustained progress for countries around the world,” said Rao Gupta.
“In addition to the harmful and often tragic effects of gender inequalities on children themselves, the kinds of persistent inequalities that we continue to see… are major barriers to the efforts of many nations to move out of long-term poverty and achieve their development aspirations.”

Why Did South Sudan Offer Buying Abyei?

Posted: October 31, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

We can excuse the SPLM in South Sudan for the shameful offer to buy the disputed area of Abyei. The dispute over Abyei was supposed to be resolved through the referendum the SPLM has rejected its conduct without any persuasive reasons.

We excuse the SPLM because the culture of selling and buying is deeply embedded in its mind. Immediately, after the declaration of South Sudan secession, the SPLM embarked on signing contracts to sell fertile and resource-rich Southern land to American, European and Israeli companies.
The SPLM has sold so far about 9% of the total size of South Sudan lands for some few thousands of dollars a matter which makes the whole thing looks like payment of a deferred political bill.

Based on this market culture, the SPLM thought it could do the same thing with the government of Sudan, and offered to buy Abyei area. Since the issue is about payment of international bills, it is not ruled out that the buying will be in favor of other parties with ambitions to seize Abyei lands.
However, the offer itself can be read in another context that does not serve the interests of South Sudan. Firstly, it is obvious that the offer briefly illustrates the legal and political SPLM stance toward the property of the land because it does not sound logic to claim ownership of a land while you offer buying it from another party. The owner of any property or whoever claims ownership of a land or anything else does not avoid legal means for solving the dispute over the ownership of that property.

Secondly, the SPLM wants a quick solution after things went so complicated with no signs of solutions loom ahead. If the SPLM accepted the referendum over Abyei, the situation would have resolved. Thirdly, the SPLM seems to be under pressure of sons of Abyei in the SPLM such as Deng Alor and Luka Biong.

Therefore, the referendum is sole and best solution for this crisis.

By SS, 3 hours 31 minutes ago

Sudan rules out Abyei swap deal with south

October 30, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese ruling party brushed aside an offer made yesterday by the Republic of South Sudan (RoSS) to fully resolve the issue of the disputed border region of Abyei, saying that it belongs to the north.

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FILE – A aerial view of looted items scattered on the ground in front of a deserted homestead on the outskirts of Abyei town (Reuters)

Pagan Amum, secretary general of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in RoSS, told Reuters in an interview that they are prepared to offer oil at a discounted price, an unspecified amount of cash, and forgiveness of all arrears from oil sharing claimed by the South from the time before it gained independence last July.

"This is a package that in return the government of Sudan will ensure the territorial integrity of South Sudan by agreeing to transfer Abyei to the South and also ceasing any claims on areas on the border of Southern Sudan that they are claiming," Amum said.

The financial aspect of the deal appears made to lure the north which is struggling economically ever since the oil-rich south seceded.

But the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in Sudan quickly rejected the idea.

The NCP spokesperson Ibrahim Ghandour, while addressing a rally at Sennar state in central Sudan said that Abyei belongs to the north and that it is not up for sale or compromise. He added that there is no room for retreat from the fact that it is part of Sudan.

"We will not compromise on Abyei and we will not allow the existence of two armies in the country,” Ghandour said.

The borders of Abyei were redrawn by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2009 after the NCP & SPLM agreed to refer the matter to it in a bid to resolve the long standing dispute.

However, the technical commission mandated with demarcating the borders on the ground failed to start the process because of threats leveled by the Arab Misseriya tribe who objected to the PCA ruling.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the NCP and SPLM stipulates that two simultaneous self-determination referendums should be held in South Sudan and Abyei so that its residents can decide their fate.

The SPLM has interpreted the ruling as meaning that the cattle-herding Misseriya tribe have no right to vote in areas assigned by the PCA to the Dinka Ngok. However, the Misseriya vow not to allow the vote to take place even if they have to resort to force unless they are allowed to participate.

The situation in the oil-rich region escalated dramatically last May when Sudan’s armed forces (SAF) invaded the area in response to an attack allegedly carried out by southern forces, two months before South Sudan gained independence from Khartoum.

Following mediation by the African Union (AU), both sides agreed to withdraw their forces and have them replaced by an Ethiopian peacekeeping force that was later named United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

But signs of renewed tensions emerged again after Khartoum said that it will not pull its forces unless the AU-brokered Abyei accord is fully implemented.


Sudan, rebels say fighting in southern oil state

Posted: October 31, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

* Both sides claim gains in Monday’s fighting

* Sudan says South Sudan has backed rebels, south denies

* Volatile border region home to thousands who fought with south

(Adds South Sudan’s says Khartoum is backing Unity state rebels, Khartoum’s response)

KHARTOUM/JUBA, Oct 31 (Reuters) – Sudanese rebels and government forces clashed in an oil-producing border state on Monday, Sudan’s government and the insurgent group said, a sign of escalating fighting that has raised tensions with the newly-independent south.

Fighting broke out between Sudan’s army and rebels in the South Kordofan state in June, just weeks before the south split off into a separate country. Both sides have blamed the other for starting the clashes.

Both Sudan’s army and the rebels claimed gains over the other during Monday’s fighting in the town of Taludi.

Ahmed Haroun, South Kordofan’s governor, said Sudan’s military repulsed the attack, and accused South Sudan of backing the rebels.

“Hundreds of soldiers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (in South Kordofan) were killed during an attack on the city of Taludi this morning,” he told reporters at a news conference by telephone.

A spokesman for the SPLA in South Kordofan, Qamar Dalman, said the fighting was not over and disputed the government’s figures, saying just five SPLA fighters had been killed.

He claimed rebels controlled up to half of Taludi and had killed 273 government soldiers.

Neither of the reports could be independently verified.

Many of the rebels fought against Khartoum as part of the south’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) during a decades-long civil war, but were left in the north when South Sudan became independent in July.

South Kordofan and Blue Nile — both states on Sudan’s side of the border — and the disputed Abyei area saw heavy fighting during the civil war, and fresh clashes have broken out in all three this year.

Sudan has accused groups in those territories of trying to spread chaos along the border, while rights groups have accused Khartoum of trying to stamp out remaining opposition on its side of the border.


Fighting along the border has exacerbated tensions between Khartoum and its former civil war foes in South Sudan, who are still negotiating over how to manage the formerly integrated oil industry and other sensitive issues.

Each side has accused the other of backing rebels in its territory.

A spokesman for Sudan’s army repeated claims that the South Kordofan rebels received training in South Sudan, an accusation South Sudan has previously denied.

On the other side, South Sudan’s army spokesman Philip Aguer said he had evidence linking authorities in Khartoum to the rebel South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), which attacked the oil-producing Unity state’s Mayom town on Saturday.

Sudan’s information ministry official Rabie Abdelaty dismissed the charges. “I don’t think this accusation has any degree of correctness,” he said.

The rebel assault in Unity state killed 11 civilians and 13 government soldiers, Aguer said, adding the South’s army killed 32 insurgents and captured three.

The SSLA has advised the United Nations and aid agencies to evacuate both Unity and Warrup state in the next few days, raising fears of further violence.

South Sudan seceded in July after voting to separate in a January referendum promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended what was one of Africa’s longest-running civil wars.

(Reporting by Khaled Abdelaziz; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Matthew Jones)

South Kordofan unrest: Sudan ‘kills hundreds’ of rebels

Recruits for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) train in a secret camp in the Nuba mountains of South Kordofan 11 July 2011. The opposition party fighting the Sudanese government is calling for a no-fly zone over two states.

Hundreds of rebels have been killed in Sudan’s South Kordofan state following clashes with the army, governor Ahmed Haroun has said.

He said the SPLM-North rebels were killed when the army repelled an assault on the city of Teludi.

The rebels have not commented on the claims but previously accused the army of “ethnic cleansing” in the oil-rich area.

The state borders South Sudan, which became independent in July.

“Hundreds of soldiers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-North) were killed during an attack on the city of Teludi this morning,” Mr Haroun said.

Mr Haroun is indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur, where he was once the governor.

‘Three fronts’

Sudanese army spokesman, Sawarmi Khaled Saad, said more than 700 rebels attacked Teludi, east of the state capital Kadugli, the AFP news agency reports.

“The armed forces waited for the invaders to arrive on three fronts with equipment and on several vehicles, but in an hour the armed forces and popular defence forces beat back the attack, causing heavy losses,” he is quoted by AFP as saying.

South Kordofan is one of three border areas – along with Abyei and Blue Nile – to have been affected by conflict since South Sudan became independent.


Sudan lodged a complaint with the UN Security Council in August, accusing South Sudan of backing the rebels.

The SPLM, in power in South Sudan, denies Khartoum’s claims, even though it fought alongside the northern rebels during Sudan’s decades-long civil war.

Sudan agreed to give the south independence in July, but held on to South Kordofan, Abyei and Blue Nile states.

Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes because of fighting in the three states.

From Sudan, a Glimpse of a New Conflict

With shouts of “Freedom!” the people of South Sudancelebrated their newly won independence on July 9. After a decades-long civil war, the rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army  who had battled the government of Omar Hassan al-Bashir could savor their success.Many of the brutal tactics they faced in this civil war were also used in Darfur by Mr. Bashir’s government. He now faces genocide charges in the International Criminal Court for the Darfur massacres.

But even though the south has now split off, the war is hardly over in Sudan. A new conflict has erupted in the Nuba Mountains and in Blue Nile State, where tens of thousands of southern-aligned rebels are now battling the Arab-dominated government of Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.

Soldiers from these two areas fought alongside southern rebels for years, but the areas are just north of the border and therefore geographically part of Sudan, not South Sudan. The people there have many of the same grievances that drove the south to fight for independence, like being discriminated against because they are not ethnically Arab. People in the Nuba Mountains and in Blue Nile complain that their areas have been neglected and marginalized for years, with few schools, roads or infrastructure – complaints the Darfur rebels have made as well.

Over the past several months, the Sudanese government has been relentlessly bombing the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State and demanding that the rebels in these areas disarm. In the Nuba Mountains, thousands of civilians have been hiding out in rocky caves to save themselves from the bombings.

Despite the Sudanese government’s attempts to close the area to humanitarian relief workers and journalists, the photographer Pete Muller was able to visit Blue Nile two weeks ago after a period of heavy bombing. He has provided a rare glimpse of the rebels who are now fighting to overthrow the government in Khartoum.

DESCRIPTIONPete Muller for The New York Times Rebels collected munitions destined for the front line.

“It can be an explosive situation when new borders are carved and minority groups find themselves on the side of the border that’s not comfortable for them,” said Mr. Muller, who has been covering South Sudan for two years. “This has a lot of destabilizing potential for both north and South Sudan.”

Mr. Muller, 29, found that the civilian population had almost entirely fled the Blue Nile area in face of attacks from the forces of the Bashir government. Many fled into Ethiopia and others crossed the border into South Sudan.

“There was a lot of concern over food shortages and the continuing bombing campaigns,” Mr. Muller said. “The hospitals are running out of supplies and they can’t replenish those stocks.”

The rebels in the Nuba Mountains and in Blue Nile have now formed their own political party, called the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North. Many Sudan experts believe that South Sudan is helping arm and support these rebels and that this conflict could proliferate into a full-fledged war between the two Sudans, which both have a number of pressing internal problems.

While the rebel forces in the south and those in Blue Nile and Nuba were united before the July 9 separation of Sudan, they now have distinct and separate military and political groups. Mr. Muller said it was clear that there were still strong connections between the two.

Mr. Muller wrote about witnessing the government’s bombing of the experienced rebel soldiers.

For no apparent reason, the rebels begin to scatter. With reckless abandon, they crash their Hilux pickups into elephant grass along the side of the road. Young fighters rush to camouflage the trucks with branches before taking cover in the bush. “There will be bombing,” yells Stephen Ahmed, a rebel commander, as he moves toward the relative safety of a low-lying riverbed. As a persistent droning fills the air, Stephen’s eyes, and the eyes of his men, remain fixed on the sky, hoping to spot the government’s high-altitude bombers. Soon, the roar of their payload rings out from the adjacent fields. My hands tremble with surges of adrenaline. Next to me, calloused and unfazed, a young rebel removes his sandals and washes his feet in the low waters of the river.