It’s easy to see why the people of Okubani believe themselves forgotten. Their village sits att he edge of Ikafe, but before the refugees arrived, they tell me, their isolation was severe. The land is parched and will not produce much. Cotton, their sole cash crop, is not growing like before, and the government has recently declared that it will pay less, making the taxing venture hardly worthwhile for the people. Or so said two Okubani men as they sat under a tree, cleaning the cotton, and afternoon turned to dusk. A few meters past, close to the mosque, (an expanded, large, thatched tukul), and under another tree sat a man with a sewing maching – the town tailor. Clothes hung on low branches above him, stiff and hot in the stale air. Not far from him I could see a clearing lined with empty stalls and inquired. The market, I was told.
What do they sell, I asked.
Fish from the Nile, sometimes cotton, and necessities like salt and sugar. Fabric from Congo, came the reply. Things come over from the Sudan, things go back into the Sudan. “This is how we stay alive,” they said. “If there is to be a marriage, then there is cattle, although cattle are few.” A lively conversation ensued in the local language. I asked Ezama what was being discussed. “They are debating,” he said, “how many cattle you would bring in dowry.”
Eager to change the subject, I pointed to homes in the distance. “How far does your village extend?” I asked. He pointed and drew a large circle in the air.
“This is our countryside, he said. And then, pointing closer to the dusty path and the women weaving mats outside their homes, “and this is the city. Some people want to be close to the development. Big development. The same in the USA, no?”