“Are We Part of Sudan?” An Architectural Commentary
Buildings tell us a great deal. The top photograph is a view of Khartoum, showing Friendship Hall and some of the new buildings in Mogran.
This represents just the beginning of the ambitious Mogran development, by the Alsunut corporation, which compares its vision to Dubai. The image at left is taken from its publicity, which promises that this represents “the future of Khartoum.”
Meanwhile, two images from Darfur illustrate what Darfurians have in mind when they ask, “are we part of Sudan?” and suggest that the most important component of justice for Darfur is equitable distribution of resources. The first image is from an IDP camp near Zalingei. When IDP camps are described as turning into small towns, it is this kind of “development” that is referred to. The architecture is self-designed and the buildings are entirely self-built.
The second image is a typical village scene, this one in Ain Siro in north Darfur, which shows the traditional houses, locally built, whose design has not changed in centuries. The disparities speak for themselves.
Dear Alex de Waal
When it comes to compare every part of Sudan with Khartoum, then every part will be another Darfur. Khartoum with its recent booming architectural appearanc represents a unique spot in the geography of Sudan with which no other part can be compared. The imbalanced distribution of wealth, education opportunities and jobs has been the backbone of every protesting movement in Sudan. The concentration of chances and services in Khartoum has made it a magnet that indefinitely attracts people from everywhere in Sudan to a degree that the demographical structure of Khartoum has changed in a remakable way. In the the recent census Khartoum scored the state with the largest population share a lot of them are being attracted to fulfil thier personal ambitions which are impossible to be realized in thier areas of origin.
The story of marginalization is a genuine Sudanese story to which every part of the country has to pay its share of tax. The images you have shown in your article to speak for the the legitimacy of the Darfurians’ question ” are we part of Sudan ?” can be seen everywhere in Sudan even in the peripheries of Khartoum itself and yet no one questions his belonging to Sudan. The luxurious samples chosen to compare with are not true representation of Sudan as we know it and as we live in it.
Dear Abdallah. You make an excellent point. Pictures, their selection and juxtaposition, tell stories. I criticized “What Matters” for the disjuncture of its pictures and its written storyline. You will notice, among other things, that I chose pictures without human beings, and that the architecture (such as it is) of the IDP camp and the village do not suggest a clear hierarchy of better/worse. I could have selected different pictures: for example a photograph of a Nyala street crowded with overladen long-distance trucks alongside taxis and rukshas, and contrasted that with some of the desolate shanty towns near Jebel Aulia south of Khartoum, or indeed the cities of southern Sudan which are far less developed than Nyala. My point is that the Darfurians perceive and highlight this particular contrast. Their view is not wrong–though it may be incomplete. Best regards, Alex
The question of distribution of wealth in Sudan is not new and is posed time and time again since our independence. Khartoum has been lagging behind in all manner of major and minor development when compared with other developing countries. It is only natural that investment is made in Khartoum to provide the services and infrastructure necessary to generate income and attract foreign investment. The first destination of any investor is the capital city or a metropolis and not a small town or village.
In as much as we can not compare the level of development of London to say that of Bampton in Exmore (London is responsible for about 25% of the economy of the UK while Bampton is a village with a Spar shop, two pubs, a fresh veg shop and a cafe that shuts around 4pm), we can not compare Khartoum to the village in Ain Siro.
The view of the Darfurians is not wrong but is is not right either, but I definitely agree it is incomplete. Sudan is a a result of colonial boundaries drawn by the British. Are we part of Sudan? Yes we are. We have seen the marginalisation of Kordufan, Darfur and the South since our independence, but taking up arms and empty rhetoric does not solve the problem.
Its undisputable that their is a disparity in development in Sudan but rather then this beeing down to race and ethnicity as the rebels have liked to claim it is mainly down to Geography and resources.
For example the areas with the best infrastructure are the central agricultural states not the northern states,while in Northern state some of the major towns are not connected to the national grid the villages of Blue nile state are connected to the national grid even though that many of the tribes in that state are non Arab such as the ingasana,fulani and funj the reason why they have better electricity is because they are right next to the roseries Dam.
Another Example is Port Sudan in the Beja heartland of Eastern Sudan,Port Sudan happens to be more prosperouse then khartoum and the reason for that is its strategic location as Sudans gateway to the Red Sea.
The wealth Distribution in Sudan has never been based on race and the Idea of equal economic development across a country would be difficult to achieve even under a communist system infact if we choose the example of china where wages in provinces such as sichuan are a fifth of those in Guangdong we can see that the disparity in wealth across states and provinces of a country are not limited to Sudan however it would be difficult for some one from Sichuan to portray the wealth divide as been down to race since most chinese originate from one ethnic group the Han. Also another example of the disparity in wealth in the world is the UK in the North East of England wages are less then Â£15000 however in london they are more then Â£30000 the inequality in wealth divide is in every country in the world the difference is that in Sudan rebels want to make this about race when it isnt.
Also another reason for the disparity between wealth in khartoum and the rest of the country is due to Sudanese expatriates who pump money in to the real estate and services sectors of the city,many suburbs of khartoum are named after cities in the Gulf where the expatriates have returned from,around 80% of people who live in al riyad suburb have spent some time working abroad,the Government has no way of investing in the same way these expatriates have done in khartoum in other parts of the country.
And the disparity in wealth which you show in those pictures can be seen clearly in cities such as Nairobi and Mumbai.
There is another irony in these pictures which no-one has yet commented upon. Right opposite Friendship Hall and the Mogran towers lies the island of Tutti, which physically resembles any small town in rural Sudan (though now with the Tutti bridge it has a few more cars). Right at the geographical center of Sudan lies an under-developed place… Had I turned my camera I could have captured that and presented pictures with very different implications.
Exactly,The majority of the capital resembles the rest of the country but the camera all ways settles on that half a kilometer in central khartoum. The vast vast majority of khartoumites dont eat out at Burj al fateh or shop at afra.
But the problem is getting rid of this misconception. if a rebel comes to you and tells you that while your riding your donkey and getting water from wells,the elites in khartoum are living in luxury,and the reason for that is race,undoubtably that would anger you.
Theres a sudanese saying that goes, a blind man at the dinner table will allways feel hes been cheated. This is the problem a person living a difficult life in Darfur cant comprehend that these difficulties are suffered all over Sudan. A rebel giving a reason for their suffering,making them feel anger rather then helplesness will have an easy case to sell.
The only viable solution I think is for sudan to switch to federalism,because frankly there will never be equality in Sudan like there isnt equality in any corner of the world. Darfur will unlikely ever be as wealthy as al jazeera.If everyone eats from his own plate no one can complain that hes not getting a fair deal.