My Memories of Tina Town in the far North West of the former Darfur Province
By Mahmoud A. Suleiman
This Town of Tina also spelled Tiné in French (Français) and El-Tina in Arabic or Tuna in the Zaghawa language (Beria) lies in the Sudan’s North Western border with Chad only separated from Chad by a Wadi carrying the same name. Wadi Tina/Tine’ is the upper stream of Wadi Hawar basin of northern Darfur that travels approximately 400 kilometres in a northeasterly direction from the Wadai highlands in Chad before losing itself in the Libyan Desert. It worth mentioning that there used to be a large acacia tree referred to as ‘Haraz tree’ in Arabic, Acacia albida in Latin or Apple ring in English, in the middle of the sand of Wadi Tina. There was French script written on the side of the Tree trunk facing to the West and an English script written on the side facing to the East to show the border demarcation separating the two colonized countries. The French Sudan (now Chad) and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (current Sudan) during the Colonial era until the tree surrendered to the severe drought that hit the region in the 1980s.
The Zaghawa Kobe’ clan established the capital of the Sultanate in El-Tina Town since July 1921. The dynasty was in Kayraba for seven years before it moved back to Tina. The French colonials invaded El-Tina in the beginning of the nineteenth century, martyred Sultan Abdurrahman (AKA Ferti) Bushara on Monday 17th March 1912 in the incommensurate battle of Garaa Well and divided the Kobe’ Sultanate into two; one in Chad in the town of (Hiriba/Iriba) under Sultan Hagar Tairab and the other in the territory ruled by Fur Sultanate. The Zaghawa in Tina were agro – pastoral – they engage in subsistence farming growing crops of sorghum and millet during the short rainy season and raise livestock of cattle, camels, sheep and goats, besides poultry as means of their livelihood. Men were well equestrian, famous for their cavalry.
Tina region shares border with the Native administration of Dar Zaghawa Gala in Karnoi Eastwards and with Chad to the west and from the southeast with Dar Gimir Native administration in Kulbus, Sudan’s Kabka Native administration in the south in Tundubay.
The hamlets and villages affiliated administratively to the town of Tina include the hamlets of Austaney, Sheik, Basao, Keira, Erai, Tairahigo, Hamai, Gadeer, Nogobai, Bamina, Hiricona and along with villages in the far south in Kayraba, Kirainick, Maoun, Sideeb and iddaseme make part of Kobe’ Sultanate of Tina-Sudan under the rule of Sultan Dosa.
As sources of water are meagre in the territory, seasonal Wadis (Valleys) beds remain potential reservoirs from where people access drinking water for themselves and their livestock through drilling borehole wells. The famous wells in the Wadi of Tina from the south going towards the north are as follows: Kuna Mara, Oyra, Joyobai, Nuwah, Duguba, Garaa, Hiri Kuna, Bamina, and Bahigh. Basao dam project in the Tina locality in the sixties of the twentieth Century was a pioneering project and vital by all measures for assembling and storing water during the rainy season for use by people of the area and their livestock. Unfortunately, like many other development projects for Darfur, the Basao Dam suffered a hard hit by neglect and lack of maintenance. Moreover, the severe environmental changes brought irreparable damage to the project. Tina area in the past years has been adversely affected by factors of recurrent drought and desertification. This is more so in the past two decades in particular, and resulted in a significant deterioration in natural resources. The Population depends mainly on herding, trade and rain fed agriculture.
The terrain of mountains, hills, Lagoons and so forth in the area around the Town of Tina include Mount Hamai (the black mount), Ha Mara (the red mount), Mount Abu Cuduni, Sairi Sala (the prayer hill), Sairi Terre (the white hill) besides small coves, creeks and bays that pour its water into the Valley of Tina in the rainy season.
The Zaghawa Kubé Sultanate in the Town of El-Tina was an integral part of the North Darfur District and North Darfur Rural Council in the former Darfur Province prior to the never-ending administrative changes practiced by the successive elitist out of touch regimes in the Centre Khartoum. That phenomenon occurred under the pretext of the alleged ‘shortening the administrative shadow’ and relinquishing powers to these units to serve citizens! The boringly annoying administrative rhetoricians Lie to rip-off the poor by levitated Royalties imposed on the poor in the form of high taxes without any the return to the people of the region and goes to the welfare of the owners of favours of the ruling class.
As background history is quintessential for the current generations to learn and acquire knowledge about their ancestors’ past, the following few line shed some light on that. The seat of Kobe Sultanate was in the area close to the massive mountain known as Jebel Kobe in present-day Chad where the ruins of the palace still exist. The Sultanate was strong after Caliph Abdelshafi (Jorog) Bushara, half-brother of Sultan Abdelrahman (Ferti) Bushara, consolidated the State against the ambitions of enemies through battles he waged and won against the enemies whom he defeated. However, with the death of Abdelshafi, the killing of two sons of Sultan Abdelrahman and the health problems afflicted Abdelrahman, the Sultanate weakened militarily. The weakness of the State coincided with escalation of differences among the clan and incessant increase of enemies from within and the growing ambitions from outside, the French colonialism under the guise of evangelism and expeditionary forces sent to West Africa. Furthermore, to make bad worse, was the growing hostility of the old ally, the Wadai Empire or Sultanate (French: royaume du Ouaddaï; 1635–1912) in Abéché, stemming from jealousy of the independence of the rule of Sultan Abdelrahman after the killing of his two sons Ahmed and Ismail through treachery planned by the Wadai forces. The Wadai kingdom was located to the east of Lake Chad in present-day Chad and in the Central African Republic. By the time and during that difficult period the French colonialists had already occupied the West African states and began to crawl eastward to annex the largest tracts of land in the process of competing with their traditional enemies British who were crawling westward for the same purpose. Unfortunately, for the Sultan Abdul Rahman that he became the between pliers of the French and the British put in an unenviable position. During the era, Fur Sultanate in Darfur and the Wadai Sultanate in the West Africa served as the major powers in the West African region and played the role of political poles. All the foregoing factors backfired and made the Sultan Abdelrahman vulnerable and within one-day invasion by the rival cousins backed by the French army, his forces suffered a crushing defeat with loss of lives at incompatible battle at the Garaa Wells, referred to earlier.
After that buried their dead and the first aid treatment for the wounded, the people decided to move to territory of Kayraba where there are traces of the old ruins of the Qasr and tombs of Sultan Taha and his son Adam, and other graves. They stayed in Kayraba for seven prosperous years then returned to Tina and rebuilt it as a permanent home for the thing left over from the Sultanate, which fragmented because of the invasion of the French. This narrative is what appeared in successive generations of Zaghawa Kobe ancestors who transferred it moved on and connected the history of the people of the region to their successors to take to the future generations because history is the registry of time of the past lives of peoples and nations. For to be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child, said Cicero. Mahatma Gandhi added saying: “To believe that what has not occurred in history will not occur at all is to argue disbelief in the dignity of man”. Whereas George Orwell believed that, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history”. Attributed to Winston Churchill “The farther backward you can go, the farther forward you are likely to see”! I end the quotes by “The subject of history is the life of peoples and mankind” attributed to the Russian writer philosopher and social activist Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace. The rest, as they say, is history!
El-Tina, like any other town had a number of neighbourhoods. They include the Sultan’s neighbourhood referred to ‘Warrai’, Abbo Idriss Abdelrahman neighbourhood, Feki Yahiya Hamid neighbourhood, Feki Abbaker Suleiman neighbourhood, Abbo Bashar Ahmed neighbourhood, Khalifa Taway neighbourhood, Khalifa Marajan Argo neighbourhood and Daib Abu Eshta neighbourhood, which also called Tugaiy. However, Tina has expanded over the years and the neighbourhoods have increased as a natural phenomenon as a result of natural migration of people from the villages to towns in search for better opportunities for services and income. It is noteworthy to point out that today’s Chadian Tina a few years earlier was a tiny hamlet named ‘Jagaraba’ inhabited by a family.
Wadai Empire 1635–1909
Curtsey of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CentralEastAfrica1750.png
Travel from Tina to Kutum, several kilometers away, in those days when there were no means of public transport. The only way was either wait for occasional government truck called Comer or on camelback. During the journey to Kutum, A traveller passes through various Zaghawa localities. They include Karnoi, the capital of the Zaghawa Dar Gala led by late Shartay Tigani El-Tayeb; Umbaru the capital of the Zaghawa Tower led by King Ali Mohammadain Adam Sabi; Muzbat the capital of the Zaghawa Awlad Digail led by late Basi Salim Tegel; Umharaz the capital of the Zaghawa Artaj led by late King Musa Khamis; Anka the capital of the Zaghawa Nigiri led by late King Adam Ali Abu Kaka; al-Dour the capital of The Zaghawa Katinga led by late Shartay Adam Tahir Nurain; and the capital of the Zaghawa Berai in Kutum led by King Adam Mohammed Nur. We ask God’s mercy for those who have passed away to the afterlife of the leaders of the tribe as well we ask Allah to help those who devolved rule to them after their predecessors passed away to rule the branches of the Zaghawa tribal groups.
Now the question arises as to what are my memories in the town of Tine after the lengthy narrative about the historical backgrounds and geography of the land. That question, without doubt, imposes itself and waits for an immediate answer! So the response comes as follows:” in where I was born and bred in the Town of Tine’ “and started my education in the Subgrade School where I studied Qur’an and learned Arabic language speaking, reading and writing as Zaghawa language (Beria) is my mother tongue. Formal education facilities beyond Subgrade level in where I was born and bred were limited unavailable. I had to wait my turn in the pecking order for selection to go the Town of Kutum the Headquarter of the Rural Council of North Darfur to receive Primary/ Elementary education. To the surprise and disappointment of my father, the body did not vet me among those pupils selected to go to Kutum. Here my father took the unusual step and decided to take me to Kutum without going through the unwritten traditional system. His most ambitious dream was to see me achieve education to its highest level at a time when chances for formal education in where I was born and bred were very limited or unavailable.
We finally arrived in the town of Kutum on board of a pickup truck belonged to the Rural Council of North Darfur after two days. We stayed as guests in the house of an old friend and a relative of my father. Next morning, my earnest father decided to take me to the school to present his case about me to the authorities. He managed to meet the Headmaster Abdelmajid Ahmed al-Zein who was originally from a village in the Gezira-Managil-Irrigation Agricultural Scheme. The Headmaster Abdelmajid was a kind, respectful and considerable man who accepted my enrollment in the first year of his primary school in Kutum. Obviously, my father was jubilant full of great joy. Prior to that, he feared that the school principal might refuse to accept me in his school. Furthermore, that would make him feel disappointed in addition to his fears of being gloated by people upon his return to Tina in vain. That marked the beginning of my educational career. My late father’s dedication for knowledge and education was behind the success of me to climb the ladder of education at a steady pace despite rarity of schools in Darfur during that era. May Allah bless their souls of my parents and bestow mercy and forgiveness on them. We are unto God and to Him we return.
I refer the reader to the book titled: “The Auto biography I wrote begins at a Zaghawa Village in Darfur”.
Gone by the good old days; my cherished memories remained through the decades!
Dr. Mahmoud A. Suleiman is an author, columnist and a blogger. His blog is https://thussudan.wordpress.com/