As a Nuba and someone who is extremely concerned about the issue of the Nuba Mountains, I was so pleased with the cease-fire agreement which was signed recently between the government of Sudan and SPLA faction in the Nuba Mountains. I was pleased because the agreement has sparked a glimpse of hope as peace will be given a chance to prevail and that will definitely lead to development and stability in that isolated part of my beloved country.
I have been living in exile for so many years and during that time I have been following closely all the events unfolding in my beloved homeland. My dream has always been to live and witness the real peace prevailing in the Nuba Mountains. So, I couldn’t wait when I heard about the peace agreement in the region. I immediately flew from London to Sudan to see with my own eyes the effect of peace on the ground. After arriving in the Sudan I spent only few days in Khartoum, the capital and then continued my journey southwards to the Nuba Mountains.
Before my visit to the Mountains I learnt that the highway between Kadugli and El-Obied was one of the main articles in the peace agreement because of its importance and vitality in connecting the region with the rest of the country. However, to my surprise, when I saw the highway, nothing noticeable has been done apart from some partial repairs and filling up of some pot-holes in the already-rotten highway. This is the first sign of disappointment and frustration for every new visitor to Kadugli. Whenever you ask about when the road is going to be accomplished, the answer is always, ‘only God knows’. We all know that for any region to develop great consideration must be given to the means of transport and communication, especially after long years of war, neglect and isolation.
Kadugli, the capital city of the Nuba Mountains, a town in which visitors expect to see clearly the rate of development after the signing of cease-fire agreement, is still in ruins. A visitor to the town will immediately notice that the infrastructure has been intentionally destroyed completely. Education is no exception, as most schools have been closed down and some, like Kadugli Technical School, have turned to barracks to house the soldiers, whereas Kadugli Higher Secondary School (Tilaw), in addition to some other schools and institutions, have been made headquarters for the joint peace-keeping forces.
It was unfortunate to see the whole city in complete darkness because of the lack of electricity. As for drinking water, this is another problem and people depend entirely on water pumps that were installed by UNICEF. Students are the ones who are suffering most, as they lack the basic educational needs and the conducive learning environment. They can’t even do their homework simply because of the lack of electricity. In addition to that they have to make after-school journeys to fetch drinking water from far away water pumps.
During my stay in Kadugli I had the opportunity to visit Umm Sirdiba village and I passed through some small villages scattered along the road. I was able to visit Soug Al-salam (Peace Market), a market that was established as a result of an agreement between the SPLA and the Sudan government to work as a peace bridge to connect people from both sides. In those areas all the schools are semi-closed as the result of neglect and the failure of the government to provide the basic necessities for education. All along the road you will never miss the long queues of people waiting desperately to obtain drinking water from water pumps. They might stay for hours before being able to pump out some water and make their long journey home. This has become the essential part of the daily life of our people in the government-controlled areas of the Nuba Mountains. If these are the negative sides of the government policies in the Nuba Mountains, how can we imagine the situation in the area before the cease-fire agreement? This is left to the readers to imagine the degree of misery and suffering our people are living in, even after the signing of the cease-fire. We still hope that the situation might change for the better to ease the suffering of our people in the Nuba Mountains who have suffered a great deal during years of fierce fighting in the area.
On the other hand you hear some people speak about achievements in the areas controlled by the SPLM in the Nuba Mountains. During our visit to the Peace Market we met some students who spoke to us fluently in both Arabic and English. When we asked them, ‘Where did you learn English?’, they replied, ‘in our school we learn both English and Arabic.’ The people who visited the SPLA areas spoke positively about the effect of the cease-fire agreement on the life of people there, as there are clean and hygienic drinking water, electricity supplies and a relatively good education system.
I was really shocked to see these dramatic scenes during my visit to the Nuba Mountains. I went to the Mountains full of optimism and hope because of what I’ve read in the media and heard from other people about the cease-fire agreement and its effect on people. But what I saw there was far different from what I had featured in my mind. What annoyed me more was the deliberate destruction of the infrastructure of the region. Others may share with me this sense of despair and disappointment however, development can’t be achieved overnight. It needs a lot of work and dedication.