Articles and Analysies
Reflections on the problem of Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile peoples vis-à-vis the independence of South Sudan
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Jul 22, 2009 - 2:00:56 PM

Reflections on the problem of Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile peoples vis-à-vis the independence of South Sudan

BY: Rengo Gyyw Rengo, JR, UGANDA , southern sudan


Despite the African marginalized communities' struggle for the better new Sudan, it hasn't been a road to Damascus for the Arab north, which has kept the country at war with itself and continues to be doing so even at contemporary, given the Abyei and Darfur cases. While the south has been at war with the North since 1955, majority of other African tribes in the north [Nubians, Ingessena and Beja] suffered in silence in the hands of the central government just like the south.

However, these African groups had earlier elected not to raise their heads against the government because they were not sure what the south was fighting for. It was the Beja, a 5000 year-old African tribe in eastern Sudan and Eritrea that rose against Khartoum through its Beja Congress, on its separate cause though similar to all other areas of Sudan marginalized and oppressed. Relatively, majority of Nubian people believe that they have had a larger share of bitterness and oppression in the Sudan compared even to the Southern Sudan despite the south’s proactive struggle against Khartoum.

The late SPLM/SPLA Leader, Yusuf Kuwa Mekki once told the late Garang that "Mr. Chairman, this war should have been a Nubian war against Khartoum in the first place before the south could take up arms” because the south was “much better off” compared to the Nubian people. All black people were perceived as "abid," hewers of wood, drawers of waters, layers of bricks etc.   Philip Abbas fought politically through political parties but like majority of other African parties, his influenced had been curtailed and contained. While our people in Blue Nile, the Funj or Ingessena had a share of the same cake of oppression, they had equally opted to persevere through but decided to ask for freedom through armed struggle when they joined the SPLM/SPLA movement in 1980s.

While the sufferings were both homogenous and sometimes differentiated in the Sudan, resistances from the south drew attention from the Islamic government and all defence resources were turned against the south to crush its aspirations and subjugate her. Earlier on, the rests of the African tribes in the north, though oppressed viewed the conflict in the south in two ways; firstly, they looked at the south as pursuing separation as did by the Anya Nya Movement [the problem of the south, as it was known in Sudanese political arena] and secondly, they thought it was a war against Islam by the Christian South. Hence, they held aloof and in fact, some of them like the Fur participated vigorously in the suppression of rebellion in the South.    However, at the end of the day, blood is thicker than water.

Following the formation of the SPLM/SPLA in May 1983 with reverse of the Anya Nya vision, the Nubian and Ingessena found their platform upon which to stand up for their grievances. Commander Yusuf Kuwa Mekki and Malik Agar Erye, great and fine men without qualms whatsoever joined the SPLM/SPLA to fight for liberty in a free united new Sudan. Both led SPLA troops into Southern Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile respectively. Commander Yusuf Kuwa led New Cush and Volcano Battalions in 1986 and 1987 into Nuba Mountains where he fought at close proximity to Khartoum.   Kurmuk, Chali and Gessain experienced SPLA attacks as early as 1985 and 1986. Shortly after the apprehension of Commander Kwanyin Bol in 1986, Salva Kiir led troops to Kurmuk and captured it.   Most people from Southern Blue Nile immigrated to SPLA camps in Ethiopia where Ethiopian rebels backed by Sudan government later attacked one of their camps at Tsore displacing them to Itang and Pignudo.

Therefore, the origin of their cause is part and parcel to the Blackman case in the Sudan. Colonial system spoiled things especially arbitrary demarcations of the borders, hence displacing people with common identities into wrong political units. Darfur was a separate nation-state under sultanate of Darfur until 19th century when it was merged into the modern Sudan. The south, Nubians and Funj were put under local native administrations known as “Closed District Ordinances” until decolonization, Sudanization and forced unity took place. Islamization of these African tribes made their resistances passive.   In 1972, the Addis Ababa Agreement between the north and the south, the agreement referred to Blue Nile, Abyei and Southern Kordofan as “areas that were culturally and geographically a part of the southern complex” but which were snatched away wrongly during the last epoch of poor leadership. ( organic law to organize regional self-government in the southern provinces of the democratic republic of the sudan ,1972, chapter 2, article 3iii) . These areas have always been at the heart of the south by the virtue of their identity, let alone politically.

Having fought together with the SPLM/SPLA, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in January 2005, made a provision for Popular Consultation upon the Funj and Nubian people under presidency- a very vague provision which has left disillusioment among the oppressed communities, including the south. The world recognized the long struggle by the southern sudanese by giving them referendum to decide through a plebiscite on whether to secede or opt for unity of sudan.  

At Naivasha , the question of the two sister areas [commonly and inherently known as the disputed areas] was contentious until delegates were summoned from the two areas to come to Naivasha to help in resolving stalemate over their political future.   As a result, they were granted provision for Popular Consulation and joint administration of the two provinces between Khartoum and the South.   The two areas fall beyond the January 1 1956 border bewteen the north and the south.   Hence, by the dint of the colonial border, they are “northerners”, but racially, politically and geographically, they belonged to the African people of the Sudan, part of the a larger Southern Sudan Complex and their black people south of equator and Sahara. They extend the borders of the former South Sudan comprsing three provinces of Upper Nile, Equatoria and Bhar al Ghazal into greater Southern Sudan. The SPLM basic Interim Rules and Regulations put Southern Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile as part of southern sector.

In reference to the CPA, why popular consultation? What is popular consultation?   What is the difference between the referendum and popular consultation? Why were the two areas not granted referendum like the Southern Sudan and Abyei? The SPLM, Abdalla Aziz Adam Al Hillu, and Malik Agar owed the masses proper explanation of what popular consultation means to the destiny of the two areas.   Referendum is perhaps explicit, practical voting on two issues to come up with one, [secession or unity], which will be recognised internationally while popular consultation is implicit. Popular consultation as the name implies means mass consultations. Consultation on what? And how? What modalities shall be used to consult them? These are some of the problems associated with this ambiguous CPA provision. Talking about popular consultation is left at political level. Ordinary citizens have failed to come to terms with it.

However, the author believes that popular consultation shall centre on the following three areas [if at all it will be implemented].

Firstly, whether they consent to the creation of new Sudan- creation of the new Sudan falls within the Theory of Making Attractive. From our readings of political events in the Sudan, Khartoum has absolutely failed to unity attractive for southerners and the south is convinced that its future lies at the opposite direction from Khartoum.   What hope shall two areas keep towards the North where New Sudan is no longer viable? When this option fails like that,

Secondly, then the two areas shall go on Popular consultation on self-determination and secession of to create their own independence and sovereign nation, [not yet Uhuru and popular of course] - secession can never be given freely given the case of the South- therefore it falls under the theory of Makur Thou- -Raw Fish Gill Theory which states that if the fish is roasted on fire and it comes with its gill uncooked, that is with blood, no one can eat that fish. Then two things must take place, throwing it away or re-roasting.   

Thirdly, the third category of popular consultation is for the two areas to secede and join the Independent Southern Sudan after her referendum in 2011- this option can only come about explicitly through referendum or via use of armed struggle and eventually plebiscite or both.

The writer is not a warmonger but an analyst on the future of the two areas vis-à-vis the CPA provision.   This view cannot alter any possible mechanism that may be in place for resolving conflicts in the two areas.   Abyei shall find its rightful place on Wednesday 22 July 2009 when the international court of arbitration will announce its ruling on Abyei.


Majority feel they have been disowned by the SPLM, albeit the mass allegiance is anchored on the Movement.   The popular consultation to them is a vague concept, which holds little or nothing to their destiny. Since it was a provision of the CPA, they wait and watch to see on how the SPLM will implement popular consultation against Khartoum’s treachery and ill intentions.  

The Nubian masses are for SPLM and its promises.   With the absence of Yusuf Kuwa in the scene of life, he left in his place Commander Abdalla Aziza Adam el Hillu and other Nubian SPLA commanders such as Mohammed Juma, Yusuf Kara, Daniel Kodi, who came out to fight for their bigger cause. Their names have gone down in our history.   They shall be founding fathers of our liberty if they continue to procure for us full liberty in those areas.

However, Nubian Community is vast and intermingled in the Arab north. Virtually the northern territory up to Egyptian border is known to be for the Nubians. Some Nubian who are in the SPLM/SPLA argue that there is a discrepancy within the Nuba Community between the Nubian intellectuals vis-a-vis those in the Movement and local people in Nuba mountains. Rashid Leki, former child soldier drafted into SPLA in 1988, trained in Bonga and who fought in Equatoria, Bor, and Upper Nile said the intellectual community of the Nuba people are deep rooted in Arabism and their interests and ideas are inclined towards the north than the south.   Of course, the problem of the Sudan is not Islam and Arabism as such.

Rashid Leki, a Nubian child soldier, now turned a university student said those in the SPLA are military officers but not policy makers within the community. Therefore, they have little influence in the direction the community affairs take. This puts the Nubian cause at stake.

Besides, Nubian community does not support independence of Southern Sudan because this leaves them in awkward position. Rashid said if the south eventually breaks away, we would join hand with Blue Nile people, Darfur, and fight together to change the north. It pains him the most when he sees popular concerns among the southerners towards their independence. This equally leaves the SPLM at awkward position because they cannot violate the referendum as a provision of the CPA. Will of the people rules. He equally said, whether our intellectuals are betraying us, it will take one individual to move the Nuba people towards their cause like the late Garang has done.   Once the motion has been set, the rests will move.

The Funj people under Malik Agar though proactive, also fall in the same category. In White Nile Hotel in Juba, during the Convention, they would sit around Commander Malik Agar like a flame of fire and indeed, he is a flame of destiny and liberty. Probably what Malik Agar holds for them shall take precedence for their cause!


The cause of the two areas is a deep concern among the Southern Sudanese citizens who believe people in the two areas are their own people. If there is a second cause hidden in the bottom of a heart of southerner, then it is the Nubian/ Ingessena cause.   At the face of northern Sudanese’s intransigence on the old system of oppression, the south is deemed fed up and wants to establish independence. With independence of Southern Sudan coming soon, majority of southerners are caught between their own destiny and that of the two areas. How about the Ingessena and Nuba Mountains? Where will they remain? Where does their future lies? The magnitude of these questions and problem of the two areas influence the thinking and political debate normally in Southern Sudan.   Views among the southerners take into two perspectives as follows.  

A] Moderate [Positive] view

The first group wants the current political system in the south to be given to the two areas within the united Sudan. This view tasks the SPLM to switch to the creation of that federal system in place of popular consultation. This is hard because it will lead to violation of the CPA and the question is communal to parties since SPLM cannot decide alone. The second aspect of this view states that, since all Sudanese want unity of the country, the best way to let the south have a second thought about its independence is to vote for the SPLM overwhelmingly all over the country with 90% votes paving way for the birth of the New Sudan. There, the question of the two areas will have been solved automatically. How about if the SPLM does not win the 2010 elections? Then, the fears of the south will not have been solved and it will surely go her way.

B] Extreme [not negative] view

The second group of the Southern Sudanese believes that the question of Southern Sudan must be handled first before the issue of the two areas because it is impossible to handle two bigger things at a go. After southern Sudan successfully secedes and becomes independent, the two areas shall pursue their liberty within the united north if they wish or fight for independence or joining the south. The Independent Southern Sudan will help them in achieving one of the above three options so that they release their full liberty.


Some of our people in the north who are Islamized and “arabized” still feel inclined towards the north due to religious shared belief.   Of course, the Darfur, the Beja, Ingessena and some sections of the Nubians are Muslims and this influenced their thinking rather negatively towards the south.   Media and Khartoum had polarized the war to be a war between the Muslims in the north and the Christians in the south although this was not the case.   There are also black Muslims in the south just as there were SPLA Muslim soldiers fighting Khartoum. If the problems were Islam vs. Christianity, the Beja, the Fur, Nubians and Ingessena would not have fought Khartoum because some of these areas are predominantly Muslims. Religion has bee

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