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Tuesday, 10 October, 2000, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Nuba: Sudan's struggling people
nuba women prepare for a celebration
Women, beer on heads, ready for a wrestling match
Nuba people of Sudan, long forgotten by the outside world, have been brought to the forefront again by campaigners determined to save them from potential wipe-out. Peter Moszynski has this account of their plight.

In the Nuba Mountains of central Sudan, a blacksmith's eyes light up at the latest piece of scrap-metal - a large hunk of bomb casing, scavenged by kids eagerly competing for the best bounty following the latest air-raid.

After years of isolation, famine, siege and bombardment, the Nuba people are as proud of their self-reliance as they are accustomed to adversity.


We desperately need outside humanitarian assistance

Campaigning author, Suleiman Rahhal
Hidden from the outside world, the Nuba are caught in the crossfire of a vicious 17-year civil war.

An African minority living in the north of the country, they are cut off from their fellows in the south fighting perceived Arab domination.

They are also excluded from the UN's Operation Lifeline Sudan, one of the largest relief operations in history, which has finally managed to overcome famine in the south.

Nuba traditions

The scattered remnants of a once-mighty civilisation still hold out in their granite fortresses, determined to resist a fundamentalist government trying to impose an Arab identity throughout northern Sudan.

Blacksmith with bomb fragment
Local blacksmiths recycle bomb shrapnel
Nuba traditions of paganism, alcohol and adultery do not fit in well with the strictures of an Islamic State.

After decades of attempts at cultural assimilation, the Nuba joined the southern rebellion, but the war has allowed the forced removal of most of the population from their valuable rainfed pastureland - herded into "peace villages" surrounded by minefields.

Locals say it is unfair that the UN only supplies aid to the government side, which is used to lure hungry villagers from their mountain strongholds.

London launch

At a London launch highlighting their plight, campaigning author of "The right to be Nuba" Suleiman Rahhal accused the Sudanese government of bombing the Nuba back to the stone age.

"Now they are trying to starve us into submission.

Nuba in the rebel-held mountains
Nuba still cling to their culture
"We desperately need outside humanitarian assistance - and recognition of our right to be Nuba.

Although the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army is nominally fighting for a "united, secular Sudan", most of its supporters believe in independence for the South.

The Nuba fear that even if they survive the bombardment and blockade their rights will be compromised away in any future peace settlement.

If the south secedes, the Nuba would be left even more isolated.

Slovenian filmmaker

The award-winning film Nuba: Pure People was also shown at the launch.

The Slovenian filmmaker Tomo Kriznar has been cataloguing the tragic demise of an entire culture over the past twenty years.

Mr Kriznar says: "My film provides evidence of the horrific atrocities occurring in the Nuba Mountains today.

"Three quarters of the people have already been dispossessed and the remainder face unimaginable hardship. These people have lost everything."

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See also:

15 Jan 99 | Africa
UN launching Sudan appeal
21 Feb 99 | Analysis
Sudan: Background
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