Sudanese Poet Perishes in Worst Shipwreck of 2020

A young Sudanese poet predicted his tragic fate through his poetry as he drowned in the Mediterranean.

Abdel Wahab Yousif, better known as Latinos, died after a rubber boat packed with African immigrants sank into the sea shortly after setting off from Libya on its way to Europe. The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirmed that 45 migrants and refugees, including five children, lost their lives when the vessel’s engine exploded off the coast of Zuwarah, a town in western Libya that has become a hub for migrant trafficking. 37 people survived this tragedy and after being rescued by local fishermen, were arrested and returned to Libya. The passengers on the boat were mostly from Senegal, Mali, Chad and Ghana.


Thousands of Sudanese use illegal migrant routes across the Mediterranean to escape the harsh living conditions in Sudan and reach Europe for asylum in one of its countries. At least 302 people have been killed on the central Mediterranean route since the start of 2020.


Both UNHCR and IOM called for a change in the way countries approach the situation in the Mediterranean and Libya. “There is an urgent need to strengthen the current search and rescue capacity to respond to distress calls,” they said in a statement, adding that “there remains a continued absence of any dedicated European Union led search and rescue program.”


Abdel Wahab Latinos was well-known among young poetry fans in Sudan. The hardships he faced in his life cast a dark shadow over his poetry:


“We will flee from our home, we will flee towards exile, but migration is also cruel, it’s unbearable! It will absorb our souls inevitably” - Abdel Wahab Yousif


That was the last poem he wrote before he lost his life at sea. Abdel Wahab Latinos was born to a poor family in Manwashi, Southern Darfur. Despite the war in the western province of Sudan and no financial support, he beat the odds and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Khartoum. He wrote poetry and published his poems in Sudanese literary magazines throughout the Arab world. Politically engaged, he was a member of the “Democratic Thought” movement, the “Reading for Change” project and an activist of the “Peace Support Youth Group” in Sudan.


Like the majority of youth in Darfur, his hope for a bright future was dependent on him going to Libya, a gateway through which successive waves of Africans brave all perils in the hope of getting safely to European shores.

Photo: An inflatable boat intercepted off Libya (Libyan Coast Guard)


While family, friends and fans mourn the death of poet Abdel Wahab Latinos, this tragedy is heightened by the realization that his death was a perfect demonstration of a scenario that was depicted in his recent verse:


“You’ll die at sea.

Your head rocked by the roaring waves,

your body swaying in the water,

like a perforated boat.

In the prime of youth you’ll go,

shy of your 30th birthday.

Departing early is not a bad idea;

but it surely is if you die alone,

with no woman calling you to her embrace:

“Let me hold you to my breast,

I have plenty of room.

Let me wash the dirt of misery off your soul.”


Rest in power, Abdel.


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