The Nuba Vision
Volume 1, Issue 1, June 2001
A Tribute to Commander Yousif Kuwa Mekki: The Fallen Mountains (1945 - 2001)
By Dr Hunud A Kadouf
“The problem for the Jallaba was that they believed in their money rather than anything else, otherwise they would have evaluated that things were no longer the same”. Kuwa, after he won a regional parliamentary seat against the Jallaba of Kadugli- his home town-during Nimeiri's era. In 'The story of Yousif Kuwa Mekki in his own words', in Suleiman M Rahhal (ed.), The Right to be Nuba, (2001).
“Life is a school and with great lessons”: Kuwa in an interview by Stephen Amin - Africa News. Issue 61-April 2001
“No man of heart, spirit, or constancy
“Can ever be cowed down by odds
“Against him. We fight not for spoils
“Or for captives, but for the glory
“Of Allah, and for truth and faith.
“We must be kind to all, but specially
“Regard the needs of our comrades,
“Linked to us by ties of duty and affection. “Our highest reward will be forgiveness “And grace from the giver of all.”
March 31, 2001 was to be remembered as a sad day in the modern
Nuba history. It was on that day that the Nuba community all over the world and the whole Sudan
was shocked by the news of the death of Cdr. Yousif Kuwa Mekki. I am certainly one of those tens of thousands of the
Nuba people in exile who felt the bitterness of his loss though without despair. I was following his ailing condition fairly closely. I owe that to Suleiman Musa Rahhal as we agreed that he kindly keep me informed about Yousif's movements and his health condition. In fact I even made several calls and talked to him on the phone while he was under treatment in London last Ramadan. He sounded great by then. But alas! Is it not the fact of life that all humans must inevitably have a gulp from that bitter drink shared by all mortals?
26. All that on earth
27. But will abide (forever)
The Face of thy Lord-
Full of Majesty,
Bounty and Honour
(Surah 55: Al Rahmăn)
Yousif Kuwa belongs to Miri tribe in the Nuba Mountains.
Modern Sudanese history remembers this tribe, similar to other Nuba tribes, as the one that
produced two great Nuba freedom fighters, viz., al-Fakki Ali al-Mirawi who fought the British colonialists and Yousif Kuwa Mekki who took arms to fight for
justice and equality for the entire Nuba against socio-political and cultural hegemony of the Arabized northern Sudanese political elite. He succeeded under
his leadership to liberate a substantial area of the Nuba Mountains from the control of government forces and eventually became its first Governor. Under his
stewardship he managed to introduce a kind of a Nuba civil society he was dreaming of. Whether what he had accomplished was to be admired or not is for
the history to tell.
Tragically as it is, the death of Cdr. Yousif, to the average Nuba, is tantamount only to that of a 'fallen mountain'. I intentionally do not want to
equate his death with that of a 'hero', a 'giant' or anything like that of a 'fallen star' (which in fact he is). But the problem with such a description is
that it might give rise to a sense of individuality and alieness or rather say aloofness. Let us assume that I simply do not want people to think of Yousif as anything other than that simple man who lived like them and eventually died like anyone of them. He never lived in an ivory tower up in the skies away from the needs and feelings of the average Nuba whom he loved and for whose miseries he was most apprehensive. He was an ordinary man; but in his ordinariness he stood up high like a colossal mountain. That was where the secret of this fighter resides. The Nuba are by nature mountainous people and good fighters too. They certainly have special regard for their mountains. Most of the Nuba deify the mountains where they live. These mountains are beautiful in their eternal posture. They provide not only food and shelter but also protection. The Nuba would normally find security in the recesses of these mountains against invading enemies. It is no wonder that they owe a great deal to the unique structure of their mountains for their present survival. That was so despite the ferocious attacks by the Turks, the Mahdists, the British and finally, though ironically, against the air raids by the present national government. It is because of that a Nuba pays a special reverence to the mountain near or upon which he lives. Was it not in these mountains that Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi found his refuge to invigorate his rebellion against the Turko-Egyptian colonialists? By now it must be clear why I tried to relate the death of this great Nuba warrior to a fallen mountain. This is because apparently it appears difficult to imagine a life for a Nuba without his beloved mountain. The late Cdr. Yousif Kuwa Mekki was a real 'Mountain'.
In a recent book edited by Suleiman Musa Rahhal: The Right to be a Nuba, the late Cdr. Yousif Kuwa told us his life story. His life story was typical of any young Nuba of his generation. He was born approximately in 1945, which means that he died at the age of 56. Like most of the Nuba children of that generation he was a son of a fighter. Since his father was in the Sudan Defence Force the young Yousif had to accompany his father to different places in the Sudan each time his father was transferred. Daunting as that might have been, the experience of getting in contact with other Sudanese communities at that early age was some sort of an eye opener for him. Some of the incidents told in his story seem to have left deep and unpleasant marks in his feelings as a Sudanese. The sense of disgrace, humiliation, and bitterness associated by alienation and social ostracization felt by this young Nuba throughout his various levels of education and especially while studying in the Khartoum Commercial School was of a particular relevance. It is thus no wonder if that had contributed greatly in formulating his political ideas in his maturity afterwards.
For Yousif, similar to almost every Nuba irrespective of their levels of
education, something was terribly wrong with the economic and socio-political structure of the country that needed to be corrected. His deep sense of
African-ness and 'Nuba-ism' led him to discover and resent the ugly lies underlying the modern Sudanese history. For him a lot of injustices have been
done to the Nuba since they were constantly referred to as slaves. During the colonial period they were the only ones who used to do the most debasing jobs
such as collecting human refuse from the houses. Until recently, a Nuba either he has to find a decent job as a soldier or the next best thing in the eyes of
the Northern Sudanese society was for him/her to work as a domestic servant to earn a living. The Sudanese society has pretentiously forgotten the role of Nuba
people in formulating the Sudanese modern history. It is a common knowledge that
the Nuba have produced the best of the fighters in the history of the Sudan
Defence Force. They supported the rebel Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi against the Turko-Egyptian colonialists. God alone knows what would have become of the rebellious Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi had he not found refuge and protection in Jebel Gedeir.
Let us further acknowledge that some of the finest Nuba soldiers died in what is popularly known as the (The River Battle - during the 1924 rebellion against the colonialists. This is in addition to more than thirty 30 odd rebellions against the Condominium regime-the largest resistance in both quantity and quality against the Condominium regime. According to Major Lamb the British troops deployed to quell one of the Nuba several rebellions-The Nyima Patrol, was the largest that had ever been staged against any local upheavals. It was larger, as mentioned by the same source, than the troops organized against Ali Dinar of Darfur. Why these historical facts were not taught at schools or at least mentioned, as part of the Sudanese heritage, were some of bewildering questions that Yousif and every Nuba, was trying to find answers to.
With all that historical inattention in his heart coupled with his disillusionment of the ineptness (uselessness) and apathy of the Nuba politicians at that time, he decided together with his Nuba fellows at the University of Khartoum where he was still studying, to form a clandestine society popularly known as komolo. As has been mentioned in one of my articles, 'Marginalisation and Resistance: the Plight of the Nuba People': “…that besides the previous political movement started by the General Union of the Nuba in the 1960s no organization had a more profound effect on the Nuba political consciousness than the komolo movement (Kadouf: 2001, 55).
My association with the ideas of this great man goes back into the days in the mid-80s when he decided to go into a voluntary self-exile by joining SPLA/M (I think Cdr. 'Adel 'Aziz Adam al-Hilo must remember this quite well). He came to my office at the Faculty of Law, University of Khartoum without any prior appointment. Before that we hardly talked about anything. I remember I ordered breakfast and drinks and we started our discussions rather sluggishly (slowly) on general matters. For hours and hours we went on discussing various matters concerning the Nuba in general. We discussed Nuba politics, their culture and the general Nuba dilemma. Both of us agreed that one of the deepest differences between those Sudanese people of purely African origin, like the Nuba, and our northern Arabized fellow citizens may be normative in nature revolving around socio-cultural and religious values rather than simply that of a material interest. The Nuba people obviously reject, to the most part, the moral authority of the north in as much as it denounces its politico-economic supremacy. Both of us were careful not to say anything that might hurt the feelings of the other. He was extremely polite and was trying to choose his words with care and apparently was constantly trying to reformulate his ideas and his political views.
He was very diplomatic since until that time he could not tell precisely what my political views were. I silently admired his civility. However, despite his politeness and softly spoken words I could sense an eruption of volcano in his chest. I used to know something about his Komolo organization. But as I was not a member of that society and since he and his friends did not bother to include most of our generation into this secret society I behaved as if I did not know anything about it. Any way he did not trouble himself to mention a word about it to me. It was true that I used to hold some negative ideas about the man and his political activities. I simply thought of him as another Fr. Philip. Any way who was not influenced by the political rhetoric of Fr. Philip, a Nuba political veteran? Nevertheless, it was only when we spoke face to face that I came to realize that the man had his distinct personality with a genuine political philosophy. On his part I could notice that gradual change of mistrust with which we started our talk as it had progressively being replaced with confidence seen in his eyes. He apparently discovered that after all we had a lot in common and that our ideas were not so much poles apart or in any way that different as we had imagined at the beginning. Most impotently I noticed that the man had something that he wanted to convey not only to the Nuba but also to the entire Sudanese political community. I think he succeeded just to do so and more.
This is the man we used to know. He was a man of honour and integrity, and above all he was a man of vision who gave his own life for the sake of the Nuba people. His greatest hope was to see that the future Nuba generations should live in peace and in an un-compromised freedom. Although the man is no longer among us but his fighting spirit will always remain within us as guidance for achieving what he, and his comrades, have already started viz., something that is no less than a total freedom for the Nuba people not only from the northern political hegemony but also from their own attitude of servility. This is the man his opponents once enjoyed propagating (circulating) that he took arms only as a result of a personal vendetta against al-Fateh Bishara, then governor of Kordofan during the last days of Nimeiri era. Let it then be known, for those who love distorting history that Yousif Kuwa Mekki never denounced Islam as a religion that calls for peace and acclamation of human dignity. He surely died as a good Muslim. He never took arms against Islam. It was his denunciation of the unjust and corrupt State that he was fighting against. Is that not more Islamic than those who see the munkar and injustice is being done without a single blink of an eye?
Before I could say my final words about this Nuba warrior I would like to assure all the Nuba people, whether they be in the battle field fighting for freedom, within the country or those who have chosen exile, that it is not true that the Nuba intellectuals have at any time felt ashamed of being called Nuba. These ideas were wrongly planted in the minds of the average Nuba by Fr. Philip Abbas Ghaboush and some second rate Nuba politicians such as Amin Basher Filleen and Brigadier Ibrahim Nayel Idam for some cheap political gains. One just need to look back in history and find out that the first Nuba political organization (GUN) was founded by the Nuba intellectuals in 1964. Consequently, one of the undisputed political philosophy for the reviving of the General Union of the Nuba (GUN) for the second time after the popular upheaval of 1985, by top Nuba educated elite, was to assert not only their “Nuba-ness” but also to propagate the idea of their 'African-ness' in contradistinction to the notion of Arabism. One thing perhaps needs to be made crystal clear to all our friends and enemies alike. In as much as lamentable the death of Yousif Kuwa is to all of us, the Nuba will never despair simply because of the death of their hero. It should be known that the death of this legendary warrior has already given birth to other million Yousif Kuwa.
Even though Yousif is dead but the Nuba, like their mountains, will continue to survive. Similar to his great Nuba ancestors, viz., al-Mek Adam Um-Dabello, al-Faki 'Ali al-Mirawi, al-Sultan 'Agabna, the Talodi heroes, the Moro and Atoro warriors, the Kwaleeb of jebel Umbri, the Tullishi and all of those neglected Nuba soldiers who were the real fuel of 1924 rebellion against the British and Egyptian colonialists Yousif Kuwa died but he returned to the Nuba their long lost pride. Yousif is dead but the Nuba have gained not only their political consciousness but also their self-esteem. Yousif is dead but his name will be engraved in the books of the modern Sudanese history as a Nuba who dared to rebel against the socio-economic as well as political injustice of the Arabized northern Sudanese. His legend will pass from generation to generation. The story of his life will be told to the Nuba children whenever they sit to listen to their elders under big trees and whenever the delightful moonlight hits the crevices of the hills in the coolness of the Nuba nights. For the Nuba Yousif will continue to live. Until now the northern political elite have managed to cleverly conceal the Nuba heroic deeds in fighting the colonialists. But let us now see whether they can still afford to mess up with the history made by Yousif Kuwa Mekki.
We all pray and seek rahmah from Allah (swt) for Yousif's soul and may his soul rest in heaven in peace and may Allah bestow patience and endurance upon all his friends and relatives for their great irreplaceable loss