I withdrew from SPLM/A because I felt extreme injustice
Interview with Mohamed Haroun Kafi
by Ustaz Abdalla Keri Wani and Haffiya Elyas
April 26, 2004
The Transitional Council for Peace in Southern Kordofan Secretary-General, Mohamed Haroun Kafi Abu Ras, was born in Kadugli in the Nuba Mountains in the family of Abu Ras, son of the great-great grandfather Mek Tiyo Lou, the elder brother of the sixth great grandfather Kadugli (Kadugli town was named after him).
He was head of the Central Committee for SPLM, Nuba Mountains United Sector, one of the signatories of the Nuba Mountains Peace Agreement signed in 1997 with the Salvation Government. He is a journalist, a writer, translator, and was a correspondent for news institutions in the East African Union.
Through his eleven-year experience with SPLM as a leadership member under Dr. John Garang, and through all the difficult, critical, and decisive situations he had passed through, we feel he would enrich this interview made with him by Ustaz Abdalla Keri Wani and Haffiya Elyas for Sudan Vision.
Q.: Why do you think there is such an international concern about the Nuba Mountains?
A.: Regarding Sudan's geographic situation, it becomes quite obvious that the Nuba Mountains region represents a belt lying between Northern and Southern Sudan as well as between East and West. It is also quite important as a famous region for rain-fed agriculture and was known internationally as a centre for short-staple cotton cultivation. This product had been and still is widely in use.
The region was also famous for its mineral resources. It had been known during the reign of Mohamed Ali Pasha as a source of wealth and men. At present, the discovery of petroleum in its South-western extension gives hope for the presence of this source of wealth in other sites within the region. There is also uranium and iron ore in addition for the presence of natural gas, underground water, and extensive pastoral and horticultural areas.
The Nuba Mountains region is, in fact, a major part of the ancient Nuba Kingdom which was the origin of civilization in the Sudan and Africa. The worldwide concern about Nuba Mountains is also due to the fact that it has quite a rich and varied heritage and folklore, dancing, singing and handicrafts. It is one of the most important regions for Europe in respect of ancient cultural heritage, especially in the field of playing popular musical instruments.
Q.: When did you join SPLM and why did you break away?
A.: I was responsible for information in the embassy of Nigeria in Khartoum. I worked there as a translator for 6 years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I left Saudi Arabia for political reasons and joined SPLM where I spent eleven years under John Garang's leadership. I was a member in the Addis Ababa office where I attended the Kokadam Conference in 1986 between SPLM and the post-intifada group. I was also the chief correspondent in the battle field and was responsible for publication and information in the National Liberation Council, which was established after the Chukudum conference in 1994.
There were two Councils in the Movement, the National Executive Council and the National Liberation Council. I was responsible for Information and Publication in the National Liberation Council. We suffered some grievances in the SPLM due to some fundamental reasons. When the Chukudum Conference was held, it was the first national conference for SPLM. We felt we had been treated unjustly. The two councils had a total membership of 85. They assigned one member for Blue Nile, Malik Aggar, as head. As for Nuba Mountains three members were chosen: Yousif Kowa Mekki as Governor for Southern Kordofan, Daniel Kodi for Tourism and Wildlife and Mohamed Haroun Kafi for Information. The other 81 seats were given to the Southerners. We considered this to be unfair and had, therefore, decided to withdraw from SPLM.
The Nuba Mountains Group which defected from SPLM called itself the Central Committee for SPLM/A, Nuba Mountains Sector. I was head for this sector. Later on another group defected from SPLM/A and called itself "Sudan Peace Force", that was in 1996. The Government came to negotiate with us for two weeks resulting in signing an initial charter under the title "Declaration of Principles for Solving the Nuba Mountains Issue."
That declaration stipulated the parties' commitment towards the peaceful solution through dialogue for all the country's problems, considering the political charter a general frame for solving and treating all national problems and issues. The parties asserted Sudan's unity and denounced secession and tribal bias, and committed themselves to ascertain the Nuba Mountains citizens' democratic right to get their fair, equal, regional share within the frame of a united Sudan, irrespective of any imposed internal or external pressures within any political developments.
In 1997 we signed the Nuba Mountains Peace Agreement according to which we formed the Transitional Council for Peace in Southern Kordofan. The Council started with a membership of 44 and a secretariat made of three ministers. The agreement stipulated a period of four years liable for extension for the Transitional Council. The Council membership rose during the second period to 72. The agreement also stipulated that the period can be extended if the need for that arises.
Q.: Where do you stand in respect to the issues of unity or separation; how do you look on Sudan's future after the peace is signed?
A.: The Nuba Mountains region is the core of Sudan. Sudanese civilization is actually based on the Nuba civilization. The region is an essential part of one united Sudan from which it should not secede, provided we bear in mind that Nuba people look for the democratic, just united Sudan. They are not separatists. There are other factors which make the Nuba Mountains an inseparable region; it is an internal block that does not have borderlines with any other foreign country. There are other regions in the Sudan which had common borders with some neighbouring countries such as the South which has common borders with Central Africa, Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.
But from my own point of view the South cannot secede because the ethnic entities in the South are quite different from each other and cannot, as a whole, unite to form a Southern independent country. In addition to this, Southern political leaders do not have a common vision on this issue.
Q.: The voice of politicians and intellectuals from the Nuba Mountains are relatively absent at present. What are the reasons for that?
A.: The answer might differ from one person to another. War was raging during the past years and this resulted in different conceptions from one group to another. For example, we took to the side of war or armed struggle. Another group stayed in the country and adopted different visions such as those of the National Party, Nuba Mountains people and other visions adopted by other parties. This political conflict and variety of political visions made it difficult for Nuba Mountains people to have a unified vision. This might be the cause, but, in general, it is difficult to find any region in the Sudan where people have a unity in vision or conception.
Anyhow, there is a kind of coherence happening these days and Sudan might witness, through the coming few days, signing a final sustainable peace agreement. It is therefore necessary to unite our visions. It is quite expected that the region might face a serious crisis in political practice in the region during the next stage. We went to war in the previous years because of our political structure. We are in need of a political treatment which is based on an advanced outlook. We should avoid any militant movement or conception as this will definitely lead to ethnicity and hence to violence and instability. We are badly in need of coherence and credibility to achieve development and progress for the region.
Q.; What are the tasks of the Transitional Council for peace in Southern Kordofan?
A.: The tasks assigned this Council are represented in sponsoring the Nuba Mountains region through the provision of internal and external resources. But here it is to be noted that the other party which signed the agreement (the government) is supposed to offer financial support. If it fails to do this, then the Council will also fail to get support from other governments or organizations.
As for the Nuba Mountains Agricultural Institution, we had called for its return. It was established by the British colonizer and used to offer support for this region. It was the source of income for a large number of workers and officials. Its stoppage was the main reason for the deterioration of development in the region.
Q.: Did you have any meeting with the SPLM delegation who visited the country?
A.: Yes, we had a meeting together, but some brothers here at home tried to infer some conclusions about that visit. They described it as a visit by a delegation that came to unite with the government or the National Congress Party. We know perfectly well that the government will sign an agreement with the SPLM while neglecting all other parties. But nevertheless, we should think about other sectors and should not erect a barrier between the visiting group and other groups on account that the coming group concerns the government or the National Congress only. If it ever happened, this will create more disunity and differences. We should seize the chance of this visit to unite other political groups.
As for that visit, I can say that we met with the delegation and they asserted that they will be in good terms with other political groups.
Q.: To what extent did the Nuba Mountains region benefit from the cease-fire agreement?
A.: I was a member of the government delegation in the direct negotiations. Dialogue gave us quite a difficult time, but through wisdom and logic we were able to arrive at a cease-fire agreement in the Nuba Mountains. One of the articles of this agreement stipulated the creation of a final peace for the next stage, and to create a peaceful coexistence free from any religious, ethnic or any other form of discrimination. The agreement stipulated also setting a security zone and barrier between the conflicting forces and the creation of means of communication between families and their children.
The agreement, in addition to all that urged for arriving at a sort of solution to offer humanitarian aid to the region. We feel that the agreement was and still is successful as it turned the Nuba Mountains region into the most stable and secure region in the Sudan during the past years. We wish the same was done in the South years ago.
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