"What is it with Obama’s America? What’s with the EU?"
Notes by Tomo Križnar from the refugee camp Jida in South Sudan, March 13. th, 2013, 07:08 AM. (Juba - MMC RTV SLO)
The first thing that gets to you is the congestion. Wherever you look, the Nuba are crowding. In line for food in front of large WFP tents (UN World Food Programme agency), colorfully dressed women holding registration cards wait, several thousand in infinitely long lines.
In front of water pipes, most often women also squat, with canisters in front of them and mostly with children in their hands. In front of school blackboards under the occasional tree, in crowds of several hundred pupils without the usual school books, only here and there a girl or boy in worn rags with a blue UNICEF notebook. Or emaciated men that just squat or sit on the ground in front of meager dwellings made of savanna grass, only rarely covered with blue plastic sheets that say UNHCR.
In the mountains you never see the Nuba packed in a crowd
Even if their villages completely lack everything that signifies comfort to the "civilized" us, the round huts built with mud, fortified with animal blood and urine, and covered with straw, like the huts in our nativity scenes, always have a cheerful luxury of space around them, where lonely goats graze, occasional chicken rummage, pigs wallow and donkeys bray freely between slabs of granite under fantastically branching giant baobabs.
"How’s it going?", I ask the men, who are easier to talk to than the women, because of Muslim and Christian conceptions, forced onto them in recent decades as the only alternative to animism, carefully and systematically persecuted, more than anywhere else in world, by agitators of both kinds.
"It’s going", they answer thoughtfully, so that you - friend of the former universal elation and enthusiasm among the more than 50 African tribes in the mountains - feel your heart and soul shrink. " It’s going."
" How’s it going here, in Jida refugee camp, compared to conditions at home, in the mountains of South Kordofan?"
"You can see our children playing. Our children are safe! That is most important now."
It reeks of urine, excrements and boredom
At each step, between the crowded homes with aunts and uncles and untold numbers of children, it reeks of urine and excrements. And boredom. And idleness. And general uselessness. And lack of prospects without any future!
Their culture does not permit the Nuba to whine. It is indecent to burden anyone with your own problems. At least not in the way we Slovenes can bear down on each other. Seventy thousand people, once so proud that they could support themselves completely alone, without any means from the technically advanced world - merely in coexistence with the demanding, hot, dry as a bone, in every way merciless nature in the mountainous Sahel, between the largest desert and the largest swamps on the planet. Now they depend on support from UN agencies and a smattering of non-governmental organizations collecting funds for food in the rich industrial world, somewhere in the North and the West.
"Moral foug! Morale is high!" they confirm, in the same way as those that still fight for their homes in the mountains. "But we don’t know what will happen with us. What will be tomorrow?" say the men and women, accustomed to hard work, shaking their heads.
"You have abandoned us"
Something rises in their eyes then that I never noticed before, in all those 40 years since I’ve been interested in these indigenous people, presented to European and American elites, to their amazement, in photographic essays by George Rogers and Leni Riefenstahl.
"You foreigners have abandoned us. We don’t know why! Why did you help in Libya? And now you are helping in Syria. We don’t understand why not us, when everyone can see that we are being exterminated from our land by criminals, charged with genocide by the International Court for crimes against humanity in The Hague."
"But God is with us. We know that. And we count on God. God will help us sooner or later against the Arab traders that bomb us and expel us from our mountains", I hear from emaciated, leathery men in the marketplace in Jida, waiting for something good to happen to them at last.
Everyone is hungry
Small bags of tea, brown sugar, salt, coffee beans, matches, sliced pieces of soap, a couple of rags, Chinese pens, nail clippers, foldable scissors. That is all that can be seen in the lowly souk. A couple of mangos, several measly tomatoes, unleavened bread, baked in hollowed-out termite mounds. They also serve beans and even goat stew. But only at noon and in the evening. When it is cooked - always fresh, as it was freshly killed. There are no freezers, no electricity, no coca-cola, no ice cream. No bullshit. Everyone is hungry. You feel it at every step and with every hand shake.
Every two weeks they are entitled to only three kilograms of corn and one kilogram of beans each. No flour or oil, sugar, tea and meat, much less vegetables and fruit, which they get in other refugee camps around the world that are also run by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees).
No kerosene for cooking. The refugees must obtain fuel by themselves. I saw how much the woods of acacia and doum palms are already damaged by cutting and drying and collecting, as I rode the 50 miles to Jida in the jeep of one of the commanders, freedom fighters of the SPLA (Sudan People Libration Army), from the undetermined border between the new South Sudan and what is left of the old Sudan and the homes in the Nuba Mountains, several days away on foot.
Because they have to leave first. To another camp, being prepared by the UN agency for refugees in Ajuwang, two or three days away to the East by foot. They will get everything there, the whole infrastructure will be built for them there, they were even promised schools, but first they have to leave.
Why is that?
Nobody knows the answer. Not even the Arab and English speaking young students. Not even the representatives of non-governmental humanitarian organizations, who are usually, as a rule, critical of the UN. Not even Simon Kalo, chief representative and leader of the camp inmates in Jida. UN agencies have demanded this ever since refugees began to arrive from the Nuba Mountains. Since June 2011, just before the declaration of independence of South Sudan, when a new attack by the army of the Sudanese government on the SPLA ended a 10 year truce, which enabled comrades in the very same SPLA in South Sudan, assisted by practically the entire international community, after the longest and the most cruel African war, to obtain their own state through a referendum and immediately forget their brothers in arms, already sacrificed to the common enemy in the North by the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement), prepared by the Americans, even as it was being signed in 2005.
Only Munir Tutu, responsible for information, takes my notebook and begins to draw a map. On one side he traces the route of the refugees over the Heiban, Kauda and Buram mountains. At each place of the same name he writes “SPLA” (Sudan People Liberation Army).
"Our soldiers are helping us now along this entire route. They provide water, food, protection and rest to our families, fleeing from bombardments and rocket attacks, hunger and decease."
Then he draws a parallel route from north to south, writing SAF (Sudan Army Forces) at almost every place to the east. "The UN says that we must move to Ajuwang if we want to get aid like other refugees. They claim that they demand this to improve our safety and that we must move at least 50 kilometers from the border. But in Ajuwang we will actually be even closer to the border and a much greater danger, since there are less than 15 kilometers to the government garrison in Talodi. They will be able to attack our people with rockets, as they do in the mountains, attack them by land and control, murder, rape and plunder all along the way ..."
Who wants it to be this way?
UNHCR is behind everything.
The UN works for the Arab government in Khartoum. Arabs have money. Oil-rich Arab countries are sending it to banks in Khartoum. Everyone is working for the Arabs. Now they don’t need slaves anymore. Now they only need our good soil for the agriculture business. And minerals. And water. That is why they are exterminating us. Relocation is just a new trick.
Latest news: Last week, three women were raped as they were collecting firewood in the bush, some 10 kilometers from the camp. Four were only beaten up.
When cattle thieves attacked the camp, the Nuba killed two members of the host Dinka indigenous community. The Dinka allegedly retaliated on Sunday by killing the first Nuba shepherd.
"This has never happened before", claim, horrified, both the Nuba and the Dinka.
Is this also a new trick to put the Nuba in the new camp?
In the new camp? "Nothing is ready in Ajuwang for the refugees from Jida," say
Jacob Mahjub and two others that I must not name, humanitarian workers from the American non-governmental evangelical organization that first began to take care of the Nuba in Jida and still works to help them in every way even beyond the border.
"Not only have you, in almost two years since the new war for control over natural resources at the border between the Sudans, not succeeded in doing anything against the daily bombardment of the most innocent people on the planet. Not reached an agreement in all this time with the criminal military hunta in Khartoum about a 'no-fly zone', or humanitarian corridors for supplying food and medicines and school materials to those most entitled on the whole Earth. Set the largest and most dangerous trap for the Nuba in refugee camp Jida, where with no schools, no work, no anything that would preserve and stimulate human potentials and capacities, the last most refined and dignified culture is falling apart. Now you even directly and without any shame cooperate with the Arabs in their grand designs!" I confronted with this Denis McNamara, the UNHCR representative in Juba, the new capital of South Sudan.
"I can’t do anything. We can’t do anything. Nobody can do anything against the Chinese and Russian veto in the Security Council."
"Fuck you! Fuck You! Fuck You!" I let myself go. "Fuck you all! What is it with Obama’s America? What’s with the EU?"
Even before evening, the whole humanitarian diaspora in Juba knew that the person who brought pictures of dismembered children, taken by volunteer Nuba photographers, straight from the Nuba mountains to the Sudanese dictator Omar Bashir and handed them to him on the ceremonial stand when the independence of South Sudan was declared on July 9.th, 2011 - pictures of the victims of all those on the stand and those hiding behind it - has again returned from the mountains with new pictures, this time including ones taken by the first flying cameras - drones.
In eleven of more than 600 organizations of humanitarian business in the country that, despite this army of philanthropists, still ranks next to last in the welfare of its inhabitants, doormen closed in my face gates in walls topped with barbed wire. Only one of the organizations, whose representative I had to promise that I will never mention it anywhere in my reports, allowed me to come in and stay. And even here I feel that they can’t wait for me to leave.
Most of those I called, people I know from the last war in the Nuba Mountains, haven’t responded either to mobile or satellite calls.
This time, no one is interested anymore in pictures of burned, roasted, fried children, girls, men, on the undefined border between the Sudans.
Yeah, we know, we know everything. The powers that be have made a deal and that’s how it is now and how it must be. Everything is just business. Philanthropy too is only business, with wages and jobs like any others. Amen!
Maybe they would be interested in the Kongo. In Kongo, millions of civilians have died during the last ten years, as a result of rat wars for control over the last natural resources still undivided. The sensitive world has similarly washed its hands and is looking away. The UN has been caught red-handed in arms trading and mass rapes. But neither the government nor the notorious M23 rebel army dare to exile and murder en masse, just like that.
Either I am going crazy from all the grief I witnessed in the mountains during the last two months - or something is very wrong with all my friends and acquaintances, not only at home in Europe but here as well?
I sensed that I must go, at least for a while, somewhere where everything is totally different. I must go "On live", as the expatriates in Juba say. For example, to Kongo.
Tomo Križnar, Sunday, March 10.th, 2013
Little girl in refugee camp Jida, South Sudan. Photo: Tomo Križnar
Refugees waiting to be registered in camp Jida. Photo: Tomo Križnar