Sudanese American Seeks to Halt Sudan's 15-Year Civil War with Model Peace Village There

By Azriel, Joshua | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 1998 | Go to article overview

Sudanese American Seeks to Halt Sudan's 15-Year Civil War with Model Peace Village There


Azriel, Joshua, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Sudanese American Seeks to Halt Sudan's 15-Year Civil War With Model Peace Village There

Of the civil wars raging throughout Africa today, none has received as little attention in the West as that in Sudan. A brutal civil war raged there for 15 years. For the past nine years the principal protagonists have been the governing National Islamic Front regime of Omar al-Bashir, who came to power nine years ago in a military coup in the north, and John Garang of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in the south.

There are a multitude of internationally sponsored peace plans for Sudan. But as both sides talk of peace, the government in Khartoum, the nation's capital, is actively drafting second- through fourth-year college students for military service. Therefore any successful peace initiative may have to arise from among the Sudanese citizens not involved with either of the protagonists.

Elwaleed Mousa is an engineer and a second-year graduate student in political science at the Unversity of Florida. Born in Evanston, Illinois, and raised in Khartoum, this 33-year-old's home and heart is in Sudan. He became familiar with al-Daein, a city of 250,000 people in western Sudan, because his family has a vacation home there. Now he is working to construct in the area what he calls a "peace model village" for western Sudan, where Muslims and Christians can live together in peace made possible by sustainable development.

"Through building a village and creating a harmonious society, we can achieve any political agenda with peace and stability through development," Mousa explains. "People in Sudan cannot yet access education, they lack shelter, have no means of transportation from their farms to nearby villages, and cannot afford medicine. The children are malnourished."

Mousa wants to convert the village of Bawat al Khel, located 15 miles from Al-Daein and currently home to 250 families, into his peace model village. In return for outside development assistance, Bawat al Khel residents have agreed to the arrival of 300 displaced Dinka families currently residing in Nyala, a city of approximately 250,000 in western Sudan.

Members of the Dinka tribe have not been welcome in Nyala because of a lack of historical ties with the city's residents. But the Dinka do have traditional ties with the villages of Bawat al-Khel, 900 miles from the fighting.

There are three phases to the peace model village's development: Phase One is currently under way with the construction of a town well. Phase Two will build a water tower for the residents and a ground water tank for farm animals. Bawat al Khel's women and children now travel two hours each way for water. The new well and water tower would eliminate this burden.

Phase Three is the development of the village itself. A literacy center, vocational center, chapel, and a common farm for growing vegetables are to be built. "I want the well to be a nucleus for a rural development program including literacy development, vocational training programs for young men and women, a common worship place for Muslims and Christians, and to establish a small farm," Mousa stated.

A management finn in Khartoum was selected to design the village. Survey engineers will provide plans based upon the land's natural resources and features. In doing so, they will work with the Sudanese Environmental Society from Al-Daein. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Save the Children also are supporting Mousa's initiative.

So far, $30,000 has been raised in the United States for Phase One. Another $10,000 is needed to complete the well. In order to begin Phase Two, $40,000 will be needed to build the water tower and tank.

Mousa does not believe that the government in Khartoum will object to the village if it is kept under the auspices of NGOs.

Mohamed Khalil, who served as speaker of Sudan's Constituent Assembly from 1986 to 1988 and also served in several Sudanese cabinet positions in the 1960s, believes that Mousa's chances of success in the prevailing political atmosphere are slim though not impossible.

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