Magazine article New African

Sudan: The Nuba Are on the Way to Recovery; after Decades of War, Most of Sudan Is Now Enjoying a Period of Peace. This Has Brought Hope to the People of the Nuba Mountains. Kate Eshelby Was There Recently

Magazine article New African

Sudan: The Nuba Are on the Way to Recovery; after Decades of War, Most of Sudan Is Now Enjoying a Period of Peace. This Has Brought Hope to the People of the Nuba Mountains. Kate Eshelby Was There Recently

Article excerpt

Kuku offered me a calabash of groundnuts, before continuing to build his new house. There was no time to lose, having only recently returned to his homeland high in the Nuba Mountains, after 15 years in Sudan's capital, Khartoum. "The aerial bombardments became too much and I feared for the safety of my family so we moved to the capital," Kuku explains. His son passed him a cluster of bleached, bone-dry grass, which he weaved into the roof of his red mud "tukul".

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The Nuba Mountains sear upwards from the fertile plains of South Kordofan in Central Sudan. A patchwork of mountains alternate with valleys and narrow paths that wander up through giant rock boulders, precariously sitting on cliff edges. Ancient baobab trees pierce the bright sunlight.

Sudan has lived through almost constant fighting since achieving its independence in 1952--becoming Africa's longest running civil war. A comprehensive peace deal was finally signed in January last year between the government and the SPLA, the main rebel group in the South. The Nuba, one of the many ethnic groups in Sudan, are now trying to rebuild their lives.

The Nuba Mountains are situated in a political hotspot. They perch right in the middle of the Islamic North and the Christian, "black" African South. The vast country was created from a collection of ethnic lands by the colonial powers of Britain and Egypt. The borders of Sudan were formed but North and South never felt together.

Since the peace agreement, the Nuba have entered a period of transition and recovery. Free movement is possible again and buses now appear weekly, loaded with people returning to their homelands from the North. Some return with all their possessions, others come alone to check whether the situation is safe to bring their families. "We have been praying for peace to return to our homes," Kuku says. Mosaics of bricks lie baking in the sun, ready to rebuild whole villages. Houses can once again be built together; during the war villages had to be scattered. In the mountain-top village of Limoun, the chief, Lazim, happily recounts recent family reunifications in his area. He points across the surrounding valleys, indicating all the new homes. One house is being constructed nearby. "When we know families are returning, they often come with no money so the community gets together to build a home, ready for their arrival," Lazim explains.

Markets are springing up throughout the area again--for years people could not gather in big groups for fear of bombing raids. The unrestricted movement of people again is allowing many items to be brought from the more developed North to sell in the South.

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Kurchi market is one of the largest in the SPLA-held part of the mountains. Each week people come from miles around to buy, sell and exchange news. Men and women gather together under the shade of trees to enjoy millet beer, tea shops spring up in grass shacks and bright colours of Arabic dress, now worn by many Nuba, burst out from the scorched background.

Schools are fast being opened, whereas there was little chance of an education during the war. Some villages now have two schools, one for lessons in the local language and the other for English. English is currently the language of choice, teacher-training courses in English literacy are now being implemented because teachers returning from the North are only familiar with the Islamic system. …

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