Posts Tagged ‘sudan’

Trump madness

January 29, 2017

When we lived in Sudan, we lived a couple of hundred metres from the mosque where Osama bin Laden used to go and worship.

In the 1990s.

He wasn’t actually there when we lived there.

In fact, I’m really hard-pressed to find anything that Sudan has actually done against the United States in – what? – the last 20 years. (Remember, when Osama bin Laden orchestrated the 9-11 attacks, he wasn’t actually living in Sudan and had only limited contact with his former home, his erstwhile sponsor Hassan al-Turabi, being something as a persona non grata with the Khartoum regime at the time.)

So why, then, this Sudan visa ban from the current megalomaniac in the White House?

I’m actually kind of hard-pressed to find any logical rationale to the current action from Donald Trump, other than shameless populism and a bloody-minded determination to live up to his electoral promises (which I had, unfortunately and a trifle naively, dismissed as simple electioneering; err… no, he is actually as crazy as he sounded).

Nothing really makes sense, and Donald Trump is acting far too hastily with his executive orders, and without proper guidance. You only have to look how quickly the courts overturned the visa ban – at least temporarily – to see this.

But anyone following Trump closely knows all of this – or if they don’t they are being disingenuous.

I want to make a point here that is slightly more nuanced.

There is a very good case to be made for an overhaul of immigration regimes in Europe and US. Even if you are not a right-wing fascist nutter, there is a case to be made here; and I have made it in previous entries.

But now is most definitely not the time to be making it. The likes of Donald Trump and UKIP leader Nigel Farrage have been riding on the tides of populism for two long, without the benefit of proper rational analysis.

This took the UK out of Europe – which may in fact turn out to be a good thing, but not for the reasons that the likes of Nigel Farrage so often espoused – but I now fear that populism is taking a far more sinister turn.

How did Donald Trump put it? “It’s time to fight fire with fire”.

Indeed it is. And that means being unreservedly pro-immigration. Irrespective of the consequences.

We have for a long time needed a proper immigration policy in place. And we still do.

But to argue for one now is to play into the hands of those privileged populists that seek to make political mileage out of the strife and suffering of others.

Just don’t plant a bomb, Dear Immigrant: that’s not very nice.


The politics of ‘hello’

May 7, 2014

Travellers in the Arabic world will be familiar with the traditional Islamic greeting ‘as-salam al-aykum’ (literally: ‘peace be upon you’), followed by the equally traditional Islamic response ‘wa al-aykum as-salam’ (lit: ‘and upon you be peace’).

Until recently I had considered such an expression to be universally-accepted throughout the Arabic world. But not so. The expression is subtly different in Juba Arabic.

In Juba Arabic, if you are greeting a single person – as opposed to a group – the common usage of this oft-espoused phrase is, “salam taki”.

Why the difference?

Well, first of all, speakers of Juba Arabic – which is a curious melange of Khartoum Arabic and tribal languages – tend to be fairly cavalier with the use of articles. Out goes the ‘as’ before ‘salam’ and the ‘al’ before ‘taki’.

But the really interesting thing is that the Juba Arabic, when said to a single person, is in the singular, whilst the Khartoum Arabic – and I admit to never having noticed this before – is in the plural.

The reason for the greeting being in the plural in most Arabic countries is that the greeting is also being extended to the angels that, according to Islamic belief, permanently accompany a person.

But in Juba, the plural has been dropped, I am informed, because the predominantly Christian and animist southerners do not hold to such believes.

Just one example of how political dynamics have influenced the development of Juba Arabic.

Battling with Trading Standards

December 11, 2013

I know that the received wisdom of business management is that one shouldn’t speak ill of one’s competitors. But at times the frustration at the disdain with which smaller players are treated becomes too much. This is one of those times.

For the past five years, we have worked tirelessly to establish a publishing company that provides quality guidebooks for expats. Our first guidebook to Sudan was written for two reasons. Firstly, because we didn’t believe that Bradt – our only competitor for guidebooks to the country – had done a good job. And we still don’t. Secondly, we couldn’t understand how people living in Khartoum could not fall in love with the place. And we still don’t.

Our Sudan guidebook has done astonishingly well, and we have exceeded our own expectations with both editions.

But Bradt still seems to be in denial about our existence. This is despite the fact that we have repeatedly told them about our guidebook, and that the researcher for their last edition knew of our guide. He may even have got a copy.

I’m not saying that Bradt should have sent us flowers or anything – although, if they are listening and do consider doing so, pink carnations would be nice – but when they continue to insist, despite repeated warnings, that they are the only guidebook to Sudan… well, then I take issue.

Shortly after we published the first edition of our guidebook to Sudan, Bradt published a new edition of their own guide, maintaining that theirs was “the only standalone guidebook to this unique edition”. Despite the fact that the researcher of the guidebook was aware of our guide.

I promptly responded to say that it was no longer true and, quite reasonably I felt, requested that they change this claim.

This was the polite email I got back from Janet Mears:

“Thank you for your letter of 4th December 2010 and your follow-up telephone call of 7th January 2011.  I apologise for the delay in responding.

I confirm that the next printing of Bradt’s Sudan will have the words ‘This is the only standalone guide to this unique destination’ removed from the back cover.”

Sorted. Or so I thought.

But, when they republished their guide in November 2012, they repeated their assertion, this time claiming theirs was “the only guidebook to post-partition Sudan”. Again a totally false statement that they should have been fully aware of.

Incidentally, it is worth pointing out at this point that the Advertising Standards Authority have upheld the complaint against Bradt’s misleading claim, and requested websites remove the wording. Unfortunately, they do not have the mandate to take action against “product packaging” – or in other words the blurb on the back of a book.

Enter Trading Standards.

I have spent the past year toing and froing with Trading Standards. At first, thanks to a wonderfully helpful official from the organisation, I thought that they would be able to help. But my complaint appears to have got caught up in labyrinthine bureaucracy.

I’ll spare you the rather tortuous emails that I have been exchanging with Trading Standards, save to quote from their last significant correspondence: “Despite the complaint appearing to reveal some potential CPR offences, it seems to be more of a civil copyright issue between two publishing companies.”

I’m not sure where the person quoted studied law, but this is wrong on so many levels. We are not claiming that Bradt infringed copyright. We are asserting, quite strongly, that the company is in breach of Trading Standards by openly (and perhaps deliberately) lying on their product packaging. It seems a fairly open-and-closed case. But, even if there are grey areas I am not fully appreciating, at least someone should look seriously at our complaint. After all, as a British taxpayer, I’m funding Trading Standards.

Yet still Trading Standards refuse to take any action. Their mandate says that they can become involved if a product does not “match the description on packaging”?

So why are they not at least considering our case, when the Advertising Standards Authority agree that the wording Bradt is using is invalid?

It’s a point I have put to them and I am yet to hear back, simply being passed from one person to the next. It strikes me as faintly ironic that I read Franz Kafka for the first time, when updating our guidebook to the country.

I am still pursuing the matter, with dwinling optimism, since Trading Standards’ justification for turning our case down appears extremely watery, and I would welcome any views on the matter.

But, in the meantime, remember that Bradt’s claim that theirs is “the only guidebook to post-partition Sudan” is a blatant lie. And one that has probably cost us sales. We were the first publishing company to produce a guidebook to Sudan after independence. And no one can ever take that claim away from us.

And buy our guidebook – not theirs.

Remembering the truth about Sudan

October 25, 2012

It is interesting how different environments lead to different interpretations of the truth. When I lived in Khartoum, everything that the outside world was doing to resolve Sudan’s manifold problems seemed wrong. They just didn’t understand. Having spent the past month immersed in the world of American advocats and lobby organisations, the tragically twisted picture of what things are like in Sudan is compelling. But still wrong.

For a close follower of Sudanese affairs, it is almost impossible to ignore the voices in Washington clamouring for change in the country. I spent an interesting couple of hours with Jonathan Hutson, communications director of the well-funded and one would like to think well-meaning Enough Project, who took me through a compelling video that he was putting together. At the time, it was a work-in-progress; the finished product is here:

Whilst the problem is very real, it is not at all clear what to do about it. The line that is almost always trotted out by Washington’s powerful anti-Sudan lobby is: ‘Remove Bashir. After all, he is an indicted war criminal.” Simple. Job done. Crystal clear message that everyone can understand. Get the bad guy. Start talking about nomadic tribes versus pasturalists and people’s heads start drooping.

The problem is that removing Bashir does not solve the problem. It is also not clear to what extent he is still the problem in the country. There is good evidence that, ever since he took power, he has used historic tribal rivalries to shore up his own powerbase. But the fact that these tribal tensions exist? Surely that is also part of the problem.

Moreover, there is a very worrying trend happening in Sudan – and it has been going on, apparently unnoticed by the black-and-white get-Bashir lobby, for a rather long time.

Like any leader that has managed to hold on to power for more than two decades, Bashir is a wiley old coot. He will do anything to hold on to that power. it. He has spent the past year shifting around people within his own party, who were starting to look slightly threatening.

I’m not afraid to admit that I under-estimated Bashir’s sagacity. I made a little wager about a year ago that by the end of this year, Bashir would be gone. An embarrasing, though thankfully not very costly, error on my part. But seen with the eyes of the past, I don’t think my little wager was as outrageous as it might have seemed.

Bashir had lost South Sudan and thus the north’s principal source of oil wealth, leaving the northern economy in tatters (from which it has still not managed to recover0. At the same time, the Americans had diplomatically stabbed him in the back and not given him what he thought they would – though this was never written anywhere, there was a tacit understanding that, with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which led to north-south separation, the way could be paved for the lifting of sanctions. This has not happened yet. Not even close.

And many in his party blame him for this.

So what Bashir has successfully managed to do is push aside many of those close to him, and started drifting towards the more extremist elements within the country. Just as he did in the 1990s, when the Clinton administration was being such a royal pain in the proverbial.

The problem is that few among the lobbyists seem to be asking the question: what comes next? (Some of the more sobre organisations importantly are, though, and this will form the basis for a separate blog entry in the near future.)

This is a very important question.

Last night, I was at a conference organised by Wanda Aikin and Raymond Brown, two human rights lawyers I have quite a lot of respect for. They have been tirelessly fighting for the rights of victims around the world for many years and currently represent victims in the Darfur case. At this particular conference, they were launching their new Hope and Reparations Project (HARP) for Darfur.

Part of their presentation focused on the use of the word ‘genocide’. They argued that, from a legal point of view, a good case can be built that what is taking place in Darfur is indeed genocide. And yet still journalists and editors shy away from using the term, for fear of ‘crying wolf’.

I thrust up my hand afterwards and pointed out that the reason many journalists (myself included) might shy away from using the genocidal term is that it has some dark and sinister connotations that throw everything into a black-and-white silhoette of reality. I was more-or-less repeating this blog post that I wrote many years ago.

With the deft aplomb of an accomplished lawyer, Brown managed to duck my question whilst appearing to answer it – and I neglected to follow up with him at the cocktail reception afterwards.

The real problem with colouring everything in the stark shades of black-and-white is that people fail to understand the problem that is Sudan. And perhaps, until you have lived there and started interacting with the ordinary people that still call the place their home, you can’t really. There are a lot of able-bodied people in the government working for change. And there are a lot of sinister extremist elements working for the wrong kind of change.

Bashir is an intelligent pawn in a darkly disturbing game of chess. Removing a pawn, even if it has learned how to move sideways, does not necessarily bring about check mate. It could leave you exposed elsewhere.

Yay – Boris!

May 6, 2012

Ok, I guess I should blog about this.

Four years ago, pretty much to the day, I wrote about how tragic it was that Londoners couldn’t think of anyone better to elect than Boris Johnson.

My immediate gripe with the man, brilliant writer as he is, was that he seemed totally ignorant about Sudan. But, I guess, only a small fault for a man destined to lead our fair nation’s capital.

Now that he has been re-elected, I find that I have completely reformed my opinion of him and think that he probably is the best man for the job. He is dynamic, enthusiastic, charismatic and above all sincere.

Let us not under-estimate this final point, in these days of the public’s disconnect with politicians, for I feel that the ‘genuineness’ of Boris is one of the reasons that he got re-elected. His grilling on Newsnight a few weeks back, along with labour candidate Ken Livingstone, is a case-in-point. Jeremy Paxman got them both to agree to disclose their salary. The following day, Johnson disclosed that he earns £240,000, not all of which comes from his Mayorship. Livingstone’s response was inherently confusing, and I still have not the foggiest idea what he earns, through the murky corporate structure that he seems to have established.

It is this directness of the Boris brands that so appealed to Londoners, and one that I am increasingly warming to.

Yes, I hate the principles that Boris stands for. It is patently wrong to slash the top-rate of tax (from 50% to 45%), a move that Boris supported, when the rest the country is having to tighten its belt. And it is a load of baloney such a move was good for the economy. A high tax rate does not mean richies would take their money elsewhere. And, even if they do, so what? The backbone of the economy is small and medium sized enterprises, and not the millionaires, as the Tories might have you believe. So give them more money (the SMEs, of course, not the Tories).

But one cannot help but admire Boris’s candour, and his tireless energy, which is why I am glad he has been re-elected.

Of course, another reason he has been re-elected, which is worth mentioning here, is that most of the media is his old buddies. I have yet to read a truly anti-Boris article – the worst seems to be calling him a “lovable buffoon” or a ”tousle-haired clown”, both of which could be construed as compliments – whereas the Oxbridge media are awash with slights against Livingstone, even the Labour rags.

So, I’m glad that Boris has been elected mayor, as long as he has no dealings whatsoever with Sudan and keeps his somewhat dubious views on tax policy to a minimum. But should he be prime minister? Hell no.

Always winter and never Christmas

December 26, 2011

From some pictures posted on Facebook I see that Father Christmas arrived in Khartoum this year, distributing presents to some wide-eyed and presumably quite bewildered African children. An eminently Christian tradition meets an apparently hard-line Islamic country: interesting, I thought to myself.

For some curious reason, these photos immediately put me in mind of C.S. Lewis’s fabulous tale of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In this kid’s fable, four children enter the magical land of Narnia through a wardrobe, which has been cursed by a wicked white witch to be always winter. But, despite it being permanently winter in the land, Christmas never arrives. That is until the four children – sons of Adam and Eve and therefore heirs to the throne of Cair Paravel – enter the land and the spell starts to break. Then Father Christmas can get through.

To what extent can parallels be drawn with what has been happening to the government in Khartoum?

Yesterday a comment posted on my blog – suggesting that it is about time the Arab Spring arrived in Sudan – focused my thoughts even further.

It is a curious question as to why the Arab Spring has completely passed North Sudan by, given the obviously undemocratic leanings of the government. And it is one I have spent a great deal of time thinking of. Spring, of course, is what happened in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And the moment that the snow started to thaw, the White Witch’s sledge could no longer get through and she knew her reign was coming to an end.

But those who dream of a similar (though more Arabic) Spring in North Sudan are likely to be disappointed. Look at Tunisia, at Egypt, at Libya, to an extent at Syria. These were revolutions that were propelled forwards by a well-educated, articulate and above all numerous middle class.

Look, too, at Russia – where recent demonstrations are finally starting to make a difference. For years, certain echelons of Russian society have been calling for change, but to little effect. Now, though, something seems to have changed within this movement – and that is the buy-in of the middle class.

This is something that North Sudan lacks and, for this reason, calls for regime change are unlikely to gain momentum.

Christmas may have come to North Sudan this year, but this doesn’t mean that the snow is starting to melt. For those that want Spring in the country to arrive, they may have to wait a little bit longer.

Khalil’s passing

December 26, 2011

A few days ago, news came that Darfuri rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) were marching on Khartoum. Parallels started to be drawn with May 2007, when rebels from the same movement launched an attack on the northern outskirts of Khartoum, in Omdurman. The attack ultimately failed to topple the government, but was of huge symbolic importance – here, at last, this rag-tag bunch of doped-up teenagers had managed to reach the very epicentre of governmental power.

This latest news, that JEM was about to launch another devastating attack on Khartoum, was propaganda at its very best. The rebels decided to tell the world about their latest move on Khartoum when they were no more than 120 miles from the border with Darfur. It lacked all the element of surprise that had existed in their previous strike at the capital. It was an attempt to show that JEM – so often at odds with the government when all other rebel groups might be prepared to make peace – still matters.

Then today – on Christmas no less – it emerges that Khalil Ibrahim, JEM’s leader – has been killed. Whether he was killed at the hand of Sudanese soldiers, or in an airstrike, remains a matter of some dispute. But it does appear that he is dead – both the government and JEM confirm this.

I never met Ibrahim during my time in Sudan, although I would have liked to and felt that I knew a great deal about him. Between 2007 and 2008, out of all the dozens of rebel groups that exist within Darfur’s hinterland, it sometimes felt that only JEM mattered. The occasional Indian or Chinese worker was kidnapped – JEM was behind it. A UN convoy got hit – all down to JEM, The rebels are marching on Khartoum – JEM of course.

Mini Minawi, leader of a faction of the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM), had made peace with the government in 2006 (a peace that has recently become unravelled). Abdel Wahid al-Nur, in charge of another SLM faction, was living in Paris and, as a consequence, the influence he had in Darfur was starting to wane (he has since returned to the country to resume his fight against Khartoum). It sometimes felt that JEM was the only rebel group that mattered – and, as I argued consistently in this blog, it probably was.

A great deal of JEM’s strength came from its slick media operation. I’m not the only one to opine this – fellow journalist Rob Crilly, who did spend time with JEM and met Ibrahim, had first-hand experience of how JEM were capturing the world’s attention (essential for any successful rebel movement).

It’s because of this propaganda machine, coupled with JEM’s allegedly strong links with opposition figures in Khartoum, that led prospective rebel fighters to presume that JEM offered the best chance of salvation from the Islamist agenda of the ruling elite (leave alone for the moment that JEM offered an Islamic alternative that was everybit as hardline as the one in place at the moment). The ranks of JEM swelled and even started to attract non-Muslims, although the core always remained vehmently Islamist.

I felt that I knew JEM so well – in fact, many of my Darfuri friends in Khartoum had links with its leadership – that the news of Ibrahim’s death came as something of a shock. This shock was all the greater given the legend that had sprung up around Ibrahim. Like so many similar rebel leaders for which pesonal image has become so important, people had started to regard him as untouchable. Something of a spectral wraith that could slip through the country unnoticed.

It’s too early to say what affect his death is likely to have on JEM as a movement. JEM has always projected more weight on to the Darfur stage than it really has behind it and will probably continue to be the obstreperous one in a bunch of rag-tag rebel groups. I remain unconvinced that such obstreperousness is the best way that JEM can achieve its stated aims – namely an end to the marginalisation of ordinary Darfuri citizens – but at least in Ibrahim there was a leader that other rebels could rally around. (A single rebel group, of course, is what Darfur always needed – and what Khartoum always sought to stop).

So JEM may continue to exist but in Ibrahim’s passing a part of the movement has surely died as well.

It’s out

November 20, 2011

Finally, after countless months of painstaking research and writing, the second edition of our guidebook to Sudan is out!

I have to say I’m rather proud of it – it looks really good – and has even more to it than the previous one. We’re heavily promoting the book as the first ever guidebook to cover independent South Sudan, so that should really help it sell. Plus all the other points, completely revised, which helped make the last one such a success.

I just hope that the orders now start pouring in.

If you are planning on visiting Sudan and want a good guidebook to the country (or even if you just have a passing interest in Sudan) I’d urge you to consider our book. Moreover, if you are going to buy our guidebook, please please please do so from our Sudan guidebook website! We’ll give you a discount – and your money will be going to an independent start-up rather than a corporate giant, who, to be honest, probably could survive without your cash.

Not to labour the point, please don’t buy our book from Amazon – we get exceedingly little money from such sales!

Xenophobic Europe

September 15, 2011

I’m sometimes embarrassed to be European. When one looks at the past five hundred years of European colonial-building, it seems very hard to find anything to be proud of. When one looks at the last 50 years, during which time Europe and America have arrogantly presumed that they could turn the world into a better place, it is easy to see how we could have done a great deal better.

This month, three Sudanese friends of ours were supposed to have their holiday in France. Each one of them has good and secure job that is reasonably well-paid. They also have a passion and love of their own country, as well as a deep interest in the cultures of Europe. Some of them have even taken French lessons, for the simple joy of learning a new language and finding out more about the culture. France, continuously frustrated that French missed out on being the world’s number one language, is always keen to communicate its cultural heritage to the rest of the world.

It was almost certain that they would be welcome to France with open arms, perhaps given a medal upon arrival for being so enlightened about Europe’s many different cultures. It was certainly unthinkable that they could possibly be denied a visa.

But that is just what happened.

I was quite shocked, and more than a little saddened that we wouldn’t be able to see them in Europe this year.

I see the countless economic migrants desperately trying to fight their way into Europe – whose door is still ajar but slowly closing – and am absolutely flaboghasted that these upstanding Sudanese, who were about to come to Europe and (gosh!) spend money here (an African spending money in Europe? is that, you know, actually possible?) were denied entry.

Perhaps those people that make these visa decisions might take a moment to cast their eyes over the newspapers of recent days. Greece. Bankrupt. Ireland. Bankrupt. Portugal. Bankrupt. Spain. Not far away from being bankrupt. Italy. May well go bankrupt. France. Would be happily solvent if it wasn’t having to send all its revenue from taxpayers to Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain and Italy.

In short, the coffers of the French treasury would certainly be glad of a few young free-spenders in the country.

For me, this whole ridiculous situation is immensely frustrating, as I had been looking forwards to seeing my friends here. For my friends, it must be even more frustrating as they had already bought their flight ticket to Paris.

But this blog entry has a deeper message beyond my own personal grievances. Europe is in terminal decline. It seems that nothing politicians do can really arrest this decline. China and India are leaping ahead. The US may have a ridiculously large debt, and been on the verge of default a couple of months ago, but structurally it is in much better shape than most European economies. Even parts of Africa are showing signs of real development, and one day in the not-too-distant future may really be able to demonstrate their weight in the world.

And, meanwhile, Europe trundles on, seemingly completely oblivious of how its place in the world has shifted – and unless it recalibrates its trajectory, it’s heading for that precipis everyone once thought China and India were destined for.

What we need to do is to put a proper immigration and visa policy in place, devoid of the ludicrous sentiments that Europe’s right-wing press seems so full of. Allowing people to move about the world, in controlled fashion, is important. As tourists, my friends would have spent hard cash in France. Others, who want to come to Europe to work, could bring skills and dedication that would give a real boost to the economy. But all we ever seem to hear is the right-wing newspapers weaving frightful tales of how we’ll all be destitute if we let these foreigners in to steel our jobs. That anyone can write such simplified rubbish in a serious paper – when the idea that employment is a finite quantity was disapproven decades ago – is baffling.

What we need in Europe is a clear, comprehensive and unambiguous immigration policy. One that sifts the wheat from the chaff, keeping out those visitors that are likely to cause trouble or migrant workers that have no skills that they can usefully offer, and allowing in those people that might actually bring some benefit.

For what we have at the moment is a completely arbitrary process, where fraudulent asylum seekers from Tunisia can slip through the net by claiming that they are Libyan, whilst some hard-working people from Sudan are denied the holiday in France that they had been planning for months.

They’ll probably go to India instead. Where they are appreciated.

Five past midnight

July 9, 2011

My plane was to leave from Khartoum at just five minutes after South Sudan was to officially gain its independence. This had a personal sort of symbolism with the way my life has become so caught up with the evolution of Sudan in recent years. Unfortunately, the plane was delayed by almost 45 minutes. I hope that was not symbolic also.

Like so many of the things that colonialist Britain came up with, tying the North and South together was a daft idea. For decades, they had been run as two completely separate colonies, with northerners and southerners kept apart as much as possible. Then, at the 11th hour – Juba Conference 1947 – some smart-arse politician (British) had the cunning idea of throwing the two countries in together and seeing what would happen.

The rest, as they say, is history.

So it is great that the South has finally gained independence from the North, and I wish the countries (both the North and the South) well in their future endeavours. I have never before found a country that is quite so captivating, quite so enchanting, quite so endearing as Sudan. Both the Norh and the South.

But signing a document declaring secession was the easy part. The greatest challenges, for both the North and the South, lie ahead.

For the impoverished South, the challenge, of course, is how do you build a new nation state from scratch. I’m sure that the United Nations, which is considering launching a peace-keeping mission in the South, will do everything they possibly can to try and screw the process up.

The South needs lots of aid – proper aid that really helps, not artificial aid that makes do-gooders feel better about themselves and enriches those who work for them.

The South needs hospitals, schools, proper institutions. It badly needs democracy. Let’s not forget that the South is essentially a one-party state and, not wanting to pre-judge future democratic elections, does have some autocratic tendencies. Power rests with a small educated elite. In the countryside, squabbling tribal leaders jostle for power and influence, often resorting to violence to achieve their aims. The world should not forget what has happened to other newly-born countries in Africa, and not assume that members of the SPLM, most of whom fought in the country’s civil war, are above clinging to power in the same way that President Omar al-Bashir has done in the North.

North Sudan faces its own problems, which have not been fully appreciated by those living there. It will take some time for the political, economic and psychological effects of losing the South to be felt. But the impact will be great. A recent article in the Citizen – a South-leaning newspaper – suggests that the North will lose 20% of its population, 25% of its territory and 35% of its financial resources.

It is this last loss that is likely to cause the greatest pain, and I fail to see how, in the short term at least, Khartoum can replenish this lost income. They have taken some steps to do so – the other week Bashir was over in Beijing, seeking new investment – but such steps have become too slow in coming.

The psychological damage of losing a quarter of the country will also be big. There are many, many northerners that believed in the slogan that the National People’s Congress (NPC) kept trotting out: “Unity in diversity”. And the failure of this policy to be realised is starting to smart.

As the effects of the South’s independence start to be felt in Khartoum, it is Bashir that will suffer. Already, members of his party are privately holding him responsible for giving up the South too easily. No one really wanted a return to war, but there is a belief that Khartoum should have had the resources at its disposal to properly control its vast and diverse land. To be bullied into submission by foreigners, let alone America, is too much for many in the NPC to take.

And the party is starting to fracture. I was asked at a party the other day how I saw things playing out in Sudan. I think it is extremely unlikely that there will be a revolution Arab Spring-style. There were some murmurings at the beginning of the year, but a few clumsily-wielded police batons put this to rest. The reasons that there will not be an Arab Spring revolution in North Sudan are complicated and worthy of a separate blog entry. One key reason is the lack of a significant middle class, which led the revolutions elsewhere, but this is not the only story.

The revolution, therefore, will not come from the people. It will come from within the NCP.

Yesterday, from the roof of the place I have been staying, I watched an admirably-long procession of cars, waving the Sudanese flag, amble past, honking their horns and making one hell of a racket Sudanese-style.

These were northerners showing solidarity with the South and sharing in the celebrations. I wonder how long it takes for such feelings of celebrations to turn into a sense of tragedy, loss and introspection.