Interview with Colonel Kuku Jazz Kuwa

by Nanne op 't Ende
Kurji, Sudan
April 4, 2006

Kuku Jazz Kuwa is probaly the youngest of the senior commanders of the SPLA in the Nuba Mountains. When I met him for the first time in Tabanya in 1997, I thought he was just another tough fighter. I had no interpreter at the time...

Kuku Jazz Kuwa

My name is Kuku Jazz Kuwa, I am born in Abu Kaya, which is a village of Angola, in the Brham district.

I would like to talk about the differences between the war time and the peace time, but the war is not over yet. People talk about peace but they have not reached a real solution. So I will talk about the side of the war.

The life of struggle was tough, and we faced many difficulties. We payed many lives; our houses were burned, civilians were killed, people were broken, livestock was taken. We lost so many things during the war.

It was the colonisation by the Jellaba that made me join the SPLA. I joined the SPLA on the first December of 1987. I went to the bush because of the injustice against the blacks. Since we were children the Jellaba were colonising anyone who's black - they didn't want to give freedom to the blacks. That's why we went and struggled all the time, and why we are still in the struggle.

As soon as we finished our training we came to the Nuba Mountains with the Kush Batallion. We came and fought all over the Nuba Mountains. My first battle was at hafir Nigeria, after we had reached [Lake] el Abiad. From Nigeria we went to Fama, where we clashed [with the government army] again.

We went to Korongo and that's were the real fighting started. We left Korongo to go to [Tira] Limun and on the way to Limun we fought at el Hamra after falling in an ambush. Then we moved and fought at Regifi; we came back from Regifi and we fought in Toroji. Al this was with the Kush Batallion.

I was a sergeant at the time, serving under Captain Yunis Absoder; he was the commander who took us to Toroji. We withdrew from Toroji after the first fight, only to fall in an ambush in Musran, now under the command of Abdelaziz [Adam al Hilu]. From Musran we returned to Toroji and we took the place.

I wasn't in the Southern Mountains all the time; they also sent me to the Western Mountains. I stayed in Jullud and Tima before they sent me back to Brham in 1994. In October I was in Toroji, in November I was in Tabanya, because the Government army had taken the whole area.

It was a very difficult situation. The Arabs entered the Brham district, taking Brham town, Tiz, Fama and Toroji. We had to fight all the time and we didn't have enough ammunition. We even fought with stones... when we had no bullits left we would throw stones. I was a lieutenant by that time.

We recaptured Toroji and when the Iraqi forces came to the place in 1995, we chased them. But after one or two years the Government army took it after all, together with Angola. It was a bad time. When the Arabs came and found civilians they would capture them, throw them in their huts and burn them alive. They even took old women who couldn't walk anymore.

Whenever they found civilians in the karakir (caves, single: karkur) they slaughtered them. The women would stay in the caves for days, together with their crying children, without any food or water. The only way to get something to eat or drink for themselves and the children, was to sneek out when the Arabs were not around.

There was always a chance that the women would find their homes burned and their crops destroyed - and then they would stay inside the caves hungry, unless they wold go out to search for food in other places. It was very difficult, really very difficult - that whole time. And we are not going to give up the struggle untill we reach our goal. Too many people have died.

Question: When I was in Tabanya in 1997, the people were celebrating Christmas, they seemed rather carefree. Were they no longer afraid that the Government army would come?

We were never afraid of the Government army in the first place. When the Government army came to us before, we fought them and we defeated them. It made us happy. We didn't think they would be coming back again, but we were always ready to fight them anyway.

Food was a bit of a problem when you were with us, there wasn't much of it in Tabanya. But the civilians used to go to Fama and Shatt Safia to get sorghum - so we had at least something to eat.

In 1997 I was second in command to Ezechiel [Kuku Talodi] but I was promoted and I was given my own bataillon to lead in the West. Ezechiel was transferred to Kurji. So both of us were no longer around; Yasir Kafi was commanding the area.when Tabanya was captured by the Government army in 1999.

The last battle I was in was the fight for that place - Kauda - in 2001. I was there together with Abdelaziz. There was a batallion at Lueri itself that was under my command. After Kauda came the cease fire and the peace. Well - what they call peace anyway.

Sure, at the time of war there was no water; people drank from the rain and from the wells. And now they came and made two or three pumps here and there. Some new things entered the area, schools also. It gives me some comfort to see that the people are able to take a rest. When they relax, I feel good; this is all I wanted. So there is some change from the time of war, but -

In Fama two SPLA soldiers went to visit their relatives and they were shot. The Arabs have not stopped yet from what they used to do: they are still trying to shoot us. They burned a school in Shatt Safia, they burned the church. They also burned down the office of the Movement in Shatt and they killed that member of the Movement in Dar.

Yes, they came to kill that member of the Movement in Dar and they attacked the office of the Movement in Brham. They shot the representative in Brham through the hand, and they immediately burned down the office. They also burned down the SPLM office in Angola.

By now it is clear that they don't want to give the others their freedom, they don't want to see them happy. All these things are taking place while people say there is peace. How can that be? I can't understand it, untill now.

The SPLA respects the peace agreement. We can't go to the places where there is violence, because we would get involved in fighting [and we don't want that]. This is the work of the UN peace keeping force. But they are not getting any results - that is one. And number two: the UN police that they have now brought to the Nuba Mountains, they are not doing their job properly either. The SPLM wants to impliment the peace in a proper way, but when you depend on someone who is not doing his work properly, it just can't work.

All these things happened, but the SPLA members never touched a person or did any such things in return. They stayed in their place. But those guys who did the killing and burning... is the peace agreement only meant for us, or should we share it? This is the question here, and they should answer it.

Of course, when your father gives you advice, you have to listen to him. The freedom fighter Dr. John Garang and comrade Yousif Kuwa both always gave their best efforts, they both gave us very good avice. They set the example, and told us how to continue the march up to this moment. We are going to keep moving forwards down that road.

Untill now we have been implimenting the law. The Movement is a legal party. If anyone wants to break the law, it isn't right. So we keep raising these issues [of violence] with the UN. And we are not creating any problems ourselves.

When Yousif Kuwa talked about the Nuba identity, that we should be proud of who we are, he spoke the truth. His advice kept us standing up, and lel us to go on in the right way. Like I said: when your father gives you advice, you listen. Yousif was talking about the Sudan in general, and also about the Nuba: how the Nuba can unite. When God took him, we still remember his words. We realise they were true and we continu the work in his footsteps.

I don't have much to add anymore, but I want to appeal to all the Nuba people to continue working together towards a common goal. Don't join the other side: stay united and fight for our rights!

I also want to thank you. We met in very difficult times, and I remember all the things we did together. How we chatted with you, how we ate with you. How we escorted you to Fama and how you went all the way on foot. You were part of the struggle and you fought well.

Interviewed in Kurji on April 4, 2006

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