March 30, 2012

Four Free research papers about the Beja

Suakin, looking NE toward the Red Sea. 1950? 

1. Reviving Suakin - a plan to restore the city
A 12 page paper that describes a possible approach to restoring the city. Includes maps, illustrations and photos. Buildings were built of coral blocks, and after Port Sudan gained regional dominance for shipping, Suakin fell into sharp decline, and the buildings have fallen into ruin, for lack of maintenance. A paper by Rahim Salim, 1997.

2. Conflict prevention, management and resolution mechanisms used by the Beja
A 16 page paper that describes different ways that the Beja have adopted to resolve disputes and conflicts. Details about the Rashaida-Handandawa conflict are offered. Khalid Ali el Amin discusses intra-tribal disputes and various mediation and reconciliation processes. Published in the African Security Review, 2004.

3. Participatory evaluation with pastoralists in Sudan
How do you know if an aid programme is any good? What changes should be made to improve them? This 6 page paper describes the result of efforts to include the Beja people in evaluating programmes offered to help them. Special training was offered by aid agency people to help the local Beja to review the success of development programmes. Has photos. Download from the International Institute for Environment and Development. Published in PLA Notes, August 2003.

4. Beja. Local conflict, marginalisation, and the threat to regional security
The Canadian John Young interviewed some Beja people in September and October 2006 to prepare this 20 page paper. It reviews the recent historic situation of the Beja, and examines the marginalization of their society. This document was published just before the ESPA was signed, so it gives an excellent survey of politics and the negotiating positions of the Beja Congress and the Eastern Front. It is available from DSpace

March 23, 2012

Is Bashir against the Christians?

Hundreds of thousands of Southern Sudanese Christians are "effectively being forced to leave" Sudan within three weeks having been stripped of their citizenship, a Christian aid workers confirmed Wednesday, March 21.

Barnabas Fund, a Christian advocacy and aid group, told BosNewsLife that as many as 700,000 people originating from neighboring South Sudan, are effected by the ultimatum.   

"They have until 8 April either to leave the strongly Islamic" Sudan "or to be treated as foreigners under a regime that is extremely hostile to non-Muslims and non-Arabs," the group said in a statement.
Read the complete article.

March 22, 2012

Sanaba organization to help Beja

A new non-profit organization is set to launch in the next week or so. They hope to help the Beja people.

On their facebook page, founder Zaher Muhammad Wali Eisa describes the organization's purpose:
Our planned programs are focused on the provision of access to educational equipment and supplies for students in need, distribution of medical supplies to rural health clinics, and installation of portable water filtering equipment in an effort to prevent further disease.

Over 130 people have 'liked' the facebook page since it was created just two weeks ago on March 9, 2012.

If you're on facebook, check out:

March 21, 2012

Classic history book reprinted!

First published in 1956 by Andrew Paul, a British administrator in Sudan, "The History of the Beja People" has been reprinted by Cambridge University Press, and should be available this month.

A very early review of this book was published in the academic journal "American Anthropologist" in 1956. (Volume 58. Issue 2. April 1956 (Pages 385 - 386)) Here is the complete review [or 2 page pdf download].

Mr. Paul is a British colonial administrator who served in the Sudanese Political Service from 1929 until, presumably, its end in 1955. Of natural interest to anthro- pologists because of its subject, his book is organized on a strictly historical framework, leaving the reader to pick up cultural details in transit. Nowhere before Appendix Two is one given a listing of the tribes which form the subject of the book, and information must be assembled piecemeal as to which tribes speak which of the three local languages; To Bedawie (Hamitic), Tigré, and Arabic. The maps fail to show many of the places mentioned. Interlarded with the narrative are provocative glimpses of the environment, material culture, family organization, and tribal structure-- glimpses which are never blown up into whole pictures. It is clear that Mr. Paul is capable of painting such pictures. He knows, understands, and respects his Beja, without glorifying, idealizing, or vilifying them. He writes easily and with a sense of humor. Now that the historians have been fed, let us hope that he will write a companion book of Beja ethnography.

While awaiting this work, we may gather from A History of the Beja Tribes that the Beja are a mixed bag of some 285,000 nomads and ex-nomads, popularly known as Fussy-Wuzzies, who inhabit some 100,000 square miles of territory barren in various degrees and lying between the frontiers of Egypt and Eritrea, and between the Red Sea coast and the hills flanking the Nile and its tributary, the Atbara River. Living off flocks of camels, goats, sheep, and in favorable places cattle, like most nomads they grow a little grain where and when they are able. Supposedly descended from an old Hamitic-speaking Caucasoid stock mixed with Arab, Tigré-speaking Yemenite, and Negro, they have achieved a striking and well-known racial appearance of their own. Like the Swiss, they speak several languages. Officially they are Muslims.
 The book’s theme is the sluggish stream of local history from the time of the shakily postulated appearance of the Bejas’ ancestors in the Sudan, in the guise of Neolithic pastoralists from the North, through Pharaonic, Ptolemaic, Roman, Axumite, Arab, Turkish, Egyptian, and British periods of influence to the paradoxical present. This history has seen the Beja shift religions several times, while certain tribes also changed their speech. It has witnessed the addition of new genes to their chromosomes, without marked physical change at variance with the needs of their special and highly selective environment. It has seen the addition of a new and particularly destructive beast, the camel. It has failed to record any basic change in Beja cultural attitudes. In 1955 they are just as rugged, individualistic, withdrawn, and completely self-centered as ever. Tell us more, Mr. Paul.

How to buy this book.
This book is printed one copy at a time, as orders come in. It costs about $35. In Canada, try here.

March 10, 2012

Oil Spill in Red Sea


According to press reports, Sudan, Monday / 20 Feb. /, occurrence of leakage of large amounts of oil on the coast of Port signs of Sudanese oil exports to the Red Sea.

The newspaper (events) Sudanese published today, the President of the Society for the Protection of the Marine Environment Adm. pension Noordin Mohamed Farah, saying: "The Assembly received a report spill on the coast, and after a field visit to the site make sure its spread in large areas of the sea and beaches around."

Farah and warned of the danger of leakage on marine organisms, adding, "I took samples of raw and frozen will be examined in the laboratory and we expect that the result is shown in the next two days."

The year 2008 witnessed leak large amounts of oil off the signs of the second port on the Red Sea coast, which led to the contamination of a partial spread of the city of Port Sudan, which led to fish migration to distant places and stop the movement of fishing.

March 3, 2012

Backlash against Islamic constitution

Opposition parties and other groups in Sudan are condemning the suggestion that the country should adopt a constitution based on Shariah law. Reported yesterday on this blog.

"After more than twenty years of suffering and while the country is experiencing a comprehensive crisis, the National Congress Party seeks to repeat the experience of religious fanaticism, and emergency and inquisition courts through a new alliance with the 'Takfiri', and advocates of sedition and fragmentation of the country" on ethnic, religious and regional basis, the opposition said.

In a statement released on Thursday the National Consensus Forces further condemned the gathering of Sudanese Islamists and accused the ruling National Congress Party of seeking through extremists and radical groups to impose the Sharia laws.

The opposition parties further said they are now facing a new coalition of "corrupt tyrants and fanatics" who seek to prolong their survival through the use of religion.

Read it all.

March 2, 2012

Islamic Coalition threatens Bashir regime

 Grand mosque in Khartoum. [skyscraper city]

On Tuesday, February 28,  Islamists gathered to begin a process of applying pressure on the Bashir regime to adopt a constitution for [north] Sudan that is based on Sharia law.

The Islamic Constitution Front (ICF) has proposed a Draft Constitution of Sudan, which is based entirely on Shariah law. They held their founding conference in Khartoum.

In one statement, the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Khartoum, Shaykh Kamal Riziq, said, "I find no qualms in telling the government that it should either rule by Islam or go unregrettably."

AllAfrica reported that Omer Hadra, another ICF's member and representative of the Khattmiya religious sect, took it a step further, threatening to topple president Al-Bashir if he does not approve the draft constitution.

"We will submit this Islamic constitution to you [Al-Bashir] and if you fail to apply it, I swear to God we will have you overthrown," Hadra said.

The leader of the far-right JPF, Al-Tayyib Mustafa, pointed out that Muslims now make up 97 percent of Sudan's population and all of them want to apply Shariah. Mustafa, who happens to be a close relative of Al-Bashir, added that Sudan's new homogenous reality had ended the debate on ethnic and religious diversity.

COMMENT: This thinking is wrong in at least two areas.

Though a large percentage of Sudan is now Muslim, it is incorrect to assume that all of them want to apply Sharia law. Consider Turkey for example: the majority of the population is Muslim, but they have lived under a secular rule of law for 90 years, since independence under Ataturk. Further, the call for Sharia law is not coming from groups like the Sudan Revolutionary Front - they are calling only for the overthrow of the Bashir regime because it is failing to meet the real needs of frontier regions of the country. These poor underdeveloped areas need health and education services.

Sudan is not made up of a single people with a common agenda. The reality is that there remain dozens of different peoples living in Sudan, each with their own identity, ethnicity, and language. And what of the three percent who are not Muslim? Thousands upon thousands of people do not necessarily follow the pronouncements of a few men gathered in a room in Khartoum.

Secondly, some ICF members are speaking arrogantly and irresponsibly. Their threats against Bashir reflect an immature understanding of the existing system of rule in Sudan. As a democracy, Sudan is governed by voters, who can legitimately overthrow the existing government through the ballot box. The statements above suggest incitement to revolution, perhaps even treason.

Bashir is in a tough place, though he himself has been pushing for a rewriting of the constitution to include Sharia law. But he's obviously not moving fast enough for the hardline Islamicists.

Bashir proclaims a strong centrist and Arab view for the future of Sudan, to the frustration of the outlying regions who find themselves outside the halls of power, and ill-served in terms of government services. His philosophical agenda for control has prevented him from accepting debt forgiveness from the USA because of a few limited conditions they asked for such as access for aid agencies to give humanitarian help.

The loss of South Sudan has now eliminated the major income source [oil sales] for the country, and Bashir is less able to fulfill his hopes of rebuilding the infrastructure of the country or of promising to deliver services for the good of the citizens.