Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Sudan, war against children and farmers

No time for Hide and Seek: Nuba children and parents hide from ongoing bombs in Nuba Mountains, south central Sudan.

A lot has been happening in Sudan over the past months. There are ongoing floods from the Nile that has left 160,000+ people homeless and many roads going to villages and towns across several Sudanese governorates are cut off from one another. Ordinary Sudanese people in Darfur, Kassala and Gardarif have long protested for better infrastructure in their respective states and cities. Again marginalization and lack of basic social services were one of the many reasons for the ongoing conflict in Abyei, Blue Nile and South Kordofan (known as the Two Areas in Sudan). It is also what fuelled the conflict Darfur in the 1980s that continue today.  Nomadic herders living along the border of South Sudan and Sudan have recently sent a proposal to the Sudanese Parliament requesting that their rights to continue cross border herding be respected. The nomadic herding had existed before South Sudan's 2011 independence. The Sudanese government and local state governors including Kordofan's Governor Ahmed Haroun has done little to resettle or help millions of displaced Darfuri IDPs inside Darfur region and Khartoum and millions of refugee families back home. Darfuri students and civilians in cities such as El Genina in Western Darfur and Khartoum continue to protest. Families and students across South Kordofan and Dispora Sudanese in United States, UK and Slovenia have also brought the ongoing war against South Kordofan and Blue Nile to their respective governments and wider public's attention.

A village in the Nuba Mountains in more quieter times

Al Hurra News Documentary on Nuba Wrestling in Khartoum

Along the border with South Sudan in Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, millions of Nuba and Ingessina people especially families, elderly and school children have been displaced by the 5 year old war. Many Nuba are farmers who rely on agriculture and communal farming for their daily bread. Few are traders. For the Nuba people land is important and crucial to the Nuba identity and culture. Being displaced from their lands and homes for the Nuba is equivalent to loosing a part of their unique identity. The Nubians in Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt understand indigenous people's connection to land as well. They are also one of many indigenous African, non Arab/Afro Arab peoples living along the border and Blue Nile. Also, the Nuba people are equally split between Christian and Muslim who coexist side by side. This peaceful coexistence between Islam and Christianity is common in many African countries. Both Christian and Muslim Nuba are targeted by Sudanese government. The war like in Darfur and Blue Nile is aimed at an ethnic group and not simply religion. The eyewitness accounts of Nuba children and adults via the group Nuba Reports, human rights and religious organizations on the ground and Diaspora have all reiterated ethnic cleansing and genocide by Sudanese military and government. The excessive military attacks do not differentiated between civilians or rebels. To add insult to the victims, humanitarian aid has also been denied entry to Nuba Mountains while international NGOs and reporters are blocked from entering the region.The blockade much like the one in Gaza is done by the Sudanese government to no only punish the rebel groups resisting the ongoing ethnic cleansing but to excessively punish ordinary people. With the exception of the SPLM North, Nuba people do not have an army or weapons to fight against the Sudanese government. No one sees the irony in the Nuba having to fight against their own government just to demand their right to live and stay on their land or homes.

The Nuba Mountains is one of the most fertile land in Sudan along with the neighbouring Blue Nile State to it's immediate East. It is beautifully green. Most of families try to carrying on with their normal lives ie going to school, marketplaces, keeping up with Nuba wrestling, celebrating cultural and harvest festivals, farming their land, work and visiting friends. The normal routine helps to calm nerves and acts as a release from the ongoing psychological and physical trauma that children, women and men face on a near daily bases. They are all Sudanese have been displaced from their homes across Nuba Mountains. The rainy season usually allows most of Nuba families to live in a tense peace. Each year during the dry season the Sudanese Armed Forces or the SAF (with the aid of drone surveillance) excessively bombs the towns of Kauda, Dillig and smaller villages with hundreds of cluster bombs. Most of the bombs fall on and near schools, hospitals, houses, farm land and grain storages. Keep in mind that the Sudanese Army pilots of Antonovs (Russian made) know that they are bombings civilians and civilian infrastructure. To prevent their conscious from permitting them to say no to bombing civilians or outright refuse, the Sudanese Army goes to great lengths to dehumanize and demonize the SPLM, Sudanese Revolutionary Front (Blue Nile) and Nuba civilians. The justification the SAF uses is the same excuse "we are fighting rebels" or "terrorists" referring to the SPLM-North. It is the same reasoning other national armies ie Syrian and Israel use to explain away large civilian deaths. The SPLM-N rebels try to keep the frontline separate from civilian areas and closer to army occupied areas. The SPLM-North wants a New Sudan based on the original vision of the late John Garang. The New Sudan vision calls for a Democratic, multi ethnic and multi religious Sudan where everyone regardless of ethnicity and home town is respected as citizens first and foremost. South Kordofan's capital of Kadugli, is the headquarters of United Nations Mission in Sudan or UNMIS.  but the peacekeepers have been limited in reaching Nuba Mountains by the Sudanese government. The African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) operates in Darfur but have in the past brokered a peace plan among Sudanese rebels and have condemned attacks in the Korodofan region. However, there is no AU peacekeeping force in South Korodan.

Sudan's Lost Generation: Art as Therapy

Most of Blue Nile State has been depopulated of civilians while the SPLM-N fights the Sudanese government across the state. The civilians have fled to Upper Nile state and Yida Refugee in neighbouring South Sudan and Ethiopia for safety.  Since late 2015, the 100, 000+ have been relocated to a new refugee camp Ajoung Thok near the town of South Sudan. While both countries have opened their doors for their neighbours, many Sudanese Nuba refugees would prefer to go back home to the Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Again, the civilians in the Blue Nile are also farmers, school children as well as elderly who are tramutized and exhausted by the war. Many school children have physiological trauma from hearing constant bombs not only late at night but even in school which is supposed to be safe places for most children. Nuba children can't even concentrate on their school work even outside of class. Occasional playtime in between school and the next day tends to be interrupted by the adult war. Many times, they have to take cover when an Antonov plane flies over head. When the planes do fly over school children and their families at homes or farmers, many people have to take immediate cover in hundreds of caves in the villages and towns. If there are no caves, often time many kids and their parents have to hide in self made fox holes to avoid the cluster bombs. Depending on targeted area, farmers will till the land on their own without the help of their immediate families.

Yida Refugee Camp: Inside the markets and restaurants of S. Sudan's largest refugee camp

and at least return to their lives as they were before the current war broke out following South Sudan's 2011 independence. .

6 children killed in Heiban Market bombing October 2014

Repeat attack on Heiban earlier this year 2016 killed another 6 children in Heiban

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