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Home Mission The Sudan Link An Eyewitness Account from Kadugli

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An Eyewitness Account from Kadugli

by Sudan Link admin last modified 24 Jun, 2011 09:29 PM

This is a personal eyewitness account of events in Kadugli from recent days. The opinions voiced here are not necessarily those of the Sudan Link.

Sorry to have been so out of touch. Just got out of Nuba a couple of 
days ago by which time it was already a full-on war zone. 25 days 
there seemed like a lifetime.  

While I was there, it was obvious the election process had become so 
seriously flawed that despite great efforts to inform voters and put 
forward candidates, the Government simply wants no even democratic 
opposition. Making Haroun, an indicted war criminal wanted for 
genocide, the governor was a clear message to the people of South 
Kordofan. Then in the first week of June, Bashir’s forces started an 
operation to “remove” any local people who had sided with the 
opposition during the recent elections. There was an enormous build 
up of troops, artillery, tanks, and machinegun carriers. And now 
they’ve started ground attacks with strong air support. All access is 
cut off, official statements that any UN planes will be shot down, no 
commodities, going in or out, no humanitarian access, roads mined, 
large numbers of militias armed.
With the invasion of troops in Kadugli, people began to run. Before 
Nuba became completely cut off we started working with local people 
and the remaining local staff of NGOs to respond to the enormous needs 
of the displaced. We were bombed by Antonovs and strafed by MiGs. 
Heavy shelling was never far away but we never ran into trouble except 
from the air. It seems that there is an overt operation to completely 
“neutralise” (either by killing or by terrifying) any likelihood of 
opposition. There are very brutal and aggressive attacks with new 
weapons. We heard stories (we are not sure) of what sounded like 
phosphorous bombs that cause fires that never go out and horrible 
burning. People are terrified. There are many civilian casualties 
already and I fear it is going to get much worse.
What can only be called ethnic cleansing, when an ethnic group is 
targeted for extermination, started in Kadugli and Dilling while we 
were there. Door to door executions of completely innocent and 
defenceless civilians, often by throat cutting, by special internal 
security forces. We don’t know how many yet; hundreds seems for sure, 
but could be much worse. Terrible accounts of civilians - friends - 
attempting to find safety in the UNMIS compound being pulled out of 
vehicles and executed immediately. And now we hear that all the 
displaced who had been seeking some form of security alongside the 
perimeter fence of UNMIS are being forced to move by the Government 
authorities. What will happen to them?
So we just had to stay focused and get things moving on the ground. 
Incredibly brave and impressive locals both experienced aid workers 
and villagers leading the response ; freed up by the immediate exit of 
all expats before things went wrong. Probably over 100,000 already 
displaced and more coming. With a bit of help from WFP we were able to 
get access to food stocks that were left when WFP pulled out its 
staff. And we managed to get some useful (but not enough) medicines 
and shelter stuff in, albeit with great risk. This all being done by 
local people in South Kordofan. I was just fortunate to be around at a 
time when, unusually, an outsider can actually help a little.
But of course, as always, the real heroes are all the Nuba civilians 
trying to respond to the terrible humanitarian crisis and the targeted 
attacks. They are risking their lives in doing so. Even today 
(Wednesday 22 June) they are being targeted by aerial bombardment 
while still trying to respond to needs of displaced in many different 
areas of the Nuba Mountains. At the same time a civilian protection 
team of young men and women move between villages to spread local 
ideas on protection gleaned from the last war as well as some training 
on how to document what is happening and to get photos out by 
internet. A great and committed journalist has also done training of 
local men and women across the state in photography and ways to 
communicate with the outside world.
All phone networks there have been switched off by Khartoum (the day 
before it all started), so communications was very limited – a few old 
sat phones and limited internet. With small solar systems out there 
they should be able to maintain some access, albeit very limited. 

Desperately sad and terrible. And at the same time the spirit and 
bravery of the Nuba just continues to soar above the horror of it all 
and makes me start crying again as I write. Leaving was difficult 
security wise (over email, can’t say how at this stage) but also broke 
my heart despite the fact that I was aching for loved ones at home. 
Not sure how many of them I will see again.
So you know, this is not a war about south versus north, nor Christian 
against Muslim, or black against arab. There are as many Muslim Nuba 
as Christian (and a healthy percentage of traditional spirituality), 
they see their future in the north, they are intermarried and have 
been living along side arab nomadic groups and northern communities 
for centuries. There are nomadic arab communities in southern 
Kordofan who also voted for the SPLM and many of the Misseriya and 
Hawazma groups remain as marginalised as the Nuba ; and as vulnerable 
to the policies of the centre. The Nuba SPLM are not the same as the 
southern SPLM/A. They are fighting to resist a regime that refuses 
them basic rights and a voice - access to justice and even basic 
social and economic rights. This is so important because the Nuba 
offer a vision for Sudan that builds on religious tolerance and a 
local understanding of democracy – relevant for so many areas of the 
world right now.
And the war is in a large part our fault again. The UN “peace-keeping” 
forces are not only totally ineffective (summary executions going in 
front of blue berets in Kadugli) but may even add to the problem. The 
diplomatic efforts are too often driven by ill-informed strategies or 
self-serving policies more related to economic gain for us rather than 
any sense of humanity or justice. This return of a horrific war 
needn’t have happened if only there had been much stronger international
support for the planned political process. There was never enough 
international pressure to promote a genuine chance for a just peace. 
The Carter Centre really messed up big time in failing either to monitor
properly or to follow-up sufficiently on all the blatant misconduct by 
the Government – the local elections, which offered a real political way
forward, were utterly and so obviously rigged and yet no one said boo to 
Bashir and his cronies.
How can you help? Not sure at this stage. Any effort to demand of your 
MPs a much greater attention to what is happening in South Kordofan 
would help. Not peace at any price, the Nuba despite their horror at 
the return to war can see no future unless there is a change of regime 
in Khartoum now. And if any of you have any good media contacts do 
please put them in touch with me. I am now splitting my time on this 
between fund raising, media, and supporting the local relief effort 
via internet and occasional sat phone advice and support. The key in 
the end is probably Arabic speaking media to help inform and activate 
all the very good Sudanese who live in the North and would be 
horrified by what their Government is doing but have no idea at what 
is actually happening. Anything that can raise the profile of what is 
happening can only help.
Any of you who have contacts who are good at using internet to put out 
information (facebook, linkedin, my space, u-tube, etc etc) could also 
help.
And pray to whatever goddesses and gods you’re in touch with to sow a 
seed of doubt and hesitation and change the minds of those in power in 
the Government who are responsible for all this, and to help the Nuba 
and others there in South Kordofan, while fighting for their survival, 
never to lose their incredible capacity for compassion and forgiveness 
and tolerance.
 


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(the name of the author has been taken out for their safety.

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