Peter Tibber

Ambassador to Colombia

Part of UK in Sudan

5th January 2013

New Year in Sudan

2012 in Sudan seemed hectic pretty much up until the last minute. 2013 promises to be no less. So, like many others, I squeezed in a bit of holiday between the two. My son came to visit and we spent some time visiting the old, the new and the in-between in Sudan.

The old were the archaeological remains of the kingdom of Kush in Merowe and Karima. We spent a magical night sleeping under the stars near the pyramids of Merowe and a fascinating day exploring the beautiful painted tombs at the burial site in El Kuru. These mysterious remains of a remote age with a completely different culture and political geography from modern Sudan are fascinating and a reminder of the diverse components of modern Sudan

They weren’t quite as mysterious to us as they might otherwise have been because we’d had the good fortune to spend some time with a number of British archaeologists on their way to their seasonal digs. I have great admiration for these hugely knowledgeable and experienced experts who spend several weeks in inhospitable conditions studying minute details of fallen stones and other remains in order to mentally reconstruct what must have been. I wouldn’t have the patience, but I’m fascinated by the results. Its also impressive how multi-national and multi-disciplinary these teams are and how much mutual respect, support and partnership there is between them and their Sudanese counterparts. A great example of the UK and Sudan working together.

The new was a visit to the Merowe dam. Opened in 2010, 10 turbines, providing some 1.2 gigawatts of electricity, about 60% of Sudan’s installed capacity. It’s a hugely impressive feat of engineering. The dam itself is immense, and it virtually operates itself, responding automatically to changes in demand. I was fortunate to visit while engineers were taking advantage of the period of low demand to carry out routing maintenance, and I could stick my head into one of the huge turbines. It made me dizzy, even though they weren’t turning!  The general manager who showed me round was rightly hugely proud of the contribution the dam makes to improving the lives of millions of Sudanese. You can see it quite simply by driving around the region. But of course there is a cost too: 10s of thousands lost their homes and lands and had to be compensated and relocated. Getting that balance right is one of the challenges of modern development, and in the UK we have also had to learn the important of community involvement in planning for big infrastructure projects.

In between, I saw the benefits at close hand in a casual stroll through a small  village a few kilometres   upstream from Merowe. Accompanied by some welcoming local people we strolled through the mango groves and under the date-palms alongside the traditional irrigation channels cut through the soil and fed by the Nile. The system is as ancient as the pyramids, except that the water is now pumped up from the river by pumps powered by electricity from the dam, rather than hauled up in buckets. And the irrigated lands of the village are being extended by pumping the water further inland thus bringing means of livelihood to the growing population.Access to water is a priority for the UK in Sudan. We are supporting programmes which deliver water to 800,000 people in Darfur and Eastern Sudan

In the middle of all this I tried to keep in touch with events. There was good news from Addis where Presidents Bashir and Kiir committed to implement agreements on border security and interim administration of Abyei, initially signed some time ago. The agreements are good in themselves and will bring reassurance to both countries on their security and better administration to the people of Abyei. Equally importantly, they will help build confidence between Sudan and South Sudan which should facilitate implementation of the other agreements reached in Addis in September, notably on oil and cross-border trade. Now these need to be implemented.

Less good news was the decision to close a number of NGOs in Sudan, some of which we have supported and would like to continue to work with. They were part of the patch-work of organisations, including primarily the Sudanese Government itself, regional administrations, other governments and NGOs from Sudan and elsewhere, all trying in different ways to make Sudan a better place for all Sudanese. This is surely a common objective which we all share, and one for which the British embassy will continue to work, fully transparently, in 2013.

1 comment on “New Year in Sudan

  1. Well done Mr. Ambassador keep the momentum of the historical relations between our two countries, our ties need to be strengthened and enhanced despite of the strenuous efforts exerted by some NGOS to destabilize these relation and drag both countries to conflicting points. Its my believe that keeping good relation is in the interest of both counties. Uk needs to keep engaging with Sudan to preserve its leverage in the region otherwise other opponent states will fill the gap. We do prefer British role in Sudan rather than American role..Do not Baroness Cox, Waging peace, Aegis trust and hart to cause Uk loose its position in Sudan. During the last decades Uk has lost a great deal of its international status due to the irrational decisions taken under the pressure of non-state actors.

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About Peter Tibber

Dr Tibber joined the FCO in 1984 after completing a doctorate in medieval history at Oxford University. He has been posted to France, Turkey, Mexico, Germany and Pakistan. He was…

Dr Tibber joined the FCO in 1984 after completing a doctorate in medieval history at Oxford University. He has been posted to France, Turkey, Mexico, Germany and Pakistan. He was a member of the Senior Management Team of UKTI. He was ambassador to Sudan August 2011 to August 2015.

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