Woes of Sudanese professionals in Egypt
Nationals of Sudan and Egypt have for many years enjoyed strong traditional ties. For instance, Egypt, in a bi-lateral educational programme, offered scholarships to several southern Sudanese to study in Egypt.
Once they completed their studies, most of them returned home to take up different positions. However, since the war broke out in Sudan in 1983, this state of affairs has changed. The imposition of Islamic law (Sharia) has only served to worsen the situation.
Southern Sudan has been marginalised by consecutive governments and is today characterised by complete absence of infrastructure worth talking about. Few children, if any, go to school, let alone the university. Only on rare occasions do a few lucky ones get a chance to study either in Khartoum or outside the country.
Over the last 10 years, many southerners have been forced into exile. Thousands of others have been displaced internally.
Those who study abroad are no longer enthusiastic to return home in the south. But they can neither go to Khartoum mainly for two reasons: Khartoum is not their home and they are not comfortable with the sharia and the racial discrimination. How they can live in a country which does not recognise their Christian and African beliefs is something many cannot come to terms with.
The Sudanese government considers the country an Arabic and Islamic state. But, Sudan is a multi-racial and a multi-religious country. There are over 300 African tribes with different beliefs and traditions in Africa's largest country. Christianity was introduced in Sudan before Islam. For many years, followers of the two religions and the traditionalists lived together in harmony. The introduction of sharia law in 1983 was a turning point in the relationship. Today, the relationship is that of hostility and mistrust between the different communities. The Arab/Islamic north, which controls the government, wish to perpetuate their dominance. The southerners have said no and have resorted to an armed struggle.
For the southern Sudanese professionals in Egypt, the ultimate goal is to go back home. But they cannot return to the government-controlled areas nor are they ready to see their many years of academic achievements go to waste in the south. Years of hard work and study cannot be wasted, reckon the many teachers, doctors, lawyers, agriculturalists, pharmacists, business-study and computer graduates.
"I graduated in 1990 and I have been working as a shopkeeper," said an agriculturist. "I want to introduce my people to new farming techniques that are more sustainable," he added.
"I am from south Sudan and I know the people, their culture and traditions," said a teacher who completed his studies in 1994. "I don't' mind being with them. I will manage to live there easily as I can grow some vegetables and build a little hut while teaching children at schools for a living. That is all I want."
Their number one drawback in as far as going back home is concerned is their inability to afford air fares. The stringent and bureaucratic visa regulations have only made the situation worse. To be able to make it to southern Sudan, one has to travel via Kenya or Uganda. It is approximately US$700 per return ticket (one needs to purchase a return ticket for visa-acquisition purposes), a figure that most of these graduates find unaffordable.
On average, those who are employed earn an equivalent of $70 per month, an amount that can hardly keep them going till the second week of the month. The writer saw upto four families cramped up in a two-bedroom apartment in an attempt to make ends meet.
Generally, it is virtually impossible for any one to find work in his field of specialisation. The Sudanese graduates are stranded and cannot do much about changing this situation. Many are trying to move elsewhere under resettlement plan, a UN-assisted programme which gives opportunity for refugee families to settle in Western countries.
"I have no intention to go to America of Australia. I have been alienated all my life in my country, treated as a second class citizen, not equal under the laws of Sudan with the northerners, just because I am a black. No! I don't want to go anywhere but my homeland in southern Sudan. I can help my people get to their feet, the war will not be forever," said a pharmacist.
South Sudan is in dire need of all manner of qualified personnel. Most people in the south are illiterate. Thousands of children are out of school, famine is still prevalent in most areas and many children and adults alike continue to die because of lack of medicine and doctors.
It is high time something was done to help professional southern Sudanese in exile go home to serve their people.
by Suzanne Samson
BARSELLA GINO and AYUSO MIGUEL, "Struggling to be Heard. The Christian Voice in Independent Sudan 1956-1996", Paulines Publications Africa, Nairobi, 1998, 128 pp.
As members of the global village, we are living today in a continuous process of globalization that reaches all fields of life: Social, economic, political and religious. Religiously, the process is being carried out through the inter-religious dialogue among the different beliefs. This globalization is leading to religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence among the different beliefs of the global village.
This is not the case of the Sudan. In fact, it is impacting, in a world walking together towards globalization, to know about the intolerance shown by Khartoum's fundamentalist government towards Christians, non-Christians and Muslims alike.
"Struggling to be Heard", it is a challenging book that presents the Christian Voice in Independent Sudan (1956-1996). It tells about the Christian presence in Sudanese politics during the past 40 years, beginning with the unfulfilled promises of the Arab-Muslim North towards the Christian-Traditionalist South at the moment of Independence (1956), the first civil war and the military solution of Ibrahim Abboud's military regime (1958-1964) that aimed in the 1960s to attain unity in the country only through forced Islamization of the South, that logically led to the failure of unity for the Sudan. The rise of Numeiri's regime (1969-1985), although led to a fragile peace between North and South during the 70s, it ended with a new failure and even worse; the imposition of the Islamic Law in the 80s, that marked the beginning of the second civil war (1983-1998). Since then, and besides a lost chance for democracy (1986-1989), there has been a continuous escalation in the process of Arabization and Islamization of Southern Sudan under the present regime, the Revolution of National Salvation, that took power in June 1989. The regime intends to unify Sudan in the name of Allah, through the Holy War (jihad). This has put the non-Muslims in a climate of real religious persecution.
It is in this context that the book stresses the efforts made by non-Muslims in Sudan to struggle for justice and peace in defence of the most basic human rights and particularly freedom of religion.
Christian churches are struggling to be heard so that true peace through justice may come to the Sudan. Christians are struggling to promote justice, peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance. Just the same values that the present government claims to be promoting through the Holy War launched against the Southern non-Muslims. Something unacceptable in a world seeking for globalization.
In a thrilling narrative, the book proposes the respect of other's beliefs and to work together in the great enterprise of replacing evil with good and good with better. Unfortunately there is still much to struggling to be heard.
by Charles Omondi
SUDAN CATHOLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
Bethany House, P. O. Box 21202, Nairobi, Kenya
tel. +254.2.562247 or 569130, fax 566668
For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.562247 - fax +254.2.566668 - e-mail: SCIO@MAF.Org