Screen grab of Sudanese forces cheering as the village of Gardud al Badry burns to the ground.
In a recently discovered video, Sudanese security forces appear to arrest a terrified adolescent in Gardud al Badry, a small village in Sudan’s South Kordofan region, as the town is burned to the ground. Our Observer, who investigated the incident, says the footage is yet further proof of widespread abuses by government forces in the region.
The video was uncovered by Nuba Reports, a citizen journalism project headed up by American Ryan Boyette, who lives in the remote Nuba Mountain region. Boyette’s organisation has used such amateur footage several times in the past to condemn Khartoum and Sudanese security forces for waging what it calls “a campaign of violence” in the country’s South Kordofan region.
Boyette’s convictions have put him in the government’s crosshairs. Despite the fact that he had sought to keep his presence in the area a secret from the Sudanese authorities, his home, a mud-walled hut, appeared to have been bombarded by warplanes in May of this year – one month after the government aired images of Boyette on public television, condemning his project. The bombs missed their target, and Boyette and his team have since continued their work in the South Kordofan.
In June, Nuba Reports received an e-mail containing footage that appeared to have been filmed on a mobile phone, showing Sudanese soldiers as they arrested a teenage boy just a few metres away from a burning village.
While the video’s sender preferred to remain anonymous for safety reasons, they were able to provide very precise details regarding where and when the footage was filmed. After 10 days of extensive research, which included a trip to the village where the images were taken, Nuba Reports was able to piece together the story of Naim, the boy seen in the video being forcibly detained by the Sudanese soldiers.
Video courtesy of Nuba Reports.
In the video, Naim, who is wearing a dark blue shirt, is seen at 0’23 sitting in the bed of a pick-up truck, where he is surrounded by armed men, some of whom in uniform. Someone shouts orders to tie the boy down, while others demand to know if he is a “rebel”, yelling humiliating questions at the terrified adolescent, such as, “Why are you urinating yourself?”
At 0’53, it is explained that Naim was arrested on false charges of being a member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), despite the fact that the soliders found the boy’s high school student ID on him. Naim then describes his ordeal to the camera. At 4’32, a village is seen on fire as a voice shouts, “With this flame we extinguish the burning sedition in South Kordofan”.
Long-standing tensions in South Kordofan boiled over in June 2011 after fighting between the SPLM-N and the Sudanese Armed Forces erupted in the region. Although now an independent group, the SPLM-N is an offshoot of the south’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which was founded in 1983 as a political and armed opposition to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
South Kordofan has been plagued by fighting between SPLM-N and government forces ever since. After the south officially seceded in July 2011, taking almost all of the country’s oil fields with it, South Kordofan became Sudan’s sole oil producing region, making it a highly strategic area to control.
“It is clear that Khartoum’s forces act with total impunity and control the region by creating a climate of terror”
Ryan Boyette is the founder of the website, Nuba Reports.
After we obtained the video, we sent two citizen journalists to the town of Gardud al Badry to investigate the young boy’s kidnapping. We had to be extremely careful considering that it’s a very dangerous area that is controlled by the authorities in Khartoum. It was out of the question to travel by the main roads, because reporters risk being kidnapped by Sudanese security forces. That’s why it took them four days to cover the 100 kilometres [around 62 miles] to the village.As they gradually got closer to Gardud al Badry, they could see that there was no doubt of the video’s authenticity. Villagers who had fled the fighting confirmed what had happened, as well as how Naim had been rescued from a Sudanese jail by his father. Naim’s dad had to ask his family to help him put together 150 US dollars to free his son – in other words, the equivalent of six months pay.The villagers’ testimonies and the video clearly show how Khartoum’s forces act with total impunity and control the region by creating a climate of terror. We can hear the soldiers talking about Naim’s age – they immediately found his student ID on him – but they still decided to take him and tortured him for 10 days!The video also gives us a first look at agents of Abu Tira, the Sudanese police’s domestic intelligence branch, who we were able to identify because of their badges. We’ve heard about their brutality and the atrocities they’ve committed in the region, but it’s the first time we’ve ever seen them. The person who filmed the footage was actually wearing an Abu Tira uniform. The video’s quality makes us think that it was shot with a relatively new mobile phone, which the Sudanese government probably gave to its agents. We wonder if they filmed the incident as a way to show their superiors that they’re following its scorched earth policy in region to the letter.