The scattered hills print a nice picture and a magnificent piece of art
that shows both the creativity and generosity of the master. The
valleys, trees, shrubs and landscapes constitute beautiful scenery that
prints an unforgettable picture. The beauty of the land is God’s given
gift to the Nuba people. This land and its rich environment shaped the
Nuba’s arts and culture.
At the rainy seasons, the scent of wild flowers mists the air, giving a
unique flavour of a luxurious countryside. The symphonic melodies
of birds keep ringing the ears every eve of summer. The lonely gets
comfort, the musician tunes and the artist inspirations; it is a paradise.
However, despite the master’s generosity at creation, this vast and
beautiful habitat is wretched to nothingness. The birds could no
longer remember their melodious symphony. The only songs that are
prevalent are wails and grooms. The paradise is lost; thus resulting in
massive exodus, where everyone became Moses. The promised land
is a collective will but a personal destination, which has no promise
of any given covenant, but a hope in the name of a promise to
accelerate survival, out of the social debris of human greed and
There is a narrow dusty road, which is rugged with an uneven surface
that made travelling unpleasant especially on bare feet. People have
to keep on evading the stony debris, thorns and the irritating small
contours that frequently punctuated the road’ s surface creating a
mess of the workmanship. There are no trails indicating that the road
is in use. However, it is a spectacle in itself in that it cut through a
Three barefooted-teenage travellers-Kumi, Kacho and Kallo are the
only users this day. They have enough reasons to be apprehensive, as
they are crossing from one side of the war zone unarmed. After years
of being confined to the rebels’ side in the Nuba Mountains, they had
decided that it was time they sneak to the other side of the Mountains.
Each of them was deep in thought, wondering what will happen to the
village they had fled from.
They had left deep the night praying that they wouldn’t be caught by
the troops who patrolled the road leading to Kadugli town, in a bid to
deal any attack by the rebels. None of the three had told his family
what he had planned to do after nightfall. So each kept on trying the
reaction back in Kujur village, which they had left seven hours
They left their families unaware of their trip. They feared their
families’ reaction when discovering their mysterious disappearance.
“…Definitely they will know where we are heading”, whispered
Kacho. “It is too late for them to trace us, whom do you think will
ever know which route we are taking”, said Kallo. “…Do not you
know that they can send radio messages to the villages on our way to
stop us”, complained Kacho. “… Do you think we are that stupid; we
will pass no village till we reach our destination. We are of no need of
food or water the rains have provided everything we need for
survival, from water, wild animals and leaves”, said Kallo. “Anyhow,
we might reach within a couple of days if we are able to walk both
day and night”, said Kumi who was deep in thought yet very keen in
the ongoing conversation.
Kumi’s heart is in both abodes, he is thinking about the past he left
and the future he is to meet. In his thoughts he is thinking hard to
reconcile both. It seemed to him very hard to understand whether
the past he left holds his future or the future he is to meet would
take him back to his past. He smiled and went on thinking how
Kachiri his fiancée would get annoyed after learning about his
journey to the North. He told her anyhow, and after all when he
returns he will bring to her all that is in her dreams. He will get for
her a colourful dress, white rubber shoe, red manicure, and a lot of
chewing gum! What else would she say when she will see him back,
putting a jeans trousers, sunglasses and a colourful shirt that is
tucked in his jeans, making him smart as ever he could be. What
else could his father and uncles say when they will see him play his
radio every evening. “…after all I will be back …”, Kumi smiled to
Although he left Kujur a day before, yet he still feels home sick. He
could not forget the happiest times he spent there. He remembered
the rainy seasons and the times he used to go to the mountain’ s
peak in the evenings having a nice view of Kauda village that lies
between the gigantic mountains like an important king guarded by
mighty giants. In the mornings he runs towards the east with his
frail arms wide open trying to embrace the golden rays that seem to
hug the mountains’ peak.
The rainy season comes with her green garment spreading herself on
the whole plains. Kumi liked autumn most. It is here that Kumi had
much time to play, as all of the young boys go camping in the wild
plains, taking care of cattle. In autumn children in Kujur had much
fun, and plenty of food and milk. In the evenings they practice
wrestling and the winner, wins the best lady’s hand. Because of his
latest victory Kumi managed to win Kachiri’s heart.
Kumi is seventeen of age, the fourth born to his mother. They are
twenty-three in the family. His father married four wives, in which
his mother Guchinde is the eldest. His elder brother, Kuku died in
war. His second born sister escaped with her fiancée to Kadugli. This
happened after Kumi’s father quarrelled with Kaffi, about dowry.
Keni, his sister, found no other way but to escape to a place where
her father’s hand would not reach them. Keni’s husband is
hardworking, yet the Government soldiers who regularly raid their
village in a bid to deprive them of food looted all of their cattle.
When Kaffi met Keni’s parents to draw the dowry, all his cattle were
looted and the harvest of the last rainy season was burnt, and his
parents were abducted and taken to the “peace camp”. The news that
Kaffi gets from there is horrible, one person who escaped from there,
reported to him that, his parents are no longer staying together. His
mother is raped, and taken as a concubine by one of the soldiers. His
father is reported to have been working in the soldiers’ field, to earn
handful of sorghum to survive.
All these happened when Kaffi was fifteen of age. He explained all
these to his father-in law but all in vein. Kumi’s father is adamant; he
insists to get his six cows, three goats and thirty bowls of sorghum,
the price of Keni’s dowry .Kaffi worked for three years but could not
raise more than two cows and a goat. Kumi’s father intended to
marry Keni to another rich young man, thus Keni and Kaffi has no
other way but to flee as far as they could. They fled to Kadugli.
Kumi thought to himself that, for sure Keni and Kaffi might have
used this road. He could remember very well the time when his
father learnt about Keni and Kaffi’s escape. His father was mad,
Kumi is not worried about his father’s reaction. Once he did the
same and fled to Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya. Yet it
was so hard for him to survive by the food provided by the camp
authority. That time he went to Kakuma in pursuit of greener
pastures and education. His mental picture of Kakuma, throughout
the three-hour flight trip is that of a huge city like the ones he had
seen in his English comprehension book. A city where food known
and yet to be known is provided. He saw Kakuma refugee camp as a
dream city where Manna and quail descend from the sky with a blink
of an eye. He did not consider the efforts required to attain good
results in school. He saw that going to a foreign land is the same as
changing new cloth. Those days Kumi saw that, for a new life to
start, all resources must be available to meet the new arising needs.
In his mind existed the idea that “new people = new resources”.
However, when he reached Lokichogio at the boarder, he saw
wonders. He saw the situation unbearable, the plain landscape is so
dry, and there are no scattered hills or trees. He saw neither farms
nor cows. In the evening he heard no drums.
At Kakuma camp, he kept wondering why are there so many
Sudanese and few from his village. He could not understand why so
many people accepting the hardships of the camp, while everything
needed for smooth survival is provided back at home. He still could
not comprehend why so many planes taking off from Lokichogio
airstrip, heading to Sudan yet few managed to reach the Nuba
Mountains. He could neither understand whether the Nuba
Mountains is part of Sudan or a different world.
Back at Kujur the only thing he is aware of is the fraternal bond in
the Liberation struggle with other peoples of Sudan like the Dinka
and the Funj in the Blue Nile. In his whole life at Kujur he has never
met people from Southern Sudan. In Kakuma he came to realise the
social bonds between him and the southern refugees. At least all
have the same cause, he later understood.
For him war is not his immediate cause. At least he has adjusted to
living with war fears. He could no more fear the explosions of air
dropped cartels dropped by the Government of Sudan’s Antonovs.
Several times he escaped their harm. He has lost unforgettable
friends and childhood companions. Ngatu his best friend died with
thirteen others at his eyesight. He will never forget the last glance of
life shining from Ngatu’s eyes before he breathed his last. The faint
smile, the shining eyes …”tell my parents that …I, I a. a. am harmed.
..” all these are fresh in his memory as if it is still happening before
Kakuma is a place of no charity and generosity.
This is something Kumi has realised a few hours after arrival.
No one offered him a glass of water even no one welcomed him.
He has to wait for three hours to obtain his ration card, which
seemed important as baptism to Christians, and initiation to him.
He could not understand why somebody has to produce a card to get
a cup of grain and a spoon of oil. For him food is as holy as life, and
it is not godly for somebody to control its usage. In the whole of his
life he has never lived with a controlled food budget. What he
harvests he enjoys. When he runs out of supply his friends will give
him free food. During the early raining seasons he goes hunting.
Even when hunting it does not matter whether he threw an arrow or
cast a stone, his share is there provided that he holds a part from the
The first morning for him in Kakuma, Kumi came to learn that, his
freedom of movement is highly restricted. He is not allowed to move
anywhere beyond the camp. All that his eyes can view is the plain
desert stretching as far as the horizon.
The few days Kumi spent at Kakuma School were full of
expectations. The first day in class Kumi has to share books with
four others. Well, he told himself, for sure the four of us have just
arrived, no soon than later, the head-teacher will provide each with a
copy. He has no cloth to change; he walks to the class putting on the
rags he came with from Kujur. It seemed strange to him that each
pupil is putting-on different raiment. During the long break he was
expecting at least a handful of groundnuts for breakfast but no one
seemed to offer. After three weeks, he felt more desperate than ever.
The rays of hope for a better life dimmed with time. He fully
understood the meaning of hope. Hope to him means to worship an
idea, not any other idea, but that which is a creation of one’s own
One morning, Kumi formed an idea and started worshipping it. The
new hope for him is in writing a letter to his father, he wrote:
From Kumi Ajabna Kodi
To Dear Kind father
I am not to write to you. I am not a good boy I am bad. I ran away to
Kakuma. But Kakuma is hell. Father I am very suffering. Send for me
some sesame, groundnuts, dry Okra, cow beans, and if possible send
for me a pair of trousers and a shirt. I need a pair of shoes, the shoes
I have are worn out. Tell uncle Kunda to send two Standard three
books. Father I know you love me, but if you truly forgive me. Send
for me this thing. I repeat I am very suffering. I need your help father.
Greet mama and Keni. Tell little Kuku not to come. Kakuma camp is
very suffering, no food or books. No shoes or cloth. No money or
love. But I still have some love for you. Please forgive me and love me
more. Send these items with Musa Ngatu.
Your suffering son,
It took Kumi one full month and six days, before he got a letter
from his dad. He spent most of this time thinking about the items to
be sent. The hope for a better life lies with the arrival of his father’s
parcel. He kept waiting everyday at the camp’s gate, like the
Israelites waiting Moses at mount Sinai. He worshiped the hope of
his father’ s intervention to make better his life in the camp. The
expected parcel seemed to him an expected Messiah with a new
It is a revelation day, Kumi saw Musa Ngatu alighting from the
packed van like angel Gabriel ascending to deliver his revelation to
the Arabian prophet. He was standing alone. He does not want any
to witness the New Hope prevailing. Musa Ngatu seems to have
many luggage. Kumi kept wondering, which of those bags are his,
the green bag or the white. No, it should not be that small, he told
himself. My father can’t send me such small parcels. My father
knows very well that I am in hell he consoled himself. After few
minutes he went straight to meet Musa Ngatu. “Hi, Hi uncle Musa”,
Kumi shouted as he jumped to embrace uncle Musa. “I hope you
brought it”, he said anxiously. What? Asked Musa. “The parcels”,
returned Kumi hurriedly. “ Ah, well you mean the letter from your
dad. Yes, I have it, but wait till we reach”. “Please uncle let me read
it now”. “Why the hurry”, asked Musa. “No uncle I need to make a
decision right now”.
Musa went to one of the bags and opened one of the pockets. He
searched for a few seconds then removed his a dirty letter. The letter
is small as Kumi’s heart. Kumi’s heart went racing, sweating
heavily, he snatched the letter. With shivering hands, he opened it.
His lips quivered. He read loudly.
From Ajabna Kodi
Worm greetings. I am angry and at the same time sad that you
escaped to Kakuma refugee camp. You spoiled my dignity by
undertaking such a wicked act. What is missing in my home?
Everything is there. I have nothing to send you. If you are suffering,
return home at once. I have sent 80,000 Sudanese pounds for your
return. Take it from uncle Musa if you are interested in coming back.
If not I have nothing to do more than that. I repeat come back at once.
Kumi’s eyes went wet, his heart burnt with grief. He felt a bitter thing
going down his throat. He felt choked. He gave a look at uncle Musa
who raised his hand and placed it on his shoulder. Do not cry my son,
he said. Kumi said nothing, bowed his head and left his uncle
standing alone in the bus station.
Kumi was never seen that day. He walked the whole afternoon towards
the boarder. He reached Lokichogio at dawn the following day. His
heart is struggling hard to forget the past. He left everything he had in
the camp, his friends, his rags and his precious ration card. He left
everything that could make him remember Kakuma camp. He is not
sad to return home but indeed sad for leaving home three months ago.
The hope for the future lies in embracing the past. To go home and
build his future from the materials he left in the past. Returning to the
past is a good anchor to sail towards the future. To go back and use the
materials needed for the Nuba to make a good life, to continue
liberation to insure a prosperous future.
Kumi came to realise that peace is never granted. He became
convinced that, peace is an internal conviction achieved like any other
human value, such as happiness, wealth and the likes. To him, the Nuba
Mountains is an Alter where sacrifices are made, in the plea for justice
and better life. He understood that being a refugee is like becoming an
apostate from the village’s conviction of justice and liberation.
Becoming a refugee is depriving his people the sacrifice needed for
attaining justice. He should go back, therefore, to continue the struggle
for liberation, no one else but the Nuba are eligible to liberate
themselves. Thus Kumi returned home the way he left, he made no
announcement and nobody knew he is back. He knelt to kiss the
ground, his face shone with determination.
“I think we should stop to have some rest”, cried Kallo. “Well, this is a
place of no rest; you know we are not so far from the Government of
Sudan garrison. If they get us here they will have no mercy on us. God
forbids falling in their hands”, Kacho protested. “My friend, do not
think bad. Let us have few minutes’ rest; after all we have crossed the
most dangerous parts”, insisted Kallo. Then let us rest for ten minutes.
“… Not more, …remember”, called out Kacho.
The three boys sat under a huge tree. They uttered no words, each
facing an opposite direction to monitor any approaching danger. Ten
minutes passed like a decade. The prevailing silence made the three
little hearts go racing. To them tranquillity is so fearful, they have never
tasted peace in their lives. Every moment of silence accelerates their
fears of the unknown. Silence means life has stopped. Kumi seems to
be the most scared of all. His fear of the unknown grew with the
sudden flapping of birds flying away from a tree a hundred yards away.
Being in the wilderness for most of his life made him learn that when
birds suddenly fly away indicates a presence of an intruder. The boys
gave no attention to the birds flapping sound. Kumi stood up; became
more attentive, and he saw them. Five people putting on green clothes
that made it difficult for him to identify from the wild grass covering
the almost naked plain. He understood what they meant and what they
are intending to do. Before he could alert his companions, an explosive
sound broke the silence. Tat tat went the bullet. Kallo and Kacho
collapsed unconscious. Kumi could not comprehend what is happening,
he found himself running alone.
He managed to run a few meters away. He was trapped. He could not
resist. He surrendered. He was tied with a rope by one soldier and led
to the garrison. Along the way Kumi was beaten and insulted by the
soldiers. They nicknamed him ‘young rebel’. On reaching the garrison,
Kumi saw many young and old Nuba working in the fields. They
looked at him, but none talked to him. In their eyes he could see fear
and depression. They looked tired and exhausted. Their frail bodies
bear witness of their intimate fears. They fear the soldiers. In the
garrison he saw many young women, it appeared to him so strange, all
“Where is your gun?” Queried the young, slim soldier with beards
covering his face, making him look like the phantom of death. His eyes
shone with fierce like a devil demanding a believer’s soul. Before
answering, Kumi felt a hard object knocking his back. He collapsed.
But none come to his aid. He fell unconscious. The first thing that came
to his ear after regaining conscious was that, “…he looks innocent, …but
who knows he might be the commander of the rebels”. Anyway “We
have to make him cough all the mysteries of his life”, a voice said
followed by laughter .
Kumi stayed in the barracks for nine days. The first three days were full
of terror; he was tortured day and night. He was placed in a pit covered
with an iron sheet. He could neither sit comfortably nor sleep. You have
to confess that you are a rebel, till then we will be able to release you,
the diabolic looking soldier told him.
Kumi was given boiled sorghum grains cooked with sand. It made him
have constant stomach pains. He has to defecate in his cell. He
understood very well that in both cases he is dead. Whether he lies to
the fierce soldiers and confesses that he is a rebel, or to tell the truth
that he is a mere civilian, trying to escape to Kadugli to buy wedding
garments for his fiancée, will not help. He is a Nuba and that is enough
for him to be depicted a rebel.
Three days after his arrest, Kumi was taken out of the pit and placed in
the peace camp. Every morning he is to join the others in cultivating the
fields. Failing to cultivate means losing the day’s meal. The peace camp
is not different from Kakuma refugee camp. The only difference is that,
there are no ration cards; however, one’s labour is the card for the day’s
meal. In Kakuma, different nationalities and tribes lived together, yet in
the peace camp mostly Nuba are present. In Kakuma refugee camp
freedom to visit friends, make friends and talk to friends is granted; yet
in the peace camp none is allowed to utter a word to fellow prisoner. Not
like Kakuma, the peace camp is not a modem prison, but a slave den.
Ninety days passed since Kumi was taken prisoner but it looked to him
like nine centuries. He lost weight dramatically. His eyes became wider
with despair. Every evening he spent in the fields made him remember
his friends in Kujur. He could see Lumun Mountains like giants calling
at him. He decided to escape. However, the men in green are guarding
them with much attention. Kumi looked angrily at the five soldiers who
patrol the gateway to the mountains and said:
Why are you enslaving us
Why are you not letting us go free,
You call this civilisation
But if civilisation learns about how you misuse her name
How shameful she might be.
Kumi viewed the guards as gatekeepers to freedom. He could not see
any differences between the Nuba slaves at the peace camp and the
guards. The guards are indeed slaves of a greater slave lord. He felt
sorry for them. The guards seemed to him ignorant of what is
In a flash of a second Kumi made up his mind, he lastly comprehended
the price of freedom. He understood that life and freedom have a
complementary value. To live a good life one must be free, and to be
free after slavery is to pay dearly. Kumi became contend to pay any
price for freedom, he disposed his slim legs to the wind. “I am going
back home”, he cried in madness. The five soldiers saw him
approaching; they held their automatic rifles ready. Stop cried one of
the guards. Kumi saw the guard’s threat, as that of a blind. The guards
are freedom blind.
The guards fired continuously towards him, but for Kumi bullets are no
material to stop his freedom. He is determined to die than to be
enslaved. He wants to go home. He wants to embrace the golden rays
kissing the mountains’ peak of Kujur. He is running to see the dawn of
liberation and freedom dawning on the Nuba. It is a conf1ict of
conscience where dignity is bargained; whether to accept the hardship
and be free or to run away from hardship and be enslaved; it is a sour
fate. The soldiers shot fiercely at him. He felt weak. His legs could not
take him farther. He kept on running till he collapsed.
He fell down facing the Mountains. The golden rays of the sunset
turned the mountains’ peak a precious scene. However, he is unable to
embrace the golden rays on the other side. He felt sorry for himself. He
looked around; there is nobody to whom he can disclose his worries.
He looked up, lifted his feeble arms and cried out:
Bless this land.
Bless the Nuba.
Never stop these golden rays kissing our mountains.
They are our pride.
They are the Nuba’s hope for freedom.
Let us have victory.
Let us enjoy the way you have created us
With the entire environment that made our culture.
You are merciful.
The same way this sun is setting,
let us endure the cruelty of the night,
to embrace the new dawn,
which holds freedom;
the dawn that perpetuate our identity.
It is our sour fate
I am dying,
but the Nuba are not.
Protect them Lord.
I do not know how to call you,
but I call you Father,
the Vincent of the Nuba.
He smiled and breathed his last.