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What is ‘Good for Sudan’ to the election monitor Alex de Waal?

April 12 - 2010 KHARTOUM

(Nankose revisited, by Hildebrand Bijleveld)

Somewhere in Khartoum town, the best known Sudan scholar, Alex de Waal, is doing the international monitoring of the elections “on the phone and (by) email to people in all corners of Sudan”. He is excited. The title of his latest weblog item, ‘Good for Sudan’, was even reposted today at Sudan Watch as ‘Great news report from Khartoum, Sudan’. He writes: “For the last 24 years, since I spent Sudan’s last multi-party election day in the village of Nankose, south of Zalingei, whenever I received a message from one of these places, it was usually to report a story of execution, starvation, or forced displacement. My questions were, who is dead and who is alive, who is in prison and who is still free? (…) Today the questions are, did the ballots arrive in time? Were all the names on the electoral roll? What was the voter turnout? Quietly, with dignity, with apprehension and sometimes with confusion and frustration, millions of Sudanese are voting. Good for them”.

Revisiting Nankose, the village De Waal stayed in during the 1986 election, could be revealing about the pair of glasses the international monitors are wearing.

Nankose 24 years ago according to Alex de Waal:

“Nankose is built on a shallow slope overlooking the wadi where most of the arable land lies”, Alex de Waal writes as a yet young scholar. “There is a mosque, a clinic, several shops and a Koranic school. …The main languages spoken are Arabic and Fur”. The town is inhabited by farmers and some recently arrived artisans (mainly weavers). In the wet season one finds millet and sorghum, in the dry season there is enough water for vegetables, onions, tomatoes, okra. Women own their own land in their own right. Fur farmers own as many cattle as Baggara owners. Sheikh Issa, a Fur, entrusts his 200 head of cattle to an Arab herder. Most Baggara Arabs are from the Salamat. For the most part they coexist peacefully, but minor disputes are frequent. Nankose exemplifies a rich part of Darfur, the young de Waal writes (Famine that Kills, Alex de Waal, Ed. 1984/6; sketch above from the same).

Nankose on the elections day 12 April 2010:

Nankose doesn’t exist anymore. There is no polling center in Nankose, according to the National Elections Commission. The people are not bothering about questions like: Did the ballots arrive in time? Were all the names on the electoral roll? What was the voter turnout? The people of Nankose were either killed or are displaced mainly to Garsila. They have not been registered as voters. They do not participate in the elections. Impatient, without dignity, without apprehension and completely confused and frustrated they are not voting. Not good for them. (Disclaimer: Due to travel restrictions Alex de Waal obviously was not able to monitor elections in Nankose).

Satellite image of Nankose in 2006 showing destroyed habitations (Google Earth)

What happened to Nankose according to Alex de Waal:

“Arab supremacism in Darfur was born in 1987 along with the region’s ‘Arab Alliance,’ which owes more to Khartoum and Libya than to any realities in Darfur. ” (Alex de Waal in ACAS Bulletin, No. 72, Winter 2005/Spring 2006/7).

“Is it genocide?” Alex de Waal himself asked in July 2004. Yes. “The violence is far in excess of what would be considered proportionate for counter-insurgency purposes, including the deliberate killing, raping and starving of civilians, and the destruction of their livelihoods. Genocidal intent can be shown. (…) The people of Darfur have shown comparable resilience in surviving famine: let us hope they have the same skills when faced with genocidal massacre”.

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