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Bittersweet Homecomings in War-Weary Sudan

Still, he said, he had been an obedient soldier, and after several years, SPLA commanders picked him to go to school, as they did with many of the brighter boys, to be trained for a leadership position in the army.

He was sent to Uganda to study. He never rejoined the army. A French man he met in Kampala, the capital, heard his story and offered to sponsor his schooling.


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 Sudan_____
Sudanese Decry U.N. Threat of Sanctions (The Washington Post, Sep 20, 2004)
U.N. Puts Sudan Sanctions Into Play (The Washington Post, Sep 19, 2004)
Death Rates in Darfur Rising, WHO Says (The Washington Post, Sep 15, 2004)
More News from Sudan
_____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)

"They tell you to go to the bush and fight. You cannot refuse. Someone else tells you they can pay your school fees, and man, you cannot refuse," he said, shrugging and smiling.

He did so well that he earned a scholarship to the University of Nairobi and was off to East Africa's teeming capital, where the ambitious pack the city to make money. He finished his course work in liberal arts and worked odd jobs at hip-hop discos. Soon after, he heard a cease-fire had been declared in Nuba.

So he came home. But now he doesn't know what to make of it. He said he was disgusted when he saw his family sleeping with animals -- goats, dogs, chickens -- inside the house. Several aid groups are considering hiring him as a translator or perhaps to work with computers.

"I would be with the outsiders," he said, looking down. "Isn't that something?" And he walked off into the market.

No Land to Farm

Dressed in a white robe, Saed Doaa, 39, lounged at his neighborhood mosque in Kauda and lamented that fellow Muslims had taken his land, his farm and his home.

"Why even bother returning?" he said he complained to his imam. "These people are not Muslims. They have taken everything." When he arrived back in Nuba a year ago, he discovered that his fruit farm, nestled among the most fertile hills of Nuba, had been seized by the government.

He fled to Ethiopia 15 years ago, walking the entire way, with others who were leaving Sudan. "We walked from nowhere to nowhere and then walked more," he said, as his friends shook their heads in sympathy. He lived as a refugee in Ethiopia, sometimes begging in the streets, sometimes finding work cleaning floors.

Now there is a cease-fire, but he has no land to farm. "Where do I go? How do I feed them?" he said, pointing to a line of his children waiting in a straw hut nearby. He has nine. In Nuba, losing your land is like being fired from your job.

But the problem has become a familiar one. Sixty percent of the fertile land in Nuba has been taken over by the government for mechanized state-run farms, according to local and international reports. The government told the residents of Nuba that the land belonged to God, according to human rights groups and dozens of people who testified to losing their property.

Nuba is the breadbasket of Sudan, with some of the country's most fertile land. The local governor, Abulaziz Adam Alhilu, says that land re-allocation is the single biggest issue in the region.

"Without backing and determination to solve these problems, war could explode again," he cautioned.

Doaa's transition to his old life in Nuba has been marked by anger at times and depression at others. He built a mud hut on a friend's land and lives there with his wife and children.


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