REPORT FROM THE NUBA MOUNTAINS – Thursday, January 13th, 2011
A good month after the publication of my book, Oil and Water, I am exactly where the book begins. Among the Nuba people in the Nuba Mountains in the mid Sudan. Among black people of more than fifty African tribes that inhabit the granite mountains between the largest desert on earth and the largest marshes on the Nile – three hundred kilometres north from the border that the colonial British delineated on the map. The border between the so-called ‘Arabic Islamic Northern Sudan’ and the so-called ‘African animistic and Christian South Sudan’. I am now at the Arabic side of the border between African tribes that the international jobbers (with Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Naiwasha, after twenty one years of war that took two million lives and banned another five million from their homes), after successful independence referendum, left at the mercy of the Arabs in exchange for oil in Abyei province and water of the longest river on the planet in a land of the greatest marshes on earth.
Last night I returned with my Nubian helpers from my first march across the mountains. Now, after one week of listening to people with whom Water and Oil starts – (seven years after my last visit in 2003) and continues with the break of war and the biggest humanitarian disaster in the western province of Darfur – I dare say that all my worst fears are coming true.
After ten years of instigations, wars and forced peace, the international oil corporations based in USA, Europe and China have finally managed to steal half of oil-logged Sudan from the Arabs in Sudan and the Arab league. After their defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan this is the first victory that is promising our western lords of natural resources the return of optimism, the end of apathy of our people and the continuation of their dominion without having to confront with arms the so-called terrorists.
All the mistakes the bushist made one after another are apparently forgotten. A new era lies ahead of us, one which will not be dominated by military lobbies but security intelligence agencies. The history that is in writing on the poles these days is proving that investment in ‘perception management’ of the people living in geostrategic locations is far more efficient than armed approach in meeting the same goals.
This sits much better with one’s conscious than the feeling of guilt when looking at the photographs of thousands of murdered children, mothers, innocent people and other ‘collateral damage’ produced on other crisis hot spots where tectonic plates of interests are breaking.
But this sits better with one’s conscious only until one realizes that the collateral damage also remains present in the new era.
I know this because I live among this collateral damage.
The Nuba people are the new cadavers of collateral damage. And so are the African tribes in Ingassana Hills on the Ethiopian frontier line. And, of course, two hundred African tribes on the plateaus and mountains of Darfur. We have left them at the mercy of now completely ravaged Sudanese slave lords.
And let’s not forget the Arabic nomad shepherd tribes who live at approximately the same geographical latitude right on the border in Abyei province. The ethnic background of the victims doesn’t matter at all. What matters is the loot.
These humble farmers and shepherds who are forbidden by Christian, Muslim and animistic religion to build Babylon towers, fly to the moon and produce weapons of mass destruction, these people have forever been seeking ways to co-exist with flora and fauna and the human world. They are the people who are now taking the hit from decades of American and European secret services’ work in the south of Sudan; they are faced with accumulated endless rage of Arabic tribes who are administering in Khartoum and in the few kilometres’ green stretch along the lower Nile.
Look at the photographs.
Aren’t they the same people as those on the 2003 photos in the book Oil and Water, whom I had left because the crisis reached Darfur?
No, they are not the same. In 2002 and 2003 when we, the activists, miraculously managed to get the peace activists from USA, Europe, Australia, Canada and New Zealand (who were in contrast to us amateurs very well paid) to the Nuba Mountains, there was so much hope in the air. The American military representative from JMC (Joint Military Commission) told us at every visit that John Danforth, Bush’s special emissary for Sudan and an upright protestant pastor from south US, managed to persuade the US Congress and the Pentagon, that the ‘Sudan problem’ can be solved. And not only by supporting SPLA rebels in the south of Sudan and dropping aid to civilians from aircrafts, but with peace that can be reached in the central Sudan, in the Nuba Mountains. And that peace can then be spread to south Sudan and other African countries and the whole of the third world countries with the helping presence of observers of peace and with carefully selected developmental help from which all the locals would benefit from.
The peace that the SPLA rebels were prepared to accept in the Nuba Mountains in the middle of Sudan. The peace also John Garang, the legendary SPLA commandant, was prepared to accept to keep Sudan together for all Sudanese people.
The peace that was signed by the then SPLA commandant Abdel Aziz with Sudanese authorities on the Nile and it remained ever since to this moment.
‘I am doing everything to keep that peace. But at the same time I am preparing for war,’ he confided in me on Saturday.
None of the people in the south of Sudan and in the Nuba Mountains that I’ve asked what happened to John Garang, answered that he had died in a plane crash in Uganda. Everyone said, without hesitation, that America killed him. ‘He would not obey!’ At the beginning of the rebellion in 1983 in Bora in the south when he took to the bush his first adherents, the charismatic leader of the slaves’ rebellion against the former American hunters was obedient. But as his power suddenly grew on account of massive support from the troops and people recruited in hay-roofed churches by the Christian missionaries, then he no longer fought for separation of the south but for Sudan to be governed by no other but the Sudanese. He fought for the kind of Sudan where no one would be a slave. For a country that would respect human rights and democratic principles. The kind of Sudan Youssif Kuwa had envisioned as well. Kuwa was the most respected SPLA commandant among the Nuba people who in 1988 started a rebellion in the Nuba Mountains against the Arabs in Khartoum. It was a reaction to their attempt to unite Sudan by announcing the Sharia Law all over the country and to arabize the nation by ‘Ein Land, Ein Folk, Ein Fuhrer’ principle.
On the faces of local people on markets with cheap China goods, on the only road built by the Chinese company, under the only power line that the Chinese installed, you can see the insecurity and fear of revenge from the humiliated Arabs on the Nubas, Ingassana, Darfurians and those on the undefined border in Abyei. You can notice the bitterness because the Dinka Shilluki, Nuer and other SPLA co-fighter from other African tribes in the south of Sudan have forgotten about them and left them to the joint enemy like the Americans and Europeans did.
Will the Chinese pragmatism managed to prevent the war?
Will the Chinese engineers and economists in jeans and T-shirts and tennis shoes take the stand for the last black Indians on the margin of rapidly sprawling Central Empire?
The killed policemen in Abyei province were Nubians and were just fresh out of police school in Khartoum.
First thing in the morning a government bomber flew strangely low over our heads. A Russian Antonov. With no headlights on...
People have just told me that unusually large number of people are pouring into Kadugli, the largest settlement, and here, into Kauda as well. The way they move and their attitude does not agree with the locals at all.
Tomo Kriznar, Nuba Mountains, January 13th, 2011
At the referendum procession in South Sudan: