The Nile: A River that needs to be protected by all (Part 2)
By: Francis W. Wani
The River Nile which I now know and understand (to be a source of livelihoods for millions of people) which we now know to begin from River Kagera in Burundi and Rwanda and ends in Mediterranean Sea in Egypt is not the river I first knew. This River that passes eleven countries of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eretrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda is not what I thought of. This River Nile, which is complex and volatile that can easily spark conflict of regional and global significance, is not what I dream of knowing. And this river that can also be a source of cooperation, peace and security both in the region and in the global level is not what I knew that must be and should be managed, developed and protected by all citizens of the eleven countries.
The river I knew which came to be known as River Nile was and is still called Supiri up to this moment. Some people called it Bahr el Jebel.This name is completely foreign to our people and I do not know whether there are people in the village who know and value this name. This name doesn’t represent the aspirations and feelings of members of the Mugoro family. This part of the river I thought begins from Nimule and I thought it ends somewhere about probably ten miles from Shukole proposed hydroelectric dam site, some twenty or so miles north of Nimule. I did not know where the source of this supiri was and neither did I know its terminus. What I knew was that Supiri begins in a place called Acika Didi (Deep Smoke) in Madi Language. The corresponding name by which it is conventionally called is Fula Rapids just few miles north of Nimule town.
But what is the importance of Supiri to me and to my people? There are many positive things that make Supiri very important to the people of Mugoro (Mugoro is the name of a village just few kilometres from Nimule). It is the village where I was born and grew up. There are also negative things which affect the lives of Mugoro people, which need to be documented for the benefit of those who would like to know the disadvantages of this part of River Nile as perceived by the local communities there.
The positive part of Supiri to me and to those who share the same history are many and varied. These things range from cultural, recreational, economical, social, security and religious values. As a matter of fact I am going to mention eight very important positive things which I thought make Supiri of great value to the communities.
The first reason why Supiri was very important is for cultural reasons. This is so because it offers identity to those residents who live along that part of the Nile. It was particularly noted that those who live along the Supiri are identified for their ability to swim and their ability to row a boat. Whoever therefore does not know how to swim and row a boat is automatically understood to be a foreigner or he is a citizen who is born and grew outside the village. To verify this concept, an investigation has to be carried out and the status of that particular individual has to be established. This reason can also be applied for security purposes. For it is not normal for any citizen of Mugoro, especially male who does not know how to swim and row a boat.
The second reason why Supiri was important is for economic value. The justification for this is because the economy of the citizens who live along the river depends on the fish and other resources, which are provided by the Nile. They catch the fish and take it for marketing to either Kajo-Keji main land or to Nimule town. So the fisheries resources in the Nile are the sources of income for the people of that particular village.
The third reason why Supiri is important to the people is for religious reasons. It is a cultural belief that the water from the river cleans the people who live along the river from their impurities. It is believed that if anybody happens to fall into temptation or did something wrong against the morals of the land or the morals of the tribe, they go to the river and wash themselves by the water. They do this by mentioning silently the wrong thing they did in secret. After this exercise is done, it is believed that they are cleansed and they can enter the society without any misfortune happening to them
The fourth reason why Supiri is important to the people is for social refreshment. This is because when people feel tired or if they have finished doing their works, for example after finishing digggin, they go and swim in the river and to play with their age mates, especially the young people. Therefore, Supiri brings them together to play with each other. Sometimes they make competition with other members from villages around. This habit of using swimming for competition becomes an opportunity for social cohesion and unity.
The fifth reason why Supiri is important to the people of Mugoro and the surrounding villages along the river is because it offers water for drinking for both human beings and their livestock. Drinking water is very essential to people as well as to livestock. This part of the country is not water-stressed because of the Supiri. In this sense, Supiri plays a very important role for the survival of the people of Mugoro village and other surrounding villages.
The sixth reason why Supiri is very important to the people of Mugoro and other villages along the Nile is for recreation or tourism. This is because the river brings people from other parts of the village and even beyond to come and watch the spectacular flow of the river. There are cataracts which create a barrier for the water to normally flow and for this reason, the water creates an up and down movement with sometimes loud sounds which can be heard far away. This continuous sound of the river creates opportunities for enjoyement.You can watch the rise and the fall of the water as the struggles to flow gather speed.
There are also some islands along the river which creates an opportunity for young people to either swim to them or use a boat to reach them. They would spend time there fishing or catching fish using hooks. There are also some water animals present in the Supiri. These are Hippopotamus. During the day they make a lot of noise which also create amusement to the people who live along the river. These animals live some few miles from the bank of the river. They can be seen nearby. This also creates an opportunity for amusement and excitement. Those who live there feel happy when they hear the sounds made by the hippos.
The sixth reason why Supiri is very important for security is because it offers varieties of protection and safety for the people who live along the river. One of the security services Supiri offered to the citizens was during the first Sudanese Civil war of 1955-1972. During this time, it was Supiri which offered most of the security and protection to the civilians. When the government soldiers come to raid the people from western bank of the Nile, the people would cross into eastern side making it difficult for the soldiers to pursue the people. If they come from the eastern side, the people would have crossed to the western side, making it difficult as well as to pursue the civilians. Sometimes they crossed into the island which is not accessible to the soldiers from both sides.
Finally, Supiri was very important to the people of Mugoro for livelihoods of the people who live along the river. This is because the river offers food and other forms of survival to the local communities. They get fish from the river for food and economy. They cultivate along the river during dry season or even during drought without even making simple irrigation because the bank of the river is wet with flowing water. Sometimes when the river is flooded, it leaves a lot of manure which provide fertility to the soil. And as a result, the local farmers put some crops there, they have a good harvest.
On the other hand, Supiri was a curse to the people who live along its banks for many reasons. These curses have to do with danger from the river and the animals which live in it. These items mentioned above has affected most of the families living along Supiri. Many families have lost some of their loved ones to crocodiles, snakes, and hippopotamus. I even lost a brother, a step father and an uncle to crocodiles. Some families lost their loves to snake bites, which are common in that part of the Nile
Supiri is dangerous because many people had been and are being drown in the Nile while trying to either fish or cross the river to the other side for various reasons. I also lost my step father to the Supiri. He was drown while trying to cross the river. Other families who live there have lost their loved ones to the rivers as a result of trying to cross.
Supiri was also dangerous because of floods. Many people have been drown while the river overflowed. Some lost their properties due to sudden overflow of the river. Therefore, living along the banks of the river is risky because it can overflow at any time unexpectedly and this can lead to loss of lives and properties.
In conclusion Supiri is both beneficial and dangerous. It is beneficial because of the services it offers to the people who live along the banks. But it is dangerous because of the hazards and deaths which it brings to the people. But as the understanding of the river widens and deepens, it becomes necessary that Supiri is good in all its aspects. The disadvantages and the dangers we mentioned above were due to lack of knowledge and understanding about the complexities of the river and other issues associated with the river. Once people become aware about these complexities, it becomes easy for them to avoid the dangers. Let us follow this discussion so that we are fully informed and educated about the Nile and its importance to our survival.
It was after three years later I came to learn that Supiri does not begin in Nimule and ends some few kilometres from Sukole. How this understanding of this new development comes about, it will be explained in the third part of the story.