Sudan has been the stage for long-running conflicts and dramatic desertification, causing the movement of thousands of Sudanese, looking for a better life within and around the country. The split between the north and south in July 2011 and the deflation of the Sudanese pound, have caused the number of socio-economic migrants to rise even higher. Christiaan hitched a ride with two internal migrants from Kordofan, a former province of central Sudan.
"Are you driving in the direction of Khartoum and can I ride with you?" Full of excitement, I await a response from the man in the passenger seat. With his deep dark skin, Andrew is clearly not from the region in which I am right now. His brother, sitting in the back, smiles at me. The driver, who says something in Arabic, seems to be coming from this northern region.
So far so good
Hitchhiking in Northern Sudan has been good so far; there are not many cars on the road but if one passes by it stops as soon as I have my thumb in the air. My last ride was on board of a huge yellow truck. But I was forced to stop here at Al Gabzah because its engine was overheating.
"Yes, we are driving to Khartoum. You can come with us but you have to pay for an amount of the gasoline," Andrew replies. Paying for a ride is perfectly normal in Africa. So, after halving the price to 25 Sudanese pounds (4 euros 20 cents), I throw my bag at the back of the pickup and I hop in.
Andrew Yassir, who is 24, and his 30-year-old brother Tingil are being driven by a chauffeur. They are on their way home, to Khartoum. "We work in construction and are building houses," Andrew begins to explain. "Four months ago, we got a contract in Dongola, a town in the northern part of Sudan. That is where we are coming from now. The Feast of Sacrifice will start tomorrow and for that reason we have holiday now. My brother and I are Christians, you know."
"Whether it is Khartoum or Dongola, we will work anywhere, wherever they need builders," Andrew carries on. "The people in Dongola are very good people, they give you tea, coffee and food in their houses. Although they are Muslims, we do everything together. We drink together, we talk together and we eat together. The only difference is that they go to the mosque and we go to church."
The brothers are originally from Kordofan, a region that has seen an increase in violence between the Sudan army and the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a coalition between several rebel groups. A conflict arose at the beginning of 2010, right before South Sudan became independent, following a dispute over the oil-rich region of Abyei. British newspaper The Guardian says an estimated 1.4 million people have been affected by this conflict. The Yassir brothers are two of them.
"When I was seven years old I travelled to Juba, South Sudan, in search for a better education in English," says Andrew. "By that time, there was no education at all in Kordofan. We are a poor region, you see. But schools in Juba were just as bad. I decided to go back to Kordofan when I was ten."
"The word of God"
Andrew tells me that he and his brother came to the conclusion they had to look for a job. Up until a year ago, they didn't have any money. "We found that job in Khartoum, where cleaners and builders are much needed. We earn a good living and the work is not that bad. We have a lot of Kordofan friends who also work in Khartoum and I even have a girlfriend in the city."
"The word of God"
But, Andrew does not want to spend the rest of his life in the Sudanese capital. "I really want to go back to my family. But I can't, there is no chance. I hope I will see them one day again. I miss them. It has been many years since I saw them for the last time."
Besides, the young Sudanese man does not want to work too long in the construction world. He says his dream and ambition is to go to school, a religious school. "I want to become a preacher so I can teach people that you should love and not kill each other," he tells me. "Furthermore, I want to teach them not to steal, not to cheat, and let them understand the word of God."
Tingil's ambition is rather simple. "I am planning to work as much as possible so I will have a lot of money. When I have reached a certain amount, I will deposit it in the bank and give some money to poor people. That's all."
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