what shouldnt have been

The White Nile and the Blue Nile join at Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum. The conjoined Nile then flows northward bisecting the country’s…

The White Nile and the Blue Nile join at Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum.

The conjoined Nile then flows northward bisecting the country’s desert north.

The Nubian Desert lays to the east of the great river and the Libyan Desert to the west straddling its northern border with Egypt.

Like most borders it is just a political line drawn in the sand.

Sudan’s boundaries came into existence as a result of the great imperial race by European powers to divide up Africa during the late 1800s.

England ambitiously set out to control the Nile, contain French expansion to the west and link the Sudan with its East African territories of Uganda and Kenya.

At the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 Europeans finally set down the national dividing lines to satisfy their goals and avoid conflict amongst themselves.

Needless to say, no African voices were heard or aspirations met.

The artificially cobbled together countries had many other dividing lines.

In the Sudan the main ones weren’t riverine or political.

Religion, language, ethnic identity and history are among the factors that really separate this imperially fabricated country.

The results of sandwiching together disparate peoples have not been pleasant.

The Arab and Islamic north has attempted to maintain control over the Black, Christian and animist south since achieving independence from the British in 1956.

Years of civil war resulted.

Bloodshed tore at the basic fabric of nationhood for years before the current crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

My one and only very brief stop in the Sudan occurred during a lull in the strife under the military dictatorship of Colonel Nimeri in the late 1970s.

He had brokered a ceasefire with secessionist leaders in the south by offering them a measure of autonomy.

I had hoped to visit a friend working with CUSO in Juba down near the Ugandan border.

My friend had instructed me on the intricacies of Sudanese travel.

She told me that the most reliable way to Juba was to take the steamer down the White Nile. But she reminded me to take all the food I needed for the week-long journey, a good water filtre and, of course, to ensure I had my malaria pills and yellow fever shots.

When I got to Juba, I might not be able to travel further south when I wanted.

The rare, scheduled planes often over flew Juba leaving would-be passengers stranded.

And, by the way, she noted as an afterthought, a cholera epidemic had just broken out. Regrettably I decided not visit her.

This coming week we will get a recent, first-hand report on the region from Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.

Neve will give the annual Maddison Chair in Northern Justice lecture on Thursday, January 25th at 7:30 p.m. in the lecture hall of Yukon College.

His lecture, Darfur: the continuing tragedy, will draw on his late November and early December fact-finding visit the Darfur area for Amnesty International.

On his return, he lobbied United Nations officials in New York on the need for an international presence in eastern Chad, into which the Darfur conflict has expanded.

What if political leaders had drawn borders that respected traditional divides between peoples?

What if we had placed more of a priority on ending the bloodshed than on securing Sudanese oil or its El-Gezira cotton?

What ifs’ aren’t the issue, it’s the ‘what nows.

Maybe Neve will help us see what has to happen and what we can do.

If you would like to hear him come early — seating is limited.

The social justice film series continues upstairs at the Alpine Bakery tonight at 8 p.m. with the showing of The Future of Food and on Sunday, January 19th a community potluck at 3 p.m. will be followed by the showing of the Slow Food Revolution and a short presentation by Yukon participants at the Terra Madre conference in Italy last fall.

Also an ecumenical worship service prepared by the local churches of Umlazi, South Africa, will mark the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The service will be held at Sacred Heart Cathedral at 4 p.m. Sunday, January 14th.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted


Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Hans Gatt wins inaugural 2021 Yukon Journey

The Yukon Journey, a 255-mile race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, kicked off on Feb. 24

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

Most Read