The momentum on Northern Sudan is growing at last. This week (among other  things) the following have been said or done:

The UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said:

I remind the Government of Sudan of their obligation to protect civilians and call on all parties to cease hostilities immediately… I am deeply concerned at the continuing violence in the Abyei and Southern Kordofan regions of Sudan. Reports of ongoing attacks on civilians and aerial bombardments are shocking and I condemn all such actions.  Equally disturbing is the denial of access to humanitarian agencies. It is essential that these agencies are allowed to provide assistance to the thousands of people affected by the recent violence. I remind the Government of Sudan of their obligation to protect civilians and call on all parties to cease hostilities immediately.

The talks ongoing in Addis Ababa, facilitated by the AU High Level Implementation Panel, present an opportunity for all parties to deliver the peace that their people deserve. To squander this opportunity would put in danger the achievements of the last five years and further increase the suffering of civilians in Abyei and Southern Kordofan.  I strongly urge all parties to work together to seek an early peaceful solution.

The Archbishop of Sudan, Daniel Deng issued a statement which included:

Without a doubt then, the most worrying aspect of this recent conflict is the way in which fighting that originated between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) has now transformed into what can only be described as a deliberate strategy to rid Kadugli of its indigenous African and Christian population by the SAF, in short a policy of ethnic cleansing. This is not the first time a government policy of ethnic cleansing has been applied in Sudan; the genocide in Western Darfur is very well known. Moreover, activities of a similar nature occurred just a few weeks ago when the Dinka Ngok, indigenous to Abyei, were slaughtered and displaced from their homes within Abyei Town in mass numbers.

We categorically condemn the use of force by the Government of Sudan towards its own people. We condemn the use of aerial bombardments on civilians and the arbitrary arrest of citizens in Southern Kordofan. No one is willing to return to war, therefore, we insist that the Government of Sudan releases those who have been arbitrarily arrested and return to the negotiating table with the Government of South Sudan on its consultation framework.

We appeal to the international community, particularly the signatories of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, to unite and do everything in their power to intervene quickly to stop the fighting and the killing of innocent people, and to protect those residents of Southern Kordofan and Abyei who are Christian and African and, as a result, are suffering persecution. Genocide is highly likely without international mediation. Therefore, we implore you all, especially the Troika (the United States of America, The United Kingdom and Norway), the African Union and the United Nations to endeavour to prevent genocide and the deliberate killing of certain groups by others before it is too late.

We appeal to both indigenous and international Non-Government Organisations who can assist with aid and relief to coordinate their efforts and work together with local and trusted organisations such as the churches, to address the physical needs of the sick and needy in Southern Kordofan. The ECS is ready to facilitate in the distribution of medicines, food and non-food items using our extensive network in Southern Kordofan and Abyei. We request for food and-non-items as well as donations to support their purchase. We strongly urge the United Nations Mission In Sudan and NGOs within Sudan to make use of the ECS as a well-placed partner to help with efficient distribution of relief items.

Finally, we appeal to members of the Anglican Communion around the world and those of other denominations to intercede on our behalf to Almighty God so that the people of Southern Kordofan and Abyei may be delivered from this trauma and distress.

As the Archbishop for all of Sudan, I write this statement with great sorrow and commiseration for my brothers and sisters in Southern Kordofan. Despite the country’s divide, the clergy and laity of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan believe they serve a living God unimpeded by political boundaries. We strive to remain one church, united in the Body of Christ and steadfast in the midst of this current tribulation.

Questions have also been asked in Parliament and answers can be found in Hansard.

The Diocese of Bradford is sending someone out this week who knows the territory and will bring back to us first-hand news and experience. So far the diocese has raised over £6,000 from our appeal.

South Kordofan must not be allowed to become another Darfur.

I’m about to leave to catch a flight to Hannover where I am speaking at a conference on Saturday. But, I go with a certain incredulity in my head.

The William Hague story is being debated this morning in various media. He is the Foreign Secretary, a senior politician, and is accountable to the electorate. He should be scrutinised accordingly. His judgements should be questioned and subjected to pressure testing. This includes the nature and qualifications of the people he appoints to public offices paid for by the taxpayer.

So, why are all the valid criteria for questioning being confused with what he wears? Apparently, his judgement is questionable because he has now been photographed wearing a baseball cap (in diverse directions) several times in his life. He even wore shorts at some event.

Does this guy get no time off without some phtotographer pursuing him? Is he not allowed to wear what he likes? Is he not given any space to be uncalculating in his vesture?

This is boggling and puts a serious question over the culture that perpetuates this nonsense.

Song commented on my last post with a wonderful phrase that sums this whole pathetic business up:

We elect personalities, but don’t want to accept them as human persons.

She goes on:

Rather, we want an embodiment (or dare I say incarnation?) of certain policies or principles, the ones we’ve selected as important. We want this projected-idea-person to make our lives better without our having to change anything, make any difficult decisions, or undergo any hardship. When this proves impossible we get very upset.

Isn’t it time we grew up?

There’s no escape. Tony Blair’s memoirs were published this morning and they have dominated the headlines all day. I’ve just been with my son for a curry at the best curry house in the world, the Mirch Masala in Norbury, and even there I could see a billboard with Blair on it.

Those who are convinced Blair is the devil incarnate will not have their view shifted, whatever he might say in his book. And those who think Brown was a disaster won’t have their view changed byanything that doesn’t confirm that judgement. Those to-be-pitied Americans on the telly yesterday who are convinced Obama is both a Muslim and a Communist are not alone in not letting inconvenient facts colour their view of reality.

What interests me about the Blair memoirs, as reported and quoted today, is not all the obvous stuff about Iraq or Gordon Brown or New Labour – was there really anything surprising there at all? – but the question of leadership. He had the chance to fire Gordon Brown some years ago, but, having weighed up the pros and cons for the party, decided  not to do so. It is easy in retrospect to say what a mistake that was – a bit like Gordon Brown’s hesitation over whether to call an election shortly after his accession while he was riding high in the polls. Retrospect is easy when you never had to make a decision under pressure in your life.

Anyone who has exercised leadership of any difficult institution or ‘body’ will know that some decisions cannot be taken after the moment has passed. The circumstances – as well as the phenomenological fact that the indecision or decision not to do something (like fire a key colleague) now becomes a factor in the equation and changes the criteria which now render at worst impossible and at best more difficult the action previously denied – mean that the moment has passed and cannot be reclaimed. This is usually obvious afterwards, but it is never absolutely clear at the time. We don’t know how damaging it might have been had Blair fired Brown early on in his premiership – we can only guess.

Leadership is difficult. Not least because many of the people who comment on your leadership have never led anything in their life, have no understanding of the human reality of the experience, and have no comprehension of the personal cost. Judgement is easy from a distance where the decision of a leader can be sneered at without a shred of understanding of how that decision was made. Any leader will affirm that decisions are often made under pressure, with limited information and limited criteria – often without certainty that the decision is the right one.

Blair is a reasonable target for scrutiny – after all, he was elected by people and should be held to account by the people to whom he is accountable. But he was not elected alone or in isolation for others who bear equal responsibility. Iraq was a disaster and based (at worst) on a fabrication. Blair should have fired Brown early on. Easy to say from here and now. As Blair acknowledges, a leader is held to account for decisions made, even if they were made for reasons rooted in integrity. But the judgements from outside should also be made with the reservation that knowledge of one’s own limitations brings. It’s not my job to defend Blair or Brown or anyone else; but, I am loathe to attack them on some grounds from the safety of my study. That would be like the armchair generals from a safe distance sending their troops blindly into battle .

History will tell, but it can’t be written with any confidence just yet.

That said, can anyone tell me why Cherie Blair has had to put up for years with the sheer sneery personal vilification at the hands of the press? And why, oh why, does William Hague have to broadcast the intimate details of his marriage as if it were a public consumer item? Do none of these shabby whisperers and commentators see this through the eyes of his wife? Or is that just too ‘human’? I feel shabby for being part of a culture that makes this sort of thing to be considered necessary.