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The Holy Warrior

By David L. Lukudu (Sudan)


Revised 1/10/07

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I am a graduate of Makerere University Medical School, Kampala, Uganda; bachelor of Medicine and bachelor of Surgery (MBChB).

I come from South Sudan, Juba in particular. But I have lived in East Africa (Uganda, mostly, and Kenya) for the last 11 years, partly because of studies, but mainly due to the civil war in my part of the country.

I have completed my internship and am looking forward to practising as a medical officer in war-ravaged South Sudan.

The air was calm and dry. The sun would soon set in a few hours, may be three or four, but its heat, a menace, remained like an adamant thorn in the flesh. Above, in the heavens, the clouds looked frozen, as though some silence had befallen the whole of southern Sudan in deep mourning. Beneath the lifeless clouds, hordes of vultures hovered here and there, perhaps unperturbed by the rumbling of artillery and rattling of gunfire near and yonder. In the distance, seeming to blend with the sea of green-ness and few scattered burnt huts was black smoke that curled upwards in almost every direction, nearly blinding the horizons. The incessant hum of the Sudanese air force bomber, the Russian-made Antonov, faded as it crossed above yet again. Almost unnoticed were the monotonous mumbling of a nearby stream and the fluttering and shrills of anxious birds in the neighbouring bushes. But, perhaps, it was the persistent stale stench that pervaded the vicinity, or the intense fear of impending death, that was vivid to the two men in the trench on the outskirts of Yei town. It was yet another ‘dry season offensive.’

 Osama could see the young man was sweating profusely, like he was involved in a marathon under the merciless heat of Khartoum, and was trembling vigorously, like a jallabia – the (Arabs’) long white cloak; flapping in the desert winds of northern Sudan, during the cold season. They were squatting and facing each other in one of the two-metre deep trenches that the native militias had dug at the outskirts of Yei town; they were Sudan government’s army in the area. Both men were completely immersed in the hole; in their squatting posture, their heads were below the level of the protective sacks of sand around the margin of the trench. They clutched to their AK-47 rifles, snuggled between their legs with the barrels pointing to the sky. Just out of a surprise, shells whistled and echoed above them in opposing directions, quaking the earth, and they felt every vibration generated by the tremors. But the decrease in frequency of the government’s army shells indicated to Osama that their retreat to the safety at Juba town was to be rapid.  The government army had failed to take Yei town again from the rebels – SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army). This was their second year in a row. The dry season offensive against the rebels was a frustrating attempt that year.

Osama and his friend, and maybe others in nearby trenches, were now, almost, left at the mercy of the rebels; unless they fought hard enough, not caring about their eminent demise in the jungles of southern Sudan. As religious fanatics with a mission, were they not assured of places in janna, paradise? Their religious belief in jihad (martyrdom) was their only means to heaven!

Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar!

La ila ha ilallah! Mohammed Rasulallah!

Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar!

Allah wa al watan

Fi sebil Allah na mut.

God is great! God is great!

There is no other God

Apart from Allah! Mohammed is a prophet of Allah! Etc…etc.

They had always chanted that morale boosting song during training sessions in desert camps of northern Sudan. That song had become their marching anthem since the early 1990s during their long convoys at the time of battles in the south, which was mostly under SPLA’s control. The men were now in the midst of the holy war they had always valued, always dreamed of fighting in. They all believed that was an opportunity to become shuhada – martyrs - and be in paradise with Allah.

 The battle had been hot – very hot. Osama had not seen anything like it for the five years he had been a Mujahid - a voluntary jihad warrior - fighting the rebels; kuffar (infidels) and abid (slaves) who were not willing to embrace Islam, the one and only religion that mattered, that had always mattered, and that should matter in the Sudan.

If only southern Sudan would be Islamized, the whole of eastern, central and southern Africa would follow and the Islamic and Arab worlds would expand! Oh, the sweet Sudan, the largest country in Africa, part of an Arab world!

 The NIF, or National Islamic Front military government, as known in the early days, of Omar al-Beshir and the then de facto ruler and Islamic ideologue, Dr. Hassan al-Turabi, was the latest in the line of Khartoum regimes fighting the southern rebellion. The first was the military one of Gaafar Nimeri that was involved in solving the first civil strife in the south but went on to provoke the second one, and was later overthrown by civilians in a massive uprising! Then there was the transient one, also military, of Suwar al-Dahab. Then the civilian - democratically elected, by northern politicians - of Saddig al-Mahdi, which was toppled by the NIF.

 The battle must have taken about four days and they had not eaten or slept in peace all those hours. But Osama knew quite well from his experience that when being overrun by the enemy troops, it was best to keep calm when escape was difficult. For with a miracle from Allah, one could still be spared if the time had not yet arrived for one to be in paradise with Prophet Mohammed - peace upon him.

 Littering nearby trenches and the surrounding bushes were dead bodies - unburied bodies - some already rotting, as evidenced by the visible fresh fly maggots and the strong stench the vultures had always loved, that had always attracted them from afar for a feast. And the vultures were already here and there and everywhere. There were also a few human skulls and bones decorating the areas near and yonder. The corpses, the skulls, the bones, the trenches made the whole place looked like a graveyard that had been rampaged or vandalized by some blood-thirsty pirates searching for an imaginary hidden treasure or, better, the pro-Islamic Somali militia in Mogadishu clearing an Italian missionary cemetery for a territory.

 Osama could tell which side had suffered heavy casualties with regard to its paratroopers, as he stole a quick look at his surroundings. He could see the deep-green uniform of the regular Sudanese army; the desert camouflage uniform of the commando and Mujahideen units – probably donated by some Arab world country, maybe Iraq or Iran, in the faith of Islam, of Arab brotherhood; the cream uniform of the Difaa al-Shabbi, the Popular Defence Forces. He had always had pity for the Popular Defense Forces: hastily trained in 45 days in a desert setting - to boost the dwindling numbers of the Sudanese government troops - and to fight in a sub-Saharan region, a completely different terrain, and against an enemy that was not only committed but also wielding a lot of experience. The Difaa al-Shabbi were made up of: volunteers for jihad; homeless kids, rounded up from the streets of Khartoum (mostly northerners, with few southerners); and pre-university and graduate students, carrying out compulsory service for the military government. They were all fighting to protect the interest of the nation, for the cause, for Islam. Allah Hu akbar! Allah Hu akbar! La ila ha ilallah! Mohammed Rasulallah!

 “Protect us Allah … protect us Allah…” the young man kept praying next to Osama, his prayer beads in his clenched right fist.

 “What’s your name?” Osama asked the Popular Defence Force, loud enough to be heard; for it had happened so often that the government troops had found themselves mixed together in the midst of battle. How could they know members of the different sects of the armed forces when the Sudanese army was so large?

 “Taha,” the young man replied, softly, almost in a whisper.


 “Yes, Taha Abdul-Rahman al-Jabban.”

 Osama smiled momentarily at the meaning of the last name: the coward. It exactly described the owner, he thought.

 “And your age?” he went on.


 “Seventeen? What’s your story…how did you come to be here?”

 “Jihad, of course, I…m…me…mean…the compulsory military service for the nation…” Taha went on with a little bit of stammering, his voice also shaky in unison with his whole body, “I should be…starting… Law at the University of Khartoum…”

 “And your family…where is they?”


 “Oh, I understand,” Osama concluded. “It’ll be alright if you stick with me…I’m Osama bin Aladdin al-Soudani. Five years of experience.” He assured Taha. And then suddenly he felt pity for the young man. Poor boy, he thought. ‘Ice cream boys,’ he went on with thinking. They should be under their mother’s roofs, leaking ice cold ice cream under the merciless heat of Khartoum, or eating dates, basta or tisaly; they should not be here in this harsh location in the south.

 Was this civil war really a jihad? He had often asked himself that question, and he had always ended that it was.  But maybe it was worthless fighting in this war; at times he would contemplate. Probably the southerners had a good reason for waging a civil war in their part of the country. But who cared, anyway? Were not the battles being fought in their own backyard – in their towns and villages? But about separation for the Sudan, that was out of the question for him. They, the northerners, had a lot of support. They needed the fertile land and a share of the oil discovered in the south, even if it meant at the expense of the inhabitance of the area - wiping off of the populations of the south! He was not sure if a previous Sudanese president did not at one time mention emptying the whole of the troubled south of anything that could breathe and starting a coffee plantation in the beautiful, fertile land, rich with minerals including the ‘black gold,’ oil. If that were to happen, who would talk? After all a lot was committed against the slaves, the infidels during the seventeen years of the first civil strife in their part of the country.

 Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar! La ila ha ilallah! Mohammed Rasulallah!

  Egypt would always stand on the way against separation of the Sudan into south and north, Osama was sure of that. The Nile Basin Treaty of 1959 between Egypt and the countries of the great Nile basin had to be honoured. Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo all had interest in the waters; although at the time of the deal signing most of these countries were still under colonial rule. The agreement was intended to regulate Nile water usage among the countries involved. Activities that would reduce the volume of the waters reaching Egypt should not be undertaken. The ten riparian states were legally obliged to observe the limitations in the utilization of the waters of the Nile basin. The treaty was subject to the provisions of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which was protected by international law. The Convention allowed termination and suspension of existing treaties only under the treaty provisions, by consent of the parties, or by fundamental change of circumstances. An additional eleventh country – that is, an independent South Sudan – would mean extra consumption of the waters for developmental projects. The Egyptian Arab-brothers would not tolerate an additional rival nation tempering with their lifeline - hampering the smooth flow of the waters northwards for the good of their masses. He was confident Egypt would do anything possible to prevent secession of the south.

 Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar!

 The international community, including the UN, respected territorial integrity and would, therefore, also not encourage splitting of countries; he knew that too.

 Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar! Indeed.

 Oh, the sweet Sudan! ‘Naakul min ma nazra wa nalbis min ma nasna!’ We eat from what we sow and we dress from what we manufacture! No soul should dare temper with it! No southerners should dream of breaking off from the Sudan, if they wish to avoid being liquidated and becoming extinct or forced into exile for generations to come - forever. Who would talk? Who would protect them? Who would care? Oh, the sweet Sudan, the largest country in Africa, one of the Arab world nations!

 “You can have this for your protection,” Osama said, handing the young man an amulet. He had a good collection, about a dozen of them, most around his neck.

 “I’ve got one…a…a metallic key… around my right arm…which they say is for entrance to janna.” The young man responded, still with an unsteady voice as he took the string, with small leather part attached, and slipped the protector around his neck.

 “Those metallic keys…they don’t work,” he tried to convince Taha.

 “But almost all of us have that -”

 “It doesn’t work…”

 Cries for help and moaning went on in some of the nearby trenches and bushes. Osama knew that he could do nothing to give a hand to his fellow Mujahideen - the voluntary jihad warriors. Some were from some Arab world countries. He was also familiar with the fact that their inexperience had contributed a lot to their present predicament – the state of helplessness at the aftermath of a battle.

 There were movements in the bushes, behind Osama and to his left; he heard them and felt them. Occasionally, there were brief echoes of gunfire and more cries and screams; and the words, “…you a Mujahid or a government soldier…” would punctuate the interval between the gunfires from time to time. There was also: “You can tell a Mujahid from his beards…” The voices kept increasing in intensity. “Allah,” he prayed, “save us.” It could be that the enemy infantry were now summarizing, finishing the remnants of their combatants who were still breathing, but dying, helplessly, he thought. Taha kept his head, still wavering.

 There were sounds of boots kicking someone. Kick, kick, kick. More cries. More kicking. More of the previous words: Mujahid, government soldier, beards. More gunfire. More cries. More screams. Sporadic gunfire in the distance. Occasional shells whistling above in opposite directions.

 Then the voices were only about five or so metres away. He felt strength ebbing from his limbs. And for a moment he thought he was at the same level as the young recruit next to him: silent, weighed down by the unexpected, apprehensive experience - scared to death in the trench. But he gathered enough courage to peek above and outside their hole. And he saw in Faysal’s direction about four or five of the rebels, in military camouflage fatigue uncoordinated with plain clothes, and AK-47 rifles, surrounding him. Faysal Zubeir Wad-Kassala was a long time friend of Osama from eastern Sudan. They had fought in the south, for the protection of Islam, for five years. They had captured and lost and recaptured towns and villages from insurgent grip. They had survived the most extreme of conditions together. They had even had rats and frogs and snakes for meals when they had run out of supplies for weeks. They had traveled long distances on foot during battles in the vast territory of southern Sudan. Now he had thought Faysal was long dead in his trench, because there had been no activity from his location for about two days. He kept his head high enough to catch a clear glimpse of what was going on. The enemy soldiers had pulled his friend out of his hole and he was lying on the grass on his back; he seemed to be alone, and it was not clear whether he was injured or not; he was not showing any signs of resistance.

 “Are you a Mujahid or a government soldier?” a tall, skinny and dark SPLA soldier was asking Faysal, his tyre sandal seemed to be on Faysal’s head, pressing it hard on the ground. Another rebel of similar build like his comrade was removing notes of the Sudanese dinar from Faysal’s pockets.

 “These Islamic notes of al-Bashir are as good as toilet paper in our territory, the ‘New Sudan’,” the second revolutionary remarked, bitterly, throwing the papers on Faysal’s face, “we prefer the old pounds.”

 “Are you a Mujahid or a government soldier?” the tyre-sandaled rebel repeated the question, unmindful of his companion and the dinars.

 “What’s the difference you infidels…hell is open for all of you…” Faysal was adamant, “Mujahid or not we shall die matyrs…”

 “We’re fighting because of being denied our rights in our ancestral lands - being marginalized and underdeveloped and Arabized, in the name of Islam, and you talk of jihad,” another of the SPLA soldiers was stressing a point, and he gave Faysal a kick on the right flank with his heavy boots - which, maybe, formerly belonged to another Mujahid, who was now long dead.

 “He’s a Mujahid,” a fourth short soldier assured his fellow combatants, as they all pointed their guns at Faysal, “you can see from the bushy beards and the way he speaks…dirty-mouthed bloody Arab! Do not spare him, but spare his shirt for me.”

 Osama dropped into his trench. A feeling of dizziness engulfed his head. He could not bear seeing Faysal, his long time friend, his long-term brother in Islam, being killed in front of his eyes. Ta-tat! Taduk! Ta-tat! Tat! Tat! He heard gunfire. Then he knew. He closed his eyes; was Faisal no more? And then he started feeling guilty: he should have done something for his friend, for his brother, for Islam. But then he had no strength left in him, and the pain from a shrapnel injury to his right hand had started to throb again; he was one of the victims of an accidental Antonov bombing that was meant for Yei town the previous day.

 He had not noticed Taha for a moment, as the young man went on quivering. Osama’s eyes remained shut; he could not bear the stress of it all. Then in a flash his mind went back to the first time he met Faysal in Juba town.

 He had always dreamed of visiting Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, because so many northern traders or businessmen back home in the north had talked a lot of good about the southern region of the country, especially about the climate, the fertility of the soil, the unexploited market, the freedom to do so many things that were not possible to do in the north. But of course not the people. Not the infidels. Not the slaves. Was there anything good about junubeen, southerners?  Unless they converted to Islam. He thought so. He longed to feel the heavy rainfalls and see the seas of green-ness his fellow northerners dreamed of. He craved to test suku suku or sieko 5, the local spirit, which was hard to get in Khartoum, because of the strict Islamic Sharia laws; and even if one could get this in the slums, where most displaced southerners live on the outskirts of the great city Khartoum, it was an offence and one would be flogged. He could not wait to test the women who he was told were so easy to get as long as one had the money, unlike Khartoum with Sharia again. The juicy women his fellow Arab northerners had said they left some behind with fatherless children, to boost up their pure genes in a society heavily infested with infidels. There was indeed freedom in the south; freedom that he called freedom; freedom that he loved and cherished. He had always thought of southern Sudan as a collection of villages, with few scattered huts and naked people roaming about, grazing their cattle and goats and chicken, people with no proper religion – infidels who had stubbornly refused to accept Islam, the one and only religion that mattered, that had always mattered, that should matter in the Sudan, the sweet Sudan… Nonetheless, it was a bit of a surprise to him when he discovered that Juba was a small city, all right, but had some good infrastructure, some tarred roads and some civilized people (if not all).

 The Mujahideen had occupied the whole of the University of Juba compound somewhere in the centre of Juba town. The university, like many residents of the town itself who had migrated to northern Sudan, had to be transferred to Khartoum, because of insecurity and instability posed by the civil war in the south. The large compound with huge and numerous buildings was now an army barracks; no, a Mujahideen barracks – Mujahideen, the holy warriors who would become martyrs, fighting against infidels in southern Sudan, in the sweet Sudan…

 The Mujahideen always wore long beards and camouflage fatigue with matching caps to distinguish them from the other paratroopers. The commando unit also put on camouflage uniform but had maroon-coloured berets and no beards. The regular Sudanese army troops wore army-green uniform and similarly coloured caps; and the Difaa al-Shabbi, cream-coloured uniform and same colour of caps. But some times with several days in the battlefields any uniform from a dead comrade could be worn, as long as it was removed early enough!

 The heavy military presence in the big southern towns of Juba, Malakal and Wau – through the deployment of the various sects of the Sudanese army, and the presence of the ever useful pro-government local militia groups, as well as serving as safe havens for government troops fleeing their falling garrisons elsewhere in the south - had made it hard for the SPLA to capture these significant towns.

 It was one late afternoon that Osama was with Faysal and Anwar taking a stroll around Juba, their Kalashnikovs slung loosely across their shoulders. It was at the end of the year, the last few days of December; whatever the infidels call their festive season.

 There were four excited teens busy with photography at a roundabout - colourfully flowered - next to the campus gates. They were donned in new Christmas wear, to mark the end of year festive season, and were full of smiles and laughter and joy; for Christ had died for them, for the forgiveness of their sins, and Christ was born for them, for the forgiveness of their sins. Amen.

 “There’s a lot of freedom here in the south, yet southerners are not satisfied,” Faysal, who was already about a year familiar with the southern town, pointed out to his colleagues, “I’ll show you.” His expressionless face did not betray any emotions.

 “Hey you there!” called Faysal, all of a sudden, removing his gun from his shoulders and cocking it, as he moved in the direction of the young men. “Who said you take pictures here, huh? Anyone runs, I shoot.” His deep voice portrayed a lot of weight. There was a frown on his face this time to show that he meant business.

 Osama and Anwar were shocked with the gesture. “But Faysal …” Osama managed to put in, protesting the move, but was silent when Anwar tapped him on the shoulder, smiling.

  “Let’s watch,” Anwar said.

 Osama followed in his father’s footsteps as a fighter, although initially he was a trader in El Fasher in Darfur; where he hailed from. He had often heard from his father before he died during the Anyanya war - the first civil strife in the south - that a soldier should never touch innocent civilians, because misfortune would always befall the undisciplined soldier. That explained why he was so uneasy. He had never parted with that statement and had always tried his best to abide by it in honour of his late father, who died when he himself was barely in his teens.

 “Hand over the camera,” Faisal went on.  

 The youngstars were all shaken up and were trembling as one of them handed over the equipment to Faysal. Two were already in tears. The fourth kept on saying, “Sorry… sorry; we shall not repeat the act; we didn’t know…”

 “Now, kneel down all of you!” 

 The boys obeyed; like a lamb lead to the slaughter.

 “Now, each one of you bows your head down as Muslims in prayer and says “Allah Hu Akbar! three times.”

 Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar!” echoed the young men in unison.

 “People like you we kill here in the south any time we want and who do you think can talk? Now run.”

 The boys hesitated, scared of bullets following as they run, penetrating through their backs, or shuttering their brains, finishing the precious lives they got, the lives they live only once on this earth. They began to cry louder and louder and apologizing, crying and swearing not to take pictures in Juba again, crying and kneeling down for forgiveness, crying and crying and crying.

 “Run or stay and die!” The voice remained stern and intimidating.

 The teens ran, looking backwards; crying and running and looking backwards; crying and running and looking backwards, until they disappeared behind a bend.

 A few onlookers watched cautiously from a distance, concealing themselves from being spotted by the Mujahideen, lest it should be their turn. The onlookers could not help wondering what these ever stubborn Juba boys had done to soldiers again: one day the boys might disappear in the ‘ghost house,’ the white house, in Juba or be killed for crossing onto the paths of soldiers. Soldiers, who like the Sudan Security agents, could do anything to anyone anytime anywhere in the south, and nobody could talk, would talk, or would dare talk.

 “Kuffar,” Infidels. Faysal concluded. He turned to his comrades, releasing the frown on his face and replacing it with a smile; still holding the Kodak camera, as he reversed the safety of his gun and replaced it on his shoulder.

 Osama remembered the incident very vividly. That was the first time he met Faysal. The very first time he was in southern Sudan, in Juba. That was the first impression he had of his comrade. In spite of that incident, they had been very close and very good friends; true brothers in Islam indeed.

 Now Faysal was dead. “Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar! Faysal is a matyr. Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar!” Osama whispered, as he woke up from his brief recollection.

 And then, he was stunned to see the young man Taha jolting out of the trench. “No, Taha,” he could only say, feebly, for his voice had started to fail him.

 Rut-tut! Rut-tut! Rut-tut! Taha’s gun spurted as he charged forward, firing at the five rebel soldiers in the vicinity and shouting, “Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar!”

 “Noooooooooo!” cried Osama; he could no longer conceal his secret position.

 One SPLA soldier fell, screaming in agony. A barrage of bullets rattled in Taha’s direction, from the left and the right and the back and the front, as Taha danced again and again in rhythm with the music, before giving in to the ground, crying and groaning and moaning. Osama saw it, felt it and was dazed and overwhelmed by it all.

 “Allah, give me the strength like that young man,” he prayed in silence. He had seen yet another martyr. Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar! But he was afraid, really afraid. He did not know why he was terrified. Was it not his choice to come and die as a Mujahid; to die for Islam, and be assured of a place in heaven? Was this not the right time to follow in the footsteps of what he had already witnessed right in front of his eyes? He knew that to die for Islam was the greatest thing for a Muslim; no one would argue with him on that. Even the young man he thought was a coward, as his name suggested, was brave enough to become a martyr. He hesitated. He thought of his three sons, who were hardly teenagers, with their mother in Omdurman - one of the three cities that make up the great city Khartoum. Then he made up his mind on what he was going to do. He knew they heard his voice. He also knew that it was now the turn for his trench. The infidels, the slaves are coming. He prayed to Allah that they should not throw a grenade in his hole; the young man had messed up things for him, was too shocked to lie low in silence and maturity.

 “Are you a Mujahid or a government soldier?” A deep and very clear voice broke the peace in his trench. He was hearing the words for, may be, the tenth or so time now.  They had increased in intensity ever since he heard them first. But now they were over him, all over him. And he knew he was not hallucinating - he had never done so in his life - as he threw down into the trench a tiny piece of broken bottle with some tuft of hair.

 “Are you a Mujahid or a government soldier?” The question came again, ominously. He could only perceive the crystal clear voice and see rusted barrels of two guns pointing on his head from the left and the right as he turned his eyes towards the heavens. No rebel faces.

 “No, I’m a soldier – a government soldier!” cried Osama, quick and loud, as he got up, letting go of his gun and raising his tremulous upper limbs in surrender.

 He knew the difference now and felt better. The government soldier referred to something like the regular Sudanese army, and such a soldier when captured by the enemy was taken as prisoner of war, because his job – like a soldier in any nation – was duty to his country, no matter what kind of government. The Mujahid, on the contrary, was a holy war volunteer, when the rebels did not see the war in the south as jihad. Fear bred disillusionment in him.

Perhaps it was not a jihad after all, he concluded in his thoughts; that meant many northerners lost their lives in the civil war for no good reason after all. May be so many misleading and evil deeds were being performed in the name of Islam, tarnishing its image. Possibly it was not a war to do with Islam, because there were southerners who were also Muslims. There were rebels who were Muslims too: in southern Sudan, in the marginalized areas of the Nuba Mountains and southern Blue Nile and Abyei. Maybe it was rather a war the southerners waged because of being marginalized and underdeveloped and Arabised, in the name of Islam, since with Islam there was Arab culture and language and everything!

Like most non-Arab peoples in northern Sudan in general, most especially in his Darfur region, the areas of the Nuba Mountains and the Red Sea regions, he saw himself as, and believed he was, an Arab; something that was like a widespread disease transmitted by the Arabs following Arabization and Islamization of the mentioned areas over several generations or centuries. He had at times wondered whether he was truly an Arab or not, although he knew the reality; he used to challenge anyone to a fight should they dare label him non-Arab. Was being a Muslim, speaking Arabic, and wearing a jallabia adequate to qualify one as Arab? If yes, he had always been one. But now he felt resentment in his heart. All of a sudden he felt hatred towards those he saw, at the back of his mind, as the true Arabs that comprise slightly above one-third of the Sudanese population, and the fact that he was made to believe that he was one of them. The earlier statement from one of the SPLA soldiers, about fighting because of being marginalized and underdeveloped and Arabised (in the name of Islam) was beginning to sink and make sense in his mind, as he reflected on how underdeveloped and neglected his home area of Darfur was; despite the fact that they were in the majority in every contingent in the Sudanese government army.

Bitter thoughts flashed in his head in succession. Maybe Sudan, a country bigger than Western Europe, was sick with chronic and intractable problems because it was too large and, therefore, uncontrollable, he concluded. Probably separation between the predominantly Muslim-Arabised north and mainly Christian and purely African south was very healthy, would end the civil war and the loss of innocent lives, and would be the ultimate cure for the long-term sufferings of the tired masses; he postulated a resolution. But what would become of his home region, would not the marginalization be transferred to, or carried out solely in, Darfur, because they would then be left as part of the north, under Arab domination? But perhaps Al -Soudan, or the Sudan, meaning land of the blacks – ironically grouped as one of the Arab world countries – should have the spirit of tolerance and celebrate its diversity in terms of peoples, cultures, religions, points of view, and even gender; if it wanted to remain united and stable and progressive. He pondered further. Maybe Al Soudan should not be an Islamic Arab Republic of Black Arabs, as it seemed to be heading towards, where Arab and Islam are the only parameters that mattered, had always mattered, should always matter!

One of the rebel soldiers could not hide a broad smile as he peeped searchingly in the trench to confirm Osama’s shaver - a piece of broken glass. “He has shaven badly, hurriedly,” he said.

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