Nuba mark 15th year of SPLA struggle

Sudan Monthly Report
June 15, 1998

Sudan's Nuba community on May 16 held a major ceremony to commemorate the 15th year of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) struggle against the government.

The ceremony, attended by virtually all major world news agencies, was held at the Nuba Mountains headquarters, Southern Kordofan region, about 600 kilometres south of Khartoum. It was presided over by the SPLA's Southern Kordofan governor, Commander Yusuf Kuwa.

The celebrations were marked by traditional Nuba songs and dances, military demonstrations, Nuba wrestling and speeches. Addressing the gathering, Commander Kuwa asserted that his people would not lay down their arms before the Sudanese government recognises all their rights as citizens.

"Today, we consider the restoration of the Nuba dignity and confidence as our greatest achievement in the struggle," he said. "In the past, we were made to believe that being an Arab was superior, we were made to feel ashamed of being Nubas and everybody aspired to behave like an Arab."

Ever since the Nuba took up arms to fight alongside the southerners, the Islamic government of Khartoum has used the tactics of isolation and cultural re-orientation to deny the SPLA their (Nuba) contribution. Nuba country under the SPLA has for the past one decade been declared a no-go area to any outsiders.

Thousands of them have been rounded up and re-located to special camps- peace camps- set aside by the government. In the camps, Arabic is imposed on the people, women and young girls are given to soldiers as concubines, young men forcibly conscripted to fight their own brothers and all and sundry are used as a source of cheap or free labour.

Near impossible conditions for survival have been created in several parts of the Nuba country, forcing thousands to surrender to the government in desperation. These have included mining the villages, raiding and setting food stores and farms ablaze as well as driving away the Nuba livestock.

According to a recent Southern Kordofan Emergency Assessment report, conducted by members of USAID and Concern (an Irish NGO), at least 20,000 of the Nuba population faced a 70-80 per cent food deficit between the months of April and August. This, the report says, calls for urgent external intervention if the population is to be kept alive and productive in their present homes.

"The war-affected and displaced people of Um Dulu Payam of Nagorban County and Erre Payam of Heiban County are in serious need of food relief to enable them make it up to the 1998 harvest."

The report points out that, "though there is relief food available for the people in the Nuba Mountains, it is only in the government-organised and UN-supported relief camps".

To the Khartoum government Nuba mountains is geographically not part of southern Sudan and cannot be treated as such with regards to relief support. A more popular opinion, however, holds that since the combatants in the south are the same ones in the Nuba Mountains, the UN should seek to gain access to the war-affected people of the Nuba Mountains on both sides in order to meet urgent humanitarian needs.

Early last month, the government declared its intention to allow relief into the Nuba Mountains. A UNO team was consequently supposed to move in to assess the needs of the people.

Charles Omondi


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