Volume 5, No 1, June 1999
Human Rights Abuses
In an attempt to destroy Nuba rebels in South Kordufan, and to close down the air-strips in the Nuba Mountains, which are the only access available to the outside world, the Government army has now intensified its military operations in the region. This is backed up by the use of Antonovs which are now used routinely to bomb villages and schools. In addition heavy artillery is being used indiscriminately to drive people out of their homelands.
On 29 January 1999 the government armed forces raided Appa village and burnt down all the houses in the villages and looted Nuba properties. 65 people had suffered from this raid and their losses included 98 sacks of food burned and 90 head of livestock stolen.
On 1 January 1999 the government armed forces from Debbie launched an attack on villages of Kolbira A and B and killed civilians and looted their properties. In Kolbira A, four civilians were killed and two wounded, while 23 persons were abducted. Forty houses were burned and large quantities of food and groundnuts were destroyed or stolen. 77 head of goats and 47 head of cattle were taken by the soldiers. Meanwhile in Kolbira B, three persons killed among them one young pregnant lady. One person was wounded and 148 person abducted. The losses included 33 cattle, 250 goats, 150 huts burned to the ground and an uncountable number of pigs slaughtered. The inhabitants of Kolbira A and B villages were forced to leave the area and move up to the top of the mountain for security.
On 17 April 1999 a man was taken from his home in Tira area to the forest where his body was cut with a knife and then he was killed. Mohammed Rahamatalla and his wife and a son were abducted. The wife was able to escape but her husband and her son of 7 years old believed to have been killed.
In January a man named Osman Kodocor aged 83 from Lierra Payam was attacked by Government armed forces based in Heiban garrison trying to take his cattle but his son came for his rescue in the fist attack. The same man was again attacked by the soldiers from Heiban garrison and he was beaten to death. Forty head of cattle together with 84 goats were taken.
Another incident occurred at Hajar Bago when Mohammed Tunber, 31 years old, was shot dead by government soldiers during theft raid from Heiban and took 13 head cattle. A third incident occurred in the same area, when Koddi Omer, 15 years old, who was herding some goats at the edge of the village was shot dead, and 43 of his goats were taken.
On 29 March, 1999 a man named Mahmoud Edigair, 47 years old, from Kallo village in Otoro East Payam was attacked by Government soldiers. He was tied up and dragged towards the garrison and left half way there, lying unconscious on the ground. He was rescued by some passing villagers who took him to Kauda medical unit. The man reported that the attackers were all in uniforms and he recognised some names.
A man named Yusif Dugoom, 45 years old from Sharia Obier village in Otoro was abducted and no one knows his whereabouts.
Another man named Philip Karman, 30 years old also from Sharia Obeir village was abducted from his house together with his wife and another two women. Philip was beaten all the way to Heiban. His wife managed to escape and was slightly injured by a bullet while running. As for her husband and the other two women, nobody knows their fate.
However, the number of returnees from government peace camps is increasing, as more internees succeed in escaping.
On 12 June, SPLA forces attacked and overran the government garrison at Kanga, killing 20 soldiers and capturing more than 30 rifles plus ammunition.
A Sudan Government convoy left Korongo garrison on 9 June before dawn, aiming to attack the nearby village of Kuffa and round up its inhabitants to take them to ‘peace camps.’ More than 1,300 inhabitants fled to the hills while the government force destroyed and looted the village. However, a nearby SPLA force quickly intervened and drove out the Government troops, who left behind ten dead plus two machine guns, ten mortars and 20 rifles in addition to ammunition. The residents of the village are now without food and shelter.
In an attempt to regain Tiema, in Lagowa County, the government armed forces launched an attack on 17 May 1999 but they were repelled by the SPLA soldiers. Heavy casualties were reported on government troops and at least 30 bodies were left behind on battlefield. Two RPG9 and more than 7 AKM 47 rifles, in addition to large quantities of various ammunitions were all captured.
On 20 May 1999 the Government armed forces attacked Charre village in Otoro south and burnt the entire village, forcing all people who fled recently from Appa to the top of the mountains for safety.
On 23 May 1999 the Government armed forces attacked both Kaiga al-Khel and Kurssi with the intention of forcing people out of their land to join ‘peace camps’ which are set up by government.
SPLA MAY 16th CELEBRATION IN NUBA MOUNTAINS
On every 16 May, the SPLA celebrates the Launching of its armed struggle in 1983. This year the anniversary in the Nuba Mountains was a special one because it was attended by a third man in the movement, Cdr James Wanni Igga, SPLA Secretary General. In addition many journalists and photographers from Italy, France, United Kingdom and Kenya were among the guests who were invited to this occasion. Also from Southern Blue Nile Bab Allah Mursal Shaii, Commissioner of Maban Province and Capitan Abdu Alsamad Hassan Abdallah Police Commissioner attended the celebration. This is the first time that people from Blue Nile were able to come to the Nuba Mountains in solidarity with the Nuba. Mary Appye, Jacqueline Otiba and Susan Jambo from Southern Sudan women’s organisations also came for this celebration.
Before introducing Cdr James Wanni, Governor Yousif Kuwa Mekki asked all the people to stand up for one minute in remembrance of their martyrs. He then went on to say:
Governor Yousif Kuwa’s Speech
"We took up arms because we would like to have our own say in our lives. Nobody can decide for us. This is liberty. Liberty is when you say what you want to say. We have our own culture which we would like to practice.
I was yesterday pleased when we came across Turo Primary School and found pupils singing in our local language, because in the past during our shool time we were beaten up if you we were found talking our language. Now I see in front of me traditional dances which are part of our culture. These are the things for which we took up armed struggle.
In February this year there was a conference in Kampala to discuss Human Rights in the Transition in Sudan. Sadig al-Mahdi, I think you know him, presented a paper in which he admitted the right of self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan but denied that right to the Nuba and to the people of Blue Nile. I said in that conference, we have already determined the right to self-determination for ourselves. The question is: if we were to go back to Khartoum and asked to go to where we used to be, do you think this will happen? The answer is no! If somebody tells you not to use your local language would you accept? The answer is also no. We have already achieved self-determination and we cannot retreat from this.
The second question is that self-determination is given to the South. Are they better than us? What we know self-determination is given to the South because they have taken up arms. We also have taken up arms to achieve our rights and we will not lay down our arms until our rights are achieved. I would like to assure you, our friends and even our people who are afraid, that there is no power that can take it away from us. What we had achieved is because we are determined and we have shown the world that we are strong. We would talk more about the right to self-determination in the Regional Congress and about relation with the South and the North."
Cdr. James Wanni Igga, SPLA Secretary General Spoke almost for two hours on two separate occasions. He said,
Cdr James Wani Igga’s Speech
"I am happy for the high morale which I have seen among people here. I came with a very big pot full of peace from Dr. John Garang de Mabior who is greeting each one of you. In this place I would like to discuss with you the reasons why we went to the bush and in relation to what people think that this movement brought to us so many problems and difficulties. Because if we do not know the reason why we are here in the bush we cannot endure our suffering. Today I would like to tell the reason for this war.
The first reason we went to the bush because of our land. We are fighting because Jellaba have taken our lands. Sudan means black and it is a country of black people. God has given everybody its land and even Jellaba have their own land. Jellaba migrated into Sudan from the Gulf and from Egypt. They came from countries suffering from desertification and found Sudan a land full of rich green land and the African indigenous people are kind and friendly. We have taken arms because of our land, when Jellaba wanted to confiscated our land and deny us our culture. Second reason is because of our culture and values. Jellaba argue we Africans have no culture which is not true. They say we do not have civilisation and they insist that we have to adopt Arabic culture and civilisation. What we have seen here today and been demonstrated that we have rich culture and civilisation.
I want to assure you that Sudan extends from Nimule in the South to Wadi Halfa and even to Abu Simbel, South Egypt. This is the place of the black people. In the past it was known as the land of Kush, land of the black. In the past we were really controlling this land but at the end they changed the name Kush into Nubia—bilad al- Nuba.
We also have kingdoms in Napata and Meroe and have brought civilisation and culture to the world. We took up arms to show Jellaba that we have civilisation and culture.
Among other things which we are angry about is Arabisation process. Jellaba argue that they must transform all the people into Arabs. We refused this Arabisation and this is why we took up armed struggle.
The third reason we went to the bush is Sharia Law introduced by Numeri in 1983. Many of our people have been amputated.Marisa which is a local drink is forbidden. Marisa is used as a means for collective agricultural work known as Nafir and also used in marriages as a custom in some tribes in Sudan.
Women’s dress is becoming restricted, as the Government has imposed a new dress code on women and will deploy public order police to ensure that it it is observed.
The last thing make us to take arms is slavery. In the past we were not small in number like today. But many of our people even up to the time of Mahdi were taken and sold in America and Egypt. They were taken violently and tied up by the necks and legs by heavy chains. Many people died before even reached the destination. Today young people in Aweil in Bahr al-Gazal, in Bentiu and Abyeii are taken sold for one dollar per slave. If we are not aware about this thing it might come to the Nuba Mountains again. Let us stand together to face this problem.
Self-determination is an important point. I want to assure you if al-Bashir and Turabi say that they will give self-dtermination to South and deny the Nuba Mountains and South Blue Nile there will be no agreement. There will be no agreement because the problems which people in Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile facing are similar problems which Souhthern people are facing. Jellaba are looking for ways of dividing us. We are one people, the problem is one, our culture and civilisation is one and our case is one. We share everything and even our grandfather is one.
If the Jellaba wants to give self-determination to the South alone we will tell them this cannot be. If they are serious many people in the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile have raised up struggle, then they should bring one solution and if they do not bring this solution Bashir is wasting his time. I want to assure one thing that Omer al-Bahir is not serious in self-determination or in peace process as well. He will not give self-determination to the South, Nuba Mountains or Blue Nile. We shall get our rights through one way only and this through the barrel of guns.
We have sat with Khartoum many times in a table for peace talks. We will not let down our brothers and sisters in Ingessena and in Nuba Mountains".
NMSA UK Headquarters
On 8 May 1999 Nuba Mountains Solidarity Abroad (NMSA) held its second General Assembly and elected the following candidates to the positions of NMSA:
Omar Mustafa Shurkian is Chairman
Awad Khamis is Deputy Chairman
Ahmed el-Zubeir Rahhal is Secretary General and Information Secretary
Mubark Yasein is Financial Officer
Sara Shokai is Education Secrtary
Tabita Shokai is Health Secretary
Fatima Gebreil is Women Affairs Secretary
The former NMSA Chairman, Suleiman Musa Rahhal is to become the Managing Director of International Nuba Co-ordination Centre. He also remains as the Chairman of NRRDS Board of Trustees and editor of this journal, NAFIR.
The Call of the Mountains
By Abdalla Mansour Elnayer
"The plight of Nuba, is a successive racial attrition and exploitation, that augmented overtime, from their counterparts the so-called Arabs, not withstanding but an entrenched hatred and fear, fear that the Nubians are, the original but powerful citizens of antique bright glorious history."
"Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
One of the most famous lines in English literature, this emotive, charming sentiment, touched my heart, as well as my rational mind, thus it created and illustrated, such a portray of Nuba in my mind, such an orchestrated scenario of Nubian rhythm, such a marshalling of feelings, zeal, and confidence. I decided to go to the mountains to my Nuba people, those courageous men and women, who despite intimidation, hunger, repression, poverty and discrimination continue their struggle for justice. Because I think as long as they exist, they have a right to certain quality of life. The have right to basic dignity that require no justification other than the fact that they exist.
I was sitting just beside the pilot, he pointed to me, that is the area. In fact I visualized the vista, it was such an emotive nice scenery, the mountains and the land covered with a glittering but haunting green sheet, there were very green basins, scattered within that sheet, half filled with water. Meanwhile I was nourishing myself, my innate self from that very panoramic sight, the wheels of the plane hit the ground, within minutes, I found myself almost surrounded by my people, I was indeed overwhelmed by a plethora of grinning but smiling rays, that fountained from the faces of slim but determined figures, I can’t believe mysef, I signed to myself Alhamd lilah (thanks to God). The life in liberated areas of Nuba Mountains is almost completely normal, the signs of war are hardly traced, not as the picture that ingrained within my mind the (war horror) that means, the people have created such a protective skeleton and indeed they are astitute to lead, organise, and handle the disputes that are bound to flare up at any time in a conscious and alert attitude. Thus, their domain is a strong one, despite the tyranny of NIF and their massive exploitation, social attrition and coercive use of power in ethnic cleansing of Nuba people, such thuggishness have become their permanent imprimature. People are very friendly, and their happiness is beyond word, especially when a learned Nuba comes from abroad to work in there. The life system is highly organised and coordinated and firmly anchored in terms of social harmony and cohesion in regard to a primitive area which is almost completely isolated and cut off from the world aound it.
The political expediency changes and shifts, rises and falls with the whim of flimsy politicians, left the Nuba Mountains almost deficient of any infrastructure in terms of development aspects. Thus the areas is in a constitutional quagmire.
I hereby appeal and ask earnestly, all Nuba elites and intellectuals, who are in the diaspora to come to the liberated areas, every one to come and contribute and provide some service in his field because your people here are in urgent need for your expertise. However, the various skills, that used by the NIF to tease, torment and quake the earth beneath the Nuba people failed in a dramatic way.
Awa Kodilla, 10 years old, lay on a table in the unlit mud hut, her eyes trembling with pain. Three relatives wounded in the same bombing raid waited outside. Abbas Kodilla, who escaped unscathed, stood by his daughter's side, holding her still as her bandages were peeled away.
Dr. Sebastian Dietrich, head of the German Emergency Doctors, the only foreign NGO working in the rebel-controlled mountains, spoke without looking up. "An Antonov bombed her village and she came in very bad condition, injured in both legs and both arms. On her right leg she lost her Achilles tendon and all the muscles around it. On the left leg, part of the knee bone is missing and all the tendons on the inside of the knee. The leg is unlikely to grow any more."
Collateral damage from an attack on the rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army? "There was no military presence in the village." A deliberate attack on civilians then? "Yes, for sure. But not the only one. There were many more in December. They bombed other villages. They tried to bomb the Christmas party. They bombed the market place..."
The Nuba mountains are in the throes of a dry-season offensive by the Government of Sudan and civilians are, as usual, its main victims. But this year's offensive is more than a continuation of the scorched-earth policy that has been waged in the mountains ever since Khartoum declared Holy War on the Nuba rebels in 1992.
Prisoners of war captured by the SPLA say "President Omar al-Bashir has ordered his troops to close down the handful of bush airstrips that are the Nuba's only connection to the outside world".
Since planes began flying into the mountains four years ago - in defiance of Khartoum's blockade - a rebellion that was on the verge of defeat has received a new lease of life. The SPLA has been able to re-arm, to some degree, and civilian morale has been boosted by a trickle of relief supplies.
Commander Ismael Khamis, a former officer in the Sudanese army, is acting governor of the rebel-controlled area. A tall, elegant man who wears fatigues like couture, he punctuates every response with "thank you." "Thank you. This year the government began their offensive very, very early. They are planning to shut up the airstrips. They don't want any people to come here or our supplies to come through these airstrips. They want to chase the SPLA from the mountains so the IGAD peace talks concentrate on the south. One POW said they were told by (President) Omar al-Bashir: 'Within three months I don't want to see any SPLA forces in the Nuba mountains."
After four months fighting, the government succeeded in closing one of the SPLA's three airstrips by bringing it within artillery range. An
earlier attempt to capture the airstrip failed and Khartoum's soldiers were forced to retreat after a three-day pitched battle. Behind them they left five big guns and three mass graves.
SPLA morale is high. At Commander Khamis's headquarters, soldiers who had walked for five days from their base in the western mountains took delivery of a new consignment of weapons. Heavy weapons captured from government forces routed from a second airstrip lay in a neat row on the ground. A few yards away, soldiers bound for the front drilled underneath a captured government flag. All but one wore shoes; all had ammunition - although one, oddly, carried only half a Kalashnikov. "Have you seen this flag?" a young officer shouted. "This is the flag of the enemy. We are defeating them! Stand together and confront the enemy offensive. This year is our year!"
Many had hopes that this would be the year in which the United Nations' Operation Lifeline Sudan would finally extend its multi-million dollar operation to the Nuba mountains, nine months after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he had been promised access. But an expected assessment team has not arrived and the GED are still the only foreign operation in the mountains.
Dr. Dietrich is scathing: "I think it is a big scandal that the UN is not here. It seems they have an agreement with Khartoum to cover southern Sudan only if they don't cover the Nuba mountains. A contract like this I cannot accept because in the end they do exactly what the government wants and play their part in this war."