First Published: http://opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/this-weeks-window-on-middle-east-december-3-2012#2
In Sudan, you don't have to be in the war zones to meet a rebel. It just so happened that the brother of a friend of a friend of mine had a friend who was friends with Mohamed Ibrahim*.
We met in a popular cafe in Al-Fasher in North Darfur and sat on awkwardly small chairs sipping sugary tea and drinking tap water which they believe is better for your health than bottled water and talking about Sudan and its never ending problems.
Ibrahim who joined the group later began telling me about his years in the battlefields with the Sudan Liberation Movement.
Ibrahim is soft-spoken with a charming smile and likes tucking in his shirt, but the obvious scar below his right eye looks like it is the result of a very dangerous and difficult story.
He spent two years wandering the deserts of Darfur, it was him, his truck and his gun. At times, he was joined by an American postgraduate student. He told me his name and asked me to find him online. "You have to find him, he was my friend," he said.
I met Ibrahim a few months ago in North Darfur where I spending sometime just out of curiosity.
The last time I was in Darfur was in 1990 when I was a year old and my father was working there.
This was before it became known to the world as a place of extreme war, displacement and misery.
At that time, my father was a senior civil servant and our house along with four other houses had more allocated time for electricity than any other house in North Darfur.
I needed a change of scene, so I took a plane to Al-Fasher. The owner of the aviation company was so shocked that I was going to Darfur he told my cousin who works there that I should get a free ticket.
I found myself in that cafe with Ibrahim, his friends and a tall guy who coincidentally was sitting next to me on the plane and was a witness to me fainting and throwing up due to turbulence.
The friend of a friend's brother invited me to his sister's house for breakfast. There, I met his brother who returned from fighting with the rebels as his wife was due to give birth. The young man himself was preparing to go the desert. I politely declined the invitation to join the rebel fighters as a fighter. I fight with my words (or laptop) not a gun.
But Ibrahim is now a different man. He left the rebels and decided to join the non-violent struggle for democracy. The dilemma in spending years fighting a government or a country is, you eventually forgot your cause. You begin fighting because you don't have a way out of this or because you are used to fighting.
This week, I briefly met the friend of my friend's brother in Darfur and asked him if he is back to the armed struggle. He said yes, the struggle is ongoing even if there is a political resolution. I cannot imagine him, a law student, holding a gun.