Sudan is more than Khartoum

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A sea of green is not what I expected. Sorghum and cotton as far as the eye could see. I was in the Tokar Delta in Red Sea State with EU Ambassadors last month seeing for ourselves the impact of EU funding. 250,000 feddans (100,000 hectares) of farmland is now back in production – almost double what there was two years ago. But still only 75% of what Tokar produced at its peak.

Others more expert than me can explain the successes and failures of the Tokar Delta scheme. But I was left with two feelings – hope (the sight of food growing on such a scale is uplifting) and worry (the people of Tokar are still poor and their number is growing rapidly). I suspect one part of the answer is to break out of a cycle of subsistence farming by creating added value (e.g. processing tomatoes into paste) and by somehow getting goods to an export market (Saudi Arabia is just across the sea and connected by daily sailings from Suakin). I know the Governor of Red Sea State, who generously hosted us, is pursuing all options. The EU is working closely with him as are many other international partners, including from the Arab world.

Only when you get out and about in Sudan can you really begin to appreciate its challenges and potential. Our Embassy team is trying to do this as much as possible. In the last couple of weeks we have had people in Abyei, Gedaref and Kassala. Others will shortly travel (again) to Darfur. After each of these visits, we know more and sometimes understand less. The destruction of Abyei town, where only two buildings have been left intact, is a case in point. We can see the damage, but we struggle to understand why it happened. It reinforces vividly the urgent need to manage the current migration of cattle from the north to the south. For decades or even centuries this has happened by local communities agreeing between themselves. Now Abyei has been politicised, it is the responsibility of politicians to make sure communities can pursue their livelihoods, crops be planted and cattle watered. The UN through the presence of Ethiopian forces in UNISFA is there to help. But they need political will and commitment in Khartoum and Juba.

In Addis Ababa last week political agreement was elusive. Talks between Sudan and South Sudan on transitional financial arrangements and on oil faltered. President Mbeki’s Panel will continue undeterred to try to assist the parties. The UK through our Special Representative, Michael Ryder, will also continue to be on hand as I’m sure will US, Norwegian and other colleagues. Diplomats need to have patience and stamina. Military experts, advisers and Ministers must also have their say. But at the end of the day those who decide whether there is peace and prosperity are the elected Presidents of each country. We continue to urge both sides not to take unilateral actions, respect each other’s territorial integrity and avoid actions and words that could inflame an already combustible situation.

Other than travelling the country and enjoying Sudanese hospitality, we have been busy in Khartoum too. Our annual Chevening Scholarship scheme was launched. Sponsorship this year by Dal Group, Kenana and Zain means we are able once again to double the number of postgraduate scholarships we can offer in 2012-13. We are looking for the brightest and best future Sudanese leaders. Full application details are on our website. I have also enjoyed the European Film Festival over the last week. Several hundred Sudanese and Europeans profited from a remarkably cool evening in the National Museum’s garden to attend the opening night. I wasn’t able to get to the British Council to see the UK film, but I heard it engendered a lively debate about modern day slavery – appropriate as the world marks International Slavery Day on 2  December.

Another date fast approaching is 10 December – International Human Rights Day. British Embassies around the world will be joining their hosts and local partners to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 63 years ago. In Sudan among other activities we plan to use social media to engage on the issue of human rights by hosting a question and answer session on our Embassy Facebook page. If you have questions about the UK’s work to support human rights in the world, do email Please keep an eye on Facebook and the Embassy’s website for more details. I look forward to hearing from people in the four corners of Sudan.

5 Responses

  1. Dr Rashid A G Ahmed says:

    It is good to see someone like from the British establishment to go around and see Sudan and reflect about what;s going on in such a fast country like Sudan, I also hope you and the government make most efforts to help to sort out the mess in Sudan which is supported by many international players including Britain. I feel bitty when I see my original country in such bad conditions because of the long lasting conflicts between armed factions and the government which is corrupt,oppressive and dysfunctional. as British Sudanese I wish if Britain leads the way to help the people of Sudan away from their government via civil societies and charitable group,who are working with people in all aspects of life including health, education and social services.we are seen very little efforts from the British communities of Sudanese origin who are trying to help to rebuild our people in Professional Physician with fast experience in Uk over the last 20 years I am on my way back to Sudan to help our people in all health aspects, I hope with my good connections working in most of the British cities and towns except Northern Ireland to bring more British expertise and institute but I am struggling to convince them to visit because of the bad advice on the foreign office website , that Khartoum and Sudan are not safe, so as you visited Tokar and East of Sudan, I hope you pass the message to the foriegn office to change their message at Least to Khartoum which I find it safer than some part of London, Liverpool, manchester and Glasgow ( I worked there), some of my colleagues in hospital do not know about Sudan and asked if they have to visit”would they saty in TENT”, so they feel still we live in bushes and jungles, while you can see the internet and mobile services are as good if not better than in UK. lots of things I need to comment about the relationship between the two countries UK and Sudan, we hope to meet in person to discuss further issues and how we can attract all the Sudanese Diaspora specially those in UK and Europe to help in building the country
    finally kind regards and thanks for your comments about the hospitality of Sudanese people.
    all the best
    Dr Rashid Ahmed , Consultant Stroke Physician, Chesterfield Royal Hospital

  2. I am very glad to see your reflection on Delta Tokar as well as other key issues of great concern such as the Human Right day and the movement of diplomacy to visit far remote area . I have gone through -deeply- to your article on Elsahafa daily newspaper yesterday and found the figure pertaining the arable feddans not the same as the original one the English, of course the English is very clear and consistent, for the accuracy and the sequences of the topic and for any further blog I advice the interpretation to be revised before publication.
    I would like to comment on Delta Tokar visit, in my few the visit send strong signal to different players internally & externally that the EU despite the Financial crisis and the political concern continue committed to support developing countries including Sudan in key areas ,namely agricultural production , institutional &capacity development and governance issues.
    Three prominent EU ambassadors British, German and Sweden in addition to the representative of France give strong message that the EU continue it is support and available.

  3. abubakr says:

    thank you your excellency for the fruiful tour in the eastern sudan-tokar area ,these projects were initiated during british presence in sudan and they were productive until the advent of sudanese governments who destroyed them in systematic order -algazeera,nuba mountains and tokar.
    I wish if you can pay a visit to other corners of the remaining sudan to have a good concept about the ailing country and down trodden people of sudan , try to visit nuba mountains area and see the tattered homes and abandoned farms a biginning without an end, a man in khartoum is safe but needs development while in the frings of the sudan we need peace first ,food health and shelter in the second phase ,we never dream of development because it is the last dream we could think about .
    one day we were proud of being the biggest in afro-arab states but we are now sqeezed to unstable state which can not feed its population and some voices are high opting to sneek out to establish independant states.
    thank you ambassador, you do care about our case but we are thousand miles away -most of us have scaped their country to live peacefully -truely sudan is inferior to us, cause of unjustice way of sharing the national cake

    Abubakr H. Hammad
    Doha-State of Qatar

  4. It really nice to see the reflection of the Sudan from someone from the British Embassy who went on a tour around Sudan. It is really sad to know that in spite of the success production from the farmland still some people are poor. I wish this will change eventually and the life style of the people of Sudan will improve.

  5. The line ” But at the end of the day those who decide whether there is peace and prosperity are the elected Presidents of each country.” This line is true in fact the elected presidents should decide policies that will bring peace and prosperity to their people. I like the reviews from someone like you going around the Sudan and reporting their positives and negatives. Well done sir, the people of Sudan should be happy to read this blog….

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