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Darfur / UNAMID Media Brief

By United Nations - African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID)
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EL FASHER (DARFUR), Sudan, May 7, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- UNAMID Media Brief / 06 May 2012

Horses “race to peace” in Nyala

The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) sponsored a horse race in Nyala, South Darfur, on 4 May to promote peaceful coexistence among the many communities of the region.

Horse racing was popular during the Darfur Sultanate, which existed from the late 16th century. Today's Darfuri race horses trace their roots to British colonizers who imported thoroughbreds for umdas and sheiks who cross-bred them with Arab stock. Although held less frequently than before the conflict, horse and camel racing continues to draw crowds and supporters across tribal and community lines, particularly in South Darfur.

“Horse racing builds bridges, as all communities and tribes enjoy it,” said Omar Musa, secretary of the South Darfur Equestrian Union.

The fiercely-contested Nyala Derby—rebranded for yesterday's gathering by UNAMID as a “race to peace,”—is the second biggest racing course in Sudan, attracting prize horses, their owners and jockeys from different regions. More than 2,000 spectators from the local population were on hand, along with UNAMID officials, troops and police.

“The race was organized to showcase the skills of horses and jockeys, a sport enjoyed everywhere, no matter what your background. We hope this competition will help people to get together for the enjoyment of these beautiful animals,” said Susan Manuel, Deputy Director of Communications and Public Information for UNAMID.

Addressing the occasion, the Wali (governor) of South Darfur State, Mr Hammad Ismail Hammad called UNAMID “a true partner whose contribution is clear as they share with the communities of Darfur activities such as such the one we are celebrating.”

The Wali also hailed the state equestrian union for its role in consolidating the social fabric and bringing the people together for an afternoon of enjoyment.

A camel race was also held, as “camel-racing builds bridges,” according to the commissioner of camel racing. Hakkamat singers, women decorated with symbolic armor who traditionally urged men into war, sang to encourage the horses and riders towards victory and to motivate the crowd to cultivate peace and reconciliation.

Darfur horses, known locally as “barbs,” are descendants of British and American thoroughbreds and Arabian stock. Strong and able to endure hot dry climates, they are prized by horse lovers who come from as far as Nigeria to buy them, sometimes for hundreds of thousands of Sudanese pounds.

The first “race to peace,” dedicated to UNAMID Force Commander Lt. Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba, was won by the horse Arad Al Shaam. The second race, in honor of Ms. Manuel, was won by El Hagan, while the third, longer race, in honour of UNAMID Head Ibrahim Gambari, was won by the horse Shawahig.