Save the beja
Dr. Abu amna, Beja paediatrician
The Beja tribes live in north east of Sudan, and constitute 15% of the total population of the country. They have their own cushitic language known as Tubedawie, which is completely different from Arabic, their own culture, and their own history. They form as such a completely different ethnic group. They have been so far completely marginalised and forgotten by the central authority in Khartoum Their region did not witness any development and remained as backward as 1000 years ago. They were exempted from ministerial posts, from the diplomatic services, from high ranking Civil posts. The governors of the region, and all civil come from the central region.
The beja land is arid especially in the North part, with occasional rains in the mountains in summer and along the coastal plain in winter. Agriculture is practised along the wadies especially in the Baraka and Gash area.
The beja are nomads and depend mainly on the live stock for their existence. They breed camels, goats, sheep, cattle. In urban areas they sell milk, live stock, handcraft products, charcoal and wood.
Several hundred thousands of the Bejas used to earn their income as workers in harbour in port Sudan. But the introduction of the containers containers in the international sea traffic, and transferring the clearance and other custom procedures to Khartoum deprived the beja of their basic and traditional income resources.
Even the meagre rainfall has become very scarce in the last decades, the famines and desertification widespread leading to the extinction of the lives of thousands of the people and their live stock.
The sufferings of the beja are enormous. They have highest incidence of malnutrition, anaemia, tuberculosis, infant mortality, night blindness and illiteracy in the whole world. this has been confirmed by surveys carried out by the ministry of health as well as NGS. The authorities in Khartoum just ignore them and leave them march to their ultimate destination: extinction.
In January this year several thousands of the beja people in Port Sudan demanded better treatment from the central government, but in response 27 of them were shot dead immediately, several hundred wounded and their leaders taken to prison.
The beja tribes of the Sudan are marching very rapidly to their ultimate extinction. The international community is requested to act rapidly and save the beja from this dreadful fate.
Recent field studies as well as previous ones by different NGOs confirm this fact.
Fergus Thomas, IRC programme coordinator for Northeast Sudan stated in his report about the situation of the beja region on April 6,2005 that:
"It is the most under-served, most remote area that I have ever worked in, with huge humanitarian needs—even in basic issues of nutrition and safe water, up to more complex health and education needs. The community have been left very much to themselves—for thousands of years really," he said.
As urgent measures they need food, medicine, water, and later rehabilitation, training, education, as long as the government makes education for them almost impossible by imposing the Arabic language upon them.
Their leaders must be released immediately