'Sad Eid': Muslim feast a distant dream in war-torn Sudan

AFP , Tuesday 27 Jun 2023

For many Sudanese struggling to survive the war, a taste of the sheep Muslims traditionally sacrifice for the feast of Eid al-Adha is but a distant memory.

Eid al-Adha in al-Hasaheisa, Sudan
Farmers wait for customers at a livestock market ahead of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha in al-Hasaheisa, about 120 kilometres south of Sudan s capital, on June 26, 2023. AFP


The conflict, now in its third month, has brought death and turmoil and displaced millions in the country that was already poverty-stricken before the fighting erupted.

Like many Khartoum residents, Hanan Adam fled with her six children when the battles broke out in mid-April between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Now living at a makeshift camp south of the city, her family is trying to celebrate Eid far from home and without much joy.

"Under these conditions, Eid will be sad," she told AFP from the camp in Al-Hasaheisa, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the capital.

Not a day goes by without her children, aged between two and 15, asking when they will return home, she said.

Well before the conflict began, two-thirds of Sudan's population was living below the poverty line, and one in three relied on humanitarian aid to make ends meet, according to UN figures.

In past years, those Sudanese Muslims who could afford it would slaughter an animal, in reference to the story of the lamb that God provided the prophet Abraham for sacrifice in order to spare his son Ismail.

However, this year meat is a rare luxury as the war has disrupted daily life and trade, shuttered markets and banks, and left millions trapped inside their homes, running low on bare essentials.

'Unattainable Dream' 

"We cannot even buy mutton," said Mawaheb Omar, a mother of four who has refused to abandon her Khartoum home despite the gun battles and air strikes.

Eid will be "miserable and tasteless" this year, she added.

Omar Ibrahim, who lives with his three children in Khartoum's Shambat district, said the rituals of Eid have become an "unattainable dream".

Khartoum has been the main battleground of the conflict between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.

The RSF has announced a unilateral Eid ceasefire, but many Sudanese are wary after a series of previous truce pledges were all quickly violated by both sides.

"Will the guns be silent for Eid?", asked Ibrahim.

The war has also raged in Sudan's cattle-raising regions: Darfur and Kordofan, which were already among the country's poorest before the war.

Mohammed Babiker, a livestock trader in Wad Madani, 200 kilometres south of the capital, said he used to bring his animals to the capital and elsewhere to sell for Eid.

But now "herders can no longer bring their cattle," he told AFP, surrounded by a flock of sheep on one of the city's main streets.

Othman Mubarak, another trader, said this year he has "sold nothing" in Khartoum.

"The Feast of Sacrifice is the time of year when we would make the most sales," he said. "But this time my colleagues and I are forcibly unemployed."

'No Income' 

In Sudan's north, which has so far been largely spared by the war, Abdallah al-Nemir gathered his sheep to sell at the Wad Hamed market, some 150 kilometres from Khartoum.

"We have sheep to sell, but people don't have money, so we don't make sales," he told AFP. "People have no income because of the war."

Khartoum has placed civil servants on open-ended leave, and many are now struggling to meet their basic needs.

"The war has affected them, they have not received their salaries and will not receive them for a while," Moawiya Mohammed, another livestock trader, told AFP.

"The situation is difficult and the purchasing power is weak."

Traders say they have lowered their prices to make some sales.

Sheep are being sold this year for between $175 and $240, down from $300 for the biggest ones last year.

Civil servant Imad Mahieddine, who was among those wandering through the Wad Madani livestock market, said this year he was only looking.

He said he had gone without pay for three months and "will not buy sheep this year".

Short link: