Happy New Year for the Nuba?

by Nanne op 't Ende

Netherlands
Dec. 31, 2003

As the negotiators are being pushed towards a final peace agreement by U.S. diplomacy, the Nuba hold their breath. Their future is being decided upon at this very moment: will the SPLA trade it's presense in the Mountains off against a larger share of power in the country or will John Garang stand by his solemn vows never to abandon his loyal allies in the long hard struggle?

The Nuba who joined the SPLA in the mid eighties were fighting for a united Sudan. They realised that their best chances on equality have always been with a New Sudan: united, democratic, secular. Clearly, this is not going to be Sudan's future. Sudan will remain one country devided into two systems at best, while it is more likely the South will vote for secession.

Where would this leave the Nuba?

Officially 20% of the people in the Mountains live in SPLM administered areas. It seems unlikely that the other 80% of the people would chose to somehow join the South while economically and in many ways historically the Nuba are linked with the North. A substantial part of al the Nuba in Sudan - 35 to50% - is living in cities of the North; many of them were living there before the war reached the Mountains.

The most realistic solution is a Nuba Mountains Province with a large degree of autonomy - within the political sphere of the North. The Nuba who fought the Government for so many years will not like such an outcome but I honestly don't see what other solution they could envision. In other words: what is the practical meaning of John Garangs promises to the Nuba? What can he possibly offer them when it is not unity?

If John Garang AND the Government of Sudan can offer the Nuba anything, it is time and resources to rebuild society: to fight poverty and illiteracy, to empower civil society at the expense of military omnipresense. When the Nuba on both sides of the front line would succeed to reconcile and work towards a joint political future, the struggle that was personated by Yousif Kuwa will not have been in vain.

In the end only the Nuba themselves can garantee their rights.