The Nuba people, ninety-nine black African tribes living in the Nuba Mountains situated in the Sudanese province of South Kordofan, have been besieged by the regular Sudanese Army for fifteen years. The genocide perpetrated on the Nuba people, obviously the result of the world powers’ struggle over Sudanese natural riches, remains concealed from the world public: no observers, reporters or even members of humanitarian organisations are allowed into the Nuba Mountains, the most inaccessible place on the planet. In the besieged Nuba Mountains there is no electricity, no petrol, not a single shop or restaurant, no waste ... the mountains are the least consumer-oriented spot on the globe. The Nuba Mountains are the heart of solid stone darkness, in the safety of which persist the last of the fighters for the right to be a Nuba. The Nuba Mountains are the black hole of the planet Earth, and yet one of the rare examples of primordial human sensibility and the symbiotic relationship between Man and Nature, a people that has managed to survive the twilight of the ancient gods.
When I first went there twenty years ago, I encountered original human democracy, joy of life, trance and ecstasy. I arrived with a donkey, two goats and four hens. A newly-graduated economist, I was warmly welcomed in the village of the Mesaquin Quisar tribe, and became a student of the culture in Europe deemed primitive and barbarian.
Later, I tried to find people like the Nuba all over the world, but to no avail. In the early nineties I heard the news of the war which had broken out in the Nuba Mountains. It took me a couple of years to prepare, and to gather courage to go back there: I returned to the Nuba people in the last dry season. I was quite experienced in illegal cycling, and I crossed into the Sudan in the north, and I managed to visit the government controlled Nuba areas, where conditions in the peace camps were horrific and the people had lost all their former way of life - and many had lost their lives as well.
Then, for five weeks in August and September I visited the besieged mountains with the rebel army. The cease-fire signed between the Sudan People Liberation Army and the Khartoum government, during which the aid should have been delivered to the most needy on both sides, was not honoured. The first bombs were dropped the very next day after my arrival. I eye-witnessed the brutal death of four children and two women. In the following weeks I experienced first-hand that the rebellious Nuba are the most endangered people on the planet. That, despite utter destitution, absence of media coverage, starvation and casualties of attacks from air and ground, they are still alive is a miracle probably due to their traditional techniques of co-existence with the power of life. Fertile soil, sorghum, cows, symbiosis with water and air – these are their only possessions, believed to be the most sacred. The Nuba are environment-friendly, highly spiritual Muslims, Christians and pagans who – dancing and singing like our grand-fathers and grand-mothers – are dying on our thresholds. The more they are beaten and oppressed, the more they dance and sing. They are fully aware of self-sufficiency and its influence on their maintaining independence, so they ask no more of us then some media coverage – an opportunity to introduce themselves and invite us to their mountains. What is killing them most is their sad position on the edge of human society.
The two hundred pounds of medicaments I took with me were put to use during the first air-raid. Of all humanitarian organisations I encountered only German Emergency Doctors. Three young lady-doctors and two male nurses were the only people not scared by the government ban. I was deeply touched. Roberto Vilotta and I became close friends. He was critical of other humanitarian organisations. He accused Unicef and World Food Programme of participation in the genocide: the humanitarian aid delivered to the government-controlled peace camps is first given to soldiers and their version of janissaries, and the remains are placed to the foot of the mountains as bait to lure the Nuba. In the Arabic as well as Western policies, Vilotta sensed a Mafia-like conspiracy ...
Roberto Vilotta died at the end of August. The death of the sturdy forty-year-old triggered off numerous speculations. After the following air-raid the remaining Germans left. What followed was the last period of extreme famine between the dry and the rainy season; it is the period of months of collective fasting, yet the tribe elders could not remember a time when more people had died of famine in their entire history. Due to incessant raids in the last season, the Nuba families could not grow enough food to support themselves. Throughout the region one could see files of famished peasants and their families looking for anything edible. They would eat young sprouts and blades of grass, and many suffered from dysentery. During that time a fourth of the remaining 250,000 free Nuba surrendered themselves to the peace camps. Roberto Vilotta was right. I realised that humanitarian aid was not only futile and absolutely misplaced, but also dangerous. I stood on the altar and helplessly watched the victims die.
The book comprises approximately 280 pages, plus 60 pages of colour pictures and maps, together 340 pages.