Kill The Kumsari!

As it is impossible to come to Sudan without brushing with the reality of the current situation, I found myself at one point floundering in the public transport system for a week (after regressing from driving our air conditioned family car, to a small amjad with my friends, to finally roaming the streets and bus stops). It wasn’t such a big deal since I used to take public buses to and from college when I was 'younger', but that was almost 6 years ago. I wasn’t bothered about the standing in the sun and dust for varying periods of time, or walking for long distances until finally surrendering to a raksha or calling someone to pick me up. I wasn’t bothered by the state of the chairs or the million stops between my origin and destination. What bothered me was that every single bus ride had the same scenario played over and over again, with differing ranges of intensity: the kumsari clicks for money, the passengers hand him the old fare, the kumsari asks for more since all prices went up with the oil hike, the passenger refuses, they get into a fight and the whole bus beats up the kumsari.

The last bus I took I had to restrain myself with much difficulty from jumping off the bus and into the middle of the fight as I watched a tall middle aged man try to punch a 14 year old boy for his insolence and insistence on the new fare. It also took all self control not to stand up and scream at everyone on the bus (who all agreed with the tall middle aged man that the kumsari had no manners and no right to ask for more money and that they weren’t going to pay him) that for the love of God, the price of oil went up SEVENTY PERCENT you idiots! Where the hell do you think the petrol for this bus you're on comes from? The sky?! You think it’s a laughing matter that now these people have to pay 70% more for their livelihood as well as try and make up for the price of everything else that’s gone up? La wu Kaman you're complaining about it AND being verbally and physically abusive! Unfortunately I can't say I was any better than those fools on the bus because I just sat there with my blood boiling and watched as one guy (who was also complaining and telling the kid off) saved the kumsari from getting his face punched in by a much older and much bigger man. And I listened as everyone else talked loudly about his impunity, even the bloody bus driver, who didn’t have the guts to turn around and tell everyone to either pay up or GET OFF. And I just looked at him sadly as he got back on and clicked his fingers and collected the reduced fare from everyone without opening his mouth again until the end of the ride, as we both simmered in our rage and shame.

But then I looked at those same people around me: scuffed shoes, sweaty brows, dirty clothes. Tired looking faces. That 70% hike had hit everyone. They were suffering just as much as the kumsari. They also had mouths to feed and were also still getting paid the same meager salaries, if they were lucky to have salaries at all. Many of them wouldn’t pay the increased fare simply because they couldn’t. So who's wrong and who's right? No one is.
And in this war we are all losers.


  1. Great as always Reem. I tried to leave a long comment and sound intelligent and sophisticated but I did not know where to begin. This is a sad story that no articulation can help describing the pain it brings to my heart. What do we do?

  2. This is very sad Reem, I guess this is till much better than what is happening in other Arab countries such as Iraq for example in which when a person leaves home does not know if he/she will ever come home or not!
    Yes we sometimes, often times, take things for granted..

  3. I, unfortunately witnessed a beginning of this whole price dilemma, but only for a month or so. The time was around Summer 2012, before that the prices were quite stable, then suddenly they started to increase, day after day. I had just finished my high school finals (Imtihanat al Shehada), and was leaving the country for University. This post resonated with me, because I experienced the same exact situation, except I was on the anti-Kumsari side and I never bothered to look at the other perspective, that alone was humbling. I hope things get better over there, all i hear from my Sudan bound parents is that the prices are still going up. Allah Yesahil.


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