IF we can still the lurking doubts about the serious intentions regarding the Sudanese peace settlement this week, then the deal must rank as some of the best news on our globe for a long time.
IF we can still the lurking doubts about the serious intentions regarding the Sudanese peace settlement this week, then the deal must rank as some of the best news on our globe for a long time. The death toll since fighting erupted in 1983 (is that all; it seems much longer somehow) between the north and south is around an astounding two million people. Could we, even at this long overdue time, have seen the last of that carnage, mostly among the black citizens of that country, the hugest in Africa? The heart pleads Yes, but the brain advocates caution. So many times it seemed peace had arrived, only for hope to recede like a desert mirage. SPLA leader John Garang struck the right note midweek when he said that when it seemed there were no more hills to climb, more appeared, but this time they seemed to be truly of the past. How lucky were this to prove true! Sudan is poised to discover its full potential if so, and the region with it. Uganda, for example, would dramatically cut its military cost of fighting the dreadful Kony, for surely this time Khartoumâ€™s words that they were through with him would finally translate into fact. A little known but important fallout would be that Garang would now be in a position to summarily remove his SPLA people from the Garamba national park in northeast D R Congo where they are daily menacing the last 25-strong colony of Northern white rhinos left in the world. (I wrote about this on 21 December 2002, and mentioned that about sixty SPLA were within striking range of the rhinos. Needless to say 25 rhinos are not more important than the two million humans dead, but in the wide history of the universe they count for a lot!) Two crucial factors might seriously limit the effectiveness of the peace pact: the continuing terrible conflict in the Darfur region, and the fact that at least two guerrilla forces in southern Sudan were not party to the deal between Khartoum and the SPLA. Obviously the sooner these factors are addressed the better. Perhaps a third problem might be the Khartoum mavericks who perpetually flout whatever promises the Khartoum government gives. Does the latter have the authority to control its pests? Time will tell.
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Talk of the rhinos leads me to the Uganda Wildlife Authority, of whose Chairman of the Board of Trustees I am proud to be. Ours is both a difficult and yet immensely enjoyable task, standing between Man and Beast, as it were. Many humans think that our national parks and game reserves take up too much room, to the disadvantage of people; and they often say that we prefer animals to them, which is nonsense. But we speak up for the animals, whose language is not always understood by people, except on those rare occasions when, all else having failed in communication, they take the ultimate step of killing and eating people, or at any rate injuring them and their crops. Another of our burdens is putting up with people, often foreigners, who see it as their God-given right to lecture to us about our wildlife. We accept advice of the right kind, given between equals, but we baulk at orders. We shall continue to do so, especially in our own country and in an area given to us by our own folk. Interestingly our own Vision often plays a subjective game, publishing uninformed articles and letters about UWA, but not always our defence even when offered. A very knowledgeable man from Germany, Professor Dietrich, and a guest of his, on the main board of WWF, and his family, toured some of our parks and were very forthright in their high praise for the UWA staff. They gave an interview to Vision which never saw the light of day. When we were attacked about our pilot sport- hunting project at Lake Mburo, we invited a well-known Vision reporter to explain the reasons behind the project. The article has not appeared. Even the much respected Dr Thome, of the Uganda Tourism Association, took a cheap swipe at us in a letter, talking about â€œthe back-door introduction under the disguise of â€˜pilot projectsâ€™â€ and asking us to â€œgive up [our] ill-motivated plansâ€. Prof Dietrich told us of controlled hunting inside the actual parks in Germany, but where the animal population was growing. We will not allow hunting inside our parks, but want to see how controlled hunting outside, as at Mburo, works. So far so good; indeed when poachers came there after the pilot project had started, a couple of them were killed by the incensed local people, who profit from the project. But Thome was right to refer to Semliki. This national park near the Congo border had been entered, and heavily destroyed, by local people, misquoting what the President had told them. They wanted Semliki degazetted. Museveni made it abundantly clear this was never his intention. UWA it was who told him about the threat. We shall continue to soberly take on all comers in our quest for fairness to people and wildlife alike. Finally, and bashfully, a word about how I am; asked for, I hasten to add, by people who say I left them hanging when I wrote of my South African adventures a month ago. I am making great strides and hope to start warming up at tennis next week. Inshallah and touch wood!
Sudan: let it be clear