Civil War And Displacement – Through The Eyes Of A Poet

One Sudanese poet’s words reflect the pain and the loss of a year of devastating war in Sudan.


Emi Mahmoud was born in Sudan, where a year of fighting between the army and a powerful paramilitary group has sparked the world’s worst displacement crisis. Mahmoud is an ambassador for the UN’s refugee agency and a poet. Her words are drawing attention to the devastation war has brought to her birth country. NPR’s Emmanuel Akinwotu has the story.


EMI MAHMOUD: (Reading) Another war came crashing down on our bodies.

EMMANUEL AKINWOTU, BYLINE: These are the pulsing opening lines of “Sudan Balady,” meaning “Sudan, My Country,” by Emi Mahmoud.


MAHMOUD: (Reading) The cut of a broken piece and the bite of a broken promise are the same, except with the first one, that follows and takes everyone around you.

AKINWOTU: It describes the layers of disbelief millions in Sudan have felt since last April, of the grief that has gripped her family, like millions of others…


MAHMOUD: (Reading) Rotting in the streets – every university became a grave, every garden, a final resting place. Our brothers and sisters fall faster than we can dig the holes.

AKINWOTU: …And how international support for Sudan, despite an acute humanitarian crisis, has been so absent.


MAHMOUD: (Reading) Blood in the streets of Khartoum and El Obeid, blood in the wadis of Nyala and Al Junaynah, blood in the mountains of Al-Fashir, the pyramids of Meroe, blood across the skies of our beautiful country, Sudan – balady, who did this to you, my love? Who stripped you bare and turned all your children loose?

We thought and fully believed that the worst was behind us, and come to find out that it’s really ahead.

AKINWOTU: Mahmoud was born in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, and lives in the U.S., which is where she was when the fighting started last April between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, or RSF. Just a few years before, a revolution in Sudan toppled longtime leader Omar al-Bashir.

MAHMOUD: When the revolution started, it was a peaceful revolution that was young people pushing for democracy.

AKINWOTU: It’s led to a civilian-led government and hopes for the country’s future, hopes that she feels the international community failed to protect. In 2021, a coup by the army supported by the RSF changed Sudan’s course, and now a war for control of Sudan has left much of it destroyed.


MAHMOUD: (Reading) Our families broke fast together one night and planned burials together by morning.

AKINWOTU: The fighting began during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, celebrated again over the last month.

MAHMOUD: There’s no consent among the civilians. Civilians are completely against this war, and yet it’s being called a civil war. So much has been done in our name for so long that it’s very painful to see this happening again.

AKINWOTU: According to conservative UN estimates, at least 14,000 people have died during the course of the conflict, but the toll is likely to be much higher in Darfur alone, where Mahmoud is originally from. The region in West Sudan suffered a genocide against African ethnic groups 20 years ago and has seen a resurgence of ethnic cleansing committed by the RSF and groups aligned with it.


MAHMOUD: (Reading) My uncle Abdul Aziz (ph) walked home from prayer. The bombs tore down from above, took him and four neighbors away from us.

AKINWOTU: The intensity of the ongoing war has meant that many families like Mahmoud’s have been unable to bury their loved ones, including seven members of her family.

MAHMOUD: In Islam, there’s this belief that essentially your humanity is considered in that moment of burial, and so the last deed that your loved ones do for you is that they bury you. Yeah. And they pray over you, and they give you, like, a proper burial. That wasn’t possible because the bombings continued.


MAHMOUD: (Reading) Who pulled the trigger? Who bought the bullets? Who sold the guns?

AKINWOTU: After a year of conflict, neither side has a definitive advantage, while international actors are widely believed to be increasingly active in the war.


MAHMOUD: (Reading) Who will stop the war? Who will bring the peace? Who decides who lives or dies?

AKINWOTU: A new round of talks are set to begin in Saudi Arabia, but it’s unclear if they will succeed where several other talks have failed. And Sudan’s collapse continues, and the fighting goes on unabated.


MAHMOUD: (Reading) My country, Sudan, balady, my love – who did this to you?

AKINWOTU: Emmanuel Akinwotu, NPR News, Lagos.


MAHMOUD: (Reading) My country, can you hear me? My country, can you hear me?


Copyright © 2024 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top