No Football Please, We’re Janjaweed

Sileia’s football pitch

Sileia in West Darfur was snatched by rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) last year. It was recaptured by the Government of Sudan in February, using Antonov bombers and the Janjaweed to do most of the work. It is a dusty, broken-down town reached by a bone-crunching three-hour drive along gnarled tracks and dried-up river beds – or wadis. It must have been a harsh place to live in the first place. And then the Janjaweed smashed it up. The market is littered with sorghum, ripped cardboard, old batteries and shredded plastic. On the side of one brick building, someone has chalked: “Brothers, go and destroy”.
It was vandalism essentially. Much of the village was simply smashed up: A warning to the local population that support for the rebels will not be tolerated.
I’ve seen this before, and I’m sure I’ll see it again. But then I saw something new. They had pulled down one set of goalposts on the town football pitch. As an aid worker I met said…

“When the government controlled Sileia they played football here. Then when Jem controlled the place they would play football. There would always be games going on between town sides and the NGOs would play here as well. Now even that has been destroyed.”