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The Internally Displaced People (IDPs) from Khartoum in Kosti*

Updated: Feb 5

Testimony of Mohammed Jamal Ajabna, August 2023, Kosti, White Nile State

At the start of the war on the 15th of April between the Sudanese Armed Forces ( SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces nobody expected the conflict to last this long. We all assumed that it would be a question of a few weeks at most. For this reason, none of us thought or even imagined that one day we would become displaced from our homes and fit into the category of internally displaced people ( IDPs). However, the warfare in Khartoum escalated quickly, especially in the neighborhoods located in central parts of Greater Khartoum. After one week, I found myself forced to leave our house in Deim with my family. My maternal cousin decided to stay behind so the house would not remain empty. We headed to our second home located further south in Kalakla, Khartoum state, approximately 15 km away from Deim. We stayed in Kalakla for two months where it was relatively safe for some time. However, in the end, we had no choice but to depart, escaping the ever-increasing danger that was overtaking the whole city.

This was a risky decision since we had no idea what could happen en route. We headed south and eventually reached the the city of Kosti, White Nile State after a two-day journey. We had not necessarily chosen this destination in a planned manner, the choice was driven by the untenable situation in Khartoum and our need to leave due to the bombardments and urban warfare that were taking place in proximity to the house. We did not know many people in the city of Kosti, but we did have some family friends who kindly hosted us in their home for a week upon our arrival. I did not want to register as an internally displaced person with local organizations offering basic support and shelter.

The shelters were very basic and located in makeshift camps or within schools. They could support the urgency of the moment but were not equipped for a long-term stay. I opted to rent a house for the family even though the cost was extremely high ( 700 000 Sudanese pounds approx 1400 USD / at the time 1 USD was 50 Sudanese pounds ).

There are three types of internally displaced people in Kosti according to my observations. The first category are those who have relatives or close connections in the city. These individuals were willing to host them and share their material and financial resources. Therefore this group was fortunate and did not have to spend money on expensive rent. They found good accommodation and we're in a relatively better situation than other IDPs. The second type shared the situation I found myself in. They had decided not to approach the local organisations for support and refused to be placed within IDP camps or in schools or refuge centres. They did not have any social connections in the city. At the time they were able to pay the expensive rental asking prices, but the situation was challenging nonetheless since the prices were increasing and they were at risk of running out of money and depleting their savings. The landlords within the city exploited the difficult circumstances and would not offer rental contact exceeding two months. This allowed them to set the rental prices arbitrarily and on their own terms.

The local state authorities did nothing to regulate this state of affairs and therefore the housing economy became the site of exploitative economic gain which was driven by a ruthless war economy that had no consideration for the fact that the people fleeing the violence in Khartoum were presently lacking any sustainable sources of income and were under financial and psychological strain.

The third segment of IDPs were those who equally had no relatives or friends in the city. Unlike the second group, they could not afford private rentals. In addition, they could barely afford basic needs such as food and medicines. For this reason they had to head to the IDP camps. There were over 20 camps that had been set up throughout the city of Kosti. It was interesting to note that these camps had not been set up by the government, rather they had been constructed in make-shift fashion through the tremendous efforts of the local resistance committees in collaboration with local residents who had mobilised on a voluntary charitable basis.

As previously stated, the hosting spaces ( camps) were located within public schools - having 6 to 10 classes, a few administrative offices, two to four toilet facilities, shower cubicles, and small yards. Such structures hosted a large number of individuals ( 40 to 70 families) and as such the living conditions were cramped and extremely difficult. Most of these families were made up of women and children. The situation was rendered even more challenging by the fact that people had been met by the rainy season in Sudan (kharif) which is always a difficult season in Sudan due to poor infrastructure. This time the situation was made worse by the circumstances of war and the rainfall was very heavy in Kosti at the end of July and during the whole month of August. The people arriving from Khartoum as IDPs did not find shelters that were adequate for the climatic situation which also put them at risk of malaria due to the proliferation of mosquitoes which flourished in the wet and humid conditions of the city.

For the most part, the families received two meals a day through the activities performed by the resistance committees and local charitable endeavours. The meals were provided at Ali Al Tom school and Al Ahlia school, however despite the good intentions they were basic and did not meet all the dietary needs of the elderly and children. It was clear that a state of malnutrition was a very high probability. A large number of humanitarian organisations are to be found in the city of Kosti. These include Plan International, World Food Programme, Norwegian Refugee Council and Medecins Sans Frontières...). Yet the support offered to IDPs arriving from Khartoum is severely lacking at this time and in relation to this specific crisis. The organisations are not doing enough to offer logistical support to local resistance committees who are willing to deliver the aid. This is in direct contrast to the good practices of such humanitarian organisations in the past when they demonstrated adequate emergency responses. This relates specifically to the situation that had arisen in Blue Nile State where conflicts had broken out between " Fellata" groups and "Funj" groups near Damazine last year. This conflict had equally impacted the White Nile State at the time: over 20,000 people moved to this zone due to the aforementioned conflicts. At the time the organisations did a better job than now at providing emergency relief. The situation in this context is catastrophic and is not being met with the same efficiency.

Interestingly, some international organisations within Kosti are providing medical assistance to South Sudanese refugees. While this is appropriate I feel that if Sudanese IDPs perceive that they are being neglected the level of this assistance could be overestimated and lead to them resenting the presence of South Sudanese refugees among them since they might be considered to be taking aid which they see as their right as Sudanese citizens in their own country. This is a significant risk since South Sudan chose to become independent and the war has generally created tensions among different groups and created animosity in the face of limited resources that cannot fulfill the needs of all. In such a complicated context, the local government shows no reaction and does not recognise the predicament of the people in the area. The government has chosen to act as if there is no war in Sudan and the White Nile State continues to demand tax payments, charge drivers for traffic infractions..etc while ignoring the real needs of its internally displaced citizens. The government is not providing aid providers ( local or international) much-needed support in order for them to fulfill their duties.

For a very long time, I was under the impression that it was my personal belief that the large amount of foreign aid arriving at Port Sudan was failing to reach its targeted beneficiaries. I came to realise, after asking many people, that I was not alone in thinking that the aid which was indeed received by the government was not reaching the Sudanese people who continue to suffer. The fact that nobody knows how long this war will continue makes this fact very serious. For now, Sudanese IDPs remain forgotten and left to suffer from disease, hunger, and heightened insecurity as the war rages on. The Sudanese people continue to face an uncertain fate alone!

Note on the videos:

The following videos were taken in this manner in an effort to shed light on the situation in Kosti, without making people feel exposed since it is a situation people don't feel comfortable with. Thus, Mohammed filmed the videos in that way deliberately for ethical reasons- respecting the anonymity and dignity of people who were blindsided by the war, and also in consideration of cultural sensitivity. Video Copyright Mohammed Jamal Ajabna

Video Copyright Mohammed Jamal Ajabna

Video Copyright Mohammed Jamal Ajabna

Video Copyright Mohammed Jamal Ajabna

Video Copyright Mohammed Jamal Ajabna

Video Copyright Mohammed Jamal Ajabna

*This is an original piece written exclusively for PeaceofSudan.Space and has not been published elsewhere.

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