Voices and Faces from Darfur – PART 1

by Yosra Akasha

Those stories are not complete, yet told. They are sketches of 5 minutes of chat. They need to be told because in Khartoum and anywhere else in the world you cannot encounter similar stories of daily life influenced by war and traditions.

el_fasher_oct2Photo Source

Disciplining the displaced

I asked her to take me to visit Zamzam[1] camp where she lives. She strongly said “NO” and explained further:

“I don’t even feel safe living there. Last week a lot of soldiers were killed in a battle and 7 soldiers were severely injured. The rest of the government militia has passed by Zamzam while taking their dead and injured fellows to Elfashir. They immediately started beating up the people fetching for water and in the market. The violence by armed officers of the government has continued for several days.

Yesterday I was walking back home and I heard people talking about soldiers being in the market. In no time I’ve changed my direction and took the longest way to home to avoid passing by the market.”

I really couldn’t ask her why the soldiers treat the displaced people in Zamzam violently. I know she would never have an answer not only to this question but also to the reasons behind this devastating war. Neither she nor I can understand why those innocent people have lost their loved ones and belongings and were forced to flee their villages. Only the war lords know.

Family Occasion

My taxi driver apologized for picking me up in the early morning saying that he had a family occasion. The day after I learnt that the family occasion was a newborn feast, “Simaya”, in their neighborhood and it is inappropriate to leave the neighborhood while your neighbor is making tents in front of his house. You should spend that day with them – bearing in mind my taxi driver has another full time job.

A friend who works for a public governmental office was not surprised by the taxi driver’s excuse. She stayed at home for 40 days when her father passed away.

The Road to Nyala

The road from Elfashir to Nyala[2] is approximately 280 km but the trip may take 8 hours. There are many check points in the road, and control may differ from point to point. Points are either controlled by rebel groups, Janjaweed[3] or government authorities. All of them collect taxes from bus drivers. When there are battles between those groups they cut the road completely.

Dead Soldiers

She asked me, “Did you notice any abnormal movement or sounds this morning?” I told her that I heard an ambulance and noise in the early morning. She continued:

“There was a battle yesterday 27 Km away from Elfashir. One of our neighbors has lost a son who was a soldier. His colleagues called the family in the midnight telling them of his death. Till now the officials haven’t announced any news or even contacted the families of the dead soldiers.”

She kept silent for a moment, stared at the clouds and said:

“A lot of families do not know the fate of their sons, especially those who are not from Darfur. The officials don’t call them back saying we are sorry your son has passed away, but their fellow soldiers do. Sometimes their fellows even don’t have any contact with the family; they collect their military ID cards and keep them if someday a person shows up and asks about the disappeared soldier.”


[1] Zamzam is one of the IDP camps around Elfashir, the capital of North Darfur state.

[2] Nyala is the capital of South Darfur state.

[3] A nickname for the pro government Arabic tribal militias.

Yosra Akasha is a Sudanese blogger and activist based in Khartoum. She works as Sudan Outreach Officer for the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) Network. Previously she joined several health promotion campaigns and regional peace campaigns.  She writes about human rights and social issues in Sudan with more focus on advocating for women’s rights, peace and the rights of displaced persons. Yosra has been selected as a correspondent for Voices of Our Future 2013, a program on citizen journalism offered by the World Pulse website. She blogs in English and Arabic at Sudanese Dream Twitter: @sudanesedream

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