Archive for the ‘Sudan’ Category

Interview with Yousif Kuwa Mekki London, February 12 and 13, 2001
By Nanne op ‘t Ende

On 31 March 2001, Yousif Kuwa Mekki died in Norwich, England. Shortly before his death he agreed to a very long interview, that took two days to complete. In sessions of half an hour, with a weak voice but with unfaltering mind, he spoke one more time about his life, the struggle for the rights of the Nuba people, and finally, the struggle against cancer.

Mr. Kuwa, when were you born?
Well, in those days our people didn’t care about birthdays, but my mother said I was born when my father came back home from the war of Tullushi. And the war of Tullushi was in 1945. It was the last battle between the British and the Nuba people. My father had been a noncommissioned officer during World War II. He fought in many places: in Ethiopia, in El Alamein and so on.

And where did you grow up?
At the beginning we were in the Nuba Mountains, but after some time my father decided to go to Medani and we followed him there. Then, the Government of Sudan (after independence, in 1956. NotE) started asking old soldiers to report to them; it was in need of soldiers to fight the rebellion in the South, Anya Nya I. Many were tempted to rejoin the army by promises of good salaries and certain concessions at the end of their service. My father too decided to go, and I went back to the Nuba Mountains.

Did your father’s profession as a soldier influence your perception of the situation in Sudan?
It affected me a lot when I understood how he was being exploited, taken to fight his brothers in the South. It wasn’t fair.

How about your education?
I went to the first primary school in Miri and we sat for examination in 1957. I did well, but nobody from our school passed because the teachers didn’t teach us properly. The headmaster, for instance, was supposed to give us mathematics. But by the time the pupils entered the class, he would just take his chair outside to go and sit under a tree. He was from the North, and saw no need for a Nuba to be taught.

But you did pass eventually?
I went to my father, who was in Malakal by then, in the South; I travelled to Kadugli, from there to Kaka, and then to Malakal. By the time I reached there, my father’s unit was about to be taken to the North; to eastern Sudan actually. So I went with him, I repeated the year in Gibeet and this time I passed the examination.

I had two years of Sinkat school in Kassala and then the rest of it in Sinkat itself. After that I went to Khartoum Commercial Secondary School. I could say I used to be a good student in intermediate school and even a good Muslim. But when I came to the Khartoum Commercial Secondary School in 1964, I had some incidents, which really effected my thinking.

After the uprising against Abboud (president Ibrahim Abboud had taken power in a coup in 1958 and was overthrown by a popular uprising in October 1964. NotE), we had a National Government and there was a lot of discussion within the society. One of the issues that divided the Sudanese was the women’s right to vote. One of those days the religious teacher, who gave us Islam, asked the class: “Well, what do you think about women’s right to vote?” We all participated, some are for, some are against and so on.

What was your opinion?
I was for of course. In the Nuba society we don’t think of women as in any way inferior to men. So after we had finished debating, some students were asking him: “And you, teacher, what is your idea?” He said: “Women’s rights? Why should they be given any rights? Women do not even work in their home or in their kitchen. They have the Nuba boys for that.” I was very frustrated; I just threw the books and went out of the class. That was the impression we Nuba got: this feeling of being disregarded – it certainly affected my political career.

After I passed the certificate I didn’t go to the university; I went to Darfur instead to work as a teacher. I worked at an intermediate school in ad Da’ein for five years, and then another year or two in Nyala. In Nyala I passed the examination to enter Khartoum University, Faculty of Economics, in 1975.

What was Khartoum like at that time?
Well, agui (brother. NotE), I don’t know; it was a normal city of the north, with the usual discrimination. Sudan was like that: if you were black, you were always treated as a slave. It was one of the problems there. But I would like to hint at some other points that affected my political thinking at that time.

When I applied to the University of Khartoum I wanted to go to the Faculty of Arts, to study languages. Instead, the ballot took me to the Faculty of Economics – and I have never regretted it. Studying politics and anthropology really opened my eyes: to the life, the political situation and so on. One day, I came across a book written by Nyerere: ‘Let us run while they walk’. (Julius Nyerere was Tanzania’s first president. “We must run while others walk” was one of his slogans. NotE) He was saying that we Africans should run while the white people are walking, because they are far ahead of us. But to me the most important issue he addressed was the role of the indigenous religion.

With the incidents that happened in Higher Secondary School, with the life I was living, religiously I wasn’t in equilibrium with my self. Although I felt I was a Muslim, I also had the feeling something was eluding me. And I felt no self-release, until Nyerere somehow provided me with an answer. He said: “I became a Christian when I was twelve years old and I believe in Christianity. But I still believe that as Africans we have our own rituals.” As an example Nyerere told how his father – who was a chief, with a lot of wives of course – ordered him to go with one of the wives to the funeral of a relative.

Nyerere went with her, and when the funeral was over they wanted to go home. Now, in Africa, if your relatives are good, they will give you something to go back with – so they gave their daughter a goat. Okay? And Nyerere of course was the one to take the goat with him. But when he tried to pull the goat, the goat was actually pulling him. They were pulling each other until one of the relatives saw them. The man took some hair from Nyerere’s head; took some hair from the goat, rubbed them together and said some kind of spell. And the goat went straight to the house.

His belief in the African traditions actually gave me relief, because in the Nuba Mountains we have the Kujur. Sometimes they perform certain acts; you are looking at it, but you cannot explain.

Is there a specific event you have in mind?
When there is no rain for example, the people will tell the kujur to come. He will perform a certain ritual and the rain comes.

So the book showed you the possibility of combining Islam with African traditions?
Not only that: it really relieved me and gave me feeling that all religion is one. Whether it is Islam or Christianity or Judaism or whatever. The only thing is faith. This is one of the things that affected me. And of course we started to believe in African socialism at that time. (Which is not based on class struggle, but on the idea of the traditional African community providing for all its members. NotE)

What was the main issue you concentrated on, while you were in university?
I remember that I was studying during Ramadan. I went to the library of the university, to the section of Sudan. Suddenly a question crossed my mind: “What has been written about the Nuba?” Because from the intermediate school upto university we didn’t learn anything about the Nuba. We learned all about the Arabs: how they came to Sudan, how they made kingdoms here and there, how good they are and so on and so forth. But nothing about other tribes or civilisations. So I said to myself: “Why don’t you see what has been written about the Nuba Mountains?” Lucky enough, I found a very big book called ‘Nuba’. It was written by Nadel, the British, in 1947. (Siegfried F. Nadel: ‘The Nuba, an anthropological study of the hill tribes in Kordofan’, London 1947. NotE) And this was the first time I learnt to know about myself. About the different tribes in the Nuba Mountains, about a lot of things.

Before that, you had no idea of the diversity and the different customs and.?
It is one of the funniest things: when you were in the Nuba Mountains, you just knew your own tribe. We for example were Miri. So if we were asked: “Who are the Nuba?” we would try to say: “The other tribes – but not us.” Only when we came out of the Nuba Mountains, to the north or south or west, we learned that we are all Nuba.

Anyway: I found that book and it was very interesting to read, because now I had a chance to know more about myself. Every day, once I finished the lessons, I just rushed to the library. Sometimes I was to be told by other people that it was the breakfast of Ramadan, because I was completely absorbed by reading about the Kushite kingdom, the Meroetic and the Tigali kingdoms. There have been many good cultures and good kingdoms in the Sudan before the Arabs came, and I was asking myself: “Why did we never learn about these cultures?”

Did you discuss these issues with your fellow students?
In fact in 1977 we held a Nuba conference in the University of Khartoum, inviting all the Nuba students whom we thought were committed to their problems or to the Nuba Mountains.

You say ‘we’: was there already some sort of Nuba organisation?
There were a lot of Nuba students, but some didn’t care what was going on in the Nuba Mountains, some were frightened even to discuss these things. But others thought that this was about our rights. So we looked for students who had a feeling of loyalty to the Nuba Mountains and then we made a four days’ conference. Several people lectured us; I remember R. Stevenson happened to be there. He was a linguistic who had lived in the Nuba Mountains for twenty years or more. And there was Faris, the anthropologist and photographer, who wrote about Kau Nyaro. (James C. Faris, ‘Nuba personal art’, London 1972. NotE)

Was this conference held openly?
No, we only selected those whom we wanted to participate. I think we were around thirty or forty, I’m not quite sure now. We concluded that to help our Nuba people, we would have to participate politically. We had to be present; we had to be practical in the political arena. There were two things we wished to tackle, because they will always work against us: religious differences and tribal differences. Of course we have a lot of tribes. (Over fifty. NotE) And we have Christians, Muslims, non-Muslims and so on. The main result of that conference was the foundation of Komolo, or Youth movement, through which we wanted to work for the political rights of the Nuba.

Were the youth involved in Komolo from many different tribes?
Well, the main group was around Kadugli, and then Dilling. The Kowalib were with us, Heiban also, and we tried of course to penetrate other areas, but it was difficult. It was only the eastern Jebels where we were not present. Tagali, Abasya, and so on. Mostly we were in the University of Khartoum of course, so our activity was limited until we graduated. Then we started to operate in our areas, around Kadugli and other places.

Abdel Aziz al Hillu was already a member of Komolo at that time? (Abdel Aziz Adam al Hillu succeeded Yousif Kuwa as governor and commander of the SPLA area in the Nuba Mountains. NotE)
Yes, he was my deputy in the university. But not in the Komolo outside. I met him only in Khartoum University, but since then of course we were friends.

Were there no Nuba politicians at all?
In 1964, there was the General Union of the Nuba, or GUN. I remember we participated in lectures in 1965, when I was in the higher secondary school. Especially the students in the University of Khartoum were active in GUN. The party succeeded to have ten chairs in the parliament. The funny thing is: before 1964 there were these traditional parties, like Umma and the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party. NotE). For every election they used to import candidates from Khartoum and El Obeid to the Nuba Mountains, who would come with things and ask for votes.

You mean that they gave people presents to vote for them?
Money or whatever, yes. They would take the votes, and then never appear again until the next elections.

They never did anything for the Nuba?
No, no, not at all. They didn’t even know who the Nuba were, because they came from different areas. So after the October revolution of 1964, and the establishment of General Union of the Nuba, the members of GUN decided that the Nuba should stop these import candidates; we had to elect our own people. And that is when the elections of 1965 came. GUN gained ten seats at the cost of the Umma and the DUP. Since then, there has been a lot of conflict between these parties and the Nuba.

How was your relationship with Father Philip?
Yes, Philip Abbas Gabboush! He was the head of the Nuba Union. I looked at him as a godfather at that time. He did a lot of good for the Nuba.

Did he teach you what politics is about?
Not in classes and so on, just by practice.

You went back to Kadugli in 1980?
Yes, I worked as a teacher in Kadugli Higher Secondary School. It was a chance for us to recruit the young intellectuals, because most of them were working as teachers at that time, especially in the Nuba Mountains. Usually they had no other ambition than to have a bicycle, a good pair of trousers and a shirt, to follow the parties and the girls and so on. No interest in politics, none at all. They were our first target, and we started to tell them: “This is our country: if we do not participate ourselves, who is going to work for us?”

It was all clandestinely?

And you met at houses of Komolo members?
Yes of course, we just saw who could be relied upon.

It must have been dangerous.
Well, not that much really. And our chance came soon, in 1981, when Sudan was divided into regions and there should be elections for the Regional Parliaments. Kordofan became a region, so that was a good opportunity for us. We concentrated our campaign on the youth. They didn’t care what was going on, but they were a big number. In each house you would find three to four, five youth. The older people already had their own orientation; if some of them were willing to participate or to help, we had nothing against them of course, but generally we just concentrated on the youth.

By youth you mean young men?
Young men, yes – and girls. We told them: there is no difference between boys and girls: this is our country, and all of us have to participate. It was really a good policy I think, because I won the election in Kadugli. So I went to El Obeid (The capital of Kordofan. NotE) as a representative of Kadugli constituency. There were other Nuba, three or four. I was elected Deputy Assembly Speaker in the Regional Body.

I understood you had many clashes with the governor?
From day one! In fact even before we went to the assembly body. In a meeting of all the representatives of Southern Kordofan we concluded that in the past Northern Kordofan used to take all our rights. We thought we had a chance now to have equality, or at least to have equal chances.

There were five positions in the assembly: the spokesman with the deputy, then the chairman of the assembly and his deputy, and then the government representative. So we said: “If the spokesman from the assembly body is from Northern Kordofan, the deputy should be from Southern Kordofan.” Okay? But then the assembly body chairman should be from Southern Kordofan and the deputy from Northern Kordofan. Of course, for the position of government representative, they had the right to choose whomever. That was what we agreed upon as representatives of Southern Kordofan.

But when we came to El Obeid, we were told that both the spokesman and the assembly body chairman would be from Northern Kordofan and only the deputies would be from Southern Kordofan. So we told them our position. Then I was called by the governor: “Ya agui, this is how we have decided to do it: why are you objecting?” I told him: “It is not me who is objecting; I am just saying what we have agreed to as a group. I think that if we could do it the way we propose, it would give us a good start – at least with a good will.”

First he plainly refused, and then he said: “We have to go for elections for that matter, in the assembly body.” We agreed; we made the elections, and the candidate of Northern Kordofan became assembly body chairman instead of me. I congratulated him and I told him: “Our objections should not be taken as something personal. That was our stand and we put it, but we’re ready to co-operate. The most important thing is the work for our people.”

Strangely enough, after three days, we discovered that we had been cheated. The assembly body met before the parliament itself. And in the elections, I remember, I had 24 votes, and the candidate from Northern Kordofan had 26. One, the spokesman was neutral; that made 51. On the third day in the parliament, the minutes of that assembly body meeting came out. And it showed that the first day one member had not been there – and that was number 48!

He made the difference you mean?
A big difference! How could there have been 50 votes when there were only 48 representatives, of whom one was missing? Of course peopled started to say: “Oh, we have been cheated, we ismudea, wowowo-,” they wanted to make a big issue out of it. But when they came to me, I said: “It is our own fault, we should have been more careful. Since the whole thing has gone, we have to work, no problem.”

But others continued, out of party motivations, and they wrote a message to the governor. They even included my name. So I was called again by the governor: “Oh, why are you making a lot of problems and troubles?” I asked him what was wrong. He said: “You signed with the people who are objecting!” I denied, and he said: “But your name is there!” I said: “Well, if my name is there, the question is: have I signed? I never saw this letter before.” And so on.

There were continuous problems, and we were always accused of being racialist and this and that and. a lot of problems. In 1983, when there was a re-election of governors, we fall apart with the governor and I went back to being just a representative of Kadugli constituency.

Was there any collaboration with other parties?
Well, there was some co-operation. But of course it was not so clear because all political parties were banned.

What were the objectives at the time?
We thought our area was backward – there was no comparison between Southern Kordofan and Northern Kordofan or any other part of the country. We wanted some equality, some services, so that people could feel that they were belonging to the same country.

Did you feel that is was possible?
It wasn’t possible, because whenever you talked, you would be – as I said – described as a racialist, a separatist, a this and that and always they would try to find something to condemn you for. And that is why we were enthusiastic to read the SPLA manifesto of 1983, which talked about fighting for a united Sudan, for equality and share of power, share of economy, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of practising culture. That is what made us join the SPLA in 1984. We were disappointed with the situation.

You had to go somewhere to join, you had to have some contacts.?

Were there people, in Kadugli for example, who were involved?
In Khartoum. We had a meeting of the Komolo. After going through the manifesto, I was appointed to go and see the possibility of joining. I was told to go alone and report afterwards. And this is what happened. I went to Khartoum, there were people there who helped me to Ethiopia, and I joined the SPLA in Addis Ababa.

Did you discuss the matter with Doctor John Garang himself?
Sure. When I went there, of course I met him. I told him that we, as an organisation in the Nuba Mountains, had decided to join the SPLA, if there weren’t any restrictions or something like that. “And since you are calling for a New Sudan, a new united Sudan,” I said, “we from our side have no objection to join you.” And he welcomed us very much.

Would you say you are friends with Garang?
Ya, after that. Of course that was the first time I met him. But I think he is a friend, ya. Sometimes, when somebody has power, the friendship has. One has to be a bit cautious.

But I understand you trust him?
Very much – and he trusts me also.

Did you follow military training in Ethiopia after you joined?
My military training was in 1986, 1987. (In another interview he said it was from October1985 to December 1986, which is more likely to be correct. NotE)

So you did other things before that?
Yes. My first assignment was to represent the SPLA in Southern Yemen; I opened the office there. Then I was sent to Kenya, to tie relations with the Kenyan government. After that, I came back.

That was your assignment: to make contact with the governments of Yemen and Kenya?
No, the Yemen office was already established, I just became the representative. And actually my next assignment was not to make the relation with the Kenyan government, but just to go to Nairobi. At that time the tribal identity of the Movement was a big issue. Questions like Dinka Bahr al Ghazhal versus Dinka Equatoria, or the Movement being a Dinka movement and so on. Doctor John told me: “You go and make rallies, to explain that this is our Movement, that it has nothing to do with the propaganda of it being a Dinka movement.” And this is exactly what I did.

Were you successful?
Very successful, ya. Because I was from the Nuba Mountains people listened to me differently than to the others. And of course it was a matter of logic.

So after this campaign in Nairobi you went back to Ethiopia?
No, I went to Cuba: political school and military school. That was for the senior officers. (Yousif Kuwa was a member of the High Command of the SPLA. NotE)

Was it tough?
Not very. But it was good to see how the people were living there; it was a good experience. We moved around to other provinces during the holidays of political school. But during the military training we usually spent two weeks inside, only to go to another place for some entertainment every second weekend.

Did the political education influence you a lot?
Sure, sure. But it was mainly about the armed struggle.

You returned in 1987?
Well, we had some forces in the training centre, and I was given my first battalion: Volcano Battalion. I led it to the Nuba Mountains, together with Abdel Aziz, who was my adjutant.

Had it been Abdel Aziz who led the first task force that entered the Mountains in 1986?
No. In fact there were two battalions that went to penetrate the Mountains in 1986, but they existed of very few people. There were some Nuba people in the Abushok Battalion. They went with Awad Karim Kuku, Telefon Kuku and Yusuf Karra, and in the Mountains they found Yunis Abu Sudur. So when we arrived in 1987, they had already established a centre, and they had recruited some men. By the time we went in, the first group came out: almost one thousand men. They were from different areas, but the majority was from the Moro hills.

How many men were with you in Volcano?
We had two battalions; around six hundred men actually, because there had been desertion of course, on the way to the South.

What happened when you entered?
We entered on the twenty-fifth (of June. NotE), during the night, to avoid contact with the enemy or anybody else. We came through a place called Tabuli and from there we marched upto a placed called ar-Rimla, where we arrived at six in the morning. By the time we were settling some people came to warn us that the army in Talodi took its water from here, and that they may come after some times – with a tractor.

We chose to decoy them; to run with an ambush, so that we could take this tractor. But unfortunately, they had learned of our presence. They came in a lorry with a big force, and they started shooting at us. That was the first battle in my life, in ar-Rimla. We fought, we fought, and we killed eleven of them, or something like that; the rest ran away. But of course, they left the lorry behind. After the battle we continued to Serif al Jammus.

How did the Nuba people respond?
Oh, I wish I had had a video camera at that time. No, no, no, no, no, no, you can not imagine it now. I just compare it with films about the Roman Empire, when the legions, after winning a battle, come to Rome in triumph. You see people come and.

Actually they were afraid at the beginning. But some of them approached, and then they realised that these were their sons. They told the other people and then everybody rushed to his house to take whatever: water, milk, marissa (sorghum beer. NotE), whatever. They came meeting us in groups, and we were marching and people came running from different directions. It was fantastic, just fantastic.

You went to Serif al Jammus?
Yes, we went to Serif al Jammus and from there I went upto Achiron. That was my headquarters. The recruits were there too, and we started to move the number of them to the South. We stayed for two months, and then our ammunition became a problem.

When we moved from our training centre in Ethiopia we were told: “You will have your ammunition in front.” We went in front, then it was still in front, in front, in front, until we reached Fariang. (Place just south of the Nuba Mountains. NotE) We waited there, but after a while we said: “If we stay here without ammunition until the rainy season is finished, it will be very difficult to enter the Mountains.” So we had to go in with only sixty bullets average and hope that the ammunition would come soon.

Of course Riek Machar was the SPLA commander of Bentiu at the time. He had promised to bring the ammunition upto Fariang, but for reasons I don’t know he refused. He never did it and he said: “You come and take your ammunition from Bentiu.” I had to go back to Fariang, and then send soldiers of Fariang to Bentiu. I couldn’t send my own soldiers, because the majority of my forces were from the South. they would have just continued home.

So I left Abdel Aziz behind with some forces and came down to Fariang. We stayed there while those of Fariang went to Bentiu and brought back the ammunition. And now, wickedly, Riek convinced Dr John that we should go and attack Higliga. It had nothing to do with my mission, but instead of asking me for my opinion Rik just gave the orders to attack Higliga. I told him: “I am going to fulfil your orders, but I don’t think it’s a good idea and I am sure the army will disperse.” And that is what happened.

As soon as we told the troops we were going to Higliga, everybody took his things; they all went. We remained with our Nuba guys. At the same time, Abdel Aziz already reached us with some recruits. After the first battle at ar-Rimla, of course the government tried to drive us out of the Mountains. While I was in Fariang, the army attacked Achiron with the artillery, forcing Abdel Aziz to evacuate. Since there was no way for us to go back to the Nuba Mountains, we continued, with the rest of the recruits, to Ethiopia.

How was that journey to Ethiopia?
I don’t know in what sense?

Well, it’s not like you walk from here across the street!
Of course! Ya. But actually, when we came, we had to take a much longer road. We came through Pochala, Pibor, Bor, Fariang, and then we went in the Nuba Mountains. Luckily enough, by the time we came out, there was an agreement between SPLA and Anya Nya II forces (a resumption of Anya Nya I, formed before the SPLA with which it joined forces in 1983, later to split again to join the government. NotE) to stop the hostilities. So instead of going the long way, we just went through Adok – this is in the Shilluk area – to Atar, Khor Fulus, we followed that route upto Ethiopia, and it took us one month only.

Were the recruits prepared for a walk of one month?
Of course some didn’t know where we were going, and others. Well, you know – they were told: “Oh, we will reach, we will reach.” until we reached, ya. But of course, the first recruits went that long way.

I’m interested to know more about the training in Ethiopia.
Well, there was a training centre in Bilfam where all the recruits were trained. From there they would be divided into battalions and divisions, and then they were assigned. So our people were trained there, and then, in January 1988, we started going back, with six battalions. This was the New Kush Division.

I heard from many soldiers that the training in Ethiopia was really severe.
Ya, sometimes it was. Discipline and sometimes this question of food – well, a lot of problems. But there was no way out of course, it wasn’t a matter of accepting the circumstances or not: they just had to do it.

What happened when you re-entered the Mountains in 1989?
Well, yanni: we came, we occupied some places, we fought, we started to establish ourselves in the Nuba Mountains. And this is what has been done upto now.

Surely, there must be more you can tell me about it?
It’s a long story of course. Abdel Aziz took five of the battalions in front and he entered the Mountains in March. I came behind with one battalion, but the first forces entered in March. Now the way they entered, from the South, they would have to pass through Lake Abiad. But at that time, the Baggara Arabs used to concentrate their cows around the Lake. We knew they were there and the soldiers had strict orders not to touch them, not to quarrel them – because we had nothing to quarrel them for.

So when our forces approached Lake Abiad, they decided to walk the whole night to bypass it. And they did bypass it until in the morning they reached a point of water, called Hafir Nigeria, where they wanted to have a bit of rest. But the Baggara militia had found their trace and they had followed it until they came and attacked our soldiers in Hafir Nigeria.

You see? This is one of the things we are always trying to say, because we are often accused of being against the Arabs and so on, while that is not true at all. When the militia attacked them, of course, our people fought. The Baggara went back with their casualties and our forces continued to Fama.

There, the government army knew that our forces were coming. It had two battalions, called Volcano One and Volcano Two. (Not to be confused with the SPLA Volcano Battalion that entered the Mountains in 1987. NotE) Volcano One, I think, was in Fama. It clashed with our forces there. Our forces fought them; they even destroyed a tank and captured an anti-tank gun. Actually they almost destroyed Volcano One.

From Fama our forces went to Korongo Abdallah. Korongo is two hours walking from Kadugli, so the government army didn’t like that. It started to collect all its forces. And then one day they started to shell Korongo. From five in the morning upto the evening: shelling from far away. With the one-twenty, with the Howitzer and so on. They were shelling the whole day. And of course, anybody who heard the shelling would say: “Oh, there is nobody left in Korongo.”

But that was not all: the government army went to the people of Kaylak – Kaylak is south of Korongo, there are Baggara Arab militias there – they went and told them: “Ya, Korongo is finished! You just go there and collect whatever you can find, whether cows or whatever is there. All the people of Korongo are finished!” But actually, in spite of all the shelling, nothing serious had happened.

No damage done at all?
No, not at all; very few shells hit anything.

Korongo lies on a U-shaped hill, okay? And our forces were up there, all along this U-shaped hill. To their surprise they saw the Arab militia coming, in a very big number, with their wives singing and… Some carried guns, others just spears – and they fell in that ambush: they were killed very badly.

When he entered Korongo, Abdel Aziz had found one of the Baggara Arabs there. He told him to go and tell his people that our forces had nothing against the Baggara, and that they should not support the government. The man went with his son, and according to the information we got, he talked to the people. He said: “These people, don’t undermine them. They are not against you, so there is no need to go and fight them.” Then they described him as a coward – if he didn’t want to fight he should take his children and his sons and go. He took his sons and left. And these people came to their fate.

Our forces in Korongo endured a lot of attacks from the government army, and each time they repulsed them. But because it was a continuous thing, they decided to leave Korongo. They wanted to go to the Moro hills, because our supporters there were larger in number and it is a bit far from Kadugli.

They needed support of the people for food, and shelter and things like that?
For everything, yes. So, they decided to go to Moro, and they moved. Unfortunately the government army was informed and our forces fell into a very big ambush. Of course they were dispersed but in the end they came together in the Moro hills. They reorganised themselves, and then they started to distribute the battalions to different areas. They took some places, like Regifi and Umdulu – Umdulu is Moro land, Regifi is in Otoro. They met little resistance, because except for Kadugli, there were no armed troops stationed in the Mountains. Only policemen.

After Abdel Aziz had retreated to Moro, the government responded very heavily on.
Korongo ya. Because, of course, it was near to Kadugli.

Did the people of Korongo blame the SPLA for their problems?
I don’t know.

You have no idea?
I have no idea. But of course, some people stayed, some joined the government and so on.

When did you come in?
Well, I came to Fariang in April, when there was no water between Fariang and the Nuba Mountains. I was advised not to continue, because the militia would make ambushes at the few places of water. So we stayed in Fariang.

Now Hamad Abdel Karim, the Nuba commander of Volcano Two (one of the battalions of the government army; see above. NotE), was ordered to attack me in Fariang. But since the fighting had begun, according to him almost forty percent of his forces were out of action. So he said: “Most of my soldiers are wounded and some have died – I cannot go to Fariang unless I have new forces.” Nevertheless they insisted that he should go, but he just closed his mind and went back to Kadugli. He was arrested and put in prison, but then the coup d’état of Bashir came. (30 June 1989. NotE) This is where he was released.

We were in Lake Abiad, at three o’clock daytime, when we heard that there was a coup in Khartoum, that Omar al-Bashir is the leader of this coup and so on. That night we entered the Nuba Mountains.

Did the coup divert the attention from the Nuba Mountains; was it an advantage for you?
Not at all. It didn’t change anything. Maybe it was good for the South, because when al-Bashir came to power they declared a six months ceasefire for the South. But that wasn’t extended to the Nuba Mountains; in fact we have been fighting all the time.

You met up with Abdel Aziz in Moro?
Ya, in Limun, where he had made his headquarters. From there I went to Changaro and I made my headquarter there. After some times, Abdel Aziz took a battalion, and he came to Korongo again. Then Ismael Khamis took another three battalions to the western Jebels, and he established himself there. That was still in 1989.

Was there a strategy of how to penetrate the Nuba Mountains, where to go first or where to.
Yes of course! We had supporters in the western Jebels, so we planned to go there. And they are there upto now, despite all the efforts of the Sudanese government.

Especially in 1992, when they recruited 35.000 men of the army, militia and mujahadiin, for the Tullushi battle. They gave us a very hard time, but our forces resisted. The government army stayed until May, when the rain started to fall. (The siege of Tullushi started in december1991. NotE) They saw the danger of being there during the rainy season, so they withdrew, after making a lot of noise: “Oh, we have cleaned the Nuba Mountains of the rebels.” It was a lot of lies.

The Tullushi battle is legendary among the Nuba; can you tell me more about it?
Well, it was very big ya, but I cannot give details, because I was not there. Mohamed Juma’a was the commander of Tullushi battle. Of course I was commanding from the headquarters, but I had other things to take care of.

The Tullushi battle took place after the break-away of those of Riek (In August 1991 Riek Machar and other senior SPLA leaders had turned against John Garang, causing a split within the SPLA. NotE), and we had been cut off from the South. As a result, our logistics were very few, and I had to be very economical. When they made noise, I just gave them two or three boxes. And they would go and fight with it, and sometimes, of course, they captured ammunition from the government. They captured a lot of armament in the Tullushi battle. And I remember we killed a lot of Iranians.

Did you see their bodies?
Well, I saw their skeletons.

Although you were the main responsible person for the whole operation, most of the military activities were carried out.
By the commanders Like Abdel Aziz and Ismael khamis With Mohamed Juma’a yes, and the rest. It is true.

How was the working relationship with these commanders?
Well, since we entered in 1989 the relation was very good. And we worked in harmony until the split of Riek, when some people started to change their mind, like Awad Karim Kuku and Yunis Abu Sudur.

Awad Karim Kuku had joined Riek Machar in 1986. He had come with him to the Bentiu area, had been with him all this time, and he fought a lot of battles at the side of the Nuer, Anya Nya II especially. Awad Karim believed that the Nuer were more courageous than the Dinka – they had no fear of fighting. Okay? So when he heard that I declared my support to Garang, immediately after the mutiny, Awad Karim wasn’t happy. But he didn’t discuss it with me. I think he went and discussed it with those of Abu Sudur.

Yunis Abu Sudur had a different attitude altogether: he didn’t want to fight anymore. He thought there was a chance for him to have a good position, because when he was in the government army, his commander was Omer al-Bashir. So these men came together. They wanted to mobilize officers and forces loyal to them, in order to confront me.

Of course our intelligence discovered it and they warned me. I did my best actually to avoid problems. Right at the beginning, I called them and I said: “This is a very bad situation and we don’t know the outcome. But the important thing is that we should stick together in all cases. We have to stick together and we have to treat our people well, because if we are cut off, or if the whole thing collapses there, we have to be with our people here until the day comes that we can make an agreement with the Sudanese government or whatever.” That was my advice to them.

But as I said, each had his own ideas. Awad Karim, I think, believed that Riek would take over the SPLA, and he thought he had a lot of supporters here and there.

Did they themselves have a lot of support?
No, they just chose some officers here and there and NCO’s (noncommissioned officers. NotE). In the end I arrested them and we arrested those who were active: officers or NCO’s.

What happened to them?
Well, I put them in the prison. Then I took them to Fariang, out of the Nuba Mountains, so that there would be no problems inside. From there other forces were to escort them to Bahr al-Ghazal; I wanted them to go to the South, to stay there. I sent their wives to join them and they were marched off.

Unfortunately, there was this disease in Fariang: kala azar. (Visceral leishmaniasis; transmitted by sandflies; fever, weight loss, swelling of spleen and liver, anaemia; deadly if untreated. NotE) A lot of officers died of kala azar while they were walking to Bahr al Ghazal. Those who did reach Bahr al Ghazal, were put in the prison there. After some times Dr. John said: “We have to forgive them, whatever happened.” So those who had survived were released and they went to the South, to Kaya and so on.

Later, I think those of Awad and Yunis involved themselves with somebody called Abu Khazim, from Darfur. There were monitors between Uganda and Sudan, and they were trying to take them hostage or to drive them away. I think the security knew this and took them to prison. When I went to the convention (the 1994 SPLA convention in Chukudum. NotE), I was told that some people had broken out of prison. They had wanted to escape to Uganda first, but they ran into our forces and clashed with them. Some died on the spot; the others changed their direction to Zaire. But our forces there had closed the road and they clashed with them also. And this is where I knew Awad and Yunis were killed.

Could you describe the situation in the Nuba Mountains in 1990 and 1991?
In those years, the hunger was the most dangerous. Actually it convinced me that hunger is the most dangerous enemy. Yanni, we can fight with our enemies, against tanks, against what, but we cannot fight hunger.

What caused the hunger?
Shortage of rain. It was really a very bad time; a lot of people were suffering. And then some said that they wanted to go to the government.

They were expecting food from the government?
Well of course, on the government side there were relief camps from the UN. Meanwhile the government was refusing any relief to come to us.

What did you say to these people?
I told them it was better they went, instead of dying of hunger.

So they went?
Of course they went.

At some point you entered into negotiation with the government, is that right?
Well, actually it was initiated in 1990 by one of the ministers called Mohamed al-Amin Khalifa. He sent me a message, trying to tell me: “Yes, you have a problem, but this problem has nothing to do with the South. We are ready to sit with you as Nuba and solve this problem alone, without being part of the South,” and so on.

I replied to him that this was really the policy of the colonial powers: divide and rule. We are not claiming anything specific. Yes, it is true, we have our specific problems, but the problem is general. If we can solve the whole problem, then our problems automatically will be solved. I don’t think we can solve the Nuba problems without the Southern problem. And if we don’t want to fight the government, what do we do if the South is still fighting? That would mean we have to fight the South – either way we keep fighting. So, that was the first message from him and I replied.

Then, when those of Riek broke away, they tried again. A test of course; my reply was the same, but this time they also came through the governor of Kadugli. We exchanged a lot of messages, and he sent some of our people, who told me: “Oh, this is a good governor; he’s better than the previous one; people can make a deal with him.” I told them that I didn’t believe that, because he’s a governor, not the president. If one of my officers somewhere wouldn’t go along with my policy, I couldn’t leave him to his post.”

But they insisted: “No, he is good; let us try,” and so on. So I said: “Well, if that is the case: we have our grievances with this government. When this government came to power, they declared a ceasefire for six months in the South. They didn’t do it, even for a day, in the Nuba Mountains; upto now they are allowing relief to go to the South, they are not allowing relief to come to us. So how do I trust such a government and how do we deal with such a government? At least we need to know that they really mean what they are saying. If they mean it, then, at least they have to let the relief come. ” And they said: “Okay, let us sit and see whether the relief comes,” and so on and so forth. This is why we had the Tabanya meeting.

Representatives of Khartoum and of the governor of Kadugli came to Tabanya and met with our people. One of the issues was to allow free traffic between the government area and our places. The representatives agreed to it: everyone could go and come back freely. The people in our area had a lot of problems: they were lacking salt and so many other things, so they rushed to the town to buy whatever they needed – and then they were forbidden to leave. We stopped the whole thing at once.

When did the population start to abandon their villages in the plains or down the hills to flee up the mountains?
On their own, or when they are forced?

When they were forced.
Of course this is during the attacks and during the military burning of farms and so on.

The years following 1989, there were a number of attacks from the government and the Popular Defence Forces on villages throughout the Mountains: how did the SPLA respond to these attacks?
Well, actually the attacks on the villages didn’t start in 1989. At the beginning they used to come and fight us wherever we were, as SPLA. But the Tullushi battle in 1992 made them realize how difficult it would be for them to dislodge us. Then they started trying to take the people away from us, to drain us from the population. That is the policy they have been using upto today. Instead of engaging the SPLA forces directly, they go to undefended villages, surround them and take all the people to what they call ‘peace villages’.

How would you describe these peace villages?
Well, I didn’t see them, but what I heard is that they are places where people are collected. Sometimes the women are chosen to work in the houses, and men are taken to the agricultural schemes to work there. Children are taken to Koranic schools, so that they become Islam-oriented and so on. This is what I heard – beside the other abuses that are committed inside these peace camps.

There’s something called ‘peace from within’.
Ya, from 1992 also, they started to call an-Nafir as-Shaabi (literally ‘the co-operation of the people’. NotE). This meant that they were trying to persuade certain chiefs to go to their tribes and tell them: “Oh, you better come to the government.” They would give them some salt and sugar and other things that we lacked at that time, so they could attract people to follow them to the government areas or to the peace camps. That has been the policy of the government ever since they felt that they couldn’t easily finish the rebellion in the Nuba Mountains.

Has it been a successful policy?
To some extent, yes. First of all: since we entered the Nuba Mountains, until 1993, there was no tribalist attitude among the Nuba. But due to this policy, feelings of tribal rivalry were revived among the SPLA soldiers and the population. The government targeted almost every village. They would send a chief or somebody from the elite to go and talk: “You are this tribe, why do you follow of X or Z? The war is not good, we should stop it, and so on.”

What did you do to address it?
Nothing, except talking to the people: that this is the government policy of tribalism, of divide and rule and so on.

You travelled a lot to meet the people?
Sure, sure. Since 1989 I used to travel from place to place, to tell the people why we are fighting and what is our goal. I don’t think there is a place where I did not go. Maybe a small village, but. Sometimes a lot of villagers gathered in one place so that I could address them all at once. This way I have been visiting the whole area that was under our control.

You’ve been quoted saying: “I have always been more involved in politics than in fighting.”
Well, first of all, I do believe a politicised soldier is far better than just a normal soldier. And politicised people will know why they are fighting; they know why they have to resist or why they have to face these difficulties and so on. You can say I am rather a politician than a soldier. So I make rallies with the army and with the people.

And since 1990 we have been organizing the people so they feel participants in the struggle. We started in Nagorban, where I was staying. The people chose their representatives on a village level, payam (group of villages. NotE) level , and county level. The first year was a test, and when it proved to work very good, in 1991 we started to establish it in other places we controlled. One year later we held a census: not less than 400.000 people were living under our administration.

Is there a relationship between the hunger you talked about and setting up a democratic administration?
There is no relation. I thought we had to make people participate, especially the citizens. That is why we were trying to organize them: so they would feel that what was going on is not a military thing or an SPLA thing; it is our thing, our SPLA. That was the idea behind organizing them, and it had nothing to do with hunger, hunger is a different issue altogether.

How were the representatives chosen?
We called al the villagers together in a village congress, so that they chose their committee. The committee is a matter of eleven members, which should include the chief and a women’s representative – the rest they can choose freely. This is how each village chooses their representatives.

Then ten villages compose a payam. The representatives of these ten villages compose a base for the payam, and they too will select eleven from among them as payam administrators and representatives. Put it in mind that here also there should be a representative for women, and that the chief of the people’s court should be there. So, that is the Payam.

Five payams compose a county and the representatives of the five payams of course elect the county council from among them.

It must have been difficult; there were not many educated Nuba in the Mountains.
Of course, upto now there are only few educated people, but I don’t think it was that difficult. First of all, we wanted them to feed the army. And this had nothing to do with education. We wanted to try if they would be able to see and to tackle their problems themselves. If not, they could always hand it over to others and so on and so forth. It didn’t need any intellectual thinking, just common sense really.

But the people had little experience with ideas like democracy?
Ya, well, no. I think most of the Nuba had experience with a more traditional type of democracy. In the past, when there was any problem in the village, the elders of the village would come together to discuss it, and they would come out with some decision – which the village would follow. So it was not that strange.

The difficulty actually came as a result of the fear of the citizens from the soldiers. When the soldiers first came they were a bit harsh; they solved things with force and so on, so that was the difficulty at the beginning. But we encouraged the civilians and we always supported them, until they became more self-confident.

You say the soldiers were harsh: how did they behave?
Well, as soldiers. Most of them were okay, but soldiers always look down at civilians: even if they are educated, they are just civilians. And this was always the problem: when a soldier wanted something and someone wouldn’t give it to him, he could just take it. But mainly they were okay, especially in the Nuba Mountains. Some of course tried to use their weapons to steal and -, yanni, we executed them.

You said the people were suffering, and hunger drove them to the government side. Was this one of the developments that led upto forming the Advisory Council?
Once again: the hunger had nothing to do with governance or organisation. The Advisory Council met in September 1992: there was no hunger.

Hunger was no issue in 1992?
Not at all, ya. The hunger was in 1990, 1991

I had the impression that.
No, no, no, no, no, nothing at all. What led to the Advisory Council was a completely different issue.

I told you there were people who wanted to make a coup – or whatever you may call it. I had to arrest them and take them to the South. But of course I said: “If our people do not want to fight, it will be very difficult to push them. So it is better I take their opinion and see whether they want to continue fighting or not, after this period.” That was the idea behind the Advisory Council.

In 1992 we had all the organisations formed, including the different counties, so all county members were members in this Advisory Council; all the task force commanders; all the chiefs; representatives of the Christians and Muslims, and so on. We had around 200 members, and that is how we held the first Advisory Council. The meeting went on for four days.

The first two days actually I did the talking. About the history of the Nuba since the Kushite kingdom, all along, until the independence. How, after independence, the General Union of the Nuba was established and then how Komolo came, how people looked at the SPLA manifesto and how we joined the SPLA. I talked about what we gained all this time, and what we lost.

What had the Nuba gained – and what had they lost?
Taking up arms had given the Nuba a status they didn’t have before. They became more respected than before. Each government would try to have a Nuba minister – this had never been seen before. The Nuba people had even started to feel some self-confidence, they no longer feared being Nuba, and so on. Which was a very big gain. And of course, the losses were this war, the destruction, the death and so on and so forth. But this is the price of freedom.

So, after finishing I told them: “I am responsible for all that happened before, upto this day: I can take the whole responsibility. But from today on, it will be us to decide. Either we continue fighting, and this would be our responsibility – or we stop fighting, and this would be our responsibility also. And after that, we will let the individuals take their decision: If we decide to fight and some prefer to go to the government, they are free to do so. And if we decide to surrender and some want to go to the South and fight, they are also free to do so.” With that, I opened the discussion, and it went on for two days.

A very hot discussion, because some suggested that we should make peace with the government, and others did not want to stop fighting.

What were the arguments in favour of peace with the government?
Well, that there were a lot of dead, that there was hunger, that people were dying, they were naked, there were a lot of diseases, and so on. But I remember there were two women, who really stood up and argued against this.

They said: “Well, if it is a matter of death: you can die on your bed. If it is a matter of diseases: diseases have been always there, whether in peacetime or in war. If it is a matter of nakedness: our people usually were naked before knowing the clothes and so on. But we have been fighting for a goal. We’re halfway down the road: it is better that we continue instead of just leaving our goal halfway down. And this actually turned most of the people around. Especially men felt ashamed. And on the end the Council voted for continuation of the fight.

These ladies: were they members of the Komolo?
No, they were members of the counties, the women’s representatives.

They can be both, I mean.
After joining the SPLA, we didn’t tackle this question of the Komolo’s. Those who were Komolo’s were Komolo’s, those who are not -, we are all treated the same. It depends on what work you are doing.

One of the people who were for peace with the government was Telefon Kuku.
Ya, Telefon actually was the leader of our delegation to the Tabanya peace talks. I was receiving reports saying that he had several meetings with the head of the government’s delegation – whom I knew by the way – without having anybody with him. But what they discussed and what was going on exactly was not clear, so I couldn’t do anything as long as we didn’t have any evidence.

He only came out with his ideas during the Advisory Council. Actually, nobody was angry, it just gave a good discussion. But when the people voted for continuation of the fighting, Telefon got angry. Of course he had no right to be angry, because this was the people’s will. I think from then on, he started to have his own way of thinking.

In 1993 I was told to go to the Abuja peace talks (in Nigeria. NotE), so I went out. And of course, by then we had a lot of problems. As I told you, from 1992 onwards we had a difficulty of logistics. So when I went, I was trying my best to have some logistics to the Nuba Mountains.

The only possibility to get it there was by plane, but at that time, no plane had come to the Nuba Mountains or to Fariang. There was no airstrip in the Nuba Mountains, and whenever I would tell someone about the Nuba Mountains, he would think this was a government held area, and so on and so forth. Anyway, I had great difficulty in convincing some pilots to take these things to Fariang.

Once actually we agreed with somebody: he said it was okay; he was going to do this and that. So because Telefon was in Buram and Buram is near to Fariang I sent a message to him, that he should send forces to Fariang to collect the ammunition. At the last moment we made a mistake: the ammunition should have been covered, but it wasn’t. When the pilot came and he saw what the cargo was, he refused to bring it to Fariang.

Of course the soldiers went there, they waited and nothing was brought. We tried another pilot, he agreed. And then I think the first one came to the second one to tell him: “You are going to take ammunition,” and he too refused. We had a lot of difficulties. I remember we had even bought a small plane ourselves, that we had wanted to use to take at least a little, so that the soldiers in the Mountains would feel we were doing something for them. Unfortunately that plane came down and burned. A lot of difficulties.

Then he started to blame me: saying I am cheating them, I’m deceiving them, we’re deceivers, a lot of things.

That was Telefon?
That was Telefon.

Then, there was the SPLA convention, which we wanted to hold in Chukudum, in the South. We asked for some representatives from the Nuba Mountains, but Telefon discouraged the people to come, especially from his county. He said: “If there is a plane, we will go. If not, people shouldn’t walk all this way,” and so on.

Tabanya was his home area?
Buram, yes. So a lot of his people didn’t come, although the rest came, walking for seventy days to reach the area and so on. Instead Telefon wrote a very bad letter to me, describing the Movement (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, SPLM. NotE) as a weak movement and a lot of other bad description. I felt that he couldn’t have said this unless he had a pact with some government forces.

It sounds as if he were very disappointed?
Well, I don’t know for what he would have been disappointed – unless because people didn’t go along with his ideas, or because of this question of ammunition and so on. That can not justify what he did. After a while, we heard of the army attacking and even occupying Buram. And Telefon was not serious about fighting them. So I gave orders to arrest him and put him in the prison.

He was known to be for a peace accord with the government, didn’t you keep a very close watch on him?
At the beginning I didn’t, but when he started to send these messages, actually I said that people should watch him. But of course the one who went there could not. he kept anything.

He was very clever at hiding what he was doing?
I think so.

You left in 1993, to attend the Abuja Conference.
The Abuja Conference, ya. And when I came back, I was assigned to prepare for the First National Liberation Council Meeting of the SPLA. I chaired the committee which was preparing for that, and then, I think the beginning of April 1994, the people came from different areas under SPLA control, whether Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile or the South. Then we had the convention in Chukudum.

Did you also chair the convention?
Yes. After chairing the committee, when we started I was elected as the chairman of the convention.

Would it be fair to say that what you managed to achieve on a smaller scale in the Nuba Mountains, was now going to be applied for the whole of the liberated areas?
Well, almost, this is what has been adopted. Of course, this question of forming self-government there, was going to be adopted as a law in the liberated area.

After the Chukudum convention, you didn’t go back to the Mountains?
Well, I couldn’t go without solving the problem of finding ammunition and getting it there. So we were trying this and that, until at last I managed to get five tons, which we took to the Mountains by plane; this was in May 1995. It was the first time, or the second time -, anyway, this is where we started to have planes going to the Nuba Mountains.

While you were outside the Nuba Mountains, Ismael Khamis was in command?
Ismael was in command, yes. He was responsible for all the current affairs; we only had contact if there was something to go there or to come out. We used long-range radios.

During the same time a new organisation was formed: the Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Society.
NRRDO, or NRRDS yes, at that time. The Sudanese Government was still refusing any relief to the Nuba Mountains. The situation was really bad. We only managed because we made a peace agreement with the Missiriya (one of the Baggara tribes. NotE). In 1993 they started to bring some items like salt, sugar, clothes, and shoes. Although it was very dear, because of the need people rushed to buy.

Did they pay with money?
No, it was in kind of cows, whatever. There was no money.

So when I went out in 1993, I met those of the OLS (Operation Lifeline Sudan. NotE) in Nairobi, and I told them about the situation in the Nuba Mountains. They said they believed there was a need for relief there, but they couldn’t go to the Nuba Mountains unless the Government allowed them. Without permission they couldn’t do anything. But they were going to do this and that. Nothing happened.

While they were delivering relief in the South for.
In the South, in the North: OLS was delivering relief everywhere, except in the Nuba Mountains. To deliver relief, there had to be a triple agreement, between the SPLA, the UN and the Government of Sudan. Since the Government was refusing, they couldn’t do anything. Then I remembered those of African Rights: Alex De Waal, Yoanes and others. They came to Nairobi and met with some organisations, they convinced them that they should help the Nuba people clandestinely.

They had already been in the Mountains at that time?
No, not yet. But they collected some money and they made a forum, called NEAR. (Network for East Africa Relief: Norwegian People’s Aid and Christian Aid, African Rights, Medicins Sans Frontieres and New Sudan Council of Churches. NotE) This was the time we thought about making an indigenous NGO (Nongovernmental Organisation. NotE). Because the organisations in NEAR couldn’t go and stay in a situation such as ours, we had to have our own people, who could deliver whatever is brought, and implement it there. This is how NRRDO was formed.

In fact, the idea of forming an indigenous NGO existed before the formation of NEAR. There was a father from the Nuba Mountains – Beshir Ad-Dow; he’s now in America – who suggested it. I told him, “Well, let’s do it.” And I remember we had some Nuba people who wanted to participate in setting up the organisation, but of course they decided that they couldn’t continue with the SPLA. (This is later, after the founding of NRRDS: some members, like Mohamed Haroun and Yunis Domi, joined the government, others went for resettlement abroad. NotE) I told them: “If you want to help your people, this is the place you can do it.” Anyway, they made the constitution.

After the convention I had to come to Nairobi, in order to register the organisation. But there should be a committee of course. Since Beshir had left to America, to continue his studies as he said, I formed a committee, headed by Mohamed Haroun Kafi. In fact all members were people already in Nairobi, so that they didn’t cost us anything – there was no money at that time. After that they became part of NEAR, and it attracted a lot of donors, who gave money and so on and so forth.

So now there was money for NRRDO, but the committee was not elected: it was appointed. So I wanted those of NRRDO to go down to the Nuba Mountains, explain to the people there what NRRDO is and how it works, and ask them to elect the committee that runs the organisation. Mohamed tried to dodge his way out-, actually the majority did so. Only Kodi went down to meet with the people in the Mountains.

In the end they said the Advisory Council should elect the committee, and it was elected that way. Mohamed was assigned to Nafir, so we put Yunis Domi in his place, until. Then, of course, they assigned Neroun (Neroun Philip, present day executive director of NRRDO. NotE). Actually I was told about Neroun; his character and his career, so I advised them to appoint him as the head of NRRDO. This is how Neroun came to take over.

After some times, Mohamed Haroun went over to the Government, followed by Yunis Domi.

Sad story, that one.
Ya, well, not very sad. It’s normal. At least he didn’t take a lot of people with him. They were really only a few people – five or six – who were generally useless. Most of them were in Kakuma, others were in Nairobi. So it wasn’t sad. It would have been sad if the whole population had been divided or something like that, but five, three, four people wasn’t so terrible. They made a lot of propaganda out of it, but there was nothing.

In 1995 you managed to bring in a lot of logistics. Did it help that Abdel Aziz was head of logistics at that time?
Not necessarily, although he was head of logistics, it had nothing to do with Abdel Aziz. At that time he was almost handing over to go to eastern Sudan. And the main problem was transportation.

Meantime, in the Nuba Mountains, Kaluka was making the airstrips. (Osman Jagub Kaluka. NotE)
Kaluka said so?

Yes, he told me that he prepared the first airstrips.
Ya, he wants to make something for himself, but he wasn’t. He wasn’t at all. He was an officer, who was appointed to NRRDO, but I don’t think he was involved in preparing the airstrips. (Kaluka was SRRA secretary at the time, and probably was involved in some way or another. NotE)

We made an airstrip in Karkarai – I think, mainly I was the one. Was that the first one we made? No, the first one was in Tebari. And who did it? But of course: those of Ismael. And then there was Mohamed Kambal, who said he knew a bit about airstrips because he had been working on the airport and so on. So they were the ones who helped. Ya. The first airstrip we used was in Tebari; the second one in Karkarai and then, after that, in so many places.

Did the airstrips attract the attention of the Government army right away?
I don’t know.

I mean: now any airstrip is a target for government offensives.
This is a recent development, of the last two or three years; from 1997 onwards. They said: “Well, we can work out an arrangement with the South concerning its self-determination, but this can’t include the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. But the SPLA said: “No, we can only agree with self-determination is for all of us,” and so on.

Then, the Government took to the strategy of trying to re-occupy the Blue Nile and to close the airstrips in the Nuba Mountains, so it could declare that these areas were no longer part of the rebellion. The Government army fought the SPLA very severely in Blue Nile, but it was repulsed and defeated badly. So they came to the Mountains.

Actually, they sent seven convoys; they were repulsed. Then they started using long-range artillery to shell the airstrips from a safe distance. This is how they closed the airstrips of Tebari and Karkarai. We moved to Gidel – we had I think two airstrips there, or even three – until 1999, when they succeeded in closing down those airstrips too, with the long-range artillery. But of course we made other airstrips.

You came back in 1995 after an absence of one and a half, two years; how did you find the situation?
Well, I don’t know what I can say, but people were happy that I was back. They thought they had missed me while I was out. A lot of administrative matters and so on.

[I turned of the recorder to go through my notes. Actually I didn’t have many questions left. Maybe there had been events or developments I had never heard or read about, but Yousif couldn’t think of anything he wanted to add to the long story he had told. Instead he talked about his disease and I asked him whether I could record this part of the conversation as well. He had no objections.]

Actually, in 1997, when I came to Holland to talk with Novib (a Dutch NGO. NotE), we passed through London and I had a medical check-up. It was good, but the doctor told me: “You try to have your PSA measured from time to time too,” without telling what this PSA is or what it indicates. So from time to time I went to a doctor for a PSA – he didn’t tell me what it was either, nor what the results indicated or something like that, so I took it to be just a normal routine. (PSA: prostate-specific antigen. PSA blood test results are reported as nanograms per millilitre or ng/ml. Results under 4 ng/ml are usually considered normal. Results over 10 ng/ml are high, and values between 4 and 10 are considered borderline. The higher the PSA level the more likely the presence of prostate cancer. NotE)

In July 1998, I was told to go to Addis Ababa for peace talks. This is the time I started to feel pain in my back. I thought it was only a result of not covering my back during the cold evenings in the Nuba Mountains; I would just take a hot bath to feel a bit of relief and so on. I went to Nairobi, to Addis Ababa, went to Egypt, I came back: the pain was still there. I went to see a doctor to have the PSA measured.

That was in October, and before I had the results I was told to go to Norway. So I went to Norway, and there the pain really became hard to bear. Back in Nairobi the doctor told me: “Oh, it seems that you have cancer, but you have go to a specialist. So I went to the specialist and he told me: “Well, I need to make an operation, and then we will see whether it is cancer or not.”

When he said this, I sent a message to the doctor in London who had done that medical check-up in 1997, and he advised me I’d better come to London. Financially it didn’t matter so much, because in Nairobi they were asking a lot of money for an operation to see whether I might have cancer. In London they made a blood test and an X-ray scanning, and then the doctor told me it is prostate cancer.

I told him: “If it is prostate cancer, can we make an operation? He said: “No, because the cancer has already spread from the prostate,” and he showed me the dots on the X-ray. If it had been just in the prostate, it would have been a bit less problematic, but now that it had spread. So, he told me: “We are going to give you some injections (hormonal drugs to reduce testosterone production. NotE); if it works, that will be good. If not, then we try the alternative: radiotherapy and chemotherapy.”

So, I got the first injection and then was told to go and have another one every three months. I think the response was very good, because at the time I left London, the PSA level was 241, and when I returned after six months, it had dropped to 2.6. I was very pleased and I thought the whole thing was over. But unfortunately, it came back.

In July 1999, when I came to the peace talks in Nairobi, I started to feel my back again. I went to the doctors and I asked them whether it could have anything to do with prostate cancer. All of them were telling: “No, it has nothing to do with that.” I worked with this pain from July upto November. Then I said: “Ya, this is nonsense; let me go to London.” Here they discovered that the prostate cancer had returned.

Again, the treatment started well, and the injections controlled a lot of the cancer cells. Then I think some of these things went out of control. (The cancer was becoming androgen-independent. NotE) For example: if there were ten cells, at least four could no longer be controlled by the same medicine. The doctor gave me some other tablets and injections, but he also discouraged me a lot.

He said: “Oh, I believe the end will come soon. I doubt whether you could live for another one and a half year.” Besides he said: “There is nothing more I can do for you.”

And that was in.?
That was at the end of 1999 and the beginning of the New Year. On my way back to Nairobi I came through Holland – my body was too fat and.

Anyway, I went back in March, but in May I felt I was not all right, and I had a lot of pain. So I came to London again, and this time I changed the doctor. I turned to Norwich, this cancer centre, where I met with the doctors. Of course, they gave me some treatment. Radiotherapy, and they gave me injections that were hoped to stop the pain for some time. It wasn’t that successful though, but they thought the second treatment would be. They asked me to return after six months, and that is why I am here now.

Did they give you some more hope?
Yes, they have given me a lot of hope. Someone was telling me that I will have another injection that will control the rest of the four uncontrollable cancer cells. And they will use radiotherapy at the places of pain, so that it stops. Then there is another injection, which they hope will stop this pain at least for the coming six months.

[The recorder is turned off again. Yousif says that the past few years fighting the disease kept him away from the Nuba Mountains too often. It gives me the opportunity to ask a few more questions.]

I’ve been in the Mountains a few times, (in 1997, 1998 and 2000. NotE) and since you were outside, I saw the situation.

Deteriorating, yes. Things like discipline, moral. Do you have an explanation?
I think mainly the leaders are to blame, yanni. I don’t know why, but. Ismael (acting Governor Ismael Khamis Jelab. NotE) used to concentrate on personal things. He never gave too much attention to the military and the administration, that is why people disagree with him. And in fact, when I came out of the Mountains, I tried whether Mohamed Juma’a would be a good substitute, before Ismael came back.

But Mohamed also proved not to be a good national leader, so they lost trust in them – the people I mean. The an-nahim and sometimes the army. And when Ismael came back, there were constant clashes between him and Mohamed and-, of course this gives problems. This is the story. officers and the NCO’s and the soldiers. I think this is part of it.

Is it the length of this war, which wears people down in the end?
Maybe. You can’t be quite sure, but. No one knows exactly what is the problem, but this is what happened.

There will be a new commander: Abdel Aziz al Hillu.
Hopefully, ya. He will go there, and we hope things will change.

You’ve been fighting together with him, and he has taken large parts of the Mountains in the past. Do you think he is capable of doing it again, with the conditions so drastically changed?
Well, as I told you, he has a lot of military experience. So military, I think he can do a lot, ya.

[End of interview.]

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Almost a year has passed since the 27 September 2012 agreements, which committed both Sudan and South Sudan to implement a Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ) along their mutual border, following a map drawn up by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). Despite numerous declarations to the contrary, both countries retain troops within the SDBZ, and the Joint Border and Verification Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), which was designed to oversee the demilitarization of the border, remains effectively inoperative. From September 2012 to March 2013, no moves were taken to implement a SDBZ. However, on 8 March 2013, both countries agreed on an implementation matrix to put the 27 September agreements into effect. Initially, both countries removed some of their troops from the border region, with the Government of Sudan (GoS) claiming that it had withdrawn from the SDBZ on 26 March, and the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) echoing their claim on 11 April.

News24 – ‎53 minutes ago‎
Sudanese protestors throw stones at a petrol station in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman during a demonstration after the government announced steep price rises for petroleum products. (AFP). Multimedia · User Galleries · News in Pictures Send us your (blog) – ‎2 hours ago‎
By Henry Austin, NBC News contributor. The wave of civil wars, revolutionary demonstrations, protests and riots dubbed the “Arab Spring” that spread across North Africa and into the Middle East in 2011 may well be heading south into Sudan, experts and 
The Guardian – ‎8 hours ago‎
Many said it wouldn’t happen in Sudan. That the Arab spring would not reach the country; that Sudan was a country on the periphery of the Arab world and hence unlikely to witness any serious political transformation. This view was entrenched by the fact that 
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Sky News Australia – ‎10 hours ago‎
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Monday met with his Sudanese counterpart Ali Karti but failed to repeat strong U.S. criticism of a deadly crackdown on protestors. Thousands have taken to the streets to protest a more than 60 percent jump in petrol and 
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Omar al-Bashir says price hikes that led to deadly protests were necessary and blames outside forces for ongoing unrest. Last Modified: 01 Oct 2013 21:14. Email Article. Print Article. Share article. Send Feedback. The latest unrest is the worst urban unrest 
Al-Arabiya – ‎11 hours ago‎
A man looks at a burnt bank during protests over fuel subsidy cuts in Khartoum September 26, 2013. (Reuters). Tweet. AFP, Khartoum. The shouts of demonstrators carry the name of Salah Sanhouri through the Khartoum night, as they mourn a slain comrade 
Kansas City Star – ‎11 hours ago‎
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Ahram Online – ‎15 hours ago‎
Fuel price hikes which sparked deadly protests last week aimed to save Sudan from economic meltdown, President Omar al-Bashir said Tuesday in his first comments on the unrest which has left discontent simmering. “The latest economic measures aim at 
Al-Arabiya – ‎15 hours ago‎
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says the rise of fuel price is to save the economy. (File photo: AFP). Tweet. Al Arabiya. The rise of fuel prices in Sudan is aimed to save the country from an economic meltdown, President Omar al-Bashir said Tuesday in his – ‎15 hours ago‎
From an economic perspective, any other government would have taken the decision to abolish subsidy on fuel prices, just like the Sudanese government of President Omar Al Bashir’s announced on last week, given the critical state of the country’s economy.
Times of Oman – ‎16 hours ago‎
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Independent Online – ‎17 hours ago‎
Sudanese anti-government protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in Khartoum on September 29, 2013. Thousands of Sudanese protesters took to the streets in night march in the capital Khartoum late Sunday. Related Stories. Hundreds held after 
Fox News – ‎18 hours ago‎
Khartoum (AFP) – Discontent simmered in Sudan on Tuesday as the public struggled to understand why their “brothers and daughters” had been shot dead during protests against fuel price increases. “We are very angry about what happened because those 
The Economist (blog) – ‎19 hours ago‎
A CRACKDOWN by the security forces of Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, since September 23rd against those protesting the lifting of fuel subsidies has left dozens of people dead in the capital, Khartoum, and around the country. The government had been 
The Daily Star – ‎20 hours ago‎
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Al-Arabiya – ‎Oct 1, 2013‎
He sold one third of Sudan, once the biggest Arab country by area, in order to establish South Sudan so that he could stay in power. Omar al-Bashir surrendered all of Sudan’s oil, becoming the first president with unmatched generosity. He gave away all of his 
Voice of America – ‎Oct 1, 2013‎
Nairobi — Over the past week, Sudan has seen its most serious protests in almost three decades. Demonstrations over rising prices after the government decided to lift fuel subsidies have mutated into riots, and dozens of people have died. The streets have 
Independent Online – ‎Oct 1, 2013‎
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti addresses the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York. Related Stories. Hundreds held after Sudan protests · Sudan protest pics fake: minister · Sudanese 
Al-Arabiya – ‎Oct 1, 2013‎
Media coverage of the demonstrations in Sudan has been scant here in Cairo as well as in the West. I know all my Egyptian colleagues are only paying strict attention to fast moving events in Egypt, and after that the drama playing out in Syria. In Sudan itself 
NDTV – ‎Sep 30, 2013‎
Khartoum, Sudan: Seven hundred people have been arrested during a week of the worst unrest in central Sudan in years, the government said on Monday, as protests continued against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. One week after the start of 
Al-Arabiya – ‎Sep 30, 2013‎
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Arab News – ‎Sep 30, 2013‎
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New Zealand Herald – ‎Sep 30, 2013‎
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) Sudanese security forces fired volleys of tear gas to disperse a demonstration held inside a women’s university in the Sudanese capital Monday, witnesses said, the latest in a week-long wave of protests against the country’s 
Kansas City Star – ‎Sep 30, 2013‎
KHARTOUM, Sudan — When Sudan’s longtime president Omar al-Bashir introduced drastic austerity measures, he berated the public for being ungrateful over how his regime had improved their lives, boasting that before he came to power, Sudanese never 
The Daily Star – ‎Sep 30, 2013‎
KHARTOUM: Sudan pointed to “fake” victim photos and foreign interference Monday as it defended a deadly crackdown on protesters, which drew fresh criticism from inside the ruling party as rallies continued. With reporters complaining of stepped-up 
Khaleej Times – ‎Sep 30, 2013‎
The Sudanese community in the UAE are mourning the tragic and shocking death of a UAE-born doctor in Sudan. Dr Salah Mudathir Al Sanhouri, 34, was killed on Friday during peaceful protests against lifting subsides on fuel which raised anger among 
Khartoum, Sudan: Seven hundred people have been arrested during a week of the worst unrest in central Sudan in years, the government said on Monday, as protests continued against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. One week after the start of 
Al-Arabiya – ‎
Family members and friends gather for the funeral of Salah Mudathir, 28, killed the day before in clashes following protests in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, on September 28, 2013. (AFP). Tweet. Eman El-Shenawi and Paul Crompton, Al Arabiya. There’s an 
Al-Arabiya -‎
Cars burn in front of a building during protests over fuel subsidy cuts in Khartoum September 25, 2013. (Reuters). Tweet. AFP, Khartoum. Sudanese police fired tear gas Monday into a university campus where female students were protesting, the university 
New York Times – ‎‎
KHARTOUM, Sudan — The worst week of violent unrest that central Sudan has seen in years has resulted in the arrests of 700 people, the government said on Monday, along with many deaths and an unprecedented crackdown on the news media.
The Star Online – ‎
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Secretary of State John Kerry met his Sudanese counterpart for talks on Monday on the South Sudan peace process and conflict-hit areas like Darfur, but did not raise U.S. concerns over the government’s crackdown on 
Arab News – ‎‎
PICTURE PRESSURE: Sudan’s Interior Minister Ibrahim Mahmoud addressing journalists at a press conference in Khartoum. AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE. Published — Tuesday 1 October 2013. Last update 1 October 2013 1:35 am. | نسخة PDF · Send to 
AFP – ‎7 hours ago‎
Washington — US Secretary of State John Kerry Monday met with his Sudanese counterpart Ali Karti but failed to repeat strong US criticism of a deadly crackdown on protestors. Thousands have taken to the streets to protest a more than 60 percent jump in 
Arab News – ‎7 hours ago‎
Ignoring the fact that in terms of land area, Sudan was the biggest of the Arab countries, he sold one-third of Sudan to enable the establishment of the Republic of South Sudan so as to stay in power in return. Giving up all of Sudan’s oil, Omar Bashir became 
New Zealand Herald – ‎7 hours ago‎
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) Sudanese security forces fired volleys of tear gas to disperse a demonstration held inside a women’s university in the Sudanese capital Monday, witnesses said, the latest in a week-long wave of protests against the country’s 
Kansas City Star – ‎8 hours ago‎
KHARTOUM, Sudan — When Sudan’s longtime president Omar al-Bashir introduced drastic austerity measures, he berated the public for being ungrateful over how his regime had improved their lives, boasting that before he came to power, Sudanese never 
The Daily Star – ‎8 hours ago‎
KHARTOUM: Sudan pointed to “fake” victim photos and foreign interference Monday as it defended a deadly crackdown on protesters, which drew fresh criticism from inside the ruling party as rallies continued. With reporters complaining of stepped-up 
News24 – ‎9 hours ago‎
Khartoum – In the face of a heavy media blackout imposed by the government over their protests, Sudanese taking to the streets demanding the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir are turning to their smartphones to get out word on their cause. The glowing 
Huffington Post – ‎11 hours ago‎
A spiral of deadly violence engulfed Sudan last week. Nearly 200 peaceful protesters were killed in protests that started in Darfur and swept across the country, including Khartoum. Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, condemned 
Voice of America – ‎11 hours ago‎
NAIROBI — Over the past week, Sudan has seen its most serious protests in almost three decades. Demonstrations over rising prices after the government decided to lift fuel subsidies have mutated into riots, and dozens of people have died. The streets have 
Wall Street Journal – ‎12 hours ago‎
KAMPALA, Uganda—Sudan’s government said it would give cash handouts to nearly half a million families and lift wages for workers, in a bid to quell violent protests sparked by rising fuel and food prices and the removal of government fuel subsidies.
The Independent – ‎12 hours ago‎
About 1,000 people staged another protest in Khartoum on Sunday to demand President Omar al-Bashir resign, a witness has said. Last week, the government cut back fuel subsidies, which sparked the worst unrest in central Sudan in years. The official death – ‎13 hours ago‎
From an economic perspective, any other government would have taken the decision to abolish subsidy on fuel prices, just like the Sudanese government of President Omar Al Bashir’s announced on last week, given the critical state of the country’s economy. – ‎13 hours ago‎
Khartoum: Sudanese police fired tear gas Monday into a university campus where female students were protesting, the university head said on the eighth day of demonstrations sparked by rising fuel prices. Between 150 and 200 Ahfad University for Women – ‎14 hours ago‎
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AFP – ‎17 hours ago‎
Khartoum — About 1,000 people marched in the Sudanese capital calling for the government’s overthrow, after a ceremony late Sunday mourning those gunned down in days of fuel price protests, witnesses said. The rally began in Khartoum’s wealthy 
Al-Arabiya – ‎Sep 29, 2013‎
Since its independence of 1956 to date, Sudan has witnessed more than 11 successful and attempted transfers of power. (Al Arabiya). Tweet. Al Arabiya. The current protests in Sudan are reminiscent of the past half century, during which military-led takeovers 
Sudan Tribune – ‎26 minutes ago‎
September 30, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The leaders of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, and the Popular Congress Party (PCP) Hassan al-Turabi have openly called upon their followers to join the protests which have been 
Tengrinews – ‎38 minutes ago‎
Sudan vowed Sunday to stand firm on fuel price hikes, despite days of deadly protests and criticism from war veterans, hardline Islamic leaders and from within the ruling party itself, AFP reports. Authorities say 33 people have died since petrol and diesel 
Pakistan Observer – ‎7 hours ago‎
Tuesday, October 01, 2013 – All last week, people in Sudan were marching in protest against the government’s decision to scrap fuel subsidies, but on Saturday, the violence escalated dramatically when the police reportedly killed dozens of protesters.
Al-Monitor – ‎10 hours ago‎
KHARTOUM, Sudan — On Sept. 28, at least 3,000 people joined a protest that took place after the burial of Salah al-Sanhouri, 28, who was shot dead in a raging anti-government protest the previous day. In a video circulated online, Sanhouri is seen standing – ‎10 hours ago‎
KHARTOUM – Thousands of Sudanese protesters have taken to the streets of the capital, Khartoum, chanting “freedom” and renewing calls for their longtime president to resign after at least 50 people were killed in a week of demonstrations prompted by 
World Tribune – ‎11 hours ago‎
The escalating fuel riots in Khartoum, and increasingly in other cities in Sudan, serve as a stark reminder of the inherent fragility and instability of the country. The riots were sparked by the spiraling prices of all fuel products following the abolition of subsidies 
Morning Star Online – ‎11 hours ago‎
Thousands of Sudanese protesters took to the streets of the capital Khartoum late on Sunday, chanting “freedom” and renewing calls for President Omar al-Bashir to resign. The demonstrations, which began after fuel subsidies were cut last week, have been 
VICE – ‎11 hours ago‎
The antiregime protests that have swept Sudan for the last week are at a crossroads, with the fervent optimism of the previous days giving way to somber reflection and shock since more 50 people are believed to have died. Sudanese activists have put the 
Enough Project (blog) – ‎11 hours ago‎
In the last week, thousands of Sudanese have taken to the streets to call for a fundamental change in the way their country is governed. Many organized themselves around the #SudanRevolts and #Abena (We Refuse) hashtags on Twitter, and have used 

Arab Spring in the Sudan?

Posted: September 27, 2013 by PaanLuel Wël in Africa, Press Release, Reports, Sudan

Uprising in the Sudan: What We Know Now
By Eric Reeves
I have in the past hour received two reports, from reliable sources, that ministers of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime have begun to leave Khartoum or have sent their families outside Sudan; specifically, it has been reported the Foreign Minister Ali Karti sent his family out of Sudan two days ago.  Such exits would confirm that senior officials have abandoned President Omar al-Bashir and that the regime will fall soon.]
The Khartoum regime has long heavily censored news coverage by Sudanese journalists.  Newspapers have been punishingly fined or put out of business, and there is a long history of harassing, even arresting journalists for reporting what they have seen.  Similarly, the regime has long imposed severe travel restrictions on international journalists, preventing travel to Darfur, to eastern Sudan, and more recently to Blue NileSouth Kordofan, and most of Abyei.  There is no nongovernmental access to broadcast media in Sudan, and a great deal of electronic information of various sorts is consistently blocked (my website is one example, but there are countless others).  The wholesale shutdown of Internet access on Wednesday (September 25) reveals the lengths to which the regime will go to prevent any sharing of news via social media.  In this case the tactic seems to have been hastily conceived, since the shutdown itself generated widespread news coverage.  The regime has at least temporarily allowed Internet connectivity to resume.  But this can be reversed at a moment’s notice, and the shutdown will surely be re-imposed if events continue on their current trajectory. Events following Friday evening prayers tomorrow (September 27, 2013) may be telling.
The consequence of such tight state control of news, news media, and journalists is that it is often the case that events of major significance are covered from very particular vantages.  Interviews are provided to some, but not others.  For example, the BBC contacted the director of the hospital in Omdurman, who confirmed at least 21 deaths; others did not, and this one reasons of many why initial casualty figures were sometimes low and contradictory. 
And because journalists for foreign news services have no presence in most regions of Sudan, the impression given by most current dispatches is that the protests are concentrated in Khartoum/Omdurman.  This is not so, and in fact demonstrations began in Wad Medani, Gezira State.  Major demonstrations have also been reported in North KhartoumPort SudanNyalael-Obeid, Gedarif, Kosti, and Damazin. The long dispatch from Radio Dabanga (below) offers the most comprehensive account of locations and activities.
The number of people killed by live-round bullets fired by security forces has been rising steadily.  But any census is bound to be constrained by access to information.  We have no way of confirming the estimate offered by Yasir Arman, the Secretary General of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, earlier today:
From Nyala to Medani, and Khartoum up to the late evening of September 25, 2013, the estimated death toll of the peaceful demonstrators is more than 139, and hundreds of wounded. They were all shot by live bullets by the Security, the Police and the militia of the ruling National Congress Party of Sudan. [This figure has been updated through the day today: it now stands at “over 140,” according to AFP’s report on Arman’s current figure.] (all emphases in all reports have been added by the author; place names and proper nouns are generally in bold on first mention)
And indeed, late today Amnesty International reports that it has confirmed, along with the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (September 26),
that at least 50 demonstrators were killed on Tuesday and Wednesday after being shot in the chest or head. Local sources and activists have put the figure much higher, in excess of 100, and at the time of writing the two organizations were still receiving reports of shootings and excessive use of force. “Shooting to kill—including by aiming at protesters’ chests and heads—is a blatant violation of the right to life, and Sudan must immediately end this violent repression by its security forces,” said Lucy Freeman, Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International. 
Such a figure should have been expected, given the larger number of those already killed or wounded, as well as the slow and limited access to those who have died in hospitals and elsewhere, it is likely that Arman’s estimate is much closer to the truth than what has been reported in most quarters.  What we do know from a variety of sources is that the violence generated by the demonstrations was entirely expected.  On September 18 the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) ordered all reporting on the impending cuts in fuel “subsidies” to toe the regime’s line; there was to be no reporting of “bad news,” even if in fact the news would be very bad indeed—and felt immediately by the poorest Sudanese.  For not only is inflation already running in excess of 50 percent according to most economic analysis, but lifting the “subsidies” almost doubled the cost of fuel—including vital cooking oil—overnight.  Subsequently, on Wednesday September 25 NISS, summoned in Khartoum editors-in-chief of different newspapers demanding them to cooperate with the government during the current “economic crisis” or have their papers shut down. Journalist Mahjoub Mohamed Salih, editor-in-chief of El Ayam daily paper, told Radio Dabanga he refuses to cooperate with the NISS and announced during Wednesday’s meeting he would close down his media house and stop publishing fromThursday onwards. [Salih was the 2005 winner of the Golden Pen Freedom Award for press freedom—ER]
There are certainly many good reasons that the regime doesn’t want any independent reporting on the economy, for there is a great deal that has yet to make its way into the thinking of ordinary Sudanese or outside observers (for a highly informed discussion of the so-called fuel “subsidies, for example, see excerpt below of comments by Professor Hamid El Tijani of American University in Cairo).  What we know from various NISS actions is that the firestorm of protest was anticipated and inevitable. 
The economic implosion in Sudan, which has now resulted in an explosion of popular anger, has long been evident, but too little discussed in assessing the policies and decisions of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party.  The inflationary spurt of this week, coupled with the desperate flight to hard currency, may produce not simply greater inflation but a ruinous hyper-inflation.  Hyper-inflation will destroy an economy quickly, given the circumstances that have prevailed for well over a year, and indeed may reasonably be dated to the loss of crude oil sales, and following the independence of South Sudan.  Subsequently, Khartoum’s perversely shut-down negotiations over a reasonable transit fee income; the regime did so in January 2012 by asking an extortionate $36/barrel, the equivalent of sabotaging any possible agreement.
Beyond this, the loss of oil income—either through the sale of crude or transit fees—denied the Sudanese economy access to foreign exchange currency.  There is almost no hard currency with which to purchase food, other commodities, even the most critical equipment needed by functioning sectors of the economy.  The belief that gold could be exported in sufficient quantities to offset the loss of oil revenues was always misguided, for a variety of reasons, and has now been hurt badly be the slump in gold prices.  The agricultural sector has long been neglected and now requires major investments of precisely the sort the regime is in no position to fund.  And all the while the value of the Sudanese Pound against hard currencies continues its relentless and precipitous decline.
In short, the economy is in a shambles and has no possibility of near-term improvement.  Wildly premature discussions of debt relief for Khartoum seem myopic, given the spending habits of the regime, which annually devotes well over half the budget to the military and security services, and another large percentage to the government itself.  Sudan will have to continue to bear the debilitating costs of an external debt that now exceeds $42 billion—a level of debt that cannot be serviced, let alone repaid, even in part.
The consequences of economic implosion
Coupled with anger over the economic crisis and financial mismanagement is the growing political discontent among various constituencies that have heretofore at least acquiesced before the regime’s policies.  The old, enfeebled, not to say moribund traditional northern political parties are looking on with unease, and may attempt to sit out the current crisis; but this will earn them only additional contempt, especially among younger Sudanese who find themselves without jobs or prospects of employment, even if highly educated.  The system of cronyism that has supported the NIF/NCP politically for so many years cannot itself be sustained, let alone expanded.
The various reports (below) that we receive on the response of the Sudanese people to current realities should all have this as context: the extreme distress of the Sudanese economy and the regime’s iron-fisted control of the news whenever it feels such to be necessary. 
Some of the most striking reports from the past three days include:
[The director of] Omdurman hospital told the BBC’s Arabic Service that 21 people sent to his hospital had died, and that about 80 were injured. “All have gunshot wounds, some in the chest,” he said. Sudan has not seen a wave of anti-government unrest on the scale of that experienced in neighbouring Egypt. Protesters have been angered at a jump in fuel prices after the government’s decided to lift fuel subsidies Also on Wednesday, sources at Khartoum Bahari hospital told the BBC that the facility had received three bodies “shot by live bullets earlier today.”  (BBC News Africa, September 26, 2013)
It should be noted that the total of 24 deaths is just for Omdurman and Khartoum; it does not reflect reports of deaths elsewhere in Sudan.
Agence France-Presse reports from Khartoum (September 25, 2013):
Demonstrations spread on Wednesday to several districts of the capital, some of them near the centre, an AFP correspondent reported. “Freedom, freedom,” and “The people want the fall of the regime,” chanted the protesters, many of them students, borrowing the refrain of the Arab Spring protests which toppled several governments in 2011. Police fired tear gas at stone-throwing demonstrators. Shops were shut in Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman, with several roads cut by protesters who burnt tyres, sending black smoke billowing into the sky, and blocked access with tree trunks.
We glean some sense of the regime’s sense of the duration of protests from this additional reporting from AFP: “The education ministry said schools in the capital would remain shut until September 30.”
And AFP also gives us eyewitness accounts of what is happening:
Vehicles were burned in the car park of a luxury hotel just 500 metres (yards) from the international airport, and a petrol station in the area was also set alight. Police made around 20 arrests and sealed off a section of the main road to Khartoum airport. In Khartoum North, a witness said six cars were torched, as public transport across the capital ground to a halt.
On Tuesday, September 23 AFP reported:
On Tuesday, protesters ransacked and then torched offices of the ruling National Congress Party in Omdurman, witnesses said. An AFP correspondent said around 1,000 demonstrators spilled into Omdurman’s heavily populated Al-Thawra district and were confronted by anti-riot police. The Omdurman protests lasted until around dawn on Wednesday. The protests first broke out in Wad Madani, in Gezira state south of Khartoum, scene of the first death on Monday. They have also spread to Nyala, capital of South Darfur state. A Nyala resident told AFP by phone that thousands of students filled the streets of the city and blocked a main road. 
The torching of the NIF/NCP offices in Omdurman is a particularly striking symbol in the course of the uprising. 
Associated Press reports today (Khartoum, September 26, 2013):
Sudanese authorities on Thursday deployed troops around vital installations and gas stations in the country’s capital following days of rioting over gas price hikes that claimed at least 30 lives. The army also reinforced positions around military headquarters in Khartoum and along the city’s university road, which is close to the presidential palace….  Hospital officials and activists said at least 30 have been killed since in street violence, mostly in Khartoum. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the media. Protesters torched 20 gas stations in Khartoum and elsewhere, and set fire to several police stations. Stores were looted in several parts of the city.
In perhaps the most geographically detailed and highly informed account of the events of recent days, Radio Dabanga reports (September 25) the following:
[I]n Omdurman, some troops of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are reported to have joined the demonstrators. In Gezira state, an army Major who refused to suppress the demonstrations reportedly resigned. An unknown number of people have allegedly been killed and injured in demonstrations across Sudan, which have spread to the major cities of the country including greater Khartoum, AtbaraKassalaPort SudanEl ObeidEl FasherKosti, and Damazin. According to activists in Khartoum, more than 1,500 people were arrested in the capital.
It would be difficult to overstate the significance of SAF forces joining the demonstrators, or further resignations by mid-level officers (colonels and majors).  This evening, Inter Press Service (in Khartoum) indicated it has received reports that “elements of the Sudan Armed Forces are refusing to carry out orders from President Omar al-Bashir to control the situation on the streets.” If this happens rapidly and in substantial numbers, the regime may be toppled very quickly.
Witnesses reported of large demonstrations in various neighbourhoods of Khartoum, like HalfayaSamiraabDurushaab and El Fitihaab El Shagla, and Sahafa Sherig. Sources affirm that six protesters were shot dead by the police in three separate incidents. In Sahafa Sherig protesters reportedly burned a police station. Others occupied the large El Mina El Barri bus station and the Central Market in the south of the capital. Almost all of the main roads in Khartoum were blocked by burning tires.
In the neighbourhoods of Mayo and Kalakla, south Khartoum, demonstrators set fire to a police post, chanting slogans demanding the “overthrow of the Al Bashir regime and his National Congress Party.” In the Salama neighbourhood, also in southern Khartoum, witnesses reported that two demonstrators were shot dead by the police. In the large district of Umbadda, hundreds of protesters blocked the road between Dar es Salaam and the Libya market of Khartoum. In Dar es Salaam two petrol stations were torched.
One of the demonstrators told Radio Dabanga that in the large area around the Libya market citizens took to the streets in large numbers at around 9am shouting “Down with the regime.” Police forces fired tear gas, but the number of demonstrators was so large that the police had to flee. The protesters set assets on fire on the road to the Libya market and broke into the premises of the court nearby the market, during which two demonstrators were killed by police bullets. 
In the area of Haj Yusif in Khartoum North, witnesses told Radio Dabanga that four protesters were shot dead by “government forces,” which led the demonstrators to set fire on the municipality of Haj Yusif. It burned down completely. Protesters also surrounded the police station of Haj Yusif, where police used tear gas and bullets. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga of the demonstrations in Haj Yusif broke out at 8am in the morning. Demonstrators burned tires.
Giving a much fuller sense of the scope of the uprising, Radio Dabanga also reports:
In Damazin, the capital of Blue Nile, hundreds of citizens went out to the streets chanting slogans demanding to bring down the regime. One of the protesters informed Radio Dabanga that a group of citizens and students demonstrated on Wednesdaycondemning the huge rise in fuel and commodities’ prices. The police then fired tear gas, dispersed the demonstrators by force, and arrested more than 20 of them.
In the city of Port Sudan, hundreds of citizens and students went to the streets on Wednesday condemning the increase in prices and demanding the downfall of the regime in Khartoum. The demonstrations led to the shut-down of the city market, government buildings, shops, and restaurants. Public transport was cancelled. Witnesses in Port Sudan told Radio Dabanga that a number of demonstrators was arrested. Other sources from Port Sudan informed Radio Dabanga that pupils and students of basic and secondary schools, as well as university students, went out to demonstrate and were joined by dozens of citizens.
In El Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan, demonstrations of secondary school and university students together with citizens reached the Soug El Kabir, chanting against price increases. Witnesses in El Obeid told Radio Dabanga on Wednesday that the police took to excessive violence to disperse the demonstrators.
In Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, demonstrations of students on Wednesday morning were quickly dispersed by police forces. The Deputy Governor and minister of Education of South Darfur state, Mahdi Bosh, closed the basic schools and secondary schools in the city until Sunday. [Gedarif and Sinnar have also been reported by Amnesty International as sites of demonstrations—ER]
The economic ripple effects of the demonstrations, the violent crackdown, and the pervasive sense of insecurity and uncertainty are going to be powerful. The first signs are already evident:
Shops and businesses in Sudanese capital Khartoum remained closed for the third consecutive day on Thursday amid concerns about renewed anti-austerity protests. “Trade activity has been almost paralyzed since the announcement of the latest package of economic measures and the ensuing protests,” Mohamed Abdel-Rahim, owner of a Khartoum cell-phone shop, told Anadolu Agency.  He said most local traders had suspended business until the security situation was resolved, calm was restored and the “confused” economic situation became clearer. “Through its unstable economic policies, the government has launched a war on the livelihoods of the people,” he said….  Khartoum’s four main fuel stations remained closedon Thursday.
Further details on the situation in the streets today (Thursday, September 26) come from reports by various Arabic-speaking journalists for The Niles, part of the Guardian Africa Network:
Now authorities have deployed more security forces in the streets of Khartoum. Rumour has it that they will put police vehicles in front of the gates of mosques across the capital on Friday. The expectation is that protests will flare up when worshipers exit Friday prayers. In addition, the capital is in the throes of a fuel crisis. A third of our petrol stations were shut down amid fears they may be burnt down or because they ran out of fuel. Authorities have blocked off gas stations by installing members of the military and police force. Some neighbourhoods are short of basics. In some areas citizens are pushing each other out of the way to get bread.  Three newspapers did not go to press on Wednesday because they refused to deliver a one-sided report on the demonstrations, as demanded by the security forces.
Again, events following tomorrow’s (Friday’s) evening prayers might be of an even greater magnitude and precipitate a greater and more violent response from the security forces, heightening the crisis.
On Wednesday, September 25, there was a massacre in Khartoum and neighbouring areas. Sources who have been to morgues and hospitals suggest that far more than 30 people have been killed. Maybe two or three times as many. People died in Omdurman as well as in Khartoum Bahri [Hospital].  Security has impeded the media from reporting on the death toll. Daily newspapers can only use police information in their reports, creating a one-sided version. Farouk Abu Issa, chairman of the opposition National Consensus Forces, said that security agents threatened opposition leaders this morning, Thursday, September 26, in front of the Ismail Al-Azhari’s house in Omdurman, forcing them to cancel their meeting.
[from Port Sudan]  The protests in Port Sudan began on Wednesday, September 25, with dozens of people protesting near the central market. Students from the Red Sea University and as well high school students joined the demonstration.  The police responded with tear gas, dispersing protestors up to 4:30 in the afternoon. The situation has led to a complete paralysis of the transport system in the city until Wednesday evening. Today the protests began at 11:00am. The police dispersed the demonstrators again by firing tear gas, the traffic was again paralysed and a number of students and activists were arrested. Demonstrators during yesterday’s and today’s protests were chanting slogans such as “No to high prices” and “the people want to overthrow the regime.”
Consequences going forward
It is of course impossible to chart the future course of the uprising in Sudan; but it is already a much more serious, much more deadly, and much more widespread expression of popular anger and resentment than the demonstrations of June/July 2012.  What we will almost certainly see is a continuation of heavy use of tear-gas by security forces, the use of “live” ammunition, and more widespread and brutal arrests.  The regime is desperate: it knows that the free fall in the economy can’t be halted by any means politically available, and thus believes that military force is the only way to respond to the uprising, given its causes.
This is bad news for much of greater Sudan as well.  An October Abyei referendum held under these circumstances—though entirely justified by all agreements previously reached and comporting with the referendum plan of the African Union—may well spark very serious violence between the Misseriya Arabs and the indigenous Dinka Ngok.  Such clashes could quickly lead to involvement of Khartoum’s Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the South’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army.  The African Union Peace and Security Council seems unwilling to support the proposal it had previously endorsed, as presented by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), led by the expedient Thabo Mbeki.  This is an extremely dangerous situation (see excellent analysis by Tim Flatman today at Sudan Tribune).
If civil war or anything approaching it should break out in Sudan, the fate of future oil transport from the South to Port Sudan is deeply imperiled.  Cross-border trade and travel may come to a halt.  And again, the conflict could easily become international.
In Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan there is much to fear from a likely decision by Khartoum to expel all humanitarian organizations as well as peacekeeping operations: UNAMID from Darfur, and UNISFA from Abyei (the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei is served from Kadugli in South Kordofan, Sudan).  Precipitous withdrawal of either peacekeepers or humanitarians could have catastrophic consequences for many hundreds of thousands of acutely vulnerable civilians.  There will be enormous pressure on Juba to permit a cross-border humanitarian corridor to be created into the Nuba Mountains, whose people continue to face a campaign of genocidal annihilation.
There are many other threats that may emerge in the near-term: Khartoum, if it finds itself confronting more desertions, or resignations of the sort by the SAF major in Wad Medani, knows that the military tables could be quickly turned.  In such circumstances the regime will be grasping for any military ally or assistance.  For example, a grim deal with Chad’s Idriss Déby may be fashioned for the western part of Darfur; or Islamic extremists from the region may be invited to join in the regime’s newest jihad.  The possibilities are numerous.
For its part, the United States seems content to play a neutral role, issuing an overwhelmingly banal and meaningless statement (in Arabic) yesterday: “We call on all sides not to resort to force and to respect civil liberties and the right to peaceful assembly. In these difficult moments, it is necessary for all sides to show restraint and prudence.”  This banality and tonelessness sadly is of a piece with the Radio France Internationale interview given today by U.S. special envoy Donald Booth, who when asked about the NIF/NCP regime in Khartoum, could only say that following his recent three-day visit, “I don’t think I’m in a position to speak in an expert manner on the NCP.”  Well, we may almost certainly take him at his word, given the vacuousness of the responses offered during the interview.  It would appear that the Obama administration is still committed to a morally reprehensible policy of “moral equivalence” in speaking about issues and parties in Sudan.  This comports with continuation of a policy priority of gathering counter-terrorism intelligence from Khartoum’s security services—a policy priority that requires bargaining with a regime of génocidaires
At this defining moment in Sudan’s history, Americans have a right to expect of this administration more than banality and expediency.  Such expectations, however, seem doomed to be disappointed.
Radio Dabanga, September 18, 2013, interview with Professor Hamid El Tijani, on “fuel subsidies” in Sudan:
Professor Hamid El Tijani, an economy expert at the American University in Cairo, has described the government’s announced intention to lift subsidies on fuel as “a big lie.” He explained in an interview with Radio Dabanga that “What the government is currently doing is actually an imposition of new taxes on basic consumer commodities, rather than the lifting of subsidies—which are in fact not in place to lift.” He added that Sudan is witnessing an economic collapse, with an increase in expenses and a deficit in the revenues. This negative development has prompted the ruling National Congress Party to resort to “borrowing from the people,” in the name of lifting subsidies. He stressed that the government, by “lifting subsidies,” just intends to impose new taxes on citizens El Tijani explained that the Sudanese government spends about $6 billion and $300 million on the security sector with average of $10 million dollars per day, as well as spending approximately $ 4 million a day for the presidency and the sovereign sectors. He noted that the government has options other than the ongoing procedures, including a cut in spending on the security and sovereign sectors. This in turn requires a political will to stop the current wars in DarfurSouth Kordofan and the Blue Nile State. This would be an essential step in the restoration of confidence in the Sudanese economy. However, El Tijani stressed that any economical solution in the current situation through which Sudan is going may be of no avail. He rather believes that the solution lies in the radical change of the regime.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA  01063
       Skype: ReevesSudan

Eric Reeves’ new book-length study of greater Sudan (Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012) is available in eBook format, at no cost:

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Twitter: @SudanReeves

Sudanese president confirms US travel plan: Omar al-Bashir says he will travel to UN General Assembly in New York despite being wanted for genocide by ICC

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has surprised United States officials by announcing that he plans to attend this week’s UN General Assembly in New York. The US has led calls for Bashir to face international justice over bloodshed in the now decade-old conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, and a senior State Department official said last week that Bashir would “not receive a warm welcome” if he travelled to New York. At a news conference on Sunday, Bashir did not say whether the US had granted him a visa yet, but did say he had made preparations to fly to New York via Morocco.

Enjoy this assortment of articles by Mading Ngor of Bloomberg as you make sense of the today’s summit between President Kiir and Al-Bashir in Khartoum. The repercussions of the resolution of the planned meeting will be far-reaching as much as they will be disconcerting on the two brooding nations.

South Sudan to Maintain Oil Production as Sudan  – Bloomberg


    Jul 31, 2013 – To contact the reporter on this story: Mading Ngor in Juba at To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul 

    South Sudan Considers Borrowing as It Prepares ‘for  – Bloomberg


    Aug 6, 2013 – To contact the reporter on this story: Mading Ngor in Juba at To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen 

    South Sudan Cuts Back Oil Output, Braces for Shutdown – Bloomberg


    Jul 25, 2013 – To contact the reporters on this story: Maher Chmaytelli in Dubai at; Mading Ngor in Juba at mngor@bloomberg.

    South Sudan to Form National Revenue Authority  – Bloomberg


    Jul 23, 2013 – To contact the reporter on this story: Mading Ngor in Juba at To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul 

    Sudan Threatens to Shut South Sudan Oil Over Rebel Support

  5. › Energies › Crude Oil

    Jun 10, 2013 –  Written by Bloomberg By Michael Gunn and Mading Ngor – Jun 10, at pmrichardson@bloomberg.netThis email address is being protected 

    South Sudan Quadruples Revenue Collection Amid Austerity 

  6. Apr 30, 2013 – To contact the reporter on this story: Mading Ngor in Calgary via Nairobi at To contact the editor responsible for 

    Sudan Postpones South Sudan Oil-Pipeline Shutdown for Two 

  7. Jul 26, 2013 – To contact the reporters on this story: Michael Gunn in Cairo at; Mading Ngor in Juba at

    Kenya, South Sudan Presidents to Focus on Joint Highway Project 

  8. Already a user?  By Mading Ngor May 23, 2013  the reporter on this story: Jeran Wittenstein in San Francisco at

Sudanese rebels of SPLM-N offer cease-fire

Posted: February 18, 2013 by PaanLuel Wël in Featured Articles, Sudan

A leader of a Sudanese rebel movement says his group is ready to pause a bloody war with Sudan’s armed forces so that people affected by nearly two years of fighting can receive desperately needed humanitarian aid. “The SPLM-North is ready to sign a humanitarian cessation of hostilities,” Yasir Arman, secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, said in an interview on a visit to Washington last week. “We are ready to make a cessation of hostilities that will save the civilian population, create a conducive environment for a political settlement and put an effective demilitarized zone between the north and the south.” The war between the SPLM-North and Sudan’s armed forces in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, located north of the border between Sudan and South Sudan, has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and created a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s government has prevented humanitarian aid from reaching those affected by the conflict for fear the aid will end up in the hands of the rebels.

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