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Monday, January 10, 2005

Salaam-Alaikum, peace.

People in Sudan celebrate a peace deal today. So do I.
So much suffering for so long and so invisible to most of the world.

Around 16 years ago I travelled in Sudan with my daughter. We weren't allowed to travel to the south (I wouldn't have gone anyway) but I met people working for Aid Agencies who did. They talked, not only of the dangers, but also of the "normality" of passing dead bodies lying on the side of the road on their journeys to and from the south.

And talking of normality I remember drinking tea in the compound of a hospitable family in Khartoum who generously opened their house to my daughter and I. Night fell and they laughed as I jumped when a young man scuttled past us to their outhouse. They told me he was their "slave" from the south. He was only able to do his errands for the family when it was dark because, they told me, he was afraid of the daylight. He was also terrified of my daughter (who was five) and he hadn't, they told me, ever seen a white person. He was probably about 13 years old and lived in a dark space on the floor. They saw their relationship with him as a symbiotic one. Having "found" him in Khartoum, lost, without a family and not able to speak - they gave him food and shelter in return for doing some of their chores.

Such degradation and misery in the biggest country in Africa. And also such openness, warmth, hospitality and wisdom from so many people I met on my travels. And such normality. Oh yes, I celebrate the signing of this peace deal today.


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