Farmers turned fighters

The Fur people of Sudan say they are not profiting from their natural resources.

    The Jebel Marra mountains offer an abundance of natural resources in Darfur

    As part of Al Jazeera's exclusive series on Darfur,
    Mohamed Vall spoke to some of the Fur people living in the foothills where Sudan's largest rebel group keeps watch.

    The Jebel Marra mountain in west Darfur is an area abundant with natural resources including vast orange groves.

    When it rains, it pours, creating permanent springs that allow crops to flourish like nowhere else in the region.

    Jebel Marra is an island of fertility in a wider ocean of drought and scarcity.

    Al Sadiq, one local, tells Al Jazeera: "What does Jebel Marra mean? It means abundance in the outdoors. It means wherever you go here you can find food and drink."

    Al Sadiq is a farmer by trade but necessity has turned him into a rebel fighter.

    Darfur literally means "home of the Fur" and Ali Sadiq and his companions from the Fur ethnic group now control the hills around Jebel Marra and their waters - preventing the entry of Arab tribes and government troops.

    According to locals, the visible natural abundance of Jebel Marra is just the tip of the iceberg. Darfurians believe greater treasures lie deep under their feet.

    The heart of Darfur

    -Watch Mohamed Vall's report from Jebel Marra

    -Displaced in Darfur

    -The rebel's story
    Abdul Wahid, a field commander, of the Sudanese Liberation Army, says: "My brother, there are studies that show there is a huge amount of oil and uranium here."

    But the concept of exceptional natural riches has made the Fur bitter about their equally exceptional poverty.

    There is no electricity here, there are no telephones, no paved roads, no hospitals, no real schools and no sign of the state.

    Khadir Abdul Rahman is the mayor-in-exile of Thur village.

    "The economic situation of the people is devastated," he says. "And the government does nothing to help them. Look at our villages.

    "They are like something out of the third century. If the government had given more attention to people here, the conflict would never have reached this level."

    The Fur are traditionally a farming race, and before the war the only job for villagers around Jebel Marra was working the fields.

    But now the occupation of most young men, including Al Sadiq, is fighting.

    While his wife, Mariam, stays at home and makes baby food, Al Sadiq and his comrades are checking RPGs and sending secret messages during breakfast, using the kitchen as an office.

    The fighters tour the village rehearsing their chants while Mariam has to walk for three hours to the fields where she plants potatoes and millet in the rich mountain soil.

    The people in Jebel Marra may be poor, but to some others in Darfur the relative peace and the great fertility of the land in these villages are treasures beyond comparison.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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