How do you tell the story of a war no body knows about? Nuban Ahmed Khatir is using the only ‘weapon’ he has: a camera.
The 25-minute long documentary, “Eyes of Nuba” tells the story of a Sudanese journalist, Nuban Ahmed Khatir, one of the self taught journalists based in the Nuba Mountains on the border between Sudan and the newly created South Sudan.
Eyes of Nuba will be screened on Sunday 26th January 2014 at 20:00 Greenwich Mean Time on Witness, Al Jazeera’s flagship documentary program.
The 25-minute long documentary tells the story of Ahmed Khatir from Nuba Reports, a small-group of self-taught journalists based in the Nuba Mountains on the border between the modern Sudan and the newly created South Sudan.
When the war started in June 2011, Ahmed was left defenceless, as he watch his family home set up in flames and burnt down by the Sudanese soldiers.
But while some would have taken up arms to join with the rebels, Ahmed joined a group of citizen journalists who are committed to making sure the world knows about their story.
“At the start of the new century, the genocide in Darfur in Sudan and the atrocities committed there made headlines,” says John, the film’s director. “Foreign governments and humanitarian organisations, prompted by global news reports filled with graphic images of death and mayhem, finally took action. Aid and outrage poured into the region and Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir subsequently became the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court. But the tragedy of genocide had not been confined to just this one corner of Sudan. In the neighbouring province of Southern Kordofan, and particularly in the Nuba Mountains, a similar catastrophe is currently underway and yet nobody seems to know about it.”
In an effort to drive out the citizens and residents they feel are working with the SPLA-N (Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North), Sudanese bombers, choose at random, villages to attack and burn down.
As a result, many are now on the brink of starvation as they were forced from their land and now have to live in nearby caves.
But this is a forgotten war. “The U.N. and most NGOs abandoned the region when the war began in 2011 as the Sudanese government could not – or would not – guarantee their safety,” says John. “The Nuban population is essentially cut off from the rest of the world due to the remoteness of the region, the fact that journalists and NGOs are banned from entering the area, and cell phone and television coverage being cut off.”
Ahmed and his colleagues are aware that for the individuals living in Nuba, raising awareness and sharing the information with the rest of the world, may be their only hope of survival. Their plan is to try to nip it in the bud to stop the region from degenerating further into genocide and prevent it from becoming the next Darfur.
Unfortunately, in the time since the documentary finished, the conflict was already intensified with the outbreak of the new friction in South Sudan. “Yida Refugee Camp is home to 70 000 Nubans, including Ahmed’s family,” says John. “It’s in Unity State in South Sudan, which borders Sudan. This has been a flashpoint region as rebels briefly took control of Bentiu, the state capital, which is around 100 kms from Yida. Fighting raged as government forces took back the town in early January, with reports of dead bodies lining access roads. As a result, the UN and other NGOs have left Yida Refugee Camp, leaving Nuban refugees without relief services. Many are now returning to the Nuba Mountains. So an already horrific situation for them just got worse.”
In the meantime, in the Nuba Mountains, the Sudan Armed Forces have recently begun new efforts to take back the region from the rebel SPLA-N, with large troop mobilizations being reported. A battle took place at Toroje in which the rebels drove away the Sudanese army raid and seized tanks and weapons. Ahmed arrived at the front line after the fighting and his report can be viewed here.
The screening time has changed: its now 22:30 Greenwich Mean Time on Sunday