General Mahdi Babo Nimir, a wiry 78 year-old, straightened up the framed, photocopied photo of his father on his lounge room wall. Opposite his father's photograph hangs a portrait of his grandfather, in full riding regalia, complete with plumed helmet, painted in the era of the British rule of Sudan.
Nimir was born in Sudan's north-south border area of Abyei. His father and grandfather were paramount chiefs of the Misseriya people, a nomadic Arab group in the area. And today the chieftaincy belongs to his brother, Sadig Nimir. Babo Nimir invited me to Abyei "to see with your own eyes" the situation there. However the Sudanese government's unofficial, yet watertight, ban on foreign journalists traveling out of Khartoum right now prevented me from taking up the offer. Instead, we had a long interview over multiple cups of tea at Nimir's expansive Khartoum home.
Abyei is an area that may well become as familiar to outsiders as Darfur has in recent years, because if a 2005 peace deal between the southern-based Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement (SPLM) and Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) fails in the coming months, Abyei is likely to be the trigger.