Category Archives for Sudan

Democracy On The March l Gua Africa

Peter Clifford

8/2 /11 Peter Clifford –


Democracy On The March:

First Tunisia, then Egypt, Jordan, Yemen and also Sudan. Democracy is definitely on the march.  The big question is where next? If democracy has legs then Algeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, some other Middle East states and also China are lying in its path.

Democracy is not a perfect system, as all of us who live in one know full well.  But combined with an independent judiciary, police force and army, we know that to a very large degree we have freedom of self expression, including the right to criticise the government of the day and to peacefully demonstrate and campaign against things we don’t like.

We also know that we can do that without fear of reprisals, arrest, imprisonment or torture and furthermore, if we do fall foul of the law, by and large, the legal system will usually be fair.  And if we feel it isn’t, we can freely campaign to get an appeal and a review of our case.

Tahrir Sq. Cairo

Lastly, and very importantly, we also know that our democratic voting system (whichever one we choose) works sufficiently well and accurately enough so that governments the majority don’t like can be removed and replaced by a democratic opposition in an orderly way. We also know that the opportunity to vote will occur on a regular basis and be largely free of corruption and manipulation.

Frankly, all the above, that most of us living in a democracy normally take for granted, are unknown luxuries in the countries mentioned at the beginning of this article – and clearly it is time that things changed.

It seems absurd to me that any ruler, president, prime minister or king (apart from in true constitutional monarchies where the royals have no law making powers) should be allowed to rule for 30 years or more.

Eight or ten years maximum is more than enough before cosy cronyism and corruption  sets in and the ruler, whoever they are, is surrounded by sycophantic appointees and supporters who will do anything to maintain the status quo and their well heeled and privileged lifestyles.

In a democracy you can get rid of people like that. In a dictatorship, oligarchy or some medieval fiefdom run by self – selected royals – you can’t.  They surround themselves with repressive soldiers, police and laws and rule by fear, corruption and control – all to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

What we in democracies forget is that our countries also went through a similar stage of evolution to the ones we are seeing now in Africa and the Middle East.

Europe during the Middle Ages was a mess of city states, fiefdoms and warring factions that cared little for the rights of individuals and antagonism remained between nationalist “tribes” and nations right up until the end of the second world war.

America broke away from English rule and then went through its own civil war before black slaves were freed and gradually allowed to assert their right to be equal to everyone else.

American Civil War -

What we are now seeing in other parts of the world is part of this evolutionary process and I hope that it will continue with as little bloodshed as possible. And then hopefully all individuals in those nations will become free to speak as they chose, vote as they chose and live as they chose.

More than this, as I intimated in my very first blog on this site, I  hope these revolutions allow women to take their full and equal place in these societies as they do in ours.  Without this those revolutions remain incomplete and ineffective.

And watch out China (which blocked mention of Egypt last week on its own version of Twitter, called Sina) and all those other states mentioned earlier, especially Saudi Arabia – your days of complete and utter control of both women and your society in general by a small number of self -chosen fat cats are truly numbered – at least I hope so!


My support of Emmanuel Jal’s charity Gua Africa continues throughout February and by using any of my Amazon links I will ensure that 10% of any commission I earn goes to support Emmauel’s work with the child victims of war (your Amazon prices remain as normal).

Emmanuel has also highlighted on his Facebook page, the demonstrations on January 30th in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, which have largely gone unreported by the world’s media.

According to information that has leaked out up to 70 people were arrested and 20 are still being held at the headquarters of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) (probably the same place I briefly visited 30 years ago – See Part 3 of my Juba prison story) and in danger of being tortured.

Prisoners in Sudan

Imprisoned in Khartoum

These are mainly, though not all, Arab young men, citizens of North Sudan and many were injured before being arrested and at least one has reportedly died since. You can read more of their story at: Free Sudanese Protesters Now (scroll down for the English version).

Clearly North Sudan still has some way to go before it truly embraces freedom and democracy.

Meanwhile, it is good to report (and following on from previous blog posts on southern Sudan (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 ) that it was announced yesterday that the South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly, almost 98.83%, for independence and secession from the North.  President Omar Al – Bashir of Sudan has again confirmed his agreement on behalf of the North to this division.

Good luck to South Sudan on its journey to freedom and lets hope its new government implements democracy and equality from the start and quickly resolves the outstanding issues with the North.

Emmanuel Jal was in Hong Kong recently and talked more at the MAD (Make A Difference) Conference about his extraordinary life as an escaping boy soldier and his rescue by British aid worker Emma McCune .

You can hear all this on the video clip below and hear him sing the song he wrote and dedicated to Emma who was tragically killed in a car crash shortly after she got him to safety in Kenya. MAD is an organisation of young people in Asia that have come together to bring about and support constructive change around the world.

I have to say I am now a fan of Emmanuel’s music – though many of the Chinese in the video below still look rather bemused!  I don’t think some of them knew what to make of it at all!

And lastly, next time it snows, forget about snowmen – try SnowArt instead!

Until the next time,

Peter Clifford:


If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link – – onto your friends.

Lastly, don’t forget to sign up (Top Right) for my mailing list for future information, advice, tips and reviews – for a limited time only there is a FREE copy of my 40 page ebook on “Love Relationships – The 10 Step Guide” which I have written especially for this website.


South Sudan Part 3 l Emmanuel Jal l Juba Prison (Conclusion)


Peter Clifford

29/1/11 Peter Clifford –

South Sudan Part 3 l Emmanuel Jal l Juba Prison (Conclusion)



Further to my previous posts  (Part 1 and Part 2), although the results of the referendum on South Sudan‘s independence will not be formally announced until 14th February, election officials have indicated that with 83% of the votes from the 4 million registered electors, both in Sudan and overseas, counted, 99% have voted to secede from North Sudan, with only 1.4% against.

The UN Security Council has praised the officials in southern Sudan for the way the referendum was organised and run and the President of Sudan, Omar al Bashir, has indicated that his government will accept the decision. So far an estimated 178,000 South Sudanese have already returned from northern Sudan and many more are expected back from overseas once a formal state and government has been established.

Photo Guardian -

Counting Referendum Votes – Photo

The name of the new state is expected to be The Republic of South Sudan, but that is yet to be confirmed. The fledgling country will not have an easy rite of passage to maturity.

Apart from absorbing all the new returnees, there are many issues still to be sorted out with the North over land use and oil fields, new infrastructure is desperately needed, including tarmac roads, schools and hospitals and issues of corruption and the misuse of aid funding from abroad need to be addressed urgently.


Corruption is one issue highlighted by the South Sudanese singer Emmanuel Jal who now lives in the UK. More than 2 million people lost their lives in civil wars in Sudan, including Emmanuel’s Mother, and after her death he was drafted into the rebel army, the SPLA, as a boy soldier aged just seven.

Wikepdia - Photo by David Shankbone

Emmanuel Jal

After some terrible experiences he ran away with some other boys, many of whom died along the way, until he was eventually smuggled into Kenya by a British Aid worker, Emma McCune, who adopted him but was tragically killed in a car crash just a few months later. He started singing to ease the pain and “the rest is history”, as they say.

However, Emmanuel has not forgotten his roots and works extremely hard to help other children caught up in war, supporting families in refugee camps and building schools for the street kids in the slums of Nairobi through his foundation and passion Gua Africa .

Having seen the street kids of Nairobi eating out of rubbish bins there myself, I know how bad it can get when you are hungry and penniless and have a cardboard box for a home and no chance of an education.

Read his inspiring story on Wikepedia or for the full story in Emmanuel Jal’s Autobiography ( UK Store Link: “War Child: A Boy Soldier’s Story”, USA Store Link: “War Child: A Boy Soldier’s Story” or see the side panels. Also available, audio book, audio CD and a documentary by the same  name)

As for his music, I am not normally a fan of Rap or Hip Hop at all but Emmanuel’s African style  moves me – Listen to this great clip below.

“We Want Peace”  Step Up For Peace!

(Featuring Alicia Keys, George Clooney, Peter Gabriel on strings and the People of South Sudan)

(Click on the arrows on the righthand side for Full Screen)

If you buy – anything – (and on everything you buy) – through my Amazon links on this site (UK or USA) during the whole of February 2011 I will give 10% of any commission I receive to help Emmanuel’s charity Gua Africa. (Gua – (pronounced “gwaah”) – means Peace)

(Your Amazon buying prices are exactly the same as usual and your personal data remains confidential to Amazon).

** JUBA PRISON STORY PART 3 (Conclusion!) **

Those of you who have been following my posts have already read Part 1 and Part 2) of my Juba Prison story from 30 years ago…..

Where I left off last time my girlfriend and I had just been summoned to the Prison Governor’s office and then whisked off to Juba airport under armed guard…..TO READ MORE…>>>  NEXT PAGE

Peter Clifford:


If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link – – onto your friends.


South Sudan Part 2 l Juba Prison Sequel

Peter Clifford


16/1/11 Peter Clifford – : SOUTH SUDAN Part 2  l  JUBA PRISON SEQUEL

Sudan has 597 ethnic groups and more than 400 different languages and dialects.

When I was there in the late 1970’s I was able to enjoy much of this culturally rich diversity.

From the hospitality of Arabs in the North who took me into their homes for a meal and to stay, to observing the tough Dinka tribesmen tending their very long horned cattle on the grasslands and seeing spear toting tribesmen coming out of the bush wearing little more than a penis sheath near Wau, to finally meeting the friendly smiles of the Black African Sudanese in the deep South, there was, and is, much to discover.

Dinka Tribesmen with Cattle – Sebastaio Salgado

If the separation of the two halves of Sudan goes ahead, after 21 years of conflict, the challenge will be to preserve peace and harmony between the two nations and to prevent inter-racial antagonism. It will not be easy.


Another potential flashpoint is the discovery of oil in Sudan, mainly in southern Sudan, which northern Sudan is relying on them to continue to export by pipeline to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

In 2009 revenues from oil in Sudan accounted for 50% of the country’s domestic revenue and 93% of it’s exports, but tribal conflict in the oil rich Adyei province on the north/south border prevented the people there taking part in last week’s referendum.

Sudan’s oil pipelines – BBC

Unsurprisingly, the latest news in Sudan is that the crucial 60% tipping point for the implementation of the independence agreement has been passed but the final result will not be known for 30 days. There are almost 4 million registered voters in South Sudan, over 51% of them women.

Interestingly, South Sudan has already decided to adopt English as its official language and when I was there many people already spoke it, having been educated in Uganda or Kenya, both part of the British Commonwealth. English lessons are now a major industry, including for some members of the Judiciary.


If you read
Part 1 of this article you will have read my story about being carted off to prison in Juba by a Secret Police Officer. To continue….

As he and his plainclothes officers took us and our luggage away I said to my girlfriend in German (she was from Germany, I am half Austrian), “Just tell them the truth, we are just travellers, nothing more”.

“No good speaking German”, barked the Secret Police Officer, ” I was trained by the Starsi” (former communist East German Secret Police not known for their humanity!).  Not a good start.

For a couple of hours we were interrogated separately at the Police Station.  It wasn’t too gruelling and they never did manage to work out that the cartridge camera I had at the time had a film in it.

The trigger for their interest was that our passports had been re-issued in Turkey.  Having stayed in Israel we thought it prudent not to advertise that fact as we travelled through Egypt and Arab north Sudan.

As our luck would have it, this particular week, President Nimeiry (later deposed in a coup) had flown in from Khartoum to open a new radio station and the Secret Police were on “high alert”.

It wasn’t long before they had convinced themselves that we had come all the way from Israel to assasinate their Head of State!

Eventually we were taken to the prison proper and released into the prison compound, my poor girlfriend alone into the women’s section and me into a separate larger section with 304 black guys!  Frankly, they were amazed to see me.  According to them “white men” didn’t get put in prison,”it was all wrong”.

They crowded round me asking questions and a number of them, assuming I must be extremely hungry after being interrogated by the police, gave me little cubes of food to eat (rather like Oxo cubes).  I later discovered that this was their meat ration for a week. I have never forgotten their kindness.

Daily Life in Juba Prison:

From then on the other inmates made sure I got the best of the meagre resources and those that had been assigned jobs around the prison offered to take messages to my girlfriend.

Juba Women’s Prison – UNODC

One of the many high points was every time I decided to use the one and only cold water outdoor shower.  On each occasion I would look up to find myself surrounded by a ring of about 200 black guys peering at my “equipment”.

I quickly realised that most of them had  never seen a white man with no clothes on before!  Fortunately I am not particularly shy.

For the first 24 hours I was rather tense, imagining the worst but after that, being a pragmatist, I went with the flow of prison life.  Some of my fellow inmates were very young – a 15 year old imprisoned for stealing a transistor radio for example – and some others, manacled at the ankles, were clearly mentally ill and were there because there was nowhere else to put them.

After a while I also discovered a South Sudan opposition politician kept in a separate compound in the middle of the prison yard, whom Nimeiry had kept locked up for several years.  We had some conversation and on my release I passed his details onto Amnesty International who took up his case.

The other prisoners wiled away their time keeping themselves clean and their particularly spot in the prison tidy and playing a curious game in the sand with little depressions and stones. It is only in recent years that I have come to realise that this game was Mancala (UK Store  Folding Mancala) (USA Store Mancala), a simple but fascinating game with unpredictable outcomes.  I recommend it.

I was also given a rather battered Agatha Christie murder novel to read but as the last half dozen pages had been used as toilet paper by someone else I never got to find out “who did it”!

After 10 days both my girlfriend and I were brought to the Governor’s office.  I was glad to see that my girlfriend was okay, she, like me, having been well looked after by her prison companions.

The Governor informed us that we were being flown back to Khartoum immediately.  This was a bit of a blow, considering we had spent two weeks travelling from there and I had got a hernia in the process.

We were driven to the airport under armed guard, followed by a bit of a farce as they tried to get us on the aeroplane.

But I see this is turning into a book again……….  So I will conclude the story in a few days!  I promise….. In Part 3

Until the next time,

Peter Clifford:


If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link – – onto your friends.

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South Sudan Part 1: Hopefully the Birth of a Nation? l Juba Prison

Peter Clifford


11/1/11 Peter Clifford – : SOUTH SUDAN Part 1: Hopefully the Birth of a Nation? l Juba Prison

South Sudan Referendum:

Last weekend the people of South Sudan went to the polls in a referendum to decide whether South Sudan should be come an independent nation or remain part of greater Sudan.  Is this the final end of the long running Sudan civil war?

In theory the decision should be a massive forgone conclusion.  Sudan, both geographically and culturally is split down the middle – a controlling Arab government and Moslem population mainly in the North and a Black African mainly Christian population in the South.

Sudan North and South - BBC

Physically the north is largely steppe and desert and to the South it is largely rain forest, grassland and savanna – as can be clearly seen from the BBC map.

For 21 years, and intermittently far longer than that, there has been civil war in Sudan between the two sides, costing more than 2 million lives in the last 15 years alone.  However, in a 2005 peace agreement, part of the deal was that southern Sudan would be allowed a referendum to decide its future.

Why am I writing about this?  Because more than 30 years ago I crossed this vast country ( more than a million square miles and the largest in Africa) overland from the northern border with Egypt  at Wadi Halfa almost to the southern border with Uganda.

I say almost, because my journey came to an abrupt halt in Juba, soon to be the new capital of South Sudan (or whatever name they decide).  I don’t know much about Juba as I did not see a lot of it, but I do know something about the inside of Juba prison….

Travelling Across Sudan:

Travelling across Sudan, even today, is not easy. From north to south by road it is over 1500 miles and I expect the roads now, as they did then, still wash out in the rainy season.

Map of Sudan

Part of my journey was by rail (old British steam trains and diesels) and part was intended to be by relatively “comfortable” riverboat on the White Nile but it was out of service.  In the event there was no choice but to take the train to the end of the narrow gauge line in Wau and hitchhike on a lorry from there.

Hitchhiking on lorries was, and probably still is, a popular form of transport, providing extra income for the drivers.  The top of the lorry was packed with people, but sitting all day on rock hard sacks of sugar, especially for my lean frame, is not my idea of a “good time”!

Things got worse as we skidded around on muddy tracks and passed at least one lorry which had completely turned over throwing its unbelted hitchhiking passengers all over the roadside with serious consequences.

Finally rounding one bend our own lorry went out of control and reared up to the side  on only one set of wheels ready to somersault. At this point, in total terror, I managed to tear the lining of my abdomen and got myself a hernia before the lorry  righted itself and continued its journey into Juba city.

Arrival in Juba:

By the time we arrived in Juba, I was not feeling too great and was only too pleased to find a small hotel run by third generation Greeks (where did they come from?).  Who cares that the sanitation seemed to be run by a vast population of maggots that lived in the toilet bowl – all I wanted to do was sleep!

But sleep and rest was clearly not meant to had.  Within a short time a member of the then Secret Police arrived, did not like the look of my passport or that of my girlfriend and carted us off to prison…

……..But before this blog turns into a book, I will pause there and post Part 2 in a day or two!!

In the meantime, I wish the people of South Sudan a good result in their referendum and every success in their right to self determination and a peaceful future.

Until the next time,

Peter Clifford:

If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link onto your friends.

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