U.S. Senators Isakson and Corker arrive in Khartoum, Sudan
AFRICA DIARY SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON
Security, peace issues for Sudan
By Johhny Isakson
For the Journal-Constitution
Wednesday, May 27, 2009:
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia is traveling in Africa with fellow Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. As members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa, they are monitoring the progress of a 2005 agreement that helped end years of civil war between northern and southern Sudan. Isakson filed this installment late Monday.Update: Many thanks to Digital for the following comment:
Our trip began Saturday in Washington, D.C., when Sen. Corker and I, along with my brave wife, Dianne, two members of our staffs and a military escort from the Navy, boarded a commercial flight to Rome. A U.S. military plane flew us into Africa.
Some 14 hours after leaving Washington, we landed Sunday afternoon in Khartoum, Sudan, where we were greeted by a sandstorm and a temperature of 110 degrees.
Despite these conditions, a delegation of dignitaries waited outside our plane to greet us. Since arriving, we have been taken everywhere in armored vehicles with a police escort because security problems in Sudan are so bad.
Our meals have been very good so far, but even at a dinner with dignitaries there is no cocktail reception or even a glass of wine with the meal. Sudan is an entirely dry country. Instead, they are constantly serving us juice, soda, coffee and tea in our meetings and with our meals.
Monday night, the head of the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services hosted an outdoor dinner for us, complete with local music and dancing.
Tuesday, we will leave our hotel at 6:40 a.m. for a charter flight into Darfur and a five-hour tour and briefing. We will meet with U.S. humanitarian workers and some of the more than 2.6 million Sudanese in the refugee camps.
In early 2011, southern Sudan will hold a referendum to determine whether it secedes from the north. Whatever happens will have great effect on Sudan, the Horn of Africa and the rest of the world. It is our intent to discover firsthand the attitude of the government and the conditions of the people.
The Sudanese government wants improved relations with the United States and demonstrated where it has been helpful to the United States —- most importantly, in counter-terrorism.
We emphasized that improved relations will be built on progress toward the comprehensive peace agreement, which requires legislation pending in the parliament on freedom of the press; reconciliation with the south; future agreements between the north and the south on sharing oil revenues; and full cooperation with aid workers delivering humanitarian assistance to the people of Darfur.
Progress toward the implementation of the peace agreement is essential before the referendum. A vote to secede by the south leaves open the opportunity for a renewal of hostility and even the potential of regional conflict, given that the Horn of Africa has been a target for al-Qaida to establish training camps.
Although the “herb” is quite popular in Sudan with all social classes, alcohol use is rampant, reminds me of the good old days of prohibition in the states.More on this subject later, if I receive more comments or hear from Drima, The Sudanese Thinker.
The lower and middle classes enjoy an alcoholic beverage made of fermented dates and flavored with assorted fruit essences called arragi, and its might powerful stuff I might add. Less popular is a beer made out of sorghum called “marissa”.
The higher classes enjoy black market booze including the ever popular Johnnie walker, international wines, and all your favorite brands of vodkas/rums/gins/beers.
You have to remember that only 25 years ago Khartoum was full of bars, liquor stores and night clubs. Although it is a social taboo to drink, a significant percentage of the populace does indulge, oxymoronic don’t ya think!!