Lots of critics have been made upon kicking off Cecafa championship in Kadugli and Elfashir. The two cities have witnessed unrest and continuous threats of Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) attacks. Apparently it was an attempt by the government of Sudan to show peace and stability in the regions of Darfur and South Kordofan and proof to the international community the success of Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and deny the civil war in Nuba Mountain and the SRF control over most of South Kordofan State territories.
Somehow was a clever strategy by the government; knowing that SRF wouldn’t attack the civilians in a football match, commit war crimes and crimes against humanity where all the attention of international community is drawn.
The government and UNAMID have made most of the arrangements to host Cecafa in Elfashir. The state government has founded play grounds in a valley although they can be destroyed at any moment by floods. One of Aldaraga Alola neighborhoods residents testified that they are suffering from water shortage since the preparations of the championship have begun due to the use of tankers which supply them with water in irrigating playgrounds. According to 3 women activists; the state government has put the responsibility of feeding visiting teams on the people of Elfashir; each 8-9 neighborhoods were responsible from feeding a team. UNAMID sponsorship to Cecafa was under the theme “Sports for Peace”. They haven’t noticed that SRF, tribes and other conflicted parties are not taking part of these activities. UNAMID has taken the responsibility of protecting football teams while protecting civilians wasn’t their mandate.
Along with two of my friends; I was lucky to attend two football matches in Elfashir; Marikh Elfashir versus Elman team of Somalia on Sunday 23rd, June 2013 and Marikh Elfashir versus Alahly Shendi on Wednesday 26th June 2013. Although football is not one of my interests but I’ve enjoyed watching the people cheering and supporting Marikh Elfashir in the two games.
Once I’ve arrived to Elfashir and Alnugaa stadiums; I couldn't miss the massive numbers of armed police officers, central reserve (Abutaira) militants, soldiers (SAF), popular defense militants, and Special Forces militants and few of traffic police officers. Approximately there were over 200 armed officers in more than 25 cars with Dushka.
I was afraid to attract their attention or challenge them by invading this “men’s only zone” but very curious to see their faces and expose what their eyes hide. Unlike Khartoum they were helping us to get inside and greeting us after their team won.
Inside the stadium they were even more armed men at least 500 of them. They were following the match closely, cheering and laughing rather than looking around and keeping the place secure.
Those soldiers/ militants are coming from all over the country to fight in a war it is not their own, staying in a city that has no regular theatre shows and cinemas. They found themselves with unaccountable authority, arms and vehicles full of fuel, moving randomly in the city with lots of aggression and boredom. Those young men ought to fall in love, marry and raise their children rather than committing horrors and killing their fellow citizens or being killed with a deadly shot.
Children street vendors were enjoying the matches, selling water and local snacks, getting excited by supporting Marikh Elfashir and cheering for their role models (Alsalateen). My friends and I cheered for Marikh Elfashir which recovered from its death and won the match against Alahly Shendi. A cheerer said “I really want Marikh Elfashir to win the match; it is unfair that the people of Shendi are winning everything”
Coming to an end; Cecafa wasn’t made in Elfashir and Kadugli for peace but an arrogant power show. Elfashir didn’t look safer by hosting the championship. Football players testified that they were terrified in Kadugli for hearing explosions all the time as if they were in "An action movie". Hundreds of thousands of IDPs haven’t enjoyed watching the matches; at least the championship has kept militants busy for a while.
Photo of Marikh Elfashir Vs Elman team of Somalia 23/6/2013