Letters from Dafur

2010-11-25 07:17

Khartoum, the capital of Africa’s largest country, Sudan, doesn’t lend itself to easy scrutiny.

As an outsider driving down it’s main roads, one fast becomes aware that the buildings conceal more than a simple ask would reveal.

But before the scenic cruise down one of the city’s main streets, Al-Jamia, there are two flights to catch to get here.

First is a five-hour leg from Johannesburg to Nairobi, Kenya, then a two-hour connection to Khartoum’s not-so-bustling airport.

The other option is to go via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which is the one I took, and it has made all the difference.

The reason is simple: if you find yourself going through turbulent skies with a plane that’s not exactly top of its class, you best have Ethiopian women to reassure you.

I can think of no more an unnerving luxury.

Especially if one plans to spend ten days learning the complexities of how the Sudanese people are approaching what is perhaps the country’s most important moment in history.

On January 11 the Southern Sudanese people will go to the polls in a referendum that will decide whether or not the country will be split into two – North, under the current national government led by President Omar al-Bashir and the South with its capital in Juba which is located in the Central Equatoria State.

Simultaneously, Abyei State will decide if it will be part of the would-be seceding southern government.

The move is part of a broad plan to end one of the world’s longest running conflicts and establish a sustainable peace plan.

But there’s also culture in Sudan: there are people who’ve been making meaning with their lives in spite of the inconvenience of war and conflict.

Throughout my stay here I will attempt to discover and share what people eat, jive to and say about themselves.

The journey will cross through the capital to Darfur in the west and all the way to Juba, because I’m also curious to learn where Sudanese boys and girls go to fall in love, because they do.

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