Nicholas Kay » Former British Ambassador to Sudan, Khartoum

Brand Sudan

If Sudan were recruiting a marketing manager I wonder how many people would apply. Tough place. Tough job. Sudanese are legendary for their hospitality, gentle manners and erudition. Sudan, on the other hand is synonymous with war, atrocities, poverty and political repression. This disconnect between the essential nature of its people and its reputation as a state poses a marketing challenge. It also makes the life of a diplomat hard. … Read more »Brand Sudan

Season of firsts and lasts

“We had the experience but missed the meaning”. This half-remembered line from TS Eliot was in my head when I came back from Juba having witnessed the birth of South Sudan. It was quite an experience. Drenching heat. Thousands and thousands of people. Flags. Music. Applause. The odd tear. And so many foreign dignitaries that the organisers were overwhelmed. It was musical chairs in the VIP stand. Visiting Royalty and … Read more »Season of firsts and lasts

Labour pains

Labour pains precede every birth. The birth of a nation is no different.  During Sudan’s last days as Africa’s largest country many thousands of Sudanese are experiencing wave upon wave of suffering. Within southern Sudan tens of thousands have been displaced by rebel fighting and possibly 1400 civilians have been killed this year. Elsewhere possibly 170,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Abyei and in Southern Kordofan. Aircraft, artillery … Read more »Labour pains

Darfur is complicated

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Darfur is complicated. Some of the sweetest oranges in the world come from its Jebel Marra hillsides. But millions of Darfuris continue to harvest the bitter fruits of war and scrape a living in a hostile and harsh environment. I visited Nyala and El Jeneina last week to see for myself how peace and prosperity is struggling to take root in South and West Darfur. I wanted to see what … Read more »Darfur is complicated

The Royal Wedding

Headlines on Sudan often focus on the impending “divorce” of North and South. But this Friday we can all take a little time to enjoy a story of a different kind. The eyes of many will be on London to watch Prince William, the Queen’s grandson and second-in-line to the Throne, marry Miss Catherine Middleton. People are already camping along the procession route from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace in … Read more »The Royal Wedding

Projects and partnerships

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I’ve mentioned in previous blogs the scale of the UK’s investment in Sudan. DFID has a very large bilateral programme here. But our support is not just about big numbers. The British Embassy’s Bilateral Programme Fund is able to support small projects – usually between £5,000 and £30,000 – in Sudan. We do this to support our wider objectives in Sudan of peace and prosperity through small initiatives that benefit … Read more »Projects and partnerships


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Perhaps it was the neem tree blossom. Sweet and pervasive, its scent took me by surprise in Khartoum’s dusty streets. For the last weeks as I woke and as I came home, its perfume softened Khartoum’s harder edges. The city has for weeks been under its sleepy spell. It’s my first spring here. Gentle but brief. Summer’s sharpness is coming. Temperatures rise. Sunlight hurts the eyes. The starkness of Sudan’s … Read more »Choices

International action in Libya

The eyes of the world are on Sudan’s neighbour to the north this week. Military operations are not undertaken lightly. It is important that people across the world understand what is happening and why. The Prime Minister has set out the UK position very clearly in his statement to Parliament on 18 March. As military action enters its third day, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Libya … Read more »International action in Libya

This Sporting Life

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“Dictator wins. Unity comes last.”  Nobody watching seemed too concerned. They applauded and then turned their attention to the next race. Few at the Khartoum racecourse in early February seemed to notice the names of the two horses. For me it was the first time at what was, and probably still is, Africa’s third largest race-course, even if it is a little less active than in the days before betting … Read more »This Sporting Life

All change in Blue Nile State

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By the time the waters rise, nearly a quarter of Blue Nile State’s population will have been relocated. The heightening of the El-Rosaries dam is well underway. New towns are being built for villagers. They may not need to move until the end of the year, but the trauma is already felt. Unwanted change outside your control is always unsettling. And this is deeply personal: abandoning the graves of ancestors … Read more »All change in Blue Nile State