Letter from Sudan

Malakal, Sudan

Sudan referendum
Birth of a nation? Women queue outside a voter registration centre in southern Sudan (Pete Muller/AP)

“There is no trust between the north and the south. Any delay will cause a crisis, suspicion is already rising. People want the referendum to come now,” Samuel Aban Deng told me as we sat in the neatly swept dirt courtyard of his family compound in Malakal, a town on the banks of the Nile. We were discussing the only thing anyone in south Sudan wants to talk about: the vote, due on 9th January, that is expected to split Africa’s biggest country and give birth to the world’s newest one. Continue reading Letter from Sudan

The Invisible Country

Virginia Quarterly Review

To this day, the buildings of Hargeisa bear the visible scars of civil war (Narayan Mahon)

As we sped through the dusty heat of rural Somaliland on one of the region’s few paved roads, an armed escort behind us and the hills of Ethiopia ahead, Dr. Adan Abokor told me his story. Abokor is sixty-two years old with thinning, gray hair, and his steady, measured voice can mask his emotions, but his energy is undiminished, and his memories of 1982 are still raw. “I was a member of the Hargeisa Group,” he began. The now-famous organization of professionals started with the simple intent of improving schools and hospitals in the northwest region when the regime of General Mohamad Siyad Barre, then dictator-president of Somalia, showed little interest in developing the area. But as they held public meetings and launched a newspaper called Ufo—meaning “the wind before the storm”—the group became increasingly vocal in its criticism of the government’s neglect. Siyad Barre deemed their opposition seditious and ordered the Hargeisa Group leaders rounded up. Their incarceration was the spark for riots still remembered every February as the Day of Stone Throwing. Continue reading The Invisible Country