Arabic's future in southern Sudan

There are no logical or objective reason to justify the Sudan's People's Liberation Movement's resentment of the Arabic language.

"There are no logical or objective reason to justify the Sudan's People's Liberation Movement's resentment of the Arabic language," wrote Ahmed Amrabi in the Emirati daily Al Bayan in response to a statement by SPLM's representative, Ezekiel Gatkuoth, that English would be the official language of Southe Sudan in case the upcoming referendum leads to its separation. In the mid 1920s, the British administration enacted the "closed regions law" as a starting point to wage a strategic cultural war against the propagation of Arabic and Islam in the south. The ultimate target was to separate South and North after eradication of the Arabic language in the South and converting its people to Christianity. This system was continued for twenty years.

English was the official language in the civil service and the army. Despite the fierce religious and cultural crusade, the experiment failed and Arabic remained the language of social communication among southerners and less than one per cent of the people converted to Christianity. Arabic remains the popular popular tongue of most African countries. Its influences can be heard in the biggest two African dialects, Swahili and Hausa. The SPLM's attack on the Arabic language is but a prelude to what is envisaged for the future of the separatist South: a primary western ally in Africa.

"While the Palestinian Authority welcomed the resumption of direct negotiations based on the statement of the international Quartet committee, the Israeli government adopted the US declaration without reference to the Quartet," wrote Areeb al Rantawi in a comment piece for the Jordanian newspaper Addustour.

This conflicting situation reflects a desperate move by the international community and especially the US to get the two parties to engage in negotiations on the eve of the midterm elections for Congress. The Quartet statement praised by the Pastinians was less "meaty" this time as the call for halting settlments was simply replaced by "cessation of provocations". And since Israel views the settlemt expansion as "the right of settlers" and not as acts of provocation, there is noting to prevent the Israelis from pursuing further their occupation policies.

An address by the US secretary of state called for resumption of negotiations without conditions, a statement charaterised as a "warrant" against the Palestinians. More than that, by insisting on meeting in Washington, US diplomacy tended to obscure the Egyptian role, which has helped to ensure  an Arab cover for the Palestinians though the Arab League follow-up committee. This leads us to predict that any future agreement would likely  favour the Isralis and serve their  prime interests.

With the arrival of Russian fuel, Iran began loading the Bushehr nuclear power plant on Saturday. Government officials hailed the event as a historic victory over Iran's enemies and a symbol of the nation's determination to reach its goals against all odds. The operation of the country's first nuclear power plant does warrant such jubilation from Teheran as it would meet citizens' needs and decrease its dependence on oil. But to qualify the event as a victory over foes is doubtful, wrote Abdallah Iskandar, managing editor of London-based Al Hayat.

The same event happened before in various countries and did not hold the symbolism that Teheran insists on loading it with. Iranian officials are aware that international resolutions related to Iran's nuclear programme stated the country's entitlement to peaceful nuclear energy. It is in that framework that Russia continued work on the Bushehr reactor. This means that the reactor was put into operation with complete international approval. Boasting victory over the West is nothing but empty political propaganda. In fact, if there is any symbolism in the activation of Bushehr plant, it can be read as a message from the international community to Iran confirming its right to produce peaceful nuclear energy as opposed to its mysterious nuclear programme in other nuclear plants.

With the withdrwal of the last combat batalion from Iraq by the end of last week, the US forces have dropped by about a third of their original size and ended their combat missions, while the remaining troops will train and provide support to Iraqi forces, wrote Jaber Habib Jaber in an opinion article for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

However, the question on everybody's mind in the US and Iraq is what kind of country are the US troops leaving behind? Pessimists predict political and social instability in the coming years. Many fear a resurgence of sectarian violence due to unsuccessful efforts in creating an institutional state that guarantees the rights of all Iraqis. Another danger would be the renunciation of democracy and the emergence of totalitarian tendencies.

On the other hand, many optimistic scenarios counter-balance these predictions. In fact, the US withdrawal isn't final and definitive. The US involvement in Iraq will remain a strong opposition to any external and internal threats. Furthermore, the political system has become stronger and democracy will always be the unique option for power management. Iraqi forces are gaining in strength and resilience, which will allow them to protect the government and the political system.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem