Sudan’s publishers enjoy freedom after 30 years

Afkar Abdullah/SharjahFiled on November 8, 2019 | Last updated on November 8, 2019 at 10.29 pm

sharjah, sudan

(KT file)

The number of participating publishing houses has increased from two to eight, displaying several books that used to be banned.

Sudanese participation in the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) has increased this year as the country is enjoying their newfound freedom. Now, they are free from censorship.

The number of participating publishing houses has increased from two to eight, displaying several books that used to be banned.

According to them, they couldn’t participate in any international book fairs or cultural events, as the former regime allowed only publications that promoted its policies.

Hassan Saeed from University of Khartoum Publishing House said Sudanese participation in this year’s SIBF is the largest in the last 30 years.

“This is the result of the liberation of Sudanese people. Free from the thoughts of extremism and ignorance, Sudanese publishing houses are activating intellectual partnership through their participation in the SIBF.”

He pointed out that the Sudanese cultural participation in previous years were “sub-standard and intermittent”.

“Sudan is taking the right path to development, reconstruction and comprehensive renaissance,” he added.

Noor Al Huda, owner of Azza Publishing House, said that his stall has 25 distinct titles that are being displayed to the public for the first time.

These include an encyclopaedia on diversity by Dr Amr Mohamed Abbas and a series that examines the abilities and development of women.

Among the other previously banned books were Sex and Sexuality of the Sudanese Woman by Dr Fatima Babiker and My Heart on My Country by Dr Ali Abdel Kader.

Al Huda believed that the diversity of Sudan was brought about by African, Nubian and Arab civilisations coming together, producing distinctive literature.

afkarali@khaleejtimes.com

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‘Emergency unfolding’ in flooded South Sudan

8 November 2019

A girl walks in water after heavy rains and floods forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes, in the town of Pibor, Boma state, South Sudan, November 6, 2019. Picture taken November 6, 2019

The UN is warning of an unfolding emergency in the aftermath of flooding in South Sudan.

More than 400,000 people are thought to have lost their homes following heavy seasonal rains that have hit much of the region.

Pibor, in the east of the country, is one of the places that has been worst hit. Many have been forced into flimsy shelters clinging to tiny bits of land that have not been submerged.

Tents surrounded by water are seen from an aerial view, after heavy rains and floods forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes

Residents of Pibor described their area being overwhelmed by a flash flood with the water submerging schools, houses and cattle camps.

“This is the worst flood to ever hit this area… We are gathered here on this small bit of dry land which is caving in as well,” health worker Regina Marco told the Reuters news agency.

A structure is seen covered by water after heavy rains and floods forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes, in the town of Pibor, Boma state

People are having to wade through the floodwaters with their belongings, trying to keep firewood dry to cook what little remains of their food.

South Sudanese women walk in a flooded area that has been isolated for about a month and a half due to the heavy rain in Pibor Town
A South Sudanese woman cooks outside her shelter near a flooded area that has been isolated for about a month and a half due to the heavy rain in Pibor Town

“Some people managed to salvage some belongings, but others couldn’t,” resident Veronica Komor told Reuters.

“The effect is so severe that now we live with dead animals, waste and garbage all submerged under these waters. We fear catching diseases and getting injured, we need help.”

A South Sudanese woman walks in a flooded area that has been isolated for about a month and a half due to the heavy rain in Pibor Town, Boma state,

The government declared a state of emergency in the affected areas at the end of October and some aid is starting to reach those in need.

But the flood conditions have hampered the aid effort.

A WFP (World Food Program) helicopter is seen on the flooded airstrip, after heavy rains and floods forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes, in the town of Pibor, Boma state
UN peacekeepers walk through water, after heavy rains and floods forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes, in the town of Pibor

The UN has released $10m (£7.8m) for immediate relief efforts.

“There is a real emergency unfolding in Pibor and many other areas,” the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, Alain Noudéhou, said on Friday.

“[The people] have shown remarkable resilience and dignity, but are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the flooding.”

Displaced girls sit on a bed in a classroom, in a school now occupied by IDPs (Internally Displaced People) after heavy rains and floods

Pictures from Reuters and AFP

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South Sudan Rival Leaders Delay Forming Coalition Government

By The Associated Press

  • Nov. 7, 2019

KAMPALA, Uganda — South Sudan President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar have agreed to postpone the formation of a coalition government for 100 days.

The rival leaders were to have formed a unity government by Nov. 12, but after meeting in Uganda for six hours Thursday, they said that security and governance issues needed to be resolved before they could form a government together.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni mediated the Kampala meeting which was held to try to salvage the peace deal designed to prevent South Sudan from sliding back into civil war.

Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa made the announcement of the extension, attracting applause from Machar’s delegation who had been pressing for the deadline to delayed.

It was agreed that during the 100-day period, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan would work with the regional group, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, to resolve all outstanding issues hampering the formation of a new South Sudanese government in which Kiir would be president and Machar one of the vice presidents.

South Sudan is slowly emerging from five years of fighting that killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions. A fragile power-sharing agreement signed last September has been riddled with delays and a lack of funding. The formation of a unity government has already been delayed once due to outstanding issues including security arrangements and defining the number of states.

South Sudan experts warn that without a new approach, the uneasy situation may well be the same when the 100-day period ends in February.

“The key question is what will change during this 100 days? They’ve already had more than a year and achieved virtually nothing of substance,” said Klem Ryan former coordinator of the U.N. Security Council’s expert panel for South Sudan. This will potentially only increase international frustration and fatigue with Kiir and Machar, he said.

Senior analyst for the International Crisis Group Alan Boswell said while “this veers us away from the cliff edge by avoiding the worst,” regional heads of state must use the extension to mediate a path forward.

At least one aid group is urging South Sudan’s government to use the extension to focus on the country’s dire humanitarian situation. Almost 1 million people have been affected by flooding across the country, last week the government declared a state of emergency in 27 counties.

“The South Sudan government must prioritize meeting humanitarian needs now, not in 100 days. Many will not survive another 100 days if nothing changes,” said Martin Omukuba, South Sudan country director at the International Rescue Committee.

___

Mednick contributed from Nairobi, Kenya.

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Exclusive: Sudan needs up to $5 billion in budget support to prevent collapse

Khaled AbdelazizUlf LaessingMichael Georgy

4 MIN READ

FILE – Then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir addresses the National Dialogue Committee meeting at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum, Sudan, April 5, 2019.

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan needs up to $5 billion in budget support to avert economic collapse and launch reforms after the ouster of veteran ruler Omar al-Bashir, its finance minister told Reuters.Sudan’s Finance Minister Ibrahim Elbadawi speaks during an interview with Reuters in Khartoum, Sudan November 7, 2019. Picture taken November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Sudan’s Finance Minister Ibrahim Elbadawi speaks during an interview with Reuters in Khartoum, Sudan November 7, 2019. Picture taken November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

The country, in crisis since losing most of its oil wealth with South Sudan’s secession in 2011, has only enough foreign currency reserves to fund imports for a few weeks, said Ibrahim Elbadawi, part of a transitional government formed in August.

Sudan has had some support for fuel and wheat imports but about 65 percent of its 44 million people live in poverty and it needs up to $2 billion in development funding along with a hoped-for $2 billion from Arab development funds, he said.

Outlining reform plans in detail for the first time, Elbadawi said public salaries would need to be increased and a social support network established to prepare for the painful removal of fuel and food subsidies.

Months of demonstrations over price hikes for fuel and bread and cash shortages triggered the uprising against Bashir, who was toppled in April by the military. Protests have continued since, with people killed in clashes with security forces.

“We have started the process (of reforms),” Elbadawi said in an interview on Thursday. “The people of Sudan deserve to be seen in a radically different prism than the international community used to see Sudan, as a country ruled by a pariah state.”

“Now we have a revolution,” he said. Asked how much budget support was needed for 2020 he said: “Some estimates say between three to four billion (US dollars), maybe even five billion.”

The civilian government Elbadawi is part of has taken over for three years under a power-sharing deal with the military. It has drawn slightly more than half of $3 billion in support for imports of wheat and fuel offered by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in April, he said.

A “friends of Sudan” donor meeting is planned for December and the government had agreed with the United States it could start engaging with international institutions while still on a list of countries deemed sponsors of terrorism, Elbadawi said.

The designation, which dates from allegations in 1993 that Bashir’s Islamist government supported terrorism, makes it technically ineligible for debt relief and financing from the IMF and World Bank. Congress needs to approve a removal.

CURRENCY

The first experts from international institutions had arrived in Khartoum to help with reforms and a delegation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would come this month for Chapter IV discussions, Elbadawi said. There was no immediate comment from the IMF, World Bank or U.S. State Department.

Part of a roadmap agreed with the IMF and World Bank was that Sudan did not have to pay back $3 billion in arrears from international institutions.

“We don’t need to pay anything. What we need to … deliver really is policy,” he said. Sudan is one of the most indebted countries, owing $60 billion, which needs to be settled separately.

Sudan would start to increase its tax base and overhaul the civil sector, Elbadawi said. Salaries — eroded by double digit inflation rates — could be raised as much as 100 percent by April.

In the second half of next year a social support network would be set up to allow the lifting of subsidies by June or later. Some donor funding would be used to collect data to allow cash transfers for the needy.Sudan’s Finance Minister Ibrahim Elbadawi speaks during an interview with Reuters in Khartoum, Sudan November 7, 2019. Picture taken November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Sudan also wanted to produce bread based on sorghum, a local cereal, to import less wheat. He said he hoped a spread between official and black market would be ended by June. But this week the local pound dropped to 80 for a dollar on the black market versus the official rate at 45.

He said the 2020 budget would have sustainable development targets for education, health care and social spending, suggesting Sudan might move away from the dominant military spending choking development.

Writing by Ulf Laessing; editing by Philippa Fletcher

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Charlie Chaplin and the reclaiming of Sudan

BY SAMIRA SAWLANI NOVEMBER 5, 2019

Khartoum’s locally-organised open air film screenings epitomise much about Sudan’s ongoing revolution.

People gather for an open air film screening in Khartoum, Sudan.

People gather for an open air film screening in Khartoum, Sudan.

Earlier this summer, Lamia Nabil and her friends were sitting drinking tea in Khartoum. They were discussing Sudanese politics in the aftermath President Omar al-Bashir’s momentous fall in April when Nabil remarked that she could do with a break. She wished that she could just get some popcorn and watch a Charlie Chaplin film, she said.

Her passing comment struck a chord with her friends. A few weeks later on a Thursday night in September, crowds gathered under the stars for a free screening of Modern Times.

“Every seat was taken. Many people sat on the floor while others had to stand,” says Shaheen al-Sharif, a schoolteacher and one of the organisers. “The entire community came together to make this happen. One person brought a projector, another speakers. People donated fabric to put up behind the projector. The tea lady donated chairs.”

Soon, Amarat District was screening films twice a month and other neighbourhood committees started to follow its example. On some occasions, people gathered to watch Western films like The Sound of MusicSherlock Holmes and Aladdin. Other times, groups made sure to organise screenings of Sudanese classics such as Beats of the AntonovTajooj and Human Being (Insan).

“Under the previous regime we lived in a bubble where everything was stifled”, says al-Sharif. “An integral part of this revolution means learning our history and about each other and a large part of that comes through embracing our literature, film and creativity, telling the Sudanese story through these lenses. This is why we want to screen Sudanese films.”

For the young Sudanese who formed the backbone of the protest movement that led to the al-Bashir’s ouster, these screenings were new and exciting experiences. For some older generations, they evoked memories of times passed.

“During colonial times, we had ‘moving cinemas’ which were vehicles with a screen and speakers, often airing ‘educational’ films which spread propaganda,” says architect Zainab Gaafar. “Years later when people began to acquire televisions, you would see large groups sitting in communal courtyards watching TV shows.”

65-year-old Hassan Abbas also recalls the importance of movies during his childhood. “Since the 1940s and 1950s there were cinemas and open air screenings showing Hollywood, Bollywood and Egyptian films,” he says. “We would wait with excitement to hear about new film releases and rush to get our tickets. This was a huge part of our lives growing up in Sudan.”

This changed, however, during the economic woes that followed the arrival of al-Bashir regime in 1989 and the imposition of US sanctions in the 1990s. A curfew imposed soon after the new president took office also stopped people going out in the evening and reduced the appeal of public gatherings even after it was lifted. Sudanese filmmakers struggled and open-air screenings dwindled.

“It was one more thing we lost to that government,” says Abbas. “It almost felt like a part of every-day culture was slowly erased. The excitement of heading to the cinema, seeing film posters around and being full of hope about what Sudanese cinema would one day bring us diminished in such a short space of time.”

Watching Modern Times.

Three decades on, those old traditions are re-emerging. Following months of widespread protests across Sudan and an enormous sit-in on the streets of Khartoum in early 2019, al-Bashir was overthrown by senior military figures. After months of tense negotiations, the military and civilian representatives signed a power-sharing agreement to oversee a 39-month transition before elections.

“We were tired, but it was the youth of this country that was exhausted,” says Abbas. “The protests were not about prices of bread or fuel. It was about the incompetence, the corruption and the oppression which were the hallmarks of the regime.”

It was those same young people that organised the Charlie Chaplin screening and continue to uphold the hopes of the uprising. “This revolution was led by the youth,” says al-Sharif. “We feel responsible to see it through till the end and have learnt from previous revolutions which, in many ways, were left unfinished. Almost everyone knows someone who died fighting for this. We owe it to the martyrs.”

This ongoing project to transform Sudan has many levels, from the national to the local, and from the explicitly political to the everyday. This is perfectly captured in the new open air cinemas and the fact that they are being organised by neighbourhood committees. “When Bashir was in power, the neighbourhood committees were largely affiliated with the regime,” says Gaafar. “During the revolution, people have reclaimed these through organising protests to setting up film screenings to leading other community initiatives.”

While they may have started as a way to unwind from thinking about politics, the ongoing screenings epitomise so much of Sudan’s revolution. Led by the youth, they champion film as a way to reclaim public spaces, bring people together, and recover so much of what was previously lost, stolen or suppressed.

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