An awkward independence day for diplomats in South Sudan

South Sudan's independence celebrations tomorrow look set to bring leaders from the world over: 30 African heads of state, plus Ban ki-Moon and a number of other senior Western diplomats. The presence of so many global bigwigs is wonderful news for the world's youngest country, but it has already made arrangements for the event a little more complicated. The Washington Times reports:

Sudanese President Omar [al]-Bashir's decision to attend South Sudan's independence celebrations in Juba on Saturday has created potentially awkward situations for delegations from countries that have been pressing for his arrest on a war crimes indictment...

A senior Western official in Sudan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said southern officials have assured the diplomatic corps in Juba they will do everything to avoid any embarrassments.

"The government is sensitive to these concerns and is going to do everything possible to make sure there are no embarrassments of any sort, on any side, on that day," the official said. "They are conscious that this might be awkward to Bashir as well."

A special seating arrangement has been worked out to minimize the possibility of blushing faces.

The International Criminal Court's March 2009 indictment alleged that Bashir was responsible for war crimes in the ongoing conflict in Darfur. Recent violence in border states Abyei and South Kordofan hasn't endeared him to the international community either. Bashir and rebel leaders pledged in late June to pull troops out of Abyei before the referendum, but Bashir's ambassador to Kenya reaffirmed yesterday the north's claim to the region. Bashir also backtracked yesterday on the June 29 peace accord between government officials and pro-southern rebels that promised to quell the fighting in South Kordofan.

Meanwhile, Jacob Zuma will be donning his superhero cape again on his visit to confront Bashir about recent violence in Sudan.



Is this the anthem for the Syrian revolution?

Crowds have chanted it at rallies throughout the country these past few weeks, and thousands more have listened to it and shared it online. "Yalla Erhal Ya Bashar" (It's time to leave, Bashar), seems to be the standout song of the Syrian uprising so far. With simple, catchy, sometimes profane lyrics, the song tells the Syrian leader to "screw" himself. "Freedom is near."

The story of the song's author -- Ibrahim Kashoush -- took a sad turn with news that he may have been killed in a protest last Friday in Hama. Reporting out of Syria is hard to verify these days, but one Lebanese news site said his body was reportedly dumped in a nearby river Wednesday morning.

"The song has rallied people," said U.S.-based Syrian activist Ammar Abdulhamid. "It hit a nerve because it's clearly and simply designed to tell Assad to leave. It's very straightforward. And it uses some profane language."

Abdulhamid said there have been other protest songs before this one, but "Yalla Erhal Ya Bashar" stands out as the best.  

Listen for yourself.

Kashoush was a little-known local singer in Hama before the revolution, according to Abdulhamid.

"When he did this song, he became sort of a hero," he said.

Abdulhamid -- who believes the songwriter is in fact dead based on conversations with sources in Hama -- said his murder adds a layer of poignancy.

For example, there's this haunting lyric near the end: "To die but not be humiliated."