Monthly Archives: July 2011

Nationalists pose bigger threat than al-Qaeda

Contrary to popular belief, most terrorist attacks in Europe are the work of extremist nationalists.

Anders-Behring-Breivik-007With the death toll nearing 100, Anders Behring Breivik (pictured right) has been arrested and charged with Norway’s worst act of terrorism. His lawyer has indicated that Breivik had planned the attack for some time and would explain in court on Monday why he thought his act of terrorism was necessary.

After a predictable and revealing knee-jerk response by security experts interpreting the massacre at a Labour Party summer camp on Utoya island and a car bomb attack on a government building in Oslo as the work of Muslims inspired or directed by al-Qaeda, it transpires that the real culprit in the case was more likely to be motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.

Significantly, early reports reveal Breivik’s admiration for bigoted groups such as the English Defence League and Stop the Islamification of Europe, which campaign against Muslims and the building of mosques. Similarly, Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party in Holland appears to win Breivik’s approval because it seeks to protect Western culture from a growing threat of so-called “Islamification”.

While we must await the outcome of police investigations and court proceedings before reaching any firm conclusions about Breivik’s motivation, it will nevertheless be instructive to begin an analysis of a violent extremist nationalist milieu in Europe and the US, and its dramatic shift towards anti-Muslim and Islamophobic thought since 9/11. To be sure, this will certainly be more relevant than an analysis of al-Qaeda terrorism.

At the outset, however, Breivik may have to explain to outsiders why he did not choose to bomb a mosque instead. Surely, for the violent nationalist confluence he represents, that would have been a direct hit on the enemy. Instead, by choosing to attack a government building and a Labour Party summer school, Breivik is drawing attention to what many fringe nationalists see as the political failure of mainstream and left-wing politicians to confront the Muslim threat. So-called appeasers of the “Islamification of Europe” have become as hated as Muslim activists and therefore face the same kind of attacks.

Terrorism is propaganda, not just violence

In addition, Breivik can claim to have followed a long tradition of terrorism target selection that is intended to send a strong message to politicians in an attempt to persuade them to change policy. As leading terrorism scholar Alex Schmid reminds us, terrorism is a form of communication that “cannot be understood only in terms of violence”. Rather, he suggests, “it has to be understood primarily in terms of propaganda” in order to penetrate the terrorist’s strategic purpose.

Breivik appears to understand Schmid’s analysis that terrorism is a combination of violence and propaganda. “By using violence against one victim,” a terrorist “seeks to coerce and persuade others”, Schmid explains. “The immediate victim is merely instrumental, the skin on a drum beaten to achieve a calculated impact on a wider audience.” This is certainly the kind of rationalisation that perpetrators of political violence have adopted in many contexts in pursuit of diverse political causes for decades.

Many extremist nationalists in Norway, the rest of Europe, and North America will be appalled by Breivik’s resort to terrorism and in particular his target selection. However, Breivik is likely to argue that he has sent a powerful and coercive message to all politicians in the West that will help put the campaign against the “Islamification of Europe” at the top of their agenda.

Crucial, therefore, for Breivik that he should explain his purpose as publicly as possible so that it is not misunderstood or misinterpreted. He is therefore very likely to want the widest possible audience to know why he has chosen to adopt the established tactic of terrorism so as to win an opportunity to deliver a political message. His innocent victims, he might think, are necessary collateral damage in a war that has to be won.

Breivik may hope that others will take inspiration from his act and seek to emulate him. Terrorism may be repulsive to many who share Breivik’s bigoted anti-Muslim views, but it is a tactic that only requires a small number of adherents to achieve its purpose, whatever the cause. So if even only a handful follow his route, Breivik will count that as a success.

Whether he was acting alone or in concert with others, Breivik stands apart from a significant number of other violent nationalists in the West who share his hostility towards Muslims – but whose plans to commit acts of terrorism have so far failed to reach such deadly fruition. Breivik, by contrast, has demonstrated the skills that are necessary to plan and execute acts of terrorism of any kind, especially crucial when bombs and firearms are involved.

Nationalist terror plots in the UK

In the UK, for example, there have been important convictions in recent years of violent nationalists before they have been able to carry out terrorist attacks.

Robert Cottage, a former British National Party candidate, was jailed in July 2007 for possessing explosive chemicals in his home. The cache was “described by police at the time of his arrest as the largest amount of chemical explosive of its type ever found in this country”.

Martyn Gilleard, a Nazi sympathiser, was jailed in June 2008 after police found nail bombs, bullets, swords, axes and knives in his apartment, as well as a note in which he had written: “I am so sick and tired of hearing nationalists talk of killing Muslims, of blowing up mosques, of fighting back … the time has come to stop the talk and start to act.”

Then there is Nathan Worrell, a “neo-Nazi described by police as a ‘dangerous individual’, who hoarded bomb-making materials in his home, and was found guilty in December 2008 of possessing material for terrorist purposes and for racially aggravated harassment”.

And one Neil MacGregor pleaded guilty to “threatening to blow up Glasgow Central Mosque and behead a Muslim every week until every mosque in Scotland was closed”.

As Mehdi Hasan, editor of the New Statesman, has pointed out, figures compiled by Europol, the European police agency, suggest that the threat of Islamist terrorism is minimal compared with “ethno-nationalist” and “separatist” terrorism. According to Europol, in 2006, one out of 498 documented terrorist attacks across Europe could be classed as “Islamist”; in 2007, the figure rose to just four out of 583 – less than one per cent of the total. By contrast, 517 attacks across the continent were claimed by – or attributed to – nationalist or separatist terrorist groups, such as ETA in Spain.

More recently, on January 15, 2010, Terence Gavan, a former soldier and British National Party member, was convicted of manufacturing nail bombs and a staggering array of explosives, firearms and weapons. It was, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith said, the largest find of its kind in the UK in modern history. The fact that David Copeland used nail bombs to deadly effect in London in 1999 makes this an especially disturbing case. Gavan had previously pleaded guilty to 22 charges at Woolwich Crown Court:

“Police discovered 12 firearms and 54 improvised explosive devices, which included nail bombs and a booby-trapped cigarette packet, at the home Gavan shared with his mother. He told detectives he had ‘a fascination with things that go bang’, the Old Bailey heard. After the case, head of the North East Counter Terrorism Unit David Buxton said Gavan posed a significant risk to public safety. ‘Gavan was an extremely dangerous and unpredictable individual,’ he said. ‘The sheer volume of home-made firearms and grenades found in his bedroom exposed his obsession with weapons and explosives … Gavan used his extensive knowledge to manufacture and accumulate devices capable of causing significant injury or harm.”

Unlike Lewington, Gavan is reported as having specifically Muslim targets in mind. In particular, he is reported to have planned to “target an address he had seen on a television programme that he believed was linked to the July 7 bomb attacks in London”. In one hand-written note he explained: “The patriot must always be ready to defend his country against enemies and their governments.” Again, like Lewington, he would have posed a threat to Muslim communities throughout the UK, especially those areas such as Bradford and East London most popularly associated with large Muslim populations.

Finally, it is only necessary to recall the circumstances of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 to be reminded of extremist nationalists’ bomb-making capacity and target selection. Timothy McVeigh was able to utilise skills and contacts he acquired in his US military service to build and detonate a bomb that killed 168 victims, injured 680 others, destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a sixteen-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, shattered glass in an additional 258 nearby buildings, and caused at least $652m worth of damage.

With minimal help, McVeigh was able to inflict more harm and damage with one bomb than four suicide bombers in London operating under an al-Qaeda flag in London ten years later.

Significantly, McVeigh attacked a federal government building for reasons that will make perfect sense to a number of violent extremist nationalists – most especially Anders Behring Breivik.

Posted by Doctor Robert Lambert (Co-Director of the European Muslim Research Centre, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies)

This post was first published at www.aljazeera.net

Graduating isn’t the end of your time with Exeter – you’re now part of our alumni

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Watching everyone graduate this week has brought back loads of great memories of my own Exeter graduation a few years ago, from Floella’s enthusiastic embrace and encouragement and her never-ending smile, to the panic everyone has as their name is read out to go up and see her – will I be the one to trip-up in front of hundreds of people? Should I have worn heels? (I should say that I’ve never actually heard of anyone falling over while meeting Floella!)

There’s always the worries that accompany being seen in public with your family and about how your robe will look. And then there’s the weather to consider – we’re never guaranteed sunshine during the summer in the UK, even if Exeter normally does pretty well for it. It’s been a mix this year, but we’ve had some good sunshine, and even when it’s rained it hasn’t dampened spirits.

But all those worries melt away after Floella’s greeting, and once you’re out of the hall you can relax a bit, enjoy the Pimm’s tent and the College receptions across campus. It’s a wonderful chance to introduce your family to the close friends you made while you were here – and for them a chance to put faces to names at last. Celebrating together is wonderful, even if it can be a little poignant at times, coming to the end of an era.

I loved my time at Exeter so much that I now work here, and seeing the other side of graduation I realise how much effort the University puts in to make it such a special occasion. It’s a time of year that staff love too – watching students who have worked so hard really celebrate and mark their achievements. The atmosphere across the campuses during the whole week is terrific.

In Alumni Relations, where I work, it’s my job to make sure that though you may have graduated you never really leave the University community and the friends you made here behind. We look after a community of over 75,000 people in more than 170 countries. Our alumni include internationally-recognised businesspeople and lawyers, inspirational politicians and teachers, and critically-acclaimed journalists and artists. Every year we run a host of events to keep our alumni in contact with each other, from academic lectures on specific subjects like science and technology, to quiz nights and meet-ups for drinks in London pubs. Our next one is on August 4th – come along if you can make it!

So though you may have graduated this week and be heading off into pastures new, you’re still a big part of the University. If you want to find out more about how to stay in touch, have a look at our website or join us on Facebook, and be sure to let us know what the future holds for you.

Posted by Rachael Magee (English and Film, 2008; Development and Alumni Relations Office)

Regional science research collaboration

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The other Friday (July 8th) a group of academics and PhD students from our College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences came together with similar groups from the universities of Bath and Bristol, along with industry representatives, to discuss a new partnership and idea that we’ve been considering: a graduate training alliance.

This mixed group of physicists and engineers had two things in common; firstly, a shared interest in physics-based ‘-onics’ – photonics, plasmonics, magnonics, spintronics, electronics, etc (hence the name Onyx), and secondly, a desire to engage more effectively with, and prepare our PhD students more effectively for, business and industry.

We have three aims for our nascent alliance: to bridge the innovation gap between universities and business more effectively in order to benefit the economy, to offer students a richer PhD experience and better preparation for entering the workplace after graduating, and to provide a forum for developing regional research collaborations.

The day was effectively a brainstorming session; after a presentation from Myrddin Jones of the Technology Strategy Board (“Funding for innovation is complex. We need to build a more effective environment for innovation & reduce risk for business in research”) we split into four action groups and discussed the issues and how the Onyx alliance might address them.

Discussion was lively and several important topics were brought up. These ranged from timing issues for PhD students, to confidentiality needs of the industry partners, and the inherently different needs and ideas of universities and industry – for example, PhD students like the idea of two month internships, while business would prefer them to last closer to two years. Likewise industry also wants to recruit students who are broad, flexible, with transferable skills, and who can apply themselves to a range of tasks and areas; PhD-level research necessarily focuses people very tightly – are these incompatible?

Over lunch we had an extended poster session from the PhD students, which enabled a more detailed discussion of the findings presented than is normally the case at workshops. The afternoon saw us delve more deeply into the idea of stakeholder engagement and industry relations, before summing up and deciding what the best way to move forward might be.

With the aim of getting things going as quickly as possible we’re already talking about running a conference event in the Autumn term so we can start to develop just what the Onyx graduate teaching alliance can and should offer.

Most of all we want to see how we can develop added value by bringing the Universities closer, in conjunction with forging stronger, relevant relations with business.

Posted by Professor Bill Barnes (Professor of Photonics, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences)

New group spearheads innovation in Exeter

ExIST Launch BB MP sm

I’m pleased to be able to tell you that the University of Exeter is supporting ExIST – the Exeter Initiative of Science and Technology, a new scheme spearheaded by the Exeter Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is also supported by Exeter City Council.

The initiative brings together a number of leading technological businesses from across the city, including Flybe, South West Communications, Graphic PLC, South West Metal Finishing, Landmark, TCL Global, the Met Office, Select Statistics, Sands Engineering and Ashwoods Automotive.

We’ll be looking to increase interaction and communication between members so that we can identify supply chain opportunities and raise awareness of Exeter’s position as a leading centre for science and technology.

ExIST’s chair, Robert McIlwraith, said ‘Exeter has a wide range of businesses that are working at the forefront of innovation: the ExIST group will not only heighten awareness that these companies already exist in this area, but will push this to the next level by encouraging high business growth in this industry and incoming investment to Exeter’.

The initiative will also be working with education providers to ensure that their students are equipped with the skills needed by business, which will improve job opportunities for young people in the city.

Around 100 members of the business community attended a lunch event to launch the initiative, organized by Exeter Chamber of Commerce and Industry, at the city’s Southgate Hotel last Friday (July 15th).

With work progressing well on the Exeter Science Park, another key citywide project the University is involved in, it’s an exciting time for science and technology based businesses in Exeter.

If you’re a local science and technology focused businesses and want to find out more about ExIST, please email enquiries@exeterchamber.co.uk

Posted by Sean Fielding (Director of Research & Knowledge Transfer)

Pictured are (left to right): Sara Randall Johnson, Flybe; Martin Kadhim, Ashwoods Automotive; Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter; Robin Jackson, Innovation Centre; Derek Phillips, Exeter Chamber; Sean Fielding, University of Exeter

Studying sea star sperm in Sweden

boy-urchinsHow many people would travel to one of the most beautiful coastal tourist destinations in northern Europe, at the height of summer, and spend three weeks sitting in a 10 degree cold room with their eyes glued to a microscope? Not many, I’d guess, but it’s exactly what I’ve done by visiting the Kristineberg Marine Station in Sweden.

I’ve swopped my tent on the Arctic ocean for another wonderful place to come and work, but yet again am nose to a microscope all hours of the day. Most of the world’s top marine biology stations are set in truly beautiful surroundings, but are generally full of people far too busy working to get out and enjoy the surroundings properly.

The Kristineberg Marine Laboratories, part of Gothenburg University, is situated in a really pretty part of the Swedish fjords, and is a fantastic place to come and do marine research as it has wonderfully clean seawater and an amazing array of marine species live here. I’m here to continue my ocean acidification research, looking at how the change in seawater pH caused by increased carbon dioxide in our atmosphere might affect the reproduction of small marine invertebrates, or more specifically, how it might impact the performance of their sperm.

Marine invertebrates makes up over 80% of the oceans biodiversity, and many of these small creatures reproduce by simply shedding their eggs or sperm straight into the water, often in synchronised spawning clouds, so that fertilisation happens ‘by chance’ in the open sea. This is often referred to as a fertilisation ‘lottery’, as the chances of sperm and egg meeting seems so small, yet these small animals have adapted to maximise the chances of this happening in numerous clever ways.

One such adaption shared by many species is the ability of the sperm to sense the egg and then swim towards it. But, how might a change in pH affect this swimming ability? That’s the main question I’m asking with my research, and I’m looking at a whole range of animals to see how their sperm ‘performance’ might be affected by future ocean conditions. By measuring sperm swimming speeds, respiration, and viability of sperm under future ocean conditions, I’m giving the sperm a future health check. So I’m basically doing the kind of tests that an IVF clinic would do, except on mussels and sea stars under future ocean conditions!

So how do you get a mussel or sea star to spawn and provide the valuable sample to be analysed? Well actually it’s pretty easy; most marine invertebrates store their eggs and sperm for a while before spawning, so that they can all release them at the same time and increase their odds in the fertilisation lottery. They then use a number of environmental signals to tell them all when to spawn, so all you have to do is mimic these signals to get them to spawn in the lab. Normally a good shake to mimic the tide coming in and some warmer seawater is all they need, but we can also use a small hormone injection to start spawning for some species. Sperm have a pretty short life span so it’s a mad dash to get as many measurements made as possible. I’m finding different species are showing quite different responses to the ocean acidification conditions, and it’s now my aim to understand why this is.

This kind of information will add another important piece to the puzzle in terms of our understanding of climate change impacts in our oceans, and really help us understand which species are going to be most susceptible to ocean acidification and which ones might be less affected. I have a lot of sperm to count and analyse for now though, whilst gazing out the window at the beautiful fjords. Still at least it’s not -40⁰C this time, and I can go and jump in the sea at the end of the day.

Posted by Dr Ceri Lewis, NERC Research Fellow (College of Life and Environmental Science).

Follow Ceri’s updates from Sweden via her Twitter feed @CezzaLew

Food security research at Exeter, by Professor Michael Winter

michaelwinterblogFood security, the availability of food and how accessible it is to populations, is one of the biggest global issues facing research today. Once again the world’s eyes are being turned to Africa as the worst drought there in 60 years threatens 10 million people with famine, whilst at the same time England and Wales together throw away 3.6 million tonnes of “waste” food every year. At Exeter we’re in the early stages of strategising how we research food security. We already have real strength in four important areas: crop health, ecosystem services, food behaviours, and food animals.

Regarding crop health we are strong in Biosciences, particularly around pathogens with world leading research on diseases affecting bananas and rice diseases which affect productivity and yield. We’re also doing work on a soil fungus, trichoderma, which is shown to activate immunity to plant pathogens.

Ecosystem services is coming to the fore with the Environment and Sustainability Institute in Tremough. Professor Kevin Gaston, the inaugural director, is very much focused on the ecosystems services approach and the role of biodiversity, and we have some excellent work going on in Geography around soils and soil erosion. In the social sciences we’re looking at how we can best apply the ecosystems approach to decisions about how to use the land. In the South West, for example, I am looking at how best to adapt land-based systems to deliver economic benefits and sustainability targets.

In the area of food behaviours, Exeter has a long tradition of researching producers of food, agricultural producers in particular. But we also have a history of looking at the food chain and we have some very interesting research in Geography and in Psychology on issues of consumption and consumers. We also have work in Economics, led by Steve McCorriston, on price volatility, one of the big issues facing those concerned about food security.

The final area, food animals, attracts interest from geographers and biologists and wihtin the humanities. And in Psychology we have some fascinating work on dairy cows behaviour and the best way to manage behaviour for maximum welfare and productivity.

Food security research is inherently interdisciplinary, cutting across biosciences, economics, psychology, politics and other social sciences, and beyond. This is why I’m so excited by it – I’m a bit of an interdisciplinary junkie, you might say! As a social scientist I love working with natural scientists, and I think that’s really where the future is for the University, allying our tremendous strength in humanities and the social sciences with the natural science developments we’re making.

Posted by Professor Michael Winter (Co-Director, Centre for Rural Policy Research)

Is there a hell? Is it eternal?

Morwenna-Ludlow-2-landscapeEven though most people don’t hear much “hell-fire preaching” these days, it’s a common assumption that Christians believe in an eternal hell. But the truth is that over the centuries there have been many Christians who have challenged this belief. For example, some early Christians argued that God’s punishment would reform souls and eventually all people would return to the perfect state in which God created humanity. Then God would be truly “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

Much of my research has been dedicated to unearthing the theology of such Christians and to asking why such ideas ran underground for so many centuries. I use this research in my teaching (in a module called “Heaven and Hell throughout the ages”) and my students are fascinated to find out about thinkers whose ideas on hell were once considered so dangerous that they only dared publish them anonymously or posthumously. Even in the nineteenth century many preachers were concerned that there would be rampant immorality without the threat of eternal hell to keep people in place. But this is not, and never has been, the whole story.

Rob Bell’s book controversial book Love Wins suggests that God might save all people and questions the existence of an eternal hell. This is an unusual view in modern Evangelical Christianity but, as my research shows, there is a long underground tradition of Christian ‘universalists’ who argue that an eternal hell is incompatible with a truly loving omnipotent God and contradicts Jesus’ example of inclusive unconditional love. I will be discussing these ideas on BBC Radio 4’s Beyond Belief with presenter Ernie Rea, the Catholic writer and commentator Peter Stanford, and lecturer at Oak Hill theological college Daniel Strange, on Monday 11 July at 4.30pm.

Posted by Dr Morwenna Ludlow (Lecturer in Patristics, Department of Theology and Religion)

South Sudan independence: what does it mean?

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I’m writing to usher in the independence of South Sudan on 9th July 2011, when it will formally be declared a nation-state. This follows a referendum on 9th January 2011, in which 98.8% (against 1.7%) of South Sudanese people opted for secession from the north. What does this mean? For me it is my desired outcome to be free not only from socio-economic marginalisation but also from oppression, marking the end of ingrained inequality and second-class citizenship inflicted by successive northern governments since independence in 1956. Casting my ballot on the referendum day in January was a significant milestone in exercising my democratic rights and having my say on the future of Sudan. I prayed that God may make my dream come true. Now it has come true.

A child soldier in the SPLA
Seeking refuge in Ethiopia, my father brought the whole family to a refugee camp in 1985 when I was ten. My father had been a veteran Anya-Nya 1 fighter until the signing of the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972, after which he became one of those forcefully retired by the northern government; they were called “left-hands”, meaning that they still held anti-north ideas, and were deemed harmful by the Nimeri regime in Khartoum.

In 1988, I moved to a military camp called “Tharpaam” in Itang Refugee Camp in Ethiopia, where nearly 1500 children between 8 and 13 years of age were being trained in preparation for recruitment into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s Jiec El Amer (Red Army). We were told that we were brought there to study, but soon realised this was just a pretext; we were nothing more than child soldiers. It didn’t take long for me to become motivated to be an SPLA soldier, though.

Dr John Garang, the SPLA chairman and commander-in-chief of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement, would lecture on the concept of new Sudan. We stood on parade, dressed in white uniform and cape, singing songs of liberation. We slept in grass-thatched huts, infested with cockroaches and jigger fleas. Diseases like dysentery, malaria, and typhoid were commonplace, with funerals almost every day.

Food was never enough. I was entitled to only 1 kg of white beans and quarter of a litre of oil a month food ration; this lasted only a few days. Many died of hunger and diseases, and the norm was for roommates to bury the dead. I buried seven of my thirty-three roommates, four of whom died of malnutrition and three of dysentery. The army officer reminded us often: “we are starving because of the north. They make us suffer and die…this is the reason why we are fighting them.” Education, the original purpose that brought me to the camp, was never discussed. The priority for the SPLA was to get soldiers to fight. When I asked about school, the officer would say: “you will go to school when we defeat the north.”

This dreadful situation continued until the downfall of the Mengistu Regime in Ethiopia in May 1991, and the subsequent dislodging of SPLA from Ethiopia as well as the splintering of SPLA/M into two. Consequently, all Sudanese refugees fled back into Southern Sudan. Not long after that, I returned to a refugee camp called Dimma in Ethiopia, where I pursued my primary and secondary education until 1996.

My sleepless night in Qadarif
I went to Khartoum in 1997 and enrolled in the University of Juba after completing secondary high school in Ethiopia. Now, with my family scattered by war, my siblings in Ethiopia and parents somewhere in Southern Sudan, hiding from the enemy, I decided to reunite the family. In doing so, I went to Ethiopia in April 2004 to bring my siblings who were living in a refugee camp. Things went well in Ethiopia, but in Sudan my sister was refused a room because sharia law banned hotel accommodation for girls. So my nine-year-old sister and I devastatingly spent the night outside the police station in Al Qadarif, despite hotels having rooms available and the fact that I was carrying enough money to afford a separate room for each of us. No one came to our help. We were like foreigners. Police looked at us with contempt. We lay at the gate, sleepless, until dawn.

Sudan that night became to me a place where the vast majority of citizens had no legal rights while a minority enjoyed unlimited liberty. I hated being Sudanese, preferring living as a refugee in a foreign land to being a second-class citizen without rights and freedoms. That night my sister and I spent outside the gate, chilly like no other, determined the box into which we cast our votes during the referendum early this year. On the voting day, my sister, living in Kenya said: “I can’t forget that sleepless night in Qadarif, brother; so I will vote wisely.”

She confirmed to me afterwards that she had done so; independence is the solution.

Voting
My roles in the Government and reason for studying MPA
Before joining the University of Exeter I have, since 2006, been diligently serving in the Government of Southern Sudan. I work in the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, which is given clear mandate to build the capacity of legislatures both at national and subnational levels. The ministry is charged with the responsibility of building and nurturing democratic governance in nascent Southern Sudan.

I am involved in planning and implementing capacity-building training programmes for the ten Southern States Legislative assemblies and civil society organisations. The capacity-building programmes offered training in parliamentary principles and practices, and democratic governance.

I also became the Coordinator of government civic voter education programmes, designed and implemented, ahead of general elections in April 2010, to teach the southern populace their citizenship duties, responsibilities, and rights of democratic participation.

In addition, I’ve worked as Assistant editor-in-chief of the government-run newsletter, The Parliamentarian, which is oriented towards educating parliamentarians and government officials on managing legislative affairs and promoting good governance.

However, with prospects of independence and the challenges associated with a new nation-state, I decided to seek opportunities for further studies in Public Administration so that I may contribute even more to the development of an independent South Sudan. Consequently, I gratefully joined the Exeter MPA programme, and must give many thanks to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (CFO) and Chevening Scholarship Programme for sponsoring my postgraduate studies in the UK. The qualifications and knowledge I have attained will help me make significant impact in Southern Sudan, making me professionally competent in discharging my duties and responsibilities in the civil service, particularly in analysing, formulating, and administering public policies.

Finally, eventual separation from the north is, I believe, the best thing that South Sudanese people have ever attained, though lots of formidable challenges lie ahead of us in our nation-building efforts. These include combating corruption, eradicating tribalism, building the economy, making effective policies in all sectors. South Sudan’s new government will need further policy advice and help establishing its own higher education programmes if we are to achieve our goals: perhaps the University of Exeter will be able to help us on our journey into independence even more in future.

Posted by D Deng Gach Pal, MPA Postgraduate student (Chevening Scholar)