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A diplomatic day

It is a slow news day in the Middle East, so I’m going to do the daily updates here in one post.

First, US Defense Secretary Bob Gates is headed to Saudi Arabia.  There, he will discuss US arms deals with Saudi Arabia, the role of Iran, and US policies regarding Egypt.

Next, the peace plan drafted by prominent Israelis is now out, and Al Jazeera has the full text of the document.

Finally, BBC News is reporting on an air strike in Sudan hit a car, killing two.  The Sudanese claim that the Israelis are responsible, although no party has yet claimed responsibility.  One of the passengers is unidentified, the other presumed to be a Sudanese man.  The popular suspicion is that the car was somehow involved in smuggling arms to Gaza.


Tuesday Book Review – Season of Migration to the North

Yesterday we revealed a new Monday-Friday installment in which we consider a current event discussion topic.  We are working hard to post interesting original content each day of the week.  On Tuesdays we will be posting book reviews, which should be split about 50-50 between fiction and non-fiction.  Tomorrow will be Wednesday-QuizDay (catchy, eh?).  Thursdays are still coming together, so please be patient.  Then on the weekends we will post a Middle Eastern recipe as well as any historical or significance that accompanies that dish.  Anyways, the book review-

Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North is widely considered to be one of the best novels written in Arabic of the 20th century.  The book likely owes part of its popularity with English readers to the outstanding translation by Denys Johnson-Davies.  Written in 1969, the story is set in Sudan shortly after that state gained independence.  The plot begins with the arrival to the village of Mustafa Sa’eed, a mysterious, well educated man from Khartoum, who is quiet, a hard worker, and who earns the respect of the whole village, including the unnamed narrator.  Sa’eed spent time abroad in London as a student at Oxford, but is determined not to share his life experiences with the villagers.  However as the narrator and Sa’eed grow close, we the readers are treated to flashbacks of his past.  What develops is a fascinating portrayal of reverse-Colonialism—a reverse-Heart of Darkness, a new Othello.  Sa’eed’s experience in England combines with the lives of the cast of villagers to show post-colonial Sudan as a place where the people are torn between the past and present, between traditions and modernity, between Islamic and tribal customs, and between Europe and Africa.  When he eventually disappears, the narrator delves even further into Sa’eed’s life, culminating in a beautifully written scene that is both violent and erotic.  This novel is a quick read, yet extremely powerful.  For those who pick up the most recent edition of the book, it also includes a wonderful introductory essay by Laila Lalami which is worth reading both before and after reading the novel itself.


Bashir visits Sudan’s south

South Sudan will soon have a referendum on whether or not to remain part of Sudan.  President Omar al Bashir would prefer they remain part of his state.  Outsiders simply hope that the vote will help end violence in the region.  In an effort to convince voters not to choose secession, Bashir is visiting the south.  This New York Times article has the details of his trip.

Omar al-Bashir is angry again

On January 9th Sudan will have a refernedum that will possibly allow the South to split from the rest of that country.  Omar al-Bashir is displeased and wants the world to know that proposals, from states like Egypt, that North and South Sudan stay part of a confederation are not being considered.  As this Al Jazeera article establishes, it is “either unity or seperation.”  Beyond Darfur, an estimated two million people have died in the north-south struggle over the past twenty years.

Gaddafi weighs in on the secession of South Sudan

Thanks to Professor Rob Prince for passing this one along.  I’m not exactly sure where it was first published, however.

October 10, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The Libyan leader Muammar Al-Gaddafi today warned that the secession of South Sudan will encourage similar tendencies in other parts of the continent but acknowledged that the split is inevitable.

 Addressing the one-day Arab-African summit held in Sirte, Gaddafi described Sudan’s likely breakup as a “fever” that will spread throughout Africa.
“Ethnicities [in Africa] will demand independence, linguists [in Africa] will demand independence, tribes [in Africa] will demand independence, this is a dangerous matter. The final word is for the people of the South [Sudan] and the whole world is awaiting this,” the Libyan leader was quoted by the state agency (JANA).
“This is a foregone conclusion, that Sudan might become divided but this is not the important thing. It is imperative that we remain vigilant and keep in mind that this is not the end, this is the beginning .. the beginning of the crack in Africa’s map,” he told the gathering, which was attended by Sudan’s President Omer Hassan al-Bashir.
“We expect what happens to Sudan will happen to Arabs and Sudan will be looked upon as an Arab state that became two countries…….then what prevents the rest of the Arab League States, that each group decides its fate on religious basis or ethnic basis or on a geographical basis?” Gaddafi posed the question.
The long awaited self determination referendum in South Sudan is widely expected to result in the creation of the world’s newest state. It has been promised in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the SPLM and the National Congress Party (NCP) governing the North.
The Arab and African leaders at the summit were reportedly in disagreement over the final resolution on Sudan.
Diplomats who attended the closed session told the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat newspaper said that some African heads of states wanted to include clauses supporting the separation of South Sudan contrary to their Arab peers.
Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni told a visiting United Nations Security Council (UNSC) delegation last week that Kampala is willing to pay any price, including the possibility of a flare-up of insurgency and poor diplomatic relations, to ensure the secession of South Sudan.
According to the ’East African’ online media website Museveni told the envoys that “Uganda will cope with the fallout from the referendum the way it has coped since 1955 but for a brief 10-year lull.”
In his speech Gaddafi added a qualifier saying that the breakup of states within Africa does not matter as long as it is part of a “United States of Africa”.
“But in general, in terms of ideology, I say that Africa is now [comprised of] 53 state, even if they cracked and became 1,000 states; as long as it is within the African Union or United States of Africa, for me this does not mean anything,” he said.
“Just like the United States of America is now [comprised of] 50 states, if they divided and became 100 states; it remains the United States of America with the same strength, same borders and the same status, although if they merged and became 30 states it remains the United States of America,” Gaddafi added.
The Libyan leader accused Israel of standing behind what is happening in Sudan and that Zionist with imperialist forces are encouraging minorities in other parts of the region to seek their own states.
He further added that African principle of preserving the pre-existing borders would be annulled if South Sudan chooses to secede.
Gaddafi’s ever-changing views on a number African conflicts have generated controversy throughout the years. Last year he made contradictory remarks ranging from total support to independence of South Sudan to warning strongly against it.
Libya along with Ethiopia and People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen were the earliest supporters of the Southern rebellion that broke out in 1983 led by late John Garang who founded the SPLM.
Last March, Gaddafi called for Nigeria to be partitioned between the Christian and Muslim communities to solve its problem of sectarian violence. He proposed that it should follow the model of Pakistan, which was born in 1947 after the Muslim minority of predominantly Hindu India founded their own homeland.
The Nigerian government angered by the remarks at the time , recalled its ambassador to Libya. He was described a “mad man” by Nigeria’s senate leader David Mark.
Gaddafi has been pushing for an African unity government for years, saying it is the only way Africa can develop without Western interference, but many African states say the idea is impractical and would encroach on their sovereignty.
However. several heavyweight states say they cannot be expected to cede sovereignty to any African bloc just decades after they wrested it away from their colonial rulers.