The Northern State or the Far North of Sudan is known for its stability and peace. While other parts of Sudan are caught up in armed conflict, this region is a rare spot of tranquillity, sparking the question: what can the rest of the country learn from this success story?
Abu Elqasim Mohamed Othman, former Mayor of Dongola city, has not seen any gun violence during 40 years he has spent working in the north. “A culture of carrying guns is non-existent in North Sudan. I have never witnessed armed conflict in any area of this state,” he says.
Numerous factors contribute to the north’s safe environment, including its location far from Sudan’s conflict zones and bordering relatively stable states. It also benefits from natural barriers such as the desert, thus making it difficult to smuggle arms.
“The Northern man does not carry a knife since slaughter is the profession of butchers alone.”
However, the main reason for the lack of gun violence is the state’s traditional culture that focuses on inter-communal relations. Citizens have not carried arms since the ancient kingdoms‚ according to King Abdullah Zubair, the last king of Dongola and head of the region’s civil administration. “For centuries, the North has not witnessed any wars or armed conflicts. The available arms, which are very few and officially licensed, are only allocated for personal protection and hunting,” he says.
Northern Sudanese culture hinges on ensuring justice among the various components of the society. Even during the slavery era, the Northern State used to have a sophisticated social system where agricultural activities transformed the system of slavery into an organised waged work system.
The Northern State’s peaceful tradition is a fruit of its stable urban agricultural society, established over generations. It means people are free to live in peace and constructively focus on building up society. “The Northern man does not carry a knife since slaughter is the profession of butchers alone, which indicates that division of labour was firmly established in the community,” says Abdallah El-Sheikh, a journalist and writer from the Northern State.
Locals say no one carries weapons unless they need them professionally, for example, to work as a hunter.
Despite the arrival of new cultures from all over Sudan and gold mining in the Northern desert, with some conflicts cropping up around the mining areas, the vast majority of Northerners still reject violence and views the use of arms as unsafe.
Assuming that the Northerners stick to their culture and clear-cut division of labour, the state will likely preserve its reputation for safety in a nation where the swelling numbers of arms are considered an epidemic.