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The forgotten story of the Nuba Mountain people

Posted on: June 18, 2014 4:30 PM
A displaced woman and her child from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan wait outside the Yida refugee camp registration center in Yida, South Sudan
Photo Credit: Adriane Ohanesian/AFP/Getty Images
Related Categories: apjn, Nuba Mountains, South Sudan, WCC

[WCC] The security situation for the people of the Nuba Mountain region of Sudan has continued to deteriorate recently with increased attacks on civilians and the denial of basic human rights.

This region was included in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 that led to the independence of South Sudan. The future of the state of South Kordofan, where the Nuba Mountains are located, along with two other areas, were left to popular consultations after 2005. After six years, this process broke down and war reignited in June of 2011.

The urgency of the current situation was brought to the attention of church leaders at the recentconsultation for Regional Ecumenical Organizations and National Councils of Churches, sponsored by the WCC and the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), in Nairobi, Kenya from 2 to 7 June. During the meetings, the general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, Rev. Kori Elramla Kori Kuku, urged the international ecumenical community to intervene and bring peace to Sudan.

“We want this war to stop,” he said. “People are suffering, many already died. Most of our churches were destroyed and the bombings also affect the rural areas so that our people are not being able to farm,” added Kuku.

In 2009, the local office of the AACC in Nyala, South Darfur state, was closed. The Sudan Council of Churches is asking for support from the international ecumenical community to engage in dialogue with the local government.

Former WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia is the AACC’s ecumenical special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan. He has urged the international community to engage in fast and effective advocacy work.

“It is time to double our efforts in solidarity with the people in that region. Churches and ecumenical councils in Sudan and South Sudan are operating in a very hostile environment,” he said. “The ecumenical movement has a very important role to play, not only through statements, but also by visiting these communities.”

Kobia also pointed to the primacy of the voices coming from the ground. “Whatever we say on the international level must be based and inspired by what we receive directly from the people and churches experiencing this war. One of our main tasks is to amplify their voices,” he concluded.

Meanwhile the Nuba people continue to face escalating insecurity. Hunger increases as they have not been able to plant or harvest. Over 70,000 fled to camps in South Sudan.

Many trek back to their homes - a trip requiring one to two weeks in the rainy season- to share their meager rations with those left behind. Unaccompanied children are moving between the camp and Unity state where there is a strong possibility of being abducted and recruited to fight in the war or to be used as sex slaves.

Women pick leaves for food in the rainy season. Occasionally they find wild fruit; however, it is hardly enough.

They grind grass seed into flow to make porridge. In the dry season, they cook roots and seeds so bitter that they have to be boiled three times, all the while aware that smoke increases the potential for aerial attacks.

Texting and social media from the ground show that bombing of civilian areas by the Sudanese military has been intensifying over the past three months.

Civilians are being targeted, some villages have been repeatedly bombed. Markets are attacked on market days.

Children cannot go to school. The people cannot escape to the north because of the presence of government troops and they face increasing difficulty fleeing to South Sudan because of the violence raging there between government troops and rebels.

More than 350,000 people are now living in caves, nearby mountains or the bush, sharing the space with hyenas and other wild animals who are also seeking shelter from the bombing.

The WCC is proposing and urging a wide ecumenical advocacy campaign to raise awareness on the situation in Nuba Mountains and South Kordofan in general, taking into account that this crisis is been overshadowed by the conflicts in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Syria.

Ecumenical organizations have been outspoken in condemning aerial bombing and insisting that the UN pressure the Sudanese government to stop targeting civilians.

Learn more about the Nuba situation:

Read also: Church councils reflect on the spirit of Christian unity in a time of change (WCC news release, 5 June 2014)

Sudanese churches an important voice in rebuilding nation (WCC news release, 26 April 2013)

WCC member churches in Sudan