Caught in the crossfire are the African people of the Nuba Mountains, a buffer area between north and south. Some are Christian. Some are Muslim. Many follow traditional beliefs. But all believe they represent a distinct and rich culture, famous for wrestling and an isolated lifestyle in landlocked villages.
In 1992, the government declared jihad on the Nuba, taking land and conducting slave raids. People were rounded up and put into camps, where they were forced to convert to Islam and give up African customs.
Anthor Omar, a tailor, crafts a shirt and a new life at his old home in Sudan's Nuba Mountains after 14 years away.
(Evelyn Hockstein For The Washington Post)
_____News from Kenya_____
Pact Signed Toward Ending Sudan War (The Washington Post, May 27, 2004)
Far From Home, a Mother Shares Triumph (The Washington Post, May 19, 2004)
An Idea Still Looking for Traction in Kenya (The Washington Post, May 18, 2004)
FBI Ponders Identity of 'Third Man' in N.Y. Incident (The Washington Post, May 16, 2004)
Kenya Leads Pack In Boston Marathon (The Washington Post, Apr 20, 2004)
A recent round of talks in Kenya has brought the country close to peace. Under pressure from the United States, the two sides have agreed that the south will vote for self-determination after six years of rule by the central government.
After a peace deal is signed, millions of southern Sudanese -- from inside the country and from its neighbors -- are expected to return to their homes in a new Sudan.
"You want me to marry, who?" James Badradin protested. He had been home for 10 days and had already been introduced to four girls. But his hipster jeans and his music, items that would appeal to women in Nairobi, caused no ripple here in the isolated Nuba Mountains. And there was another problem: None of the girls could read or write.
"No," he said, recounting his argument with his father. "I just can't marry someone who doesn't know words."
"Don't you want a woman who will carry water?" his father asked him.
His son, wearing a muscle shirt and jeans, just shrugged. "So there's still no running water," he said with a sigh. "I forgot."
Badradin is tall, lean and muscular. He speaks perfect English, and when he stands at the market in Kauda, about 400 miles south of Khartoum, people with shorn heads and dressed in old, torn clothing stare at him.
"I guess they have never seen MTV," he said with a laugh.
What brought him into contact with the outside world was something he doesn't like to talk about: war. At the age of 10 he was taken to fight with the SPLA. He was strong, and the commanders sensed he was bright.
"My mother cried," he recalled. "We were too close. Now I am here, and she is in Khartoum. Imagine me going up there. Me, a former SPLA guy? And besides, she won't recognize me. She wouldn't know if this one were James, or another one were James."
He said he may try to send word that he is home. But he would be sad to tell his mother of his life as a soldier.
Badradin didn't much care for being in the army. "I like words and talking," he said. "I'd be a lawyer if I could. I don't like the hiding in bushes with weapons or taking orders from the old men."