Sunday, 30 November 2008

Oyeee! 'New Sudan Yes We Can' because Barack Obama's roots are Sudanese!

Oh what fun. British journalist Andrew Heavens in Khartoum, Sudan has come up with another great story. He is really on the ball these days, working flat out to bring latest news from Sudan:

November 29, 2008 - KHARTOUM (Reuters) report by Andrew Heavens:
Sudanese politicians claimed Barack Obama as one of their own on Saturday as they belatedly celebrated his election as U.S. president, hailing his family roots in their country.

Much has been made of Obama's father's origins in Kenya. But he acknowledged his distant Sudanese roots in his autobiography 'Dreams From My Father'.

"His father came from the Luo (tribe), who are from the Nile. The Luo originally moved from Sudan to Kenya," said Yasir Arman, a senior member of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, former southern rebels who are now in a coalition government with the north.

Hundreds of SPLM supporters crammed into their headquarters for a belated party marking Obama's victory.

Many held up banners marked 'New Sudan Yes We Can' - a message that merged an SPLM slogan with Obama's rallying cry.

Arman said members were inspired by Obama's election as the United States' first black president.

"It is giving a message to our society that Sudan can do the same, that Sudan can recognize its own diversity," he said.

"We hope he will be able to give more attention to all of Africa, not just Sudan."

The United States has had a troubled relationship with Sudan's Khartoum-based government. It has imposed trade sanctions on Khartoum, included it on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, and accused northern troops and militias of committing genocide in the Darfur conflict.

The south has been exempted from most of the sanctions.

The SPLM fought the north for more than 20 years in a conflict that pitted the Islamist Khartoum government against mainly Christian and animist rebels. The war ended with a 2005 peace agreement.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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US President-Elect Barack Obama

Photo source: Soldier of Africa

(Cross posted today at Sudan Watch)

Monday, 10 November 2008

Election Night with the Obamas (Rob Crilly)

Here's another fascinating story from Rob Crilly in Nairobi, Kenya:
I was one of the few journalists to get an invite to spend election night with the Obama family in their Kogelo home. Put something together for one of the Sundays but it wasn’t used so I thought I’d stick it here
Englishman Rob Crilly, pictured here below, is a freelance journalist writing about Africa for The Times, The Irish Times, The Daily Mail, The Scotsman and The Christian Science Monitor from his base in Nairobi, Kenya. Also, he blogs at From The Frontline

Rob Crilly

Election night in Kogelo

Election Night with the Obamas

By Rob Crilly
Nairobi, Kenya
November 10, 2008

THE piercing shriek of a cheap mobile phone broke through the quiet of the simple African village. The only other sounds were the thrumming of a distant generator and the crackle of cooking fires.

Abongo Malik Obama put the phone to his ear before his face broke into smiles.

“Yes my brother. We are well,” he said, in his booming Kenya voice

Thousands of miles and a world away, Barack Obama had taken time out from the razzmatazz of the most important night of his life to snatch a few words with his Kenyan family.

In Chicago his supporters were queuing at a park where the Obama campaign had booked its victory rally. His advisers were still polishing his speech as the world waited for the polls to close.

But for 10 minutes all Barack wanted to do was chat with his brother and catch up on village news.

“We talked about this and that, about the death of his grandmother in Hawaii,” said Malik, as he prefers to be known, “and we were talking about all the craziness here in Kogelo about the relatives and friends and everyone who had come to visit.

“Then we talked about the campaign. He said it had been fun but now he was just trying to get through the last leg.”

The two men have been close ever since Barack Obama first visited Kenya to learn about his roots in his 20s.

They share the same father, Barack Obama senior, who grew up herding goats in the family homestead in the far west of Kenya.

He left to study in the US after Abongo was born to his first wife, Kezia, who now lives in Berkshire.

In America he met and fell in love with a fellow student, Ann Dunham, Barack Obama’s mother, before walking out on them and eventually returning to Africa.

Now Malik is leading the life Barack would have lived if he had been born in Kenya.

His home is a tin-roofed shack surrounded by mango trees.

In Kogelo, where his 86-year-old grandmother still lives, water is drawn by bucket from a well.

Chickens scratch at the red-rust soil.

Children run barefoot through maize fields to school.

And mains electricity is still five miles away even in the year 2008.

Life here depends on the rains much as it has for centuries.

As the first born to the first born, Abongo heads the extended Obama family.

While his younger half-brother was raising millions of dollars in internet and corporate donations, Abongo was having to scrape together enough cash to entertain more than 100 aunts, uncles, cousins, step-brothers and sisters and assorted friends, local dignitaries and wellwishers who made their way down the rutted, bumpy track to the family home.

Entertaining Kenyan-style means meat - and plenty of it.

“We are Africans. This is what we do. We kill an animal and invite all our friends to visit,” said Malik, 50.

As well as buying a new TV for his guests, he had laid out for four bulls and a dozen or so goats so that bellies would be full each evening.

At the neighbouring school – renamed Senator Barack Obama Kogelo School four years ago – 16 chickens were awaiting their role in the victory feast.

“This is all very expensive,” said Malik, as he plugged the new portable television into a generator. “Everyone expects to be looked after and as the eldest son of the eldest son it is up to me to look after them.

“I’m not making any money out of this.

“But it’s such a special, historic occasion that we have to do it.”

By Tuesday evening, the scattering of huts – some made from mud bricks, others more substantial – was abuzz with excitement.

As night fell, the small clearing turned dark, lit by little more than the glow of stars.

Relatives clustered around two televisions showing CNN’s coverage of election night.

Every appearance of their famous cousin, son or brother brought a huge cheer.

For many, it would have been the first time they had watched television.

As the tropical African day turned to night, and the temperature dropped, people clustered around fires or wrapped themselves in blankets.

A few old men missing teeth gulped the local moonshine, a potent brew made from maize.

Gradually the glow from the TV screen turned blue, as Obama claimed more and more states, keeping out the Republican red.

Eyes drooped and one or two of the older relatives curled up inside the shacks to catch some sleep.

Then, at about seven o’clock in the morning, the party started.

“Barack Obama Junior is president of the world,” screamed one old lady emerging from a gloomy doorway.

It was the signal for an African celebration.

Women whooped with joy while men cheered.

In Chicago laser beams rippled across the sky at Obama’s victory rally.
In Kogelo, his relatives were joining in a tribal dance, feet stomping on the bare earth to cries of: “Obama is coming, clear the way.”

Biosa Obama, the president-elect’s sister in law, said no-one had ever doubted the win.

“We didn’t sleep all night. Now we are just going to party. Barack will be a great president,” she said, her feet tapping out a rhythm as people danced all around her.

Word soon spread. Hundreds of people trooped in from neighbouring villages carrying branches in a show of celebration.

It was left to Malik to reflect on the occasion.

“I feel that this is a great, great, great moment. It means a new era, a new era of thinking about the direction of the world,” he said, his eyes filling with tears and his voice breaking.

If an Obama presidency marks a new dawn for America, it also marks a bright new dawn for the little village of Kogelo where generations of Obamas have herded goats and picked bananas.

Surveyors arrived from the local electricity company even before the celebrations had ended.

It may have taken a president in the family, but the Kenyan Obamas are about to get their own power.

Source: Rob Crilly - African Safari 10/11/08

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Remember the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour

On 2 May, 1915, in the second week of fighting during the Second Battle of Ypres Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was killed by a German artillery shell. He was a friend of the Canadian military doctor Major John McCrae. It is believed that John began the draft for his famous poem 'In Flanders Fields' that evening.

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.


The poppy is the recognized symbol of remembrance for war dead. The flower owes its significance to the poem In Flanders Fields, written by Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) John McCrae, a doctor with the Canadian Army Medical Corps, in the midst of the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium, in May 1915.

The poppy references in the first and last stanzas of the most widely read and oft-quoted poem of the war contributed to the flower's status as an emblem of remembrance and a symbol of new growth amidst the devastation of war.

Remembrance Day Poppy

Two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month because that was the time (in Britain) when the armistice became effective. The two minutes recall World War I and World War II. Before 1945 the silence was for one minute, and today some ceremonies still only have one minute of silence despite this.

In the United Kingdom, although two minutes' silence is observed on November 11 itself, the main observance is on the second Sunday of November, Remembrance Sunday. - Wikipedia
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"The Meaning of God"

By Mahatma K. Gandhi
(Young India, October 11, 1928)

There is an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything.

I feel It, though I do not see It.

It is this unseen Power which makes Itself felt and yet defies all proof,
because It is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses.

It transcends the senses....

That informing Power or Spirit is God....

For I can see that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth, truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists.

Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. He is love.

He is supreme good.

But he is no God who merely satisfies the intellect
If He ever does.

God to be God must rule the heart and transform it.
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Gandhi's Peace Prayers

Hindu Peace Prayer
I desire neither earthly kingdom, nor even freedom from birth and death. I desire only the deliverance from grief of all those afflicted by misery. Oh Lord, lead us from the unreal to the real; from darkness to light; from death to immortality. May there be peace in celestial regions. May there be peace on earth. May the waters be appeasing. May herbs be wholesome and may trees and plants bring peace to all. May all beneficent beings bring peace to us. May thy wisdom spread peace all through the world. May all things be a source of peace to all and to me. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti (Peace, Peace, Peace).

Islamic Peace Prayer
We think of Thee, worship Thee, bow toThee as the Creator of this Universe; we seek refuge in Thee, the Truth, our only support. Thou art the Ruler, the barge in this ocean of endless births and deaths.
In the name of Allah, the beneficient, the merciful. Praise be to the Lord of the Universe who has created us and made us into tribes and nations. Give us wisdom that we may know each other and not despise all things. We shall abide by thy Peace. And, we shall remember the servants of God are those who walk on this earth in humility and, when we address them, we shall say Peace Unto Us All.

Christian Peace Prayer
Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for they shall be known as The Children of God. But I say to you: love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To those who strike you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from those who take away your cloak, do not withhold your coat as well. Give to everyone who begs from you; and, to those who take away your goods, do not ask them again. And as you wish that others would do unto you, do so unto them as well.

Jewish Peace Prayer
Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, that we may walk the paths of the Most High. And we shall beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation - neither shall they learn war any more. And none shall be afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken.

Shinto Peace Prayer
Although the people living across the ocean surrounding us are all our brothers and sisters why, Oh Lord, is there trouble in this world? Why do winds and waves rise in the ocean surrounding us? I earnestly wish the wind will soon blow away all the clouds hanging over the tops of the mountains.

Bahá'í Peace Prayer
Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity. Be fair in thy judgement and guarded in thy speech. Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness and a home to the stranger. Be eyes to the blind and a guiding light unto he feet of the erring. Be a breath of life to the body of humankind, a dew to the soil of the human heart and a fruit upon the tree of humility.
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Further reading

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 - Sudan Watch:
The Anglo-Zulu war - A Lesson Learned?

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Cross posted to Sudan Watch, Congo Watch, Uganda Watch, Ethiopia Watch

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Congratulations President-Elect Obama

World leaders hail the victory of Barack Obama in the US presidential election, as outgoing President George W Bush promises a smooth transition of power


Photo: BBC November 5, 2008: World leaders hail Obama triumph
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Rob Crilly takes the goat

British freelance journalist Rob Crilly writes about Africa for The Times, The Irish Times, The Daily Mail, The Scotsman and The Christian Science Monitor from his base in Nairobi, Kenya. Here are some of his photos from Kenya, posted at his great blog at From The Frontline.

From Rob's blog post November 4, 2008:

Always Take a Goat to the Party

So how do you make friends with the Obama family and ensure access to all the key players in Kenya as their relative vies to become the most powerful man in the world? The answer, of course, is always, always take a goat to the party.

I found John for sale at the side of the road. My driver said he was just what I wanted: Big bellied and large-testicled meant he would make excellent nyama choma (roasted meat). And for 2500 shillings he was something of a bargain.

It goes without saying that Abongo Malik Obama, Obama’s elder half-brother, was delighted. And I’ve got a rather nice feature.

There’s only one thing to take to a Kenyan election victory feast: a goat. Preferably still breathing - “a sign of freshness“ - and with big testicles, apparently the sign of quality breeding.

And so it was that I found myself bouncing along a dirt track towards the ancestral home of the Obamas in a saloon car with the sound of John the goat bleating miserably from the boot.
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The press pack in Kogelo, Kenya

From Rob's blog post November 3, 2008:

Hack Attack

The press pack at Barack Obama’s ancestral home is growing steadily. Today there must have been a good 30 or so hacks assembled for the 11am press conference to hear Abongo Malik Obama (half brother to Barack Obama) say there would be no more press conferences. Fair enough, I suppose. The family has no doubt had enough of the confusion, noise and disruption caused when more than two journalists are assembled in a single place. But I can’t help thinking the last thing anyone wants is a bunch of bored journalists hanging around trying to amuse themselves.
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Obama’s ancestral home in Kogelo, Kenya

From Rob's blog post November 2, 2008:

Change We Can Believe In

There have been a few changes recently in Kogelo, the rural homestead that the Kenyan branch of the Obama family calls home. Four years ago I made my way down a bumpy, rutted dirt track to find Granny Sarah’s little house. I was met by Said, one of her youngest sons (and a half-uncle to Barack Obama), and we spent a couple of hours on her sofas chatting about what might happen if “Barry” won a seat in the Senate. Chickens wandered in and out of the sitting room and neighbours dropped by, wondering why a mzungu was visiting. There was no electricity for miles.

Now you have to get past a six-foot gate and fence guarded around the clock by police. That was the result of burglars a few weeks back, who probably reasoned that the Obamas would have a bit of cash about the place. Mama Sarah has a solar panel for her TV and last week, the Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga (a Luo tribemate of Obama) dropped by for a “surprise” visit. This week government bulldozers and roadrollers have been brought in to smooth out the dirt track leading to the Obama homestead.

Today’s press conference there was a slightly muted affair. Malik, Obama’s elder half-brother, spoke to only about a dozen or so journalists about plans for the days ahead and the family’s exitement.

There have already been a few changes in Kogelo. And it’s only going to get more hectic from here.
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From Rob's blog post November 4, 2008:

The Only McCain Supporter in Kenya

Basically, this guy gets it if Obama wins. He’s going to be the celebration feast.