Sunday, July 3, 2011





The Nuba Mountains are situated in the Sudanese state of South Kordofan. A remote and beautiful place, the people suffered terrible atrocities by the forces of the Sudan Government during a 21 year civil war. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in 2005 with the help of the UK and US governments, gave South Kordofan and the Nuba people a degree of autonomy. Their traditions could continue even when Sudan split into two and they remained in the North after largely supporting the Sudan People’s Liberation Army of the South in the war.

The countries will split on 9th July 2011 - and the Sudan government has chosen the time before the split to carry out attacks on the Nuba people - clearly an attempt at ethnic cleansing.

The people living in South Kordofan comprise of Christians, Muslims and animist people who live side by side and who suffered so badly in the civil war that some families who fled high into the mountains have not dared to venture down in the past 6 years of peace.

Now the capital of South Kordofan, Kadugli, is a virtual ghost town, people have been executed on the spot and others have fled without belongings (for fear of being shot if found to be escaping) The SAF government forces are also fighting with the SPLA and the people, terrified, hungry and increasingly sick, are stuck in the middle. Many headed for the UN compound on the outskirts of Kadugli seeking shelter. The UN has been unable to step in because it “does not have the mandate” The UN is also due to leave Sudan once the new South Sudan comes into being. Leaving the Nuba people to their fate.

The international community helped broker the deal that has put the Nuba people where they are - it must take action now to stop the killing of peaceful innocent men, women and children. Please do whatever you can to raise awareness of this terrible situation. Thank you.

A father cradles his child, killed by Sudan Government bombing of Kurchi, Nuba Mountains 27th June 2011.


Sudanese Struggle to Survive Endless Bombings Aimed to Quell Rebels

Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

As the Sudan government bombs rebels, the Nuba people have been forced to spend much of their daily lives in the rocky caves far above the valley floor. More Photos »

Source: www.nytimes.com/2011/07/04/world/africa/04sudan

LEWERE, Sudan — Fatima Ramadan, mother of six, froze, her eyes shooting up to the sky.

“Antonov!” she yelled.

Little girls threw down the pebbles they were playing with. Toddlers, sensing danger, started to wail. About two dozen people grabbed the young and dashed up the mountainside into a cave. It was hot and dark inside, and the children’s eyes were wide with fear.

“I don’t like this place,” said Kaka, a 10-year-old girl.

Nobody does. And yet thousands of people live like this.

As the July 9 division of Sudan nears, the government in Khartoum is scrambling to crush any rebellious chunks of the territory that will remain its own. Its forces have been relentlessly pounding the Nuba Mountains from Russian-made Antonov bombers for weeks, demanding that tens of thousands of rebel fighters dug in here disarm and drop their insistence on more autonomy for the distinctive Nuba people. Hundreds of civilians have been killed, including many children. Bombs have been dropped on huts, on farmers in the field, on girls fetching water together, slicing them in half with buckets in their hands.

As the area inches toward becoming fully engulfed in war, the Nuba caves offer a crucial refuge.

Every morning at sunup, Ms. Ramadan trudges up a hillside, about 1,000 feet high, lugging pots, water jugs, mats and blankets, the children huffing behind.

She nestles her cooking fire in a crack in the mountain wall, to conceal the smoke. The young mothers around her dangle their legs over ledges as they nurse. Older children play a game similar to jacks, using pebbles on the precarious heights. Old men just sit and stare. At dusk, which usually signals the end of the sorties, most descend. Very few young men are with them.

“These caves have saved my children’s life,” Ms. Ramadan said. A couple of hundreds yards below her is the evidence: jagged chunks of shrapnel, gaping bomb craters and a tree trunk with a huge hole blown straight through it. The bombings have shifted west in recent days, away from the Lewere Valley toward what is emerging as the front line in an area called Korchi. But the fear endures like a scar.

“Even the sound of a car sends us running,” Ms. Ramadan said.

In another time, perhaps, a hike up this mountain would be a treat. The views from the top are amazing. The undulating Nuba heartland stretches for miles into the hazy distance, the tawny hilltops clear save for some scratchy green brush and a few trees stubbornly clinging to the rocks. Down below, thatched-roof huts squat together. A few people swing hoes. A few women plant on their knees, as if they are praying. A tan stripe — the only road — slices across the valley floor.

“This is all about land,” said Saida Bakhait, who is also hiding in a cave with her children.

“Bashir,” she says, referring to Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, “needs our land and he wants to finish us off.”

But if war comes, it will not be an easy fight.

“Be tough! Be strong! Protect our land!” shout legions of young men — “freedom fighters” they call themselves — as they march through the mist-shrouded valleys at dawn to add to the rebels’ numbers. They do not have guns, so they train with sticks. Many are freshly carved, the wood still white.

Land is often code for identity and the Nuba see this as a fight for their cultural survival. These mountains are an outpost of traditional beliefs and Christianity (though there are Muslim Nuba, too) in northern Sudan. Many people here did not wear clothes until the 1970s, when the government passed laws forbidding nudity. Anthropologists have celebrated the Nuba for their singing, dancing, ferocious wrestling tournaments and dizzying number of languages, with nearly every major set of hills having its own tongue. Their land is among the most fertile in all of Sudan.

Because they had been subjugated by Sudan’s Arab rulers for generations, the Nuba sided with southern rebels during the latter half of Sudan’s north-south civil war, in the 1980s and ’90s. The government responded by bombing the hillsides, wiping out villages and incarcerating hundreds of thousands of Nuba in so-called peace camps where many were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint. People fled to caves then, too.

A peace treaty signed in 2004 called for Nuba to have a say in determining how much autonomy they would get — again, protecting their unique culture was a priority — but autonomy never came. Now, it seems, the government’s sudden interest in Nuba is timed to the south’s independence on Saturday. Khartoum may feel it has to send a signal that even after the south breaks off, the result of decades of struggle for liberation, it will not tolerate other secession movements.

“They lost southern Sudan with bitterness, and now they are projecting that bitterness on us,” said a Nuba man named Kuku.

In one place near Lewere, hundreds, perhaps thousands, are camped in caves. At least that is what some soldiers were saying. According to them, an entire village has uprooted itself to a mountaintop.

“But we can’t let you see it,” said a local elder at the foot of the mountain. He is sympathetic but firm.

“It’s the only place that hasn’t been bombed yet,” he said. “The last thing we want is for al-Bashir to know about it.”


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