Sunday, 30 October 2011
Saturday, 22 October 2011
Friday, 14 October 2011
Sudan is indebted to almost every monetary institution in the world with the word "loan" on its About Us page. The country is very close to having an account with the local vegetable seller.
Saturday, 8 October 2011
Friday, 30 September 2011
Thursday, 22 September 2011
Friday, 16 September 2011
Saturday, 10 September 2011
When addressing the subject of South Sudan's independence most news agencies, and news individuals (better known as Blake Hounshells), concentrated on the challenges new countries face. Which is fine. But then, one day, one historic day, when the people of twitter all decided to be Justin Bieber for the day, the topic of discussion was how South Sudan was not yet incorporated into Google Maps. This was a month after independence. I'm sorry, but on a relevance scale this would be rubbing shoulders with George Bush's shoe size. Who cares? Really. How is a map, or a Google Map, going to make a difference? It's not like Salva "cowboy hats are hot on the street" Kiir and his cabinet rely on Google Maps for development decisions. I don't think anyone does. Maybe Sarkozy, but no one else.
Monday, 25 July 2011
Friday, 8 July 2011
Tuesday, 5 July 2011
With the recent tumult that I caused in Al Jazeera I think more people are starting to realize the effects of the false narratives on Sudan. Well I hope that's the case. I know for a fact that I'm not the first to apprehend the short-sighted reporting of Sudan's numerous conflicts. I'm also not the first to address the issue publicly.
We are at a time where all this doesn't matter anymore. What matters is what's said now and in the near future. The recession in the South has to be looked at more objectively, because while independence is a cause for celebration other internal issues might cast some doubt on the new-born nation's stability. We basically have to take the sentimental aspect out of every equation.
I am very grateful to Al Jazeera for following up on my complaint, and on their recently launched series of documentaries on Sudan. They've definitely exerted an effort into asking the people that matter, local experts, political scientists, and political activists.
But I want to give special gratitude to someone who has passionately reported on Sudan for the last couple of years. She's written a book on Sudan called "Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide.” I haven’t read it yet, but it’s definitely on my “Books to buy” list (buy, not read J ). That someone is Rebecca Hamilton.
She’s a special correspondent on Sudan for the Washington Post, and has been published by almost every outlet you can think of. Here are a few: Foreign Affairs, The Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, The International Herald Tribune and Newsweek. You know what; I think she even writes on my blog when I’m not paying attention.
Anyways, I’ve been religiously following her reports on Sudan, and as I recently found out, she’s been paying attention to the real issues in Sudan before I even started this blog (not really, but it was back in November 2010).
Here’s an extract from her article “'Oil-Rich' Abyei: Time to Update the Shorthand for Sudan's Flashpoint Border Town?”, published by the Pulitzer Centre:
“.. Accordingly, the number of articles on the Abyei referendum has sky-rocketed. Read any of the media coverage and you’ll be hard-pressed not to find the phrase “oil-rich” placed somewhere in front of the town’s name. But these days the accuracy of the journalistic short-hand is questionable.
In 2004, when the final stages of the negotiations for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement were underway, the Abyei area was indeed “oil rich.” There were two major oilfields to the east of Abyei town, Heglig and Bamboo, and another to the north called Diffra.
Back then, the combined production of the three fields was an estimated 76,600 barrels per day (bpd). If youcrunch the numbers, this amounted to 25 percent of Sudan’s annual oil production. With so much at stake, “oil-rich” summed up perfectly the reasons why Abyei was an obstacle to the conclusion of the peace agreement.
But we are now in 2010. In the intervening six years, two factors have diminished the accuracy of the “oil-rich” label:
First, oil production from Heglig, Bamboo, and Diffra has declined across the board. From the 76,600 bpd of 2004, the 2009 estimates for the three fields dropped to 28,300 bpd. Meanwhile, production from outside the area increased. By early 2009, “oil-rich” Abyei only accounted for 5 percent of Sudan’s annual production.”
You can read the full article here.
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
To say the current conflict in Sudan has been underreported would be an understatement. Not only has it been underreported, but Sudan as a whole has been more or less forgotten by the West and its neighbours.
Alex De Waal made a compelling point on his SSRC blog where he points out that there’s a “Missing Academic Generation” on Sudan. He claims that there’s a missing generation of scholars on Sudan. There are those who taught and lived in Sudan in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s; and there’s the new breed that are producing new literature on Sudan. But none in between. He narrows down the reasons to the country’s self isolation, US imposed sanctions and Arabicization of the education system.
That’s fine; we all know the detrimental effects of isolation and sanctions. North Korea is a glaring example. However, a sudden surge of comparatively little media attention showed the more worrying effects of isolation and sanctions, and that’s misrepresentation.
Most articles being written about Sudan these days highlight the conflict as being more or less oil related. Every single article that tries to address the issue in Abyei paints a one-dimensional picture of the conflict. The phrase “oil-rich region of Abyei” is more common in literature about Sudan these days than a plausible solution. Now that the fighting has spilled over the state’s border, South Kurdofan gets an honourable mention as “oil rich South Kurdofan.”
The problem with such reporting is that the real stories get lost in the middle. Western reporters have failed miserably in addressing the real issues behind the conflict in Sudan. They seem to concentrate way too much on the oil wealth of the conflict ridden regions, and in doing that not paying much attention to other issues.
A recent news story about the development plans for South Sudan claimed that the World Bank recommended a $75 million trust fund for development purposes, while at the same time the government of the South is planning a $50 million independence celebration. This is ludicrous. It is unacceptable. But is it being disparaged? No, because people are too busy thinking about the “genocides” happening all over Sudan.
What’s more deplorable than all this is the overuse of the word “genocide.” Thanks to the over publicized Nickolas Kristof, Darfur and all other conflict regions in Sudan are now synonymous with genocide, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations. Every single report I have read about Sudan in the last 6 months – with no exceptions – has mentioned genocide at least once. A recent article posted on Nicholas Kristof’s blog, written by Samuel Totten, asks if Omar Al Bashir is up to genocide again. The base for this argument is the current hostilities in the Nuba Mountains in South Kurdofan. The region, mind you, is home to 30,000 rebel fighters who took up arms in a rebellion to demand their rights.
Some of you at this point will automatically assume that I’m a supporter of Omar Al Bashir and the NCP. I’m far from that. I’m not denying the deaths and violence, but using the genocide label so freely distorts the picture and is very counterproductive to those who are trying to voice their concerns.
So the point here is that when you label a conflict like that in the Nuba Mountains as genocide, you automatically remove the will, courage and audacity of those who took up arms from the equation. They become helpless civilians rather than freedom fighters (or whatever you want to call them). There’s a huge responsibility on the reporter to tell the story how it is. It is actually extremely condescending to have a western reporter classify the conflict in the country as genocide when it’s not, because of the sympathy and pity that are associated with the term.
This misrepresentation of events in Sudan is more dangerous than most people think, and because the conflict in Sudan is so underreported, we tend to inadvertently rely on such reports coming from the ground.
The coverage of the Arab revolutions was so immaculate because reporters knew the details of most of the inner workings of the political systems in the Arab countries, and most of the history associated with them. In Sudan’s case however, people just see governmental offences on African dominated “oil-rich” regions, they draw their conclusion there and then, and call it genocide.
Sudan’s history is intricate and requires an understanding. Even the local historians and political scientists – whose views are never taken into consideration when the issue of Sudan arises – are currently having a hard time understanding the predicament that the government has gotten itself in.
Mansour Khalid, a profound Sudanese political figure, published a book called “A Government They Deserve” in 1989. In this book he highlights how, since independence in 1956, the Sudanese elite have relentlessly failed their country and their people. I absolutely agree. It has been the North’s duty and responsibility – since they’re the educated ones – to ensure a united egalitarian multi-ethnic country, and not only has the North failed but it succeeded in doing exactly the opposite. You have to keep in mind that this book was written before the advent of the NCP. I could only imagine what Dr Khalid would have to say now.
The problems in Sudan are real and very serious, and I personally think it’s time that the Sudanese “elite” take responsibility and act for the future of the country as a whole. For that to happen, political, ethical, racial and religious differences have to be put aside. The government needs to stop categorizing the intellectuals as Umma Party or Communist Party, and take their advice where necessary; because in all honesty, they need as much help as they can get. This is no time to put the blame on political parties or corrupt officials, Sudan’s problem needs to be solved and it needs to be solved now, not tomorrow or the day after.
There has to be immediate, unbiased coverage of the hostilities in the South and West of the country. Calls for the genocide police and classifying rebellions as genocidal attempts by the government is doing injustice to those on the ground fighting for their rights.
Many Sudanese people – even the so called political thinkers and intellectuals – blame Sudan’s failure as a state on the myriad of ethnicities that inhabit it. If you care enough to hear out this preposterous blaming game, they all eventually end up blaming the British and their divide and concur tactics. Well, the British wanted to concur, is there a way of morally concurring a nation? There isn’t.
Almost 60 years on, you still get the occasional “Sudan Expert” – usually a Northern Sudanese – claiming to have found the solution to Sudan’s problems. And nine times out of ten that solution would be for us to “embrace” our differences. I’m sure, ever since Sudan’s independence this solution would have been proposed on a daily basis.
Recognizing the ethnicity issue as a cause for all the tumult is good. But blaming the country’s consistent failures on it is inexcusable. A variety of ethnicities with conflicting demands is certainly not unique to Sudan, which is uncommon belief among most Sudanese. We constantly think that we are the only country in the world with conflicting ethnic groups. But we’re not. We’re not even the only one in the region, let alone the world.
Nigeria, for example, is more or less divided into three regions with dominant tribes. There are the Hausa in the north, the Igbo in the east, and the Yoruba in the west. All these tribes have sub-tribes. Nigeria being the most populated country in Africa has done a very impressive job in establishing a pseudo-democracy given the number of tribes that it accommodates.
Rwanda is another example. Rwanda’s current stability should make every Sudanese feel ashamed of our failure to contain our differences. Not only does Rwanda have conflicting ethnic groups, but the dominant Hutu waged an all out extermination of the Tutsi minority. After the atrocities of 1994, the Rwandan government has managed to establish a functioning system of governance and a stable economy under the patriarchal leadership of Paul Kagame.
It is self evident from Sudan’s history that the ethnicity issue was never made a priority. Not one president or prime minister has ever made a veritable effort to address the people’s differences. It seems that this was the case because, technically, the only people to have voiced their concerns and taken up arms in the early years of independence were the southerners; a bold move which was seen as audacious from the ever so chauvinistic north.
So when the southerners first formed a rebel army back in 1955, it was viewed as mutiny. The Sudanese government’s reaction was not much different from the reactions of the current Arab despots slaughtering their people. It seems the decision makers at the time thought the southerners didn’t have the right to demand their rights. Which is exactly what happened in Darfur, and South Kurdofan.
There are many reason to why the northerners think they are superior to everyone else; colour, religion, race, education and the like. The putative intellectual superiority of the north should now be called into question and scrutinized. Mainly because if the educated few can’t link armed rebellions with demands for rights and equal share of governance then who can?
So ethnicity is not the issue, it’s our leaders. They have a tendency to be incompetent. They have a tendency to deny minorities their rights, their freedoms and sometimes their modest existence. So no, I do not buy this hypothesis of embracing our differences in order to make our co-existence plausible, because that will help no one. What might help is if our government fully recognizes every region as significant in its own way from a political point of view; we can leave the emotional bonding for a later time.
Thursday, 16 June 2011
Sunday, 29 May 2011
Once upon a time, someone somewhere said that a human life is priceless. Really now?
Let’s see why. Well, for starters, humans are superior to other creatures (I am quoting from text, in my opinion this is far from the truth). We have the ability to think, to solve, to innovate, to preempt, and to analyze; basically, we have a lot of abilities that single us out as superior.
As far as priorities go, we always get first priority; housing, food, medical care etc. Our needs are always put before the needs of a beaver, or an oak tree for instance. Which kind of makes sense. I mean, surely the contribution of a beaver to capacity building is limited to teeth-related tasks.
However, the claim that a human life is “priceless” has been invalidated, unremittingly, in recent times. People don’t seem to matter anymore. Pay close attention to what I’m about to say next (because you might quote it in the future, and if you do, give me a mention will you!?).
A human life is worth whatever its eradication begets.
This ominous reality seems worse the more you try to comprehend its extremities. The extremities being the return on ending a human life, and the number of human lives deemed expendable relative to the return on their eradication.
It will all make sense soon.
I have compiled a list of places in the world and the corresponding worth of a human life (this is completely from observation):
Iraq: Human Life = a few barrels of oil.
Egypt: Human Life = a political ideology.
Bahrain: Human Life = a crown, a religious ideology.
Congo: Human Life = not much.
Darfur: Human Life = refusal of recognition ≈ not much.
Ivory Coast: Human Life = a few more days in office.
Somalia: Human Life = a fish or two.
Afghanistan: Human Life = some opium, a strategic military position.
US: Human Life = a few barrels of oil, a strategic military position, a few more days in office, some natural gas.
UK: Human Life = whatever the US thinks.
Brazil: Human Life = economic growth.
Myanmar: Human Life = some golden stars on the shoulder, a nice bank balance.
Arab Countries with protests: Human Life = worthless.
Average Human Life = $100.
Please feel free to make additions or criticisms.
Thursday, 19 May 2011
Since my Nobel Laureate post a lot has happened in the world. Just to show you how eventful 2011 has proven to be, my trip to Dubai was a mere side-dish.
I know some people might have expected that I would write a piece about Osama Bin-Laden’s “assassination”, but to be honest I don’t regard it as significant. No one should. I will discuss this further in a minute. Now however I want to point out that the putative raid carried out on a compound in Pakistan that resulted in the extermination of Osama Bin-Laden sounds too Hollywood for my liking. Navy seals, special forces, helicopter assault, president watching on live stream, wives used as human shields, random Pakistani cyber-freak tweeting the events as they happened, Pakistani government and army not knowing about it, the US president relaying the news to the world; I’m sorry, it’s ridiculous.
The legitimacy of the situation aside, it shouldn’t matter in the first place. Yes, he was known globally as the embodiment of Satan himself, but he’s had no significance in the last 10 years, none whatsoever. The most ominous part of this GI Joe-like tale is that people were celebrating like they got death threats from Bin-Laden on a daily basis. Was it a publicity stunt? Maybe. Is the world still ignorant? Absolutely.
Based on how blown up the Osama Bin Laden story was, it didn’t last for long in the news headlines, 10 days maximum; which is still a long time regarding how inconsequential the event should have been. Maybe – this is dedicated to the conspiracy theorists – the US government is now trying to take the spotlight of the issue in order to alleviate the demand for evidence. Maybe.
Now, Mr Strauss-Kahn (might be Dr, I can’t be bothered to check) has stolen the limelight. For many reasons. First of all, keeping up with imperialist tradition he goes and assaults a hotel maid from West Africa. How appropriate. This is just service to critics on a silver platter. I bet he violated her natural resources (pun intended). Second of all, a so called socialist, and a primary candidate for the Socialist Party of France’s presidential bid, AND head of the IMF, has always made him a target for critics. Then he goes and stays in a $3000 a night hotel suite. Unintelligent, really, why would you do that? I’m not judging, but it’s like claiming to be celibate then sleeping around and hoping no one notices. Of course there’s the issue of the part he’s playing in securing European bailout packages, his ridiculously wide face and the fact that the IMF’s managing director has to be European.
This is probably the wrong time for someone like Strauss-Kahn to commit suicide, I mean sexual assault. The wrong time primarily for the IMF. Chiefly because the emerging economies have recently been voicing their grievances regarding the must-be-European Managing Director issue at the IMF. Now, these grievances will be voiced louder than ever. For the most part, I think this is absurd. It’s unrealistic. The fact that the emerging economies have such grievances shows how detached they are from the realities of this world. The IMF’s head is European for a reason. This reason doesn’t concern non-western countries. So everyone should stop whining and let Christine Lagarde take it; and concomitantly, let imperialism do its job.
So the Spanish have been protesting. When I heard this I was puzzled, because why on earth would they be protesting? Do they not like the fact that Barcelona wins the Champions League every year? Are they unhappy with the weather? Do those flamingo dance dresses give them epilepsy? Ok, maybe that’s a good reason to protest. On a serious note though, apparently the protestors have real objections. These are some of the things they’ve demanded: electoral law reform, true separation of powers, and political regeneration – which is basically an end to corruption. Fair enough. I say they should protest; everyone should have the right to. This just goes to show that the European countries on the Mediterranean are more alike with their North African neighbors than their European ones. This was always apparent. So yes, the Spanish should protest, and so should the Greeks, Portuguese and Italians. Even though, I think the people that should protest in Spain are those bulls being stabbed for everyone’s gratification. They should have a union.
There are other quasi-interesting stories here and there, but nothing special. I think the news has become too negative. There are too many people being raped, murdered, slaughtered, ran over by tanks, bombed, molested, sexually assaulted, killed, tortured, murdered, slaughtered (repetition was intentional, one for the normal criminals, one for the Arab leaders). Why isn’t anyone portraying good news? Like Porto’s win over Braga last night. That’s nice isn’t it?
I have good news; there’s a post before this one, go read it.
Monday, 16 May 2011
When I was in Dubai I stayed at this pretty decent hotel. 4 stars I think. It was a nice, friendly, “international-ish” environment. The hotel staff at the desk was a paragon for a condensed United Nations conference. One of them was even Sudanese, although he looked a bit Indian with his gel-molested hair. All in all, the hotel had a very welcoming feel to it. So on one of the occasions when I got into the elevator to set off on the relatively long, ear-pressurizing trip to the 44th floor where I stayed, a middle aged man stepped into the elevator with us. I was with a friend, and we were making small talk in our version of Arabic. So the man, most likely Iranian, turns to me and asks where I was from. So I told him. Then he asked, with a bit of gesticulation, “That (my country) and Nigeria.. Same same?” His English was woeful and his gestures were implying geographical locality. “Yes”, I said “Yes they are.” We both turned away, him proud of his geographical knowledge, and me with a smug look on my face.
This wasn’t the first time someone showed a lack of knowledge about my country, but it wasn’t the worse. I usually get the “Which continent is it in?” or the utterly hopeless “Is it next to India?” At least the man in the elevator got the Africa part correct. I don’t blame anyone though, because I think knowledge is acquired when the respective person deems it necessary.
The thing is, ignorance is not an issue, until people take advantage of it. Most of the people around the world don’t know much beyond the confinements of their habitat. That said, it doesn’t make them bad people, or “ignorant” people. At the end of the day ignorance is relative. You might think you know it all, but when compared to others with more knowledge you might be considered ignorant.
Ignorance is dangerous when you are subject to propaganda, like in the west; or when you are duped into thinking that the election of a certain individual will get you out of poverty. Even then it’s not your fault. The people behind the falsified promulgation strategies that target the less acquainted are the ones to blame.
The word ignorant is being misused. It doesn’t mean stupid or idiotic like most people assume. For example, when most Arabs talk about how the American population is ignorant of their strife in the Middle East it’s utterly preposterous. When the whole world talks about the lack of knowledge of western professionals towards certain detailed aspects of people’s lives it’s also preposterous.
The only entity one can blame is the media, and of course the education systems. These are the aspects in peoples’ lives that shape the outcome of their profundity.
I, for example, think that awareness of global affairs, politics, history and culture is necessary for my progression in life. You might not. Or some Genetics PhD student living in Toronto might deem it redundant. All I’m saying is, people acquire information on a need to know basis, and this basis is completely dependent on people’s perception of what they need to know. So, the only thing you can technically disparage is someone’s judgment on what’s necessary and what’s not – from a knowledge point of view – for their own progression.
Ignorant literally means unaware. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with being unaware. It only becomes wrong when one is unaware of something that directly affects them, like all other things in life; like being unaware of the fact that not getting to work on time will get you fired. Being ignorant of something that does affect you is bad, but being ignorant of something more distant, I think, is a personal choice. The morality of this choice can always be brought into question, but that’s beside the point.
On the other hand you can argue that awareness isn’t synonymous with knowledge. Basically, you can be knowledgeable, but apathetic to the realities of a situation. In which case using the word ignorant can be justified, or not, depends how you look at it.
Don’t for one second think I’m trying to promote ignorance, or justify it. I’m all for intellect, it even makes for nice dialogue. All I’m saying is the word “ignorant” is being misused.
Saturday, 30 April 2011
Winners of the award have primarily come from the west. This has pretty obvious reasons; economic and technological developments obviously help in the advancement of humanity. The award does however find recipients in undeveloped countries like Bangladesh, Burma, Nigeria and Ghana.
Having said that, most of the awards given to people from Third World countries are for Literature and Peace. Literature, because as we all know any story from an under developed country is considered exotic in the west (which is a phenomenon I am willing to exploit with my to-be book “Sit Shay”, which translates to “Tea Lady”); and Peace because, well I don’t have to explain that one.
Despite their incredible achievements, Nobel Laureates from Third World countries have developed a rather exasperating presumption regarding their own political adeptness. They think they are fit to run their countries. Ok, they don’t think, they’re convinced. If you think, you’d write about it but when you’re convinced you actually run for office.
Kofi Annan, a former secretary general of the UN, and former head of the UN Security Council is one of the aforementioned Nobel Laureates. After his rather pathetic term as the head of the UN Security Council, he assumed the post of secretary general of the UN. During his tenure as secretary general he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for being an African in a high position, or at least that’s what I think, because honestly the Royal Swedish Academy of Science’s reasoning was incomprehensible.
So after Annan’s tenure ended in the UN, he went back home to Ghana for a political career. In 2007 he was considered as a candidate for Ghana’s presidential elections.
Another Nobel Laureate with high political aspirations is Wole Soyinka, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. In 2010, he established the Democratic Front for a Peoples Federation, which he chaired, but whether he was going to run for office was disputed.
The most recent Nobel Laureate to make such a preposterous move is Egypt’s Mohammed El Baradei. He’s a former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “attempt” at purging the world of nuclear weapons.
El Baradei was heavily involved in the recent Egyptian revolution and was considered a symbol of resistance by many Egyptians. In February 2010 he formed the National Association for Change, a non-party-political movement. He later announced in March of 2011 that he intends to run in the upcoming presidential elections.
The outrageous part in all this buffoonery is not the silly reasons on which the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Annan and El Baradei, but the inconceivable conviction of the Nobel Laureates’ political aptitude.
Being in charge of a major global organisation, and having a high proficiency in telling stories doesn’t give anyone the right to a political career in their country, let alone be president. Politics, despite being a reprehensible field, like all other fields requires experience. And unlike other fields, its climate varies from one country to the next. So it only makes sense that successful politicians always have significant experience in their own country’s political atmosphere before making attempts at high positions.
Suddenly emerging on to a political scene and having the audacity to think that people should vote for you and your policies is not only stupid but quite disrespectful. The only thing people like Annan, Soyinka and El Baradei have to offer the populace is their much coveted accolade. This does nothing for anyone.
Anyone can think that they know how a certain country should be run; almost everyone in this world has political views and ideas; but not all can execute them, this is primarily due to a lack of political adroitness and familiarity with the people.
I think there’s a very important question that should be asked of every presidential candidate anywhere in the world. Referencing will be quite embarrassing but, as Janet Jackson so fruitfully put it, “What have you done for me lately?”
This question is more important than most people think, because you can always tell me what you’re going to do when you get elected, but what have you already done that makes you think that you’re a viable head of state. Written a book? No thank you. Inspected some nuclear plants? No thank you. Chose to intervene in some conflicts while ignoring others for political reasons? I think I’d rather vote for the first two.
So unless these laureates don’t think much of the people they’re campaigning to govern, the thought of running for office shouldn’t even cross their minds.
Friday, 29 April 2011
So far, since Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, two dictators were overthrown, another one was forced into the constraints of his presidential compound, another one is accepting proposals for a trial-less resignation, and a rookie to the protest game is just starting to show promise in his ability to massacre his own people.
The rookie is of course Bashar Al Assad; he and his oligarchic nepotistic elitist tyrannical fraudulent thug infested ruling party.
On Wednesday it was announced that more than 50 people were killed since the army moved into Deraa, in southern Syria. This made a significant addition to the current death toll of 453 since the protests began in mid March.
It’s also being reported that 30 tanks are currently surrounding Deraa, and more tanks are being positioned on the outskirts of Damascus.
These figures are very vague and barely accurate, mainly because the government in Syria has banned all press coverage, except the deliberate falsification of news by the state TV channel. Unfortunately for Mr Assad this happens to be the year of citizen journalism.
Due to the emergence of this new type of journalism, we have the privilege of a sneak preview of what is happening on the ground in Syria. Even though the numbers are hard to verify, videos don’t lie.
So whether it’s 453 people dead or 2 people dead we know the means. And I can tell you now, they’re ugly.
The most uninteresting thing about the Arab revolutions is that they are mundanely similar. After what had happened in Tunisia and Egypt, I could’ve told you EXACTLY how the presidents of the rest of the countries were going to react to the dissent. It’s so similar that conspiracy theorists could currently be having a field day on all sorts of theories surrounding the idea of a Middle East controlled by a single power. It’s mind boggling, but let’s leave that for now.
So Assad’s journey to dictatorial stardom started with small protests. Al Jazeera wrote a piece about how it all started with families demanding the release of their children who were arrested for revolution slogans they purportedly drew on walls in a street in Deraa.
From there you can probably guess how things went; calls for release, rejection, more calls for release, rejection, protests, subjugation. This proved to be the spark that the Syrian people have been waiting for. The protests that followed called for freedom from oppression, obviously.
Assad, being a quintessential dictator like his father, decided to follow in the footsteps of his counterparts (some of them no longer there) in the Arab world and crush the protests.
The protests that followed were bloody. As the soon to be called “protests cycle” dictates, death begets more protests. Subjugation and deliberate killing only adds more fuel to the fire, and it did.
The death toll kept rising and rising until by the middle of this past week it reached the 453 figure.
As we’ve seen in the previous revolts in the region, the most anticipated milestone is the moment the western leaders stand up and “condemn” the violence. For Syria however, this particular moment was nowhere to be seen. Not only that, but no one really anticipated it.
All we got were a couple of unceremonious comments from Obama saying how he would like the violence in Syria to stop. Which is what he always says; in a way that convinces you of his utter confidence in his reprimands.
A couple of days after Obama, William Hague, the British foreign minister came out and said more or less the same thing. Lackadaisical comments that call peace and restraint.
Most embarrassing of all is the lack of reaction from the UN. Not only did they completely ignore the issue, they had the nerve to inform the media that they’re not decided on their statement regarding the situation in Syria.
If they’re stuck on which terminology to use, that’s unacceptable; if they’re stuck on who exactly to make the statement to, that’s unacceptable; basically, there is no reason for the UN to be taking this long to address such an issue.
We all know, including Mr Obama, Mr Cameron and Mr UN, that press coverage of the events in Syria is deliberately banned by the government; and we all know that our only credible source of information is the videos updated by those on the ground, and the phone interviews they rarely give. We all know that. Yet not all of us are acting against these monstrosities.
Does this mean that the west doesn’t believe in the power of citizen journalism? Does it mean that they doubt the authenticity of the videos and statistics being delivered through the civilians’ mobile phones? Or is there just too much politics involved?
In order for the west to recognize Assad’s regime as dangerous, considerations have to be made for Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia. It is a precarious situation, or so it seems.
This is a very credible issue to take into account when considering the west’s reaction to the Syrian revolution. But its credibility only goes to prove the theory (yet to come) of the devaluation of the human life. Political strategy is more important than saving lives. Yes, you can always argue that political instability can eventually cause more lives to be lost, but planning for future stability and sacrificing lives now is irresponsible.
Come to think of it, none of the western leaders gave their support for the protesters; none of them, not even Obama, aka Mr Political Rhetoric. No support shown, no help promised, no proper sanctions put into place, no veritable statement of condemnation. Shameful? I think so!
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Today some unfortunate news about the death of a foreign journalist, Tim Hetherington, in Misurata was circulating endlessly on all social media sites. People were deeply saddened and were offering their condolences.
It was a bit too much if you ask me. No disrespect to Tim Hetherington or his family and friends, and may he rest in peace, but people die every day in Libya, especially in Misurata where he died.
There is an evident bias in every syllable of western journalism, or maybe even journalism in general. It seems the deaths of those reporting violence and those intervening are so much more significant.
To clarify my point I’ll give you some news headlines from today.
“Foreign journalist, Tim Hetherington, dies in Misurata.”
“MOD names British soldier who died in hospital after Afghanistan blast as Captain Lisa Jade.”
“200 dead and over 50,000 displaced in post-voting violence in Nigeria.”
“20 dead as protests are dispersed by security forces in Syria.”
“12 rebel death in besieged city of Misurata.” (a couple of days ago)
Do you see the difference between the death of a foreign entity and that of the locals? The worst part is that this is not the first time this happens; it has been going on ever since the invasion of Iraq.
American and British troops are always identified; even their ranks are pointed out. However, the millions of Iraqis and Afghans that have died since the break out of both wars are fused into the numbers on the headlines.
To be fair, some of the local people do get named; only, however, when they’re journalists or “activists”. What does that mean? What’s an activist? And why are they more important than all the rest of the people in the street campaigning for freedom? I mean at the end of the day they can all die with one bullet and are vulnerable to arrest and torture.
Libya’s case is by far the worst. NATO is clearly there to help out the rebels. The main people behind this conflict are the rebels fighting for their freedom. However, even their names are left out of news headlines. Then who the hell matters?
It just seems to me that if you’re not a registered activist (you can register at the Royal Activist Association for Activists (RAAA)*) or a journalist or a foreign soldier, you don’t really matter.
*Note: RAAA doesn’t exist.
It seems that after the ouster of Mubarak attention has been directed towards twitter, facebook and social media more than anything else; arguably even more than pornography.
Yes the internet and social media helped the people’s cause in the MENA region, but this social media mania has eclipsed the things that really matter.
Not only did the uprisings show that there’s always hope of emancipation, they also proved that governments are not that important.
The role of government, ideally, is to regulate. That’s it. Regulate imports or exports, immigration, local markets, anything that would be severely affected by excess or shortage. Security is one government role that needs de-regulation.
As was proven after the fall of Mubarak, the eloping of the interior ministry apparatus (also known as the police) didn’t have as dramatic an effect as would be imagined for a police-less state. Normal citizens organized checkpoints, neighbourhood watch and cleaning fiestas. Yes you get the occasional burglar here and there, but that’s not beyond normal citizen rule.
A while back in Sudan, being a burglar was arguably the riskiest business. If you got caught, by the people in the neighbourhood that is, you’d be praying for Godzilla to come storm the city. You’d be begging to be taken to the police station.
I think this is one main aspect of the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya (Benghazi) that has been severely neglected. After all everyone was getting their hands dirty for their country.