Tarig Hilal
5 min readMay 7, 2022


Artwork by Suzanne Hilal http://bit.ly/suzannehilal

Dolman Kabashi is a black man, five foot six, with a smile full of teeth and a cackle for a laugh, heavy and rasping with years of cigarette smoke. He wears big dark glasses, the kind that were common in the 1970s, that age of large square frames and shaded lenses, and is partial to the safari suit, clothing that is practical and business like and in Sudan, the mark of the bureaucrat and government official. He smokes his cigarettes from a long black cigarette holder, giving the momentary impression of an aristocratic dilettante.

A former footballer of some renown, Dolman is a wealthy man, though his wealth does not come from the sport. Here there is no money in football. The best that a man can gain is the fleeting adulation of the crowd, young men, who will grow old and worldly. No, Dolmans money comes from traditional sources; government auditing jobs and real estate. It is in this world that I came to meet him.

Although based in Southern Sudan, the National Democratic Institute, my employer and cause, has decided to move North. The opening shots of our new campaign come, not from Khartoum or its outskirts but in the giant state of Southern Kordofan, the worlds largest exporter of Gum Arabic, home to the Nuba mountains and the point at which the influence of Arab culture begins to merge visibly into Africa, creating a world that is as beautiful and unique as it is untold.

The headquarters of this Northern expansion is Kadugli, capital of Southern Kordofan a place once considered a jewel of the North, home to educational excellence and sporting prowess, now tired and dilapidated, worn down by civil war and the bitterness that it brings and forgotten by the oil that flows from its land to fuel the economic boom in Khartoum and Port Sudan.

In an attempt to make sense of our growing ambition we put together a week long retreat for the new recruits. Men whose livelihoods now depend upon the wages paid by our headquarters, secular missionaries, whose task is to preach an idea, with the promise of enlightenment and prosperity, to convince people of democracy and its benefits.

With ten of us in total and full days of planning sessions and workshops ahead, the challenge became to find a place large enough to accommodate us all. An economy based on primary agricultural exports, an…

Tarig Hilal

A few is enough for me; so is one, so is none.