STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL IN THE NUBA NOUNTAINS

Paulo Nunes Dos Santos

 

Since the war resumed in June 2011, after a failed attempt by Khartoum to disarm the population in South Kordofan province, there have been daily bombing raids by Sudanese army warplanes in the Nuba Mountains. This constant attack has claimed thousands of lives and injured an unknown number of civilians. Entire villages have been destroyed and the people, largely dependent on farming, are unable to cultivate their land. Most have been forced to seek refuge in caves and rocky shelters in the hills, surviving on a diet of leaves, wild fruit and insects as Khartoum refuses to authorise aid agencies to operate in the affected areas. This plight that forced thousands to flee to the troubled neighbouring nation of South Sudan. Ahmed Tia, the commissioner of Buram county, accuses the Khartoum government of using hunger as a weapon. “Since the war started, the people have been terrified. They are living in caves. There’s no way to grow anything or graze our cattle. There’s nothing left here,” he says as he points to a bowl of boiled leaves and grass that is about to serve as a family’s meal. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), the Nuban group allied to South Sudan’s former rebel forces, says the Sudanese army’s aerial bombardment is partly aimed at preventing the raising of crops to stop any profits generated by those crops being used to support the insurgency, which has has fanned out across the restive states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. They note that the same tactic was used by Khartoum a decade ago in Darfur. People here fear look to the sky withy fear. The Sudanese army is using Antonov aircraft loaded with bombs, Sukhoi attack jets and helicopter gunships. Children have grown to recognise the roaring sound of the engines overhead, and “Antonov” has became part of their vocabulary. As soon as they can be heard in the distance, villagers panic and run to shelter in caves dotted through the nearby hillsides. Because so many of their relatives and neighbours have died or been seriously injured, locals feel they cannot take any chances. “Usually when a drone passes overhead, about 20 minutes later the bombing begins,” says Jacob William Idris, a local SPLM-N fighter. In a rebel base across the mountains, other SPLM-N fighters display weapons newly captured from the government forces. Iranian anti-personnel land mines, Chinese rockets and cluster bombs and Greek-made mortar bombs are among the contents of a pile of boxes camouflaged under some trees. Capitan Abdula Jumlah, commander of Jebel Kwo military base, near the village of Tess, declares that “the world needs to see what weapons Khartoum is using and where they are getting them”. He accuses Iran and China of being the main suppliers of arms to the regime of President Omar al-Bashir, which then uses them against the region’s civilians. Equipped mainly with weapons and ammunition captured from the enemy and using guerrilla combat tactics, the rebels have struggled to secure control of South Kordofan’s countryside. According to their commander-in-chief and the political leader of the Nuba people, Dr. Abdalaziz Alhilu, the SPLM-North and other rebel groups in Sudan believe they will be able to oust Bashir’s regime in the near future.

 

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