Voices of Nuba: The victims of al-Bashir’s impunity

Displaced Nuban people hiding in caves in the Nuba Mountains (Tomo Kriznar/Enough Project)
Osman Naway
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Had the world kept its promises to support the International Criminal Court (ICC) in arresting Omar al-Bashir in 2009 or in 2010, the people of the Nuba mountains would not now be the new victims of the Sudanese president’s continuing war crimes against his own people, writes Osman Naway, a Sudanese-American human rights activist and blogger. 

On the eighth anniversary of the ICC decision to issue arrest warrants against al-Bashir, the voices of the witnesses of the ongoing conflict in Nuba Mountains - featured in this video - recall the horror of coming under fire in the first days of the war. Their voices are a small reminder of the crimes that the international community is participating in when war criminals like al-Bashir enjoy impunity. The testimonies were collected by the team of Rights for Peace Foundation inside Sudan five years ago. For security reasons we have covered the faces of the witnesses.

Background to the conflict in Nuba Mountains

In the afternoon of 6 June 2011, a few bullets fired in the market of Kadugli city, the capital of Southern Kordofan state, broke the fragile peace in the Nuba mountains region, sparking a war that still rages six years on. The region in the heart of Sudan - before the secession of South Sudan - has been in conflict with the Sudanese central government for over 40 years. The main reason for the conflict has always been, and still is, the inequality and unjust power distribution in the culturally diverse Sudan. The sounds of artillery shelling in Kadugli brought back the memory of the fear people always had, even during the best few years of stability.

War has never been far from the door steps of the Nuba mountains. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed between the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Sudanese government in 2005, has brought peace to the region, but did not solve the causes of the conflict.

The SPLM is a wide coalition of armed groups joined together by a common cause, the promotion of the rights of the marginalized peoples of Sudan. While the Movement started in South Sudan, one of its largest groups were the fighters from the Nuba mountains. For almost 30 years the Nuba peoples fought with the Southern Sudanese, and Nuba mountains was one of the strongholds of the SPLM in the war against the government from the late 1980s. By the time Omar al-Bashir took the power in Khartoum, the Nuba mountains region had become one of the strongest fronts fighting against the Sudanese army. Al-Bashir launched a Jihadi campaign in the region in 1990-93, killing thousands. Some international NGOs termed the campaign a genocide against the Nuba people.

While the fight for their rights has never stopped since the independence of Sudan 60 years ago, the four million people of the Nuba mountains has always aspired to live in peaceful coexistence with their neighboring communities. More than 100 tribes in 99 mountains and a rich terrain has been forbidden from expressing themselves as Sudanese citizens and forced to fight to be heard. The utilitarian regime in Sudan has imposed Islamization and Arabization on the African/ Christian and Muslim Nuba. The people of the Nuba mountains are African in culture and way of life. Although there is large numbers of Muslims and Christians among Nuba people, but the local heritage of traditional religions is still alive in the remote areas.

The current situation

The current war in Nuba Mountains started after the disputed election of the state governor. The Sudanese government nominee allegedly won in what the SPLM/N believed to be a forged election. In fact, after six years of war, the reason for the recent fighting seems to be the same as the reason started the conflict 30 or 40 years ago. Moreover, the horrific amount of violence and the war crimes committed by the government in the last six years is a proof of the deep rooted drive behind such atrocities. The government of Sudan is determined to implement its policy of Islamization and to exploit the land of the Nuba mountains, with complete denial to the indigenous population rights to decide on their wealth and destiny. In the language of the international law these actions and motives can only be described as genocide or ethnocide.

While the world has moved on, six years of wars had forced half a million in Nuba mountains to flee to mountains and live in ditches. The human consciousness should never pass by this anniversary without taking serious note of the suffering of the increasing number of victims of al-Bashir as along as he remains free. Unfortunately, the people of Nuba mountains and Darfur seem to be standing alone, under a sky full of government Antonov airplanes dropping bombs night and day, killing children, women, cows, any moving on the ground.

Ending wars are easy. Bringing peace, stability and freedom have been proved to be the most difficult problems of the human race. But the people of the Nuba mountains hope of returning back to their homes and villages will remain alive because bombs never kill dreams. But what is going on in the Nuba mountains, Darfur and the Blue Nile state should sound the alarm that without justice there will never be sustainable peace.

We must remember that war criminals do not bring peace, only justice can.

Osman Naway is Sudanese American human rights activist and blogger.

Rights4Peace Foundation is non-governmental organization working to defend the right in justice and to promote peace for the people in Sudan’s war zones.

Twitter: @OsmanNawayPost

Read more about the conflict in the Nuba mountains at https://nubareports.org.