musings, rants and reports from the field

From April 2013


I admit it. I snarl in my soul, though it may come to pass that I make the actual sound. Getting older permits the restraints to come off. I snarl, feeling the contortion in my face, when women (young ones in particular), from whom I irrationally but with utter certitude expect brilliance, settle for half-assing their way though a day or a project or a career.

In one of the most painful and astonishing years of my life, I’ve add two new entries to the logbook of wise stuff:

The “Keep the Donkey Out of the Ditch” Rule

When you develop and set in motion a vision for a project, insist always on the highest possible standards for problem solving. It is elemental to The Work. A big vision will snarl at dithering solutions on the path to full expression.

The “Wrinkles Rule” Rule

I’m mightily relieved there are places in the world where advancing age still accrues social benefit. Traditional (though eroding) Kenyan reverence for the wisdom of elders informs me that I’ve been no slouch learning the ropes of humanitarian work. In fact, at 61, I’m damn sure of the exceptional quality of my wisdom. Asante to Kenyans for enabling this insight! That said, I also endorse firmly sidelining an elder who’s a perennial grouch, autocrat, cleptocrat or self-absorbed pain the ass – in order to reinforce and preserve the best of this tradition.

Working in Africa, where the sublime and the wretched jostle side by side on bad roads, and spending my days with people whose practicality and humor I adore, always leaves me saturated with wonder and bewilderment. Though my soul finds grace in its spiritual home, my mind roils at lives and environments so vastly degraded and restrained. I see the women struggle to find any potential in their lives. The woman in us who knows we can do anything is powerful beyond imagining. We are learning together how to become her.

Back in the land of lux resources, I cannot grasp why a chance to grow, a compelling or even quotidian problem to puzzle through, seems not to hold allure, especially for the young. A worthy life faces up to and tackles the challenges inherent in being and awake and sentient. The splendid interaction, the task completed with verve and grace, the failure that recalibrates our horizon, become the newest stories you will laugh or cry over with the family you are constantly creating.

My intuition: there’s just too much distracting, disabling noise jamming up the works.

An essential step in putting a fine frisson into life: Turn Off Your TV. Recycle the damn thing. You will go through withdrawal, but it passes and then you’ll start reading books again and writing letters on real paper and having clear, extended trains of thought and resuming the hobby that made you joyful until you put the stuff in a box in a closet where it silently upbraids you whenever you open the door.

Free of this major and debilitating toxic agent, you get to practice every day the behavior that makes, at the very least, for a more civil world (when do we resume greeting people passing us on the street?) or, at best, transforms the tenor of the day and refashions the future for folks who may be tuned in. It can be that big. Baby steps – the daily practice –get you there.

Brutal Lies and Starving Civilians

If Sudan watchers still have any notion that the ruling regime in Khartoum has any legitimacy as a government, I offer in its entirety the following report from Ryan Boyette, an American living in the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan, Sudan.

Update – South Kordofan – September 7, 2012

On August 4, 2012 the Tripartite Humanitarian agreement was signed with the African Union, League of Arab States, and the United Nations in conjunction with the Sudan Government and the SPLM-N which outlined the system to supply much needed aid to the civilians living in the conflict zones in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States of Sudan.

There are three directives stated in the agreement that directly affect the people in the SPLM-N controlled areas within South Kordofan. This update states the directives from the agreement and explains what is being seen on the ground:

Statements from the Tripartite Agreement

1. “The Tripartite team will immediately deploy to make an assessment of the size and needs of the civilian population affected by the war within a maximum of two weeks starting from the date of signing of this memorandum.”

2. “The government of Sudan agrees to a cessation of hostilities during the process of assessment and distribution of humanitarian assistance.”

3. “The Government of Sudan and the tripartite partners, that is the African Union, the League of Arab States and the United Nations hereafter referred to as the two parties, agree on this Memorandum Of Understanding for assessment and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the war-affected civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States”

What are the results of these statements on the ground

1. Assessment Team in Two weeks: Since the agreement was signed on August 4, 2012 no assessment team has arrived in the SPLA-N controlled areas of South Kordofan as stated in the agreement. Only 4 days after the agreement was signed the civilians in the region started to clear the Kauda airstrip in anticipation of an assessment team arriving to ultimately deliver much needed aid to the region. It has now been over a month since the agreement was signed and no assessment team has arrived and no assessment has been completed.

2. Cessation of Hostilities: Despite the Sudan Government agreeing to a cessation of hostilities here is a list of attacks carried out by the Sudan government within the SPLA-N controlled areas in South Kordofan:

August 12, 2012

– 5 bombs dropped in Jegaba Village

– 17 bombs dropped in Tongoli Village

August 14, 2012

– 5 bombs dropped in Farandalla Village

– 2 bombs dropped in Kamulalla Village

August 20, 2012

– 6 Bombs dropped in Tabanya Village

August 23, 2012

– SAF shelled the village of El Morieb with 120mm mortars wounding civilians

August 24, 2012

– 10 Bombs dropped in Calcutta Village

– SAF attacked SPLA-N near El Morieb Village (Fighting continued for 3 days)

September 5, 2012

– 2 large rockets hit near Calcutta Village

All of the bombings and rocket attacks that took place since August 4th were in villages that are not near any front line and deep within the SPLA-N controlled areas. SPLA-N made one hit and run ground attack on Aug 29th in Rashad town in retaliation for the burning of villages around the region by SAF a few days earlier. All reports of bombings and ground attacks are only what my team and I have witnessed or confirmed. There was reports that other bombings took place in Tabanya and near Gardud Badry but we have not confirmed these reports.

Just considering the confirmed and witnessed reports listed above, SAF have dropped a total of 45 bombs in 6 different villages, launched 2 rockets, shelling of a village and one ground offensive in South Kordofan since the agreement was signed that states the cessation of hostilities. These numbers are only from the war zone in South Kordofan and do not include Blue Nile.

My team was in the region of El Morieb prior to the attack from SAF in El Morieb on Aug 23rd and took photos of the village with a GPS tagger that embeds the photo with the GPS coordinates and the time and date the photos were taken. My team was only able to access the village prior to SAF’s attack of the region because it was controlled by SPLA-N. My team only has the ability to access the region that is controlled by the SPLA-N. SAF claims that they controlled El Morieb before the 23rd and that SPLA-N attacked them but this would be impossible if my team was able to access the region before the 23rd. If you require our photos from the region with the GPS coordinates and Time/Date of the photos please feel free to contact me.

3. Delivery of Aid to the War-Affected civilians: Since the Tripartite Humanitarian agreement was signed no aid has reached the war-affected in the SPLA-N controlled areas of South Kordofan.

Other Issues

– Airdrops: It is currently the rainy season in South Kordofan and there is no road access in the region. Roads are thick with mud that make it very difficult for an empty tractor to move let alone a truck full of food. The only way to get food to the needy in a short amount of time would be by air or by road after November 2012. As a result the Sudan government, Humanitarian Commissioner, Suleiman Abdel Rahman, said, “the government strongly rejected proposals regarding airdrops . . .” and has suggested launching delivery of humanitarian aid through SAF controlled areas of North Kordofan and Blue Nile.

– The Need: Currently in the German Emergency Doctors’ Hospital in Lewere and the Mother of Mercy Hospital in Gidel are seeing the highest number of malnourished children since the war started. I visited both hospitals last week and talked to the international medical staff there. Many of these children are coming from specific areas in Heiban county. People from other counties would not be able to access these two hospitals if they had malnourished children. Both Dr. Tom from the US and Medical technician Rapheal from Germany told me that they believe there are many more malnourished children in the surrounding villages but the parents don’t associate the hospitals as places to receive food and the parents are only bringing the children to the hospitals after they have developed other sicknesses as a result of being malnourished. If you would like contacts for these two individuals I could provide them as needed.

My Thoughts

As I look at the current situation with 10 years experience in the region and an extensive knowledge of the history of the region from the last war up until the present I do believe that the Sudan Government has a plan to delay and ultimatly reroute the aid to use for manipulating populations into displacement camps where they can be controlled. In the last war we have see the establishment of “Peace Camps” in South Kordofan. These camps are where the highest number of rapes, unlawful arrests, torture and killings took place. I know many people who were trapped in these peace camps in the last war in the villages of Mendi, Umdorain and Delami and the story is always the same. People were either captured from their villages by SAF and PDF during attacks or drawn into these villages with food and other aid provided by international governments and used by the government of Sudan. Once people reached these camps they were not allowed to leave. Many women were raped and men arrested in these camps.

I do believe that this is the plan of the Sudan government as history repeats it self. They will try to convince the international community, through the Tripartite agreement, to “preposition” food aid in SAF controlled areas in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and North Kordofan with the promise to deliver aid into the SPLA-N controlled regions. But there will be obstructions made for international NGOs to deliever the aid and there will be no way to control the aid once it is prepositioned far from Khartoum where most NGOs will be stuck. Then the food will be used to draw people out of their villages into the SAF controlled towns where they can be controlled, questioned, exploited, and where they cannot support their family members in the SPLA-N. There are villages in SK that are pro government and there are villages that are pro SPLM-N. These villages are known by everyone in the region. So I am sure the government will show some families receiving aid that support the government and they will not show the lack of aid and the atrocities taking place to the communities in the SAF controlled areas that support the SPLM-N This is already happening now in Kadugali, Al Abassiya and Delami. We have received several reports of woman leaving their villages in SPLA-N controlled areas and crossing over into Delami village and being rapped as soon as they entered the town. We are trying to confirm these reports but they are consistent with confirmed reports from the last war.

At some point, some people in the SPLA-N controlled areas look at their children deteriorating trying to decided if they should cross the line or not in order to get food for their children. The battle must go on in their minds if crossing the line is worth the risk of being beaten, rapped, arrested or even killed.

It should be with great care if aid is provided to the region as not to expose venerable populations to more atrocities by their own government.

Thank you,   Ryan Boyette