Residents of deposed Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s home village are still coming to terms with his ouster, but most agree that the time had come for him to go.
“I’m from his village and I did not benefit from his rule,” said Mohamedali Abdel Hamid, a farmer from Hosh Bannaga dressed in a traditional Sudanese robe.
The village, on the Nile some 170 kilometres (105 miles) north of Khartoum, was Bashir’s childhood home. He was born there on New Year’s Day 1944.
“Only his family relatives benefitted” from his rule, Hamid told an AFP correspondent who visited the village.
“They have cars, farms and cows, but we did not benefit. I don’t feel sad that he is gone.”
In power for three decades, 75-year-old Bashir was ousted on April 11 by the army after months of protests against his iron-fisted rule.
A career soldier, he swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, toppling the elected government of prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, who is now chief of Sudan’s main opposition National Umma Party and part of the protest movement.
One of Africa’s longest-serving presidents, Bashir was renowned for his populist touch, insisting on being close to crowds and addressing them in colloquial Sudanese Arabic.
But his fate was sealed when the army bowed to the demands of tens of thousands of protesters in Khartoum and elsewhere, nearly four months into demonstrations sparked by a tripling of bread prices.
The protests have not extended to Hosh Bannaga’s sand strewn streets.
But Naseer Ibrahim, another villager, was glad to see the back of Bashir.
“Look at the condition of the village — even the school where he studied was rebuilt only last year afer a child fell into a toilet,” he said.
– ’30 years are enough’ –
Most homes in Hosh Bannaga are made from mud, but Bashir’s family residence — an extended one-storey building with a courtyard — is one of the village’s few well built structures.
Most streets amount to sand tracks, while a single road connects the village to the highway leading to Khartoum.
Hosh Bannaga has a hospital that provides medical aid to nearby villages, but part of it is still under construction.
The village has a community centre for women and children set up by Bashir’s first wife, Fatima Khalid.
In the scorching heat of the afternoon, most people stay indoors.
The village has a small market that sells locally grown vegetables.
Located not far from Sudan’s famed Meroe pyramids, archaeological relics have often been uncovered around Hosh Bannaga.
Ibrahim, who said he is related to Bashir, stated that the longtime leader led a “normal life”.
“He ate what we all ate. When he used to come for social occassions, he sat with us and talked about his memories from the village,” he said.
Bashir “is not corrupt,” Ibrahim contended, but as president was responsible for an entourage that was corrupt.
“For this (reason) I believe that 30 years is enough” for him to have served in power, Ibrahim added.
– ‘He deserved to go’ –
But there are some who were sad to see Bashir go, including Mahmoud Issa.
“Yes, there is an economic crisis and people are unable to get essential items, but it is because of the wars,” Issa said.
Bashir’s presidency was marred by several conflicts, including a 1983 to 2005 war that left hundreds of thousands dead and culminated in secession by South Sudan in 2011.
A separate deadly conflict also erupted in the western region of Darfur in 2003 when marginalised ethnic rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated government.
In 2011 conflict also broke out in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states between government forces and rebels.
“He was forced into these wars, because if you want to preserve the country’s unity, you have to use force,” Issa ventured.
But young villagers like Mohamed, who gave only his first name, were not convinced by Issa’s argument.
“I believe he deserved to go because he sheltered corrupt people,” he said.
“We didn’t have any protests in Hosh Bannaga … but if we had one, I would have taken part,” added Mohamed.
And to reinforce his point, he flashed a “V” for victory sign and yelled “Just fall, that’s all,” — a clarion call of the protest movement that finally toppled Hosh Bannaga’s most famous son.