China and North Korea Supplying Arms to Khartoum and the SPLM

Fred Oluch
It is no longer a secret: Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) -- which runs the semi-autonomous south -- have been building up their armies ahead of the 2009 elections or the 2011 referendum when the South will choose whether to secede from the north.

There have been reports that Khartoum has been purchasing arms from China and North Korea, including fighter jets and tankers, while the South, suspecting that Khartoum is bent on scuttling the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), has been preparing for any eventuality.

A veteran journalist based in Khartoum, Adil El-Baz, confirmed to The EastAfrican that both sides are preparing for war because of the shaky peace deal and the oil deposits in the South.

According to Mr El-Baz, there is still much controversy about the boundary of the North and the South, especially around the oil-rich Abyei. Thus, should the separation be confirmed in 2011, there could be war over the oilfields that are mainly in the South.

Khartoum and SPLM have been having an uneasy relationship over the implementation of the 2005 peace deal, especially over Abyei.

But the suspicions were kept under wraps until recently, when pirates hijacked a Ukranian ship with a cargo of arms destined for Mombasa, but which the US Navy officials claimed were headed for Southern Sudan. Both SPLM and the Kenya government have denied this claim.

Moreover, Sudanese ambassador to Kenya, Majok Guandong, told The EastAfrican there are no signs that the two sides could go back to war, arguing that the implementation of the CPA is gradual and that both President Omar al-Bashir and Vice President Salva Kiir are committed to making it work.

"Sixty per cent of the CPA has already been implemented while the rest is going on gradually, so there should be no need for a war. However, after 21 years of war, the issues cannot all be addressed within three years," he said.

The debate comes as various political parties in the country converged in Khartoum last week to discuss the restoration of peace in the troubled western section of Darfur, the east and the south.

SPLM insists that it is dedicating its resources to reconstruction and infrastructure development, while Khartoum has taken a rather lukewarm view of the reported shipment to Southern Sudan mainly because it is still preoccupied with the decision of the International Criminal Court to indict President al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.

At a recent rally in Juba, al-Bashir said that even though Khartoum is working hard to make unity attractive, the decision on whether to separate or remain within a united Sudan rests solely with the southerners.

Still, Khartoum recently summoned the ambassadors of Ethiopia and Kenya to Sudan regarding the alleged arms shipments to Southern Sudan. It expressed its astonishment that the two countries, which are also members of Igad, could be used as conduits.

The Sudan Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that an Ethiopian military plane arrived at Juba Airport on October 10 loaded with weapons.

There are unconfirmed reports that assorted arms have passed through Kenya destined for Southern Sudan. What is more, they were given an armed escort by the Kenyan authorities.

Sources in Nairobi maintained that the semi-autonomous South has the capacity to purchase its own arms directly without using Kenya or any other country as a conduit.

However, the CPA states that the replenishment of ammunition, weapons and other military equipment is only allowed if it is approved by a north-south Joint Defence Board.

During the war, the SPLA mainly relied on supplies from Uganda and Eritrea.

But despite working together within the Government of National Unity, suspicion between North and South remains high, with either side second guessing the long term strategies of the other.

Still, the two sides were in solidarity in May when the Darfur rebel outfit, the Justice and Equality Movement, attacked Omdurman with the aim of marching to Khartoum and overthrowing the al-Bashir government.

Analysts say that should the North and South go to war again, it would energise the almost vanquished Uganda rebel group, the Lord's resistance Army, who during the war were used by Khartoum to destabilise the SPLA position in the south.

A source working in Juba intimated that the average southern Sudanese are looking forward to delinking from the north with the hope that it would cut off the Khartoum stranglehold and improve their lives, but those in leadership positions do not want to go back to the war now that they have tasted government goodies.

There is a growing unease, especially among the former SPLA who fighters are getting restless that they are not getting worth what they sacrificed for during the war. For instance, those who have money would prefer investing in Kenya and Uganda because the future is uncertain.

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Republican women’s group Mailing out Food Stamp with Barack Obama’s face

Michelle DeArmond

The latest newsletter by an Inland Republican women's group depicts Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama surrounded by a watermelon, ribs and a bucket of fried chicken, prompting outrage in political circles.

The October newsletter by the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated says if Obama is elected his image will appear on food stamps -- instead of dollar bills like other presidents. The statement is followed by an illustration of "Obama Bucks" -- a phony $10 bill featuring Obama's face on a donkey's body, labeled "United States Food Stamps."

The GOP newsletter, which was sent to about 200 members and associates of the group by e-mail and regular mail last week, is drawing harsh criticism from members of the political group, elected leaders, party officials and others as racist.

The group's president, Diane Fedele, said she plans to send an apology letter to her members and to apologize at the club's meeting next week. She said she simply wanted to deride a comment Obama made over the summer about how as an African-American he "doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."

"It was strictly an attempt to point out the outrageousness of his statement. I really don't want to go into it any further," Fedele said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I absolutely apologize to anyone who was offended. That clearly wasn't my attempt."

Fedele said she got the illustration in a number of chain e-mails and decided to reprint it for her members in the Trumpeter newsletter because she was offended that Obama would draw attention to his own race. She declined to say who sent her the e-mails with the illustration.

She said she doesn't think in racist terms, pointing out she once supported Republican Alan Keyes, an African-American who previously ran for president.

"I didn't see it the way that it's being taken. I never connected," she said. "It was just food to me. It didn't mean anything else."

She said she also wasn't trying to make a statement linking Obama and food stamps, although her introductory text to the illustration connects the two: "Obama talks about all those presidents that got their names on bills. If elected, what bill would he be on????? Food Stamps, what else!"

Club Member Cries

Sheila Raines, an African-American member of the club, was the first person to complain to Fedele about the newsletter. Raines, of San Bernardino, said she has worked hard to try to convince other minorities to join the Republican Party and now she feels betrayed.

"This is what keeps African-Americans from joining the Republican Party," she said. "I'm really hurt. I cried for 45 minutes."

The Obama campaign declined to comment. It's the campaign's policy to not address such attacks, said Gabriel Sanchez, a California spokesman for the campaign.

The newsletter prompted a rebuke from another African-American member of the organization, which is well recognized in the community for its philanthropy and efforts to register and turn out voters in the Rancho Cucamonga and Upland areas.

Acquanetta Warren, a Fontana councilwoman and member of the women's group, said the item is rude and requires a public apology.

"When I opened that up and saw it, I said, 'Why did they do this? It doesn't even reflect our principles and values,' " said Warren, who served as a Republican delegate to the national convention in September and is a regional vice chairwoman for the California Republican Party. "I know a lot of the ladies in that club and they're fantastic. They're volunteers. They really care -- some of them go to my church."

Warren forwarded an electronic version of the newsletter to the California Republican Party headquarters, where officials also were outraged Wednesday and denounced the illustration.

Hector Barajas, the party's press secretary, said the party chairman likely will have a conversation with Fedele, and Barajas will attend the statewide California Federation of Republican Women conference this weekend in Los Angeles to handle any news media there to cover the controversy.

Obama in Turban

The newsletter is not the first such episode Barajas has had to respond to this week. The Sacramento Bee on Wednesday posted an image it said was captured from the Sacramento County GOP Web site that showed Obama in a turban next to Osama bin Laden.

It said: "The difference between Osama and Obama is just a little B.S." The site also encouraged members to "Waterboard Barack Obama," a reference to a torture technique. The Sacramento County party took down the material Tuesday after being criticized.

Mark Kirk, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County GOP chairman, said he expects Chairman Gary Ovitt to also have a talk with Fedele and to attend the group's local meeting next week to discuss the issue with members, although the county GOP has no formal oversight role over the club. Kirk said these kinds of depictions hurt the party's ongoing efforts to reach out to minorities.

"It's very damaging and we're going to take steps to correct this," Kirk said. "Unfortunately, I don't know what you do to correct ignorance like this, but we will do what we can."

Assemblyman Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands, and state Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, both criticized the illustration as inappropriate and irresponsible.

Dutton pointed out that his wife, a member of the club, is of Mexican heritage and has battled criticism that the Republican Party is not the party for minorities. The club's newsletter undercuts efforts to rise above racism, he said.

"Bias and racial comments and even suggestions are frankly what weakens us as a people. I think we as Americans need to rise above that," he said.

Emmerson said he was extremely offended and sickened by the newsletter.

Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media at Cal State Sacramento, said it's imperative that people speak out about these kinds of depictions no matter how small the organization. She praised Raines for doing so.

"It's a statement about what is civil discourse and can you get away with doing something under an organizational banner," she said. "You have to cut it out at the root and the root is often small organizations that are local and they then become larger."

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