Thursday, September 15, 2005

Another deadline for Darfur peace talks comes and goes today, and nothing happens - except that I am starting to lose track of how often I have had to write this. As of late afternoon, meetings have not yet taken place and even if they do start soon, many (including me) are leaning towards the opinion that this round could be complete failure due to the internal power struggles within one of the main rebel groups.

The displaced people in the camps that I visit ask me for news. They are desperate for information and cling to every scrap of newspaper or barely audible radio programme they manage to come across, and this even though they are under no illusion that the news they are getting is independent or accurate (with Darfur still in a 'state of emergency', the government does not even have to pretend that there is any press freedom).

Especially in the more remote field locations, speaking to a khawajia aid worker like me is often one of the only ways people have of hearing about the things that are discussed in far-away lands in their name.

Today, I almost feel guilty having to tell people that meetings have not yet started and may be delayed yet again. "Ah well, even if it starts late, at least this will be the last round of talks anyway," one of the elderly sheiks tells me patiently. "That's what they are saying on the radio - that this will be the final solution."

I don't have the heart to tell him that I disagree. If I had lost half of my family to a brutal conflict that forced me to spend the last two years inside a tattered plastic shelter and scrape out an existence on no more than international handouts, I suppose I'd try to stay hopeful too.

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At , Blogger silverfox said...

hi there sleepless..Being Sudanse I wanted to thank you for doing a great job out there in Darfur..with both the aid work and the blogging..keep up the good work..

Having said that, it pains me to see vast swathes of my country hungry and dependent on NGOs. i also know that you're right about a lot of the things you say..the mindless violence and endless suffering, inefficent and bloated bureacracy and long hot dusty days from hell...
for what it's worth, i want to tell you that it wasn't always like this (except for the last one; Sudan has always been HOT.)Sudan used to be a rich country with abundant resources and well-educated doctors, engineers, teachers, economists and business people. In the 70s, the Sudanese Pound was equivalent to US$ 3. Sudan is the only country in this region to have had 3 functioning democracies overthrown by military regimes. (In this part of the world, typically one military regime overthrows another!) In the 70s, a combination of skyhigh oil prices (Sudan was an oil importer then) and a miliatary dictatorship drove out the intelligentia to the more lucrative markets of the Gulf. From that point on, things went pear shaped. Inflation and another more opportunistic and infinitely more capable military dictatorship got us to where we are now.
Sorry for the long history lesson. But sensing your despair and lack of belief in this country's prospects for a bright future, it was necessary to put things in context.
With oil, the Sudanese have a glimmer of hope now..and for all the hyperbole and anticipation or painfully slow progress, I will tell you this: Sudan is going to take its place again at the forefront of this region. It might take us 20 years to get there but we will. We will need 3 things:

1. A DEMOCRATIC and FULLY ACCOUNTABLE government with strong independent institutions that can enforce transparency and basic human rights. Hopefully, in 6 years we'll get that.

2. Investment and support by the international community. I think this is happening now and will only get better with time.

3. Lifting of economic sanctions as well as easing of protectionist import duties by the US and EU on all raw materials, semi-finished and finished goods. This first has not happened yet and the second part is part of a much bigger issue involving the developed world versus the rest of the world. With so much at stake, I am not sure if this will ever be resolved. (Read about WTO's Doha I and Doha II)

Last thought: Is it better to give a man a fish or teach him how to fish?


p.s. Is it not ironic that you bring treatment, medicine and supplies to Darfur while Sudanese doctors treat British patients in the NHS? Globalisation I guess...

p.s.#2 I don't have a blog yet..but had to get a username and password just to be able to post a response


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