Nubans trapped in northern Sudanese territory
Now that northern Sudan and South Sudan are divided by an international boundary, it's harder for embattled Nubans to flee south and harder for help to reach them.
Juba, South Sudan
The embattled area of the Nuba Mountains is squarely situated in North Sudan, but the recent separation of the South poses new challenges for what in the past two months has become the region’s latest deadly front. As the festive mood surrounding the South’s independence celebration tapered off, many journalists in town for the big day turned attention – quietly, given the immense sensitivities – toward the conflict unfolding just over the new international border. Much of the reporting about the atrocities being committed by Khartoum-aligned soldiers and militias has relied upon secondhand information, often filtered through layers of sources who have access to satellite phones and email.Skip to next paragraph
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But the options for now traveling to the Nuba Mountains and witnessing the conflict first-hand narrowed significantly when the once-fluid border became a hard international boundary. The worst-case scenarios that one must consider when weighing travel into an active conflict zone just got markedly more serious. Pilots fear having their planes shot out of the sky, Enough was told.
Even among people with resources, relatively few Nubans are making their way out of the area. In the month and a half since the offensive there began, only about 200 or 300 Nubans have arrived in Juba. Enough met with some Nuban aid workers who were in Kadugli when the violence began, and who told harrowing stories about the first days of the crisis and how they managed to escape.
Even before the violence erupted in early June, a rights activist named Peter said that staff of his organization had been threatened. Their work “was seen as a threat because the regime does not want an enlightened people who know their rights,” Peter said.
On June 5, Peter was in the market when a truckload of soldiers arrived. They started shooting in the air at first. People ran in all directions. “Then they started targeting people who they thought were part of the SPLM,” Peter said. Even though he is not part of the SPLM, he realized that his work would put him and his family in grave danger. The government-aligned soldiers and militias were targeting specific individuals through a “carefully organized” campaign.
Peter tried to find a way to get his family out of Kadugli, but it took two more days until they could find a car and a group of people also willing to attempt to drive out of town. In the meantime, he and his family hid in their home.
Their house was in a neighborhood where there were many NCP supporters, and on the first day of fighting guns were distributed in the community. “The supporters of the NCP – civilians, just civilians – would shoot from their house to show that this is a secure house,” Peter said. “The houses that did not have sound of guns shooting is probably those of the enemy.”
After learning that helicopter gunships were “hunting” people who were trying to escape Kadugli toward SPLA positions, Peter and his family opted to travel out of town via the northern route. He credits this counter-intuitive decision with saving their lives.
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