The Nuba Mountains are situated in Central Sudan, in the South Kordofan state, and it is one of the most remote and inaccessible places in the country. This is probably one of reasons why there has been so little coverage of these atrocities, which have been going on for four years. Kristof and his colleague, photojournalist Adam B Ellick, had to cross into the region through rebel lines, facing dangerous road conditions and risking their lives. Thanks to their work, they have documented one of the worst atrocities that the world has never heard of. The video also documents the story of Dr Tom Catena, who has been in the region for eight years and is the only doctor in the hospital (hosting 435 beds) as well as being the sole responsible for the lives of half a million people. Dr Catena has to work in treacherous conditions, finding inventive ways to cure his patients with what he has available, as the government is blocking the area from accessing medicine and aid. Sometimes working with no water and no electricity, he does what he can. He makes 350$ a month.
The tragic history of this four-year war began in 2011 when Ahmed Haroun, indicted for crimes against humanity and genocide, was elected governor of the South Kordofan region in the general elections. Local leaders claim that the vote was constructed, and shortly after this election, fighting began in the region. Although the fighting is between the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N)- a rebel army with many thousands of soldiers that is strongly supported by local people- and the government, it is civilians that pay the highest price.
The Sudanese government is purposely-targeting civilians in villages and hospitals, apparently to make the area uninhabited so that there is no one left to support the rebels. In January, the Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Nuba was targeted and bombed, causing a suspension of all medical activities and the evacuation of medical staff. Repeated bombings in the region are preventing the safe operation of medical activities, and depriving the population of their right to life saving care. Dr Catena’s hospital was bombed 11 times since he began his work in the region. In addition, reporting of the conflict is illegal in Sudan, as the government has closed off the region from any contact with the rest of the country, and the world.
Interviewed by Nuba Reports– an organization of local journalists reporting the conflict and providing content for many international news agencies-Shadia Omar Osman , a woman living in a populated village in the Nuba mountains blames Omar al-Bashid (who is also indicted for crimes against humanity and genocide) for the bombings, stating:
“I think he is angry at the army, but the civilians have nothing to do with it”
Her village was bombed by the government with cluster bombs, which luckily did not work and did not explode. The bombs would have likely killed her and her neighbours, as they hid in fox holes which they built to protect themselves from the bombings. According to Nuba Reports, 3740 bombs have been dropped on civilian targets since 2012.
Left to deal with the situation by themselves, the Nuba people are enduring persecution by the Sudanese government, but enough is enough. It is time for international governments to step up and condemn these atrocities, as mentioned by Mukesh Kapila in 2012:
“The United Nations could initiate a more serious political process on Sudan to tackle the underlying causes of the conflict. Instead, its desultory and fragmented efforts play straight into the hands of Khartoum, which is adept at divide and rule tactics. The UN, African Union, and Arab League could join together to put pressure on Khartoum. Meanwhile, more African countries could follow Botswana, Zambia, and Malawi in showing their disapproval of Bashir, and the African Union could toughen up its act. In addition, all countries with ambassador level diplomatic presence in Khartoum could withdraw this, sending a strong signal that they will not do business as usual with a regime headed by an indicted war criminal.”
Not much has been done since the war has begun, and civilians keep on dying. A most touching part of the NYT video was to see children, hiding in caves during bombings, able to reproduce the sounds of different bombs with too much precision. Children are not supposed to know these things.
Watch the video here