I don’t know where to start. I wish I had taken my wife. Who am I without my school certificates? These three remarks by refugees, scribbled into notebooks by The Niles correspondents, support the Sudanese proverb that ‘experience is a solid walking stick’. War, hunger and poverty have repeatedly forced both Sudanese and South Sudanese to flee their homes. Right now more than 4.5 million people are on the road in the two countries, like these passengers on a bus from Khartoum to Shendi. The fifth edition of The Niles documents their journeys, following their routes to neighbouring villages, fast-expanding cities or the other side of the globe, revealing diverse experiences with a recurring theme: When you leave home, the familiar is lost but the essential remains.
8 The Niles Ayume Nelson earns a living by driving a boda-boda taxi around Yei. > Departure: around Yei, South Sudan > Arrival: - > Distance: 84km per day “The boda-boda business is lucrative and dangerous” > Departure: Kutanib, northeast of Kassala, Sudan > Arrival: Adarguiyay, north of Kassala, Sudan > Distance: 100km “I long for the trees and mountains” 84 km Ayume Nelson spends his days driving a boda-boda taxi motorcycle around Yei, a city in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria State. He takes us for a ride. By Hannington Ochan I ’ve transported all sorts of people - even robbers who wanted to snatch my motorcycle. I travel around 12 hours a day, seven days a week. But it’s dangerous. Two years ago someone speeding behind me lost control of his motorcycle and hit me. Before I knew it I was on the ground. I bought my first motorbike using the 4,500 South Sudanese pounds (US$1,000) I’d earned from selling bricks. But thieves stole it. About seven robbers broke my door, entered my tukul (hut) with guns and left with my motorcycle. I only survived narrowly. During the rainy season, roads fill with mud. Then there are more accidents. I wish I had the power to transform Yei. I want to see better roads - then I could drive faster. You make better profits being a boda-boda driver than opening up a kiosk or starting a vegetable garden. I can make quick money. On my green painted vehicle called Boxer I carry up to five children or three adults. I don’t know what the future will hold. Since my motorbike was stolen I can’t earn enough to get a new one or a new livelihood. I pay at least 25 South Sudanese pounds to the owner of the motorcycle I rent on a daily basis. What I am left with is hardly enough for me. > Name: Ahmed Awahaj Omar, 60 years old. > Previous occupation: None. > Current occupation: None. Where did you run from? Kutanib, 100 kilometres northeast of Kassala, to Adarguiyay, north of Kassala, in the 1990s. Where do you plan to go? I so wish to go back to my homeland some day. What do you wish you could have taken with you? And why do you still dream of it? I always long for the trees and the mountains of my region, the place where I grew up. What is your favourite item now? And what makes this item very precious? My only wish is that my children and grandchildren will one day get to see where their ancestors came from, if only the area would be safe from mines. Interview by Hamid Ibrahim Toys created from junk and rubbish by children living in a refugee camp. Illustration by Mayu Nakai theniles_enar_20150327.indd 8 2015/3/31 1:50 PM
km 170 km The Niles 9 50km Adam Ibrahim, nearly a hundred years old, was displaced in West Darfur State. 75 120 km Over two million people have been displaced since the conflict in Darfur broke out. > Departure: Khor Shamam, South Darfur State, Sudan > Arrival: Nyala, South Darfur State, Sudan > Distance: 120km Gunshots in Darfur Adam is haunted by childhood memories of rebel militias burning his village in Darfur to the ground and killing his father. He and other survivors fled, but he dreams of returning home. By Abdelrahman Ibrahim Sixteen-year-old Adam remembers how his father spent days and nights with their animals amid rumours that their village Khor Shamam, South Darfur, would be targeted by rebel militias. “When the war in Darfur first erupted our village was safe, despite occasional rumours that attacks were being planned,” Adam says, referring to the conflict which started in 2003 when rebels took up arms and accused the government of neglecting their homeland. Civilians were often caught in the crossfire of clashes between Sudanese troops and rebels. Then, one rainy autumn night in 2006, Adam heard gunshots. First he ignored them as guards often shoot at night to ward off criminals. This time, however, the gunshots grew louder and nearer, ringing out from all corners of his village. “My mother gathered us together and went to the barn to check on my father,” Adam remembers. “She found him shot, lying dead on his bed.” He heard his mother screaming for help and he ran with his siblings to the barn. They found her crying helplessly, cradling her dead husband in her arms. The family fled the militia attack and, hiding outside their village, they watched as the attackers set fire to all the houses. Adam’s mother cried until sunrise, her children gathered around her. The next morning Adam’s family returned to the ashes of their village. “The attackers left after looting every home and burning what they could not carry,” he says. Neighbours helped bury his father and the many others who had been killed by the rebels. Adam’s family stayed in the village even though they had no food. “Then a second attack came 20 days after the first one. It was even more violent,” Adam says. Hiding in a pick-up truck, he and his family travelled to Salam Camp, south of Nyala, paying exorbitant prices for tickets. Adam and his family are among the more than 2.3 million people who have been displaced since the Darfur conflict broke out. Most are struggling with shortages in camps in Darfur and neighbouring Chad. “My family of 13 members arrived in the camp late at night,” Adam says. “We had no option but to endure the days to come.” Relatives who were already at the camp gave them some food and shelter and then humanitarian organisations began supporting the family with wheat, sugar and soap. Adam was just a child but had to work to support his mother and ten siblings. He loaded and unloaded trucks, then took up farming and other kinds of day labour. These days he makes about 20 to 30 Sudanese pounds per day (US$3 to 5) and sometimes he receives financial support from his uncle in Ad-Damazin, allowing him to take a week off. Most of his earnings go straight to his family, apart from a small amount which pays for his studies. “I never expected to bear such burden at such a young age,” he says, adding that he still hopes for peace to return. “I want to go back and study. One day I want to become an engineer.” > Departure: Galala Kabkabiya, West Darfur State, Sudan > Arrival: Krinik town, Sudan > Distance: 170km “My most precious thing is my desire for peace” > Name: Adam Ibrahim, nearly a hundred years old. > Previous occupation: Sheikh, I owned a retreat where I taught the Qu’ran. > Current occupation: None. Sometimes I go to the outskirts of the city to collect weeds to sell as animal feed. Where did you run from? Galala Kabkabiya in West Darfur State to the outskirts of the town of Krinik. Where do you plan to go? I would like to return home or be buried there. What item do you wish you could have taken with you? And why do you still dream of it? My retreat, which included more than fifty housing units built from local materials. Huge trees lined the area and more than a thousand students attended from various states of Sudan. My job was to follow up the progress of the students, conduct final examinations, and write recommendation letters to give them access to different institutes teaching Islamic studies throughout Sudan. What is your favourite item now? And what makes this item very precious? My most precious thing is my prayer and my desire for peace, so that I can one day go back home. Interview by Abdelrahman Ibrahim 125 150 175 theniles_enar_20150327.indd 9 2015/3/31 1:50 PM