Kill a slave with a slave
(Published in Slovene on March 2nd 2013, in the Saturday Supplement of the newspaper Delo)
The color of hunger in Sudan is white. It shines, glares, stabs the eyes like blazing fire in arc welding. You can squint, close your eyes or look away. You can ride that way along the track over chalk-like parched mud through villages of golden dry straw under mountains of purple granite, where the Kowalib tribes of Nuba live, without seeing the emaciated black children, women and men who wave greetings at you and call out "Foreigner! Foreigner! Welcome!" Nothing evokes any anxiety, fear, least of all panic that someone will die of exhaustion any moment. Nightmares are black, oily, heavy - but scenes on the northeast side of the Nuba mountains look more like the bright beaches of coral islands in the Caribbean Sea, where dark-skinned people and over-fed tourists also live, and Life sings “don’t worry - be happy”.
But after several hours on a motor-bike out of Heiban, the last major town, you cannot lie anymore, to them or to yourself - and you finally stop.
Each time they surround you immediately. They gesture toward sunken tummies and teeth that protrude from almost translucent lips and gaze, gaze, gaze at you from deep eye sockets straight into your shamed eyes.
“Nahni janin! Nahn janin!”, repeating one after another and all together, one and the same thing:
“We are hungry! We are hungry! We are hungry!”
During my previous visit last June, that same countryside under the Kowalib mountain had been green from one side of the sky to the other. The rainy season had just begun, there was enough rain. For the first time since war started again in July 2011, the people on the northern front line between the new country of South Sudan and what remained of old Sudan could expect a good harvest. Despite the widespread deprivation and mass starvation, there was a certain hope in the air. As in the previous war (1983 - 2005), guarding against the daily bombardments of Russian Antonovs, people learned to retreat quickly from the fields to caves between giant slabs of granite, whenever the sky threatened hell instead of the promise of heaven. In villages, they used holes in the ground, similar to fox lairs. They did not dance and sing and give thanks for the rain in the traditional manner, as they still did in the seventies, when I first visited them, because Muslim and Christian propagandists and missionaries had in the meantime largely deprived them of the sense of connectedness with nature and the awareness that their rituals can strongly influence the natural environment. They now believe that plants need peace in order to grow. But these hardened, proud people, used to hard work, still trusted us foreigners and asked us for advice as to what to do.
Should we go or should we stay? Will you activists convince your politicians to negotiate corridors for delivering humanitarian aid with Omar Bashir? Will you achieve a no-fly zone? Will you supply us with stingers, so we can make a no-fly zone ourselves? No? O.K.! Even if you don’t, we must only endure one more month, two months, and then we will reap what we have sown. And we sowed well. We will eat!”
But then in the middle of August, the most critical time for growth, there was suddenly no more rain east of the Kowalib mountain and the endemic, already more than a meter tall sirk plants, otherwise well adapted to conditions in the Sahel, dried up.
Climate changes, caused by the comfortable life in the industrialized North of the planet, are affecting not only Darfur, but now also the Nuba Mountains further south and practically the whole Sahel belt between the Sahara and tropical Africa from Mauretania to Ethiopia. Fifty million people can no longer survive on the fruit of their labor. The few of us that still stray into these lands of growing despair and anger have been reporting for decades on the hardships of nomadic shepherds in the savannas and farmers in the mountains. We write about the decaying tissue of society and the wars for water between tribes, skillfully exploited by foreign corporations in cooperation with corrupt local politicians for their own wars for control over natural resources on the backs of cheap native soldiers. Boys and men, outfitted by war profiteers with old Yugoslav kalaschnikovs in exchange for a cow, die convinced that they fight for the right to water for their families. Where two fight, a third one profits: “Divide et empera” and “Kill a slave with a slave” are most efficient strategies.
But the old laced-up Europe with shitsickles of guilt from colonial times is not ready to rush to the rescue with anything more than a few business deals of its humanitarian industry.
The road to the promised Northern lands beyond the Mediterranean closed on the climate refugees even more when Gaddafi made a deal with Berlusconi to imprison them in special camps in the Sahara, in exchange for several million Euros, to prevent neat European cities from turning trashy and black. The peoples of Sahel, who have lost all faith in the white man, are turning against each other in panic and yielding to terrorist agitators. The whole of Sahel is succumbing to wars that, before the intrusion of modern weapons, tribal elders knew how to keep in check in the traditional way, with reparations in the form of blood money. Then, it was known exactly who slew whom with a spear, but now, with 16 bullets per second flying from a barrel, nobody knows anymore who hit whom and who must repay the damage to the neighboring clan with a few camels and goats.
The situation is the worst in Sudan, in the provinces of Darfur, Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, north of the border that the colonial British drew in their heads before they left in 1956. The indigenous Africans that remained there after the secession of South Sudan in July 2011 are being exterminated for 23 years now by the military hunta, headed by President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir. This is the very same Bashir who is wanted by the International Court in The Hague since 2009, charged with four of the worst crimes against humanity, including genocide. Bashir still calmly promenades across Africa, and from Iran to China. Even at home, the Arab spring has not touched him much, despite repeated student protests against the brutal security service and the pervasive corruption of all levels of society. He permitted the secession of South Sudan, where business lobbies from the US, Europe and now even scavengers from Asia whole-sale concessions for exploiting the best soil. And Bashir still remains at the trough.
The secession and independence of South Sudan on July 9th 2011, so vehemently greeted on the ceremonial stand by foreigners from all over the world with predictions that economic interests will prevail over local tribal passions, did not solve anything. The "Comprehensive Peace Agreement", signed in Tanzania without representatives from Blue Nile, the Nuba Mountains and Darfur, could not bring anything to anybody in Sudan, because it was actually not comprehensive, but served only the foreigners that direct the events, not from the stands but from somewhere far away, using their economic hit men”.
It was simply no challenge to screw over uninformed, severely undereducated Africans and Arabs, lacking any infrastructure, accustomed only to permanent war, though they claim, both in North and South Sudan, that they were not that stupid; that both the Bashir people and the Garang people in the SPLA spoke with forked tongues. Better something than nothing. After 21 years of war of attrition on both sides, which neither could win anyway because of the balance of forces. Profits from oil were halved, but we will make up for them after the intermediate 6 year period till the referendum. We will not gain the whole of Sudan, which was Garang’s vision, but just wait a little for the SPLA in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Abyei. Attack a bit, as much as you can, soon we will come to assist with a huge army and conquer Khartoum.
This could not happen, because John Garang was killed in 2005, only three weeks after becoming vice-president of Sudan in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, in an airplane accident on the way back from Kampala.
Most people I’ve spoken with in the African part of Sudan believe that he was killed by the CIA.
The game was over.
Even before the referendum on the secession of South Sudan in January 2011, Bashir publicly stated that if independence of South Sudan is declared, Africans remaining within Sudan will not be shown any mercy. Remnants of African peoples will be forcibly arabized, sharia will be implemented and rebels of the SPLA North will be disarmed or pushed into South Sudan. These rebels fought - shoulder to shoulder with African peoples in the South of Sudan in the same SPLA - against former slave hunters from the North in the longest and cruelest African war (1983 - 2005), which took more than 2 million lives and chased from their homes more than 5 million people.
Not one of the international godfathers of peace raised a voice, although everyone could understand that Bashir’s words were a declaration of war.
Foreign peace brokers did not uphold the basic rights of African indigenous peoples even when the Sudanese army exiled the Ngok Dinka from Abyei in May 2011, or when it undertook military operations in the Nuba Mountains on June 5.th that year, and then not on September 1.st, when the army moved against Blue Nile. UN forces that, as in Darfur, did not have a Security Council mandate to protect the local populations, but only an observer function - and they did not perform even that - retreated from the Nuba mountains three weeks after war began, with the excuse that their contract had run out. They have not returned to this day. In southern Blue Nile, where fierce battles now rage between government forces and SPLA North, led by Malik Agar, they were never present. On demand from Omar Bashir, victims of international politics were also abandoned by all UN agencies, including UNICEF, whose statute obliges it to take care of the most endangered children. All non-governmental humanitarian organizations also obeyed Bashir, as did practically all of the major mainstream media.
The Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile province have almost completely disappeared from addresses of public opinion shapers in the West. This year, even Julie Flint of The Guardian and Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times stopped their efforts to attract attention to the greatest shame of international politics and the largest global conspiracy against indigenous peoples on the planet. The former allegedly because the leader of SPLA fighters, Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, had joined forces with similar liberation movements in Darfur and Blue Nile, whose case is supposedly not as clear-cut. And the latter because editors complained that the Nuba have already been given enough space and that readers are no longer interested in genocide reports. The effects on the international public of the “illegal” visit by movie star George Clooney in March last year wore off long before his next movie …
After the independence of South Sudan was declared, the Sudanese military hunta immediately went after the refugees with full force, bombardments from the air, simultaneous attacks with the heaviest weapons on the ground and with cavalry, recruited from similarly marginalized nomadic Arab tribes. Some humanitarian organizations, previously active in Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains (Samaritan Purse, MSF, ...) hurriedly began to organize refugee camps. For refugees from Blue Nile in Jelam and Doro in the Upper Nile province in South Sudan, and for refugees from the Nuba mountains in Yida, in the Unity province of South Sudan. Thus, in both cases, several tens of kilometers over the border, in a newly formed African state. UN agencies joined in only later, and then on the condition that the refugees be moved further from the border, deeper south. UN regulations supposedly demand that refugee families must not remain connected with their fighters in the SPLA North, who are continuing the fight in what is left of old Sudan. And now, united and strengthened in the joint SRF (Sudan Revolutionary Front), represent a growing threat to the regime in Khartoum.
Not only the UN, non-governmental organizations and influential reporters, but also most human rights activists think that the only solution for natives of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile in the present adversity is to retreat from the besieged provinces into refugee camps.
But that is precisely what the Nuba suddenly don’t want.
The most novel element this year is the fact that the Nuba realized en masse that the Yida refugee camp is more dangerous for them than the Russian Antonovs, Chinese Migs and Arab cavalry put together. These independent, previously self-sufficient indigenous people, accustomed to hard work, now suspect that in the lowlands, at the edge of the largest swamps on Earth, their children will grow soft and corrupt. Sooner or later, foreigners will also organize schools for them, with practically the same ideology as in colonial times, in which they will hook them on foreign values (they have not organized them yet, because they are preparing migrations deeper into Sudan, moving the Nuba even further from the homes they are willing to protect at any cost). The Nuba will lose the new generations, as they did in the last war - those who surrendered themselves to the chain of more than fifty "Dar es Salam" camps, cities of peace, as the Arabs called them. There, the mountain savages were supposed to calm down and accept Arab civilization and Islam as the only true faith. In 1998, I managed to sneak into such camps in Talodi, Turoji, Buhram and Rekha on a bike, and convinced myself that everything that Alex de Waal reported in his book "Facing Genocide: The Nuba of Sudan" was indeed true (Alex was the first to organize the locals to systematically collect reports of human rights violations, and distributed the first cameras to volunteers already in 1996). The aid that was sent to these camps by UN agencies was only the bait, the trap in which families in the mountains were getting caught, then as now under attack from both the air and the land. Nowhere did the hope for survival seem greater than in the camps. But their schools and feeding centers made the boys, entrusted to these shelters by their parents, into janissaries - which Arab officers then sent to hunt their as yet unpacified brothers in the mountains - and the girls into prostitutes and concubines for bearing Arab children. With this trick, the Arabs were changing the demographic structure in the mountains, even under the logo of UNICEF, which then supplied food to the camps and supported schools, collecting contributions for this, even in Slovenia! When the legendary leader of the Nuba rebels, Yousif Kuwa, then commander of the SPLA, accused Unicef and other UN agencies, in our documentary “Nuba, Pure People”, of cooperation in genocide (because they did not make the effort to do on the rebel side what they were doing on the government side), Unicef in New York produced the excuse that, as a UN agency, they can only work with government organizations, no matter how terrorist. They claimed that the government in Khartoum would not let them to the other side and that it was simply too dangerous there for their workers.
Everything that goes on cannot be blamed merely on the fact that bureaucrats are not familiar with recent findings in anthropology.
For the Nuba, mountains are like natural fortresses, to which they had been retreating for centuries, from Arabs, Turks, Brits and other slave hunters. In the mountains, you can notice the approaching enemy from afar and light warning fires, as we Slovenes used to do in times past, to ward against Turkish incursions. Mountains are safer, cooler and healthier, with fewer white ants, termites that devour anything man-made. Mountains keep the bones of ancestors and preserve magical legends tied to natural characteristics that sustain the identity of indigenous peoples and transmit ethics and morality, as the Bible, the Qur’an and humanist literature do for city people. The Yida camp, into which the Nuba are now being forced, is for them a trap that will corrupt the purest of people with false comforts, as comfort has spoiled and prostituted all of us, wherever it reached us. What the Arabs in Sudan could not achieve, in any way and with every kind of violence, may now be achieved by Americans, Europeans and all others that hide behind humanitarian agencies and secretly cooperate with the criminal organization in Sudan (as the Nuba believe) in order to participate in the misfortune and large booty of oil, water and excellent soil.
The Nuba have finally stopped believing in us white foreigners in the middle of the last rainy season at the end of August, before the ripening of the wild fruits that help them survive before the millet harvest. The World Food Program decided not to drop aid from airplanes directly into the mountains, which the Nuba asked for and waited for it there, but instead to make drops near camp Yida in South Sudan.
Nobody has yet documented how many starving people have collapsed while trudging down the mountains in those days and weeks - over soaked, greasy black soil in which every vehicle gets stuck during the rainy season and feet sink in to the knee and above - a hundred or two- or three hundred kilometers to the largest swamps on Earth (in South Sudan) to get a sack of corn from Uganda. There are no bureaucrats in the Nuba Mountains to count and write down sums - diligent office dwellers sit in offices in big cities, most of them without any knowledge of the environment in which the people whose destinies they decide actually live.
In 1998, OLS (Operation Lifeline Sudan) dropped millet from planes - without landing or taking any risks - to the hungry in the south of Sudan, worth about two billion dollars. They called this the largest humanitarian action in the history of humanity. Last August, however, their excuse was that something like that was not even remotely possible any more, arguing that the Chinese and the Russians in the Security Council would not permit it.
Since last year, the Nuba have also realized that during the entire ceasefire period, from 2002 to 2011, they have actually not benefitted much from all of the 23 western humanitarian organizations that were allowed to “rush” to their aid during that time. The ceasefire was signed by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu in 2002 in some castle in Switzerland - The Nuba Mountains Agreement, sponsored by “friends of the Nuba from the US and Europe”. During the nine years it took for another war to break out in 2011, the ceasefire was monitored by the JMC (Joint Military Commission) - a hybrid body of observers, consisting of representatives of the SPLA, the Sudanese government and western nations (US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the EU). The result was that some of those employed by the JMC grew big stomachs. In those years, the number of fat handles around waists was a good indication of distance from the landing strip in Kauda, where they all aggregated. The people in the mountains were left to fend for themselves, as before.
Today it’s still the same. Of course, to realize that you need to travel on a bike or on foot with the locals, away from those few white Toyotas with long radio antennas now rusting along the only road, laid for them to leave the mountains and settle on the plains, built by the National Congress Party under leadership of Omar al-Bashir.
Hunger in Sudan has no smell. Smell is characteristic of overfed regions. The more we people and animals eat, the more we excrete. In the Nuba Mountains, the strong sun immediately disinfects the sparse human and animal excretions; thank God, there is at least no cholera and other epidemics of infectious deceases. Although water in the dry season is scarce almost everywhere (hand pumps, set up in some places in the lowlands by foreign organizations, are mostly broken; spare parts are not available) people do not stink or look dirty.
What really does stink is the shame. The shame that children are the first to die in mass hunger. Because of malnutrition and because they don’t know how to control themselves, they easily swallow something that gives them diarrhea. Their resilience sinks, little heads suddenly drop and they are no more.
If you are there even once when mothers begin to cry, nobody can convince you anymore that what happens to these people is their own fault. If you are there more than once, you feel the infinite need to throw every ignorant sap, who doesn’t react to your reports immediately, in the face that he is a war profiteer.
Mass hunger is the strongest weapon that the Sudanese dictatorship uses, with insidious support by the whole world, to persecute the natives of the mountains.
The only reasonable explanation of why all this can happen is probably the same as the one used for the 16.th century, to try to explain why educated and cultured inhabitants of the Earth did not react to desperate reports by the Spanish priest Bartolomeo de las Casas about the systematic extermination of the Maya in the Yucatan peninsula. It was supposedly not clear to the Spanish what these “newly discovered” people were, people or animals? The Holy Scripture does not mention the Maya in any genealogy, so …
“They are only savages, shooting off from the mountains. Gorillas that sometimes know a little Arabic. Because of these savages, there are no highways, shopping malls, railways ... in Sudan. You can only live comfortably in those places where you have killed them off long ago”. A Sudanese officer told me that, in Croatian, in one of the "Dar es Salam" camps in 1998. He had graduated from the military academy in Split and grew to like the local kebab and beer ...
In traditional market places under fantastic baobabs, frayed Sudanese pounds can only buy you a handful of crushed mineral salt, a fist of chili, lumps of local tobacco pressed together with honey and plastic bags with tea leaves and coffee beans. Only few markets offer brown sugar - 5 dollars for a quarter kilo - and half-liter plastic Coca Cola bottles with gasoline for 4 dollars. The blockade on the roads from the North is absolute. The Nuba must be prevented by all means from getting access to any energy. If smugglers from the Arab Baggara tribe (with whom the freedom fighters sometimes cooperate, and sometimes fight) are caught, they supposedly get the death sentence. I found electricity for my camera batteries only in accumulators in SPLA headquarters, where top commanders power their satellite phones (with one exception that I am not at liberty to divulge).
There is only one doctor in the mountains. Dr. Tom from America, an enthusiast that the Nuba have taken in completely as their own. In the modest catholic hospital he is helped by sisters of mercy from Mexico, but this year they are all "on leave". The mountains also hide, since 1998, in the least accessible place, medics from the German Emergency Doctors. They are hard to reach from any direction, which gives them some extra time to escape to safety, higher up in the mountains, in case of invasion by the Sudanese army. Each time I meet a different crew; for me they are the best example of European philanthropy, which I relate to the experiences of violence in World wars. Then there is another group of doctors, whom I had to promise never to mention them anywhere …
The SPLA is everywhere and controls completely the liberated area, 3 or 4 times the area of Slovenia. That is why travelling around the mountains and savannas under the protection of the SPLA commander in the Nuba mountains and supreme SRF commander Abdel-Aziz is safer than anywhere else in the world, even on a bike. You only have to be careful not to veer too close to those six government army garrisons, from which they bombard with artillery areas up to 60 km around them. That is why you need to ask the locals all the time where you are. That is how you drink and sleep and eat, if at all. If anyone does, it is you. If anyone does not go to sleep hungry, that is you, the traveler, rahala. Rahala is a messenger from God, bringing news of the world to where there is no Internet. It is unusual that openness, manners and hospitality can be measured by the distance from everything we consider a sign of civilization. The same applies to the readiness of the locals to protect you from the common enemy. Nowhere is the camaraderie greater than a shot away from the government mercenaries, who even now, in the dry season - when they have the advantage, since, in contrast with the rainy season, they can use the heaviest military hardware, armored vehicles and tanks - do not actually dare to go outside the mine fields with which they have surrounded themselves, in the face of fierce resistance from SPLA fighters. Bashir has the upper hand only in the skies, so you have to monitor carefully first and foremost what goes on above your head. Every now and then it is advisable to stop and listen, to hear where some government Antonov thunders on that particular day. Painted silver, they fly very high, so high that they are barely visible and you only see them after a time and only when they are already exactly above you. You realize that it is really high time to lie down by the characteristic "shushh" sound. You then have really just a second or less to hug the ground. I experienced what it is like afterwards in the courtyard of the NRRDO (Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Organization), after the attack on the only autochthonous organization that tries to help the natives with funds mainly obtained from the Nuba diaspora. In June 2011, a bomb that fell close by hung the flesh of a pregnant woman on the thorns of an acacia tree. Two months ago, a bomb set on fire the cabin in which I usually sleep when I stay in Kauda, and in it the hard disk with recordings from our volunteers. Anyway, the stastical possibility that pieces of iron from cassette bombs will hit precisely you, a foreigner, is very small, since in relation to the natives you are obviously in a tiny minority. And even the natives get hacked mostly when they run away in panic. Even in bombardments, women and children suffer the most. The more innocent, less calculating they are, the harder it is for them to anticipate where it will blow. So, at the first sign of the devil in the sky, they retreat in panic into caves and holes in the ground. And every time they remain there till evening, which is also why they have neglected the fields. Which is what the military hunta counts on.
I’m looking for the fighters all the time, because the young men in uniforms with battered Kalashnikovs and older men in rags and old colonial or home-made rifles eat not only fried roaches from caves, but also meat that you are accustomed to. Once a day, usually around 10 in the morning, when it’s breakfast time in Sudan, as they also say. Goats, cows, camels. Excellent meat, not poisoned by any preservatives, so natural and strong that all day long till evening you passionately suck remnants of taste from your teeth. But the fact that animals are quickly disappearing is also not good news.
What is most worrying is that you cannot buy any sirk anymore, anywhere, not from civilians and not from the army. This traditional kind of millet is strategic food for the locals. It cannot be bought - it can only be given as a gift. This is a gift of life, as in the previous war, when we twice (in 2000 and 2003) brought salt, millet and school notebooks on a hired plane directly to those most in need, with the help of then director of Caritas in Ljubljana, Stane Kerin, and the Italian missionary Kizito Sesana. Despite the same danger that also threatens now. In those years, the British Christian Aid, the Dutch Novib and the local NRRDO also landed in the mountains. I believe they would do so in this war too, if the Russians with Antonovs and the Chinese with Migs were not helping Bashir to an even greater power in the skies this time around.
Last week I saw, as I did 13 years ago, hundreds of mothers with children on their backs and pregnant young women (that practically all women are pregnant is also a special sign of that member of the human body getting ready for a long war), wandering from place, holding empty tin cans of US AID in raspy hands. The cans are from last year - this year, US AID is also not prepared to pay Kenyan and Ugandan drivers to secretly supply at least symbolic quantities of corn to the mountains with run-down trucks, as they did last year. And that is the worst sign of all. It means that it makes no sense to help the Nuba anymore. That they are truly written off. That China is already too strong. That it does not pay anymore to invest in Sudan. That everyone in the West only cares about himself. That in the West, rats are already fleeing the ship ...
Mass hunger threatens the most a hundred kilometers down from the mountains, between Hajar Bako, Jumizai, Ardekanan, Nyakomo, Nyukur, Tujur and on all the way to the last town of Tujur on the northern front.
“God is with us”, they kept saying, one after another, sitting on the roots of trees without leaves, where once local markets used to be. “We have nothing to offer you except God!”
They do not dare to help themselves, because the rich black soil further North is intended for the mechanized cotton plantations. In November, the party that dared to move towards Kortala to get palm fruits did not return. Sudanese militias, recruited from the Arab Baggara tribe of nomadic shepherds - with whom the Nuba used to exchange millet for meat, and who are themselves similarly marginalized, but try to survive by offering their services to the government - slit their throats with frayed knives.
When SPLA fighters captured 23 Chinese technicians last March in Abasy near Kortala, who were laying the ground for a mechanized cotton plantation, the whole world demanded their release. The Chinese ambassador from Khartoum himself flew to the handover to Kauda, the largest city under SPLA control, with representatives of all major world media. The news that the “rebels without a cause” treated their prisoners in a very civilized, not at all savage manner, circled the globe that very day. In spite of that, on the following day the mountains already vanished again from the consciousness of humanity.
Our local photographers, volunteers to whom we distribute cameras since January 2011, collect and send in horrible pictures. A healthy dose of arrogance helps in getting used to hacked and burnt children and mothers. What still makes you angry the most are the children left to fend for themselves. On the plain between the caves in Tungole I ran into a multitude - at least seven thousand children in rags.
Every morning around seven they come without notebooks, pencils, erasers or sharpeners. They sit down on stones under the trees, which pass for elementary school classrooms, and wait for teachers. Eleven teachers for seven thousand pupils. Eleven volunteer teachers: not one has finished elementary school. Only two speak some English. Those who have the luxury of a piece of chalk, dutifully write out the date on blackboards nibbled on by goats. Then they sing Christian songs from Uganda and Kenya. Till lunch break without lunch, the droning hum in the sky scares them off two or three times into caves between the granite boulders nearby. Then they come back to the classrooms, some glad, others silent, somehow proud and with dignity.
To cheer them up, one of our volunteers from “Eyes and Ears of God” and I pasted fifty drawings by their peers from another planet, specially entrusted to me for that occasion by Miha Lišanin, over a derelict truck. After they took in the scenes of rich schools, foreign parents in luxurious living rooms, skyscrapers, cars, horses, dogs and cats, I tore out pages from ten notebooks, cut pencils into pieces, because there were not enough for all, and asked those who got both to draw what they see around them. Almost all drawings show the same images. Antonovs with long barrels sticking out from the wings, representing bombs, burning huts, killed animals and people. And right at the edge they would draw themselves. Thin, emaciated figures with short straight lines and tiny dots where smiles and happy eyes should be.
When I accompanied them with the camera, just before the worst heat, as they were returning, again proud and dignified, to their parents in the caves, five or ten kilometers away, they could not really explain to me, and neither could their fathers and mothers, what they survive on. Last year, they were helped in some measure by relatives to whom they fled from Delami and Kortala. This year, because of the draught, they were also left with empty granaries.
The first rain will soak the thirsty and hungry country in May, at best. The first more or less ripe fruits can be expected in August. The millet harvest is more than half a year away. But first it must be planted. And the seeds are long gone.
Of more than half a million Nuba, not more than 65.000 have retreated to camp Yida.
“If we don’t get food within two weeks … we will die en masse!“ quietly declared to the camera Mohamed Naroun, mayor of Jemisai, on Thursday, February 14.th. “You foreigners have two weeks left to get food over here … Not to Yida, but here in the mountains! We’ll rather die here than surrender our land to the Arabs!”
That same day at 15:35, an Antonov bombed a parking site in the town of Jao, claimed by both South Sudan and Sudan, killing three drivers from Kenya who were preparing trucks with humanitarian aid for the journey to the mountains, to our side. Before the bombing, the Antonov did not circle back and return, as usual, but attacked directly. Which means that the target was betrayed.
Antonovs from Khartoum do not bomb SPLA soldiers, but civilians. Although we all know exactly where the headquarters are and where top commanders tend to stay and where novices are trained, the bombs do not fall on them, but on children, mothers, girls and boys. Day after day, every day, and today too. We got three bombs till evening, right in the middle of the market place in Buram. Fortunately, only a cow was killed this time.
The Nuba are the roots of mankind that the whole world together cannot extract. Some will always survive in caves high in the mountains, where underground reservoirs in the rock hold water even during the longest draught. Till the sirk harvest among the rocks, they will eat roasted cave roaches, snakes and monkeys and defend themselves, each and every one and all together like shells in the stone, even if we go after them with vacuum bombs.
We will not succeed - we will only continue to cause senseless, infinite suffering.
The Nuba are the seeds of mankind for some post-cataclysmic time.
Only a few of us realize that. That is why we are developing a video surveillance system with several kinds of cameras and satellite links to the Internet, which may enable all of you to see and hear what we do. At the moment, we are testing the usability of “flying cameras”. They are similar to the action-cams that motorists and parachuters mount on their helmets, except that ours are mounted on model helicopters and remotely controlled by computers. They are not "drones" that kill with surgical precision according to plans by intelligence services. They are toys for children, but they can record where obviously no diplomat, humanitarian or activist will venture.
Please help. Join in and donate for cameras on the border between the Sudans through our site www.HOPE.si and www.TomoKriznar.com
Tomo Križnar, February 20.th, 2013, somewhere in the Nuba mountains.