In the past eighteen months, Dr Eric Reeves, a professor of
English at Smith College in Massachusetts, has emerged as a
commentator on Sudan. He began his Sudan involvement in the
Spring of 1999, and has taken a year's leave to continue his
activities full-time. He has published just under forty op-ed
pieces for American and Canadian newspapers, has given several
radio interviews and has appeared before the United States Commission
on International Religious Freedom.
Sudan is the biggest country in Africa. A civil war has raged
in Sudan since 1955, a year before that country's independence.
There was a period of peace from 1971 until early 1983, when
fighting in southern Sudan recommenced between the Khartoum
government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) led
by Colonel John Garang. The war has essentially been fought
about the constitutional status of southern Sudan. It is one
of the world's longest-running conflicts. Dr Reeves speaks of
"a radical Islamic regime engaged in a brutally destructive
civil war with the people of southern Sudan". He states
that: "The ongoing catastrophe in Sudan stands as the greatest
humanitarian crisis in the world today. There are no exceptions.
An amplifying paraphrase needn't be added. Sudan.bears this
ghastly distinction with agonizing clarity." Dr Reeves
has focused particularly on the issue of oil and oil revenues
within Sudan and what he claims is their direct relationship
with the conflict.
is Dr Reeves' Thesis?
Dr Reeves states that he is opposed to the Sudanese oil project
and those foreign oil companies involved within it. The Sudanese
oil industry has just begun to export oil from fields in southern
Sudan and south-central Sudan. Dr Reeves claims that this "genocidal
oil". is generating funds for the Sudanese Government and
that as a result the Khartoum authorities are holding up peace
talks. Dr Reeves also claims that the Government has displaced
all the population around the oil fields, "orchestrating
a ferocious scorched-earth policy in the area of the oil fields
and pipelines." He claims to be campaigning to secure international
sanctions on Sudan and disvestment from the foreign oil companies
involved in the Sudan oil project. Reeves ties this all into,
amongst other things, his concern about abuses of humanitarian
assistance in Sudan, that the Sudanese Government is a "radical
Islamic regime" and that "[Khartoum's leaders] engage
in a merciless trade of human slavery".
Reeves' Credibility as a Commentator
Much has been made of the fact that Dr Reeves is a professor
of English literature. On studying his published material on
Sudan, however, rather than the carefully-argued, measured and,
more importantly, well-researched work one would have expected
from a professor at Smith College, his work has the tone of
a shrill student activist - and all the unrealistic and poorly-judged
gaucheness of an undergraduate. In fact, had Professor Reeves'
work been marked by any of his political science or international
relations colleagues, his various publications would have been
graded fail through to "should try much harder". His
work has been arrogant, poor-researched, shallow and maladroit.
Dr Reeves' methodology is particularly weak. Unfortunately his
writings are not the predictable certainties of an 18 year-old
freshman, but the work of a self-publicist intent on damaging
the Sudanese economy seeking to deprive the population of much
needed economic development.
It is sadly obvious that Dr Reeves is simply ill-equipped for
the task he has set himself. What he has succeeded in is emerging
as the latest variant of the "Ugly American" so brilliantly
captured by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick in their novel
of the same name. Dr Reeves as a professor of literature may
well be familiar with this contemporary classic, but appears
to have learnt none of the salient lessons embodied within it.
Professor Reeves claims to have approached Sudan "with
the eyes of a professional researcher", claiming "[l]ong
hours and days of assiduous reading, archival retrieval, and
real-time communications with Sudan experts in and out of government".
At the same time he also admits that he has never been to Sudan..
This is somewhat surprising for a "professional researcher".
It has to be said that this is somewhat akin, to use a literary
analogy, to someone declaring to be a student of Shakespeare
without having actually read Shakespeare in the original and
instead basing his work on second-or-third-hand commentaries
on Shakespeare. Also surprising is that for all his "long
hours and days" of research Dr Reeves appears to have ignored
a swathe of material relevant to the issues he pronounces upon
but which may have been inconvenient to his arguments. Either
that or for all his claims of research expertise he overlooked
this information. Given that Dr Reeves states that he has taken
a year out, one must therefore assume that he has seen most
if not all of the Internet-based material contained in this
critique. Dr Reeves jokes that he is "umbilically connected
to my computer". For all the long hours and days he claims
to have spent in researching Sudan, however, he appears to be
nothing more than one of the instant "experts" that
do more damage than good on issues as complicated as Sudan.
Dr Reeves has nowhere acknowledged that the Sudanese civil war,
as in most such conflicts, has been caught up in an awesome
propaganda war. It is nowhere evident that he attempted to take
this into account. In fact it is all too obvious that he has
consciously or unconsciously absorbed much of what can only
be described as questionable propaganda into his writing and
campaigning on Sudan.
Reeves and Sources
Sources, for both journalist and academic, are everything. One's
credibility is either made or broken on sources, their objectivity
and their reliability. Dr Reeves admits to several sources.
He cites "Sudan experts in and out of government".
He should clarify whether the experts "in government"
include those party to an almost unbelievably farcical policy
towards Sudan, one characterised by demonisation, a systemic
policy and intelligence failure and an unjustified cruise missile
attack. His "out of government" experts appear not
to have included the one American expert out of government with
any credibility on Sudan - former President Jimmy Carter. But
they do include those affiliated to the United States Committee
for Refugees, whose director Roger Winter, far from being objective,
actually advocates military aid to the Sudanese rebels. Reeves
also states, without qualification, that his sources include
the "SPLA/M leadership", one of the main rebel movements
in Sudan but not, apparently, the Government of Sudan. One should
place on record the SPLA's capacity to deceive. Dr Peter Nyaba,
a SPLA national executive council member, has described the
SPLA's "sub-culture of lies, misinformation, cheap propaganda
and exhibitionism" vividly:
Much of what filtered out of the SPLM/A propaganda machinery.was
about 90% disinformation or things concerned with the military
combat, mainly news about the fighting which were always
Dr Reeves has on several occasions also cited South African
Derek Hammond as one of his sources on events in Sudan. Hammond
heads the South African-based 'Faith-in-Action' organisation,
and can only but be described as a Christian fundamentalist
Islamophobe. His website overtly champions the "Christian"
fight against "the evil of Islam". He refers to the
"anti-Christian religion of Islam." Hammond's exaggerations
are obvious: he also claims that "Christians make up.over
80% of Southern Sudan." (This figure should be compared
with the figures of 10-15 percent carried in official American
government studies, Economist Intelligence Unit briefings or
Human Rights Watch material). Dr Reeves' questionable choice
of sources is nowhere more evident than in his seeming acceptance
of the outlandish story that China was about to move 700,000
soldiers to Sudan to protect Chinese interests in the Sudanese
oil project. This article had appeared in The Sunday Telegraph
of London. Even the Clinton Administration, as hostile as it
is to the Sudanese authorities, had to dismiss the claims, stating
that even "the figure of tens of thousands of troops is
just not credible based on information available to us".
Reeves on the other hand terms it an "explosive report"
and states that "The Telegraph is no fly-by-night journalistic
operation.It is highly doubtful that the report comes from thin
air, or that important sources are not behind it." For
Dr Reeves to afford even the faintest credibility to claims
that 700,000 Chinese soldiers were about to deploy in southern
Sudan is astonishingly naïve of him. Dr Reeves would also
appear to be blissfully unaware of the fact that newspapers
are often used as propaganda adjuncts for disseminating questionable
material. It should be pointed out that two months have passed
since Dr Reeves' "explosive report", and there has
been no sign of the massive, unprecedented air or sea-bridge
carrying 700,000 Chinese soldiers to Sudan.
Let us examine the claims made by Dr Reeves.
Reeves and the Sudan Oil Project
As the oil issue is so central to Dr Reeves claims about Sudan,
this is clearly the point at which to start. Oil has been discovered
in two major areas within the Muglad Rift Basin Complex in south-central
Sudan. The biggest discovery is in south Kordofan (within what
administratively constitutes northern Sudan) and includes the
Heglig and Unity oil fields. The other area is to be found just
across the 1956 border in southern Sudan. The first area is
operated by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC),
a consortium of four companies including the China National
Petroleum Company, the Malaysian state oil corporation Petronas,
a Canadian company Talisman Energy and Sudapet Ltd. In August
1999 an oil pipeline linking south-central Sudan to the Red
Sea was completed. Sudan is expected to export up to 250,000
barrels a day from these fields in the course of 2000. The Sudanese
Government has a five percent stake in the project. For a country
as desperately poor as Sudan, this technological achievement
has been hailed as the answer to economic development for the
country. Reeves prefers to speak of "Sudan's genocidally
destructive oil project". He claims that local populations
in the oil fields and adjacent regions have been displaced by
the Sudanese Government, stating, for example, in July 1999,
that "[h]uge swaths of land around the oil fields and pipelines
are presently cleared of all human life and sustenance".
Dr Reeves and
Claims about Oil Revenues Fuelling the War
Dr Reeves has repeatedly claimed that
Sudanese oil revenues were fuelling the war and impeding the
There are two points which should be considered.
Firstly, there has been no evidence whatsoever to date to support
Dr Reeves' allegations. The British Government has repeatedly
been asked if there is any such evidence. In March 2000, the
British Government, in a typical reply to a Parliamentary question
about whether Khartoum had used oil revenues to purchase weapons,
publicly stated that they did not "have any evidence of
such expenditure at present". The Sudanese Government has
publicly stated the formula for the distribution of oil revenues,
with the local state and the southern Sudanese authority receiving
most of the funds. This formula is entrenched in the Sudanese
constitution. The Khartoum authorities have also repeatedly
stated that any oil revenues are to be spent on development,
financing agricultural, health, education and environmental
as well as infrastructure projects, especially in southern Sudan.
The British Government has also stated that the Khartoum authorities
have promised transparency with regard to how the oil revenues
are spent. It might also be noted that given its membership
of the European Union, any British reply would have also incorporated
information available to other European countries. In any instance,
as a country tied to a strict International Monetary Fund regime,
the IMF will certainly closely monitor how these funds are dispersed.
Secondly, the fact that there is no evidence
whatsoever to substantiate his claims is also borne out by Dr
Reeves himself. In his statement before the United States Commission
for International Religious Freedom in February 2000, Dr Reeves'
somewhat weakly states "there is no other way to account
for Khartoum's availability to conduct a war that has been repeatedly
characterized as costing $1 million dollars a day" other
than for China to have been engaged in "extensive 'in kind'
trading: Chinese weaponry for anticipated Sudanese oil and oil
revenues." The use of the word "anticipated"
is the key one. Conjecture is all Dr Reeves has to offer by
way of evidence.
It should also be pointed out that Dr
Reeves' methodology is, in any event, additionally flawed. In
declaring that "there is no other way to account for Khartoum's
availability to conduct a war that has been repeatedly characterized
as costing $1 million dollars a day" he seems to forget
the somewhat inconvenient fact that the Sudanese civil war has
in effect been fought since 1955, and since 1983 in its most
recent phase. Dr Reeves in another forum also admits this, declaring
that "Sudan's 16-year war takes us well back into the first
term of the Reagan administration. And during that time, with
an obscene relentlessness, more than 10,000 Sudanese (on gruesome
statistical average) have died every month." Given the
pivotal role Dr Reeves claims for oil revenues in the war, how
does Dr Reeves explain the fact that the war has been fought
for sixteen years without any such revenues?
of Civilians Within the Oil Region
In addition to the alleged use of oil
revenues, at the heart of Professor Reeves paradigm are claims
about civilian displacement within Sudan's oil fields and adjacent
regions. He speaks of "Sudan's genocidally destructive
policies in the south, and the oil regions in particular".
Reeves refers to the Sudanese Government's "savage war
on civilians in the oil regions".
Firstly, it should be noted that Reeves'
second or third-hand "reports" of massive and continuing
displacement in oil-producing areas such as Heglig are clearly
contradicted by reputable journalists who have visited these
areas. Western journalists who visited the Heglig oil field
found no such displacement. Claudia Cattaneo, of The Financial
Post, a Canadian newspaper, reported:
[A]t Heglig, the site of Talisman's
oil major oilfields and processing facilities, there is
no evidence of population displacement. Military presence
is low key. Children are playing and going to school near
the oil wells. Western and Sudanese workers say thousands
of nomads are coming here to look for work, for medical
assistance.or for education."
It would appear from first-hand, credible
reporting that at the very least Eric Reeves' claims are questionable.
It would also appear that far from witnessing the systematic
displacement of civilians, southern civilians seem to be being
drawn towards the Heglig oil concession. Reeves seems to ignore
the simple fact that the Heglig and Unity fields are situated
in the midst of a vast open plain that is water-logged during
the rainy season - as anyone who has actually visited these
areas will have seen - making permanent settlement very difficult.
What is clear, however, is that for all
his concern about the displacement of civilians within oil regions,
and in his distorted picture of events in Sudan, Dr Reeves has
studiously ignored irrefutable evidence of the forced displacement
of civilians by the SPLA rebel movement.
In February 2000, for example, Reuters
correspondent Rosalind Russell was one of a group of journalists
who visited SPLA positions within oil-producing areas. She provided
reliable, first-hand reporting of activity leading to the displacement
of civilians. She personally witnessed:
a pillar of smoke rising from the
besieged town of Mayom, subject to daily bombardments by
rebels as the try to advance eastwards to the oil development.
It is perhaps worth noting that Dr Reeves
speaks highly of Reuters, calling it "the most reliable
news agency in Africa" Similar daily bombardments by the
SPLA of the southern Sudanese capital Juba in the early 1990s
resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. Reeves should
be asked whether or not the daily bombardment of Mayom, and
other southern Sudanese towns, resulting in the death and injury
of civilians, and the exodus of thousands of other civilians
from their homes qualifies as displacement. And, given that
Reuters also clearly indicates that the SPLA is attempting to
"advance eastwards to the oil development", would
this not indicate that the SPLA were the aggressors in the particular
circumstances described by Reuters? In August 2000, Reuters
further reported that:
An influx of displaced people into
Bentiu, the capital of Unity state in war-torn southern
Sudan, has greatly strained humanitarian and food aid in
the town.World Food Programme (WFP) official Makena Walker
told Reuters about 20,000 people displaced by recent fighting
had reached Bentiu in the last three weeks.
That is to say fleeing into Government-controlled
areas. Reuters also stated that Sulaf al-Din Salih, a government
humanitarian aid commissioner, had said that displaced people
were arriving in Bentiu at a rate of 150 to 200 per day, with
the total number now running at 40,000. In yet another example,
in July 2000, the Roman Catholic bishop of the southern Sudanese
diocese of Rumbek, Caesar Mazzolari, stated that thousands of
civilians were fleeing the southern town of Wau. Bishop Mazzolari
said that this massive human exodus was triggered by fears of
a possible rebel attack.
Perhaps Dr Reeves does not consider these
clear examples to be displacement or the "oil-driven destruction"
he states he is so concerned about.
Dr Reeves' logic is somewhat twisted.
He states, for example, that: "Continued operation by Talisman
Energy in Sudan insures the continued loss of innocent human
life - men, women and children. This is the inescapable conclusion
that must be faced by all who are themselves the owners of Talisman
Energy through their shareholding in the corporation."
On another occasion he speaks of "Talisman's role in the
oil-driven devastation concentrated in the south." He is
basically blaming the victim. Canadian journalists have reported
that despite Dr Reeves' claims there has been no displacement
at Heglig, Talisman's main site. Reuters has clearly reported
that SPLA rebels are bombarding and displacing their way towards
Heglig, using child soldiers on the way. Yet, Dr Reeves finds
fit to blame Talisman. This is somewhat similar to blaming the
United States Navy for the recent attack on its warship, the
USS Cole, in Aden rather than the men who actually perpetrated
Dr Reeves Versus
the World: A Case of Ugly American Syndrome?
In February 2000, Dr Reeves provided a
clear example of what might best be described as his naïveté
regarding the United States, Canada and Sudan's position within
the international community. Citing an article in Time
magazine he excitedly reported:
[Canadian Foreign Minister] Lloyd
Axworthy and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last
month reached agreement on a multilateral sanctions plan
against Sudan, one that would grow out of Canada's chairing
of the UN Security Council in April.
Dr Reeves stated that "the plan has
devastating implications for Talisman Energy: UN sanctions would
almost certainly apply to the Greater Nile project and its owners."
The reality was once again totally different.
Reeves' misreading of the mood of the international community
was clear. Despite chairing the United Nations Security Council,
Canada was unambiguously made aware of the vigorous international
opposition to anything remotely resembling the Albright-Axworthy
plan described by Reeves. The Canadian ambassador to the United
Nations, Robert Fowler, had to concede that even raising the
Sudan issue at the Security Council was unacceptable:
The representations we received suggested
that the timing was not right, that there were important peace
initiatives under way both from Libya and Egypt. The Arab
League and the OAU (Organization of African Unity), as well
as the nonaligned movement, suggested to us that council engagement
on this issue at this time would not be productive.
It is also clear that IGAD, the Intergovernmental
Authority on Development, the seven-nation East African regional
body intimately involved with the Sudanese peace process, a
body described by Reeves as "[an] irreplaceable, peace
forum" also pointedly opposed any United Nations Security
Council resolution action on Sudan. The organisation's executive
director stated that IGAD "is strongly opposed to raising
the problem at the Security Council".
This position did not even take into account
the fact that several permanent members of the Security Council
would also have refused to tolerate any such American or Canadian
moves. What has also become all too clear is that not only was
the international mood at the United Nations vehemently opposed
to any "multilateral sanctions plan against Sudan",
it is evident that there is a concerted move to lift the limited
diplomatic sanctions still in place against Sudan imposed in
1996 in the wake of the attempted assassination of Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak by Egyptian terrorists. Both Egypt and
Ethiopia, the countries most concerned, support the lifting
of the sanctions in question. The Egyptian government stated
that having seen "a number of positive and encouraging
indications from the part of the Sudanese government" aimed
at improving Sudan's relations with Egypt, it supported the
rescinding of the sanctions. The Ethiopian government said that
"it is the conviction of the Ethiopian Government that
the concerns that gave rise to the sanctions.no longer apply.Ethiopia
is, therefore, of the view that it is now time for the lifting
of the sanctions imposed on the Sudan".
Sudan has had unprecedented support from
the international community on this issue. South Africa and
Algeria, in the capacities as chairmen of the 114-member Non-Aligned
Movement and the 22-member Arab Group of states respectively
called on the Security Council to withdraw the 1996 limited
sanctions. The Organisation of African Unity (OAU), representing
53 countries, as well as the Arab League, have also urged the
Security Council to rescind the sanctions in question. In a
letter to the President of the Security Council, OAU Secretary-General
Salim Ahmed Salim stated that the lifting of the sanctions was
an urgent matter:
The lifting of sanctions imposed
on Sudan is not only urgently called for, but would also positively
contribute to efforts aimed at promoting peace, security and
stability in the region.
It is not just from within the ranks of
the developing world or Non-Aligned Movement that support for
Sudan has emerged. The French Ambassador to the United Nations,
Jean-David Levitte, President of the United Nations Security
Council, also recognised positive developments regarding Sudan:
"There are evolutions for the better in Khartoum, and France
is not the only member of the Council to consider that these
positive evolutions should be registered." These sanctions
themselves have in any case never really been very actively
enforced. Sudanese ministers, including the foreign minister,
had been able to pay official visits to most European Union
countries, including Britain, and Canada.
It is clear that there is a consensus
that the 1996 sanctions should be lifted. These moves also demonstrated
in turn how out of touch anti-Sudanese activists such as Dr
Reeves are with opinion on Sudan in much of the world, and particularly
within the developing world. Dr Reeves is also perhaps unaware
of how the image of a well-fed, white, middle-class academic
telling black and brown Africans what it is that is in their
best interests, that developing their own natural resources
in order to feed their hungry populations is not to be allowed,
does not go down terribly well in the developing world. This
is particularly the case given the questionable basis and selectivity
of so many of Dr Reeves' claims about Sudan. It is not even
paternalism - it is simply crass.
The fact is that as far as its policy
towards Sudan is concerned, the United States stands alone -
except perhaps for Dr Reeves lending support by e-mail from
his college in Massachusetts.
Dr Reeves and
Dr Reeves is generous with his use of
the term genocide when it come to Sudan. He speaks of "the
continuing genocide in southern Sudan". He even writes
of a "final solution". All too predictably, he claims
that "the war splits along racial and religious lines.the
Arab and Islamicized north against the racially African and
religiously animist or Christian south." Ironically, even
sources hostile to Khartoum - and constantly cited by Dr Reeves
- such as the United States Committee for Refugees rubbishes
such a view with its director, Roger Winter, stating: "This
is not a Christian versus Muslim war, and I think that that
is probably very clear". Apparently not to Dr Reeves.
Dr Reeves' genocide claims are further
undermined by sheer physical facts. Reeves states that five
million Sudanese, the majority of them southern Sudanese, have
been displaced as a result of the Sudanese civil war. They have
fled fighting between government and rebel forces. Three million
of these refugees have deliberately chosen refuge in northern
Sudan. Perhaps as many as two million of these southern Sudanese
refugees live in and around Khartoum. It is against this background
that one should assess Reeves' claim that the Sudanese Government
is "conducting [a] genocidal war". If Khartoum, a
"ruthless", "cruel and vicious regime" was
actually engaged in a "genocidal war" against southerners,
as Dr Reeves would have us believe, why would three million
southerners voluntarily trek one thousand kilometres to seek
safety and refuge in northern Sudan - most of them in Khartoum
itself - especially when the could have far more easily slipped
across much closer borders into Uganda or Kenya, to be amongst
their own ethnic groups?
Dr Reeves' deliberate use of the terms
"genocide", "final solution" and "the
Holocaust" can only but invoke images of the European Holocaust.
Given his use of these terms, one must ask Dr Reeves if European
Jews voluntarily chose to head towards Berlin in the late 1930s
and early 1940s? Similarly, given Dr Reeves' claim that "[Khartoum's
leaders]. engage in a merciless trade of human slavery"
why would three million southerners apparently head towards
slavery in the north? Black Africans were not flocking towards
Richmond or Charleston in the ante-bellum period of United States
history. Dr Reeves has also deliberately invoked the imagery
of Kosovo. If this really is an appropriate image, can Dr Reeves
explain that while Kosovars were fleeing into Albania away from
Serbian control, and certainly not towards Belgrade, three million
southern Sudanese have voluntarily headed northwards towards
Khartoum and the Khartoum authorities. Perhaps Dr Reeves will
claim that three million southerners were all suffering from
The fact is that once again Dr Reeves
has been irresponsibly sloppy in making what are very serious
and Humanitarian Aid
Dr Reeves also presents a stark picture
of humanitarian food aid within southern Sudan. He claims that
"The Khartoum regime.has systematically used humanitarian
food aid as a weapon of war" and that "[s]tarvation
is Khartoum's 'weapon of mass destruction'". He states
"at the height of last summer's war-driven famine, the
UN has estimated that 2.6 million.human beings, mainly children,
were at risk of starvation."
Once again Reeves has made very questionable
claims. Despite inferring that the 1998 famine was created by
the Government, Reeves does not mention (or perhaps is ignorant
of) the SPLA's pivotal role in the famine. 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 southern Sudan. This attack, and
the fighting that followed it, led to a drastic deterioration
in the security and food distribution situation in that region.
Rebel responsibility in large part for the famine situation
was reported on by CNN in early April 1998 under headlines such
as "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.He aided rebel
forces in sieges of three government-held towns, which sent
people fleeing into the countryside.
Newsweek magazine of 18 May 1998
also reported that: "Aid workers blame much of the south's
recent anguish on one man: the mercurial Dinka warlord Kerubino
Reeves also trots out predictable claims
that the Government of Sudan "strategy is evidently to
produce a humanitarian crisis so extreme that Western nations
and humanitarian organizations will work forcefully to secure
the 'cease-fire' the GOS so badly needs. If the GOS fails to
secure a 'cease-fire' the interruption of humanitarian aid still
serves their purposes by creating a population unable to sustain
itself - or the SPLA. The GOS is, and always has been willing
to starve one to weaken the other."
Reeves neglects to mention some of the
more relevant details, facts rather than conjecture. International
humanitarian aid in Sudan is provided by the United Nations-managed
Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) consortium, run in conjunction
with the Government and rebels. OLS was unprecedented in post-war
history when it came into being in 1989 in as much as it was
the first time that a government had agreed to the delivery
of assistance by outside agencies to rebel-controlled parts
of its own country. The Sudanese model, developed during the
tenure of the present Sudanese government, has subsequently
been used in several other areas of civil conflict, including
several in Africa. It is also a matter of record that the number
of Khartoum-approved Operation Lifeline Sudan feeding sites
in southern Sudan has grown from twenty in the early 1990s to
well over one hundred by 1998. During the famine in that year,
the number increased to more than 180 locations. These were
overwhelmingly in rebel-held areas.
As the London Guardian newspaper,
no friend of the Khartoum government, observed: "Most of
the people affected live in areas controlled by anti-government
rebels and.they were reached by flights from Kenya. Governments
involved in civil wars usually refuse to authorise cross-border
feeding." This jars somewhat with claims by Dr Reeves that
the Sudanese government is a "cruel and vicious regime"
or that "[t]he ruling regime in Khartoum is cruel and murderous"
or that "[m]ost consequential for the civilians of the
south is the evident determination of the Government of Sudan.to
bring an end to humanitarian aid to the south". Far from
bringing humanitarian aid in southern Sudan to an end, it is
a matter of public record that Khartoum has agreed to an eight-fold
increase in feeding centre (almost all of which are in rebel-controlled
areas) in the past several years; presumably Khartoum could
easily have attempted to keep the number to twenty or less.
Dr Reeves' claims are also somewhat undermined by the fact that
unanimous United Nations resolutions have acknowledged "with
appreciation the cooperation by the Government of the Sudan
with the United Nations, including the agreements and arrangements
achieved to facilitate relief operations with a view to improving
United Nations assistance to affected areas."
For all his professed concern about humanitarian
food aid in southern Sudan, Reeves is deafeningly silent on
the very well documented denial of food aid to southern civilians
by the rebels he so eulogises. Perhaps Reeves really is unaware
the Roman Catholic church in southern Sudan has publicly and
unambiguously stated that the SPLA were stealing 65 percent
of the food aid going into rebel-held areas of southern Sudan
- and this also at the height of the 1998 famine Reeves has
highlighted. Agence France Presse also reported that:
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.
Additionally, in March 2000, the SPLA
rebel movement began to expel international non-governmental
organisations which had refused to sign an aid Memorandum drawn
up by the SPLA. The SPLA Memorandum made unacceptable demands
of aid agencies including SPLA control over the distribution
of humanitarian assistance; a requirement to work "in accordance
with SPLA objectives" rather than solely humanitarian aims.
Eleven international humanitarian aid agencies felt themselves
unable to remain active in southern Sudan under the conditions
demanded of them by the SPLA. These NGOs handled 75 percent
of the humanitarian aid entering southern Sudan. The withdrawal
of these NGOs directly affected US$ 40 million worth of aid
programs. The expelled aid agencies stated that one million
southern Sudanese were at risk as a result of the SPLA's decision
to expel the NGOs. The United Nations explained that the
SPLA's expulsion of the NGOs:
This has created a void in the OLS
consortium's ability to provide adequate humanitarian assistance
to the people of southern Sudan, already made vulnerable by
decades of war and deprivation. Emergency response, health,
nutrition, household food security, and water and sanitation
programmes will be hardest hit.
One can only but imagine Mr Reeves' delight
had the Government of Sudan been found guilty of diverting two-thirds
of emergency food aid in southern Sudan or that its political
intransigence had caused three-quarters of all humanitarian
assistance to be suspended. It would have proved a dozen more
impassioned articles. Yet, for all his studied concern about
food aid and humanitarian assistance and the people of southern
Sudan, Mr Reeves is once again deafeningly and selectively silent.
Dr Reeves and
Sudan's "radical Islamic regime"
Dr Reeves speaks of "a radical Islamic
regime" in Sudan. While a convenient propaganda image the
claim of a "radical Islamic regime" is questionable.
The former speaker of the Sudanese Parliament, Dr Hasan Turabi
has been seen as the architect of Sudan's present Islamic model.
Respected Africa analyst and commentator Colin Legum has said
Turabi's policies are out of step
with other Islamic fundamentalist organisations on a number
of important issues.One of Turabi's fundamental breaks with
the strict Islamic traditionalists is over the place of
women in Muslim societies. As a declared supporter of women's
liberation, he insists on their right of equality.
Legum also commented on the particular
difficulties faced by Islamic leaders in the Sudan in trying
to "reconcile the demands for an Islamic state with the
interests of the sizeable minority of non-Muslim Southerners".
Legum states that: "The solution proposed is that non-Muslims
should have the right to live according to their own traditions
and desires just as Muslims have the right to live in a system
governed by sharia laws within a democratic society."
A significant example of Khartoum's effort
to accommodate the interests of Sudan's non-Muslim southerners
was the 1991 exemption of the largely non-Muslim southern Sudan
from sharia law. Even the Clinton Administration has
had to admit that sharia law is not applied in the south.
It was the present Sudanese government that exempted southern
Sudan from the Islamic sharia law introduced by Washington's
ally General Nimeiri in late 1983.
The Sudanese model of Islam has also been
remarked upon by respected commentators such as the veteran
American journalist Milton Viorst and author of Sandcastles:
The Arabs in Search of the Modern World. He has compared
the Sudanese model to others in the region:
By the standards of other Arab
societies, Turabi's concept of Islam is open-minded and
tolerant. The signs are plentiful, in a visit to Sudan,
that the Islam practiced 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 history.
Professor Tim Niblock is one of the foremost
British authorities on Islam and Sudan. He has pointed out two
areas in which Sudan's model differs from maintstream Islamist
thought. One is the Sudanese Islamists' "explicit acceptance
of liberal democracy as the appropriate form of political organisation
for Sudan. The advocacy of liberal democracy by the N.I.F. went
well beyond the stress which Islamist movements customarily
place on the need for shura (consultation)." Secondly,
the Sudanese model with regard to women is "qualitatively
different from that proposed in most Islamist programmes. The
emphasis is on women 'escaping from social oppression' and 'playing
a full part in building the new society', rather than on their
primary duty lying within the family". Even The New
York Times, a source not noted for its affinity to Islamic
models of government, said of Turabi in 1996: "He voices
a tolerant version of political Islam - far less conservative
than Saudi Arabia's, far less militant than Iran's". Dr
Reeves would appear to have missed these references in the course
of his research.
Dr Reeves and
Government "Slavery" in Sudan
It is also clear that Reeves could not
resist jumping upon a further anti-Sudanese bandwagon with his
claims that "[Khartoum's leaders].engage in a merciless
trade of human slavery".
Such allegations have been clearly questioned
by professional human rights groups such as Anti-Slavery International
and African Rights. The internationally-respected human rights
activist Alex de Waal, an acknowledged expert on Sudan and a
former director of African Rights, stated with reference to
identical claims made by Christian Solidarity International
that despite the fact that there are no "slave markets
in the 19th century image":
Nonetheless, overeager or misinformed
human rights advocates in Europe and the US have played
upon lazy assumptions to raise public outrage. Christian
Solidarity International, for instance, claims that "Government
troops and Government-backed Arab militias regularly raid
black African communities for slaves and other forms of
booty.".This despite the fact that there is no evidence
for centrally organized, government-directed slave raiding
or slave trade.
A 1997 Anti-Slavery International report
on allegations of Sudanese slavery, also contradicts Reeves'
claims of government involvement in slavery: "the charge
that government troops engage in raids for the purpose of seizing
slaves is not backed by the evidence."
The following comments made by Anti-Slavery
International in a formal submission to the United Nations Commission
on Human Rights' Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery
have a direct bearing on the sort of claim made by Reeves. In
its submission, the Anti-Slavery International representative
There is a danger that wrangling
over slavery can distract us from abuses which are actually
part of government policy - which we do not believe slavery
to be. Unless accurately reported, the issue can become
a tool for indiscriminate and wholly undeserved prejudice
against Arabs and Muslims. I am worried that some media
reports of "slave markets", stocked by Arab slave
traders - which I consider distort reality - fuel such prejudice."
Dr Reeves is sadly yet another in a long
line of "overeager or misinformed" commentators on
Sudan. Additionally, his discredited allegations about Arab
"slave" traders in Sudan may serve only to further
fuel anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice. His claims about slavery
are serious allegations about which there are self-evidently
serious question-marks. Mr Reeves has not done his homework
- he certainly has not reflected the level of doubt that exists
about such claims. Discretion should have been put before cheap
Dr Reeves and Peace in Sudan
Dr Reeves frequently refers to the civil
war in Sudan. "Sudan's horrifically destructive civil war";
"the most destructive civil conflict in half a century"
"brutally destructive civil war"; a "genocidally
destructive civil conflict" He has stated "No place
offers a suffering more massive, more reflective of immense
human destruction.than Sudan" and that the war has shown
"a truly terrifying inhumanity". In one of his more
pertinent questions, Dr Reeves asks: "What sustains such
destruction and suffering?"
Predictably, Reeves places the absence
of peace in Sudan full-square on the Sudanese Government. He
has claimed, for example, that the Sudanese government "refuse
to enter into good faith peace negotiations under the auspices
of IGAD" and that the Sudanese government had "spurned
the only effective peace process". He also refers to "the
obstacles to peace presented by the ruthless National Islamic
Front.regime of Omar Beshir." Dr Reeves has also claimed
that "Khartoum has proved intractable in peace negotiations.chiefly
because of on-line revenues from the.oil project" - an
observation immediately undermined by his own admission that
the war has raged for sixteen, oil revenue-less, years.
What then would be the basis for peace
in Sudan? Associated Press states the common perception that
the SPLA "rebels have been fighting for autonomy for southern
Sudan from the Muslim-dominated government in the north since
1983". This was placed on the negotiating table quite some
time ago. It is hard to believe that Dr Reeves is unaware that
the Sudanese government has since 1997 offered an internationally-supervised
referendum whereby southern Sudanese can decide their own future.
This offer was incorporated into Sudan's new 1998 constitution
and has been repeated on several occasions. It is an offer that
has also been acknowledged by the SPLA. The SPLA's seriousness
about a referendum can be judged by the fact that while it acknowledged
the offer of a referendum, it then said that such a referendum
must include parts of Sudan not within the previously accepted
borders of southern Sudan - some of which were not even geographically
adjacent to southern Sudan. Such deliberate spoiling tactics
mean that the war continues, with the SPLA being actively encouraged
by the Clinton Administration to continue fighting what is so
clearly a no-win war despite the offer of what must be their
"holy grail", an internationally-supervised referendum
on unity or separation.
Dr Reeves appears to have missed major
developments regarding peace in Sudan. As Dr Reeves has mentioned
political and armed opposition to the Sudanese government has
been vested in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a grouping
which includes the SPLA. On 26 September 2000, however, as part
of ongoing peace talks, the Sudanese President met face to face
with the NDA leadership in Asmara, Eritrea. Not only has Khartoum
engaged in peace talks with the NDA, but the biggest Sudanese
opposition party within it, the Umma party, led by former Prime
Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, has now left the NDA. Sadiq al-Mahdi,
whose democratically-elected government was overthrown in 1989,
and who remains a pivotal rebel leader, has declared that:
There are now circumstances and
developments which could favour an agreement on a comprehensive
Once again, these developments have been
widely covered by the international news media, in articles
such as 'Opposition Leader Predicts Solution to Sudan's Conflict',
'Sudanese Rebel Group to Enter Khartoum Politics', and 'Mahdi's
Withdrawal Dents Opposition Alliance'. These also appear to
have escaped the selectively attentive Dr Reeves. Sudan's government
has also announced the holding of internationally-monitored,
multi-party elections in December this year.
Dr Reeves views on the obstruction of
the Sudanese peace process, and who is to blame - that is to
say the Sudanese government - are starkly at variance with less
prejudiced and somewhat better-informed observers. Former President
Jimmy Carter, for example, has been very candid about who he
perceives as being to blame for the continuation of the Sudanese
The people in Sudan want to resolve
the conflict. The biggest obstacle is US government policy.
The US is committed to overthrowing the government in Khartoum.
Any sort of peace effort is aborted, basically by policies
of the United States.Instead of working for peace in Sudan,
the US government has basically promoted a continuation
of the war.
As even Dr Reeves may admit, this is not
the Sudanese government speaking. He presumably accepts that
Jimmy Carter is a man respected the world over for his work
towards peace in various conflicts. Former President Carter
is also a man who knows Sudan, and the Sudanese situation well,
having followed the issue for two decades or more. Carter has
If the United States would be reasonably
objective in Sudan, I think that we at the Carter Center
and the Africans who live in the area could bring peace
to Sudan. But the United States government has a policy
of trying to overthrow the government in Sudan. So whenever
there's a peace initiative, unfortunately our government
puts up whatever obstruction it can.
As unwilling as one might be to interpret
former President Carter's views, he does not seem to think that
the Sudanese Government or oil revenues are necessarily holding
back the peace process. The United States has waged a seven-year
campaign aimed at the diplomatic, economic and military destabilisation
of Sudan culminating in a cruise missile attack on Khartoum
which even Dr Reeves concedes was "extraordinarily ill
conceived.an attack justified by not a shred of credible and
sustainable evidence." Nonetheless, Dr Reeves amazingly
states that the Clinton Administration has shown "indifference"
towards Sudan. He has further stated that: "The U.S. is.fully
and vigorously committed to the [Sudanese] peace process".
Carter actually touches on the Clinton
Administration's militarily destabilisation of Sudan, bluntly
stating that he believed that Washington's position of discouraging
peace talks and encouraging a military solution, at least in
part aided by military assistance to Sudan's neighbours, had
a negative effect on the SPLA's interest in negotiating a political
I think Garang now feels he doesn't
need to negotiate because he anticipates a victory brought
about by increasing support from his immediate neighbors,
and also from the United States and indirectly from other
Given former President Carter's somewhat
firm and unambiguous comments, which range from 1997 through
to late 1999, perhaps Dr Reeves can put together a more intellectually
challenging answer to his question "What sustains such
destruction and suffering?" than his stock reply of Khartoum
and oil revenues. Reeves ignorance of former President Carter's
perspective on why the peace process is stalling is once again
surprising given that Reeves has gone out of his way to state
It is.imperative that news reporting
and the ensuing commentary be guided as fully as possible
by ascertainable facts. And nowhere is this imperative more
critical than in discussions of the peace process that all
agree is the only hope for this torn African nations - a
just peace that respects the legitimate interests of all
parties in Sudan's conflict."
Dr Reeves is self-evidently a stranger
to many ascertainable facts about Sudan - particularly those
which would contradict his jaundiced, questionable paradigm
about Sudan and the Sudanese situation. Perhaps Mr Reeves, a
parvenu on the Sudan situation, albeit one armed with
a computer, mouse and modem and "real-time" communications,
genuinely thinks that he knows more about Sudan and the Sudan
peace process than former president Carter. Reeves states that
his sources on Sudan include in and out of the American government
but not apparently Jimmy Carter.
Dr Reeves' dogged ignorance of the real
dynamics of the Sudanese peace process, that is to say that
the policy of the Clinton Administration to continue to militarily
and politically destabilise Sudan - and that Washington has
discouraged the SPLA from meaningful engagement in peace talks
- must please his mentors inside and outside of the Administration.
Reeves, for example, criticises the Canadian foreign minister
Lloyd Axworthy's comment that: "It is important to do what
we can to promote the peace process, which is not within the
U.S. approach", labelling them as "Mr Axworthy's inaccurate
statements about U.S. policy". It is for readers to judge
the credibility of Dr Reeves' criticisms of Mr Axworthy.
It is evident that Dr Reeves' professed
concern about peace does not extend to the Egyptian peace initiative
which has unfolded over the last year or so, and which seeks
to bring the Sudanese Government and the NDA to the peace table,
and which seeks to augment the IGAD initiative which only involves
Khartoum and the SPLA. In claiming that "[o]nly the success
of IGAD will provide a means of political reconciliation or
accommodation" he follows a clear State Department line
meant to once again discourage any new attempts to bring peace
and Human Rights
Dr Reeves has professed deep concern about
human rights violations in Sudan. This concern appears to be
selective to say the very least. For example, he has eulogised
SPLA commander Peter Gadet: stating that this man "has
proved himself an exceptional leader of a very strong fighting
Yet this is the very SPLA commander who
has bombarded towns and civilians and whose forces contain significant
numbers of child soldiers. Reuters has independently reported
that the ranks of the Gadet's rebel forces had been "swollen
by shy boy soldiers". Reuters also took photographs of
these child soldiers. One photograph appeared with the following
caption: "Sudanese Child Soldiers Guard Rebel Military
Headquarters". The report and the photograph were distributed
around the world by the Reuters news agency. It is inconceivable
that Professor Reeves, given his "long hours and days"
of scouring the Internet could have missed this report - given
the report's direct bearing on his chosen theme. If he did miss
it then that is a reflection on his "professional"
research skills. The National Post, the Canadian national
daily, also reported the presence of SPLA child soldiers. Reporting
from Tabanga in southern Sudan, National Post journalist
Charlie Gillis unambiguously stated that most of the SPLA "soldiers"
in one location he visited were: "adolescent boys, carrying.machine
guns too big for their hands."
How Dr Reeves can praise Gadet, ignoring
the credibly reported presence of child soldiers amongst forces
"attacking" oil-producing areas is amazing given the
statutory war crimes Gadet is so clearly party to. The Statute
of the International Criminal Court makes it clear that the
use of child soldiers is a war crime.
Given that at the heart of Dr Reeves'
stated concerns are allegations that the Khartoum authorities
are waging war on and bombarding civilians, why does he unashamedly
laud someone actively engaged in waging war on civilians and
bombarding towns in southern Sudan? If Reeves concern is about
human rights violations does Gadet's use of child soldiers within
oil-producing areas not deserve to be considered as "human
rights violations committed in the name of oil"? Why turn
a blind eye to independently documented accounts of child soldiers
as reported by Reuters while choosing to accept unverified "reports"
by rebels with a vested interest in presenting negative images?
This selectivity undermines the credibility of anything Dr Reeves
claims to stand for.
Dr Reeves and the
What then is the nature of the SPLA rebels
Mr Reeves seemingly wishes to see triumph in Sudan? Eight US-based
humanitarian organisations working in Sudan, including CARE,
World Vision, Church World Service, Save the Children and the
American Refugee Committee, no friends of the Sudanese government,
have publicly stated that the SPLA has: "engaged for years
in the most serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial
killings, beatings, arbitrary detention, slavery, etc."
The Economist has summed up the
general image of the SPLA when it stated that:
[The SPLA] has.been little more than
an armed gang of Dinkas.killing, looting and raping. Its indifference,
almost animosity, towards the people it was supposed to be
"liberating" was all too clear.
The New York Times, a vigorous
critic of the Sudanese government, states that the SPLA: "have
behaved like an occupying army, killing, raping and pillaging."
It is not just Dr Reeves' "exceptional leader" Peter
Gadet who is a statutory war criminal. The New York Times
has also described the SPLA commander-in-chief John Garang as
one of Sudan's "pre-eminent war criminals".
To take but one example of SPLA behaviour,
the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Sudan
documented an incident in which SPLA forces attacked two villages
in Ganyiel region in southern Sudan. SPLA personnel killed 210
villagers, of whom 30 were men, 53 were women and 127 were children.
The Special Rapporteur stated that:
Eyewitnesses reported that some of
the victims, mostly women, children and the elderly, were
caught while trying to escape and killed with spears and pangas.
M.N., a member of the World Food Programme relief committee
at Panyajor, lost four of her five children (aged 8-15 years).
The youngest child was thrown into the fire after being shot.
D.K. witnessed three women with their babies being caught.
Two of the women were shot and one was killed with a panga.
Their babies were all killed with pangas. A total of 1, 987
households were reported destroyed and looted and 3, 500 cattle
This is the organisation whose military
victory Dr Reeves apparently wishes to see. Reeves pronounces
upon genocide but is silent about the genocidal tendencies of
the very organisation he supports. In the above example, the
SPLA burnt, shot and hacked 127 children to death because they
were from a different southern ethnic group. Reeves speaks of
a war on civilians but this was only one of many similar instances
of gross human rights abuses involving civilians. Amnesty International,
African Rights, and Human Rights Watch have all documented example
after example of SPLA attacks on villages and villagers - a
self-evident war on civilians very often with ethnic, "genocidal"
by Mr Reeves' definitions, overtones. That this continues to
this day is evident. The BBC reported on "[g]rowing friction
in rebel-held southern Sudan", stating that non-Dinka ethnic
groups "have accused the SPLA or becoming an army of occupation".
These and numerous other independent reports of SPLA ethnic
cleansing of non-Dinka southern tribes provide a clear picture
of an SPLA-controlled Sudan. Dr Reeves invokes Rwandan imagery
while supporting similar genocidal forces in Sudan.
From the safety of his office in Smith
College, Dr Reeves has emerged as quite an armchair strategist
with regard to the Sudanese civil war. For someone who was an
opponent of the Vietnam War, having applied for and obtained
"conscientious-objector status on moral grounds",
Dr Reeves is remarkably gung-ho with other people's blood. He
appears to be content to fight to the last drop of southern
Sudanese blood to satisfy his all too questionable and ill-informed
prejudices regarding Sudan.
Dr Reeves concedes that the Sudanese situation
is a complex one and yet he reduces the situation to one of
questionable crudity. This review has only briefly touched on
the many inconsistencies and double-standards contained within
Dr Reeves' "work" on Sudan. It has been sufficient
to realise that Dr Reeves has been ill-equipped to come to terms
with the reality of events in Sudan. This inability has not
been assisted by a shameless selectivity in what he has chosen
to highlight and what he has clearly ignored or simply been
Amazingly, Reeves has the audacity to
rail against those who "have failed to do the necessary
homework on what's really happening in Sudan." What is
crystal clear is that he has failed to do anything approaching
the necessary homework on Sudan. He has instead relied on hearsay,
second and third-hand claims, sources that are self-evidently
all too questionable - including out and out Islamophobes, as
well as unadulterated propaganda spoon-fed to him by a discredited
Dr Reeves states he is concerned about
peace in Sudan. Former President Carter has clearly pointed
out that it is Dr Reeves' own government that is the biggest
obstacle to a negotiated settlement and peace in Sudan. Perhaps
Dr Reeves should focus on railing against Washington. Similarly,
Reeves makes much of human rights abuses within Sudan. It is
a simple sad fact that the vast majority of human rights abuses
in Sudan are a direct consequence of the civil war in that country.
As former President Carter has stated, the Clinton Administration
is artificially sustaining the Sudanese civil war, and is thereby
at least partly responsible for any human rights abuses that
take place. Once again, perhaps Dr Reeves should focus closer
to home. Rather than campaigning against the oil companies involved
in the Sudan oil project for their alleged role in exacerbating
and fuelling the civil war, Reeves should focus on the real
culprit involved in the continuation of the conflict - the
Clinton administration and its various agencies.
The "Ugly American" appears
to have resurfaced during the Clinton Administration. Even Time
magazine dedicated a cover page and story in 1997 to the question
"Power Trip. Even its Best Friends are Asking: Is America
in Danger of Becoming a Global Bully?". The Economist
has also stated: "The United States is unpredictable;
unreliable; too easily excited; too easily distracted; too fond
of throwing its weight around." In microcosm, Professor
Reeves has been also been unreliable, too easily excited, too
easily distracted and too fond of throwing his weight around.
His reputation can only but suffer, but unfortunately so does
the reputation of Americans internationally. Dr Reeves would
have us believe that he knows better than the Non-Aligned Movement,
the Organisation of African Unity, the Arab League, IGAD and
the European Union. A clearer picture of arrogant, white middle-class
patronising "Ugly Americanism" is hard to find.
Dr Reeves pronounces on Sudan that: "This
is as morally unambiguous an issue as can be." The fact
is that his stance and selectivity is anything but morally unambiguous.
Reeves states that he is concerned about "genocide",
forced displacement, slavery, abuses of humanitarian food aid
and the absence of peace in Sudan. He declares that "American
silence in all this is unconscionable." Yet he stands silent
as the rebels he eulogises engage in a war on civilians including
murder, rape, forced displacement, ethnic cleansing and slavery-like
practices - including the use of child soldiers. His own silence
on these issues is unconscionable. Dr Reeves is not a promoter
of peace. He is a partisan of one side, a brutal, murderous
rebel movement, in a tragic civil war
Either Dr Reeves is ignoring that which
is inconvenient to his case - in which case he is a poor academic
- or he is simply not researching the issue thoroughly enough
- in which case he is a poor academic. What Mr Reeves has to
realise is that it is one thing to spend his time at Smith College
dissecting literature written some centuries ago, and to vigorously
debate or publish conjectural theories with fellow ivory-tower
academics on what Shakespeare or Milton may or may not have
meant in a particular play or poem. Nothing except academic
pride gets bruised. Dr Reeves' academically unsound, flawed
readings of events in Sudan have implications on a live situation
with live people. At no point does Reeves even concede that
he might be wrong on his all-too-questionable claims about Sudan.
If he is even remotely in error the implications for all Sudanese,
north and south, brown and black, are bad. Naivety is to be
expected in ivory towerism; it is often an endearing feature
of literary professors. Where it is less welcome is when it
blunders so malignantly into the real world. Rather than a literary
dissection, Dr Reeves is engaging in a vivisection of a people
for which he is patently ill-equipped.
While Dr Reeves, given his choice of sources,
may have missed them, it is undeniable that there have been
significant changes within Sudan, and with regard to Sudan's
regional and international standing. These changes have included
a Constitution safeguarding civil liberties and human rights,
legislation entrenching multi-party politics - and the return
to Sudan of major political opposition parties because of these
changes - constructive developments in the Sudanese peace process,
and the freeing of all political prisoners. And Khartoum has
also announced the holding of democratic multi-party parliamentary
and presidential elections in Sudan in December 2000. Ongoing
economic reforms and progress have also been enough for the
International Monetary Fund to restore Sudan's IMF voting rights.
A particular feature of the past two years have been improved
relations with neighbouring countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia
and Eritrea, as well as the international community.
The gap between Dr Reeves' selective projection
of Sudan and the reality of events in that country is self-evident.