Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Narrative on Sudan: What we can learn

With the recent tumult that I caused in Al Jazeera I think more people are starting to realize the effects of the false narratives on Sudan. Well I hope that's the case. I know for a fact that I'm not the first to apprehend the short-sighted reporting of Sudan's numerous conflicts. I'm also not the first to address the issue publicly.

We are at a time where all this doesn't matter anymore. What matters is what's said now and in the near future. The recession in the South has to be looked at more objectively, because while independence is a cause for celebration other internal issues might cast some doubt on the new-born nation's stability. We basically have to take the sentimental aspect out of every equation.

I am very grateful to Al Jazeera for following up on my complaint, and on their recently launched series of documentaries on Sudan. They've definitely exerted an effort into asking the people that matter, local experts, political scientists, and political activists.

But I want to give special gratitude to someone who has passionately reported on Sudan for the last couple of years. She's written a book on Sudan called "Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide.” I haven’t read it yet, but it’s definitely on my “Books to buy” list (buy, not read
J ). That someone is Rebecca Hamilton.

She’s a special correspondent on Sudan for the Washington Post, and has been published by almost every outlet you can think of. Here are a few: Foreign Affairs, The Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, The International Herald Tribune and Newsweek. You know what; I think she even writes on my blog when I’m not paying attention.

Anyways, I’ve been religiously following her reports on Sudan, and as I recently found out, she’s been paying attention to the real issues in Sudan before I even started this blog (not really, but it was back in November 2010).

Here’s an extract from her article “'Oil-Rich' Abyei: Time to Update the Shorthand for Sudan's Flashpoint Border Town?”, published by the Pulitzer Centre:

“.. Accordingly, the number of articles on the Abyei referendum has sky-rocketed. Read any of the media coverage and you’ll be hard-pressed not to find the phrase “oil-rich” placed somewhere in front of the town’s name. But these days the accuracy of the journalistic short-hand is questionable.

In 2004, when the final stages of the negotiations for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement were underway, the Abyei area was indeed “oil rich.” There were two major oilfields to the east of Abyei town, Heglig and Bamboo, and another to the north called Diffra.

Back then, the combined production of the three fields was an estimated 76,600 barrels per day (bpd). If youcrunch the numbers, this amounted to 25 percent of Sudan’s annual oil production. With so much at stake, “oil-rich” summed up perfectly the reasons why Abyei was an obstacle to the conclusion of the peace agreement.

But we are now in 2010. In the intervening six years, two factors have diminished the accuracy of the “oil-rich” label:

First, oil production from Heglig, Bamboo, and Diffra has declined across the board. From the 76,600 bpd of 2004, the 2009 estimates for the three fields dropped to 28,300 bpd. Meanwhile, production from outside the area increased. By early 2009, “oil-rich” Abyei only accounted for 5 percent of Sudan’s annual production.”

You can read the full article here.

I hope all journalists can learn from Rebecca’s insight. As the saying goes “If you don’t know the details, don’t report.” Ok, it’s not a saying, I made it up; but it should be.

Also, apparently Rebecca Hamilton is from New Zealand. I know, I don't know where it is either. It just makes you think though, as a Sudanese, I should be putting in more effort.


Maiwen said...

Dear His Moezness,
You are totally right. Reporters normally take things for granted, and that's the core of the problem itself. When we make a small problem looks begger in a sense of getting people's attention, negative aspects are also added to the problem itself. Now, Abyei is oilless, but it is mistakenly being handled as oil-rich; which I think is totally basless. Oh, the book is really interesting. I had my friend getting me one from the US. I'm almost finished now with reading it, but believe me, most of what people think about the conflict in reality are not always as true as they are on the ground. Hamilton's Fighting for Darfur is, however, a "real" insight to the problem in Darfur. Oh, I may ask her to give me a permission to translate her book into Arabic.

Best always,

Anonymous said...

aha al 3iris metain?