The Daily Telegraph published an editorial on 20 July
1998 entitled 'Taking sides in Sudan'. In this, the newspaper's
second foray into Sudanese affairs recently, it came out against
the idea of a ceasefire within those areas of Sudan affected
by famine, claimed that the famine within Sudan was "the
direct consequence of oppression" on the part of the
government of Sudan, described the Government of Sudan as
"an Iranian-style fundamentalist dictatorship" and
stated that the shooting down of resupply flights into government-held
towns within southern Sudan would be the solution to the war.
Interestingly, it also described the Sudan People's Liberation
Army (SPLA), the rebel movement in Sudan, as being "Christian-led",
and claimed that the Sudanese government is "losing the
civil war". It is worth examining several of these assertions,
and indeed prescriptions, in some detail.
A Ceasefire in Sudan?
On 15 July 1998, the SPLA eventually agreed to a temporary
ceasefire, called for by the international community in order
to increase food delivery to famine-affected areas of southern
Sudan. The Daily Telegraph has rejected even this humanitarian
ceasefire. In doing so it is tenaciously out of step with
the British government, the United Nations, the regional Inter-governmental
Authority on Development (IGAD), the IGAD Partners and the
European Union. More importantly, however, the paper is out
of step with the clear wishes of ordinary Sudanese people.
Both the Sudanese government and the rebel movement have accepted
the ceasefire. It is worth noting that in its editorial The
Daily Telegraph blamed at least some of Sudan's present
problems on British colonial administrators. It appears that
middle-class white men continue to believe that they know
what is in the best interests of the Sudanese - in this instance
continued war and starvation.
The 1998 Bahr al-Ghazal famine
The famine to which The Daily Telegraph referred has
its roots in the drought of 1997 and early 1998. The newspaper's
somewhat bold assertion that the famine is the "direct
consequence" of government activity is not supported
by the evidence. In point of fact, the very "Christian-led"
movement whose side The Daily Telegraph has taken,
appears to have been largely responsible for this catastrophe.
Most independent observers have stated, for example, that
the famine was precipitated by a rebel SPLA offensive in the
Bahr al-Ghazal area. In late January 1998, Kerubino Kuanyin
Bol, a SPLA commander who had previously supported the Sudanese
government's internal peace process, led a rebel attack on
the city of Wau, in Bahr al-Ghazal. Wau is the second-largest
city in southern Sudan. This attack, and the rebel SPLA offensive
that followed it, led to a drastic deterioration of the security
situation in that region. More than one hundred thousand people
fled Wau, and other towns such as Gogrial and Aweil, as fighting
intensified. Kerubino's responsibility in large part for the
crisis situation was touched on by CNN reports in early April
which stated that "aid agencies blame Sudanese rebel
who switched sides":
Observers say much of the recent chaos has resulted
from the actions of one man, Kerubino Kwanying Bol, a
founding member of the rebel movement.Two years ago, some
SPLA leaders, including Kerubino, signed a peace agreement
with the government.But earlier this year.Kerubino rejoined
the SPLA. He aided rebel forces in sieges of three government-held
towns, which sent people fleeing into the countryside.
Newsweek magazine also found Kerubino's involvement
clear: "Aid workers blame much of the south's recent
anguish on one man: the mercurial Dinka warlord Kerubino Kuanyin
Bol." Drought and a clear lack of international funding
in 1997 and 1998 for Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) all played
their part in the famine.
While the government of Sudan did partially restrict aid flights
into the new combat zones in February and March for security
reasons, it is also clear that Operation Lifeline Sudan, co-ordinating
the delivery of food aid, either chose for itsown security
reasons not to fly the flights that had been agreed or did
not have the resources to mount such flights. For example,
the government agreed 14 World Food Programme (WFP) flights
during February, WFP only sent two flights. Similarly, although
during the same period the government gave permission to UNICEF
for twenty flights to Bahr al-Ghazal, UNICEF sent only three
flights. The flight restrictions were lifted on 31 March once
the situation had stabilised itself. Even after the lifting
of restrictions, Operation Lifeline Sudan flew to less than
half the sites they requested in April. This was clearly due
to a lack of resources on the part of the aid agencies, and
not access into the affected areas.
Operation Lifeline Sudan
Moving on to the broader issue of humanitarian assistance
within Sudan, The Daily Telegraph appears to be unaware
of the mechanics of Operation Lifeline Sudan, and the Government
of Sudan's role within it. The present government was the
first since the recommencement of the civil war in 1983 to
agree to the structuring and streamlining of humanitarian
assistance to southern Sudan. OLS is unprecedented in post-war
history in as much as it is the first time within a civil
war that a government has agreed the delivery of assistance
by outside agencies to rebel-dominated parts of the same country.
Operation Lifeline Sudan began in 1989, within months of this
present government coming to power. It is a matter of record
that the government has agreed the increase of the number
of delivery sites in the south from 20 in 1993 to over 180
during the recent crisis, the vast majority of which are within
rebel-held areas - in the full knowledge that perhaps more
than half of such food aid never reaches the civilians for
whom it is intended, being diverted by the SPLA for its own
Food as "an instrument of war"
The issue of the use of food as "an instrument of war"
is central to the editorial in question, and at the same time
highlights some of the deep faultlines, inconsistencies and
contradictions in The Daily Telegraph's stated position.
The newspaper, for example, publicly deplores that "food
supplies have been used as an instrument of war to subjugate
the black Christian and animist population of the South"
it must be considered the most pressing
moral outrage in the world today.
There are two points which must be made here. Firstly, in
the very same editorial, some paragraphs later, The Daily
Telegraph itself advocates the very same use of food,
or more accurately the withholding of food, as an instrument
of war. The paper states the following:
If (the SPLA) were to acquire anti-aircraft missiles,
it could prevent the aerial resupply of fortress towns
that remain in government control. The war, as we have
known it, would be over within months. Khartoum would
be forced to deal
The Daily Telegraph is perhaps unaware, or has conveniently
chosen not to note, that hundreds of thousands of southern
civilians have fled the countryside, at least in part to escape
the attention of the SPLA, and have flocked to towns in southern
Sudan, the "fortress towns" referred to by the newspaper.
UNICEF workers stated in July that up to 2,000 starving southern
tribesmen are arriving each day in Wau, the government-held
centre in Bahr al-Ghazal, a "fortress town".
Wau is a case in point. By mid-July, the WFP was said to be
feeding 50,000 southern Sudanese civilians who had fled to
Wau. The WFP was flying 300 tons of food into Wau every week,
double the amount it had previously been bringing in. Between
40 and 50 people per day were said to be dying of starvation
in Wau. Some 62,000 people were said to have entered Wau in
recent weeks. The WFP stated in July 1998 that Wau had a population
of about 250,000 and that the situation there was critical.
There are hundreds of thousands of other southern civilians
living in similar circumstances in other towns such as Juba,
for whom air-delivered food and medical resupply is all that
stands between them and death by starvation or disease.
In its calls for anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down resupply
flights into these towns, The Daily Telegraph has amply
illustrated the inconsistency and hypocrisy that permeated
its leader. On one hand the newspaper attempts to take the
moral highground by condemning the use of food supplies "as
an instrument of war to subjugate the black Christian and
animist population of the South" as the "most pressing
moral outrage in the world today", while in virtually
the same breath urging the denial of food to those hundreds
of thousands of black Christians and animists who either live
in, or have sought refuge in key Southern towns such as Juba
and Wau. The burgeoning refugee population are being supplied
by air with food and emergency aid by the international community.
Amongst the first airplanes that would be shot down by the
SPLA, at the suggestion of The Daily Telegraph, would
be Operation Lifeline Sudan airplanes. Would The Daily
Telegraph not consider this premeditated starvation of
these black southern civilians a "pressing moral outrage"?
The Daily Telegraph's apparent attitude of "kill
them all, God will recognise his own", or rather in this
instance "starve them all to death", while in keeping
with its clear Crusader mindset, would condemn hundreds of
thousands of civilians, animists and Christian, to death by
slow starvation, the very people The Daily Telegraph
professes to be concerned about. The Daily Telegraph
is perhaps a "friend" the southern Sudanese might
wish not to have.
The Daily Telegraph is possibly unaware that the SPLA
already has a large stock of anti-aircraft missiles, in large
part supplied by Libya. Perhaps The Daily Telegraph
is also unaware that the SPLA did indeed shoot down two resupply
planes in southern Sudan in the late 1980s, and attempted
to shoot down several more civilian aircraft and food relief
flights, all at the height of a similar famine. This did indeed
have the desired effect of grounding all food relief flights
by the international community throughout southern Sudan,
with the exception of Juba, for two years. Hundreds of thousands
of southern civilians either starved to death or were severely
affected as a result of the two year ban on food relief by
air. The SPLA did thus isolate government-controlled towns,
at a tremendous price both in terms of human suffering and
in terms of the displeasure of the international community.
It did not bring down the government of the day, and it did
not end the war. For such an idea to resurface twelve years
later is a further marker of the newspaper's paucity of original
Secondly, it is also clear that whilst articulating moral
outrage at the alleged use of food as a weapon of war, The
Daily Telegraph is deafeningly silent on the SPLA's blatant
and extensively documented diversion of food aid away from
those hungry and sick communities for whom it is intended.
It may well be that The Daily Telegraph's editorial
and foreign staff are simply unaware of the SPLA's atrocious
record in most things, particularly its theft of emergency
food aid. Or it may well be that it would be somewhat inconvenient,
if not embarrassing, to take a position on this issue at this
moment in time.
Fortunately, someone has had the intellectual honesty and
moral courage to raise the issue of the SPLA's most recent
theft of food aid. The Roman Catholic Bishop of the famine-affected
diocese of Rumbek, Caesar Mazzolari, has recently stated that
the SPLA is stealing 65 percent of the food aid going into
rebel-held areas of southern Sudan. Agence France Press
has this to say in July 1998:
Much of the relief food going to more than a million
famine victims in rebel-held areas of southern Sudan is
ending up in the hands of the Sudan People's Liberation
Army (SPLA), relief workers said Tuesday.
Perhaps The Daily Telegraph doesn't read news agency
reports. The SPLA is quite literally taking the food out of
the mouths of starving men, women and children. Even the BBC
has reported on that. That the SPLA has practised a systematic
and deliberate diversion of food and humanitarian assistance
for several years has even been confirmed by a member of the
SPLA's own executive. Dr Peter Nyaba, a current member of
the SPLA National Executive Committee, is well placed to describe
SPLA policy in respect of the theft of food aid by the SPLA
from civilians. He had previously served as a SPLA military
commander in southern Sudan. In his 1997 book, The Politics
of Liberation in South Sudan: An Insider's View, Nyaba
quite openly states that:
(S)ince humanitarian assistance is only provided for
the needy civil population, the task of distribution of
this assistance fell on specially selected SPLA officers
and men who saw to it that the bulk of the supplies went
to the army. Even in cases where the expatriate relief
monitors were strict and only distributed relief supplies
to the civilians by day, the SPLA would retrieve that
food by night. The result of this practice led to the
absolute marginalisation and brutalisation of the civilian
It may now also become apparent, even to The Daily Telegraph,
why the SPLA is perhaps not as enthusiastic as The Daily
Telegraph to shoot down resupply flights. To shoot down,
or even attempt to shoot down a single food resupply plane
going into a government-held town or district in the south
would almost certainly result in a lengthy ban on food aid
flights throughout southern Sudan - imposed by the relief
agencies themselves. This in turn would disrupt the SPLA's
theft of food aid delivered by air to their areas.
"An Iranian-style dictatorship"
The Daily Telegraph stated in its editorial that the
present "Islamic" government had "seized power
from an elected government in 1989 and installed an Iranian-style
dictatorship". To draw any comparison between the Sunni
Islamic tradition in Sudan and Iran's Shia Islamic
system displays almost breathtaking theological illiteracy
on the part of The Daily Telegraph. It is on a par
in theological terms with equating Martin Luther and John
Calvin with the Pope. Perhaps The Daily Telegraph is
unaware that Sudan's Islamic leader, Dr Hassan al-Turabi,
is theologically and political at odds with the Iranian model.
He rejects the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, and hold views
on apostasy, the giving of evidence and the emancipation of
women which run contrary to Iran's version of Islam. The widely-respected
veteran Jewish New York Times journalist Milton Viorst,
has compared the Sudanese model to others in the Middle East:
By the standards of other Arab societies, Turabi's
concept of Islam is open-minded and tolerant. Though he
sees no reason to emulate Western liberalism, few would
contradict his assertion that "we do not advocate
a very strict form of Islam".The signs are plentiful,
in a visit to Sudan, that the Islam practised there is
less strict than that of Egypt, to say nothing of Saudi
Arabia. One scarcely sees the hijab, the head-covering
that makes many women in Egypt appear so forbidding, much
less the Saudi veil.Most Sudanese reflected Turabi's preference
for a genial, non-rigorous Islam, more in keeping with
Sudan's special experience within the flow of Islamic
Nothing even remotely approaching the rigid Iranian clerical
structure that forms the basis of government in that country
exists in Sudan. For historical reasons the ulama in
Sudan were the weakest within any of the Muslim countries.
Interviewed by New York Times journalist Judith Miller,
Turabi pointed out some of the differences between Shia
and Sunni Islam. He hoped, for example, that in the
future "all the titles of the Shiite church - the ayatollahs,
or marjahs, or hajatollahs, or whatever, will disappear from
their society". Miller points out that Shiite religious
leaders would "undoubtedly find this view obnoxious and
There seems to be an unwillingness on behalf of some commentators
to concede that Sudan is a Muslim country, and that the Sudanese
people have a sovereign right to decide their own government.
This unwillingness is perhaps at the heart of The Daily
Telegraph's stance on Sudan. What Christian activists
such as those at The Daily Telegraph must learn to
accept is that just as they see may see Britain as a Christian
country, there is an equally vigorous perception within Sudan,
and amongst a majority of Sudanese, that Sudan is very much
the result of Islamic teachings, history and ideals, and that
a logical extension of this is to govern those areas of Sudan
that have a Muslim majority through Islamic law.
The "Christian-led SPLA": a protégé
of the Ethiopian Mengistu regime
This is a surprising, if not totally out of character, statement
by The Daily Telegraph. The newspaper appears not to
realise that if this was actually the case then the SPLA would
indeed be a minority within a minority. According to various
independent sources between 85 and 90 percent of the population
of southern Sudan is non-Christian. It is difficult to see
how any "Christian" or "Christian-led"
movement could claim to be truly representative of the southern
Sudanese population in that case. To have made such a statement
is either yet another example of poor research on the part
of The Daily Telegraph, or a deliberate attempt to
square the circle, to force the southern Sudanese situation
into a distorted and artificial context in which the paper
is able once again to return to its somewhat discredited position
that the Sudanese conflict is about religion, a case of Islam
versus Christianity, another opportunity to revisit the Crusades.
At the very least it is certainly wishful thinking of The
Daily Telegraph to claim either the leadership or membership
of the SPLA as "Christian".
The SPLA, for example, has long had a questionable attitude
towards Christianity in southern Sudan. This is not surprising
given it was a protégé of the Mengistu
regime in Ethiopia. Despite the SPLA's "irrevocable"
1984 commitment to "religious freedom", the human
rights group African Rights records that:
In the early years of the war.the SPLA.actively repressed
the Church. This paralleled the campaign against the Church
being waged in Ethiopia at the time.In the late 1980s,
paralleling similar developments in Ethiopia, the SPLA
abandoned much Marxist orthodoxy and became more tolerant
of the Church. According to Bishop Nathaniel Garang, in
the early days many SPLA soldiers "smoked the Bible"
- they rolled their cigarettes in pages torn from copies
of the Holy Book.
SPLA intolerance has continued. In August 1996, for example,
SPLA forces detained six Catholic missionaries at Mapourdit
mission station, 35 kilometres from Akot. Four of those detained
were under arrest by SPLA gunmen, and included two Australians,
Sister Moira Lynch, aged 73, and Sister Mary Batchelor, aged
68, and Father Raphael Riel, the Vicar-General of Rumbek Diocese.
The charges against these missionaries were said to be: "hindering
SPLA recruitment, being found in possession of documents proving
that they were spies from foreign countries, working for the
spread of Islam under the disguise of the Cross." A Sudanese
priest, Father Raphael, received 64 lashes from the SPLA gunmen.
One of those imprisoned, Father Mike Barton, described the
SPLA commander as "mad and dangerous": the same
commander later accused him of "drinking the blood of
children". When Father Barton protested at the SPLA beating
up a pregnant women and an old man at the mission, he too
was beaten up. The Sudanese Catholic Information Office also
reported that the mission was looted. The six missionaries
were eventually released. The cause for their ordeal was that
they had expressed concern at the SPLA's continuing abduction
of Sudanese boys as young as twelve years of age for use as
forced labour or child soldiers.
The SPLA: ethnicist and tribalist
The Daily Telegraph speaks of the "moral duty
to protect the tribal populations of the Dinka, the Nuer,
the Anuak, and their cousins, from oppression", and yet
at the same time unhesitatingly supports the SPLA, a Bor Dinka-based
and Dinka-led organisation with an appalling record of tribal
repression against other tribal populations. SPLA executive
member Dr Nyaba has confirmed the stark ethnicist origins
of the SPLA:
Initially, political mobilisation for the SPLM/A in
1983/4 was along the lines that the Bor and the people
of Kongor would have an opportunity to acquire weapons
they needed to fight back, or revenge the cattle rustling
practised against them by the Murle. This mobilisation
that took more than ten thousand Bor youth to SPLA training
camps in 1983 was not for the national agenda of liberation
but to settle local scores with their neighbours, the
Murles or the Nuers.
The essentially tribalist nature of the SPLA has been confirmed
and commented upon by various human rights organisations.
African Rights recorded that "Many Nuer had long felt
themselves to be oppressed by the Dinka in the SPLA".
Dr Nyaba also clearly describes how the SPLA is seen in parts
of southern Sudan:
In Equatoria.the SPLA was perceived as a Nilotic or
Dinka movement whose objective was to reverse the division
of the southern region, and to destroy the 'Equatoria
Region' and impose the Dinka hegemony.
Nyaba's study also describes tribal tensions between the SPLA
and the Anuak, Shilluk, Mandari, Taposa, Murle and Nuer communities.
He states, for example, that:
Many communities had been completely alienated by the
action of some SPLA officers and men and, in fact, some
of them decided to cross over and allied with the enemy.
For instance, the Murles rebelled against the SPLA in
1989, the Mandari had done so as early as 1984, the Toposa
and the Didinga also turned against the SPLA in 1986 and
1990, etc.the SPLA sometimes posed like an anti-people
American development expert John Prendergast's Crisis Response:
Humanitarian Band-Aids in Sudan and Somalia clearly states
that there had been strained relations between the largely
Dinka SPLA and the Nuer tribe as well as communities in Equatoria
ever since the SPLA came into being in 1983, with the SPLA
showing an "absolute disregard for their human rights":
The SPLA has historically utilized.counter-insurgency
tactics against populations and militias in Equatoria
considered to be hostile. An important tactic in defeating
opposing tribal militias has been to weaken the subsistence
base upon which they depend, utilizing village burning,
cattle and crop stealing and destruction, denial of food
aid, etc. By destroying the subsistence base of certain
groups, relations have been destablized between various
Equatorian populations.This has exacerbated relations
between certain Equatorian communities.
Prendergast personally observes that the SPLA is seen in Equatoria
as "an army of occupation."
This all presents a somewhat different picture of the Dinka-dominated
SPLA in relation to its "cousins" to that touched
on by The Daily Telegraph in its editorial. It is therefore
somewhat disturbing to note The Daily Telegraph's public
support for an obviously tribalist SPLA. The implications
of the SPLA militarily seizing power in southern Sudan, with
all the implications for tribal genocide and carnage that
such a move would so clearly bring with it, are patently obvious.
The Daily Telegraph has clearly learnt nothing from
the lessons of the genocidal events in the Great Lakes area
in the 1990s.
Staying briefly with the issue of The Daily Telegraph's
perception of southern Sudanese life under the Sudanese government,
the newspaper declared that:
We would not suffer such rule. Why on earth should
Africans be expected to endure it.
It has to be said that The Daily Telegraph appears
to be edging towards somewhat unconservative methods of analysis.
When pressed to explain why most of the working class did
not enthusiastically embrace scientific socialism, Marxists
would claim that they were suffering from "false consciousness",
they simply did not know what was in their best interests.
The more than two million southern Sudanese, half the population
of the south, who have voluntarily journeyed well over one
thousand kilometres northwards to live in Khartoum and other
northern cities (and refusing to leave), and the hundreds
of thousands of southern Sudanese who have flocked to areas
of southern Sudan administered by the government, would appear
at face value to drive a coach and horses through The Daily
Telegraph's claim of endemic oppression. As the Sudanese
ambassador stated in his response to such claims, "not
many people volunteer for enslavement or oppression."
Even less people would make a difficult, dangerous and lengthy
trip of more than one thousand kilometres to experience it.
Perhaps The Daily Telegraph would claim they too are
suffering from "false consciousness"?
Additionally, Prendergast has also provided outside observers
with a glimpse of life in SPLA-controlled areas:
The human rights abuses of the SPLA are by now well-documented.What
is less understood is the abuse and manipulation of humanitarian
assistance, the undermining of commerce, and the authoritarian
political structures which have stifled any efforts at
local organizing or capacity building in the south. These
are the elements which have characterized the first decade
of the SPLA's existence.
For all its bluster about "why on earth should
Africans be expected to endure" living under government
control, The Daily Telegraph appears to be content
that hundreds of thousands of southern Sudanese continue to
live under the repressive and authoritarian SPLA regime of
which we have seen but a glimpse of above.
Fighting for what?
Perhaps the most irresponsible aspect of The Daily Telegraph's
editorial is that while it enthusiastically advocates war,
indeed it advocates an intensification of the war, with all
the suffering that comes with it, it does not define at any
point what the objective of such bloodshed should be. The
most it says in this respect is that "Khartoum would
be forced to deal". In this respect the editorial has
a distinctly Colonel Blimp-esque feel to it. The Daily
Telegraph's statement that if the SPLA acquired anti-aircraft
missiles, "the war, as we have known it, would be over
within months" is starkly reminiscent of similar claims
made during the First World War. These claims have been heard
at least every six months since 1984; "next year",
"one more push", "one more offensive".
Perhaps the arm-chair warriors believe as a previous generation
of Colonel Blimps did, that the war will be over by Christmas.
Leaving The Daily Telegraph's Colonel Blimps aside,
it is all very well enthusiastically supporting war, but without
clear objectives the projection of armed force becomes the
warlordism we have already seen of the SPLA in Sudan. The
arm-chair warriors at The Daily Telegraph appear not
to have absorbed what every first-year American college student
has learnt about contemporary war, courtesy of the Vietnam
war. Military projection without clear objectives is at best
futile and at worst deeply irresponsible.
On this very issue, one simply has to ask of The Daily
Telegraph what would constitute "winning the war"?
Given The Daily Telegraph's stated concern for the
"black Christian and animist population of the South",
given its statement that the Sudanese state is "an artificial
construct", and in the absence of any guidance by The
Daily Telegraph - apart from the need for escalating carnage
and starvation - one presumes that The Daily Telegraph's
ideal would be a separate and independent South. If this is
the paper's position, then once again it appears to be doggedly
out of date. The simple fact is that an internationally-supervised
free and fair referendum, whereby the people of southern Sudan
will be able to settle this issue once and for all, enabling
them to opt for a united Sudan or for secession, was written
into the 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement, has been restated
during peace talks between the government and the SPLA, and
has been recognised by the international community. It has
even been reported on by The Daily Telegraph. Perhaps
The Daily Telegraph's silence on this issue is a reflection
of that fact that the SPLA has repeatedly stated that it is
committed to a united Sudan and is against an independent
south. The first bullets it fired were aimed at southern separatists.
Or perhaps The Daily Telegraph wishes to see the SPLA
shoot and bomb its way to national power in Sudan. Given that
Christians account for less than five percent of the Sudanese
population, and considerably less than a fifth of the population
of southern Sudan, the concept of a "Christian-led"
southern minority within a minority coming to power is quite
simply a non-starter. It is perhaps on a par with the Reverend
Ian Paisley and his Democratic Unionist Party forming the
next government in the Republic of Ireland. While both may
be attractive ideas to The Daily Telegraph, they are
One would have hoped for, and indeed expected, more coherence
from The Daily Telegraph. One might also have hoped
for considerably more intellectual honesty. The sad fact is
that if one was to mark The Daily Telegraph's editorial
as an undergraduate paper analysing the conflict in Sudan,
the very best one could say is "must do very much better".
It is disjointed, contradictory and not a little hypocritical.
A further example of this confused thinking is the statement
that the government "is gradually losing the civil war"
while at the same time asking in respect of the ceasefire:
"is there any reason to believe that the Sudanese government
will adhere to the agreement?" Either the government
is losing the war, and would presumably welcome a ceasefire,
or it is not and wishes to fight on. Unfortunately the editorial
was not written by a muddle-headed student, but by a newspaper
of record, and calls for war. The writer has clearly never
been to Sudan, and it is likely that he has never missed a
meal in his life. The writer is also someone whose only experience
of war has probably been of the comic book variety. The armchair
warriors and part-time strategists at The Daily Telegraph
who continue to call for a military solution from the safety
of London, and from which front-line they appear to be prepared
to fight to last drop of southern Sudanese blood, or to the
last pound of southern Sudanese body weight, in order to act
out their own religious prejudice, are deliberately ignoring,
amongst other things, the fact that the war cannot be won
by military means. A negotiated settlement is the only solution.
One would perhaps have given The Daily Telegraph's
editorial more weight if it were not for the fact that this
is the same newspaper that some weeks ago stated as a matter
of fact that southern Sudan was "largely Christian",
whereas only 10-15 percent of the population of the south
is notionally Christian. This is somewhat similar to claiming
that Northern Ireland is Catholic. This is also the same newspaper
that claimed that Islamic sharia law was applied to
southern Sudan, whereas the South has been exempt from sharia
law since 1991. The Sudanese civil war is about the political
status of southern Sudan. It is not a religious war. The conflict
predates the present Islamic government by 34 years, and the
most recent phase of the war started six years before the
present government came to power. The most recent phase of
the war also predates the imposition of Islamic sharia
law in 1983. Similarly, surely someone at such a newspaper
of record must have read Islam for Beginners, which
would possibly have prevented them making the mistake of lumping
Shia and Sunni Islam together. Are its leader writers
really as ignorant about one of the world's biggest religions
as they appear to be? One has to ask further questions of
The Daily Telegraph. Is it really advocating the downing
of food planes, with the resultant starving to death of hundreds
of thousands of southerners? Is it aware that the SPLA it
supports is stealing 65 percent of emergency food aid from
starving southern Sudanese? Is The Daily Telegraph
aware of the SPLA's appalling human rights record, and that
it is a clearly tribalist movement, with a history of ethnic
Some weeks ago the Sudan Foundation and the British Sudanese
Public Affairs Council published The Daily Telegraph and
coverage of Sudan: Islamophobia, Poor Journalism or Bad judgement?
It is perhaps self-evident that there are those at The
Daily Telegraph who continue not let the facts get in
the way of a comfortable stereotype. In so doing they now
appear to be committed to letting the southern Sudanese people
continue to die from hunger or war.