Sudan: The Forgotten North

Northern Sudan is a region that has largely been ignored, eclipsed by rebellion in Darfur and a civil war in the south that lasted two decades. But in villages along the Nile in the Nubian desert, far from the conflicts in other parts of the country, Sudanese people are living their own struggles.

Many of these villages have no electricity, no clean water, little infrastructure but run-down schools and empty health clinics. Newly-wed men leave their wives at home to travel abroad, earning money to support their families. Many women are left to raise their children alone. "WE are the muhamisheen," or the neglected, many northerners have said. The conflict in Darfur is far away and irrelevant here.

The Africans and Arabs are both Muslim, and the distinction between their racial heritage means little. They live together peacefully, sending their children to the same schools, operating businesses together and inter-marrying. The northern Arabs say their race has not earned them any points with the Arab-dominated government; they say they are neglected all the same. Heba Aly travels to the northern communities of Sudan to explore what the realities of life there say about race and about the real root of problems in Sudan.

Sudan: The Road North

I had been in Sudan one week when I set off up north to see just how widespread neglect in Sudan really is. One of the reasons behind the problems in Darfur, of course, is long-standing marginalization of the area. Darfurians are mostly black Africans and the government is dominated by Arabs.That is often portrayed as part of the reason for their neglect. Other ethic groups - Christians and animists in the south and the Beja in the east - have also complained of marginalization. But nobody ever hears about the Arabs in the north. I guess the assumption is that they are in good hands, since many government ministers come from the far north. I went to see just how true that assumption is.

Sudan: Popcorn, poems and protest

For days, there has been talk of a million-man protest that was to take place today on the streets of Khartoum, in opposition to the International Criminal Court prosecutor's decision to pursue the Sudanese president for genocide and crimes against humanity. Police, journalists and UN had been awaiting the massive rally, which was to put all the other protests that have taken place almost daily to shame.

From what I've heard, 10 people showed up.

Genocide in Darfur? What Genocide?

In an upper-class neighbourhood of the Sudanese capital, three men sit on a rooftop patio, talking politics between spoonfuls of ice cream and sips of espresso.

"I see the government as good - among the best governments we've had," one says.

Another pipes in: "This government solved the two biggest problems in Sudan - peace in the South and the discovery of oil." He goes on: "Of course, it has a lot of disadvantages: It still hasn't solved poverty, problems of education, job opportunities, unemployment ..."

Sudan: Just another Darfurian's story?

When I decided to come to Sudan, I specifically chose not to focus on Darfur in my reporting because I felt it was already widely covered in the media (unlike other areas of Sudan). Everyone already knows about this, I told myself, let's look at something else. Even as a journalist, sometimes I focus too much on the logical reasoning (ie. "Is this really news? Haven't we already heard this before?") and forget that most basic instinct of wanting to hear and understand another human being's experience and suffering.