The Nuba between the North-South dichotomy of Sudan’s conflict
By Gandul Ibrahim Gandul (PhD)
The misleading and inherently infamous dictum that the war that ended in 2005 was fought between ‘the mainly Arab and Muslim dominated north and the mostly African Christian South’ has put the Nuba people of central Sudan in limbo and at the crossroads between the South and the North in the Sudan. The indisputable fact is that the Nuba people are Africans; amongst them are Muslims, Christians and practitioners of African noble beliefs. Indeed, the majority of Nuba are Muslims, but they have never been immune from prejudice, discrimination and victimization because of their Islamic faith. The indiscriminate assaults on the Nuba communities under the pretext of Jihad (holy war) in 1992 rightly exemplified and demonstrated the point, and it was a reminiscent of the current situation in the war-stricken Darfur where the National Congress Party (NCP) and its militias are waging liquidation onslaught on African Muslims. All these African people profess different beliefs, but they essentially share common predicaments: identical, historical, contemporary and current grievances of social, racial, economical, religious and political exclusion, marginalization and injustices. Nonetheless, the amount of literature on the grievances of the Nuba people is abundantly immense. What is of substantive significance here is that the Nuba people are the most aggrieved group in the Sudan. Although they have been polarized between the North and the South during the Sudan’s second civil war (1983-2005), their case has been sufficiently dissipated between the two opposing poles, despite their enormous sacrifices in support of each side of the conflict. The conclusion of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Naivasha, Kenya, in 2005 put the ‘Nuba Question’ in the back burner. It is hardly heard and it is scarcely mentioned when discussing the current Sudan’s crises and/or solutions to the many problems. The partners to the CPA, the international community and both local and regional organizations are entirely preoccupied by Southern Sudan and/or Darfur problems as if they are awaiting a tragedy in another part of the country to happen. It is inadequate and ineffective, however, to blame the ‘Northerners’ or the ‘Southerners’, because each side is fighting for its own survival, leaving the bewildered Nuba communities to be squashed in the middle.
The strategic geographical location of the Nuba Mountains region in the center of Sudan places it at odds with successive rulers of Sudan be they colonialists or nationalists: once the area was an impoverished ‘Closed District’, and, thereafter, it is not only deprived and awkward region, but and it is also exploitatively chastised by various interest groups in their competition for resources. Furthermore, it is a highly contested area between the NCP and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). This is true because the region represents a future battlefields and buffer zone for either one should a war breaks out between Northern and Southern Sudan, regardless of the outcome of referendum. Various sources have reported that Northern and the Southern armies have armed themselves in preparation for any eventuality of war. In the event of war, each side would use the war machine in its disposal, resulting in catastrophe and human suffering.
The ‘quiescence’ for not promoting resolutions to the outstanding issues, which could result in the impediment of simultaneous referenda exercises in Southern Sudan and Abyei, increases the chances of the resumption of hostilities between the CPA signatories. The repeat of the insecurity and possible onslaught on the Nuba is alarmingly high, despite the vow of the Governor of Southern Kordofan State, Ahmed Mohamed Haroun, that his priorities are to work to establish security in the region, create favorable climate for the organization of the upcoming elections and to boost the unity and peaceful coexistence of the state’s diverse groups. But the emerging reports from the area reveal spike(s) in militarization, recruitment of militia exclusively from Arab tribes. This comes as no surprise at all to the Nuba communities, especially, in the mid-nineties at the climax of North-South conflict.
Nonetheless, there are fears and concerns among the Nuba that the State Governor and the NCP’s allies are orchestrating a heavy blow on them, despite Mr Haroun’s some successes in stabilizing the region. These fears stem from the massive deployment and mobilization of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and different types of war machines to the area and to North-South borders ahead of 09 January 2011 referendum for Southern Sudan as stipulated in the CPA. Likewise, the international community, the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, the Arab League of States, foreign and domestic Non-Governmental Organizations and the civil societies have all expressed their concerns over the possible breakout of an all out war if the NCP and the SPLM continue pinning accusations on each other rather than working together in harmony to iron out the outstanding issues impeding the smooth conduct of simultaneous referenda for the South and Abyei; and the Popular Consultation for Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile States.
As mentioned earlier, there are countless volumes of reports about enormous threats from continuing and potentially new violent conflict in the North-South border States – namely, the Blue Nile, the White Nile, the Upper Nile, Southern Korodfan, including Abyei, Bahr al-Ghazal and Southern Darfur. These are real, imminent threats unless the international community and organizations take practical and tangible steps of exercising tremendous pressures on both the NCP and the SPLM. It is critical to remind the peace-loving world bodies that the effectiveness of these pressures had culminated in the signing of the CPA in 2005. The relative peace and tranquility enjoyed by the Southern Sudanese, the Nuba and the Blue Nile peoples, besides the Beja communities of Eastern Sudan were achieved by forcing the warring parties – that is, the NCP and the former freedom fighters – to ink peace agreements. As a precaution, it is important to reinforce the UN forces at the borders with a new mandate of sustaining peace along those borders.