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Michael Aron

British Ambassador to Khartoum

Part of UK in Sudan

7th September 2015 Khartoum

Back in Sudan Again

The first question almost everybody has asked me since I arrived back in Sudan after a gap of over 30 years is ‘has Sudan changed?’

I was last here in the early 1980s teaching English in a Secondary School in the northern town of Ed Damer. There are of course lots of new buildings in Khartoum but I don’t think it is buildings that make countries or cities, it is the people. And I can confirm that the Sudanese people have not changed – they are still as friendly, generous and entertaining as they were when I was here before. So I am hugely looking forward to my time as Ambassador and I am sure I will enjoy it as much as I did when I was a teacher.

Over 60% of Sudanese people are under 24 and the average age is just 19 so it is a truism to say that the future of the country lies with its young people. I was therefore delighted that my first two engagements have been with young and enthusiastic Sudanese students and budding entrepreneurs.

The first event was the launch of the third season of Mashrouy , the hit TV show which combines the best of two British TV shows The Apprentice and Dragons Den to promote youth entrepreneurship and innovation and which we run with our partners the Sudanese Young Businessmen’s Association and the British Council.  It was great to meet the winners from the first two seasons and hear about plans for the third round – so far the project has delivered training to 650 young men and women in twelve Sudanese cities and this year we aim to bring more British businessmen and women to Sudan to share their expertise and to increase the collaboration with Sudanese universities. Mashrouy is for all Sudanese – anyone with a good business idea should apply and everyone can watch it on Blue Nile TV!

Launching the third season of the entrepreneurship competition Mashrouy

The second event was a reception to celebrate the departure of our twelve Chevening scholars who are going to study in the UK this year. We have doubled the number of scholarships for Sudan and will increase it even further next year. Meeting the scholars was hugely inspiring. One was a brilliant young neuroscientist who tried to convince me that full head transplants are only just around the corner! After studying at Queen Mary, University of London, he plans to return to Khartoum to join the very limited number of neurosurgeons working in Sudan’s hospitals.

The Chevening scholars leaving Sudan to complete their postgraduate studies in the UK 2015/2016

The Chevening programme is intended to be for people we hope will be future leaders of Sudan who will help us promote better and stronger relations between Sudan and the UK. Applications for next year’s scholarships are already open – if you or anyone you know is interested details are available on the Chevening website here. The deadline is 3rd November 2015, but don’t leave it too late! We are particularly interested in candidates from outside Khartoum, which have been harder for us to reach in the past.

Later this month, on 15th September, we will celebrate the International Day of Democracy, 800 years after the signing of Magna Carta, the agreement between the English Barons and King John, which has been described as ‘the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot’.

As one of the world’s oldest democracies, it isn’t surprising that we believe that strong democratic institutions and accountable governments, which uphold universal rights and the rule of law, are key building blocks for secure and prosperous states. But we also recognise that democracy is not something you can create by pressing a button – it takes time to develop and take root and there are inevitably occasional setbacks. Nor is democracy the same for every country – it isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ kind of system – different countries need to evolve a democracy which suits them and their people. Evidence suggests that globally the pace of democratisation has slowed in recent years but I am convinced that democracy is the way forward and I look forward to working with those people in Sudan who share this vision.

One disappointment has been the fact that Twitter is less widely used in Sudan than it is in Libya (my last posting). I like the immediacy of Twitter and the opportunity to engage directly with people I might not get other opportunities to meet. Please follow me on @HMAMichaelAron and let’s try and enlarge the Sudanese Twittersphere – but please keep it polite!

2 comments on “Back in Sudan Again

  1. Dear Aron,

    Reading this is very inspiring & motivating, the relationship between Sudan & UK is evergreen & strong, that all of us look forward to visit UK even if it will be for once. I have been inspired by the lucky Chevening scholarship winners of this year that I have applied for next year’s round & I hope that I win it to achieve an important goal in my career.
    Welcome again & have a great time.

  2. Dear Aron,
    I just wanted to say welcome again to you in Sudan after 30 years. Also I would like to let you know that in my opinion cheveningscholarship program has a tangible role in underpinning the relation between Sudanese people and Britain. I was one of the lucky persons who won the scholarship last year. Goodluck in your job in Sudan.

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About Michael Aron

Mr Michael Aron has been Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Sudan since August 2015. After studying Arabic at Leeds University and before joining the FCO in 1984 Mr…

Mr Michael Aron has been Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Sudan since August 2015.

After studying Arabic at Leeds University and before joining the FCO in 1984 Mr Aron worked as an English teacher in El-Damer Secondary School in northern Sudan for two years. Since then his FCO career has been focussed on the Middle East and North Africa, including as Ambassador to Kuwait, Iraq and most recently Libya.

On his appointment as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Sudan, Mr Aron said:

“I am delighted to be returning to Sudan after 30 years. I have very fond memories of the charm, hospitality and generosity of the Sudanese people I met and worked with and I look forward to renewing friendships, developing new relationships and working with all parties to help Sudan overcome the challenges it faces.”