Archive for the ‘Sudan’ Category

sudan_oil_map_10inThe worst genocide since Hitler took place in Sudan. No, not in Darfur, but in southern Sudan and the Nuba mountains. From 1983 to 2000 at least 1.9 million died, all of them black Africans, most of them Christians.

Sudan is two countries that the British made into one: the north is Muslim and Arabic-speaking. The people are dark but not black Africans. The south is black and mostly Christian. It has two-thirds of Sudan’s oil.

The government that carried out the genocide was run by Arab-speaking Muslims from the north. It was not just a case of genocide: it was also a jihad, a Muslim holy war, the largest in living memory.

As a genocide it is upstaged in the Western press by Rwanda, where 800, 000 were killed, and even Darfar, where 300,000 have died so far. Both are much smaller genocides.

As a jihad it is upstaged by the one fought by Al Qaeda and the Taliban, which, so far, has been far less deadly, though it is directed against Western interests.

The genocide was directed against the Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk and Nuba. It sold tens of thousands of them as slaves. It destroyed Christian churches, schools and hospitals. It wanted to clear the lands where there was oil.

The government kept food from reaching the south knowing full well that people there were dying of hunger.

For example in 1998 in Bahr al-Ghazal, the very province that Alek Wek fled more than ten years before, government bombings spread terror and caused 700,000 Dinka to flee their homes. Then the government stopped Westerners from flying in food, causing 70,000 to die of hunger.

In the Nuba mountains in the centre of the country the Nuba were sent to “peace villages” where the women were raped by government soldiers – to make their offspring lighter (the Nuba are very dark). Their children were taken from them and sent to the north to serve as slaves. Over 100,000 Nuba “disappeared” never to be seen again.

The south was fighting a war of independence against the north, it is true, and the rains in those years were not always the best. But if you look at scale of the killing and who was killed and what the government did and did not do, it is clear that it was bent on wiping out its own citizens based on race and religion.  That is genocide.

For some reason all this got very little press in the West and few knew about it. I find that very odd. Darfur and Rwanda had no trouble getting plenty of press.

In any case word of it in America spread mainly through churches. It became an issue with the Christian right, a big part of President Bush’s base. And so America pushed for a peace deal for southern Sudan and got one in 2005. But now the Sudanese government is doing the very same thing in Darfur, where the people are black too, but in this case not Christian.

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Alek Wek

awek1Alek Wek (1977- ) is a supermodel from Sudan. She is known for being dark-skinned with very short hair. She was at her height from 1997 to 2004, though she models even now in her early 30s.

She is a Dinka from southern Sudan, near the middle of Africa. Her father was a schoolteacher; she was the seventh of nine children. Growing up she did not know she was poor and black. Her family was together and she was happy. She did, however, have a skin disease, psoriasis, and thought she was ugly. The doctors could find no cure.

Then the war came.  She saw bodies on the way to the well. When soldiers shot out their front door one night, they knew they had to leave. Her father got hurt and went to Khartoum, the capital, for an operation.

At age ten she talked her way onto a military plane leaving for Khartoum, where her father lay. As she got on board she turned to look and saw the sadness in her mother’s eyes. Soon the rest of her family got to Khatoum, but then her father died of the operation.

Her mother just wanted her children to wake up every morning safe and be able to go to school. So she got Alek to London where one of her older daughters lived. Alek arrived in London in 1991 at age 14.

Soon after she got to London her psoriasis went away.

Four years later while shopping in south London she was discovered by Fiona Ellis, a scout for Model One. She did not take it seriously and, besides, her mother said she should complete her schooling first. She was going to the London College of Fashion at the time.

But Model One kept calling and Wek saw that they were serious.  She had some pictures taken and then offers started coming in. It changed her idea about herself. She talked her mother into it.

She signed with Ford in 1996 and became a fashion model. Whenever someone asked for black models she never went. She found that sort of thinking backwards and disrespectful.

Her big break came when she appeared on the cover of Elle in November 1997. The rest is history. That year MTV named her model of the year. I-D magazine went further and named her model of the decade.

Oprah said of Alek Wek:

If you’d been on the cover of a magazine when I was growing up, I would have had a different concept of who I was.

Although I am glad she is out there helping to stretch people’s idea of beauty, I do not think she is beautiful myself. She is striking  and hard to forget, has a great smile and looks like a work of art, but I would not call her beautiful: No, I honestly do not think it is her dark skin, but her eyes. They seem too squinty or something and for me eyes makes the difference between pretty and beautiful.

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kola-boof2-721640Kola Boof (1972- ) is a Sudanese-American writer who is best known as the one-time mistress of Osama bin Laden.

She says that one night in Morocco in 1996 she went out to eat with her date. Later Bin Laden and his men arrived and he saw her. His men told her date to leave and brought her to Bin Laden’s table. They talked. Later that night he and his men came to her hotel room. He raped her. A Moroccan prince later backed up her story.

In fear for her life she became Bin Laden’s lover. He flew her to Medina and put her up in La Maison Arabe for six months. She last saw him in 1998.

Peter Bergen of CNN says she is making it all up: Bin Laden was never in Morocco in 1996.

She has also helped to get guns for the SPLA, which was fighting for the independence of southern Sudan. The Arab-speaking Muslims in the north have killed millions of blacks in the south and sold others as slaves. (Alek Wek  fled the violence there.)

Boof is from Sudan but not from the south. She was born at Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, the capital. Her parents were both foreigners: her father was an Arab from Egypt, an archaeologist. Her mother was blue black, as she puts it, an Oromo from Somalia.

Her parents stood up against how blacks were kept down and made into slaves. They were killed for it. Boof went to Egypt to live with her grandmother. That did not last: her grandmother thought Boof was too dark to fit in and sent her to live with an Ethiopian couple in England. Her new parents in turn thought she was a witch and so she wound up in America in Washington, DC, brought up by a Black American couple:

I knew that I was special and that I had been placed with very special people in a very special paradise. I felt that something magical was going to happen. You must understand that the Black Americans are very magical people – because their hearts are broken.

She had to deal with American black self-hatred, something she writes about in her book “Diary of a Lost Girl” (2007).

She learned English in part by watching “Days of Our Lives” and other soap operas on television. She would later write for “Days of Our Lives”! To this day she loves soaps but thinks they have fallen behind the times.

When she read Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” it changed her life:

It planted art inside me and it possessed me, because at 14, it was the first time that I had heard somebody tell the truth in America.

She sees writing as a “constant struggle for ‘sincerity'”, as a way to express the painful truths that have been killing her inside all her life.

As a writer she is not well known but she has her fans, like Derrick Bell and Chinweizu, who speak highly of her writing.

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darfur_conflictDarfur, as we now know, is the size of France. It is in Sudan in the west. War broke out there in 2003 and since then 300,000 have died and ten times that number have fled. Towns are burned to the ground, men killed and women raped. In 2007 it is still going on. The war has now spread to Chad and the Central African Republic. It threatens to overturn their governments.

America calls it genocide, like what Hitler did to the Jews – destruction of a people. The United Nations stops short of that.

Both sides are Muslim, so it is not a religious war.

It seems like a land war: Darfur is at a growing edge of the Sahara where good land is becoming scarcer. Arab herders are pushing black farmers off their land.

But it is in fact a race war – genocide: because only people from three tribes are being killed: the Fur (whom Darfur is named after), Massaleet and Zagawa tribes. All of them are black Africans. Their villages are destroyed while nearby Arab villages are untouched.

Darfur has become a fashionable cause in the West, but it does little beyond send aid workers (who, yes, are badly needed) and threaten to cut off trade (an empty threat). The Arab world is indifferent while China needs Sudan’s oil and Russia sells it arms. So united action at the United Nations seems unlikely. Talk of sending UN forces remains just that, talk.

What commonly happens in Darfur: the government bombs a town from the air, then irregular forces of the Arab janjaweed move in and kill the men of fighting age, rape the women and burn down the town. Then comes the regular army.

Most people flee, many of them to Chad. Having been forced off their land, they have no way to feed themselves. They become completely dependent on aid workers for food.

If they go back home, the same thing happens all over again. The janjaweed attack not just the people of Darfur, but also Western aid workers and towns in Chad as well.

To be fair, Darfur started the war. It took up arms against the government in 2003. The government had to punish Darfur to preserve the unity of the country. But instead of merely restoring order, it is wiping out people wholesale, men, women and children.

Peace was made in May 2006, but it quickly fell apart. The war is now pulling in Chad and the Central African Republic. It is only getting worse.

In 2009 Sudan is due to hold countrywide elections. They could change the political facts enough to make peace possible.

In 2011 the south of Sudan will vote on whether to become an independent country. Since most of the country’s oil is in the south, it is hard to believe the north would let the south go quietly. It might make peace in Darfur to make war on the south.

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