October 19, 2005

Sudan Dialogue Raises Awareness

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Students and professors discussed America’s role in fighting poverty in Sudan last night in a dialogue sponsored by the Americans for Informed Democracy and the Coalition of Pan-African Scholars.

Prof. Salah Hassan, the director of Africana studies, and Prof. S.N. Sangmpan, political science, Syracuse University, engaged the students in a multi-layered discourse about poverty in Sudan and its inherent causes.

Hassan and Sangmpan gave students a better understanding of how to help by breaking down the true issues at hand.

Hassan, who came here from Sudan, gratefully acknowledged the room’s interest in Africa and issues of poverty and development. He expressed his aggravation that not enough people are informed and knowledgeable about Sudan and that most take a “cultural approach,” crippling them from seeing Sudan in its true state.

“Poverty must be understood in its many parts,” Hassan said.

Grasping the historical and economic aspects is crucial to understanding the issue of global poverty. Hassan suggested that people first strive to understand the nature of inequality, which is intrinsically related to the economy.

Hassan told the audience that the responsibility of the United States in worldwide economic matters is real and problems “will come back to haunt us” if they are not dealt with now.

A succinct timeline of Sudan’s history was outlined to create a better understanding of the current state of Sudan. Hassan explained that a combination of issues, such as colonization, internal oppression and war has led to poverty and genocide.

Hassan urged students to forget popular understanding and knowledge of the ethnic conflict in Sudan.

“It is not a war between the Arabs in the north and the Africans in the south; it is much more mixed up than that,” Hassan said, emphasizing that this war was caused by marginalization.

Instead of its current programs for international affairs, Hassan believes the United States should properly respond by “resisting and diverting resources” and should push for democratization and accountability in Sudan. Hassan said this is impossible to do until the West releases its simplistic viewpoint of Sudan, especially in its inability to see beyond Darfur.

Hassan and Sangmpan both said that Darfur is taking the spotlight away from Sudan and its deep-rooted, complex issues.

Sangmpan presented a different spin on the issue of poverty. He said that historical and societal aspects framed the issue, but the relationship between poverty and genocide can be traced down to ideology.

“It is the minority with the powerful ideology [that causes and sustains such atrocity],” Sangmpan said.

He also outlined the history of Sudan but with a different approach. His conclusion was that there is “an ideological thread through all of Sudan’s events” that makes Sudan what it is now. The minority has proposed the idea that it is good to be an Arab, and the majority has come to believe this through the violent insistence of the minority. As a consequence, those who are not truly Arabs become “Arabized” to prevent marginalization and persecution.

“Sudan ought to be about getting rid of the minority and their powerful ideology,” Sangmpan said.

He also said that Sudan must become a part of a broader entity, perhaps one that includes sub-Saharan Africa, in order to create a central government that combats the specific problems of the region.

According to Sangmpan, environmental and ecological aspects are primary reasons why poverty remains in Sudan, but the main reason is war.

In 1955, the year before Sudan gained its independence, war broke out; since then the displacement of people from their homes, maldistribution of resources and massacres have pillaged the lives of the Sudanese.

Sangmpan said, “Personally, I do not believe the U.S. can change the situation in Africa.”

Instead, Sangmpan said that democratization and mobilization that must happen within Africa itself, through its own people.

He later qualified his statement by noting that many Americans have helped the “Lost Boys” and that U.S. grassroots organizations “always do something,” even if the government does not.

The students seemed to respond positively throughout the night and tackled the complex ideas by responding with their own difficult questions.

Archived article by Anita Oh
Sun Staff Writer