South Sudan-North Sudan: potential conflict over a barrel

By Alpha Furbell

Since South Sudan separated from the north almost two years ago, oil production has stalled.

Although most oil reserves are in South Sudan, north Sudan still has enormous influence on the production of oil. North Sudan controls the oil refinaries, pipelines and transport highways from the inland production areas to the ports, allowing the oil to be exported to major buyers such as China and Europe.

Disputation still remain between the two countries as they have yet to settle the conflict  over their border areas, including the oil-rich Abyei region. The position of the Abyei region was left undecided when South Sudan separated from north Sudan after almost three decades of civil war, which caused the deaths of an estimated two million people, including women and children.

Although South Sudan and north Sudan signed an agreement to resume oil production, both countries are building their armed capabilities in the border areas. The military build-up is a clear indication that both al-Bashir, president of north Sudan, and Salva Kiir of South Sudan are opting to resolve the dispute in the oil rich Abyei region, militarily. Both presidents are warlords, having fought against each other for more than two decades: they understand war better than politics.

It is highly likely that the two countries will return to full scale war if the international community, including the United Nations and other major stakeholders in Sudan, do not intervene to effectively assist the two countries reach a permanent and acceptable deal over border areas and oil production.

Why Malala’s shooting will hinder the credibility of ‘moderate’ Muslims

By Abdulkhalig Alhassan

Several weeks ago Pakistani-Taliban, an offshoot of the Afghanistan Taliban, cowardly shot Malala Yousifzai in the head. Malala, aged 14, is a well known activist for education rights for girls. Her brave stand against the Taliban belief in banning girls’ education nearly killed her.

The tragic accident has brought lots of anger, from within and outside Pakistan. Most politicians around the world raced to show their support and willingness for her to be treated. However, the accident has raised many questions about the moral credibility of the Muslim majority.

Theoretically, the Muslim majorities around the world, who like to define themselves as ‘moderates’, are very keen to distinguish themselves from the fundamental minority. Moreover, they don’t miss any opportunity to assure others of  their attitude of co-existing with people of all beliefs. But in reality, the story is different.

The influence of the fundamentalist minority on them is very visible and undeniable. In fact, they live under ongoing blackmail by them. Whenever something attacks the fundamentalists and is seen by them as insulting to Islam, we find the majority fall in line and take their side, despite their whispering condemnation of the radicals’ violence and overreaction.

Malala’s ‘accident’ is evidence of how moderate Muslims have not yet developed an independent attitude to the one adopted by fanatics. The fact that fundamentalist Muslims all around the world ignored what happened to the Pakistani girl is not a surprise. It’s very consistent with their misogynistic attitudes.

What about the moderate Muslims? What was their reaction to what happened? Why couldn’t they mobilise themselves and protest? Why didn’t they show strong condemnation and make it clear that what happened to Malala is an insult to Islam and Muslims?

The answer is very simple; there is no difference between the ‘moderates’ and the fundamentalists. They dance to the same tune. And if they don’t, it is only in degree rather than essence. Both groups are traditional-minded; nevertheless, the radicals appear more consistent in their theological perspectives. The dilemma of the moderates is that they feel caught in the middle. Most of them are secular to some degree, but at the same time, they haven’t developed a clear cut attitude to make them immune from the influence of traditional-Islam interpreting, which is manipulated by conservatives.

Most have internalised the notion that they are not true representatives of Islam, as if Islam is only one solid version, which in reality it is not. This situation pushes them to shy away from Islamic issues unless invited by the ‘true’ representatives, the salafists. This situation, where they are deprived of their rights to criticise any sort of insults, comes to Islam from within. This vulnerable situation of the moderates has given salifists the upper hand to create exclusive measurements of what insults Islam and Muslims.

It’s well known to those moderates that Malala had done nothing to insult Islam. In fact, she sought her right to education within the traditional paradigm of Islam. However, their lack of confidence as Muslims meant they failed to seize the moment to defend their tolerant message of Islam and at the same time to corner the radicals and embarrass them.

This inconsistency and double standard will hurt moderates and Islam. Any talks from their side, in the future, about the tolerance and peaceful message of Islam won’t be taken seriously as long they can’t respond to the violence and insult to their beliefs from within.

On the other hand, the only winner in this situation is the radicals. They are left as the main player on the Islamic arena. The radicals are gaining legitimacy every day as the only representative of the Muslims. At the same time, their violent brand of Islamism steadily dominates. No wonder then it became more and more difficult for the silent majority of Muslims to defend their peaceful version of Islam.

Gazelles: gentle, speedy teasers

We have recently adopted the name ‘The Gazelle’ for this blog.  But how many people know about the variety of gazelles in Africa and how they they behave?  Our resident gazelle expert, Thokgor Reech reports:

I watched gazelles when I was young boy living in a small village Makuach in South Sudan. Gazelles were very common in Makuach, but in 1990, the number of gazelles was greatly reduced because of the many gunmen in area during the Sudanese civil war.

Gazelles are very gentle, speedy, high jumpers.  Gazelles tease and insult other animals and people; they wait until you come near and then begin their gentle jump.

Gazelles are found in many places in Africa including Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and South Africa. The larger herds of gazelles are found in open, grassy plains, living together as individual males and females or in herds up to twenty in number.

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Gazelles are grass animals; scrub and leaves keep them continually grazing and they have little need for water, as they are able to extract moisture from their food.

The gazelles vary their diet according to season. They eat herbs, foliage from shrubs, short grasses and shoots. Grant’s Gazelles obtain the moisture they need from their food and have unusually large salivary glands, possibly an adaptation for secreting fluid to cope with a relatively dry diet. They typically remain in the open during the heat of the day, suggesting they possess an efficient system to retain the necessary fluid in their bodies.

The gazelles are a main food source for all of the major predators in Africa, including man. The coloration and the open savannahs in which they live make them rather easy to spot. The gazelle’s horns are no protection against attack and they must rely upon nimbleness, speed and their impressive leading ability to avoid becoming a meal.

Even with all the predation, the Thomson’s gazelle and Grant’s gazelle prosper with impressive numbers. The Grant’s gazelle inhabits a wider range of territory in Africa while the Thomson’s gazelle has a larger population. Both species share grazing ground and the herds frequently interact. Even so, to tell them apart is fairly simple.

Stotting

The Sand Gazelle is not a leaper but instead escapes predators with unbelievable rushes of speed, sometimes reaching 60 kilometre per hour. Stotting is a specific step used by gazelles when being chased by predators. It includes a high, stiff-legged jump that actually slows the gazelle down, increasing their risk of being caught. It may act as a boast of the gazelle’s great fitness. Whatever the reason, it seems to work as most cheetahs will break off a hunt when a gazelle stots.<
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Physical characteristics

Grant’s gazelles resemble Thomson’s gazelles but are remarkably larger and easily distinguished by the broad white patch on the rump that extends upward onto the back. The white patch on the Thomson’s gazelle stops at the tail. Some varieties of Grant’s have a black line on each side of the body like the Thomson’s. In others, the line is very light or absent. A black line runs down the thigh. Grant’s gazelle’s lyre-shaped horns are firm at the base, clearly ringed and measuring 18 to 32 inches long. On the females’ black skin surrounds the teats with white hair on the underside. This probably helps the young recognise the source of milk. When a fawn is older and moving about with its mother, the dark line on the white background may serve as a signal for it to follow.

The Thomson’s gazelle or Tommie, is smaller and has a remarkable black band, stretching from shoulder to hip, bisecting their tan and white colouring. Tommies are exceptionally alert and rely heavily upon their impressive sense of hearing, sight and smell to detect any threat.

Some gazelles, especially those that live in desert regions, are critically endangered. The Sand Gazelles, Cuvier’s Gazelle and Dama Gazelle have seen their population radically decline in the last few decades. Drought, habitat destruction and poaching are all to blame. Laws and regulations have been passed to protect these species, but they are rarely enforced so these gazelles continue to reduce in number.

Breeding

Grant’s gazelles live in standard male-led herds. In more closed habitats, the herds tend to be smaller and more sexually-segregated. Male gazelles have developed several ritualised postures to determine dominance.  Younger males will fight, but as they grow older, the ritualised displays often take the place of fights. If neither competitor is intimidated, they may confront one another and clash horns trying to throw the other off-balance.

Most gazelles give birth to one fawn but it is not unusual for the Cuvier’s Gazelle to have twins. The Damn Gazelle is the leading of the species, weighing about 190lbs and standing about 42” high at the shoulder.

Breeding is seasonal but not firmly fixed. Gestation is approximately 7 months and the young are born in areas that provide some cover. The newborn fawn is carefully cleaned by the mother who eats the afterbirth. Once the fawn can stand up and has been suckled, it seeks a suitable hiding place. The mother watches carefully and evidently memorises the position before moving away to graze. Females return to the fawn three to four times during the day to suckle it and clean the area. The lying-out period is quite long –  two weeks or more.

The fawn eats its first solid food at about 1 month but is nursed for 6 months. Grant’s gazelles become sexually-mature at about 18 months. By that time the young males will have joined an all-male bachelor herd, but it will be some time before they become territory holders, if at all. Males from the bachelor herds challenge the territorial males, but only the strongest win territories, which they mark with combined deposits of dung and urine.

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Professional Pronker

Characterised by their long slender legs, gazelles when nervous or excited, will exhibit a behaviour called “pronking”, a method of locomotion where the animal jumps vertically into the clear. Some theories suggest that by making themselves more noticeable, they are signalling to predators that they are aware of the danger, or they may be showing off their fitness and strength to intimidate animals on the prowl for a meal.

Information sourced for this article has come from the National Geographic.

That is my Dog!

By Peter Ajak 

 You groan

And all attention shifted

You barked at lookalikes

And your puppies squalled

Are you aware that your rusty tone is oxygen fuelling the flame?

 

 You blew me away with your powerful barks,

Right back I crawled

You bit me in the back when I needed your protection

Like millipede I coiled up without a sound

 

I will not be consumed by your vitriolic attacks,

My bones will not break.

Loud and clear I will speak

Loud and clear you will know I am not your sin-bin!

 

Your emptiness is my strength

 When your lies spread

Burning every sensibility in me

Just like millipede I coiled-in my vital organs

Wound will heal

Memories, not

 

Gather yourself and come clean,

Your alienations melt you in the absent of my heat.

Watch me deliver these fleshy bones to my loyal dog,

Your tongue moves from one side to the other

Swallowing saliva every now and then,

You wouldn’t get a taste doggy.

 

You accused me of thuggery, carelessness, ugliness and the likes!

Unfairness wean you doggy

I am healing

It about time I forgive, not forget

 

Bark as you desire.

Gas rearward, nature say so.

Polluted mouth whiff sinfully

You know I love you

 

I am hopeful you will be my dog again

That day is approaching

When I will unequivocally say,

That is my dog.

African Australian leaders for the future

Ahmed Ali & Osman Shihaby

Premier Ted Baillieu was a guest of honor at the African Think Tank Leadership Program (ATTLP) held its first graduation ceremony on Tuesday 30 October held at Port Melbourne Town Hall.

The ATTLP, a weekly leadership course from July to October 2012, develops leadership skills of African-Australians from Somalia, Eritrea, South Sudan, The Republic of Sudan, Nigeria, Congo, Ethiopia, South Africa, Botswana and Liberia, all of whom were leaders in their home countries.

African Leadership Development Program participants with the Premier of Victoria, Ted Bailliau

The ATTLP received $150,000 over the three years from the Coalition Government and is supported by Monash University, Victoria Leadership and AMES to provide graduates with a Certificate IV covering subjects such as financial management, marketing and media, supporting volunteers, team management and conflict resolution.

Premier Baillieu congratulated the 30 graduates and said “The Victorian Coalition Government is proud to support the leadership program and we have committed to assist its graduates in becoming part of the next generation of Victorian leaders”.

We decided to participate in ATTLP’s 2013 program with the aim of acquiring the skills to establish a soccer group for boys age between seven to fifteen years old from newly arrived African migrants.

The purpose of the group is to engage youth and develop social and sporting skills, teaching them how to be leaders while exercising and have fun at the same time.

Other benefits will include:

  • developing good relationships between the boys and their parents
  • helping the boys gain new skills such as problem solving
  • creating friendships with other members of the community.

These activities would be organized in a number of ways starting with a BBQ with parents to advertise our program, discuss our plans and hear their feedback. Other activities could include:

  • a fundraising dinner where we will invite all members of the community, the media and Premier Baillieu
  • recruiting volunteers to assist the team
  • invite Soccer Australia players to come to one of the match so we can learn from their experience and feedback
  • School Holidays program e.g. camping for the parents and the children
  • a fun night (e.g.) music and cultural food and we ask parents to participate on the night
  • celebrate Harmony day and play a match with another community soccer players
  • encourage players to participate to Australian Clean Day so it teaches them volunteer work from the early age.

Our participation in the 2013 ATTLP Program will develop leadership skills, both for ourselves and also for the next generation of young African-Australians, providing benefits and promoting greater understanding, to all members of the Victorian community.  We look forward to being part of ceremony 2013.

Australia relied on Africa

By Ahmed Zaroog

Foreign Minister Bob Carr says Australia will have a great deal more influence in international arena after winning a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

The Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Richard Marles, says Australia won the seat for a variety of reasons, including its strong historic record in peacekeeping missions around the world. Africa supported Australia to win the two-year Security Council seat, with all African and Caribbean nations backing it.

The Opposition believes the Government has focused too much over recent years on aid programs to Africa, simply to win over these nations in its bid for a Security Council seat. However, it’s a challenge to Australia to keep its promises to send more aid and development assistance to Africa because, as we know, armed violence continues to escalate, the illegal arms trade is having an impact on the everyday lives, especially for people across Horn and East Africa. The region suffers from systematic human rights abuses, including killing, torture, rape, looting and destruction of property.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, needs to think more about international policy and international community its not just Asia. I believe that Carr, with his Asian wife, should help Africa by asking China to stop supplying dictators in Africa with weapons.

The 52nd independent celebration for the Nigerian community

By Emma Berberi

Saturday 27/10/2012 was a very beautiful day. It was the day that the Nigerians celebrated their 52nd Independence Day. The event took place in a community centre in Moorabbin. It was a day to remember, a day full of colour. Everyone was beautifully attired in their African dress.

The event was well organised. Everyone was assigned a table that was beautifully decorated. The colours they used were green and white which are the colours of their flag. They had snacks on the tables and plenty of drinks. There were drinks provided all night.

The event started with a word of prayer from one of the Muslim clerics and a Christian pastor. After the prayers, there were the Australian and Nigerian national anthems.

The master of ceremony started the day by telling us a very interesting story about why the devil is very scared of Nigerians. One upon a time, the devil took an Englishman, an American man and a Nigerian man into a ship, he took them to the deep seas, once they were there; the devil informed them that they had to attain their freedom. And the only way out, was being witty and are able to outsmart the devil.

The Englishman was first. He took a coin and threw it in the water. The devil dived into the water and went and found the coin so he eats the Englishman. The American man was next; he took a pin and threw it into the water. The devil dived into the water and found the pin so he eats the American man.

Finally it was the Nigerian man’s turn; he got a cup of water and poured it into the sea, and the devil was outwitted because there was no way he was going to separate the water from the cup and the water from the sea. The Nigerian man was spared his life by the devil. And from that day hence forth, the devil is very scared of Nigerians.
Then came the speeches from some VIPs at the event. After that, everyone had to line up for dinner. After dinner there was the traditional dance which was performed by a group of young girls, then performances to entertain the guests.

The grand finale to the performances was the musician being described as the best male artist in Australia, none other than Timomatic. He was absolutely amazing everyone was on the dance floor dancing. He was very entertaining with his music.
After the performance from Timomatic, it was time to award the best dressed couple for the night. The award was taken by one of the couples who were beautifully dressed. They were wearing their traditional beads from head to toe. And they absolutely deserved to win.

In the name of the law

By Fawzi Adam

At half past eight in the morning I was driving from Shepparton to Melbourne to be on time for a course in journalism at Melbourne University.

I needed to fill up the tank with petrol. There is a petrol station on the edge of the Shepparton, about seven kilometres away from where I live. I stopped there. I had $25 in my pocket and I wasn’t paying attention when I was putting in the petrol. My hand slipped and I accidentally put in $7 more petrol than I could pay for.

It was really embarrassing. I didn’t quite know how to deal with this. Anyway, I went to the petrol station attendant and asked if there was an ATM. He pointed one out to me. I tried to withdraw money from the machine but I had forgotten my pin number because I don’t use my card very often.

So I went back to him and asked him if I could try EFTPOS. But that wasn’t working either. So I asked him if I could go to the car and check if there was any money lying around in there. Unfortunately, there was nothing. I came back into the shop I told him I couldn’t find any more money and asked him what I should do.

At that moment, I saw a huge policeman, with his full uniform and gun in its holster. He looked as though he was browsing for a newspaper, but I knew in an instant that he was there for me.

I told the petrol station attendant I would call my wife to ask her to help me. As I was beside my car trying to call, the policeman, who had gone outside without buying anything and seemed to be waiting for me, snatched the eftpos card from my hand. He started to question me about my licence and saw that the surname on my bank card was not the same as on my licence. I tried to explain to him that the Department of Immigration had given me different surnames on different visas because in Arabic countries we have multiple surnames in our passports so they get confused.

I was feeling really annoyed about the policeman because he was treating me really badly. I felt he was very rude. He was treating me like a criminal, as if I had robbed the shop, but I had never tried to avoid paying and it was only $7. He didn’t give me a chance to call my wife or to explain the situation.

The policeman took my details from my licence and my bank card and told me I should change the name on the licence. When he handing them back, he said nothing. I went over to the service station attendant again and told him I would be back next weekend to pay the $7.

Next week, I returned to give the attendant the $7. He seemed very surprised. He thanked me a lot. I apologised to him about what had happened and told him it really was an accident.

I heard no more from the police about this. But I learnt my lesson. Next time I have limited money in my pocket I’ll be using the pre-set buttons on the petrol pump.

Interview with Sudanese singer songwriter, Ajak Mabia

Singer songwriter, Ajak Mabia

By Alpha Furbell

Ajak Mabia is one of Melbourne’s most popular Sudanese singer songwriters. She recently traveled to America to perform at an African festival in Boston. I caught up with Ajak to talk to her about the tour.

Alpha: Hi Ajak, it’s great to meet you.

Ajak: Thank you Alpha.

Alpha: I heard that you have been travelling in the U.S. in July, tell me about your trip to the United States and how it came all about. How long did you stay in Boston?

Ajak: I stayed in Boston for two months. My trip to the United States came about when I was invited by African festival organisers to attend one of the biggest African festivals in Boston held every year. It was also a chance for me to visit my relatives in New Hemisphere. I visited lots of Sudanese communities in Boston and Hemisphere where I spent most of time. What surprised me was that all the communities regardless of political division back in Sudan; they live together very well in United States. For example, the communities in America celebrate events such as weddings and birthdays together. It was very interested to see all Sudanese living in harmony in Boston. It gave me a sense of real a community.

Alpha: Did you perform any music in the USA?

I performed at African American Master Artist-in-Residence Program (AAMARP).This is African American Arts College at University of Boston. The event was organised by the well-known Sudanese-American visual artist, originally from North Sudan. He organised the show to raise some funds help rebuild a church burnt by the Sudanese government in Khartoum and he invited me to perform in that event. The show was great and I enjoyed because people enjoyed my music. In that event, there was a display of photos of people who had been killed in the Darfur region.

Alpha: Did you notice any difference between the Sudanese communities in Australian and the Community in the USA?

Ajak: Yes there was a big difference. Sudanese people in USA are more active, most people work in the USA while in Australia most people stay without work. Australia is a good place to live but Sudanese in particular face difficulties to find a work. America challenges you but there are more chances of getting work. That is why people can get jobs in different areas of their expertise. In Australia, African’s are ‘frozen’ – I use the word frozen because Sudanese even these who have a good education are not getting jobs because they are Africans. So, racism is the main problem facing Sudanese in Australia. That is why many people have lost their self-confidence. Australian main stream media has been portraying negative image of Africans in Australia.

Alpha: Did you go anywhere else?

Ajak: Yes, I went to Canada. I like Canada very much because there is very nice high rise building and people are also nice and easy going. In Canada I played music in a place called Ascent run by Caribbeans living in Canada. Unfortunately, I did not meet any Sudanese because I did not have time go around places where most Sudanese live. My trip to Canada were organised by a woman who I knew for a long time. She invited me to Canada. She is a film maker and is current making a movie about South Sudan. The movie is called Act of Rove.

Alpha: Do you plan to go back to the United States?

Ajak: I received a huge support from Sudanese living in the USA. I hope to visit the USA and Sudanese communities again sometime in the future.

Alpha: Thank you Ajak.

Ajak: Good to talk you Alpha.