Archive for December 19, 2011

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: M.I.T. Offers Free Online Education

Posted: December 19, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Education

By

M.I.T. Expands Its Free Online Courses

While students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pay thousands of dollars for courses, the university will announce a new program on Monday allowing anyone anywhere to take M.I.T. courses online free of charge — and for the first time earn official certificates for demonstrating mastery of the subjects taught.

“There are many people who would love to augment their education by having access to M.I.T. content, people who are very capable to earn a certificate from M.I.T.,” said L. Rafael Reif, the provost, in a conference call with reporters Friday.

M.I.T. led the way to an era of online learning 10 years ago by posting course materials from almost all its classes. Its free OpenCourseWare now includes nearly 2,100 courses and has been used by more than 100 million people.

But the new “M.I.T.x” interactive online learning platform will go further, giving students access to online laboratories, self-assessments and student-to-student discussions.

Mr. Reif and Anant Agarwal, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, said M.I.T.x would start this spring — perhaps with just one course — but would expand to include many more courses, as OpenCourseWare has done.

“The technologies available are much more advanced than when we started OpenCourseWare,” Mr. Agarwal said. “We can provide pedagogical tools to self-assess, self-pace or create an online learning community.”

The M.I.T.x classes, he said, will have online discussions and forums where students can ask questions and, often, have them answered by others in the class.

While access to the software will be free, there will most likely be an “affordable” charge, not yet determined, for a credential.

“I think for someone to feel they’re earning something, they ought to pay something, but the point is to make it extremely affordable,” Mr. Reif said. “The most important thing is that it’ll be a certificate that will clearly state that a body sanctioned by M.I.T. says you have gained mastery.”

The certificate will not be a regular M.I.T. degree, but rather a credential bearing the name of a new not-for-profit body to be created within M.I.T; revenues from the credentialing, officials said, would go to support the M.I.T.x platform and to further M.I.T’s mission.

Educators at other universities applauded the M.I.T. move.

“It seems like a very big deal because the traditional higher education reaction to online programs was, yeah, but it’s not a credential,” said Richard DeMillo, director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “So I think M.I.T. offering a credential will make quite a splash. If I were still in industry and someone came in with an M.I.T.x credential, I’d take it.”

M.I.T. said its new learning platform should eventually host a virtual community of learners around the world — and enhance the education of M.I.T.’s on-campus students, with online tools that enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences.

The development of the new platform will be accompanied by an M.I.T.-wide research initiative on online teaching and learning, including grading by computer.

And because the M.I.T.x platform will be available free to people around the world, M.I.T. officials said they expected that other universities would also use it to offer their own free online courses. Mr. Reif said that M.I.T. was investing millions of dollars in the project, and that it expected to raise money from foundations and others.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/education/mit-expands-free-online-courses-offering-certificates.html


By LAHAV HARKOV AND HERB KEINON
12/20/2011

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir is set to arrive in Israel on Tuesday for an under-the-radar visit with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Photo by GPO

Netanyahu and Kiir, whose country declared its independence in July, plan to discuss solutions for illegal immigrants from Africa, in a meeting that is expected to be closed to the press. Sources say Netanyahu will ask Kiir to accept as many Sudanese nationals as possible, whom Israel will fly to the new African country.

The visit, however, is not expected to focus only on illegal workers. It comes at a time when Israel, amid sweeping changes in the region, is looking to strengthen its ties with sub-Saharan Africa.

Kiir’s visit comes two months after the leaders of two other countries, Uganda and Kenya, visited Jerusalem. It also comes as Netanyahu is planning a visit to sub-Saharan Africa in February. He is expected to visit Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya, although the final schedule has not yet been finalized.

There was some talk of Netanyahu visiting South Sudan, but security considerations may make that stop impossible. The African countries to which Israel is reaching out face significant challenges from radical Islamic terrorists.

Israel recognized South Sudan a day after it declared independence in July, with Netanyahu calling Kiir and offering Jerusalem’s expertise in developing the fledgling country’s infrastructure, communications network and agriculture.

The South Sudanese leader also plans to meet with President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Kiir is expected to visit Yad Vashem with MK Danny Danon (Likud), who expressed confidence on Monday that Kiir and Netanyahu would find a solution for the “Sudanese infiltrator problem.”

Danon, who visited Kiir in South Sudan in August, also posited that if Israel returned many of the thousands of Sudanese illegal immigrants to South Sudan, they would help build and strengthen the new country.

Earlier Monday, the Knesset Interior Affairs Committee approved the Bill to Prevent Infiltration, part of Netanyahu’s plan to find solutions for illegal immigrants, for its second and third (final) votes in the Knesset. The votes are expected to take place next week.

While some illegal immigrants can be expelled from the country immediately, those from Sudan and Eritrea cannot be, according to UN guidelines. Therefore, the bill will allow the state to hold in custody those it cannot eject from Israel for over three years.

Interior Committee chairman Amnon Cohen (Shas) said the bill sought to find a balance between treating illegal immigrants humanely and dealing with the phenomenon’s effect on the country.

Population, Immigration and Border Authority director Amnon Ben-Ami said the government was undertaking three main actions in response to illegal immigration. First, a fence was being built along the southern border. It is expected to be completed by October 2012. In addition, the government has been negotiating the transfer of illegal immigrants to other countries. Finally, laws against employing illegal immigrants are being enforced more stringently.

At the same time, Ben-Ami said, the government will provide the illegal immigrants with shelter and food.

Additionally, the law’s explanatory section mentions Israel’s commitment to the UN Convention on Refugees.

http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=250154

South Sudanese women leader sees long way ahead for gender equality, women’s
Xinhua
19 (Xinhua) — Sarah Ajith James arrived in Washington last Sunday night, just five months after her country — South Sudan — seceded from Sudan and became the world’ s 193rd nation, knowing that the road to equality would be long and difficult for

Droughts could push parts of Africa back into famine
Mongabay.com
The WFP singles out South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, and Niger as nations of particular concern. Earlier this year famine killed scores of people, including an estimated 30000 children, in Somalia. In South Sudan drought and ongoing conflict

End corruption in South Sudan before it is too late
New Sudan Vision
The Republic of South Sudan is speeding its way to the top of most corrupt World newest Nation of this decade. It is beyond dispute that South Sudan has already developed rampant corrupt political practices of immoral leadership.

USA Lifts (Sudan) Sanctions on South Sudan

Posted: December 19, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

USA Lifts Sanctions

Juba, Dec 19, 2011 (Government of South Sudan/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) — The United States of America has lifted sanctions on the Republic of south Sudan, Hon Dr Barnaba Marial Benjamin, the minister for Information and Broadcasting disclosed yesterday upon his arrival from the International Engagement Conference (IEC) in Washington DC.

Dr Marial further revealed that the US government has promised South Sudan the membership of the African Government Opportunity Act (AGOA) which makes possible the export and import of South Sudan’s product to the USA without any taxes charged. He also reported that during the high profile conference, South Sudan was introduced by the USA to the international community. Similarly, the role of the international community in enhancing development in South Sudan was highlighted.

At the same time, the minister for Finance and Economic Planning, Hon Kosti Yokania Manibe reported that the government of South Sudan put across to the world the vision of the young nation during the conference. He also said that the vision was well received by the international community.

In his statement at Juba International Airport, Hon Manibe said that the conference was a resounding success for the Republic of South Sudan. Copyright Government of South Sudan. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

http://www.menafn.com/qn_news_story.asp?storyid={e1cd6776-fd5a-448c-8537-dab42258442d}

ICC Seeks New Sudan Arrest Warrant

Posted: December 19, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in World

Prosecutor ratchets up pressure on Khartoum, but will it make any difference?

A request by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court, ICC, for a seventh Sudanese arrest warrant is being seen as an attempt to put Darfur back on the international community’s agenda ahead of his biannual briefing before the United Nations Security Council on December 15. But some wonder what difference the move will make, given that no one from the Sudanese government has yet appeared in The Hague.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo requested the arrest warrant on December 2, issuing a statement that Abdelrahim Hussein, currently Sudan’s defence minister, “played a central role in coordinating the crimes, including in recruiting, mobilising, funding, arming, training and the deployment of the [janjaweed militia] as part of the Government of Sudan forces, with the knowledge that these forces would commit the crimes.”

Following the request, it is for ICC judges to decide whether there is enough evidence to issue a formal arrest warrant.

The ICC has so far issued six arrest warrants in connection with alleged crimes committed in Darfur. The three commanders of rebel forces who were indicted have appeared before the ICC voluntarily, and two of them are now waiting for trial proceedings to begin next year. However, no one from the government side – including Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir – has agreed to appear, arguing that the court does not have any jurisdiction in Sudan.

“[The Darfur case] is perhaps of greater value to the ICC than to the people of Sudan,” argues Phil Clark, a long-time court observer and lecturer at the London-based School of Oriental and African Studies, SOAS. “Simply having indictments hasn’t changed the way the conflict has played out. They might have constrained the travel of Bashir and others, but I’m not sure that they have changed what’s happening on the ground, or the behaviour of senior Sudanese officials.”

Not everyone agrees with this assessment, and advocacy groups have positively welcomed the attempt to mount a case against Hussein, who at the time the allegations relate to – 2003 and 2004 – was interior minister and Bashir’s special representative for Darfur.

“I take issue with the suggestion that there is no point to arresting Hussein now,” Elise Keppler, senior counsel with the international justice programme of the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch. “If this guy is implicated in horrific crimes, then putting out an arrest warrant sends a clear signal about the need for perpetrators to be held to account for their actions. An arrest might not happen overnight, but eventually it will happen. We mustn’t lose sight of that.”

Mark Quarterman, research director at the Enough Project, which campaigns against genocide around the world, adds that the very public nature of these arrest warrants reminds ICC member states of their obligation to apprehend anyone indicted by the court who sets foot on their territory.

Over the past year, Bashir has defied the ICC by making some high-profile visits to member states including Kenya, Chad and most recently Malawi.

Some experts are asking why Hussein was not included in the earlier request for arrest warrants.

William Schabas, professor of law at Middlesex University in London, describes the ICC’s approach to Darfur as “incoherent” and raises the question of why the accusation of genocide, with which Bashir is charged does not feature in the arrest warrant request for Hussein.

“ICC judges have already agreed that [there are grounds to believe] the military and political leadership of Sudan committed genocide in Darfur, and that this continued [after Hussein became defence minister],” said Schabas. “If this [charge] worked for the president, then why doesn’t it work for the minister of defence?”

Schabas admits that he does not wholeheartedly agree with the assessment that events in Darfur amounted to genocide, but maintains that if the prosecutor is prepared to use this term, he should at least be consistent.

BROADENING THE ICC’S MANDATE

Although the UN has only given the ICC a mandate to investigate crimes within Darfur, some are hoping that an indictment of Hussein will throw the spotlight on crimes that have taken place elsewhere in the country.

“Hussein is responsible for virtually the same crimes in South Kordofan and Blue Nile State, as well as in Abyei and some of the border areas,” Quarterman said. “They follow the Darfur pattern of aerial bombardment, destruction of villages and arming proxy militias to terrorise and kill people.”

Quarterman believes crimes in these regions are still taking place, and that Hussein as defence minister is directly responsible for them. He argues that close scrutiny of abuses in these areas could deter future atrocities.

According to Time magazine, a recent internal memo from the ICC indicates that the court is currently investigating crimes in South Sudan.

The ICC did not respond to an invitation for comment on this matter, but Quarterman suggested that any investigation might simply be part of the probe into Darfur.

In order for the ICC to open a formal investigation into crimes outside Darfur, the UN Security Council would have to issue a new resolution. That is something the Enough Project is pushing for. One obstacle to the UN extending the ICC’s mandate any time soon is the fact that two of the five permanent veto-wielding members – China and Russia – openly oppose the court’s involvement in Sudan.

Nevertheless, as Quarterman points out, the Darfur case was referred to the ICC in 2005 despite China’s objections.

“The Darfur referral was a question of acquiescence rather than approval,” he said. “There had been so much pressure over the years, and so much attention drawn to the question of genocide in Darfur, that China found it very hard to isolate itself by using its veto. Vetoes are not used indiscriminately. The United States has been willing to isolate itself over Israel, but China and Russia rarely do.”

Although the UN does not look likely to expand the ICC’s mandate on Sudan any time soon, Quarterman does not rule out the possibility that it might take a firmer line in the years ahead. He believes this is a message that should go out to anyone who might commit atrocities elsewhere in Sudan in the future.

WILL SOUTH SUDAN INVITE ICC INVESTIGATIONS?

Another way that the ICC could investigate crimes in other regions of Sudan is if the newly-independent state of South Sudan were to sign the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute. If that happened, the ICC would have jurisdiction over crimes in South Sudan. But it is far from clear how this would work, or how far back in time an ICC investigation would be able to go.

Edmund Yakani, program coordinator for the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation in the South Sudanese capital Juba, thinks it would be in the new state’s interests to join the ICC.

“We are still in a conflict zone, and joining the ICC would deter those who have a political agenda from motivating forces to fight each other. Our experience with Sudan helps reinforce the importance of justice in our country,” he said.

There have been reports recently of a breakaway militia group, led by former rebel leader George Athor, launching attacks on villages in Jonglei state of South Sudan. Yakani hopes ICC membership would act as a deterrent to this kind of thing.

Yakani says members of the South Sudanese government are discussing ICC membership, but questions whether the political will is really there. He says that one constraining is the fear that should South Sudan sign up to the ICC, rebel fighters turned politicians and officials could face questions about abuses committed in the past conflict.

Clark, from SOAS, says such actions would certainly be in line with the direction that the ICC has been heading in over the past few years.

“The prosecutor faced a lot of criticism in the Uganda and Congo cases for only going after one side,” he said. “In Sudan and Kenya, we have seen him try to be more even-handed. A similar idea of even-handedness is emerging with Côte d’Ivoire [Ivory Coast], where he says he’ll investigate both sides. This will almost certainly come into play in the South, and Juba’s response to this might be to ignore ICC membership altogether.”

But to what extent would the ICC be able to investigate crimes of the past in South Sudan? The Rome Statute makes it clear that the ICC can only investigate crimes that occurred within a member state after its accession date. However, Kevin Jon Heller, a senior lecturer at Melbourne Law School in Australia, points out that this can be subject to an exception if a newly-ratifying state opts to accept the court’s jurisdiction retroactively.

“It’s true that the two provisions are not the picture of clarity, but it is well-established that [the statute allows this], as the Cote d’Ivoire referral indicates. The government accepted jurisdiction from September 19, 2002, even though it had filed its declaration on April 18, 2003,” Heller said.

Another question is whether the ICC would be able to investigate crimes in South Sudan that took place before the country gained independence in July 2011 – and that is much less easy to answer. It is far from certain that Juba’s political elite would be prepared to give the ICC the scope to look too far into the past.

Blake Evans-Pritchard is an IWPR trainer and editor based in The Hague.

http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/icc-seeks-new-sudan-arrest-warrant

South Sudan to act against illegal immigrants

Posted: December 19, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

South Sudan to act against illegal immigrants
Africa Review
Foreigners in South Sudan without valid travel documents and work permits risk arrest, a government official has announced. FILE | AFRICA REVIEW | By MACHEL AMOS in JubaPosted Monday, December 19 2011 at 18:15 Foreigners operating in South Sudan

South Sudan/Sudan: UN must step up security efforts to allow civilians
StarAfrica.com
KHARTOUM, Sudan, December 19, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations must step up efforts to provide the security required for tens of thousands of civilians stranded in makeshift camps in South Sudan to return to their homes

South Sudan: Cepo Appeals for Revival of Murle-Nuer Meeting
AllAfrica.com
Following the August attacks, the Sudan Council of Churches organized a peace talk that was to be held on December 12th between the Lou-Nuer and Murle of Jonglei. However the talks were cancelled following the attack on the town of Jalle on 5th

South Sudan: Interior Minister Issues Order for Security Arrangements During
AllAfrica.com
The Minister acted in accordance with the powers conferred upon him by Article 114 paragraph 2 Schedule C of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan and delegated powers from President of the Republic. Magaya in the directive also orders that all

Press freedom hard to come by in South Sudan
Public Radio International PRI
The new constitution of South Sudan is one of the most progressive in Africa. It guarantees freedom of the press, however in practice, reality is very different. It all began with the wedding of the daughter of South Sudan President Salva Kiir.

Cash-strapped Sudan open for oil bidding
AFP
South Sudan, which gained independence in July following a two-decade civil war, produces three quarters of the now divided country’s 470000 barrels per day of oil. The vast majority of Khartoum’s export earnings came from petroleum,

South Sudan: Lakes State Government to Build Aru Memorial Foundation School
AllAfrica.com
Rumbek — The Governor of Lakes State Eng. Chol Tong Mayay said that the State Government would build a school facility to be named Aru Memorial Foundation in memory of late Samuel Aru Bol the great political figure from the state.

South Sudan Television Is a Shame to the Nation – Restore Our Nostalgia!
AllAfrica.com
I don’t know whether it is like that in Khartoum or in the failed Republic of Sudan.Our National television, the South Sudan Television is a shame to us because of the following. • This national television is not on air 24 hours instead,

South Sudan: Jonglei Problem Needs Political Will to Settle It
AllAfrica.com
Juba — The Lou-Nuer and Murle fighting in Jonglei State pains us a lot as South Sudanese who fought for the liberation and independence of our country. The time has come to call a spade a spade, we must do whatever is possible to ensure that our

ICC Seeks New Sudan Arrest Warrant
Reuters AlertNet
According to Time magazine, a recent internal memo from the ICC indicates that the court is currently investigating crimes in South Sudan. The ICC did not respond to an invitation for comment on this matter, but Quarterman suggested that any

South Sudan: Govt to Collaborate With Ethiopia in the Fight Against HIV/Aids
AllAfrica.com
Juba — The Republic of South Sudan will collaborate with Ethiopia in its efforts to fight against the HIV/AIDS scourge, Dr Esterina Novello, the chairperson of the South Sudan HIV/AIDS Commission, has said. Speaking on Saturday when she hosted Dr

SUDAN-SOUTH SUDAN: What they are saying about the Sudans
IRINnews.org
Post-CPA, there is no coherent political framework to deal with the many remaining challenges in Sudan, with international attention focused on safeguarding South Sudan’s referendum and independence largely having underestimated the impact of secession

Hilde Johnson Welcomes South Sudan’s Decision On Transparency
Oye! Times
Ms. Hilde JohnsonThe Special Representative for the United Nations Secretary General Hilde Johnson has welcomed the commitment of the South Sudan government to join the Extractive Industries Transparency International (EITI). Based on her press release

South Sudan survived being born but does need intensive care”, said Hillary
Borglobe
By Abuoi Jook Alith (Borglobe) President Kiir’s recent three points Speech during the South Sudan International Engagement Conference held on 14 th December 2011 at Marriot Wardman Hotel in Washington DC prompted me to write this article.


Press Statement by H.E. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the Republic of South Sudan at the end of the International Engagement Conference on South Sudan.

Washington DC, Dec. 15th, 2011


President Kiir (left) listens to a question by a journalist during the press conference. He is flanked by Hon Dr Barnaba Marial Benjamin (right), the minister for Information and Broadcasting.
[Photo: Thomas Kenneth]

I am in Washington DC with some members of my cabinet, senior civil Servants, members of the civil society and the business community to participate in the International Engagement Conference on South Sudan, taking place from Dec 14-15th, 2011.

This conference was thankfully co-sponsored and organized by the friends of South Sudan and development partners from various International organizations.

The purpose of this conference was to bring our newly born nation to the international arena with the view of acquainting ourselves with the international community and vice versa. We have also come to share both our history and our vision. Our history is about where and how our country emerged from the ruins of war, marginalization and oppression.

Our vision is about the direction we have chosen after freeing ourselves from bondage, and what we intend to do for our people and the country that we have just attained. As people, we have put our vision before us, as the vision for the  Republic of South Sudan from 2011- 2040. By 2040, South Sudan will be educated and informed; prosperous, productive and innovative; compassionate and tolerant; free, just and peaceful; democratic and accountable; safe, secure and healthy; united and proud.   I am confident that this can become a reality with the support from the friends; we have come to share our vision with.

In the last two days, we have interacted with our friends and partners here in Washington DC, and have come to the conclusion that for us to achieve our articulated vision for 2040, the Republic of South Sudan, under my leadership, must commit itself to: good governance, transparency, and accountability.  This is the responsibility, and commitment, we have always cherished.

We have also informed the world that the Republic of South Sudan is now opened for investors and business communities around the globe. We have presented our investment package, which we   belief is attractive for those who are willing to take this challenge together with us. As government, we are assuring all the investors coming to South Sudan that they will receive our utmost cooperation and support.

Thank you.

Peter Biar Ajak: For “Lost Boy,” A Mission Found

Posted: December 19, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in People
Tags:

Editorial: We are re-posting this message in honor and celebration of “Peter Biar Ajak’s” colorful wedding to “Nyathon Hoth Mai” –the daughter of the Chief of General Staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), James Hoth Mai–which occurred in Juba, South Sudan, December 17th, 2011. Enjoys!

For “Lost Boy,” A Mission Found

August 4, 2009
by Steve Nadis

Originally published in the Summer 2009 issue of Harvard Kennedy School Magazine.

Many people graduate from Harvard Kennedy School with a clear idea of how they’d like to put their training and newly gained credentials to use. But few graduates leave the school with a greater sense of urgency about their mission than Peter Biar Ajak MPA/ID 2009, who vowed to return to his native country immediately after June commencement.

That urgency stems from Ajak’s remarkable life story and the hardships he’s endured en route to earning a Harvard degree, learning critical skills, and thereby putting himself in a position to lead his nation in a time of need.

Ajak is a former “Lost Boy,” one of tens of thousands of Sudanese youths who became separated from their families during the civil war that was waged between the mostly Christian people of southern Sudan and the mostly Muslim people of the north from 1983 to 2005, when a peace agreement was finally achieved. Though he was born in 1984, a year after the war began, his community was largely untouched by the fighting for the first five years of his life.

All that changed in 1989, when Ajak’s village was attacked by the Sudanese army. Many people were killed. Those survivors who were up to it walked hundreds of miles to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Being just five years old at the time, Ajak was carried much of the way by his father. He remained in the camp for two years with his mother, brothers, and sisters, while his father fought for their cause with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

In 1991, the Ethiopian regime that had allowed southern Sudanese refugees to stay in its country collapsed in a coup. The new regime, which was hostile to the SPLA, kicked them out. Having nowhere else to go, Ajak and his family walked toward their village, which was ostensibly safer now that the SPLA had regained control over much of the south.

But that semblance of security was short-lived. At the time, the SPLA was splitting into two factions — one dominated by the Dinka tribe, to which Ajak’s family belonged, and the other dominated by the Nuer tribe. The Nuer faction attacked his village and killed more than 10,000 people in the region.

Going home was no longer an option, which forced the family to walk even farther at the height of the rainy season, with no place to go and nowhere to live. They ended up in the southern town of Pachalla, along with thousands of Sudanese refugees who descended from all parts of Ethiopia. “With nothing to eat and diseases floating around, people were dying like flies,” recalls Ajak, who witnessed this suffering as a seven-year-old. “On top of that, we had constant worries of being attacked by both the northern army and the Nuer rebels.”

One night, as Ajak and some other boys played a game called Lions and Goats on the outskirts of the settlement, they heard some loud booms and knew that their encampment had come under fire. They lay down, covered their heads as they’d been instructed to do, and waited for the shooting to stop. After things quieted down, they went back to their town and didn’t see anyone — alive, that is. Those who hadn’t been killed had disappeared, leaving the boys to fend for themselves.

Eventually Ajak and his fellow Lost Boys came under the protection of the SPLA. They traveled with the soldiers, received some military training, and were even called the “Red Army.” About six months later, Ajak found his family again: His father, an SPLA officer, had asked his fellow soldiers to be on the lookout. Many of the other Lost Boys, of course, were not so fortunate, and remain orphans to this day.

Life was not easy for Ajak, despite the family reunion. Taking advantage of the SPLA fissure, northern forces began driving southerners off their land. In 1992, Ajak and others had to make another walk — this the most grueling of all, because it occurred during two months of the dry season. They hiked hundreds of miles in searing heat, often going for days without a drop of water. Many died of thirst along the way.

Arriving in Kapoeta, in the southeastern corner of the country, they were once again attacked by northern fighters, who took over the town. Then they walked through the desert to a refugee camp in northern Kenya. Ajak remained in Kenya until 2001, when he joined more than 3,000 other Lost Boys who took advantage of an offer to come to the United States.

He lived in Philadelphia with a man who hosted three other Sudanese boys. The 17-year-old Ajak entered 11th grade, despite the fact that he spoke no English and had the equivalent of an eighth-grade education at best. On top of his efforts to learn English, catch up with his classmates, and get acclimated to American culture, he took a job loading and unloading packages with ups, so that he could have money to send home to his mother. He still managed to do well enough in school to get into LaSalle College in Philadelphia. As an underclassman in 2006, he came to the Kennedy School as part of a public policy leadership conference, which helped pique his interest in graduate school.

Upon graduating from LaSalle in 2007, Ajak chose to continue his studies at the Kennedy School for several reasons. First, he felt the Master in Public Administration in International Development program was just what he was looking for.

“Sudan desperately needs development,” he says. “We’ll need it in five years, and we’ll need it in ten years.” He was certain the skills he acquired in economics, management, and policy would help him contribute to his country.

Second, he was inspired by the ideals the Kennedy School embodies and the dedication to public service it instills. “This school offers a way to turn that passion into concrete policy steps,” he says.

Finally, “the fact that I was going to Harvard would mean a lot to other Lost Boys who didn’t have the chance,” he says. “It shows that everything is possible. With the right combination of luck and opportunity, you can accomplish anything if you work hard for it.”

Ajak is anxious to return to Sudan because he feels he is “racing with time.” In a referendum slated for March 2011, southern Sudanese citizens will vote on whether to remain part of Sudan or become independent.

“If we are to become an independent nation,” he says, “there’s much to be done to get ourselves ready to run our own affairs.”

Though he’s prepared to serve his country any way he can, Ajak believes that working for southern Sudan’s Ministry of Defense might make the most sense. “A lot of our challenges today are security related. The peace agreements must be protected, not only by soldiers but also by having the right policies in place.”

Every generation going back to his father’s, grandfather’s, and great-grandfather’s has faced war with the north. This cycle has to stop, Ajak says. “Even though terrible experiences prepare you for whatever challenges you might encounter later, I don’t want the people of Sudan to ever have to go through that again.”

http://www.hks.harvard.edu/news-events/news/alumni/peter-biar-ajak

Beware of fear mongers as elections near

Posted: December 19, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in World
Tags:

By ABABU NAMWAMBA (a Kenyan Legislator).
Finally, a rare voice of reason in an political landscape otherwise littered with demagoguery and every form of idiotic rigmarol/diatribe and just downright naivety–Submitted by thegreatest
Among the countless gems in Florentine thinker Niccolo Machiavelli’s masterpiece on political intrigue, The Prince, is his observation that “men are so simple and so much creatures of circumstance that the deceiver will always find someone ready to be deceived”.

This truism has nourished and shaped the art of propaganda through the ages, making the careers of famed spin-masters like Josep Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s propagandist par excellence.

But while the world of make-believe and twisted logic has become part and parcel of modern-day political mobilisation, it has nonetheless transformed the political chessboard into a virtual shark-infested cesspool with mortal risks to social order.

It gets worse when persons who enjoy considerable public sway choose to religiously pay homage to Mark Twain’s warped counsel that “truth is the most valuable thing we have, so let us economise (on) it”.

Some deliberately close their eyes to all truth, electing instead to build their entire political strategy on lies, distortion and misrepresentation.

They remind one of Winston Churchill’s description of three-time British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin: “He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened”.

Others perfect the game of ringing alarm bells for the most sinister intentions, a living manifestation of the Aesopian fable of “The Boy who Cried Wolf”, that everlasting tale of a shepherd boy who tricks nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his flock.

He raises the alarm so many times that when the sheep are actually confronted by a wolf, the villagers do not believe his cries for help and the flock is destroyed.

The moral is that the ultimate reward for liars is that even if they tell the truth, no one believes them.

But this has never deterred the fear mongers who are masters at the game of creating imaginary ogres, demons and vampires, which they deploy with callous dexterity to whip up fireballs of virulent sentiment in sections of the populace.

The Kenyan political airspace is infested with more than its fair share of Mark Twain disciples, Stanley Baldwin types and cry-wolf super-cons who seem betrothed to the alchemy of cynical fear-mongering and spicing up lies into the mirage of a sumptuous meal.

Depressing constant

Indeed, one depressing constant about the skirmishes that have repeatedly blemished our electoral contests over the past couple of decades has been the backdrop of incitement, distortion and deliberate scare-crow tactics of rallying ordinary folk against each other.

Yet we just never seem to learn, fatally repeating the same mistakes over and over again in a manner not dissimilar to the behaviour of the deranged.

For doesn’t insanity entail repeating something over and over and expecting different results? And so, quite predictably, we are again getting busy on the spindle, spinning yarn after yarn of new and recycled lies, fears and myths for the sole purpose of gaining cheap political advantage.

Among those being peddled with frenzied excitement include “not another Kikuyu at State House after Kibaki”. This is solely targeted at scuppering Uhuru Kenyatta’s second stab at the seat.

It is the creation of crafty rivals who, well aware that the son of Jomo bears all the hallmarks of a formidable presidential candidate, have deigned to torpedo his bid by this myth that has absolutely no constitutional backing and is anchored on the irrational.

The same illogical spin has also been pointed in the direction of William Samoei arap Ruto, with the hilarious argument that 24 years of Nyayo rule is still too fresh in the national memory for the presidential motorcade to head back to the land of Kitwek. Silly, silly, silly again!

But, as has become the Kenyan political custom, the most lethal fire is always reserved for the enigmatic son of Jaramogi – Raila Amollo Odinga.

For him, the spinners just never stop running the spindle, and the yarn runs into miles upon miles, on a scale that is as melodramatic as it is innately risky.

Raila is accused of virtually everything under the sun and below the sea, by rivals who seem terrified by the mere thought of confronting him on the ballot paper.

The rainmaker

Apparently, if it rains too much in your neck of woods, blame it on the rainmaker from the Lake, and when drought strikes, he surely must be responsible too … if your cow does not calf, the Lang’ata fisher of men must have visited a spell on your herd … Yes, even that frequent spat with your spouse could just be the work of this indefatigable spellbinder!

And as we near d-date for the next elections, this crescendo of myths is bound to hit record decibels as efforts are made to compromise his “favourite” tag.

Samuel Croxall asks, with reference to political alarmism: “When we are alarmed with imaginary dangers in respect of the public, till the cry grows quite stale and threadbare, how can it be expected we should know when to guard ourselves against real ones?” The answer lies in your heart and head!

namwambaa@gmail.com


Dinka-Nuer West Bank Peace & Reconciliation Conference

The Dinka-Nuer West Bank Peace and Reconciliation Conference is a major step in a much larger process. It is designed to bring reconciliation to many groups and people of south Sudan who are in conflict with one another. As this process grows and expands it carries the potential to of transform the dynamics of the macro Sudan conflict.

In June 1998, under the facilitation of the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC), thirty-five Dinka and Nuer border chiefs and church leaders on both the west and east sides of the Nile River met in Lokichogio (Loki), Kenya. They considered ways to bring peace and reconciliation to their peoples. They met for nine days to share the stories of the pain and suffering they have inflicted on one another for seven years. After coming to a consensus that they must help their people find a way to make peace, the chiefs and church leaders began planning for major Dinka-Nuer peace conferences. It was anticipated that conferences should be held on the west and east banks of the Nile. The Loki conference ended with the signing of the Nuer-Dinka Loki Accord (see Appendix B). The West Bank conference was established as the next major step in the process.

NSCC established an organising team and hired short-term staff to focus exclusively on the Dinka-Nuer peace process. During the following eight months the team included field mobilisers and organisers, women, chiefs, liaisons from the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) and United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF), intellectuals from the Sudanese Diaspora, and a consultant peacemaking facilitator. The SPLM was requested and agreed to release to NSCC the services of Mr. Mario Muor Muor to serve as the conference site organiser at Wunlit, Tonj County. With the organising skills of a local chief nearly three hundred citizens laboured for three months to build an entire village for the peace conference. One hundred fifty tukuls (houses), a large meeting hall were built, cattle, goats and chickens were pledged and provided for meat. A well was drilled, additional food was imported, extensive transportation was planed, and relationships were maintained with all levels of society from local chiefs to the highest levels of the political movements.

Prior to the Conference a high profile chiefs exchange visit took place between the Nuer and Dinka areas. The Nuer chiefs had to be satisfied that there would be adequate security for their leadership to come into Dinkaland to attend the conference. Dinka chiefs had to be satisfied that the Nuer communities were very serious about this peace effort. These exchange visits took place from the 11th to the 16th of February in Thiet and Wunlit in Bahr el Ghazal among the Dinka, and in Leer in Western Upper Nile among the Nuer. The visits ignited the enthusiasm of the local populations, demonstrated to the conference site builders that the peace was underway, and convinced the key leaders that security would be guaranteed. Hundreds of delegates, chosen by counties and provinces from the Dinka and Nuer communities, began moving toward the site. An airlift was organised to bring one hundred fifty Nuer delegates, arriving on the day before the opening. A total of 303 delegates signed the eventual Covenant. The Conference site became a living peace village with hundreds of security personnel, teams of women cooking and serving each of five “villages,” youth working through the night to meet the water needs of a total community of 1200-1500 people, and international observers and journalists living simply and free to observe and later report the story as the peace process unfolded.

The Wunlit Conference opened with the ceremonial sacrifice of a great White Bull, provided as a gift by the local chief. The Ceremonial Opening meeting included Christian worship led by church leaders followed by welcoming addresses. Speeches were made by NSCC Executive Secretary Dr. Haruun Ruun, Governor Nhial Deng Nhial of Bahr el Ghazal, Deputy Chairman of the SPLM/A Cdr. Salva Kiir Mayardit, Commissioners of Tonj and Leer, women leaders from Dinka and Nuer, and traditional spiritual leaders of Dinka and Nuer. The Conference closed with the signing of the Wunlit Dinka-Nuer Covenant with its included resolutions. Each person placed his or her thumb print and some also chose to sign the final document.

Another publication will follow this initial one. That future publication will include key speeches, selected quotes from the many participants, the minutes developed by the Rapporteurs, and a selection of pictures that tell the story of Wunlit.

This official publication is presented by NSCC and is approved by the following Rapporteur Team:

Mr. Dhol Acuil
Dr. Michael Wal Duany
Dr. Peter Nyot Kok
Dr. William O. Lowrey
Mr. John Luk
Dr. Marc Nikkel


Contents

February 27, 1999 Opening prayers and sermon
February 28, 1999 Introduction of dignitaries and guests (continued), beginning of Dinka narratives
March 1, 1999 Dinka narratives (entire day) 
March 2, 1999 Nuer narratives (entire day)
March 3, 1999 Nuer narratives (entire day)
March 4, 1999 Various addresses (Rumbek, Bul, guests)
March 5, 1999 Reports from discussion groups, seeking consensus
March 6, 1999 Complete reports from discussion groups, signing the accord
March 7, 1999 Sunday morning Christian worship service, followed by sacrificial ceremonies to conclude the conference
Appendix Provisional list of villages and settlements abandoned for reconstruction
Issues List of issues and solutions
Khartoum List of Khartoum delegates
Dinka List of Dinka delegates – Gogrial County, Bahr el Ghazal
Nuer List of Nuer delegates – Jagei District (Koch), Western Upper Nile
Resolutions Conference resolutions
Speeches Speeches by several people
Covenant Wunlit Dinka-Nuer Covenant

Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement-North
The Office of the Official Spokesman
Press Statement

The Chairman of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement- North, Cde Malik Agar Ayer, has issued a directive to release all prisoners of war captured by SPLM-N forces, in keeping with the laws of war and international norms, as stipulated in the Geneva Protocols governing the treatment of prisoners of war. The Chairman has made this move with a humane conscience and an ethical stance  that is a cornerstone of the mores of the SPLM-N.

The Chairman has  directed concerned bodies and those charged with humanitarian work within SPLM-N to implement this order. They must begin the process of handing over Sudan Armed Forces prisoners of war to the International Committee of the Red Cross according to the recognised procedures.

The SPLM-N wishes to affirm that through political struggle and armed action, it is seeking to achieve humane ideals. The movement continues to work side by side with the forces of the Sudan Revolutionary Front to change the regime in Khartoum, in order to end the rule of the brutal and dictatorial regime that unceasingly violates the human rights of Sudanese citizens and perpetrates the most egregious crimes against its people. Such actions have placed its leaders at the top of the list of those wanted by the international justice system.

The Struggle Continues.
Our Victory is Certain.

Arnu Ngtullu Lodi
Official Spokesman
Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement- North
18th December 2011