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Lift Sanctions In The Sudan, Says Anglican Businessman


By William A. Wheatley


Recently I made a trip to the Republic of Sudan, and wish to
report on the conditions I witnessed while I was there. I was in Khartoum from
Tuesday, 24 February 2004, until the evening of Wednesday, 03 March 2004. While
the purpose of my trip was to scout for business opportunities for a client
once the US sanctions are lifted, I was also very curious and concerned about
what I have read in the press regarding the treatment of Christians in Sudan. My
client is a Saudi Arabian company that is investing heavily in Sudan
something American companies are prohibited from doing because of unilateral US
sanctions imposed against Sudan by President Clinton.

Upon arrival, I was met at the airport by Waiel, one of my
clients partners. Waiel is Sudanese, the son of the head of the Nubian tribe. The
Nubian tribe is the largest of the Sudanese tribes. You may remember from the
Bible that Moses first wife was a Nubian. Much of Nubia is in what was the Lower
Kingdom of the ancient Egyptians. Most Nubians today are Islamic, although a
number are also Coptic Christian. Waiel is well educated, holding a Doctorate
in Nuclear Science from a Russian university and a Doctorate in economics from
a German University. While in Russia he met his wife, a charming young woman
from Finland, a Christian. He is rearing his children as Christians (her
condition for marrying him). He said his father was a bit put off by that but came
around and is a doting grandfather.

My understanding prior to going to Sudan (and Waiel confirmed the
information) is that the lighter-skinned Arabised, Sudanese, which include
the Nubians, occupy predominantly the north of the country and are predominantly
Islamic, with a mix of Anglican, Roman Catholic, Coptic and Protestant
churches operating in the North. The further North one goes, the more Coptic
Christians one finds. The South and Southwest are the regions that have been at war
with the central government until recently. The South is darker skinned so
dark as to appear black on the border with purple.

The Southwest, the Dafur region, is lighter skinned than the
South but still definitively black by comparison with the north. However, there
are many blacks from the South and Southwest in Khartoum, where they fled to
escape the fighting. The south is a mixture of Animist and Christian tribes, and
the Southwest is a mixture of Animist, Islamic, and Christian tribes.

Waiels tribe, and especially his family, have set up free clinics
and schools to provide medical care and education for them as well as job
training. Waiel himself is running a program that finds maintenance and interior
construction work for them. He formed a number of corporations to do this
contracting, in each of which six blacks from the south are equal partners with
him. He pays the overhead (salaries, etc.) and hopes to be reimbursed when they
turn profitable.

Of the ten companies he formed, two are now profitable, three are
at break even, and he has great hopes for the rest. If we of Islam do not
show charity towards our Christian brothers, we will never have peace, he told
me. If we of Islam are to prosper, we must help the Christians to prosper, too.

The country has been in a state of civil war almost since the
British abandoned the country in 1958. According to the Sudanese, they petitioned
the British for a movement towards self-government, and the British just
left. A military junta took control, and the country has been ruled by a series of
military dictators since. In the 1990s, with Osama Bin Laden in residence in
the country, it became designated as a State Sponsor of International

In 1997, after finding that the policies and actions of the
Government of Sudan, including continued support for international ism,
ongoing efforts to destabilize neighbouring governments, and the prevalence of
human rights violations, including slavery and the denial of religious freedom,
constituted an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and
foreign policy of the United States, President Clinton issued Executive Order No.
13067, declaring a national emergency to deal with that threat.
(http://www.treasury.gov/offices/eotffc/ofac/sanctions/t11sudan.pdf ) The Sudanese
government has gone through several internal upheavals and changes since then. Soon
after President Clinton imposed sanctions, a new Sudanese government rounded up
Osama and his followers and offered them to the US, but the US refused to
receive them, so Sudan expelled them and they went to Afghanistan. The rest is

US Government official recognise that the Republic of Sudan has
made great strides toward ending the strife, opening its markets and
establishing democracy. There is now an elected legislature, and as a result of peace
negotiations sponsored by the US, the cabinet is now a mix of politicians from
the North and the South. All major issues in the civil war have been settled,
and final signature on the final peace agreement is expected any day. Last
week, Sudan arrested a number of military officials and politicians who have been
sponsoring the Islamic s that have been izing Christians in the
Dafur region. At one time allied with the government, they remained in the
region after government troops withdrew and continued their marauding. Now there
are hopes that they will finally be stopped.

During my trip I met with a number of government officials, and
had the opportunity to discuss frankly with them the religious issues that have
received so much coverage in the American press. As the business that took me
to Sudan involves airlines, the first government official with whom I met was
Eng. Joseph Malwal Dong, a black Christian from the South. He told me that
the reports of atrocities against Christians, while containing truth, were much
exaggerated. He pointed out that they occurred only in the areas that were in
rebellion against the central government, and not against Christians in the
North. They were killed because they were fighting. While the s were
brutal and involved civilians, they were attacks against villages that were
fighting and in rebellion. They did it not because the village was Christian but
because it was in rebellion. There were equal atrocities committed against
Islamic villages that were in rebellion in Dafur.

I asked him about the stories of captives being pressed into
slavery. Sure, some of that went on, he said. But again it is much exaggerated in
your press. American evangelists come over to buy slaves and free them, and
the villages quickly figure out a scam. They round themselves up, dress one of
themselves as Islamic, sell themselves to the evangelist, and then when he has
freed them and left, they divide up the money and go home. He admitted that
while real slavery did exist in parts of the south and southwest, the government
was trying to suppress it, and once the peace was established and government
control of the areas established, it would be eradicated. He said he knew of
no slaves being kept in the North, although there are blacks from the south
working at very small wages in the north. But there are northerners working at
very small wages, too, he added.

I attended Ash Wednesday services at the large Anglican church in
Khartoum (I was told it is the Cathedral, but I could not read the Arabic
sign in front, and I dont know whether my informer understands what a cathedral
is. He referred to the Presbyterian church as a cathedral, as well.). I saw
many people on the streets, in offices and stores during the day wearing the
ashes on their foreheads. Attendance at the Ash Wednesday services at the Roman
Catholic Cathedral was so large, they held the services in the square in front
of the Cathedral. The next day, my friend took me to the largest Mosque in
Khartoum which has a large and beautiful arcaded courtyard. In the courtyard, the
Imam and the Roman Catholic archbishop were working together, gathering
medical supplies, clothing and foodstuffs to be trucked as relief aid to the South.

Sudan Airways has stopped flying regularly scheduled flights to
the South partly because of the war, but mostly because US sanctions do not
permit it to get spare parts for its aircraft. It was struggling to keep
international flights operating while I was there, and ran out of money and ceased
operations a few days after my return to the US. The President of Sudan issued a
plea to the US government to lift the sanctions so that US investment in
Sudan can help to cement the peace. They need such investment, but more
importantly, they need the parts to get the airline flying again to speed the delivery
of relief supplies to the South. At present, the sanctions are hurting only
American businesses and the poor in the Sudanese south.

Being in Khartoum gave me a different picture of the state of
affairs in the country than one gets from the American press especially the
Christian press. Yes, conditions for Christians have been very bad in the past; but
they have improved dramatically in the last year and official persecution has
vanished. I believe it is now time to lift the sanctions and let Americans
help Sudan build democracy and rebuild their infrastructure. Let us all pray for
the coming of peace and freedom to this troubled region.

Mr. Wheatley is a Philadelphia-based businessman. He is an Anglo-
Catholic and an active member of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont,

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