Haroun Kofi and Komi Bana from the Nuba Mountains International diaspora group at the Diasporas in Action conference, September 2016
“Every day is a bombing day”
How the Nuba people are building a community in Australia and forging connections to help their people in their homeland
For Haroun Kafi and Komi Bana, Australia is a place they can feel safe. It is a place they can raise their families and escape the brutal war that has devastated their people, the Nuba.
Their homeland, the Nuba Mountains — which now sits officially as part of Sudan — is a place of forced evictions and bombings. An estimated 400,000 people have been displaced; many now live in caves. And the violence against their people does not appear to have an end in sight.
But they point out that while they feel physically safe, every day they hear of new atrocities and receive pleas for help — and it tears them in two.
“While we are here, we have people in trouble back home. [You] cannot sleep even one night without someone calling you and telling you sad stories about what is happening: they don’t get food; women and children are suffering,” Haroun said.
“We want to build our community in Australia, but we also want to support our kids in the caves. We want to build hospitals. They have no equipment, no tools; all they have is a bare shelter.”
“Hospitals in Victoria have old equipment they no longer use,” Komi added. “That equipment could help our people survive. The Nuba people no longer have schools or school supplies. Kids write on the ground. Every day is a bombing day. How do we get the things we need?”
The pair are officers of a small organisation, the Nuba Mountain Association of Australia. Founded in 2003, the organisation strives to help both the Nuba who have settled here, as well as the people struggling in Sudan.
“We have been connecting with the local MPs and have been progressively meeting more and more influential people. We have been working with the Jewish community who have helped us network — and they helped us raise $4,000,” Komi explained.
Diaspora Action Australia has been a valuable ally for their association, Haroun observed, providing connections and a forum for them to speak out. “We are happy that we have found DAA. They have given us the opportunity to introduce ourselves and let people know who we are, where we come from and what we want to do.
“We know that in order to achieve our goals, we need to develop relationships with other organisations so we can learn from them.”
Komi also observed, “The Diasporas in Action conference [can] connect us with people who can train us in fundraising so we can get equipment for the hospital and the schools.
“We require both practical and organisational support. We not only want to get medical equipment and food to our people, we also want to work with organisations that can train us in advocating for peace and changing policies.”
Both men smiled. “We want to go back to Sudan every year and teach the kids by ourselves! This conference has been a great step in us being able to do that,” Komi said, as Haroun nodded in vigorous agreement.
Words by Lara McKinley and Amy Rashap, picture by Lara McKinley