Jihad on the Children

Reprinted from Front Page Magazine, September 8, 2011

Kauda is a town in central Sudan’s Nuba Mountains roughly 50 miles northeast of the state capital, Kadugli. Along with the rest of the Nuba Mountains/Southern Kordofan region, Kauda is under attack by the National Congress Party (NCP) Islamist government of Sudan that seeks to eradicate the black, African Nuba ethnic groups. Every day Kauda’s rich hills and fertile valleys suffer new scars as bombs drop from the sky, terrorizing and killing men, women, and children.

Khartoum’s extermination campaign began June 5, 2011, after its candidate for Nuba Mountains governor, ICC-indicted war criminal Ahmed Haroun, stole the election from the popular Commander Abdelaziz Adam Alhilu. Haroun is the architect of the genocide in Darfur. Alhilu is a hero of Sudan’s civil war and current head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-North), the force defending the Nuba from Khartoum’s troops. When the people protested the rigging of the election, Sudan President Omar al Bashir warned that if the Nuba did not accept Haroun, his soldiers would “chase them up into the mountains” where they would starve. He also told Sudan’s armed forces and Islamic militias to “just sweep away the rubbish” in the Nuba Mountains.

On June 14 the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) bombed the airstrip at Kauda, and since then they have carried out dozens more air strikes there and in surrounding villages and towns. Kauda County Police Chief, Mohammed Ibrahim, told Sudan Radio Service on July 1 that an SAF airplane had bombed the Kauda Hospital the day before, killing civilians. A pregnant woman who had just gone into labor was decapitated in the bombing.

Then on August 22, just before declaring a ceasefire that was immediately and pathetically lauded by the U.S. State Department, Khartoum targeted again civilians in Kauda. According to sources on the ground, a single Antonov plane dropped four bombs “in and around” Al Masha Secondary School. Thankfully, no one was killed. Only two people were seriously injured. But the last time Khartoum bombed a Kauda school, the tragedy was overwhelming.

Kauda still bears the scars of a wound it received at nine a.m. February 8, 2000. As children at Holy Cross Primary School settled into their studies in “classrooms” under two large shade trees, the Sudanese government turned its war on the little Catholic bush school and bombed the school. Twenty students and one teacher died. Dozens were severely injured, many requiring amputation. The Sudanese air force dropped five “barrel” bombs, studded with nails, on what the low-flying aircraft obviously knew was a civilian target.

In his beautiful but painful book, War and Faith in Sudan, journalist Gabriel Meyer recounts the events of the horrific morning:

The first two bombs failed to hit their target, landing in a hollow a quarter mile from the school and at its perimeter. The third bomb, however, landed in the schoolyard between the two trees, leaving a blackened crater in its wake. Shrapnel moving at speeds of up to two hundred miles an hour sliced through the air.

The students who flattened themselves on the ground, as they had been trained to do, had a chance. Those who tried to run away from the blasts did not.

Seeing where the third bomb had struck, and with terrorized children breaking into a run all around her, teacher Roda Ismail tried to force them to lie down, and shifted her students to the back side of the southern tree to shield them from the shrapnel whining across the yard.

That was when the fourth bomb fell. This one exploded not in a line with the other bomb but behind the sycamore, ten feet from the shadow side of the southern tree where Ismail shielded her students. Their position left them exposed to the full force of the impact.

The teacher, Roda Ismail, 22, and twelve students, from 9 to 16 years of age, were killed outright. In addition, two students who fled to the bush died of their wounds, and the German Emergency Doctors reported five more children succumbed to their wounds the next day. Meyer quoted a Nuba teacher who declared that, “Even in death, the Nuba people are one,” commenting on the fact that seven Muslim and seven Christian children had died together. Christians and Muslims have always lived in peace and friendship together in the Nuba Mountains. And this was not the first time that they had died together.

One survivor, then 12 year-old Amani Hussien Abdallah, graces the cover of Meyer’s book in a moving photo by James Nicholls, the photographer who accompanied him to Sudan. She lost her whole right arm in the blast. Her left arm was also injured and her chest scarred. Another child, an eleven year old boy, Adil Kuku, had to have his hand amputated as it had been nearly severed by shrapnel. Another casualty of the bombing was the mother of Ruza (Rosa), a girl of nine who had been decapitated in the blast. She collapsed over her daughter’s broken body and died of grief.

Meyer visited Kauda three weeks after the bombing took place. He met the grief-stricken young fiancé of the teacher who had been killed. They were to have been married six weeks later, on Easter. He learned that young Amani Hussien Abdallah was now living with the Catholic Fathers because her family was unable to provide for her special needs. Roman Catholic Bishop of the Nuba Mountains, Macram Gassis, issued a fiery press statement on February 11, 2000. He said, “When you think of Sudan, remember the children of Kauda. Do not say merely that the regime of Khartoum violates the human rights of Christians and ethnic African peoples. Say, rather, that it kills children. This is the true face of this war.”

Initially Khartoum denied responsibility for the attack, according to Meyer. The NCP said that the bombing “was a rebel fabrication” and that the children were actually killed in an SPLA military camp. Then they changed the story and said that the children were actually guerrilla fighters or that the school was next to a military garrison. But a young Nuba man, Stephen Amin, studying at Daystar Christian University in Nairobi was home in the area conducting interviews with a camcorder. He was able to film the immediate aftermath of the attack, and his video was carried by the international press. After this, NCP officials referred to the bombing as “a regrettable mistake,” except for Dirdiery Ahmed, a minister at the Nairobi’s Sudanese embassy. Upon seeing the carnage of young schoolchildren in the video, Ahmed declared, “The bombs landed where they were supposed to land. The bombs landed in a military camp. The SPLA has pulled people into this military camp.”

The Sudan Catholic Information Office later reported that the 2000 Kauda bombing took place “just days after the latest rounds of peace talks” between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). No surprise. The NCP uses peace talks and ceasefires to its own advantage while still pursuing its agenda of atrocities.

With its August 2011 ceasefire, as with previous such declarations, the Khartoum regime believes that Western officials will overlook the annoying inconvenience of its continual violations, such as the current bombings in Kauda and elsewhere, in order to push through illusory diplomatic success. Most disturbingly, Khartoum knows that the diplomats will probably turn on the party that they can manipulate, and try to force them to make such unacceptable compromises as were never demanded of the freedom fighters in Egypt or the rebels in Libya. Hence, the State Department in an August 31 press release can be “deeply concerned about reports of continued bombings of civilian areas in Southern Kordofan by the Sudanese Air Force, despite the Government of Sudan’s announcement of a unilateral two-week ceasefire last week,” and then scold the SPLA-North saying, “The United States calls on both sides to allow unfettered humanitarian access to affected populations in Southern Kordofan.”

It should be obvious to all that only one “side” is preventing humanitarian access to the affected populations. Those who have affected the populations to begin with are the ones who prevent humanitarian access to those populations. Only one side is, as Bishop Gassis said eleven years ago, killing children, inflicting more and more wounds on Kauda and throughout the Nuba Mountains.


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