In this picture taken Tuesday, April 14, 2015, a Sudanese woman walks outside her home in Izba, an impoverished neighborhood, on the outskirts of Khartoum, Sudan. Izba is one sign of how the constant internal wars, under Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, have shaped, Khartoum. Before al-Bashir came to power, Izba was home to a community of Arab tribesmen who had settled here to be close to the capital. But through the 1990s and 2000s, it swelled with Sudanese fleeing war zones around the country. Now 70,000 people live crammed into Izba, an area of about a square mile. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy) The Associated Press
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — During a quarter-century in power, President Omar al-Bashir has succeeded in keeping an iron grip on Sudan despite repeated disasters that would have toppled many. This week’s election seems certain to entrench his rule.
Sudan lost a third of its territory as South Sudan broke away. The rest of the country has been torn by multiple internal wars and battered by crippling international sanctions for alleged support of terrorism. Al-Bashir is the world’s first sitting president wanted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity over atrocities in the Darfur conflict. At home poverty has swelled.
His success has come in part from a heavy security hand that has silenced dissent. Despairing of any vote breaking his grip, few Sudanese turned out for four days of elections this week, ending Thursday. But snapshots can be found of the dissent and discontent.
The impoverished neighborhood of Izba is one sign of how constant wars have shaped Khartoum. Before the 1989 coup that brought al-Bashir to power, Izba was a small community of Arab tribesmen who settled on the capital’s edge. But through the 1990s and 2000s, it ballooned with Sudanese fleeing war zones around the country, particularly Darfur in the west and Kordofan on the border with the south.
Now 70,000 residents live crammed in about a square mile area. Half-naked barefoot children play in dusty, unpaved alleys between mud-brick houses.
The worst is during the summer rainy season, when the neighborhood floods. Residents scramble to scoop out rising water in their homes. The mud brick dissolves in the rain, damaging homes — last season, 250 houses were destroyed.
Mariam al-Mahdi’s five-room home was washed away in the night last year. “In the morning, the house was gone,” she told The Associated Press. It’s still in ruins, and the 30-year-old’s family lives in a shack nearby.
Every year, residents have to rebuild their houses. Around 80 percent of residents make only around $5 a day and are unable to afford more sturdy homes. Most men work as day laborers in construction, some of the women are tea vendors in the streets. The district has suffered from years of neglect. Public transport doesn’t reach it. There’s a single medical clinic but no hospitals, and few people have public health insurance.
The neighborhood got its first paved road just two months before this week’s election. Residents saw it as a sop from a president who has otherwise ignored them.
Abdel-Motalib Abdullah, a resident who campaigned for candidates running against the ruling party in the election, drew an analogy:
“A hunter in red clothes dug a trap for an elephant. The elephant fell in the trap and got injured. Next day, the same hunter, but dressed in white, comes and treats the elephant’s injury. This is what al-Bashir does to us.”
At midnight on Dec. 6, security forces descended on the home of Sudan’s most prominent human rights advocate, Amin Mekki Medani. He had just returned from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he met with opposition parties to work out their unified demands that al-Bashir postpone elections, form a unity government and amend the constitution.
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