Interview with Musa Kuwa Idris Kafata

By Nanne op 't Ende
Kadugli, Sudan
April 7, 2006

Musa, born in Shatt Damam in 1948, has been involved in the struggle of the Nuba from the beginning. He was one of the people who helped bring recruits for the SPLA to Ethiopia. Now he's a Member of Parliament in Southern Kordofan. He tells about his personal involvement with candour.

Musa Kuwa Idris

I was born in the Nuba Mountains but I am a citizen of Ghadaref; my home is in Doka, in the Gelabat province. I left the Nuba Mountains in 1956, at Sudan's independence. I was very young. I went to Ghadaref through Khartoum. I left Ghadaref and entered Ethiopia. From Ethiopia I came to the land of the Blue Nile; I lived with the Gumuz and settled there. I got married there and in 1967 I came back to Doka, where I set up some schemes near the border with Ethiopia.

I became aware of politics and entered the party of Philip Abbas Ghabush. He was the door through which I got to know about the people's rights. At the time when John Garang disagreed with Nimeiri, in 1983, I already knew about politics and why this disagreement happened and why John Garang went to the bush. I knew he went for the whole people: the black people and the muslims.

At that time I already had my schemes on the border of Sudan, in an area called Bassanga. The boys from the South used to come to me in my farm and they spoke about the political work of John Garang. One called Pheter was from the Shiluk, and another one was a teacher from Rumbek - he was called Benjamin Agok. I started to cooperate with them and agreed to send the Southerners from the schemes to John Garang, who's movement was in Ethiopia.

Then John Garang asked those of Benjamin: "where are you?" "Tthere is someone called Musa Kuwa who's cooperating with us". "This person is a Nuba?" "Yes, he's from Nuba". When we got aquainted, me and John Garang, I started to send Southerners and Nuba together. The Nuba came from Khartoum, from Medani, Port Sudan, Ghadaref; some came from the Nuba Mountains even though at that time the Nuba Mountains were closed.

Some of them went to [the training centre at] Banga while others formed a reception committee for the Movement in Muhtama. But the committee was not in one place: some [members] were in Banga, others stayed in Muhtama where they came to meet people through the soldiers of Mengistu.

After the delegations of the Southerners and the Nuba had already left, Doctor Garang quickly transferred 1500 Dinar through the Council of Churches in Khartoum. At that time it was a lot of money; it was given to me to help me with the workers [on the schemes]. It was a big thing this money, and it sure served it's purpose. I continued sending many people to John Garang.

When the late Yousif Kuwa noticed this big number of Nuba with John Garang there, he asked him "since they report to you before I even know them: from where do they come?" And John Garang said: "actually you are not the only Nuba; I have another one there, Musa Kuwa." Then John Garang introduced us: "Yousif Kuwa Mekki, Musa Kuwa Idris". We got to know eachother that way. "Yousif Kuwa Mekki." "From where?" "Frome Miri." "Musa Kuwa idris." "From where?" "from Sabari."

We started working together but we never met. I received his letters and messenges and congratulations. Even John Garang himself, I never met him untill the [First all Nuba] Conference in 2002 in Kauda - that was the first time to meet him. Abdelaziz [Adam elHilu] pulled me forward. "Do you know this person?" "No, who is he?" "This is Musa Kuwa." So John Garang lifted me up to the people.

In fact, I officially joined the movement on the 15th of November, 1984. All that period I've been working clandestinely. I still have the membership card sent to me from there by Doctor John Garang, that says that I am a member and I am inside. So many of the commanders today - I sent them to the Movement. In 1985 Abdelaziz Adam elHilu came to me. He came alone, so I sent Abderahman with him, who was working as a supervisor at my schemes.

Through this long struggle, there is not one Nuba commander who is older then me. Not a single one. And the number of people I sent there would reach up to 5000 soldiers and a number of officers - part of whom are now martyrs. When the Movement started, John Garang himself was fighting with the gun, because there were no soldiers at the time. And all those people who won the power, the ones now saying "me, me, me"; those people, they are behind me and I am their senior. But I didn't join the fighting inside, because what I was doing, sending people, noone else would have done that. The area of Gadaref was a gate for [the recruits who] came there as labourers - and I sent them.

When I worked extensively, the Government discovered that something was going on; they attempted to kill me several times - but they failed.

One time they ambushed me in the house of Ahmed Abo in Saefa. They surrounded me in the night, it was twelve o'clock. Soldiers came, it was the rainy season; they were hungry. At that time I withdrew but I found the place full of soldiers. They didn't know me so I awoke Ahmed Abo: "there are some guests". "Please, come in" "We want to eat." "Ahmed, they're hungry; tell your wife to prepare food." She started to prepare it. "Bring that lamb." They brought the lamb in the night, they slaughtered it, but there was no water. "Go get some water," said Ahmed to me. So I took the jerrycan and I went. When I was outside I left the jerrycan and ran. That was the first time.

The next time they gathered the border officers. They put them in a parade. One from the Southerners called Daheya gave them orders: "this Musa Kuwa, we want you to kill him and show us his head". Among the officers there is one who was with me. He came to me by night. "Don't go to your farm. I'm your brother but tomorrow we will come to surround it, we want to kill you." That's the second time.

The third time: in the end the sesame was ready to be harvested, so I disobeyed and the soldiers received information that I was in the farm. I saw some cars coming at the end of the fields. I quickly took my radio, ran away, hid in a ditch and stayed there. So the soldiers came and asked the workers: "where is Musa?" "Musa is not here." They set fire to the houses and burned everything.

The fourth time: in the end I was convinced I just couldn't go to the farm. I limited my movement to the village. They didn't dare to come there because they were afraid of the people. So they hired others to come at night. Of course we live in straw huts. I have a shop in my house. Those they sent brought gasoline; they set fire to all the houses. I was sleeping alone in my room when I woke up to strange noises and I found all the house was burning. I ran to my children, I broke the door open to take them out. I saved the kids, but everything in the house was burned.

The fifth time: in the end, there was no way. The Massaalid, the tribesmen of Abdelaziz, they collectively rebuilt the village. They came, they cleared the area and rebuilt the houses in the same place. But of course the shop was gone. We had to repair the beds and they brought everything. So they've changed their minds, that was in 2000.

They came back to kill me, they brought someone from Katla, Suliman Habgor; one from Daloka, called Sallal Tia; another one from Katla, called Babo Bakheit. The Governor from Gadaref, Alamin Defallah - now appointed as President of the South Sudan Treasury - gave them money and said: "go and kill Musa Kuwa".

Attending was a sheikh from the Nuba, Jabir Kafi. This Jabir Kafi, they gave him 400.000 for his tea. He put the money in his pocket but after the meeting he secretly came to my house. He knocked at my wife's door. It was night, I was in my room and looked out the window. My wife said "he isn't home" but I saw Jabir and recognized him as my sheikh. I called him, Jabir came. He put his stick down and started to cry.

"What happened?" "Musa, I just came from a meeting and the people agreed to kill you." "Me?" "Yes." "Me?" "Yes, you. And they gave money to your brothers to kill you. They even gave me 400.000 for my tea." He showed me the money and he gave me 200.000. "This is your blood money." I took the 200.000 and put them in my pocket. I asked him who they were. He gave me the names, closed the door and left.

In the same time someone from the National Congres Party came at the dawn prayer. He said the same thing: "these people give money to your relatives to kill you. I don't like this so I came to tell you." He asked me not to mention his name and I wont tell it because he saved my life.

I felt that they put too much pressure on me, so I withdrew from Doka. I went to Khartoum and left my family behind. Those Jellaba immediately took opportunity of my absence. They came to my house, to my eldest daughter and got her pregnant without a marriage contract or anything. She had a baby and they sent me a photo specially. Now she's in Khartoum.

You see: anything, just anything for the cause. This is the struggle; in the end we want all the people to know their cause. They struggle and they sacrifice their money and blood and their families and they're all enthousiasts like me and Yousif Kuwa - this is the history of the movement. We want to have a million John Garangs and a million Yousif Kuwas. You see: anything. But those people who started the Movement from this early time, they are now marginalized. Even me, I get nothing from the Movement. And why? I don't know; but I am not happy with the Movement.

I am now working as a parliamentarian. We are still struggling and the struggle won't end unless someone else takes over. In the early years the Movement was going very well, but recently, it became incomprehensible. And who is responsible? We know that Silva Kiir replaced John Garang, but who is now responsible for the Movement in the Nuba Mountains? Abdelaziz has been apointed in the North. Who is replacing Abdelaziz to adress the problems here? There is no place without problems. Ismael Khamis is here as Governor, but who is on the level of Salva Kiir?

Really, the future of the Nuba is not clear. It is connected to the popular consultation and there are three options: Do you want to govern yourself; do you want to join the North; do you want to join the South. Really, the future is not clear.

At first, with the peace, all the people were going in the right direction. But recently they are desintegrating. right after the peace the people were doing well, they were together. But as soon as the Government was formed and everyone took his office, they never cared about the people. This is completely incomprehensible. You find this one is happy, and that one is angry. That is what is going on now.

Still, if we put in some extra effort and if the people will only tell the truth in their conferences, it can still be alright. And if we would aveil the possibility to say anything in these discussions, there will be improvement. But if we don't, it will cause a lot of problems.

Interviewed in Kadugli on April 7, 2006

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