"I called my mum and dad's mobiles but they were not picking up. I kept calling them for the whole of last night until their phones were switched off. Then I started calling our neighbors, one of them answered my call saying that my family and all the people ran away after war broke down in our village. Nobody was left behind except the dead." Ibtisam* is a student from Deling in Southern Kordofan and these were her words on Thursday 9 June 2011 when she spoke about the war she had suffered. One year ago.
I thought that the secession of South Sudan would be the price of peace; preserving the lives and the dignity of the Sudanese people so that we could hold the pain of our failure to coexist peacefully. But losing the South, not making peace and triggering a war in the new South is a nightmare. It is hard to think about your government's aircrafts bombing your fellow citizens and sleep comfortably that night, even if you are living thousands of miles away from the war zone. Our innocent people in the Nuba Mountains are losing their homes, their families and their lives; they are paying the price of our Government's greed.
Since June 2011, the Nuba Mountains have been a restricted access area with no relief or humanitarian aid able to reach the victims of war. While aircrafts have bombed villages, few local human rights monitors are documenting the violations. While the international community was silently watching, Blue Nile state followed the Nuba Mountains in its decent to war in September 2011.
Another episode of war began three months ago as clashes took place between South Sudan and Sudan in Heglig, an oil rich border area. These clashes affected the citizens of both countries. In Sudan, the escalation of war has worsened our poor economic situation even more and living expenses have doubled in just a few days. The lives of Southerners who remain in the north have been threatened by hate speeches made by President Al Bashir and Government officials. People went crazy on the streets chanting for Sudan's Armed Forces (SAF), to beat the "insects" of South Sudan's army as Al Bashir called them. One day after declaring victory in Heglig, a church was burnt in Khartoum.
Freedoms have shrunk since July 2011. We now have a one party government attempting to impose a single identity on the nation. Every person or group which dares to declare itself different is regarded as "other".
My generation has witnessed the North-South war in the name of religion. In the 1990s many Sudanese youth took part in the Jihad, believing that Allah would reward them with heaven if they died at war. Most families have lost a loved one. We were the children of war propaganda; few of us realized the sins of war after struggling emotionally and mentally to understand the necessity of peace.
I believe that many lives have been destroyed by the war. But being killed in war isn't the worst that can happen. Children have lost their families and have been displaced and exploited as soldiers. They've lost their hopes for a better future. Women were raped and tortured and saw their own children and husbands slaughtered. People were starved to death while escaping war. A whole nation has been deformed by the sins of war.
I dream of a country where civil records officers do not put your tribe as a vital information for a national ID. I dream of a better Sudan where my children and the children of the Nuba Mountains enjoy the right to life, access to education and health care.
For all of the above mentioned reasons I say "never again".
*Name changed for security reasons