It’s been a little over a year since I was last in Kauda, a small village nestled in Sudan’s Nuba mountains. I must admit, I was surprised to be back.
The intrigue that brought me here on my last trip was that it was the base of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army during the north-south civil war. When I visited last year after a gruelling journey by 4x4, signs of that past were few; peace had been signed in 2005, and Kauda was a remote market village, bustling with its few inhabitants. Some hillsides were off-limits: mines still lay in the earth. But people were moving on from the war.
Coming back now, it has largely emptied. Many of the village’s inhabitants have fled to the hills, fearing the bombs that have rained down in the past few weeks, putting the airstrip out of action.
Fighters that had gone through a disarmament campaign are now donning their uniforms once more, saying that they are ready to fight and waiting to be called-up. “I don’t think peace will ever happen again with these people [the Khartoum government]”, one tells me, standing outside a local coffee shop.
The few aid groups that are still working here have dug bomb-holes around their compounds, into which they jump at the sound of an aeroplane.
Meanwhile, the fertile, arable land remains largely unplanted. In the coming months, if things don’t change, food shortages will be acute, and devastating.