Searching for the Truth in the Sudan

  • Eiman Zein-Elabdin, SIRP director and associate professor of economics at Franklin & Marshall College  

The images and stories are disturbing and complicated. People deprived of food. Mass murders and mass graves. Rapes and other atrocities. One side claims it is fighting a religious war. The other claims genocide.

Misinformation campaigns seek to define the Darfur conflict, limiting access to credible information.

What is the truth?

A new initiative at Franklin & Marshall will help professors, researchers and students gain an informed approach to understanding the Sudan.

The Sudan Institute for Research and Policy (SIRP), formally launched in 2007 with a gift from the family of Osman Zein-Elabdin, is based here in Lancaster. The College and the institute are in talks to fold the institute into the F&M family of research and policy centers. SIRP seeks to provide a forum for understanding what is happening in this Northeastern African country.

SIRP Director Eiman Zein-Elabdin, an associate professor of economics at Franklin & Marshall College, says the nonprofit institute was formed following a series of informal conversations among a small group of Sudanese professionals and intellectuals in the United States to inform public discourse about Sudan-related issues.

“We wanted to find a way to utilize the talents and skills of a vast number of Sudanese diaspora to contribute to solving problems of resources and management in the Sudan,” she says.

With no sect or political-party affiliations, SIRP aims to broaden the dialogue to include different intellectual perspectives. The non-partisan institute will provide a platform for scholars and academics—especially Sudanese—to obtain accurate and independent information to understand the issues involved. In time, SIRP hopes to become a credible voice of independent research, policy analysis and thinking on the Sudan.

According to Susan Dicklitch, an Africanist by training and director of the College’s Ware Institute for Civic Engagement, SIRP is crucial because “information is power. It’s important to have access to unbiased information so that people can understand what’s going on.”

The institute also will open more opportunities for students and faculty to broaden their international scope, for example, by collaborating with Sudanese scholars, by practicing Arabic language skills with visiting Arabic language specialists and by hosting more Arabic speakers on campus through public lectures and visits. The institute also will lead to increased off-campus and study-abroad opportunities at the institute’s partner organizations in the Sudan.

SIRP’s affiliated research associates are located throughout the United States, Canada, Qatar, Tunisia and the Sudan. The research topics they pursue include the economy and the environment, law and human rights, gender and ethnic relations, health, peace cultivation, and post-conflict rehabilitation.

The institute’s emphasis seems especially relevant in light of President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Ghana. Asserting that African politics are not separate from world affairs, Obama noted, “What happens here has an impact everywhere.”

To learn more about SIRP, visit www.sudaninstitute.org.

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