Book review: All Eyes on the Sky

Book cover.

What you need to know:

  • Chidubem even contemplated going on a hunger strike to galvanise the international community to rescue his people.  

Title: All Eyes on the Sky 
Author: Samuel Totten
Publisher: The African Studies Bookstore 
Release date: 2020
Reviewed by: Bamuturaki Musinguzi 

Samuel Totten’s debut novel All Eyes on the Sky, which is about life and death in the troubled Nuba Mountains of Sudan, is a true reflection of what has bedevilled the North African country. 

Published by The African Studies Bookstore in 2020, the tragic story revolves around the life of one man, Jamil Chidubem, a Nuban, who, following his conscience, puts his life on the line for his people. 

Chidubem was adopted as a baby by a Dutch nun and later by a Nuba family when his parents disappeared without a trace. With 13 years of education, Chidubem was, for a Nuban, extremely well-educated. He was the sole teacher in a small elementary school in Kwalib. He is married to Gizma, who is pregnant for the third time.

As a result of the war that began in June 2011 between Government of Sudan and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, schools have been closed leaving the children without education and Chidubem without a means of employment.

The daily lives and work is being disrupted by the routine aerial bombings. As soon as they hear the sounds of the planes the people race towards and jump into the closet manmade holes. The holes serve as bomb shelters.

Chidubem, a strong Christian, is torn between picking up arms to defend what their ancestors had bequeathed them, or to join forces with Nuba Mountains Dispatches (NMD), the small coterie of citizen journalists who boldly roamed throughout the Nuba Mountains covering the bombings and ground attacks in order to write up and submit to the international media. 

Many believed that once the world knew exactly what was taking place in the Nuba Mountains, help would be on the way.

He is recruited by NMD as a journalist. At NMD he covered the stories of Nuba citizens caught up in the war which were many and sorrowful. Witnessing horror up close, hearing the piercing wails of those who had been injured and those whose loved ones had been mortally wounded, listening to the sorrowful words of the survivors, and photographing evidence of the tragedies took a silent but increasingly evident toll on Chidubem.

Chidubem even contemplated going on a hunger strike to galvanise the international community to rescue his people.  

But Chidubem decided to end his life by dying on a wooden cross after sensing that there was not a commandment against suicide in the Bible. In the days that followed many men had themselves nailed to crosses and immolated giving their lives up for the Nuba cause. 

Women also began volunteering to be immolated for the entire world to see.