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Nicholas Kay

British Ambassador to Sudan, Khartoum
Posted 29 December 2010 by Nicholas Kay | Comments

Thank goodness the blistering heat has gone. Khartoum is blessed now with gentle, sunny days. The Nile flows slowly. Living and above all thinking is easier. Just as well really. There is plenty to contemplate as 2011 starts. And a great need for cool heads.

The referendum to decide on Sudan’s future rushes nearer. The ballot papers have arrived on time (printed by a UK company). Most of the EU’s 110 observers are now here, as are others from the US, Asia and Africa. The world’s media circus will grow over the coming days. UK Ministers have been busy working the phones to Sudanese colleagues and others: urging calm, underlining the UK’s commitment to both north and south Sudan and trouble-shooting potential security and humanitarian risks.

Sudan is on people’s minds. Just before Christmas I was in London for a few days and had the honour of an audience with Her Majesty the Queen. She was last here in 1965, but is following with care this current chapter in Sudan’s history. As is the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, who was keen to hear what more can be done to help the Sudanese – north and south - over the coming months. It was our second meeting since he took office in May. He stressed again how he reads all our official cables and how committed he is to supporting the Embassy team’s efforts.

I shan’t mention the four day nightmare journey to get back to Khartoum from a snowbound Britain. Nor the need to move house on Christmas Eve (quite another story). It was all good in the end and we had a great Christmas with our three children. The first time all five of us have managed to be together in Sudan. A few precious days in which to catch breath and recharge batteries for the days ahead.

But nothing has really stopped in Sudan for the festive period. The political rhetoric ebbs and flows. The police clashed with a small demonstration on Christmas Eve. And in Darfur, fighting has once again flared up in a number of places. On Boxing Day I had an excellent meeting with Foreign Minister, Ali Karti. The following day I was in the Ministry again with colleagues representing the five permanent members of the Security Council for another meeting on the referendum. No diplomat is in Sudan in search of a quiet life. We are here because there is a job of work to be done. In 2011 we shall be doing our best to help Sudan in what seems ever likelier to be a new beginning as two separate, peaceful and progressive states. War is often said to be the failure of diplomacy. But diplomats can only do so much. In the end it will be Sudanese leaders, north and south, who determine whether their people enjoy a happy and peaceful New Year.

Nicholas Kay
29 December 2010

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