Posts Tagged ‘human-rights’

David Ropeik, May 14, 2012

       When I was a kid, my synagogue was right across the street from a Catholic church. Bellevue Avenue made such a clear dividing line between us – The Chosen People – and them…the enemy. No doubt the view from the other side of the street was the same. I had no idea at the time what a powerful metaphor those few lanes of asphalt made for one of the most significant aspects of human behavior…the powerful instinct of tribalism. It’s everywhere, protecting us by readily overriding reason, and morality, and pretty much anything else that could dim our chances of survival. And it’s threatening us at the same time.

Maybe you read about one recent manifestation in The New York Times, about the  Orthodox Jews of the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn who shunned a neighbor after he told police about a man – a fellow Jew – who was sexually abusing his son. You’d think that a father protecting his son would be the sort of behavior that would be honored. Nope. Not if it is disloyal to the tribe.

That’s the synagogue side of the street. How about the long loathsome record of Catholic Church authorities abandoning their morals and forfeiting the safety of vulnerable children by covering up, ignoring, or denying extensive evidence of child abuse by a small number of priests. Same thing. Tribe first. Morals second.

It’s not just religion, of course. We identify ourselves as members of all sorts of tribes; our families, political parties, race, gender, social organizations. We even identify tribally just based on where we live. Go Celtics, go Red Sox, go U.S. Olympic team! One study asked people whether, if they had a fatal disease, would they prefer a life-saving diagnosis from a computer that was 1,000 miles away, or the exact same diagnosis from a computer in their town, and a large majority preferred the same information if the source…a machine…was local.

Tribalism is pervasive, and it controls a lot of our behavior, readily overriding reason. Think of the inhuman things we do in the name of tribal unity. Wars are essentially, and often quite specifically, tribalism. Genocides are tribalism – wipe out the other group to keep our group safe – taken to madness. Racism that lets us feel that our tribe is better than theirs, parents who end contact with their own children when they dare marry someone of a different faith or color, denial of evolution or climate change or other basic scientific truths when they challenge tribal beliefs. What stunning evidence of the power of tribalism! (By the way, it wasn’t just geocentrist Catholics in the 16 adn 1700s who denied  evidence that the earth travels around the sun. Some Christian biblical literalists still do. So do a handful of ultra orthodox Jews and Muslims.)

Yet another example is the polarized way we argue about so many issues, and the incredible irony that as we make these arguments we claim to be intelligent (smart, therefore right) yet we ignorantly close our minds to views that conflict with ours. Dan Kahan, principal researcher into the phenomenon of Cultural Cognition, has found that our views are powerfully shaped so they agree with beliefs of the groups with which we most strongly identify. His research, along with the work of others, has also found that the more challenged our views are, the more we defend them…the more dogmatic and closed-minded we become…an intellectual form of ‘circle-the-wagons, we’re under attack’ tribal unity. Talk about tribalism overruling reason.

As irrational as genocide and science denial and immorality may be, it makes absolute sense that tribalism can produce such behaviors. We are social animals. We have evolved to depend on our tribes, literally, for our safety and survival. As Jane Howard, biographer of anthropologist Margaret Mead, put it “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” We may not be aware at the conscious level of the influence tribalism has on us, but then, most of human cognition happens below the radar of consciousness, and is driven not so much by the goal of getting good grades or winning Nobel Prizes as it is, first, to survive. Small wonder that this ultimate imperative dominates so much of how we behave, how we think and act, and how we treat each other. And it’s hardly surprising that the more unsettled and uncertain we feel and the less we feel we have control over how things are going – feelings that make us feel threatened –  the more we circle the wagons and fiercely fight for tribal success, looking to the tribe to keep us safe.

It’s a sobering reflection on this inherent but potentially destructive aspect of human nature, in these unsettled and threateningly uncertain times.


Nuba Mountains: Sudans Next Darfur

Posted: May 8, 2012 by PaanLuel Wël in Sudan
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Omar al-Bashir’s government is waging a brutal war against the people of South Kordofan. As Sudan’s army fights anti-government rebels, an estimated 1 million civilians suffer from daily air strikes that threaten their lives and prevent them from growing crops. The situation is fast becoming another humanitarian crisis to equal Darfur, but the international community has barely responded.

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As Khartoum bombs civilians and cuts relief routes, residents huddle starving in caves.

NUBA MOUNTAINS — Since June, daily bombings have rained down fire and death on the people of the Nuba Mountains, forcing thousands to leave their homes for the rocky hills, where countless crevices and caves offer some protection. Unable to plant crops in their fields, the civilians South Kordofan are now going hungry.

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The Yida camp is growing quickly as Khartoum bombs Nuban civilians, and deploys hunger as a weapon. Meanwhile, the international community shrugs.
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But Sudan’s air power means Nuba Mountains will continue to be pounded.
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Deep in South Kordofan, GlobalPost visits the unified opposition’s military commander, who vows to install “liberal values.”
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As Chinese workers come under attack and as violence escalates using Chinese bombs, can Beijing remain neutral?

South Kordofan’s rebel general explains his battle against Sudan President Omar al-Bashir

General Abdulaziz Adam Al-Hilu says his rebels are fighting for regime change and democracy in Sudan.

Tristan McConnell May 8, 2012

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SPLA-North General Abdulaziz Adam Al-Hilu, who is working to unite his rebels with other Sudanese rebel groups fighting against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s government. (Trevor Snapp/GlobalPost)

NUBA MOUNTAINS, Sudan — General Abdulaziz Adam Al-Hilu is a triple threat in Sudan. He is chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North), commander of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-North) and Chief of the Joint Military Command of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF).

Because of the fight he is waging against the regime of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, he is hard to find. This interview was conducted at a base hidden in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan’s South Kordofan state, from where he is directing an armed rebellion against Bashir’s government in Khartoum and against the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).

GlobalPost: How did the civil war here in South Kordofan begin?

Abdulaziz Adam Al-Hilu: It’s now 10 months since June 5th 2011 when the National Congress Party of Khartoum decided to attack its own civilians in the Nuba Mountains just because Khartoum doesn’t want to implement the provisions of the [Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005] and the right of the Nuba people to popular consultations [on their future governance].

Khartoum decided to disarm the SPLA; we said ‘no’. Since then there is aerial bombardment, indiscriminate actually, in the villages, in the cattle camps, farms, everywhere. Also shelling using medium-range missiles. Also ground attacks targeting civilians. They burn villages, they destroy crops, loot cattle and all the property of civilians.

Since that time Khartoum denied access to relief workers and the international community, those who are interested in coming to assist the needy people in the Nuba Mountains. People are dying here.

How is the war progressing?

There is fighting everyday. We are controlling 90 percent of the countryside. They are there in the towns, in garrisons … dug in like rats inside their trenches, they are not free to move.

Related: Ragtag rebels vow to take South Kordofan

The nature of the terrain [is our best weapon]. Mountainous terrain is golden for guerrillas — you cannot defeat them, even in 100 years. This small hill is equivalent to 50 tanks. This is the problem for Bashir: he can just roll into Abyei with his tanks but not here, he has to shell us with 2,000 shells here in the place before he can capture this.

How can you afford to fight against the larger and better-equipped Sudan Armed Forces (SAF)?

Thanks to Bashir [and] SAF! It is Bashir who is supplying us [with equipment abandoned by the army]. They bring everything and leave it for us!

You can see we have their cars mounted [with machine guns], heaps of ammunition, shells, rockets, different types of guns. Sometimes we look for ex-SAF soldiers to come and train us because we didn’t see these things before.

More from GlobalPost: Sudan’s rebels uniting to topple Bashir’s Islamic regime

What is the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) — the new rebel coalition launched in November — and what is its aim?

The regime decided to attack us in Nuba Mountains and destroy us alone. This is the divide and rule policy, but they were not patient and decided also to attack Malik Agar and the SPLA in Blue Nile. We discovered that this regime is actually targeting everybody including the Darfurians. So we looked for the Darfurians and they looked for us and we made that alliance.

We sit together and we plan together, then we go for execution. We are at the phase of coordination rather than joint operations. That will come soon, but we need first to know each other, to test each other.

Our main objective is to expand the frontline from Ethiopia to Chad, to attack and overstretch the Sudan Armed Forces. We pin them down here, then we go behind the lines and we destroy their headquarters in Khartoum. We are going to Khartoum, we are confident to do that.

Is there any chance of a negotiated settlement with Khartoum?

We don’t need any agreement with Khartoum because they don’t honor agreements, the history of Khartoum in that is known. Our experience since independence [in 1956] is that Khartoum doesn’t honor or implement any agreement.

What do you see as the root cause of the conflict in the Nuba Mountains?

It is about diversity: Khartoum doesn’t want to recognize the diversity in the country. They are going for a monolithic type of state based on only two parameters, that is Arabism and Islam.

There is no place for anybody who is not a Muslim, who is not an Arab. This is why the center is attacking its own civilians and this is what led the South to secede [on 9th July 2011]. If people are not careful I think Sudan will break up.

Somebody like me, I am a Muslim but I am not an Arab. They say I must accept, I must put on a jellaba and turban and dance the way Bashir is doing!

What role has the international community played?

The international community has a problem with memory. This Bashir is the same one who introduced Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda to the world, it is the same Bashir who made an attempt on the life of Hosni Mubarak, who attempted to destroy the World Trade Center in New York, the same Bashir who smuggles guns to Hamas, who created [the Lord’s Resistance Army]. It is this Bashir who has committed genocide: in the South 2 million killed, in Nuba Mountains 200,000, in Darfur 350,000.

The international community has failed to see how Bashir is defiant, is somebody who does not respect them, does not respect international law.

The CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] was not a simple agreement, it was the most important agreement, the baby of the international community, arrived at by international pressure. I didn’t expect the international community just to throw away it like that, they should have defended it.

In this conflict between the Nuba and the center we are not allowed to fight freely, there is intervention always … Always there is pressure on the South, on the Nuba, on the marginalized people, the poor people … They make us go to the table to talk but there is no action.

How will this end?

We are working for regime change, for complete transformation, for writing a new constitution, a democratic constitution that recognizes diversity, that accepts the liberal values of justice, equality, individualism. We want to achieve lasting peace and justice in this country.

Some may say we are not qualified to reach this but I think it is possible.

How to Defuse Sudan Conflict

Posted: April 29, 2012 by PaanLuel Wël in Commentary
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Interviewee: Jendayi Frazer, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Africa Studies

Interviewer: Christopher Alessi, Associate Staff Writer
April 26, 2012

Tensions along the oil-rich border that divides Sudan and recently independent South Sudan have escalated in recent weeks, raising the prospect of a full-scale war between the longtime foes. China, which maintains considerable oil interests in both countries, has called for restraint (Reuters) and vowed to work with the United States to bring both sides back to the negotiating table. Jendayi Frazer, the former U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, says while the role of mediation should remain with the African Union, the United States and China are vital players in this conflict that can bring pressure to bear on both parties. However, Frazer says it is “a strategic mistake and it has never worked” for the international community to treat both sides equally, since the northern Sudan is clearly the aggressor in this latest conflict as well as many of those in the past. “The international community should be united against northern aggression,” she says.

Can you give an overview of the history of the sectarian conflict between the people who live in what is now the South Sudan and those in the northern state of Sudan, and how that led ultimately to the South’s secession from Sudan in July 2011?

The conflict goes back to more than fifty years, but the last twenty years has been the war between the north and the south–the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and the Khartoum government of President Bashir. That conflict over the last twenty years has led to the deaths of more than two million people, and wasn’t ended really until the comprehensive peace agreement of 2005, which allowed for the South to go to secession.

The roots of the conflict over the past fifty years and the intensification over the last twenty years was very much about how the north marginalizes the other regions, whether it is the south, whether it is east, or Darfur in the west. There’s a small group in the center, who are a part of the government, who have marginalized the other regions and basically used them for resource extraction–that led to several rebellions.

Is there an ethnic component to that?

It’s ethnic, it’s racial, it’s religious. There’s a religious difference between the north, which is largely Muslim, and the South, which is largely Christian. And then between the north and South, there is a view that there is an Arab north and a black African South. If you go to the north, and you find Arabs, you wouldn’t know that that they weren’t Africans. So that sort of racial difference is really quite mixed.

This dispute is really over borders, over oil, over many of the issues that were not finalized before secession.

In terms of the conflict right now that has pushed Sudan and South Sudan to the brink of war, can you sum up the main issues and what is at stake?

The primary issue is about oil, and then about the demarcation of the border between north and South–and the oil fields are located along that border area. As long as that border has not been demarcated, then there are claims on both sides that the oil fields belong to them. This is particularly intense around the town of Abyei, which it’s not clear whether that belongs to the north or whether that belongs to the South. Then there has been recent fighting in the town of Heglig [which the South occupied for ten days until reportedly withdrawing last week], which is a part of South Kordofan [a state in Sudan] and appears to be in the north, but the South claims that it is actually a part of the southern state of Warrap.

Is there an “aggressor,” or are both parties equally culpable in this conflict?

I don’t think both parties are culpable, and that’s where the international community got it wrong last week when they universally condemned South Sudan for going into Heglig. This dispute is really over borders, over oil, over many of the issues that were not finalized before secession. The tension has been rising since the beginning of the year, in which you would have had the north bombing areas in South Kordofan, in Blue Nile–basically bombing the SPLA North [South Sudanese-affiliated rebel forces operating in Sudan]–and continuing to fight with rebels in Darfur.

The north has continued to be an aggressor for months before this particular conflict over Heglig came up. Yet the international community’s condemnation of the north couldn’t be heard at all. And so this heavy unified condemnation of the South for going into Heglig seemed to me to be overkill, and in fact, it created a cover for further northern aggression–which is what we are seeing right now with the bombing into Unity state. These aerial bombardments and killing of civilians have been going on constantly. This is the north killing [its] own people–the Southerners of the northern state–and now going into South Sudan and bombing. So there’s a very clear aggressor here and it is northern Sudan, continuing to do what it’s always done, which is bomb and kill civilians.

The international community–the position of the United States–is going to try to be the arbitrator and treat each one equally; it is a strategic mistake, and it has never worked. In the past, the United States has been very clear that the north has been the aggressor, and the South has been our ally and our partner–and we need to treat them as such. It’s all well and good for the African Union to come in as a neutral arbitrator. In the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement, Kenya was a neutral mediator; the United States was not the mediator and should never be the mediator because we are clearly on one side of the conflict.

What’s China’s role in all of this? As a long-time ally of Khartoum, but also a large purchaser of oil from South Sudan, can it play a mediating role?

No, it shouldn’t be a mediator–no more than the United States should. The mediation should stay within the African Union. But China and the United States are two of the most important players here, from the point of view that they can bring pressure to bear on both parties. They can bring coercive pressure–i.e, sticks, sanctions–and they can also bring incentives to bear. They could bring the goods that would actually deliver parties to the mediator. So China has an essential role to play, as does the United States. And the United States and China working hand in hand is even better.

What’s the role of the larger international community, including the United Nations?

The UN is involved from the point of view of having peacekeepers on the ground. The UN’s role is very important. But it was a mistake for Ban Ki-moon, the United States, and the AU to come out so hard against South Sudan for just an incursion into Heglig. It just created the context in which the Sudanese are now bombing Unity state. The UN role is primarily to protect the civilian population–from the point of view of keeping their peacekeepers there, as well as providing humanitarian assistance to those people that are now displaced and fleeing from these bombing attacks from the north. The international community should be united against northern aggression.

The fights on the ground are part of the negotiation that’s taking place. Sometimes when you can’t get a decision at the negotiating table, you go back to some incursions, some fights to shore up your position.

How has South Sudan’s decision to shut down oil production in January affected the economies of both South Sudan and Sudan?

It’s probably hurting South Sudan more than it is hurting the north, but it’s hurting both of them. The South is playing a very high-stakes brinksmanship type of policy vis-a-vis the north to try to force decisions. The South is trying to force the issue [of being able to reap the rewards of its own oil production, which must be transported through Sudan’s infrastructure to be exported] by shutting off the oil, but it’s a high-stakes game, and that has probably led even more to this type of armed conflict, these incursions. The environment is that much more tense because of that decision and because of the economic impact. It’s not just hurting the north and the South, it’s also hurting China. It’s hurting the countries that have oil concessions there and have been pumping oil out of Sudan. So China has a lot at stake in trying to resolve this.

What are some of the plausible outcomes to this conflict? Do you think both parties will get back to the negotiating table?

The fights on the ground are part of the negotiation that’s taking place. Sometimes when you can’t get a decision at the negotiating table, you go back to some incursions, some fighting to shore up your position. Basically, if you can take some advances on the ground, you can shore up your position at the negotiating table. So I think this is all part of negotiating. The problem is it can get out of hand and create its own dynamic, which leads back to full-scale war. But I don’t expect full-scale war. I do believe that the negotiations will continue.

The ultimate goal here–the South needs to take a strategic pause in terms of fighting the north on the ground. They need to focus on a future that’s more eastern looking, i.e., connect themselves to the East African Community. Most of the traders who are in South Sudan right now are coming from east Africa. So their economic future and political future should be looking south and east, rather than looking north.

So they need to, over time, disentangle themselves from the north. In order to do that, they need to not be in a full-scale war or these types of episodic conflicts or fights with the north. It’s not that they acquiesce to the northern decisions, but they need to look beyond the day-to-day and look toward the future. The only way to disentangle themselves from the north is at the negotiating table, and on the ground have that strategic pause, and do the compromises necessary to get out of the relationship. But also as part of that, the United States needs to provide aerial defense for the South. The north is constantly bombing civilians, and the South cannot defend itself. We need to adopt a posture that says to the north, “If you mess with the South, you mess with the United States.” We need to give them a security blanket, and a part of that would be helping them with an air defense system.

Syerramia Willoughby

LSE’s Matthew Le Riche is in Rubkona in South Sudan, which was under attack by Sudanese forces on Monday. He sent this report of the situation in the town. You may find some of the photos accompanying the report distressing.

Early on Monday morning, at least two Sudanese military jet fighters attacked the market in Rubkona near Bentiu, 80 kilometres from Heglig, depending on where you place the border it remains well inside South Sudan. At least one civilian, a young boy, was killed by one of two direct hits on the small shelter in which he was hiding. Other munitions hit a fuel store nearby and others fell into the river near the market, not far from the only bridge in the area.

Deputy Minister of Defence, Dr. Majak Agoot and Unity State Governor Taban Deng Gai surveying the aftermath of the attack in Rubkona Market. They paused where the young boy had died and said a prayer.

This blatant attack on civilians occured just days after the South Sudanese army agreed to withdraw from the disputed Heglig area in a ceasefire agreement compelled solely by international diplomatic pressure.

The Sudanese Armed Forces have once again launched an assault on civilians inside South Sudan. Reliable sources also indicated that throughout Sunday and at the same time as the jets attacked the market in Rubkona, a series of attacks upon South Sudanese army border defenses were repulsed.

Sudanese aircraft

Capturing and holding Heglig from the Sudanese army earlier this month came after a long string of similar indiscriminate attacks just as those experienced this morning by civilians in Rubkona. The South Sudanese army Chief of General Staff James Hoth Mai, Deputy Minister of Defence Majak Agoot and other leaders have all indicated that the original move into Heglig was for the purpose of preventing attacks by Sudanese forces on the people of South Sudan, what they clearly understand as an act of self-defence. In an interview General Mai indicated that ‘Khartoum has been using Heglig to terrorise our people, to attack our people, using proxy war with militias in the South … they attack us and then they run to Heglig.’

A casualty of the Sudanese attack on Rubkona

The capture of Heglig by the SPLA revealed Sudanese Armed Forces unwilling to fight for Bashir. Rather than stand and fight, the forces fled leaving equipment and arms behind for the SPLA to capture. This was made clear in video footage of the event acquired from the South Sudanese military.

The withdrawal, due to international pressure and efforts at conciliation on the part of the government of South Sudan, seems to have done little but to embolden President Bashir to continue attacking the South Sudanese, likely a part of a bid to cling to power in Khartoum.  Bashir and northern Sudanese forces are thus continuing to target civilians using high tech tools of war as the needless death of a young boy on Monday morning made so tragically clear.

Reviving the ‘New Sudan’ vision
In the face of growing unrest, former statesmen John Garang’s vision could serve as a banner of unity.
The late Sudanese politician John Garang reframed the overarching narrative about Sudan’s internal conflicts [EPA]

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – John Garang, the Southern Sudanese Christian rebel-turned-statesman, was arguably one of the best and most charismatic leaders Sudan has had. He surely had many flaws, but one of his greatest contributions was his “New Sudan” vision, which widely appealed to many Sudanese, even in the predominantly Muslim Arab north.

What Garang essentially did was reframe the overarching narrative about Sudan’s internal conflicts and struggles. Rather than talk in terms of either the counter-productive Arab Muslim north versus African Christian south narrative or Darfur’s Arab versus African tribes storyline, he took an honourable stance and made an important valid observation………………..

Read the whole story here…

Liberating Juba from Khartoum: the future of South Sudan
The recent squabble over oil between the country and Sudan points to its need to forge new regional alliances.

Although South Sudan has gained independence, it remains economically dependent on Sudan [GALLO/GETTY]

Addis Adaba, Ethiopia – When South Sudan seceded in July 2011, the world knew that they would be taking the vast majority of the Sudan’s oil wealth with them. A new country with dismal infrastructure but vast oil reserves, hopes were high that despite years of conflict, South Sudan could use its oil wealth to build itself up.

But what good is all that oil in a country that cannot get it safely and reliably to market? This question is especially pressing due to the fact that domestic crude refining capabilities are non-existent and the only immediately available partners are their old foes to the north…….

Read more here……..

How the Arab world lost southern Sudan
Both pan-Arabist and Islamist governments have failed to embrace diversity and pluralism – to their own detriment.
Sudan’s leaders failed to extend rights to people in the South, which led to the nation’s partition  [EPA]

The division of Sudan into two states is a dangerous precedent. The Arab world has to draw the right lessons from if it wants to avoid the break-up of other Arab states into ethnic and sectarian enclaves.

The birth of South Sudan is first and foremost a testimony to the failure of the official Arab order, pan-Arabism, and especially the Islamic political projects to provide civic and equal rights to ethnic and religious minorities in the Arab world.

The jubilation that swept the people of southern Sudan at their independence from the predominantly Arab and Muslim north attests to the long-standing feelings of repression and alienation by a people, the majority of whom were born into the post-independence Arab world……..

Read more here…..

How I am Celebrating My Good Friday!!

By PaanLuel Wel.

According to the (Gregorian) Christian’s calendar introduced to the world by Pope Gregory XIII on  24 February 1582, which is currently the best known calendar around the world, today marks the day on which Jesus of Nazareth, a first century Jewish teacher of morality considered by some people to be a god, was supposed to have been crucified on the cross for the sin of humanity. The day is better known to this generation as the Good Friday–Good because it is, Christians believe,  the day on which human’s blood was shed to clean human’s sin.

Essentially, it is about the ancient ritual of blood sacrifice practice by all human all over the world from immemorial time till modernity recently reduced or ended it. Still, the thought that the ancient ritual of blood sacrifice could form the foundation of Christianity--presently the largest organized human religion in the World–and that it still hold such a sway among human race in this 21st century is mindbogglingly worrisome.

For my fellow atheists–did I mention that we have no original sin to be atoned–around the world whose today Bible readings may not give them the true evolutionary trajectory and meaning of this day of “Pious Atrocities” in human history, I would recommend (re) reading of Sam Harris’s Afterword to his bestselling book: Letter to a Christian Nation:


Humanity has had a long fascination with blood sacrifice. In fact, it has been by no means uncommon for a child to be born into this world only to be patiently and lovingly reared by religious maniacs, who believe that the best way to keep the sun on its course or to ensure a rich harvest is to lead him by tender hand into a field or to a mountaintop and bury, butcher, or burn him alive as offering to an invisible God. Countless children have been unlucky enough to be born in so dark an age, when ignorance and fantasy were indistinguishable from knowledge and where the drumbeat of religious fanaticism kept perfect time with every human heart. In fact, almost no culture has been exempt from this evil: the Sumerians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Canaanites, Maya, Inca, Aztecs, Olmecs, Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Teutons, Celts, Druids, Vikings, Gauls, Hindus, Thais, Chinese, Japanese, Scandinavians, Maoris, Melanesias, Tahitians, Hawaiians, Balinese, Australian aborigines, Iroquois, Huron, Cherokee, and innumerable other societies ritually murdered their fellow human beings because they believed that invisible gods and goddesses, having an appetite for human flesh, could be so propitiated. Many of their victims were of the same opinion, in fact, and went willingly to slaughter, fully convinced that their deaths would transform the weather, or cure the king of his venereal disease, or in some other way spare their fellows the wrath of the Unseen.

In many societies, whenever a new building was constructed, it was thought only prudent to pacify the local deities by burying children alive beneath its foundations (this is how faith sometimes operates in a world without structural engineers). Many societies regularly sacrificed virgins to ward off floods. Others killed their first-born children, and even ate them, as a way of ensuring a mother’s ongoing fertility. In India, living infants were ritually fed to sharks at the mouth of the Ganges for the same purpose. Indians also burned widows alive so that they could follow their husbands into the next world. Leaving nothing to chance, Indians also sowed their fields with the flesh of a certain caste of men, raised especially for this purpose and dismembered while alive, to ensure that every crop of tumeric would be appropriately crimson. The British were actually hard pressed to put an end to these pious atrocities.

In some cultures whenever a nobleman died, other men and women allowed themselves to be buried alive so as to serve as his retainers in the next world. In ancient Rome, children were occasionally slaughtered so that the future could be read in their entrails. Some Fijian prodigy devised a powerful sacrament called “Vakatoga” which required that a victim’s limbs be cut off and eaten while he watched. Among the Iroquois, prisoners taken captive in war were often permitted to live among the tribe for many years, and even to marry, all the while being doomed to be flayed alive as an oblation to the God of War; whatever children they produced while in captivity were disposed of in the same ritual. Certain African tribes have a long history of murdering people to send as couriers in a one-way dialogue with their ancestors or to convert their body parts into magical charms. Ritual murders of this sort continue in many African societies to this day. [1]

It is essential to realize that such obscene misuses of human life have always been explicitly religious. They are the product of what people think they know about invisible gods and goddesses, and of what they manifestly do not know about biology, meteorology, medicine, physics, and a dozen other specific sciences that have more than a little to say about the events in the world that concern them. And it is astride this contemptible history of religious atrocity and scientific ignorance that Christianity now stands as an absurdly unselfconscious apotheosis. The notion that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that his death constitutes a successful propitiation of a “loving” God is a direct and undisguised inheritance of the superstitious bloodletting that has plagued bewildered people throughout history.

Of course, the God of Abraham was no stranger to ritual murder. Occasionally, He condemns the practice (Deuteronomy 12:31; Jeremiah 19:4-5; Ezekial 16:20-21); at other points, He requires or rewards it (Exodus 22:29-30; Judges 11:29-40; 1 Kings 13:1-2; 2 Kings 3:27; 2 Kings 23:20-25; Numbers 31:40, Deuteronomy 13:13-19). In the case of Abraham, God demands that he sacrifice his son Isaac but then stays his hand at the last moment (Genesis 22:1-18), without ever suggesting that the act of slaughtering one’s own child is immoral. Elsewhere, God confesses to inspiring human sacrifice soas to defile its practitioners (Ezekiel 20:26), while getting into the act Himself by slaying the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 11:5). The rite of circumcision emerges as a surrogate for child sacrifice (Exodus 4:24-26), and God seems to generally encourage the substitution of animals for people. Indeed, His thirst for the blood of animals, as well as His attentiveness to the niceties of their slaughter and holocaust, is almost impossible to exaggerate.

Upon seeing Jesus for the first time, John the Baptist is rumored to have said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). For most Christians, this bizarre opinion still stands, and it remains the core of their faith. Christianity is more or less synonymous with the proposition that the crucifixion of Jesus represents a final, sufficient offering of blood to a God who absolutely requires it (Hebrews 9:22-28). Christianity amounts to the claim that we must love and be loved by a God who approves of the scapegoating, torture, and murder of one man—his son, incidentally—in compensation for the misbehavior and thought-crimes of all others.

Let the good news go forth: we live in a cosmos, the vastness of which we can scarcely even indicate in our thoughts, on a planet teeming with creatures we have only begun to understand, but the whole project was actually brought to a glorious fulfillment over twenty centuries ago, after one species of primate (our own) climbed down out of the trees, invented agriculture and iron tools, glimpsed (as through a glass, darkly) the possibility of keeping its excrement out of its food, and then singled out one among its number to be viciously flogged and nailed to a cross.

Add to this abject mythology surrounding one man’s death by torture—Christ’s passion—the symbolic cannibalism of the Eucharist. Did I say “symbolic”? Sorry, according to the Vatican it is most assuredly not symbolic. In fact, the judgment of the Council of Trent remains in effect:

I likewise profess that in the Mass a true, proper and propitiatory sacrifice is offered to God on behalf of the living and the dead, and that the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ is truly, really, and substantially present in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, and that there is a change of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the whole substance of the wine into blood; and this change the Catholic Church calls transubstantiation. I also profess that the whole and entire Christ and a true sacrament is received under each separate species.

Of course, Catholics have done some very strenuous and unconvincing theology in this area, in an effort to make sense of how they can really eat the body of Jesus, not mere crackers enrobed in metaphor, and really drink his blood without, in fact, being a cult of crazy cannibals. Suffice it to say, however, that a world view in which “propitiatory sacrifices on behalf of the living and the dead” figure prominently is rather difficult to defend in the year 2007. But this has not stopped otherwise intelligent and well-intentioned people from defending it.

And now we learn that even Mother Teresa, the most celebrated exponent of this dogmatism in a century, had her doubts all the while—about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, about heaven, and even about the existence of God:

Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love — and now become as the most hated one — the one — You have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want — and there is no One to answer — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone … Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony.
So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?

— addressed to Jesus, at the suggestion of a confessor, undated

Mother Teresa’s recently published letters reveal a mind riven by doubt (and well it should have been). They also reveal a woman who was surely suffering from run-of-the-mill depression, though even secular commentators have begun to politely dress this fact in the colors of the saints and martyrs. Mother Teresa’s response to her own bewilderment and hypocrisy (her term) reveals just how like quicksand religious faith can be. Her doubts about God’s existence were interpreted by her confessor as a sign that she was now sharing Christ’s torment upon the cross; this exaltation of her wavering faith allowed her “to love the darkness” she experienced in God’s apparent absence. Such is the genius of the unfalsifiable. We can see the same principle at work among her fellow Catholics: Mother Teresa’s doubts have only enhanced her stature in the eyes of the Church, being interpreted as a further confirmation of God’s grace. Ask yourself, when even the doubts of experts are taken to confirm a doctrine, what could possibly disconfirm it?

It has been more than a year since Letter to a Christian Nation was published, and the book has continued to draw steady fire. Much of the criticism leveled at it has been bundled with attacks upon my first book, The End of Faith, and upon other atheist bestsellers: especially Dan Dennett’s Breaking the Spell, Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, and Christopher Hitchens’God Is Not Great. In fact, Dennett, Dawkins, Hitchens, and I have been regularly assailed as though we were a single person with four heads. The accusations and arguments against us are always the same, and they always miss the point. Indeed, what is most surprising about debating the faithful is how few surprises there are.

The Problem with Moderate Religion
Whenever nonbelievers like myself criticize Christians for believing in the imminent return of Christ, or Muslims for believing in martyrdom, religious moderates declare that we have caricatured Christianity and Islam, taken “extremists” to be representative of these “great” religions, or otherwise overlooked a shimmering ocean of nuance. We are invariably told that a mature understanding of scripture renders faith perfectly compatible with reason, and that our attacks upon religion are, therefore, “simplistic,” “dogmatic,” or even “fundamentalist.”

But there are several problems with such a defense of religion. First, many moderates (and even some secularists) assume that religious “extremism” is rare and therefore not all that consequential. But religious extremism is not rare, and it is hugely consequential. America is now a nation of 300 million souls, wielding more influence than any people in human history, and yet 240 million of these souls apparently believe that Jesus will return someday and orchestrate the end of the world with his magic powers. This hankering for a denominational, spiritual oblivion is extreme in almost every sense—it is extremely silly, extremely dangerous, extremely worthy of denigration—but it is not extreme in the sense of being rare. Of course, moderates may wonder whether as many people believe such things as say they do. In fact, many atheists are confident that our opinion polls are out of register with what people actually think in the privacy of their own minds. But there is no question that most Americans reliablyclaim to believe the preposterous, and these claims themselves have done genuine harm to our political discourse, to our public policy, and to our reputation in the world.

Religious moderates also tend to imagine that there is some bright line of separation between extremist and moderate religion. But there isn’t. Scripture itself remains a perpetual engine of extremism: because, while He may be many things, the God of the Bible and the Qur’an is not a moderate. Reading scripture more closely, one does not find reasons to be a religious moderate; one finds reasons to be a proper religious lunatic—to fear the fires of hell, to despise nonbelievers, to persecute homosexuals, etc. Of course, anyone can cherry-pick scripture and find reasons to love his neighbor and to turn the other cheek. But the more fully a person grants credence to these books, the more he will be convinced that infidels, heretics, and apostates deserve to be smashed to atoms in God’s loving machinery of justice.

Religious moderates invariably claim to be more “sophisticated” than religious fundamentalists (and atheists). But how does one become a sophisticated believer? By acknowledging just how dubious many of the claims of scripture are, and thereafter reading it selectively, bowdlerizing it if need be, and allowing its assertions about reality to be continually trumped by fresh insights—scientific (“You mean the world isn’t 6000 years old? Okay.”), medical (“I should take my daughter to a neurologist and not to an exorcist? Seems reasonable…”), and moral (“I can’t beat my slaves? I can’t even keep slaves? Hmm…”). There is a pattern here, and it is undeniable. Religious moderation is the direct result of taking scripture less and less seriously. So why not take it less seriously still? Why not admit that the Bible is merely a collection of imperfect books written by highly fallible human beings?

Another problem with religious moderation is that it represents precisely the sort of thinking that will prevent a rational and nondenominational spirituality from ever emerging in our world. Whatever is true about us, spiritually and ethically, must be discoverable now. Consequently, it makes no sense at all to have one’s spiritual life pegged to rumors of ancient miracles. What we need is a discourse about ethics and spiritual experience that is as unconstrained by ancient ignorance as the discourse of science already is. Science really does transcend the vagaries of culture: there is no such thing as “Japanese” as opposed to “French” science; we don’t speak of “Hindu biology” and “Jewish chemistry.” Imagine a world in which we could have a truly honest and open-ended conversation about our place in the universe and about the possibilities of deepening our self-understanding, ethical wisdom, and compassion. By living as if some measure of sectarian superstition were essential for human happiness, religious moderates prevent such a conversation from ever taking shape.

Intellectual Honesty
Religion once offered answers to many questions that have now been ceded to the care of science. This process of scientific conquest and religious forfeiture has been relentless, one directional, and utterly predictable. As it turns out, real knowledge, being both valid and verifiable across cultures, is the only remedy for religious discord. Muslims and Christians cannot disagree about the causes of cholera, for instance, because whatever their traditions might say about infectious disease, a genuine understanding of cholera has arrived from another quarter. Epidemiology trumps religious superstition (eventually), especially when people are watching their children die. This is where our hope for a truly nonsectarian future lies: when things matter, people tend to want to understand what is actually going on in the world. Science delivers this understanding in torrents; it also offers an honest appraisal of its current limitations. Religion fails on both counts.

Hoping to reconcile their faith with our growing scientific understanding of the world, many believers have taken refuge in Stephen J. Gould’s quisling formulation of “non-overlapping magisteria”—the idea that science and religion, properly construed, cannot be in conflict, because they represent different domains of expertise. Let’s see how this works: while science is the best authority on the workings of physical universe, religion is the best authority on… what exactly? The non-physical universe? Probably not. What about meaning, values, ethics, and the good life? Unfortunately, most people—even most scientists and secularists—have ceded these essential components of human happiness to the care of theologians and religious apologists without argument. This has kept religion in good standing even while its authority has been battered and nullified on every other front.

But what special competence does a priest, rabbi, or imam have to judge the ethical implications of embryonic stem-cell research, family planning, or preventative war? The truth is that a person’s knowledge of a scriptural tradition is no more relevant to ethics than it is to astronomy. Representatives of the world’s religions can tell us what their congregations believe on wide variety of issues (and believe, generally, on bad evidence); they can tell us what their holy books say one ought to believe to escape the fires of hell; but what they cannot do—or cannot do better than butchers, bakers, and candle-stick makers—is offer an account of why these orthodox positions are ethical. Is it ethical to kill a person for changing his religion? I’d stake my life that the answer is “no.” But, according to a recent poll, thirty-six percent of British Muslims (ages 16-24) disagree with me. [2] As it turns out, they are on firm ground theologically: for while the Qur’an does not explicitly demand the murder of apostates, the sacred literature of the hadithdoes, repeatedly and without equivocation. Is this edict ethical? Is it compatible with civil society? Is the reliance upon authority that has delivered this barbarism down through the generations even remotely compatible with science?

It is, of course, trivially true to say that religion and science are compatible because some scientists are (or claim to be) religious. But this is like saying that science and ignorance are compatible because many scientists freely admit their ignorance on a wide range of topics. To clarify these issues, it is helpful to remind ourselves that both religion and science are constituted by beliefs and their justification, or lack thereof. Is there a conflict between justified and unjustified belief? Of course, and it is zero-sum. Given that faith is generally nothing more than the permission religious people give one another to believe things strongly without evidence, a conflict between science and religion is unavoidable.

Religion and science are also in conflict because there is no way of disentangling religious and scientific truth-claims: the belief that Jesus was born of a virgin may be central to the doctrine of Christianity, but it is also an explicit claim about biology; the belief that Jesus will physically return to earth in the future entails a variety of claims about history, the human survival of death, and, apparently, the mechanics of human flight without the aid of technology. It is time that all rational people acknowledged that where claims about the nature of reality are concerned, there is only one magisterium.

The Empty Wager 
The fundamental problem with religion is that it is built, to a remarkable degree, upon lies.  I refer not merely to twenty-megaton displays of hypocrisy, as when Evangelical preachers get caught with male prostitutes or methamphetamine (or both). Rather, I refer to the daily and ubiquitous failure of most religious people to admit that the basic claims of the their faith are profoundly suspect. Mommy claims to know that Granny went straight to heaven after she died. But Mommy doesn’t actually know this. The truth is that Mommy is lying—either to herself or to her children—and most of us have agreed to view this behavior as perfectly normal. Rather than teach our children to grieve, and to be happy despite the reality of death, we nourish their powers of self-deception.

How likely is it that Jesus was really born of a virgin, rose from the dead, and will bodily return to earth at some future date? How reasonable is it to believe in such a concatenation of miracles on the basis of the Gospel account? How much support do these doctrines receive from the average Christian’s experience in church? Honest answers to these questions should raise a tsunami of doubt. I’m not sure what will be “Christian” about any Christians left standing.

Many readers of Letter to a Christian Nation have taken inspiration from Blaise Pascal and argued that evidence is beside the point and that religious believers have simply taken the wiser of two bets: if a believer is wrong about God, there is not much harm to him or to anyone else, and if he is right, he wins eternal happiness; if an atheist is wrong, however, he is destined to spend eternity in hell. On this view, atheism is the very picture of reckless stupidity.

While Pascal deserves his reputation as a brilliant mathematician, his wager was never more than a cute (and false) analogy. Like many cute ideas in philosophy, it is easily remembered and often repeated, and this has lent it an undeserved air of profundity. A moment’s thought reveals that if the wager were valid, it could justify almost any belief system, no matter how ludicrous or antithetical to Christianity. Another problem with the wager—and it is a problem that infects religious thinking generally—is its suggestion that a rational person can knowingly will himself to believe a proposition for which he has no evidence. A person can profess any creed he likes, of course, but to really believe it, he must believe that it is true. To believe that there is a God, for instance, is to believe that you are not just fooling yourself; it is to believe that you stand in some relation to God’s existence such that, if He didn’t exist, you wouldn’t believe in him. How does Pascal’s wager fit into this scheme? It doesn’t.

The reasons to doubt the existence of God are in plain view for everyone to see: everyone can see that the Bible is not the perfect word of an omniscient deity; everyone can see that there is no evidence for a God who answers prayers and that any God who would grant prayers for football championships, while doling out cancer and car accidents to little boys and girls, is unworthy of our devotion. Everyone who has eyes to see can see that if the God of Abraham exists, He is an utter psychopath—and the God of Nature is too. If you can’t see these things just by looking, you have simply closed your eyes to the realities of our world.

I have no doubt that many Christians find great consolation in their faith. But faith is not the best source of consolation. Faith is like a pickpocket who loans a person his own money on generous terms. The victim’s gratitude is perfectly understandable, but absolutely misplaced. We are the source of the love that our priests and pastors attribute to God (how else can we feel it?). Your own consciousness is the cause and substance of any experience you might want to deem “spiritual” or “mystical.” Realizing this, what possible need is there to pretend to be certain about ancient miracles?
Sam Harris
September 2007
New York

In Sudan, a new strategy to censor the press

Posted: April 5, 2012 by PaanLuel Wël in Junub Sudan

By Abdelgadir Mohammed Abdelgadir/CPJ Guest Blogger

Journalists with Al-Tayar protest government censorship of their paper. (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

Journalists with Al-Tayar protest government censorship of their paper. (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

Sudanese authorities have a long history of closing newspapers and silencing journalists. But the government security agents who carry out official censorship have launched a new strategy this year that focuses on economic impoverishment–leaving newspapers more vulnerable than ever.

Agents of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) now raid printing presses and confiscate newspapers on grounds that publications are covering topics barred by the NISS. The agency’s red lines are numerous, changeable, and ungoverned by law or judicial order. The NISS demands, for example, that newspapers abstain from covering the International Criminal Court, government corruption, human rights violations, Darfur, the war in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, armed movements, and many other subjects.

In the past, the NISS would censor publications in advance by dispatching agents to newsrooms. Officers would read the newspaper in full and order articles be taken out and replaced. In many cases, they would reject the replacement articles too, and halt the printing of the newspaper entirely. The officers would oblige editors to sign a pledge not to publish the censored articles elsewhere, notably online.

The new goal: Censor newspapers and force them to incur heavy financial losses. Agents, for example, have confiscated copies of the newspaper Al-Maidan on several occasions, among them February 21, and March 13, 15, 17 and 18. The newspaper said it lost thousands in revenue each time the printed copies were confiscated. Al-Maidan Editor-in-Chief Madiha Abdullah said the newspaper pays for printing in advance with the expectation it will cover the expense through sales. But copies on these five dates never made it to newsstands and were instead hoarded at security offices.

On February 20, copies of Al-Ahdath and Al-Tayar were confiscated at their respective printing presses. Both publications incurred significant losses. On March 27 and 29, the NISS confiscated Al-Jarida copies at the printing press after the publication refused to suspend journalist Zuhair al-Siraj. In a statement, the management of the newspaper said it had received a phone call from the NISS conveying the agency’s wishes regarding al-Siraj, who had criticized the Sudanese government in an article. When Al-Jarida management requested the NISS put its wishes in writing, the agency refused.

The agency has taken direct action as well. On February 22, the NISS director general suspended publication of Al-Tayar indefinitely. A writer from Al-Tayar was arrested the same day. The newspaper resumed publication only after it had accepted NISS conditions.

It’s worth noting that the president of the National Council for Press and Publications, the government body officially charged with overseeing newspapers, said in an interview with a local news outlet that the NISS exercises full control over the press. Even his agency is powerless due to NISS encroachment.

This all comes at a time when government officials feel free to accuse journalists of treason and espionage, with pro-regime newspapers amplifying the accusations. With such attacks taking place and with security agents controlling what can be published, independent journalism in Sudan remains in great peril.

Despite clashes, oil shutdown is bad for South Sudan

Posted: April 2, 2012 by PaanLuel Wël in Junub Sudan

Ahmed Kodouda, 1 April 2012
About the author
Ahmed Kodouda is Senior Program Associate for the East and Horn of Africa Program at Freedom House.

The South Sudanese government recently decided to stop oil production in retaliation against actions taken by the Sudanese government in Khartoum. While on the surface it seems a wise decision, upon closer examination it has resulted in serious and harmful effects on the government and the South Sudanese people.

Recent reports of clashes between the armies of Sudan and South Sudan have reignited simmering tensions between the two countries. These skirmishes are manifestations of the broader post-independence issues between Khartoum and Juba.

In January, South Sudan shut down its oil production after months of stalled negotiations on an oil-sharing arrangement between the two nations and in retaliation against reports that Khartoum had begun to siphon off a portion of Juba’s oil to compensate for what it labeled “transit fees.” South Sudan’s oil is transported through Sudan to the northeastern city of Port Sudan where it is exported to international buyers such as China and Japan.

On the surface, the decision seems to have achieved several objectives for Juba. Stopping the oil production reframed the political discourse away from the South Sudanese government’s own mismanagement of the country’s resources and the rampant corruption back towards Khartoum. Ostensibly, it has united the South Sudanese against their common, foreign enemy and has allowed politicians in Juba, who have called for severe austerity measures and major cuts in government spending, to capitalize on the “rally ‘round the flag” effect.  Furthermore, cutting the oil revenue hits Khartoum where it hurts most, intensifying the economic malaise that has plagued Sudan since losing over 75% of its revenue.

However, beyond the surface, the decision to shut down oil production has serious and very harmful effects on the government and the South Sudanese people. The shutdown is effectively bankrupting the country, as oil production makes up 98% of South Sudan’s annual revenue. With no money coming into its coffers, the government has been forced to dip into its hard currency reserves. Officials in Juba have claimed they have currency reserves to cover 18 months of expenses, but because of corruption, informed sources put the estimates at no more than six months. With reserves running out rapidly, inflation will severely impact the country’s economic wellbeing.

In early March, the governments of South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya jointly launched a project to build a port in Lamu  on the Kenyan coast. The project was heralded as South Sudan’s final path in its divorce from Khartoum. 
Although a pipeline through Kenya is strategically more important to Juba’s goal of further integrating its economy into the East African Community, it is not a viable alternative to the pipelines going through Port Sudan on the Red Sea for the foreseeable future.

According to Vice President Riek Machar, Juba plans to keep its pipelines shut off for 30 months  . However, there are several factors that could ultimately delay the construction of any pipeline by several more years. First, to construct such a massive pipeline roads with particular load specifications are needed to transport the pipes to their destination. These massive trucks carrying the pipes would otherwise sink into roads constructed to handle normal traffic. Secondly, geologically if the oil wells remain untapped for much longer the oil will begin to recede back into the earth and dry up the oil wells. The wells will then take up to an entire year to return to their original, full capacity. Finally, the construction of the pipeline itself could take much longer than anticipated if rampant corruption persists.

Ultimately, South Sudan remains tied to Khartoum because it cannot survive much longer without any oil revenues. This has become more apparent in the past weeks as the South Sudanese pound is begining to lose its value  on the black market and dollars are growing scarce.

The best path forward for Juba is to continue negotiating and come to an agreement with Khartoum until the pipeline is completed. If Khartoum continues to steal its oil during that time, Juba should remain steadfast in its agreement and seek international arbitration after the Lamu pipelines are completed.

Politicians in Juba need to refuse the urge to make unilateral decisions because, as much as they would like to deny it, they need Khartoum as much as Khartoum needs Juba’s oil. The blame for this standoff lies primarily with Khartoum, however it is in Juba’s interest to resume oil production until it has another alternative. Although a popular decision, shutting off its oil wells is not a strategic or viable long term option for South Sudan, especially at such a critical time in its infancy.

Humanitarian disaster unfolds in South Sudan

Posted: March 17, 2012 by PaanLuel Wël in Junub Sudan
Tags: ,

South Sudan: UN Desperately Seeking Helicopters
The United Nations is pleading with members to provide military helicopters for its peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, where recent tribal violence has displaced more than 100000 people, a UN report showed on Thursday. The chopper shortage arose 

Humanitarian disaster unfolds in South Sudan
The governments in South Sudan and Sudan continue to be mired in disputes while a humanitarian crisis looms. Washington, DC – Less than a year since South Sudan’sindependence, thousands of people in the region continue to face the stark realities of
Progress on citizenship and border issues in Sudan and South Sudan?
Christian Science Monitor
South Sudan and Sudan appeared to make progress in their latest talks in Addis Ababa, despite heightened regional tensions, writes guest blogger Amanda Hsiao. By Amanda Hsiao, Guest blogger / March 16, 2012 • A version of this post appeared on the blog 
S. Sudan Agrees to Release Child Soldiers
Voice of America
March 16, 2012 S. Sudan Agrees to Release Child Soldiers Hannah McNeish | Juba The United Nations says a new deal signed with South Sudan’s army could lead to the newest country being delisted from nations which use and recruit child soldiers.
Lugar frets over Sudanese conflicts
WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) — The “genesis of dozens of violent conflicts” in an independentSouth Sudan erases some of the confidence for regional peace, a US lawmaker said. This week, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan expressed concern about 
South Sudan’s Army Promises to Free Child Soldiers
Voice of America
16 March 2012 South Sudan’s Army Promises to Free Child Soldiers TO DOWNLOAD the MP3 of this story, click on the MP3 link in the upper right corner of the page. Double-click any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary.

SUDAN: Aid needs urgent as refugees head south
YIDA, 16 March 2012 (IRIN) – The international community should act urgently to provide assistance to thousands of people affected by conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states in Sudan, and the many refugees who have fled across the border into 

UN’s Ban commends Sudan and South Sudan on political progress
MI News 26
NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) — United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday commended the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan for the progress they have made in talks aimed at resolving post-independence issues. Ban said both parties have 

UN desperately seeking helicopters for South Sudan
The Sun Daily
UNITED NATIONS ( March 15, 2012) : The United Nations is pleading with members to provide military helicopters for its peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, where recent tribal violence has displaced more than 100000 people, a UN report showed on 

South Sudan criminalizes money-laundering
Sudan Tribune
March 17, 2012 (JUBA) – The eight-month old independent state of South Sudan has criminalized money-laundering as part of the ongoing effort to arrest the rampant corruption in the country. Over one billion US dollars of public money has disappeared 
South Sudan cabinet to convene emergency meeting over looming food crisis
Sudan Tribune
March 16, 2012 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s cabinet is set to convene an “emergency meeting” immediately after the country’s president, Salva Kiir, returns from a trip to the Bahr el Ghazal region, a senior official told journalists on Friday.

Sudan Urges a Deal On Security Issues With the South Before Presidential Summit
Khartoum — Sudan’s foreign minister has urged South Sudan to settle security file in a manner to pave the way for the implementation of the recent border and four freedoms agreements reached this week in Addis Ababa. Delegation of the two countries 

UN sees progress with Sudan aid, wants more access
Yahoo! Contributors Network
Clashes broke out between Sudan’s armed forces and rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in South Kordofan last June, then spread to Blue Nile state in September. Both areas border newly-independent South Sudan.

Subject: Press statement on Bashir’s planned visit to Juba

Dear all – Please find below and attached a press statement from a
coalition of South Sudanese civil society organizations, including the
Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), the South
Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy (SSHURSA), and the South Sudan
Law Society (SSLS), concerning Omer al-Bashir’s planned visit to Juba.

For questions or comments, please contact David K. Deng at +211 955
518 206 or



Arrest Bashir in Juba or meet him elsewhere

17 March 2012

South Sudan should not tarnish its reputation as the world’s newest
nation by hosting the international fugitive, Omer al-Bashir, a
coalition of South Sudanese civil society organizations said today.
Bashir is scheduled to visit South Sudan in the coming weeks to try to
resolve a bitter dispute over oil, among other outstanding issues from
the 2005 peace agreement.

Earlier this week, South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum told a
press briefing in Juba that the government has “problems to settle”
with Bashir, and that since they are not a member of the International
Criminal Court (ICC), they are under no obligation to arrest him.

“Although the government of South Sudan may not be legally obligated
to arrest Bashir, to host him in this manner sends the wrong signal to
both the international community and the survivors of his atrocities,”
said Dong Samuel Luak, secretary-general of the South Sudan Law
Society (SSLS).

Since independence on 9 July 2011, South Sudan has struggled to
establish itself as a nation committed to rule of law and
accountability in the face of endemic inter-communal violence, a
security sector that commits human rights abuses with impunity, and
massive challenges of post-conflict reconstruction. In his
independence day speech, president Salva Kiir declared his
government’s intent to ratify the core international human rights
treaties that proscribe the minimum standards by which states must
treat their citizens. Nine months after independence, the government
has not ratified any human rights treaties; nor has it laid out a
timeline for when it might do so.

South Sudanese civil society actors have voiced concerns about what
Bashir’s visit may signal given the government’s complacency about
committing itself to international human rights standards. “When
Bashir is greeted at Juba international airport with all the pomp and
circumstance of a visit by a head of state, he will have won an
important victory before he even steps off the plane,” said Edmund
Yakani, program coordinator of the Community Empowerment for Progress
Organization (CEPO). “South Sudan will join a short list of nations
that have tacitly supported Bashir’s crimes by failing to treat him as
the indicted war criminal that he is.”

Adding to the symbolic importance of the event, the announcement of
Bashir’s visit coincided with an important milestone for international
justice. On 14 March, the ICC found Thomas Lubanga, a Congolese
warlord, guilty of serious war crimes. The first ever verdict from the
ICC was hailed as “an important step forward” by UN secretary-general,
Ban Ki-moon. Proponents of international justice maintain that the
Lubanga verdict and similar verdicts from other international
tribunals demonstrate that the international justice system can be
effective at holding perpetrators of the most heinous international
crimes accountable.

“Sooner or later Bashir will have to account for the war crimes,
crimes against humanity, and genocide for which he is indicted by the
ICC,” said Boutros Biel, executive director of the South Sudan Human
Rights Society for Advocacy (SSHURSA). “The government should
demonstrate that it takes international crimes seriously by refusing
to meet Bashir in Juba and immediately moving to ratify the Rome
Statute and the core human rights treaties.”

David K. Deng
Research Director
South Sudan Law Society

George Clooney and at least one congressman were arrested Friday outside of the Sudanese embassy in Washington D.C. The arrests were anticipated and part of the actor’s effort to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. The actor, his father and politicians were protesting the country’s b…

George Clooney arrested, handcuffed, outside Sudan embassy in DC

Plastic handcuffs were used on actor George Clooney, who was arrested Friday for a protest at the Sudanese embassy in Washington.

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Middle East Online
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South Sudan accuses Khartoum of ‘enslaving’ thousands

South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum said the government of Sudan refused the inclusion of the freedom of about 35,000 South Sudanese enslaved citizens. (File photo)

South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum said the government of Sudan refused the inclusion of the freedom of about 35,000 South Sudanese enslaved citizens. (File photo)
AFPBy Jenny Vaughan | AFP – 

South Sudan accused former foe Sudan on Friday of holding 35,000 Southerners as “slaves,” stalling talks to resolve a furious oil dispute as tensions remain high between the two neighbours.

“There is unfortunately a disagreement, because the government of Sudan refused the inclusion of the freedom of about 35,000 South Sudanese enslaved citizens,” South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum told AFP.

Amum said the abductees were taken hostage during Sudan’s bloody 1983-2005 north-south civil war which ended in a peace deal that paved the way for South Sudan’s formal independence in July.

Thousands of South Sudanese were allegedly abducted by pro-government militia forces during the war and forced to work in the north, claims rejected by the government in Khartoum.

The rivals are in the Ethiopian capital holding the latest round of dragging African-Union led talks. The two countries have been at loggerheads since the South broke away, threatening to reignite conflict between the two former bitter enemies.

Oil has been a major sticking point in the talks, since Juba took 75 percent of Sudanese oil at independence but Khartoum controls processing and export facilities.

But deals must also be made on contentious nationality issues, as well as border demarcation and the future of the contested Abyei region, claimed by both sides but occupied by Khartoum’s army.

Juba took the drastic decision to halt crude production in January, despite oil making up 98 percent of its revenue, after Sudan started seizing its shipments in lieu of a deal on transit fees.

Khartoum said the approach from South Sudan was “not constructive” and proposed the creation of a separate high level committee to deal with the sticking points on nationality issues.

However, Sudanese negotiator Sabir Mohamed al-Hassan said the talks were stalled because the South insisted on hammering out details about the proposed committee, including how citizens would be repatriated.

“They insisted to go into detail and we refused to go into detail, and the meeting broke down,” he said.

Some 500,000 South Sudanese remain in Sudan, and Khartoum has given them until April 8 to leave or regularise their status. However, the United Nations has said it is logistically impossible to repatriate all within the timeframe.

Under South Sudanese law any Southern ethnic group member, or with ancestors born in the south, is eligible for nationality.

“That is why we thought it would be important to set up this committee as soon as possible because on the 8th… if there is not agreement, definitely there will be complications,” Hassan added.

Hassan admitted a deal is unlikely to be reached before this round of negotiations close on March 16.

“It takes two to tango. Personally, me… I’m not really optimistic,” he said.

South Sudan accuses Khartoum of ‘enslaving’ 35,000 citizens

Friday, 09 March 2012


South Sudan accused former foe Sudan on Friday of holding 35,000 Southerners as “slaves,” stalling talks to resolve to furious oil dispute as tensions remain high between the two nations.

“There is unfortunately a disagreement, because the government of Sudan refused the inclusion of the freedom of about 35,000 South Sudanese enslaved citizens,” South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum told AFP.

Amum said the abductees were taken hostage during its bloody 1983-2005 civil war, which ended in a peace deal that paved the way for the South’s formal independence in July.

The rivals are in the Ethiopian capital holding the latest round of dragging African-Union led talks. The two countries have been at loggerheads since the South split from the north in July, threatening to reignite conflict between the two former bitter enemies.

Oil has been a major sticking point in the talks, since Juba took 75 percent of oil at independence but Khartoum controls processing and export facilities.

But deals must also be made on contentious nationality issues, as well as border demarcation and the future of the contested Abyei region, claimed by both sides but occupied by Khartoum’s army.

Juba took the drastic decision to halt production in January, despite oil making up 98 percent of its revenue, after Sudan started seizing the crude in lieu of a deal on transit fees.

Khartoum said the approach from South Sudan was “not constructive” and proposed the creation of a separate high level committee to deal with the sticking points on nationality issues.

However, Sudanese negotiator Sabir Mohamed al-Hassan said the talks were stalled because the South insisted on hammering out details about the proposed committee, including how citizens would be repatriated.

“They insisted to go into detail and we refused to go into detail, and the meeting broke down,” he said.

Madam Rebecca Garang and other officials declare assets and liabilities

JUBA, 2 March 2012 (NASS) – The Presidential Advisor for Gender and Human Rights, Madam Rebecca Nyandeng, ministers for Information and Broadcasting, and Water Resources and Irrigation, and the chairperson of workers trade union declared their assets and liabilities to the South Sudan Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday.
The declaration was made at the commission’s headquarters in the presence of its top officials.

Madam Rebecca receiving her compliance certificate.
[Photo: Ajang Monychol]
After receiving the certificate of confirmation, Madam Rebecca Nyandeng said this is the time she has been waiting for because the South Sudanese need to know how the national resources are being used.
Madam Nyandeng stated that she filled all her income, assets and liabilities clearly on the form mentioning that it is all about the money she got as compensation from the plane accident that kislled her later husband and national hero Dr John Garang de Mabior.
She also condemned the rumours circulating around the country about the ownership of White Bull Company. She declared that it is not hers adding that if she is to do something for South Sudan it will not be through a beer company.

Dr Marial receiving his compliance certificate.
[Photo: Ajang MOnychol]
Meanwhile the minister for Information and Broadcasting, Dr Barnaba Marial Benjamin urged all the ministers and top officials of the government to be transparent in the exercise saying everybody should be accountable.
At the same time, the minster for Water Resources and Irrigation, Paul Mayom Akech asserted that they will assist the commission take tougher decisions to reduce corruption vowing that they did not fight to embezzle public funds.
On his part, the chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Justice John Gatwech Lul announced that whoever fills the form without declaring all the assets and later discovered will forfeit the assets which will then be transferred into government account.

Hon Mayom waits as the Commission chair reviews his compliance documents.
[Photo: Ajang Monychol]
He as well warned the target group that once the exercise timeframe expires then automatically they will issue resignation letters to those who fail to comply.
Reported by Martin Jada Gabriel, News Agency of South Sudan (NASS)

press release
Juba — The Presidential Advisor for Gender and Human Rights, Madam Rebecca Nyandeng, ministers for Information and Broadcasting, and Water Resources and Irrigation, and the chairperson of workers trade union declared their assets and liabilities to the South Sudan Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday.
The declaration was made at the commission’s headquarters in the presence of its top officials.
After receiving the certificate of confirmation, Madam Rebecca Nyandeng said this is the time she has been waiting for because the South Sudanese need to know how the national resources are being used.
Madam Nyandeng stated that she filled all her income, assets and liabilities clearly on the form mentioning that it is all about the money she got as compensation from the plane accident that killed her later husband and national hero Dr John Garang de Mabior.
She also condemned the rumours circulating around the country about the ownership of White Bull Company. She declared that it is not hers adding that if she is to do something for South Sudan it will not be through a beer company.
Meanwhile the minister for Information and Broadcasting, Dr Barnaba Marial Benjamin urged all the ministers and top officials of the government to be transparent in the exercise saying everybody should be accountable.
At the same time, the minster for Water Resources and Irrigation, Paul Mayom Akech asserted that they will assist the commission take tougher decisions to reduce corruption vowing that they did not fight to embezzle public funds.
On his part, the chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Justice John Gatwech Lul announced that whoever fills the form without declaring all the assets and later discovered will forfeit the assets which will then be transferred into government account.
He as well warned the target group that once the exercise
More South Sudanese officials declare income and assets

March 2, 2012 (JUBA) – More constitutional post holders in South Sudan declare their personal income and assets to the South Sudan Anti-Corruption Commission (SSACC) on Thursday, although like previous declarations the results were not made public.

The policy was reintroduced by a presidential decree, after the previous attempt had failed, calling on all the constitutional post holders, senior civil servants and officers from the organised forces to declare their income and assets before the 31 March. Any official who fails to submit the form before the deadline will be asked to resign.

Two weeks ago the vice president Riek Machar declared his income and assets to the commission, although his net wealth and assets have not been made public. Machar urged his colleagues to follow suit. The army’s top generals were also issued with the declaration forms and expressed their readiness to declare their wealth.

The most high profile of the latest batch of officials to declare their assets was Rebecca Nyandeng Garang de Mabior, a presidential Advisor on gender and human rights. Upon receiving a certificate on Thursday verifying she had declared all her assets and liabilities to SSACC she denied rumours that her family owns a beer company in Juba.

Speaking to reporters after receiving her certificate of declaration on Thursday, Nyandeng thanked the anti-graft commission. She said it was appropriate for officials to declare their wealth and assets so the public knew what was happening to the country’s resources.

In a statement on national television, Nyandeng explained that she filled all her income, assets and liabilities clearly. She said that most of her assets were from an insurance payout after the death of her husband the former chairman of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), John Garang de Mabior. Garang died in a helicopter crash in 2005 just weeks after becoming the first vice president of Sudan and the President of South Sudan as part of the north-South peace deal.

Nyandeng denied and condemned the rumours and allegations that she owns the White Bull Company, which makes beer. She told state TV and radio that she did not know who owned the company, stressing that if the company belonged to her family, she would have declared it like other assets she had declared.

Other officials including minister of information and broadcasting, Barnaba Marial Benjamin and water resources and irrigation, Paul Mayom Akec declared their assets at the same time.

The declaration forms are South Sudan’s latest attempt to root out corruption, which is rife in the young country. Billions of dollars of public funds have gone missing since the SPLM took power in Juba in 2005 following a peace deal with the Sudanese government in Khartoum.

In July last year South Sudan became independent but the world’s youngest country faces a host of problems including humanitarian emergencies and security issues as well as corruption.

On Thursday the chairperson of South Sudan’s workers trade and union also joined the top government officials in declaring his assets and liabilities to the SSACC.

Meanwhile the minister for information and broadcasting, Dr Barnaba Marial Benjamin urged all the ministers and top officials of the government to be transparent in the exercise saying everybody should be accountable.

At the same time, the minster for water resources and irrigation, Paul Mayom Akech asserted that they will assist the commission take tougher decisions to reduce corruption vowing that they did not fight to embezzle public funds.

On his part, the chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Justice John Gatwech Lulannounced that whoever fills the form without declaring all the assets and later discovered will forfeit the assets which will then be transferred into government account.

There are concerns that some officials may have banked stolen money under different names, making it difficult to trace.

The SSACC boss however earlier said he was mobilising expertise from Europe and America who will employ the latest techniques of tracing and detecting “stolen” money from financial institutions around the world.


Sudanese opposition slams calls for Islamic constitution
Sudan Tribune
March 1, 2012 (KHARTOUM) — Sudanese opposition parties condemned pressures by Islamists parties and groups to adopt an Islamic constitution in Sudan after the secession of South Sudanlast July. Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood, Salafi Ansar Al-Suna, 

Lamu port project launched for South Sudan and Ethiopia
BBC News
Construction has begun on a $23bn (£14.5bn) port project and oil refinery in south-eastern Kenya’s coastal Lamu region near war-torn Somalia’s border. An oil pipeline, railway and motorway will also be built linking Lamu to South Sudan and Ethiopia.

US very concerned by Sudanese conflicts
WASHINGTON, March 2 (UPI) — Sudan and South Sudan are drifting further from commitments outlined in a 2005 peace agreement, the US State Department warned. South Sudan in July became an independent country as part of an agreement reached with 

Returnee train departs Sudan capital for south
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South Sudanese families return home (blog)
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South Sudan: UNMISS trains army officers on human rights, democracy
Afrique en Ligue
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South Sudan claims Abyei
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Sudanese Tensions Reach Boiling Point
Arutz Sheva
South Sudan reports Sudan bombed civilian villages amid a diplomatic impasse over oil rights and the disputed Abayei region. By Gavriel Queenann South Sudan said Thursday that two Sudanese fighter jets dropped bombs Wednesday in Pariang county inside