THE STATE OF (SOUTH) SUDAN by William Reed Columnist

Oil has turned Sudan’s economy into one of the fastest growing economies in the world.  While Western media and governments and activists label Sudan as having “one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises” they in turn portray it as a land of cracked earth and starving people.  Sudan is booming in spite of Western sanctions and declarations.  American sanctions have kept most Western companies out of Sudan, but firms from China, Malaysia, India, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates will make up to $3 billion in direct investment this year.

Sudan is the largest country in Africa and the tenth largest in the world.  It houses the type of mineral resources Western countries want.  So, note the latest West scheme to get the land: It will occur in January 2011 when the people of Southern Sudan will likely vote to succeed from the North. The US wants the south to secede.  Then, they can get their hands on the oil and energy resources. The Southerners will take with them about 80 percent of the country’s oil revenue.  But with little governance and poor infrastructure, many fear, the South could be at risk of becoming a failed state from the outset.

The civil war between North and South Sudan is the longest in African history, claimed 2 million people’s lives and finally ended in 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).  Since then, the two sides have been slowly working their way toward the referendum.  But many issues – from how to distribute oil wealth to even where the border would be drawn – still must be resolved.  Even though most of Sudan’s oil is in the South, it can only be exported through the North to Port Sudan. 

North or South, “What is the best way to deal with Sudan” is the question.  Among President Obama’s inner circle of foreign policy advisers is Susan E. Rice an African-American that is U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.  Rice and her supporters are adversarial and like taking “a hard line” to bring Sudan “into line”.  They charge Sudan’s President Omar el-Bashir of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.  Scott Gration, a retired Air Force general who is Special Envoy to Sudan.  Gration recommends the US remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and suggests that constructive engagement with Sudan would better advance US goals.

Oil and real estate investment currently drive Sudan’s economy.  Unified Sudan’s G.D.P. is predicted to increase by 12 percent this year. Cotton and other agricultural products are traditionally engines of the economy, but the new growth comes largely because of Sudan’s increased its crude oil production.   The economic boom also strengthens President el-Bashir’s hand at home with an infrastructure binge that poured hundreds of millions of dollars into roads, bridges, power plants, hospitals and schools, projects that has boosted his popularity substantially.

On the other hand, in Juba, the capital of the South, there are just three paved roads.  From hard scrabbled Juba, Salva Kiir is the man the U.S. has helped operate as president of Southern Sudan. Kiir is former rebel guerrilla in a rebel army that Western activists have been supporting for decades.  His regime has long been a rebel darling of donors from the Bush years.  His blend of defiant nationalism and Christian piety resonates among hard line Washington ideologues that seek to reshape Sudan.  In the Obama’s era, the U.S. has been poured than $600 million annually into Southern Sudan to bolster Kiir’s government.  Obama inherited the Sudanese nation-building from his the Bush administration that crafted the CPA.  Since 2005, America has injected some $6 billion into the country and is the largest single donor to Sudan, and Sudan is one of the top recipients of USAID disbursements, behind only Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As activists celebrate their election victories in Southern Sudan, the question should be posed as to whether this is just another case of Westerners leaving natives with Bibles while they take the land?

(William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org)

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WILL BLACK FARMERS ACTUALLY GET PAID? by William Reed Columnist

Headlines are saying that “Black Farmers Are Getting Paid” because President Barack Obama has signed the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 that authorizes $1.15 billion to settle claims Black farmers won initially from the US Department of Agriculture over a decade ago.  Before we all trumpet “success and justice” in this matter, take a look at how we got to here.

 

In 1997, a Black North Carolina farmer named Timothy Pigford filed a claim against the government for reparations.  Four hundred Black farmers joined Pigford’s suit and claimed USDA discrimination against them on the basis of race.  Then-Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman found that 205 of the 116,261 loan and crop payments issued by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency involved the possibilities of racial discrimination.  January 4, 1999 Judge Paul Friedman signed a consent decree that awarded damages to Blacks who farmed, or tried to farm, between January 1981 and December 1996 and had applied for USDA aid.  Claimants were supposed to file by September 15th 2000, but around 73,800 – did not.

 

Many Blacks know it, but maybe many do not, but institutional racism can be defined as “the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture, or ethnic origin”.  The “Pigford” case has bounced back and forth for years.  Now, there is a second payoff effort, but the problem for Whites now is that when the 1999 settlement was reached there were a total of 18,000 Black farmers.  Now, more than 94,000 people have filed claims for payouts.

 

The Pigford case shows America’s deplorable legacy of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow and benign neglect is institutional and pervasive.  Shunned by commercial banking institutions, Black farmers were especially dependent upon the USDA as a "lender of last resort" for their farming needs.  Actually USDA agents delayed Black farmers’ loan approvals until late into the crop season, would alter loan applications to increase Black farmers’ chances of being rejected, and would alter loan repayment schedules without notice to the borrower.

 

Despite the USDA’s dastardly performances toward Black farmers, stipulations the agency managed to include in the award have turned out to pose problems for Black farmers.  This time, the Obama administration wants to bring “long-ignored claims of African-American farmers to a rightful conclusion.”  Now, Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann has promised that “every claim will be investigated before a single dollar goes out the door”.  Bachman claims the Black farmers’ suit “rife with fraud” because there more claimants than there are Black farmers.  Iowa Representative Steve King has called the case “a form of reparations for slavery” and that the bulk of the Pigford II claims are fraudulent because there are fewer Black farmers than claimants.  Bachmann and King represent Whites’ typical obstacles to justice.  The number of Black farmers may have declined in direct proportion to the number who lost their farms due to USDA discrimination that denied them loans – the point of the settlement program.

 

Although he says that payment to Black farmers is “long overdue”, the USDA’s current Secretary Tom Vilsack “doesn’t know” how long it will take for Black farmers to actually get paid.  It could be at least a year before Black farmers get payments, but its highly unlikely anyone will get money until some time in 2012.  Blacks who have left the farm, or are still there, need to make sure they get paid.  They should start gathering information, particularly any proof that they filed a claim in the original Pigford case. They should also gather any proof that they were denied loans or other assistance, or received less favorable terms, than White farmers.  The settlement applies only to Black farmers who missed the deadline for filing a claim in the Pigford I case, but even farmers who can’t prove they filed an application past that deadline should still pursue a claim.  Final court approval may not happen until next summer and farmers likely will have six months after that to file claims.

(William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org)

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