Fall on the Bitterroot

Fall on the Bitterroot

Fishing and shooting (at) ducks on the Bitterroot River is one of the best ways to experience fall. Being with good friends come to town makes 40 mph gusts and horizontal rain something to embrace. Above, Kent Davis at the Fort.

Sudan Facial Scarification

Taylor W. Anderson

May 3, 2011

Most Dinka boys and girls don’t cry when the local sorcerer takes a red-hot knife to their dark faces. If they wince or cry or react to the pain they will lose face in the community, so it’s best to sit through the process in peace.

Facial scarification is practiced throughout Sudan, and various marks across the faces of tribesmen give identity to the tribe and beauty to its women.

Men of the Dinka tribe in South Sudan scar their faces with three parallel lines across the forehead in a rugged display of courage to the tribe.

“It is a chance for youths to demonstrate their bravery in front of their peers and elders,” said Emily Sloane, a humanitarian worker in Juba and eastern Congo. “Anyone who cries or resists the process loses a great deal of face.”

Dinka boys receive their scars around adolescence to mark the transition to manhood, when they take the responsibilities of the other men in the nomad tribe.

The scars can also be an eternal message to outsiders which tribe the Dinka belong to, or it can be used in an effort to display beauty to those within a tribe, as is sometimes the case.

Some tribes have dots to distinguish themselves, Sloane says. Others trust the sorcerer’s hand at lining their heads with an incision in a permanent crown.

Members that choose not to permanently scar themselves can face discrimination, “since they’re considered to have abandoned their traditions,” Sloane said. “Some people were hesitant to recognize Riek Machar…who had not gone through the ritual of scarring.”

Machar illustrates what may be a trend in Sudan scarification: That more education, typically modern families aren’t scarring their faces anymore, as much of the country once did.

Regardless of its purpose, the ritual is phasing out of parts of Sudan, as has happened in neighboring Congo. It’s use and practice is slow to leave the south, however. Much of the Dinka tribe wanders the areas close to or in the southern part of the country, which its own country in July 2011.

Risk assessment of reporting in South Sudan

Taylor W. Anderson

May 1, 2011

 “It’s better to be a thief here in Sudan than to be a journalist.” 


South Sudan’s ability to prosper as a country hinges on something it doesn’t have, access to critical information about its government.

It’s well known that countries prosper with free speech and the ability to share opinions about society. The countries with least censorship according to the Committee to Protect Journalists Press Freedom Index tend to rank high in the Human Development Indexes.

Sudan ranks No. 172 of 178 on Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index of 2010, and countless attacks by the North and South Sudan governments on Sudanese and foreign press in the country seek to control the flow of free information to the people who can read or listen to it.

South Sudan security officials recently targeted the country’s biweekly newspaper, The Juba Press, as a threat to national security, despite the fact that the articles in question were beneficial to its citizens.

The CPJ reported last month that 50 percent of the circulation of South Sudan’s biggest paper, which is printed in the north capital of Khartoum, was confiscated by Government of South Sudan officials for an article about a suspected future attack on the southern capital by a powerful rebel general.

The CPJ said these moves, which are common by the Sudan government, would hurt the country when it is established in July 9, 2011.

“We are alarmed that the authorities in Juba are already resorting to censorship,” said Tom Rhodes, CPJ East Africa Consultant. “This does not bode well for press freedom in what will become Africa’s newest state. We urge the authorities to respect international norms of freedom of expression and allow the press to do its work without interference.”

The attacks on journalists by the government include detainment, interrogation, confiscation of equipment and torture, but it seems that censorship stops short of murder. CPJ reports only two deaths of journalists since 1992, the most recent being editor-in-chief of the Al-Wifaq newspaper, Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed, who printed his skepticism of the Prophet Mohammed in an article. His severed head was found next to his body south of Khartoum.

“Both the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] and the 2005 interim constitution affirm the rights of free expression and press freedom,” according to the CPJ assessment on reporting in Sudan. “Despite these guarantees, authorities in Khartoum have constructed an oppressive censorship regime through a variety of mechanisms, including restrictive bureaucratic procedures, state surveillance and harassment, and draconian legal regulations.”

The government reportedly controls all local broadcast television and many of the radio stations, and has threatened the few foreign news broadcast companies that operate in the country.

Threats by the government aren’t limited to the north. The Southern Peoples’ Liberation Movement, which rules the semi-autonomous south, has attacked journalists for reporting on the corruption of its leaders and the attacks of rebel groups.

“It is better to be a thief here in Sudan than to be a journalist,” Faiz al-Silaik, acting editor of Ajras Al-Hurriya, told Reuters. “Authorities in the semi-autonomous South also restricted press freedom, particularly with regard to anti-SPLM criticism and coverage of inter-ethnic violence in the region.”

Emily Sloane, a humanitarian activist in South Sudan and Eastern Congo, said that many in the south believe the northern government is supplying southern rebels with arms and money to fuel a rebellion against Government of South Sudan before it declares independence from the north in July.

They believe, she said, that by doing this in secrecy President Omar al-Bashir can save face in the international eye for seemingly obeying the south’s January referendum vote for cession, while assuring future insecurity when Africa’s newest state is born.

But journalists’ attempts at covering the issue go much unheeded and are a near-impossibility because both governments’ control what’s printed in the press with an unwritten list of items that cannot be covered.

Western Reporters Struggle to Gain Ground in Sudan

Before foreign reporters can enter the country, they must first obtain work visas, which has proven a heavy task.

Rebecca Hamilton, a Washington Post reporter working in South Sudan said she waited for months before receiving a visa to enter Khartoum. But receiving the visa was only one step toward gaining access to her destinations, Darfur and South Sudan.

“You might think that being given a visa to Sudan means you can move inside Sudan – – you would be wrong. The visa gets you into Khartoum,” she wrote on her blog. “Once here, you need permission to get out. And the External Information Council is the place where foreign media must apply for a travel permit.”

She said she waited in the capital for months after being told by security services that there may or may not be a ban on foreign journalists entering Darfur in eastern Sudan.

Even public statements by officials announcing lifts on press censorship are often lies and attempts to escape international criticism, according to Reporters Without Borders.

“In August, Mohamed Atta, director of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), announced a decision to lift all censorship in Sudan. Journalists remained highly skeptical, noting that similar commitments in the past–including a near-identical statement in September 2009–had been quickly broken. Indeed, Atta warned that his agency reserved “its constitutional right” to reinstate “full or partial censorship whenever the necessity arises.”

One reporter, Geoffrey Nyarota, brings to light the question of Western reporters’ effectiveness in Africa because they speak to sources like President al-Bashir or his foreign minister, or easily accessible sources like NGOs or U.N. agencies in the region. Nyarota said Sudanese reporters have an advantage because they tend to go directly to the people who are affected by the violence for sources for stories, and they don’t need to deal with the troubles of entering the country.

The future and use of the Internet

Though much of the infrastructure needed for good access to the Internet is lacking in the South, the youth may be picking up on the use of sites like Facebook to harness its communication power.

Opposition groups in Egypt used social-networking sites earlier this year to assemble protests that eventually toppled the existing government, and its power and effectiveness has grown into a force against oppressive governments.

There is a faint glimmer of hope in Sudan that its youth will begin to harness the small window that is available today.

“While the outlook for Sudan’s media appeared grim with the approaching                referendum–which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referred to in                  August as “a ticking time bomb”–some young Sudanese activists were                        harnessing the power of the Internet and social networking sites to press                  for nonviolent change. Members of the nascent pro-democracy movement              Girifna (Arabic for “We are fed up”) aired information on citizens’ rights                    via Facebook, YouTube, and an online radio station.” – Quote from the CPJ

Today, there are 422 members of a Facebook group called Sudan Journalists Network.

War Child

Taylor W. Anderson

April 13, 2011

There are no success stories of the people that survived the Sudan Civil War, there are only those who lived and those who died. The dead lost the life they could have lived, while the living got the chance to be something.

Emmanuel Jal was born in South Sudan just before the start of the civil war in 1983. His family, like everyone in his village, lived in a straw hut close to their neighbor. Is chance to live was taken when the surrounding savannah grass was set ablaze by soldiers from the North.

Historians have said that the tactics used during the genocides in Darfur during the 2000s was perfected during the early years of the war between the Arab North and the Christian South in Sudan.

Bombs dropped from northern aircraft plagued villages throughout southern Sudan, where an estimated two million people were killed throughout the war. Four million displaced residents boated or walked to neighboring Ethiopia or Kenya for refuge.

Jal left his village after it was razed, and left on a boat of 360 refugees, well over capacity, en route to Ethiopia. The boat capsized, and all but 50 were killed.

He found out his family was killed when they failed to show up at the refugee camp, and he started living a life of solitude.

Jal became a child soldier along with 10,000 other south Sudanese children. Like the others, he thought he had literally nothing to lose, death was as good as living, so he picked up a gun and fought for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to gain the South Sudan capital of Juba.

War Child parallels a documentary that was made in 1989, where filmmakers first found Jal in a refugee camp and noticed he liked to talk the most. He seemed not to be affected by the devastation and lost lives surrounding him, so he was sought out for information. By juxtaposing old and new video footage, War Child shows that he is still living a solitary life.

He became a hip-hop singer and garnered success in the United States, where he still tours.

The civil war was a religious war. The war left the public’s eye when a ceasefire ended it in 2005, and South Sudan passed a referendum for cession from the north in January 2011. Jal returns to Sudan in 2007 for the first time since he left during the heat of the war.

A rebel among rebels

Taylor W. Anderson

March 23, 2011

South Sudan’s vice president doesn’t have to worry about the opposition in his country. He is the opposition.

In a country of mostly Christian Dinka residents, vice president Dr. Riek Machar is a rebel. That’s because Machar is a Nuer, a confederation of tribes in South Sudan, and blood between the two boils with a violent past.

“There are rumors that (President Omar al-) Bashir feeds the Nuer with arms and money so that they can attack the Dinka,” said Emily Sloane, a UM grad and humanitarian now working in eastern Congo.

Sloane said there are fears that instead of ignoring the results of a January referendum that will declare the south its own country in July, Bashir will continue supporting the Nuer.

Machar has time and again proven himself to be a mistrusted leader, a problem that plagues the African continent. But he has a military background, which alone makes him a power figure to the Sudanese people.

Some feel that having an intertribal government rule the south will help it establish itself when it becomes the world’s newest nation in July. But development in grossly underdeveloped country has yet to begin, and clashes between diverse tribes could hinder any progress in the near future.

“Machar is pro-South and pro-independence,” Sloane said. “Perhaps a lot of southerners are willing to forgive or ignore his less than humane actions.”

Government of South Sudan

Here’s a link to the website of the government of South Sudan.


BBC vs. NPR – Sudan

Here are my comparisons of coverage on Sudan by BBC.com and NPR.org.

If you’re interested in what will soon become the world’s newest country, I’d suggest you stay away from NPR.

The progressive American radio giant offers great coverage on a wide range of issues, but Sudan doesn’t quite make the list. As I twist the dagger in the heart of a company to which I’ve applied for an internship, I’ll clarify some things later in this post.

This post deals strictly with comparing BBC and NPR on Sudan coverage, and in such the British counterpart has proven superior.

This BBC story includes interactive maps giving information on: Geography, Ethnic Groups, Infant Mortality, Water Sanitation, Oil, Food Insecurity and Education. The graphics show a clear divide between the two nations.

One thing I dislike about most of the coverage I’ve seen regarding South Sudan by the BBC is that the stories don’t delve into the overlying issues that may devastate the world’s newest country come independence from the north in July.

Most of the stories on the BBC have dealt with recent news issues as they happen, such as a new rebel uprising in Upper Nile State, but they don’t talk about the significance of that region (that it possesses most of the country’s oil reserves). The linked story above states that rebel leader George Athor poses the biggest threat to the new country, while others would argue the biggest threat to be economic insecurity throughout the south.

That said, I do enjoy the coverage provided on the BBC\’s website. The relevant links on the Sudan page let readers easily and quickly catch up on what they’ve missed about the world’s most under-reported continent.

As for NPR –

Coverage of Sudan is not so hot for NPR.

To read up on the region, news-fiends must do some significant sleuthing, and some may be deterred and move to another site for information.

That said, when big events happen NPR is all over it. My critique comes from a very critical standpoint, and I’ll acknowledge here that the basis of my tone comes from a want for this company to succeed (even if Republicans wish otherwise).

Unlike the BBC’s and the Guardian’s websites, NPR’s site isn’t set up to sort news by continent AND country. When a visitor clicks “Worldnews”, then filters to “Africa“, the stories are listed in a blog type format, listing stories chronologically in descending order.

The top news as of late has been in Libya, and readers will find Sudan news is buried. Needless to say, if the top news hasn’t been in South Sudan, the country won’t be in the first page (and probably won’t be in the second or third).

Users can again filter the quest for Sudan news on the right-hand side of the page, where they can search for the news they want from Africa. The only problem is that many stories include the word “Sudan”, and the search results will list each of these stories.

Lastly the problems with NPR’s coverage of Sudan comes down to just that, coverage.

The last article I found on the website was from Feb. 11, when 105 died in rebel fighting in the northern part of South Sudan. That’s not so good when trying to keep readers updated with news from the country. The article was the last coverage on Sudan following a flood of coverage on the elections and future split of Africa’s largest country.

I’d like to see the news giant put forth effort informing its readership about the problems about establishing a new country, as this one will likely have some of the harshest triumphs of any in recent history.

Sudan’s Roads

Taylor W. Anderson

Mar. 9, 2011

South Sudan’s Roads

HED: Lack of roads pose problem to Africa’s newest country

If you think Montana’s roads are a problem, try driving from Missoula to Lolo in an hour and a half.

That’s the reality for some workers in South Sudan, where an estimated nine miles of paved roads exist in Africa’s newest country.

A January referendum that will likely split Africa’s largest country in two this July doesn’t have the roads to support the economic necessities of a newfound country.

Emily Sloane is a University of Montana graduate working in Africa. She spent time in South Sudan (SSD) during the last year working on humanitarian efforts throughout the south before moving to Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The lack of roads will likely create turmoil for the SSD to establish itself as a new country with great existing potential, she said, which may hurt the new country’s efforts to thrive.

“Roads will certainly be an issue in the new country,” Sloane said, “Since all the existing infrastructure leads north.”

The north reportedly has over 10,500 miles of paved roads, according to an article by the Economoist.

The road issue only reiterates the inequality that has been created by years of oppression by the government of Omar al-Bashir in the north ruled over the people of the south.

SSD will also have issues creating an economy that allows the new country to prosper.

Currently, 98 percent of the SSD government funding comes from oil production, as opposed to nearly 50 percent in the north, according to the World Bank’s country profile statistics.

With current funding established under al-Bashir rule, SSD may have trouble generating wealth from oil production. Current pipelines lead to the north, while most of the oil exists in the resource-rich south, creating production issues.

Sudan currently boasts the 20th most oil reserves in the world.


Sudan Country Brief