In Sudan, the Front Line is Everywhere

 

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Photojournalist Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin accompanied Foreign Policy contributor James Verini into the battlegrounds of the Nuba Mountains, where the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) is fighting the government of Khartoum for a measure of autonomy from the Arab north. In this decade-long struggle -- seemingly the latest in Sudan's tortured history -- it is, as always, the civilians who pay the greatest price. In the border region of South Kordofan, an SPLA-N general tells Verini, "the front line is everywhere." Above, women carry water back to their homes as the sun rises over Yida Refugee Camp, just across the border in South Sudan. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is preparing for the possibility of a new influx of refugees from South Kordofan in the coming months as people flee increased fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and SPLA-N. Dwindling food reserves have made the humanitarian situation even more acute.

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Fadi, 13, stands outside his home in Tabanya, South Kordofan

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The bike of a SPLA-N soldier outside Tabanya, South Kordofan. Bicycles, for those lucky enough to have them, are a favored mode of transport in South Kordofan. The rest walk

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Ali, a SPLA-N soldier wears a uniform that still bears the vestiges of the yellow GOSS (Government of South Sudan) embroidery below the South Sudanese flag. The SPLA-N is a splinter group from the South Sudanese army that broke off after partition from Sudan in 2011. Sudan has criticized South Sudan for supporting the SPLA-N, a claim which South Sudan denies

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Many soldiers decorate their guns with traditional beaded rings and wraps. Some wind copper wire around the barrel of their gun, an amulet they claim allows them to shoot enemies who have protective spells. The barrels of others bear small, beaded rings -- protective gifts given by loved ones

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Mohammed, 41, Mustafa, 19, and Abdul Rahim, 23 (L to R), are all prisoners of war captured during the recent battle at Daldoko. "I wanted to end my life when I found out we were fighting Muslim brothers," professed Mustafa, "I asked to be shot." When asked what he wanted now, he confessed his desire to go home, but still felt he deserved to die. "God will not forgive me." Read more about their stories in James Verini's dispatch from Nuba

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A mother and her two children rest in the shade of a rocky hillside crevice. Trying to escape the almost daily danger of bombings by SAF, many families have sought refuge in the myriad caves and fissures dotting the rocky mountainsides of South Kordofan

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A man on a camel and a young boy on foot herd sheep along the road outside of Kurchi, South Kordofan

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A SPLA-N soldier reaches for some bread and lentils cooling on the treads of a tank

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A villager walks through the sight of a SAF tank captured by SPLA-N in a recent battle

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A SPLA-N soldier rests in the shade of a truck at base in Daldoko, South Kordofan

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Hasnah is from a village nearby Daldoko, but was recently forced to leave due to the heavy fighting

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Farah's home near Daldoko was recently destroyed by SAF. She now lives nearby with a few other women who also fled

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A group of boys watch as a World Food Programme (WFP) plane readies for an airdrop over Yida. Roads were washed out during the rainy season and WFP was forced to conduct two daily food drops, each of 30 metric tons of staple goods

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Marsa, a refugee at Yida refugee camp, returns to her home after a WFP food distribution. Over the course of four days every month, WFP and partners deliver food rations to all 55,000 people currently in Yida. Some 14,400 people were served on this particular day

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The flat land stretching around Kadugli, South Kordofan, is dotted by large rocky hills -- perfect places for soldiers to see what's happening in the distance

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Ali, an SPLA-N soldier, takes a moment to rest as the afternoon sun eases into evening

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A family cooks around a tree near Tabanya, South Kordofan

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Men repair a truck tire under South Kordofan's big sky

 

In the battle for South Kordofan, civilians pay the biggest price

PHOTOGRAPHS BY MACKENZIE KNOWLES-COURSIN | JANUARY 22, 2013

Foreign Policy