Kauda, South Kordofan
The rain is pouring down as I leave the fuul vendor. I have just been told that there is no lokanda — the Sudanese cheap, basic lodgings — in this village, but that I could try the Norwegian Church Aid school, or the UNICEF compound. I don’t have the heart to step back out into the rain dressed in an already drenched t-shirt, and so take respite with a tea-lady huddled under the overhanging tin roof of a shop, the percussion of the precipitation drowning out my desire for a hot drink.
“You mad bastard” is the reply I get from an Irish guy who drives past in a UN vehicle. I had flagged them down, wondering if they knew anywhere to stay around here. Explaining that I am not with “an organisation”, just traveling here independently, he says he’s never heard of a “tourist” in Kauda. From here on in, there are certain things that I cannot write about. Not right now. But I did find a place to lay my head…
Kauda was the base in the Nuba mountains for the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the southern rebel force fighting the national army and militia groups during the civil war, and their influence is still strong. Fighting in the Nuba mountains was intense, and many of the region’s children were taken into slavery by the North, with villages here being raided for slaves and cattle.
The region is a strange one as Sudan goes. South Kordofan was the only state not to have voted during the recent legislatives due to contestations of the census. Whilst it lies steadfastly in Northern Sudan, there are deep links with the South, and although its native population will not be voting in the forthcoming referendum—that right is limited only to those in the geographical south—certain areas will take part in popular consultations.
They speak a sort of pidgin Arabic here, and during the war, the teaching of the Arabic script was forbidden in schools, favouring the Latin alphabet. Posters are dotted around the village for the program of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR), being supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Approximately 180,000 soldiers in North and South Sudan are to form part of this. Here in Kauda and its environs, having given up their arms, soldiers are given money to tide them over, and a small amount of training to help them reintegrate into the community, finding another source of subsistence than their gun.
A couple of days later, I was sat in the front of a 4x4 as we weaved through the dramatic mountain slopes that form the landscape here. Veering off the main dirt-track to explore these hillsides, however, is out of the question. When faced with a small flooding of the track, the driver muttered “better to get muddy than blown up by a landline” — the region is still infested by the things.
Saturday is market day in Komo, the small village for which we were headed, lost amongst the spurs of the hills. For the first time since I had left Europe, I saw a pig. Northern Sudan is predominantly Muslim, and under Sharia law, pork is generally nowhere to be found. Yet here in the Nuba mountains, with its influence from the Christian and animist South, the sale of pig meat is unlikely to draw interest. The vibrant, colourful market had people walking from the neighbouring villages; en-route we had seen women draped in colourful toobs, their slender arms reaching up to bowls carried on their heads, negotiating the track. Butchers’ stands were awash with goat’s meat, smoke rising from nearby barbecues, mixing with the scent of tea and fuul. Under the shade of a thatched hut, a congregation of men are supping on merissa, the locally brewed sorghum-beer.
Whether this is North or South Sudan seems to have little importance in this remote outpost, but memories of the atrocities of the war are far from expunged. Information about the up-coming referendum is lacking, and the people hold a false-hope that they will have a say in whether the world’s newest nation will be formed from splitting Sudan in two. More so, if this split does happen, they believe that they will be part of the South. Yet these people lie far north of the demarcation, meaning that they will have neither vote, nor citizenship of Southern Sudan should the South vote for independence. For me, all eyes are on South Kordofan come early 2011.