I’m not doing such a good job of blogging as I go along. I have been meaning to write about my trip to Blue Nile state for some time. Since my return from Blue Nile I have embarked on several other work related trips. I suppose that is partly the cause of the delay, lack of time to sit down and get things sorted out.
Blue Nile State is South East of Khartoum, bordering Ethiopia. It is where the mighty “Blue Nile” enters Sudan from the Ethiopian Highlands and moves northwards to Khartoum where it meets the White Nile.
This trip was my first visit to the region. Parts of the state is part of a belt designated the “Three Areas”, which are regions across Blue Nile State, South Kordofan State and Abyie that border Northern and Southern Sudan. It is also where a lot of fighting and displacement took place during Sudan (Africa’s longest) civil war.
A visit to this region proved to be very enlightening. A sense of stability has definitely been restored in this region…slowly but surely, the rate of returnees is increasing. As a result there is much to be done. Many of the areas I visited for work were once controlled by SPLA/M and much of heavy fighting took place. Many of these regions are still littered with landmines. De-mining process is underway, but caution was exercised when walking around some areas.
This state houses a miscellany of ethnic people, at one point many were at odds with each other. I came across a variety of different tribes, with Arab, African or mixed origins. The most colourful…literally were the Um Bararo tribe. They take great pride in their personal appearance. In their case, aesthetics are just as important for men as they are for women. Men are often seen out herding with perfectly coiffed hair, kohl (eyeliner) and other forms of natural pigments they use for make-up. Their attire is decorated with numerous colourful trinkets.
Now little by little it seems that some common ground is being forged. Still it is evident when you traverse the state you run into different tribes that claim ownership over a particular region. Most of the tribes in this region are herdsmen, semi nomadic moving where they can feed their livestock. The remainders are farmers tending to their plots. As in many parts of Sudan conflicts between herders and farmers flare up tensions every now and then.
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It seemed that the entire state was covered in a brightly coloured green blanket. The gentle hills that at times are broken up by large rock formations were sparkling; the greenery was nice break from the sandy, dusty, hot Capital (Khartoum). Grass was plenty and we were frequently stopped along the way to make way for large herds of cows, sheep and goats. The occasional donkey or crowd of camels crossed our path. They are kings of the road around these parts.
Damazine, the capital of Blue Nile state is a fairly robust town. That’s usually awoken this time of year with all that needs to be cultivated, harvested and sent to markets in other cities or outside of Sudan. This year though, repeatedly, complaints about lack of rains were echoed. This issue seemed to resonate in every conversation I had with people living in the area. Although, to an outsider it seemed that rains were plenty. To the trained eye, there isn’t enough. I was told, the lack of rains in the highlands this year not only affected crop yields, it has dire impacts on drinking water supply in the coming summer season. I paid a visit to the reservoir at Rosiers Dam. I too got first hand account, as the banks of the reservoir were very low, at a time when they should be flooded.