Skip navigation
Help

Sudan

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /var/www/vhosts/sayforward.com/subdomains/recorder/httpdocs/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

In many ways, Yida is the South Sudan of popular imagination. Small Cessnas, ferrying medicine and other essential supplies, land on a tattered airstrip lined with beleaguered faces. The sprawling landscape is scorched and unforgiving. What little vegetation existed has been slashed and used by the camp’s more than 20,000 inhabitants to build basic shelters. Modest huts, made entirely of wood and thatch, dot a landscape that seems wholly unfit for human settlement.

The refugee camp in Yida rests approximately 18 miles south of the new and contested border between Sudan and South Sudan. To its north lies the embattled state of Southern Kordofan, where southern-aligned rebels wage a bitter and protracted insurgency against the northern government. In recent months, northern forces, operating under the command of Sudanese President Omar Al- Bashir, have employed brutal tactics to suppress the rebellion to no avail. An indiscriminate campaign of aerial bombardment has forced a mass exodus of Nuba civilians, more than 100,000 of whom have taken refuge in camps like Yida.

As fighting in Southern Kordofan and other adjacent border regions intensified in recent weeks, aid agencies in Yida reported a sharp rise in the number of new arrivals. Many come by foot, having walked for days to escape the high altitude bombers that have become a hallmark of the war. While Yida offers relative security, its extremely isolated location creates concern among aid agencies over their ability to provide adequate services for the rapidly swelling population. Food and water are scarce, electricity and phone networks are non-existent and political dynamics within the camp are contentious and secretive. The impending rain season threatens to turn the camp into a muddy and chaotic bastion of want and disease.

During the week I spent in Yida and neighboring camps, during which I provided visual media support for an Amnesty International research mission looking into wide-ranging human rights concerns in the area, I experienced alternating waves of inspiration and dismay. In nearly three years of covering South Sudan’s precarious transition to independence, I have yet to encounter a more welcoming, perseverant and intellectually driven community as the one I found in Yida. Despite dire circumstances, I met countless individuals who maintain an awe-inspiring thirst for education, a pursuit that many view as paramount in the battle against injustice and the marginalization of the Nuba people. Tea, coffee and assistance are offered at every turn and dignity defines the social landscape.

While their lives and aspirations have been compromised by this conflict, the mood among Yida’s refugees remains defiant. Many express support for the transformation of the Sudanese government, through forceful means if necessary, in order to bring about a system that more aptly embraces the country’s profound ethnic and racial diversity. “I ask myself why, for centuries, [the northern government] has been pushing us down,” wondered Issac Malak, a refugee from Southern Kordofan who arrived in Yida with hopes of finding employment. “There is no justice in Sudan…and I think of getting back my rights by all means that I have.”

With fighting in Southern Kordofan raging on and rains set to arrive in the coming weeks, the situation for refugees in Yida and other border camps is extremely precarious. “We pray for strength and peace,” says Abdul Rahman, a pastor in one of Yida’s six parishes. When I attended his service last Sunday, the pews of his thatch-roofed church were filled people who sang in tones that seem to put hope ahead of sorrow.

Pete Muller is a photographer based in South Sudan. He was named LightBox’s 2011 Wire Photographer of the Year. See more of his work here.

0
Your rating: None

In just over a week, the volatile components behind Sudan’s division into two nations — oil, religion, ethnic rivalry, guerrilla militias, disputed borders — have burst into war. TIME photographer Dominic Nahr has been on assignment in South Sudan’s ironically named Unity State, whose northern edge includes disputed boundaries with its enemy Sudan — one of which is marked only by a white cargo container. In the last nine days, South Sudan forces have pushed north into Sudanese territory, taking the disputed town of Heglig, only to pull back under fire and see enemy soldiers press south instead. Nahr filed this dispatch on Sunday.

Unity State is one of the most frustrating places I have worked. Nothing comes easy. You have to struggle, then struggle some more to get things moving. It took me days to find a truck to hire in the state capital Bentiu in order to get to the conflict areas only to have to it taken away by a local official who allegedly wanted it to tow a bus back from the front lines. A couple of days later a dreadlocked rebel soldier from Darfur–which lies far across the border in Sudan–became angry that I and a companion had taken his photo and chased us down in his Mad Max car, jumping out and cocking his gun with such fury I thought it was going to fly right out of his hands. He then sped off with two cameras.

No one seems to know what’s going on and when I try to reach the front lines I mostly get stalled or put-off by soldiers, commanders and officials. In the end I hitched a ride with southern soldiers to Heglig, a disputed town that South Sudan occupied for a few days. They were less concerned with the fighting than they were with filling the pick-up truck with looted beds, mattresses, laptops and printers from the town. On another drive the hood of our truck, which was held on with rope, flipped up and smashed the windscreen as we flew down a rutted dirt road.

In Heglig, days before it was retaken by the northern army, I wandered over to the nearby oil installations hoping to capture photos of the destruction. There were bodies of dead northern soldiers all over the place. As I got closer to the pipeline I saw a corpse lying in a thick slick of oil, glistening in the sun. The soldier’s head was resting on his arms and I couldn’t see any injuries: it looked like he was sleeping. It really hit me, this moment of calm amidst the chaos, and I knew this was the photograph that captured both the causes and the consequences of the fighting over Heglig.

But it hasn’t all been difficulty and horror.

My current desktop picture is a group photo, including TIME Africa bureau chief Alex Perry and some of my other colleagues, over the border in the Nuba Mountains, where rebel forces are being assaulted by Sudan government based in the north’s capital, Khartoum. We are dirty but happy, leaning on the 4×4 that took us around for a week. It’s still smeared with some of the mud that they use to camouflage vehicles against bombing raids by northern Antonovs.

The reason I was so happy is because the Nubans are as inviting as their mountains that spring from the ground giving refuge and protection. The feeling of a struggle shared by Nuban civilians and rebels alike is innocent and pure. With almost no outside support they have learned to rely on themselves.

The struggle is both genuine and urgent and this is part of the reason I will return and will continue working there. People are starving because the fear of aerial bombardment means they have not planted any food in months. They have already missed two harvests and the bombing is still going on.

I can’t say how this will end. The rainy season will be upon us within weeks washing away the mud roads and blocking off all land access, in and out. A 15-minute downpour a few days ago was enough to turn the dirt roads slick leaving snakelike tracks where cars had slid around.

The only thing I am sure about is that this is not over; it hasn’t been for decades.

Dominic Nahr, a TIME contract photographer, is represented by Magnum.

0
Your rating: None

WAITING PEACEFULLY
WAITING PEACEFULLY: Holocaust survivor Meir Friedman waited to give his personal testimony to Israeli border police officers during a ceremony marking the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day in Martyrs Forest near Jerusalem Thursday. (Oded Balilty/Associated Press)


WAGING WAR? Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, center, waved from the back of a truck as he visited North Kordofan, Sudan, Thursday. He has vowed to topple the government of South Sudan as fighting continued along the countries’ poorly defined, oil-rich border. (Abd Raouf/Associated Press)

SUSPENDED ANIMATION
SUSPENDED ANIMATION: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, left, ‘headed’ the ball during a match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge Stadium in London Wednesday. (Adrian Dennis/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

TRANSFER MISSION
TRANSFER MISSION: The space shuttle Discovery was suspended at Washington Dulles International Airport Thursday. NASA turned over the spacecraft to the Smithsonian Institution, making the shuttle the first in its orbiter fleet to be transferred to a U.S. museum. (Bill Ingalls/NASA/Reuters)

CAUTIOUS
CAUTIOUS: A police officer passed a metal detector across the coffin of Hussein Ahmed at a checkpoint as the body arrived for burial amid a sandstorm in Najaf, Iraq, Thursday. Mr. Ahmed was killed in Baghdad in a wave of morning bombings across several cities that left at least 30 people dead. (Alaa al-Marjani/Associated Press)

COURT COVER
COURT COVER: Attendants covered a court from rain during a match between France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Spain’s Fernando Verdasco at the Monte Carlo Masters tennis tournament in Monaco Thursday. Fourth-seeded Mr. Tsonga beat Mr. Verdasco 7-6 (7), 6-2. (Valery Hache/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

0
Your rating: None

In the late 1970s and early 1980s New York as a whole resembled a haunted house. The photographer John Conn spent those years documenting the subway system - which is to say, the dungeon in the haunted house's basement.

0
Your rating: None