Fi Kulu Harakah Baraka
By Ambassador Joseph Stafford
February 1, 2014 - For the past 18 months, my wife and I have been happy to call Sudan our second home. Everywhere we traveled throughout the country, people kindly welcomed us and expressed their deep interest in the United States of America. This is not only in Khartoum State; I have seen this in Darfur, Jazeera, Sinnar, River Nile, and Red Sea States as well. We had been told by friends who served in Sudan that Sudanese are among the friendliest people on earth, and we found this to be true from our very first day here.
Now, sadly, my wife and I have to leave this beautiful country due to personal commitments, but our love for the Sudanese people and culture will continue. We will continue listening to our favorite Sudanese musicians, such as Wad Al-Amin, Al-Balaabil, Salah Brown, Mohamed Ali of Sudan Roots, and Igd Al-Jilaad, and I really hope my wife will take the recipes for Shaiya and Aseeda back with her.
I was fortunate to be able to travel around this great country and meet people from all aspects of life — political leaders, civil society activists, religious leaders, entrepreneurs, students, teachers, musicians, artists, and doctors. I have been inspired by their pride in Sudan, their interest in the United States, and the way they often draw strong similarities between our two nations – two diverse, multi-cultural societies, proud of their heritage.
The Sudanese people have been known throughout history for their religious tolerance, and we hope this very positive attribute will remain strong. Religious freedom is a very important principle in the United States and a value that we advocate for around the world. As such, I made it a point to meet with every kind of religious sect I could in Sudan, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and I learned much from these discussions.
In support of the fundamental freedom of expression and of the press, I also took the opportunity to visit more than a dozen media houses, and the U.S. Embassy conducted several journalism workshops, including recent training on human rights reporting for more than 200 journalists from all the media houses. As former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson said 200 years ago, “The press is the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man, and improving him as a rational, moral, and social being.”
As I leave, I remain optimistic about the future of U.S.-Sudan relations for many reasons. Despite the challenges of our relationship, the American people remain deeply engaged with the Sudanese people. It has always been my goal to bring more Americans to Sudan and to send more Sudanese to the United States on cultural, educational, and professional exchanges, so I am very pleased that during my time here nearly 70 Sudanese exchange participants traveled to the United States. We also restarted the Humphrey Fellows Program after more than a 17-year hiatus, and arranged several visits to Sudan by American cultural and academic specialists.
We are working hard to further implement academic exchanges between our two countries and to eliminate technical barriers for Sudanese students to take entrance exams and apply for admission to U.S. universities. I was delighted to open three American spaces for cultural exchange here in Sudan — the Helen Keller Self Access Center and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Reading Room, both at University of Khartoum, and the American Corner in Port Sudan. These serve as platforms for cultural programming and as resources for the people of Sudan to access information about the United States.
It is my deep and continuing hope that all sides will come together to find a way toward peace in Darfur and the Two Areas. I know the United States will continue to stand by the Sudanese people, through our support to peacekeeping efforts, and through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the world’s largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Sudan. We are eager to provide development assistance, such as the USAID-funded Tawila Dam rehabilitation project. In my last week in Sudan, I was so pleased to launch this project, which will improve the lives of more than 70,000 people in North Darfur by increasing access to water for drinking, agriculture, animal husbandry, and other economic activities, while helping to protect the Tawila community during times of drought and flood.
My wife and I have been very fortunate to meet so many wonderful people throughout Sudan who share a strong desire and willingness to improve their communities. We will always remember you and your compelling country, and I know you will continue your hard work for a better life, just as you say daily “Fi Kulu Harakah Baraka.”
The author is the Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy Khartoum, Sudan