Approximately three million small arms are circulating in Sudan and South Sudan. In the fourth edition of The Niles, our correspondents from both countries take a closer look: Where do the weapons come from? What societal role do they play? But most importantly: How many weapons are needed to establish peace and to ensure that the door on evil no longer has to be shut, as the above proverb suggests? A Darfuri fighter (photo), has a practical answer – a collection of talismans meant to protect him from bullets. But will it protect him from the person with his finger on the trigger? Albert Einstein, whose Theory of Relativity was proven in a 1952 experiment carried out in Sudan said: “The world will not be threatened by evil people rather by people who permit it.” Those words ring true here and will hopefully open another door and allow something good to slip in.
10 The Niles | Portraits the refugee the dealer With their South Sudan village reduced to a ghost town, Sarah Manyang and her children face an uncertain future in Uganda. For thirty-two-year-old A. A. from Darfur, entering the violent world of arms trading was easier than trying to get out. by Esther Muwombi Sarah Manyang’s hopes for South Sudan began to shatter on the night of December 15, 2013 as she followed the rising death toll when government and opposition forces clashed in Juba. “When I heard of the Juba attack I felt a little hopeless, but I believed that the fighting would end there. I had no idea it would reach me in my home town,” says the 24 year old. “Two days later, when the rebels attacked Bor, I was in shock. I didn’t know what was going on or why people were fighting. I stayed calm and waited for another chance to hear the announcement of peace, but it was all in vain. That was when I broke down in tears.” For weeks she tried to work out how to escape with her children. But moving around in Jonglei, South Sudan’s biggest state, was risky: The entire area had become a battleground between government soldiers and opposition forces, with control of Bor switching hands four times in three weeks. Ever since her husband died in the 21-year war, she had hoped of living in peace with her children, she says. But that dream proved short-lived. Finally in January, Sarah and her children escaped the violence in Jonglei, fleeing to Juba, and then Nimule. “Then I made it with my kids to this camp here in Uganda,” she says. Since she left her hometown, Bor has become a ghost town. Many buildings were burnt to the ground and others were looted and left as charred ruins. An estimated 2,000 people have been killed either in the settlement or while attempting to flee. The rest of the town’s 350,000 population left. Before the conflict, Sarah scraped by, supporting her young children by working as a tea vendor. She took her limited funds with her when she fled and set up a small restaurant inside Nyumanzi refugee settlement in Adjumani District, northern Uganda. According to United Nations estimates, more than a million South Sudanese people have been displaced during the fighting. Many refugees in Ugandan settlements say they are scared to return home because of reports about ethnic targeting. These days, Sarah and her three children face an uncertain future. She might stay in Uganda, which would likely mean joining the growing number of South Sudanese living in informal settlements in the poorest neighbourhoods, precarious places where there are no services and the municipal authorities are only nominally in control. Alternatively, she dreams of moving to the USA. But Sarah is certain on one count: She could not imagine moving back to South Sudan. Her hopes have been dashed, for good, she says. “I don’t ever want to return to South Sudan because I can’t trust any leader anymore. My people are not ready to stop fighting and I have already tasted the pain of war.” “I really do not want to continue with this profession for it implies great risks. This is merely a phase that young men go through. I want to be appreciated and feared. Any other profession will not help me achieve this local status. Arms trading is the only profitable profession that would provide protection for my money as well as my family. Tribal protection is available for outlaws who are deemed heroes for the risks they take in times of crisis. I am married with three children who survive from livestock and farming. I cannot give them the illegitimate money I make since it is against our Islamic teachings. All the money I make is just to brag among members of my tribe – I donate most of my revenue to my community. Under the current circumstances, I cannot leave this profession. Arms are mostly traded locally but some weapons are smuggled from neighbouring countries with armed conflicts. Arms cost between 7,000 to 20,000 Sudanese pounds (US$ 1,200 to 3,500). Some are bought for personal protection and others, like heavy machine guns, DShK and Katyusha multiple rocket launchers, are sold to communities during armed conflicts between different groups. Small arms like Kalashnikovs and guns are usually sold through a broker. That means the buyer won’t be abused by dealers who could steal back the weapon to resell it to someone else, doubling profits. It used to be hard to get hold of a weapon. Now people follow armed clashes between the government and the rebels, collecting the weapons from the dead. The knights of a tribe join battles against rebels, siding with the army because they are tempted by the possibility to loot, taking rebels’ weapons, ammunition or vehicles. On news of armed conflict in neighbouring countries, dozens of adventurous young men head for the fighting, hoping to get hold of weapons. Criminals use the African Union - United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to seize arms. They attack the compound until everyone flees, then they take the guns which get sold at local markets. Police stations are also raided, especially in remote areas. Many in the region turn to arms trading because of unemployment. Everyone here trades with Darfur’s crisis whether they work in arms or politics. Everyone wants personal gains. So, I will continue with my profession to protect myself.”
Portraits | The Niles 11 the sports shooter the poacher Mohamed Hassan Nawfal, a shooter and a shooting coach, practices in Khartoum but doesn’t own a gun. By Hassan Faroog Dodging snakes, thorns and wildlife police, a hunter in Western Equatoria swaps traditional traps for guns in his bid to catch big game. By Joseph Nashion Mr. Nawfal, when did you start shooting? In 2006 as rifle training was part of our military service. Later I worked at shooting clubs and got interested in the sport. Tell us about this sport in Sudan? Shooting lacks resources. Most players pay for their own travel to attend international tournaments. I participated in the recent Arab Championship held in Khartoum in January 2014. Do you personally own any weapons? No. All the weapons I use belong to the Federation. Does shooting as a sport have anything in common with shooting in other areas, such as in war or for self-defence? All it has in common is the aiming technique. Players are better than others at shooting since they are familiar with aiming rules and know about psychology. Sometimes Benjamin Wani Khamis spends a month poaching in the Southern National Park and returns home to find his wife has shifted to another man’s house. Khamis, a soft-spoken man in his late 30s, says hunting in the national park is risky and hard. “I really don’t enjoy it but my conditions force me to track down wild animals,” he says. Khamis spends much of his life roaming the bushy environment of the 20,000 square kilometre-wide national park, on the lookout for wildlife. Typically he sets out at 5:30am, heading for the swamps where animals congregate to feed. Armed with guns, he and other poachers track the wind direction, as animals are highly sensitive to human scent. Khamis and his friends often trek great distances lugging a bundle of smoked wild animal meat weighing up to 25 kilos. He says he is constantly on high alert: Even selling smoked meat is dangerous because you could be imprisoned if the wildlife authority catches you. As well as park officials, there are natural threats like thorns and snakes. “It is easy to get lost while walking long distances in search of prey,” he says, adding that he often gets caught far from home in heavy rainfall during the wet season. Without any other option, he plans to continue to poach so that his children can attend school and get medicines. He describes rare upbeat moments after he or another hunter have killed and sold an animal. Then they buy alcohol to share. Before guns came along, Khamis used to trap animals by digging five-meter-wide holes and camouflaging them with grass. He and his father would stab any animal, which fell into the trap. They caught mostly antelope, but also elephant, buffalo, warthog, hippo, rhino, cheetah and leopard. But in the 1980s, he and many others in his community switched to using guns, which sped up the chase. Big animals raise more money at the local market. There he sells his meat alongside others from the local community, which has long poached for a living. Some people still use traditional methods like a trap or a net and a bow and arrow, sometimes chasing injured animals for kilometres. Khamis dons long-sleeved green or dark coloured clothes to resemble a patrolling wild life officer in the hope he will not intimidate the animals. He prowls barefoot through the park, which in places is completely dark because of the thick bush. In the future he would like to work for the wildlife authority in the park. “I admire wildlife officials,” he says. “Park animals don’t even run away from them because of their uniforms – and they do not raise a gun against them.”