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.
20 The Niles | Short Stories Words as weapons Short fiction Illustration by Hassan Mussa
Short Stories | The Niles 21 from Sudan & South Sudan Ranting and raving under the influence of quinine by Osman Shinger I’ll buy myself a tank with a broken cannon and announce my coup over the radio one autumn dawn! Only then will I be able to rule this vast land and exercise my power over all. But before turning my mind to this ruling business, I’ll have to join the army to get the requisite physical and tactical training for warfare and learn to use all different types of weapons. Naturally, that’s what counts… No, what counts is the moment I step through the Armed Forces’ front door: only then will I be able to execute the revolutionary plan which will redraw this country’s map. But all in good time… All in good time. Yesterday I was discussing an important and dangerous piece of information with friends. A fascinating, enjoyable and lengthy discussion, during which I hinted to them of my intention to bring about a fundamental change in my personal life and made reference to my objective of effecting a positive change in the public sphere. But the booze had gone to their heads and no one took any notice of what I’d said – and so I said to myself: “When I announce my coup over the radio, you’ll realise how important I am. The whole population will listen to me then, not just you, and they’ll give me all the time I need.” Quite unexpectedly, as though he was reading my thoughts, one of my companions cried: “Why not join the rebels and speed the process up? Enlisting in the army takes ages. Take a short cut, why don’t you?” That’s a genuinely splendid idea. Why put myself through the bother of a long process of arduous training and tedious tactics? I’ll join the armed movement, rapidly rise to the rank of general, and then I’ll be in a position to depose the movement’s leader and take control of the government. And yet… I have my doubts. Fears. Many concerns. I can’t see the operation going quite so swimmingly. The business has – I’d say – many complex aspects. It’s not easy joining a movement in rebellion against the regime in power. The leaders of the movement will almost certainly put a fellow through a multitude of tests and trials – no way could they be so naive and trusting towards anyone who applies to join. One would surely have to submit to a number of tests before winning their trust. Dear me, no: this is turning out to be more complicated than joining the army! Why’s life so complicated, Lord? All I want to do is mount a little military coup to remove the current regime so that I can rule the country for a few years before someone else comes along to mount a counter-coup against me… Isn’t this the way things have been since the English left half a century back? Perhaps I’ll die in this counter coup. Why take the risk in the first place, then? Within me I heard a voice cry out: For the people! The people? Who are they? I want to be in charge… I’m not carrying out a coup for the sake of this “people” and their big brown eyes. But the voice insists, dinning against my eardrum: You’re chosen! The hero of the change to come! You have to mount your coup as quickly as possible in order to change the way things are and bring liberty and happiness to the people. This inner voice must be retarded. What do I care about the people, about their liberty and happiness? Listen up, miraculous voice: I want to be in charge, that’s all. Don’t give me people and liberty and all the rest of it. My coup is none of your business. It’s a top-secret operation and I can’t talk about it any more if I want it to succeed. I mean, you can’t expect me to go around chatting about the coup to every Tom, Dick and Harry like it’s some stroll in the park. Why don’t you go about your business and leave me to prepare my coup in my own time? Ugh. These friends of mine are real arseholes. Why did I talk to them about my operation? I should have shrouded the thing in total secrecy like you’re meant to. Now they want to change my mind, after I’ve just taken the biggest and most important decision of my life. I’d decided to join the extremely well-armed movement, but my friends quickly came up with a new idea. Arghh. This isn’t good at all. I can’t think like this. My head’s all out of whack. So many thoughts going through my brain at once. Too much thinking isn’t healthy, that’s for sure. Before the idea of joining the armed movement could settle properly in my mind, my friends proposed another, persuasive idea, one that seemed perfectly manageable. Out of the blue, and in dramatic fashion, one said: “Listen here. Why don’t you try your hand at arms dealing? It brings in big profits and you could do whatever you wanted with your arsenal.” Where do they come up with things like this? Every idea they come up with is better than the last. They must know a lot about life and how things work! The idea of arms dealing appealed to me. It made me so happy that more than once I jumped with unrestrained joy. What an idea. So many positives! Firstly, the proceeds from selling arms would give me vast piles of international currency, and I can’t mount a coup without cash. Why didn’t I think of this diabolical idea before? Secondly, arms dealing will give me access to the best weapons around, with which I can carry out my coup against the current regime. Pure genius! All the days I’ve spent thinking about this business, the idea never occurred to me. It’s very strange. These drunken friends have the capacity to come up with any number of inspired ideas. Is it the booze? Can booze make you think this way? I’ve never drunk alcohol before. Many times in our sessions together my friends have urged me to sample cups glittering with ice, so dazzling and inviting. But I turned them down firmly because I knew that drinking alcohol’s haram – alcohol is not permitted by divine law and those who drink it are bound for the Fire. Then how is it that ideas like this can descend on drinkers? It’s odd. Astonishing. I shan’t trouble myself by pondering such esoteric issues; they’ll only lead me into complications, which will divert me from the issue at hand, the issue for which I have allocated all my strength and mental powers. The inner voice, which I forgot while busy planning, has popped up from some hiding place or other and wants to ruin all my hard work with its exasperating yelps. Listen to what it’s saying: You’re heading down a rocky road. Don’t be so naïve! Arms dealing isn’t easy. Plus, it’s immoral. Drop it, I beg you. What does this fellow want with me? I wish I’d never met him, but here he is, every day, ruining whatever plans I’m working on. More than once I’ve told him to leave me alone, but he’s stubborn. He doesn’t want to leave me. He says that I’m naïve, that any fool could fool me. He’s really unbearable, this guy. How could someone like me be naïve, someone who’s embarking on a coup to overthrow the regime? Is there any simpleton, any fool, capable of planning an intricate operation like this one? I know he wants to trick me, to divert me from carrying out the plan, so that I don’t become a household name throughout the world after being appointed ruler over all that the borders of this vast country encompass. He’s jealous. Scared I’ll leave him hunched in his gloomy inner caverns while I stand forever beneath the spotlight’s glare. The type of person who never wishes his fellow man well. A type you find everywhere – he doesn’t want to move forward, and he won’t let