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Nyala, the capital of South Darfur is a booming commercial town. Despite instability of the area, in many areas it is business as usual for local merchants. The streets are busy, markets are packed. Unlike its other Darfur counterparts, Nyala has a considerable amount of migrants from other regions of the country. Many from northern, eastern and southern states moved here for commercial purposes and settled down. Additionally, many of Darfur’s tribes of “arab” are indigenous to this state. The mixture of people around this city is much more distinct and noticeable. The effects of this conflict have definitely hampered business but merchants are making do.
Displacement of people is also more pronounced in this region, mainly because South Darfur in general is much more populated than the other Darfur regions. Its population rivals Khartoum state from the results of the recent 2008 census, which many have raised objections about. IDP camps have become enclaves that have extended the boundaries of Nyala city.
The weather here is much more pleasant. The rainy season is in full force. Mother nature has been kind this year to this region, bringing about plenty of rain. Vital water needed to sustain the area. Sadly very little farming takes place relative to pre-conflict era. Many of the land remains uncultivated, many have left their lands behind and moved into camps or major cities. Instability has definitely taken its toll on the livelihood of these communities.
Life during these conflict years has definitely had its impacts. It has definitely toughened so to speak the people of this region. Their attitude generally is expect the unexpected. It is common place to have armed carjackings, conflicts within camps and an increase in murders. Weapons are plentiful and can be attained with ease. Despite all these, residents of Nyala go on about their daily lives. Although for most, life as they know it has irrefutably changed, most know that you can’t just cease to exist and one must carry on regardless.
The presence of such a large-scale humanitarian operation, the largest in the world has dramatically changed the landscape of greater Darfur region. One cannot doubt that it has become a niche industry, benefiting many. Although many have their hearts in the right place, there are definitely some who profit from the instability and conflict in this region. And where there is profit, many vying for an entrance. Some are taking advantage of a chaotic and unstable situation. That is clear by the number of armed robberies and carjackings that take place. It is relatively easy to do so and there is little oversight as a result the success rate is high. The black market is booming with stolen goods, ranging from cars, electronics, weapons, you name it.
Unlike El Fashir and El Genina, it seems movement is a lot less restricted and tea and coffee stalls are packed in the evenings. The markets are open fairly late and many can be seen walking around the streets. Despite all of this, it seems that it is a false sense of security, as the currents can change in an instance.
I am not familiar with region prior to the conflict, but from numerous stories heard, it seems that Nyala was a golden town, capitalizing on its location and mixture of people to establish itself as a regional commercial district. Prosperity was attainable and many moved to this region in the hopes of financial and commercial success.