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Viewpoint from Sudan – where black people are called slaves

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Ali al-Nayer

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Reem Khougli and Issam Abdulraheem faced abuse for marrying each other

In our series of Letters from African journalists, Zeinab Mohammed Salih writes about the horrific racial abuse black people experience in Sudan.

Warning: This article contains offensive language

As anti-racism protests swept through various parts of the world following African-American George Floyd’s death in police custody in the US, Sudan seemed to be in a completely different world.

There was little take-up in Sudan of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Instead many Sudanese social media users hurled racial abuse at a famous black Sudanese footballer, Issam Abdulraheem, and a light-skinned Arab make-up artist, Reem Khougli, following their marriage.

“Seriously girl, this is haram [Arabic for forbidden]… a queen marries her slave,” one man commented on Facebook after seeing a photo of the couple.

Facebook Live from honeymoon

There were dozens of similar comments – not surprising in a country where many Sudanese who see themselves as Arabs, rather than Africans, routinely use the word “slave”, and other derogatory words, to describe black people.

Sudan has always been dominated by a light-skinned, Arabic-speaking elite, while black Africans in the south and west of the country have faced discrimination and marginalisation.

It is common for newspapers to publish racial slurs, including the word “slave”.

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Universal History Archive

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Sudan was a major slave-trading area in the 19th Century

A few weeks ago, an Islamist columnist at Al-Intibaha, a daily newspaper supportive of ex-President Omar al-Bashir, who does not approve of women playing football, referred to the female football coach of the Gunners, a well-known youth team for girls, as a slave.

And almost all media outlets describe petty criminals in the capital, Khartoum, as “negros” as they are perceived to be poor and not ethnically Arab.

When I asked Abdulraheem for his reaction to the racial abuse hurled at him and his wife, he said: “I couldn’t post more pictures on my social media pages for fear of receiving more [abuse].”

Instead, the 29-year-old and his 24-year-old wife did a Facebook live during their honeymoon, saying they were in love and their race was irrelevant.

Few black faces

In another recent instance, the head of a women’s rights group, No To Women Oppression, commented on a photo showing a young black man with his white European wife by saying that the woman, in choosing her husband, may have been looking for the creature missing on the evolutionary ladder between humans and monkeys.

Following an outcry, Ihsan Fagiri announced her resignation, but No To Women Oppression refused to accept it, saying she did not mean it.

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Getty Images

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There have been some small anti-racism protests in Sudan

Racism is insidious in Sudan, historically and since independence when most senior positions have been filled by people from the north – the Arab and Nubian ethnic groups.

Almost all senior military officers are from these communities, which has also allowed them to use their influence to dominate the business sector.

Today if you go into any government department or bank in Khartoum, you will rarely see a black person in an important role.

There are no reliable statistics on the ethnic breakdown of Sudan’s population, let alone their relative wealth, but a Darfuri-based rebel group fighting for the rights of black people estimates that 60% of Khartoum residents are black.

Slave traders ‘glorified’

The racism goes back to the founding of Khartoum in 1821 as a marketplace for slaves.

By the second half of the century about two-thirds of the city’s population was enslaved.

Sudan became one of the most active slave-raiding zones in Africa, with slaves transported from the south to the north, and to Egypt, the Middle East and the Mediterranean regions.

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DEA / BIBLIOTECA AMBROSIANA

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Al-Zubair Pasha Rahma was a powerful slave trader

Slave traders are still glorified – a street in the heart of the capital is named after al-Zubair Pasha Rahma, whose 19th Century trading empire stretched to parts of what is now the Central African Republic and Chad.

Historians say he mainly captured women from the modern-day Sudanese areas of Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains, as well as South Sudan and Ethiopia’s Oromia region. He was also known for his slave army, made up of captives from South Sudan, which fought for the Ottomans.

Another street is named after Osman Digna – a slave trader and military commander, whose lucrative business was curtailed by the then-British colonial administration when it moved to outlaw slavery.

The practice was only officially abolished in 1924, but the decision faced strong resistance from the main Arab and Islamic leaders of that era, among them Abdelrahman al-Mahdi and Ali al-Mirghani, who many believe had slaves working on the vast tracts of land they owned along the Nile River.

Zeinab Mohammed Salih

BBC

The superiority complex of many Arabs lies at the heart of some of the worst conflicts in Sudan”

They wrote to the colonial administration urging them not to abolish slavery, but their request was ignored.

The two men, along with their political parties – Unionist and Umma – continued to wield enormous influence after independence, entrenching notions of Arab superiority in the new state by reserving almost all jobs for Arabs and failing to develop areas inhabited by black people.

Mahdi’s grandson, Sadiq al-Mahdi, served as prime minister from 1966 to 1967 and again from 1986 to 1989, when Mirghani’s son, Ahmed, became president in a coalition government the two men had formed.

Two Sudanese academics, Sulimen Baldo and Ushari Mahoumd, publicly alleged in 1987 that they had uncovered evidence of some northern-based Arab groups enslaving black people from the south. They say these groups were armed by Sadiq al-Mahdi’s military – and were the genesis of the Janjaweed militias, which were later accused of ethnic cleansing in Darfur.

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Getty Images

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Sadiq al-Mahdi has been on the political scene for more than 50 years

The slave-raiding allegations were denied at the time by the government of Ahmed Mirghani and Sadiq Mahdi, who remains influential in Sudanese politics and is close to the current government, which took power after the overthrow of Mr Bashir in 2019.

21st Century slave raids

The superiority complex of many members of the Arab elite lies at the heart of some of the worst conflicts to hit Sudan since independence, as black people either demand equality or their own homeland.

The southern slave raids were widely reported to have continued until the end of the civil war in 2005, which led to the mainly black African South Sudan seceding from Arabic-speaking Sudan five years later.

The women and children abducted by Arab groups to work for a “master” for free often never saw their families again, though in some cases their freedom was controversially bought by aid groups such as Christian Solidarity International.

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And since the Darfur conflict started in the early 2000s, the pro-government Arab Janjaweed militias have repeatedly been accused of arriving on horseback in black African villages, killing the men and raping the women.

Little has changed there in the last year, with reports of rapes and village burnings continuing despite the peace talks organised by the power-sharing government, which is leading the three-year transition to civilian rule.

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AFP

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Mass atrocities have been carried out in Darfur

The transitional government was formed by the military and the civilian groups that led the 2019 revolution, but it is unclear whether it is genuinely committed to tackling the structural racism within the Sudanese state.

The Sudanese Congress Party (SCP), a key member of the civilian arm of the government, says that a law has been proposed to criminalise hate speech. Under the proposal, the punishment for using racial slurs would be five years in jail, SCP spokesman Mohamed Hassan Arabi told me.

But many black people are uneasy about the military’s role in government, given it was part of Mr Bashir’s regime.

One of the few black ministers, Steven Amin Arno, quit within two months of taking office, saying in a resignation letter which appeared on social media that nobody was listening to him.

The government did not comment on his allegations, which he says proves his point.

“What happened with me shows the marginalisation and the institutional racism in the country,” he told me.

More Letters from Africa:

Follow us on Twitter @BBCAfrica, on Facebook at BBC Africa or on Instagram at bbcafrica





Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded

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The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      





Source – observer.ug

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19

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Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  





Source – observer.ug

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Museveni issues ultimatum to police boss

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Museveni flagged off distribution of motorcycles for NRM chairpersons

President Yoweri Museveni has given Inspector General of Police (IGP) Martins Okoth Ochola a chilling ultimatum: You either do your work or I will do it myself!

Museveni disclosed the ultimatum he gave to the IGP today Monday at the NRM secretariat at Plot 10 Kyadondo Road in Kampala where he was flagging off the distribution of motorcycles to parish chairpersons of the ruling National Resistance Movement party across the country. 

“I told the IGP that if the police doesn’t do their work, I will do it myself by arresting the police officers themselves,” Museveni stunned his audience as he commented on the electoral violence that marred the NRM primaries held on Friday last week. At least 4 people were killed across the country during the primaries. 

“There was violence in Bukono county [Namutumba district] where people were beaten. I got information that police has not done much work. Some (policemen) have been arrested and given police bond; there is no police bond for somebody who has attacked Ugandans!,” Museveni added. 

Museveni vowed to deal with all persons who messed up the party primaries.  In some parts of the country, there were massive regularities where candidates who had been defeated ended up being announced winners. In some places like Namutumba, Isingiro, Ntungamo, Jinja, Katakwi, among others, there was violence that led to the killing and wounding of civilians. Museveni said that they are going to make sure that all those who participated in these irregularities and violence are held to account. 

Museveni said although the violence was orchestrated by the politicians, the police personnel are to be held accountable for failing to contain it.

Last week, police spokesman Fred Enanga warned police personnel especially those guarding VIPs against being drawn into the politicians’ political wrangles, reminding them that they would face the music if they did. With the president now threatening to go and conduct the arrests of errant policemen himself, IGP Ochola is likely to move fast to avert the spectacle. 

Museveni wondered why police would shoot at unarmed people who were fighting amongst themselves: “That policeman must be arrested; even the ones who are threatening people you will go to jail for that if we get evidence,” a seemingly incensed Museveni said.

He also said that the state minister of Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana who was captured on camera attempting to shoot people over the weekend in Ntugamo after he lost the  Rushenyi primaries, will be charged with threatening violence and attempted murder. 

 “This game is finished,” Museveni said.

Rukatana has since been charged and remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district in western Uganda. Museveni called upon all those dissatisfied with the election results to write petitions to the regional panels of elders which he said are going to be constituted to hear all election complaints.

“We are going to get three respected people who are not part of the struggles, then we shall go and audit village per village and we shall discover. If you have committed forgery, the registrar or the politician who ordered,  you all shall go to jail. The game is finished; the voting is by lining and if you miss-add, you are ‘miss-add’ yourself,” Museveni said.

Museveni’s speech came shortly before that of Justine Kasule Lumumba, the secretary general of the NRM who called upon the president to reign over some senior people who with impunity were freely changing the results of the elections.

“Some of our staff were lured into changing declaration forms on the way forgetting that people who had participated at the village don’t need to write; they registered the record in their faces…Some have done things with impunity… in Butemba county Kyakwanzi district, one of the candidates who got 3,000 votes brought in soldiers, cordoned off that place and was declared a winner and off they went away,” Lumumba said. 

The ball is now in Ochola’s court to get the police to execute their duties professionally and with impartiality. In March 2017, President Museveni warned Ochola’s predecessor Kale Kayihura to clean the police force of wrong elements. As months passed with no visible sign of police officers shaping up, Museveni resorted to other security agencies who started arresting rogue senior police officers and charging them in the military court for various crimes.

Kayihura was then removed from office, arrested and jointly charged with the errant officers in the army court. To avoid similar fate, Ochola is likely to use a firmer hand on the police officers so that by the time of the February 2021 elections, there is no laxity in the force’s execution of its mandate to maintain law and order.





Source – observer.ug

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