Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
It was an engagement party thrown by a beaming, white-robed Khartoum patriarch with pulsing music provided by Orupaap, a group of mostly southern musicians and dancers.
The band was barely into its third song when the northern, southern and foreign guests swarmed on to the stage raising their arms and clicking their fingers in one of the few African dances easily mastered by awkward middle class Englishmen.
“Where is the band from,” I shouted at the host above the amplified music. “I think the musicians are Shilluk,” he replied, referring to a group with its heartlands around the southern city of Malakal. “They’re from here in Khartoum.”
As delighted southern Sudanese voted in a long-awaited referendum on independence, visitors to the north and south could be forgiven for thinking they were already two separate countries.
Back in1978, Sudanese statesman Abel Alier decided he had had enough of negotiating with troublesome locals over a controversial development project. Exasperated at the endless obstacles, he vowed to force it through without an agreement.
“If we have to drive our people to paradise with sticks we will do so for their own good and the good of those who come after us,” he infamously said.
It was a just another seminar on transparency in the oil sector. Seemingly banal.
But this was being held in Khartoum, involving live debates between northern and southern Sudanese officials, a minerals watchdog and the international media, who were allowed free access to publicly grill those who administer what has for years been an incredibly opaque oil industry.
Only the most foolhardy commentator would dare to say anything optimistic about the coming year in Sudan, four months away from highly charged elections and 12 months from an explosive referendum on southern independence.
So here goes — five reasons why Africa’s largest country might just manage to reach January 2011 without a return to catastrophe and bloody civil war, despite the worst predictions of most pundits.
In a worst case scenario, tanks in Antananarivo could lead to battles between the police and the presidential guard — who remain loyal to President Marc Ravalomanana — against mutinous troops and members of the military police.
The authorities in Ivory Coast have now embarked on what is supposed to be the last step of issuing identity papers to its citizens. Those who lost their papers during the war or never had any in the first place and missed out on previous hearings across the country are getting another chance .
This, in theory, will then allow those old enough to register to vote in elections, which are due to take place on November 30. These are the elections meant to end a crisis that was sparked by a short war in 2002-2003 and left the country, the world’s top cocoa producer and home to one of the region’s most stable and flourishing economies, divided between a rebel-held north and a government-controlled south.