by Antony Mahony, CAFOD (Caritas England and Wales)
For two hours our small plane droned its way south-eastwards from Khartoum towards our destination of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur. Straining through the porthole to view the landscape, I could see only a great expanse of sand and scrub, with the occasional wadi or dry river bed. As the rainy season had only ended a few weeks earlier, there was still a trace of water in some places, but not for much longer in the great heat of Sudan.
Then suddenly the tone of the plane’s engines dropped and we were coming down to land. As we drew closer, those dull forms were materialising before our eyes: a settlement of mud huts with pointed, thatched roofs rushed past, and close by a group of women in brightly coloured robes were bending low to tend their crops. A large man in a white billowing jalabiya rode away on a small motor bike, leaving a trail of dust behind, perhaps heading for the mosque as this was a Friday morning. In the distance a herd of nodding goats was foraging for grass, followed at a distance by their goatherd wielding a long stick. These were all welcome signs that in this troubled land, people were still going about their normal life.