Reconciliation and local unity in Southern Kordofan
By Dr Gandul Ibrahim Gandul
It is no doubt that all the successive, central governments of Sudan, with no exception, have failed to redress the problems of immediate relevance to people’s suffering. In fact, the problems compounded and became more complex and intertwining religion with race. This complexity reduced the Sudan to become one of the poorest countries and the icon of the world’s longest and ugliest civil wars. On December 31, 2004, this chapter was concluded and a new one opened on January 09, 2005 when the Sudanese people witnessed and jubilantly celebrated the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Sudan Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), signaling the realization of peace in one part of the country. It is a hopeful gesticulation that the peaceful conclusion of the conflict would put an end to the most vicious and gruesome war that had ‘harvested’ around two million lives and scores of millions who were either forced to flee the country into exile or made internally displaced persons. Nevertheless, this peace is not meaningful without the settlement of Dar Fur and Eastern Sudan ongoing conflicts; because it would be a fallacy to breathlessly celebrate while the citizens of these regions are being annihilated.
The CPA has come to provide a concrete foundation and a peaceful modality that the Sudanese people can vertically build on the reality of a re-birth of the ‘New Sudan’: the ‘New Sudan’ that is inclusive, and the one which would replace the exclusive mentality of the ‘Old Sudan’. This reality dictates to the Sudanese people, especially the marginalized population, not to misinterpret the context of the accord, and not to align with saboteurs who will try to put hindrance or who may attempt to harvest its fruits, as the masses were once misled in the past and imprudently participated in the protracted civil war. The reason for this cautionary assertion is that we - the Sudanese, and more than often - spend too much time loving our country and putting too much heat and energy in this fancy; and, in the process, we take fantasy in finger pointing to blame each other and, sometimes, others when things go wrong. And we do take credit by chest-hitting when things go right. The international community is credited for pushing the peaceful settlement of the conflict, and it is our turn to sustain it in order to work for the welfare of the impoverished majority. However, the subject of this article relates to the case of Southern Kordofan State, especially the Nuba Mountains region. As a Northern entity, it has severely suffered during the 20-year-long war due to its unique peculiarities.
The tragedy of aggression against human life and liberty of the Nuba people of Southern Kordofan State had caused so much misery, great distress, mistrust, deprivation and poverty to the once exultant, content, peaceful, rich and joyful people of the Nuba Mountains region. Needless to say, the devastation has indeed injured the hearts and minds of the people of Southern Kordofan State, Muslims, Christians, the believers of African Noble Religions and alike for their human and property losses during the war; except the perpetrators and those who submitted to subjugation. It will take thousands of years for these wounds to heal, leaving yet painful scars of bitterness. But the forgiveness character of the Nuba, who have conviction for social, racial, ethnic, religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence with others, qualifies for such a speedy healing process. As the war dragged on, wasting human lives became a pattern, producing forcible displacement and mining resources that could have been otherwise used for rural development. It was no secret that the peace process immensely drained people’ patience, and waiting for a conclusive peace, reconciliation and the return to pre-dissension peacefulness among the people of the region are needed than ever before. Indeed, the reconciliation among the people of the state is not only a need, but also a necessity to realize a common ground work and understanding to sustain the agreement in order to achieve the end objectives of improving the livelihood of the people of the state. Nonetheless, the reconciliation process itself is difficult, but attainable. It is important because Southern Kordofan State is among many of the most backward and the poorest states with poverty rate of 50-70% despite its richness in natural resources and manpower as manifested in its demographic, ethnic and religious diversity that can be otherwise a source of strength to concord with a dictum that goes: strength in diversity. More importantly, the quest for reconciliation requires delimiting and forthrightly revisiting the historical grievances exercised against the people of the margin, in general, and those of Southern Kordofan State, in particular, by hypocritical politicians.
The objective of this article is, therefore, to demonstrate how the elite emasculated the potentials and the abilities of these people to govern their own affairs, how the reactions of the marginalized people were suppressed and how the elite continued their political, religious and racial tricks on the oppressed. This is critical to allow for an independent and rationalized examination of the past, the present and a search for a prosperous future for the population of Southern Kordofan State. The chronicle of the events is by no means exhaustive, but it is rather a synopsis of events leading to the current situation of Southern Kordofan State. Although the literature on the historical grievances of the marginalized population of Sudan is immense, the readers are referred to the comprehensive writings and publications of some renowned Sudanese scholars in this field.
A litany of historical grievances
As recent as 1924, the discrimination against the people of the margin manifested the minds of the riverain Northern Sudanese. An example of this is the making the conspiracy of the White Flag League (WFL) incident of 1924 by the northern leaders of that time and then the condemnation of it. The confrontation was led by the junior ‘black’ military officers – namely, ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Latif, an offspring of a Dinka mother and a Nuba father, and ‘Abd al-Fadeil al-Maz, of Nuba parents, from Miri Jebels of the Nuba Mountains. According to Khalid, Ali ‘Abd al-Latif was, probably, the first Sudanese to demand self-determination for the Sudanese. The article was written in the Hadarat al-Sudan newspaper, owned by Sayyid ‘Ali al-Mirghani and Sayyid ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi. Even though the provocation was a nationalistic move against the British colonizers, the response from the Sudanese sectarian leaders was abrasive and discordant. , commented insensitively on the incitement in its June 25, 1924 issue. What the paper contained was ‘unprintable’ slanderous remarks. Nevertheless, they printed it. The newspaper unequivocally demanded the immediate ‘extermination of the errant street boys’ … and continued to exclaim ‘what a lowly nation is this that is now being led by people of ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Latif’s breed and what ancestry did this man descend from to merit such fame and to what tribe does he belong.’ These same wicked attitudes of over eighty years, which were rightly and precisely described by Dr Mansour Khalid as ‘unprintable slurs all reflective of semi-concealed prejudice towards the Sudanese of non-Arab stock’, still racket the minds of a few Northerners, if not all. It is not secret to declare that if the insurgents of the 1924 were from the center or the far North such an article would not have been written in the first place as a protective measure and a huge massive clandestine activity would have gone underway. A case in point, the General Graduate Congress’ anti-British activities that followed WFL did not take such an overtone simply because the leaders were righteous, from virtuous tribes and celestial (heavenly) lineage, or so they believed. Regrettably, today, the words Gharraba and Janobiyeen indiscriminately take toll on all people of Western and Southern Sudan, respectively, who support these revirain leaders, to reflect a suppressed respect or lack of it.
The discussions leading to Sudan’s independence in 1947-1953 years excluded the people of the ‘margins’, and the independence came hurriedly with the complete absence of the deprived. The stance of some Northerners was genuine and foresighted in predicting an upsurge of antagonism if the problems of the entire country were not properly redressed. One of the proponents of this notion was Ibrahim Badri, a member of the Constitution Amendment Commission (CAC), who unambiguously advocated his position in a lengthy memo to the British Governor-General of Sudan expressing the utter need to address the problems of the rural peasants, pastorals and the nomads to invert unforeseen twister. He also demanded the guarantees that would safeguard the acquired rights of these people. Unfortunately, Ibrahim Badri’s position was rebuffed by the then Sudanese ‘representatives’. Disagreement and havoc escalated among Northern CAC members due to the provisions suggested in Badri’s memo. Resentment soared, score of the members resigned in protest and finally CAC was dismantled altogether. In 1953, a ‘due consideration’ lingua was used by the hardcore Mohamed Ahmed Mahjoub in gesture of preserving the rights of the deprived South if it opted to the unity of today’s Old Sudan! The ‘due consideration’ was granted, but when the issue was settled and the ‘meal’ was served, the West, the East and the South were excluded and neglected altogether and their people pronounced as primitive savages who cannot run their own affairs, thus the Northern elites served as their caretakers and guardians.
In years following independence, the partisan or rather factional-sectarian feud of flip-flopping politics for self-centric interests failed to address the needs of the people, and the marginalised population in particular. Less than 3 years after the independence when ‘Abd Allah Khalil peacefully handed the reigns of power to Gen Ibrahim Abboud. The takeover was dubbed a military coup d’etat, but never described as a racial affair nor was it considered treason punishable by death, even though it was not against a foreign occupier as was the incitement of 1924. Abboud’s regime implemented forced assimilation, Arabisation and Islamisation in addition to the continuation of the brutal war persecuted against the South. The economic and political progress was curtailed, and finally Abboud was ousted in the first famous October 21, 1964 popular uprising. As a result, a civilian Government headed by Sirr al-Khatim al-Khalifa took over and produced no much progress. In fact, factional divisions ascended and deception by the Umma Party (UP) and the National Unionist Party (NUP) for not addressing the very reasons for the uprising wheeled up. The services for the rural peasants as well as the urban populace suffered massive deterioration while the ‘chosen’ or the untouchables spent too much time in inter- and intra-parties verbal quarrels to acquire huge wealth. Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi succeeded by merely backing of the Gharraba (Westerners from Western Sudan) to become the premier at an age of barely thirty years old, only to deepen the level of destruction in both Southern Sudan and the southern part of Greater Kordofan, specifically the infractions between Misseriah Zuruq and Humur against the Dinka tribesmen. It was during Sadiq’s first tenure when development was sluggish in the remaining part of the country, if not deteriorating at a faster rate.
This political chaos angered energetic young officers belonging to the Free Officers Organization (FOO) with deep roots in Socialism and Arab Nationalism. Motivated by Arab extremism, but covertly disguised in leftist ideology, the group successfully unleashed a coup d’etat headed by the military icon Col Ja’afar Mohamed Nimeiri on May 25, 1969. All officers involved were from the riverain North. Again the takeover was not flagged or labeled as racial. Concurrently, it was announced that a ‘racial plot’ to take over power was in the making, and the new leaders claimed that they had to act swiftly to forestall their move. No sooner had Nimeiri wielded power than a witch-hunt against Nuba leaders and military officers was launched. They were either cashiered, arrested or forced to flee the country, including Rev Philip ‘Abbas ‘Ghabboush, who was able to save his life by fleeing the Sudan. He later got engaged in a fierce opposition against the Nimeiri’s regime, culminating in an attack on Juba Airport during the celebrations of Unity Day in March 1977. Nimeiri deviated from Communism and leaned towards one-legged axis of Arabism, thus ignoring the nationalistic agenda. This behavior irritated the Communists who were superficially nationalists in their schema. The Communists tried to topple Nimeiri in an abortive putsch in July 1971, albeit they were successful in holding a grip on power for three days. Since religion is a sacred niche where the Sudanese would sacrifice for, the May Revolution tenderly hit on this sensitive cord and was able to gain a considerable support. Again, the race card was ‘stripped off’ this military endeavor.
In 1975, another disgruntled group of army officers headed by Lt-Col Hassan Hussein Osman launched an unsuccessful adventure to take over power from Nimeiri. The group, predominantly from Kordofan, included non-commissioned officers from the Nuba and Baggara Arabs. The putsch was dismissed as a ‘racist conspiracy’. Thus, after fifty-one years since the White Flag League incident in 1924, the ‘race card’ was used for the second time against the people south of 13 degrees N, the very same people who, during the Condominium Rule, were referred to as the inhabitants of the ‘Closed Districts’. To the dismay of the nation, all the officers were executed by a firing squad. Less than a year, a group of the so-called soldiers of fortune, who were promised and given ‘keys’, not the virgins, of the paradise for martyrdom, infiltrated Khartoum from Libya under the diehard Brig Mohamed Nour Sa’ad to oust Nimeiri. Most of the hirelings were from the hitherto embroiled Western Sudan - that is, Dar Fur. It turned out that Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi’s Umma Party - together with other members of the opposition National Front, which included Muslim Brothers (the Islamic Charter Front) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - planned the insurgency. This bid to topple Nimeiri and his revolution of dismay failed yet again. The plot was quelled fairly quickly, but with a lot of bloodletting, and a catalogue of human rights violations ensued. The accused were summarily executed and buried in a mass grave at the Green Belt in Khartoum where after a few days, their corpses decomposed and began smelling terribly, only to force the authorities to come and add more soil on them. Worse still, a number of suspected people from Western Sudan were randomly picked up, maltreated, imprisoned and even punished for crimes they never committed.
The following years were to be crucial for the political future of Sudan; and, in 1983, Nimeiri abrogated the 1972 Addis Ababa Accord that brought a relative peace to the South. However, Nimeiri launched a pre-emptive strike on the agreement by dividing the South into three states, declared Sudan an Islamic Republic by a revelation from Dr Hassan ‘Abd Allah al-Turabi’s Muslim Brotherhood. Then and there, the September laws of 1983 were enacted on all Sudanese citizens: a move that angered many people, including Rev Philip ‘Abbas ‘Ghabboush, who adventured by instigating a foiled coup d’etat in 1984. Not surprisingly, the attempt was termed a ‘racist plot’. The media lamented the Nuba and the Southerners as at-Tabour al-Khamis (the fifth-columnists) and SPLM/A sympathizers. As a consequence of this plot, Rev ‘Ghabboush’s head was miraculously spared by an amnesty from Nimeiri in a drama meant to humiliate the reverend and the Nuba for that matter. It is worth noting that Nuba’s quest for power-sharing, economic development, equality and justice in all aspects of public life has been constantly and peacefully demanded by their representatives, including Mahmoud Hasseib. Mr Hasseib, himself a member of the FOO, was later to become the Minister of Transport and Communications in the central Government, the Governor of Greater Kordofan and the Commissioner of Southern Kordofan when it was created. Hasseib, in one of the sessions of the Sudanese Socialist Union (SSU), the ruling party, demanded that the Government should address the historical grievances and lack of social services in the various regions of Sudan, including the Nuba Mountains. Hasseib, unfortunately, was shouted down by the sycophants of the regime, and accused of encouraging secession. Alas, Hasseib was assassinated in Khartoum in the 1980s in a mysterious assault.
In early March 1985, Nimeiri’s patience with Muslim Brothers ran thin; and, in order to please the populace and use the brothers as a scapegoat for everything bad about his regime, he arrested most of the leaders of Islamists, including Dr Turabi, the head of the officially banned Muslim Brothers, and claiming that a plot was discovered by the intelligence apparatus to expel him from power. Nimeiri, who was always mad, got angrier and went on air to characterize Muslim Brothers as ‘brothers of evil’ in a bitter regret just weeks before his dismissal in the second popular uprising on April 6, 1985. It is uncertain until today what the future of Muslim Brethrens would have been when Nimeiri pledged to deal with them upon his return from the United States: a homecoming journey that took Nimeiri more than twelve years only to be granted an amnesty and heroically received by the ‘brothers of evil’, who took power 4 1/2 years after his vow to deal with them. Such a long-term arrangement could not be established and accomplished with the Janobiyeen or the Gharraba. Surprisingly, on March 02, 2005, Nimeiri’s Peoples Workers Forces Alliance Party (PWFAP) and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) declared to merge in a united front in order to ‘confront the challenges and conspiracies against the unity of the country’. This statement and the merger are demeaning to the role the SPLM/A played in fostering the peace and a united ‘New Sudan’. However, this is not a surprise since it is always ‘they’ who should lead and stamp it first and the efforts of others is extravagant. Otherwise, what is the meaning of this remarriage after years of animosity and disassociation?
On April 06, 1985, an intifadah (popular uprising) against Nimeiri’s regime was hijacked as it was the case with its older sibling – that is, October 21, 1964. Unfortunately, the Sudanese plebeians were cajoled into putting their trust in Lt-Gen ‘Abd al-Rahman Mohamed al-Hassan Swar al-Dahab and Dr Jazouli Dafa Allah. Both Islamists, they sprung and covertly played the role of Muslim Brothers, the then National Islamic Front (NIF). Therefore, it was no surprise that the two men stood against the demands of the Sudanese people. Again the people were sidelined and so were the causes of the uprising, which included, among other things, alleviating the suffering of the masses, lifting the state of emergency, putting an end to civil war in Southern Sudan, liberating freedoms, reforming body politics of Sudan and the abrogation of Nimeiri’s infamous September Laws, adopting the 1956 Constitution as amended in 1964 and holding a ‘National Constitutional Conference’ to hammer out Sudan’s chronic ailments. None of these objectives of the uprising was achieved and the Government was branded ineffective, because of the persecution of the war in the South as it entered its ugliest phase in addition to instability in Southern Kordofan Province. Inter- and intra-sectarian and factional fighting multiplied exponentially. Too many parties of ambiguous agenda were created, probably by the work of the Umma, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the NIF parties in order to derail the populace from the substantive elements of the uprising. Disarray and dissatisfaction among all walks of life increased and spread. In the midst of preparation for scheduled elections as a step towards ‘democracy’ and in an unprecedented move, Jazouli’s Government fabricated a serious accusation against an active Sudan National Party (SNP) founded by Rev ‘Ghabboush. Consequently, his followers were falsely implicated in yet another ‘racist plot’, rounded up and imprisoned. Jazouli aggressively went on air-waves in Radio Omdurman to call on the Sudanese people to join hands against what he described as an African war against the Arabs and Islam. The accusation proved to be unfounded. Rev ‘Ghabboush was released shortly before the election, unleashed a political campaign in al-Haj Yousif Constituency in Khartoum North and won the bid against all odds.
Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi ‘managed’ to come to power in 1986 semi-general elections for the second time with unmatched support from the people of Western Sudan as they once stood behind him and his great-grandfather, the Mahdi. Unfortunately, Sadiq al-Mahdi truncated this significant power base, went on legalizing the Maraheel (Arab militia) and the so-called friendly forces of Anya Nya II, which were exclusively Nuer tribesmen set against the assumed SPLM/A-dominated Dinka. Ironically, no nation or a country on earth that divides its population or its armed forces into friendly and unfriendly forces; this only happens in the Sudan, and this is the kind of practices that fractures the national unity. Anyway, the people of Sudan, especially the Southerners and the Westerners were deceived once again. At the peak of economic, social and political downward, commotion in the Sudan was precipitated by sectarian bickering, and the Sadiq Government turned deaf ears to the national crisis and indulged itself in forming ineffective coalition governments, as it was nicknamed Hakoomat al-Gharraba (the governments of the Westerners – that is, people from Western Sudan): a reflective of deep-rooted racism.
Thence to November 1988 when, in a desperate bid to salvage the country from disintegration, Sayyid Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani’s DUP signed Sudan Peace Initiative in Addis Ababa with Dr John Garang’s SPLM/A. There was jubilation by all Sudanese masses in the streets. But Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi, the supreme head of the Government, his brother-in-law – viz., Dr Hassan ‘Abd Allah al-Turabi, and others were not impressed, to say the least. They turned down the offer for their own political ambitions, self-centered chauvinism and miscalculations or rather because it had to come from them, or they would stamp it first! This was another slap in the face. Sadiq should have interpreted the popular acceptance of the initiative as a public plebiscite for peace, and ride along these lines, but he chose to wobble. The war in the South was not always taken by the Northern politicians seriously, as this was thought of as being fought away from home – that is, the triangle of Khartoum, Wad Medani and Kosti. This was confirmed by Sadiq’s own remarks that if Dr John Garang did not want to stop the war, it were his people that were dying anyway; this racially motivated attitude of Sadiq, who was supposed to be the Prime Minister of the entire Sudan, but visioning the national crisis parochially and racially, towards the Southerners incensed one of his Southern Ministers and resigned from his Government - namely, Dr Walter Kunijok of Sudan African Congress Party.
The drama of exchanging the roles began when Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi, peacefully and with a mockery to the Sudanese people, who put him in power through a democratic process, handed over the reigns of power to his brother-in-law, Dr Turabi’s NIF on the night of June 30, 1989. The ease in which the NIF seized power raises a number of serious questions as how much Sadiq really knew about the plot; and, more importantly, why there were no measures or counter-attack procedures to reverse the coup d’etat. No surprises since the two men – that is, Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi and Dr Hassan al-Turabi, are two faces of the same coin, and each one tends to seek a refuge from the other when calamities strike. The analogy is true because the two meet, eat and take evening tea together, and probably plan together on how to run the country, each on his on way, but they appear on television as feuding. After years of harassment and intermittent occasions of internment, Sadiq managed to flee the Sudan to Eritrea. However, so many theories had been bandied around regarding the manner in which he was able to run away from the watchful eyes of the NIF security. Sadiq’s behavior in exile and the methods he utilized in dealing with his erstwhile colleagues in the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) cast a heavy shadow and raised serious speculations about the mission he set to achieve when he fled the country and suddenly appeared in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, in December 1997. Nonetheless, the vacation was a short-lived one, the mission was not accomplished and Sadiq eventually decided to return home. But before so doing, Sadiq met President Omer al-Bashir in Djibouti and signed the so-called Nida’a al-Watan (Nation’s Call) in which he argued that it was an initiative to ‘stop the bloodshed and stale the tears of mourning mothers’; but, in fact, it was a homework for his return to Sudan.
Nimeiri’s Government divided the South into three weak states, reducing it and indulged its people in infighting and petty squabbles for trivial titles and inexistent powers. He did the same in the North, especially in Kordofan Region. The NIF Government followed in its footsteps and further divided the country into many pockets of powerless states, promoting the old cliché of ‘divide and rule’. This is the true nature of the successive governments of Sudan. Such adopted tactics by the NIF Government boosted the total number of states in the Sudan to twenty-six and hundreds of provinces or localities. The Greater Kordofan Sate, for example, was further divided into Northern, Southern and Western Kordofan, with potential to create another state in the eastern Nuba Mountains to appease or pacify its supporters in that region, as the former Governor of Southern Kordofan State, Habeeb Makhtoum, promised to accomplish. Whether in the North or the South the states were created on ethnic and tribal lines with no proper mechanisms of governance or resources to support these jelly-like institutions. The NIF plan was to weaken the regions and to create a more conducive environment for power struggle should any change come to the Sudan that would re-align these newly formed states to their parent or sub-parent states. This situation was manifested during the re-amalgamation of Western Kordofan to the original boundaries of the former Southern Kordofan Province by the provision of the current juvenile peace agreement, which formed Southern Kordofan State. The people of the former Western Kordofan State - consisting, partly, of inhabitants from the former Southern and Northern Kordofan States - are not happy and unsatisfied with the new arrangements of each going back to its ‘parent’ denominator. It is only a matter of time when the South, the Greater Dar Fur, the Eastern, the Blue Nile and the Northern states would explode by trying to strip off power from the current retainers if effective and efficient mechanism is not implemented to divert egocentrics and power-mongers.
In 1990, the Sudan witnessed yet another flagrant attack on human liberty when a group of 28 officers and unspecified numbers of NCOs and soldiers were executed without or with nominal court martial for allegedly planning to topple the NIF Government. The group consisted mostly of dissatisfied minority who sensed stagnation, if not regression. If the coup instigators were from the inner circles – or, at least, the NIF affiliates, imprisonment would have been their dividend. The plotters were said to have belonged to Arab Ba’athists and some disgruntled army officers. The swift manner in which the coup protagonists were dealt with, bearing in mind that the incident took place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, belied the religious nature of the regime.
Dr ‘Ghazi Salah al-Din al-‘Atabani, the former Presidential Advisor on Peace Affairs, failed miserably to push the peace negotiations forward. The stalemate was one of the dividing proponents of the people of Southern Kordofan State along both religious and ethnic lines. Dr ‘Atabani mobilized the people of Southern Kordofan State during the early days of the negotiations and argued that the Muslims are the majority: an indisputable fact, and that the Nuba people are the minority in the state. Regrettably, people praised and applauded this divisive persuasion. The ethnicity-tribal and racial-minority argument is even more annihilating and divisive than the former. Race was used as a ‘powerful ax’ to slash the presumed harmonious life that had existed among the people of Southern Kordofan State for almost two centuries. Dr ‘Atabani fought tirelessly to permanently and forcibly stamp the modified name of Southern Kordofan Province, that was decreed by President Nimeiri in 1974, to become Southern Kordofan State. Nevertheless, the area was locally, nationally and internationally known as the Nuba Mountains. Due to the religious nature of the Khartoum regime, the name of Southern Kordofan State has no spiritual significance to warrant all the fuss. The name of the Nuba Mountains Region would neither compromise any religion nor ridicule any group, but the political myth has overwhelmed the ‘diminutive’ clique to violate the rights of all inhabitants. Paradoxically, the Sudanese Dinar, with religious and probably racial significance, or so the Sudanese were made to believe, is unrecognized by the majority of the Sudanese including the NIF Government, which recognizes the pinning of the Dinar at 2,500.00 Sudanese pounds to $1.00 US dollar. However, the Dinar is en route to be changed again to its original Sudanese pound. It was expected that the Sudan Government would walk out of the negotiations halls for violating the religion signifier by the infidels! The point in making this assertion is to demonstrate how the NIF was able to engage people in trivial issues in order to create social cleavages, bogus arguments and factional disagreements.
Although the recent negotiations between the NDA and the Sudan Government in Cairo are intended to resolve the ‘outstanding national issues’, it reflects the hypocritical nature of the Northerners ‘proper’, otherwise why don’t these opposition forces join the SPLM/A and unconditionally support the agreement? As mentioned earlier, it is always them who must approve and stamp it first for anything to become a ‘doctrine’. Regrettably, these forces claim that the agreement signed between the SPLM/A and the Sudan Government is bilateral, exclusive and as such cannot be a modality for redressing the country’s chronic problems. Sadiq al-Mahdi went even too far not only by echoing the same rhetorical assertion, but he also, and as usual, issued ‘too many’ initiatives, which he thought would radically resolve the country’s conflicts!! On the issue of the CPA, Sadiq appeared double-faced in numerating what were needed to rectify the agreement. No surprise then since he was addressing different groups, and he had to engineer different speeches for different audience. For each audience, a different set of remedy is presented. For one audience, for example, Sadiq stated that the agreement contained a number of contradictions, articles of abhorrence or hatred and it was an alliance of opposites. The share of another audience was that the agreement required believing in it, explanation, amendment and expansion in order to hold, Sadiq reiterated. On another occasion, Sadiq numerated more than twenty-two points that made the agreement binding only to its signatories – namely, the SPLM/A and the Sudan Government. This is an atavistic character of Sadiq, who will never be satisfied with any peace overture even those which are proffered by himself. It is why he always launches one initiative after another only to replace the previous one; and talks too much on every issue-private or public without positive results. Such lack of focus, hesitations and befuddled vision characterize the enigmatic personality of Sadiq, and actually converge to make a political failure out of him.
What went wrong in Southern Kordofan?
When the war erupted for the second time in 1983 as a result of dishonoring the short-lived 1972 Addis Ababa Peace Accord and the subsequent implementation of September laws, SPLM/A, with deep roots in the South, took national agenda and started vigorously to resist Khartoum’s regime. The chronic marginalization and unbalanced development in the margins of the Sudan, especially Dar Fur (DF), Eastern Sudan (ES), Nuba Mountains (NM) and Southern Blue Nile (SBN) forced the indigenous people of these areas to join the SPLM/A. The destruction suffered by the war culminated in NM during the transitional government of Jazouli Dafa Allah. The NM shouldered the burden and the errs of the war when a small group of SPLA unit attacked al-Gardoud village in the Nuba Mountains and killed, sadly enough, scores of innocent civilians of Baggara ‘Arabs’. Rumors spread that the Nuba attacked the village. The rumors turned out to be false, but Baggara girls lamented the breakdown of traditional friendship between the Nuba and the Baggara, singing ‘Yousif Kuwa has forsaken our brotherhood and entered al-Gardoud by force’. The late, martyr Yousif Kuwa Mekki, may peace and mercy of Allah (God) be upon him, Cdr Daniel Kodi and others have repeatedly and, on numerous occasions, categorically stated the innocence of the Nuba in that attack.
They assertively, and yet implicitly, indicated that the Nuba joined the SPLM/SPLA to fight against the elite (the Government in Khartoum), regardless who is in that oppressive Government, and that the Nuba should not be implicated in this ill and evil categorization as ‘rebels’ and ‘out-laws’. In fact, what took place in al-Gardoud was vengeance executed by the Dinka, who had been for years exploited by the Arabs in the area through marauding, kidnapping their children, raping their women and looting their personal properties. No sooner had these young Dinka returned home from the bout of military training in the SPLM/SPLA camps than they avenged their dead relatives and stolen cattle. Never had the SPLM/SPLA sanctioned any assault on al-Gardoud, but the Khartoum media made a hell out of this ‘incident’ to pander to their political and racial aims. Because of the lack of a unifying figure in the Sudan and owing to the lost local wisdom, the Government of Sudan (GOS) media described the Nuba as SPLM/A sympathizers and , worse still, characterized them as ‘racists’ and ‘infidels’ despite categorical denial of Nuba’s involvement. The armament and liquidation of the Nuba was entrusted to the then member of the Command Council Maj-Gen Fadllala Burma Nasser, a Baggara Arab himself. Disorder, arbitrary arrests, torture and killing, disappearance of the Nuba leaders and intellects by intelligence forces escalated.
The democratic Government of Sadiq al-Mahdi brought in the region’s life an unprecedented act wherein it armed militia groups from within the Southern Kordofan State, specifically the Baggara Arabs, and continued its aggressive and repressive policies of creating havoc and instability in the area. The GOS reasoned the armament of the militia as to defend themselves from the southern insurgency without defining who will defend the Nuba. It also, without authorization from the Constituent Assembly, mobilized the loyal elements to the Umm Party (UP) into Popular Defense Force (PDF) to carryout the genocide campaign against the innocent people of the state, particularly, the Nuba.
In May of 1989 the Commissioner of Southern Kordofan Ali Jama’a (Baggara Arab) under the directive of the Executive Director of Southern Region Council of South Kordofan Province Hamid Yousif, coordinated and organized the first ever meeting of its kind to found PDF in South Kordofan when Abdel Rasoul El Nour (from Misseriya Humur) was the Governor of Kordofan. Soon after the establishment of the PDF, Abdel Rahman Abu Al-Bashr known for his notoriety led the PDF in the area. The warriors were promised Nuba land. The land seizure was permitted as war booty or redistributed to the government supporters, officials and retired military officers as the Government’s pursuit of the war. The armed groups went extra miles in temporal and spatial history to form Quoreish I and Quoreish II organizations - similar to Janjaweed groups in Dar Fur - aimed at converting the NM area into macro or mega Mecca in the next twenty years (now less than that since the inception was in early and mid-1990s). As the consequences of the failure of the Government to quell disarray and maintain order in the NM region; and when the Nuba plight for safety was not only ignored by GOS but resolutely rebuffed by adamant defiance and force, a number of Nuba youths were forced to join the SPLM/A movement. The Nuba insurgents kept encouraging various groups within and out of the state to join the struggle to fight the oppression, tyranny and uneven or the lack of development in the region despite the aforementioned slurs. The interesting thing in the affair is that the insurgents in the marginalized areas are described as rebels whereas those in the North are labeled, out of respect and nepotism, ‘opposition’: an indicative of double standard and sanctimony (hypocrisy).
At the peak of this security chaos, the Nuba Members of Parliament predicted the fluidity of the situation, protested the armament and warned the Government of the grave danger of arming certain tribes (to defend themselves from the so-called infidels). Other progressive forces from the North such as Dr Ushari Mahmoud and Dr Suliman Baldo of the University of Khartoum and others joined this protest and publicly criticized this policy, but in vain. The government, irresponsibly, reprimanded both men for their publicized critique of the government’s flagrant actions against its own ‘citizens’, especially on the massacre of Dinka in Da’en, in Southern Dar Fur. The Parliament Member (PM) Mr. Haroun Idrees of Kadugli Constituent volunteered to visit his constituency for fact finding mission and to investigate the situation in the NM but he was detained and interrogated by the intelligence with utter stillness by both the Prime Minister Sadiq Mahdi and the Constituent Assembly despite his parliamentary impunity.
The National Islamic Front (NIF) government and its allies came to power as mentioned earlier to offer no respite to the Nuba despite Nuba’s good omen in NIF especially when their kith and kin Major General Ibrahim Nayle Idam, the second man in charge of the intelligence and security in Sadiq’s government and scores of Southerners and Dar Furians Generals were included in the High Command Council. It turned out that these Generals were used as baits and subsequently were sacked from their posts including Dr. Hassan Turabi the mastermind of the junta takeover of the democratically elected government. Unfortunately, the Sudanese, especially the Nuba, were disappointed and their cheerfulness evaporated because NIF immediately passed the PDF Act that was orchestrated and prepared by Sadiq’s government to incite the people of the state on each other exploiting the religion, thus implementing the maxim ‘divide and rule’. Some Nuba leaders including mecks and sheikhs were given arms to liquidate their own people, educated icons were given trivial titles of Emir etc. only to oppress their kin for either religious, political hypocrisy, inevitably foregone prestige or personal disagreements with the Nuba leaders in SPLM/A. The GOS capitalized on the divisions among the people of southern Kordofan region and bluntly prevented the delivery of humanitarian aids provided by Operation Lifeline Sudan sponsored by the United States of America to southern Sudan. As the result of NM besiege and isolation the GOS seemingly rejuvenated the infamous and evil Closed District Act enacted decades ago by the British. Soon afterward, the legalization was reinforced by jihad (a holy war) declaration to employ a final solution to the so-called ‘the Nuba Question’ as a reminiscent of what has been repeatedly known in Sudanese politics as ‘the Southern Problem’. In January 1992, President Omer al-Beshir attended a popular and an official rally in al-Obeid where in he was inducted the title of Imam al-Jihad.
Subsequently, he assigned the responsibility of implementing the Jihad to the late Vice-President, al-Zubeir Mohamed Salih. Determined to purge SPLM/A insurgency from the Nuba Mountains, al-Zubeir temporarily moved his headquarters of operations to al-Obeid, North Kordofan. On April 27, 1992, al-Zubeir requested a fatwa (or an Islamic decree) to be issued by Muslim Imams and Sufi Sheikhs at an Islamic conference held in al-Obeid. The Holy War was legitimized against the Nuba, and infamously stated that the Nuba were ‘infidels... and thus deserve death.’ Al-Zubeir then commanded a massive force of more than 30,000 militants in order to eliminate a small, and ill-equipped force of 970-strong men and women commanded by the late SPLM/A Alternate Commander Mohamed Juma Nayl in Tullishi Hills in the Nuba Mountains. Government forces deliberately attacked the civilian population, sometimes forcing them out of the caves using tear gas; starvation was used to force villagers to surrender. Women and girls were kidnapped and abducted, and many were raped, often repeatedly. Those interned in ‘peace camps’ were divided into groups. The children were subjected to forced Islamization and Arabization while able men were forced to work on mechanized farms for a pittance, and many women were kept as ‘wives’ and concubines for the soldiers.
Once again the religion was used as a divisive rather than a unifying instrument. This behavior from the government only reflected a deep-rooted racial discrimination against the people of the region. Islam, as a religion-and all religions for that matter, doesn’t call for killing or harming others; it doesn’t call for assimilation nor does it support discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, sex or religion. On the contrary, Almighty God plainly asserts the notion of tribal belonging without prejudice to others in His Holy Qura’an and it is He who say: ‘Oh mankind! We have created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.’ And it is, He, who say: ‘To you, be your religion; and to me is my religion.’
The actions of human rights violations by the government resulted in deep mistrust between the Nuba and the rest of the inhabitants of the state - namely, the Baggara Arabs, including some self-destructive Nuba, Fellata and certainly the central government. It is the deepest tragedies to note that the inhabitants of Southern Kordofan State, who have carried out much of the government’s policies against the Nuba citizens, are themselves an impoverished and marginalized section of population in the Sudan too. The roles played by the members of armed forces, intelligence apparatus and civil servants with origin to Southern Kordofan region were disappointing and paralyzing to the Nuba people. Among the Nuba officers committed atrocities are Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Khamis and Brigadier General Mohamed Markazo Kuku whose names have been mentioned in the reports of a number of human rights monitoring organizations. The later shockingly explained his actions of combing the village of Kimian - his birth place in the NM - that he was responding to his relatives’ request to clean the area from the ‘rebels’ when asked by the Nuba members of SPLM/A on the sidelines of Peace Negotiations in Nairobi, Kenya. Nonetheless, this is not an incitement for the people of the region to forcefully take over the power but it was expected that they would have wisely extol the government to abandon human rights violation practices. Moreover, this is not prejudice or partiality against these two individuals and others but rather a partial list of the ‘wrongs’ that occurred in Southern Kordofan.
Attempts to ameliorate the ‘wrongs’ by the real unspoiled people
The real unspoiled, Nuba and Baggara leaders who felt the severity of the damage on their people recognized the deception and realized the need for peaceful co-existence that once existed prior to the era of the pseudo-leaders, educated elites, religious and racial extremists. Thus several peace conferences were initiated and held to amend fences in very critical and dangerous circumstances. These conferences were held in the Nuba Mountains. They included the Buram Agreement in February 1993, the Regifi Agreement on November 15, 1995 and the Kain Agreement in June 1996. These local agreements did not please the government in Khartoum. It subsequently worked to break the signatories apart and extended itself into the files of SPLM/A to cause cleavage manifested by the infamous coup against Dr. Garang. The government went on to devise the ‘Peace from Within’ accord and signed with SPLM/A splinters in Khartoum.
However, the Nuba Mountains SPLM/A splinters which were led by Mohamed Haroun Kafi signed the same appellation of ‘Peace from Within’, but at a lower level in al-Obied with Mohamed al-Amin Khalifa representing the Sudan Government. Although these agreements were signed under the same banner - that is, ‘Peace from within’, their provisions and terms were essentially and completely different. Khartoum recognized the right of the south for self-determination but the Nuba splinters were denied such recognition. Thus, the NIF succeeded in following the long Northern Sudanese tradition and culture of creating and seizing any opportunity to ‘divide and rule’. This is so because the strategy of the GOS was to exploit the divisions among the “rebels” and use the forces loyal to Dr. Reik Machar, Dr. Lam Akol and Karbino Kuanin Bol to fight SPLM/A main stream. As for the Nuba splinters, their agreement with Khartoum was immediately, to say the least, abrogated since they did not have formidable forces to safeguard the accord. Nevertheless, the ‘Peace from within’ was nullified an act that angered Cdr. Tabaan Deng Tabaan and Dr. Reik Machar who returned to the bush and finally rejoined SPLM/A. As for Dr. Lam Akol, he held on the Ministry of Transportation portfolio until his rejoining SPLM/A. Finally, came the Nuba Mountains Cease-fire Agreement, signed between the Sudan Government and the SPLM/A in Switzerland on January 19, 2002, and the subsequent All Nuba Conference (ANC), which was held at Kauda in the Nuba Mountains on December 2-5, 2002. The second ANC and the first All Tribes Conference (ATC) were also held in April 6-8 and April 9-11, 2005; respectively. However, the outcomes of the meetings included:
The people of [Southern Kordofan] State, especially the Nuba, emphasized that they are fighting against the Government and never against the Baggara [Arabs]; the Baggara admitted that the central Government deceived them by telling them [that] the war against the rebels would take a month or two, whereas it took more than ten years with devastating destruction; and that their politicians - for example, Sadiq al-Mahdi - had already left the Sudan and were fighting alongside with the SPLM/A against the NIF regime that ousted him.
The Nuba and the Baggara were cognizant that they have been living together in relative peace for almost 200 years and have intermingled through marriage and the sharing of culture and religion. They also asserted that the alliance between Sadiq Mahdi and SPLM/A is an extravagant mockery of racial and religious exploitation carry out political agenda.
The Baggara and the Nuba realised that Jallaba - the merchants from the North and the centre - are the only beneficiaries of the war. The Jallaba, they determined, are temporary residents of the region who are magnetized to the region by their interests - economics, social and political - and would leave once the benefits are mined or adverse conditions bounce, but the people of the mountains (the Nuba and the Baggara) will stay for they have no other places to go to and thus have to find ways to live together in peace and harmony.
The cease-fire agreement brought tranquility and relative peace for the first time in more than 18 years.
The ANC recommended the importance of initiating and maintaining a process of dialogue between the Nuba and other ethnic groups - for instance, the Baggara Arabs, Hawaza, Misseriya - in the Nuba Mountains to develop the opportunities for peaceful coexistence, and that the Nuba struggle for their right is not directed against them, but rather against the injustices imposed by successive regimes in Khartoum.
The ATC recognized the marginalization policies of Khartoum’s governments and that Khartoum power center bear responsibility of the chaos and the deterioration suffered by the people of Southern Kordofan. Therefore, the southern Kordofanians must work together in order to reverse the situation through genuine transparent dialogue for reconciliation and local unity.
These are the real people who had not been spoiled by the alien influence, and these are the visions of our people, the innocent not the eccentric politicians.
Reasons for reconciliation and local unity
The Southern Kordofan State is a large region with a surface area of 30,000 square miles, almost the size of Scotland. This area is large enough to accommodate a multitude of communities of different ethnic backgrounds. Unquestionably, these communities share more commonalities than differences and have been living together for many years. The imperative common aspects include blood lineage, resulting from intermarriages, infusion and the integration of many cultural aspects, sharing the right for religious beliefs wherein Muslims, Christians and Kujours, especially among Nuba families, observe intra-family tolerance and peaceful coexistence owing to these religious differences with no prejudice. Alas, the realities of peaceful co-existence and tolerance in the state have been distorted by extremism. The present day fanaticism and radicalism must be ejected and tradition of love, not only of the land, but of one another, must be injected and promoted. There is no doubt that this culture of cohesiveness and feeling of oneness would spread throughout the country with upholding these merits.
Resources and Economic Exploitation
The Southern Kordofan State with its vast area is rich in natural resources, including fertile plains for agricultural production, minerals, pile of oil reserves and huge livestock wealth. The deliberate marginalization and lack of development or rather irrational exploitation of the rich natural resources for economic and social prosperity of the state has resulted in unbearable poverty, great misery and utter deprivation among the populace of the region while economic virtues of these resources are realized by people from outside the region. Traditional agriculture and animal husbandry are considered the backbone of the economy for the people of the NM region. It is then imperative to develop by providing adequate production inputs and methods to these vital sectors. Nonetheless, a people-led process is needed in order to arrest the spread of poverty to achieve sustainable livelihood and, at the same time, manage environmental degradation, which had resulted from the unjust central Government policies of resources mining. This is critical to curtail the return of the conflict due to shrinking resources, which would ultimately result in further regression. It is a pitfall not to recognize, by many, that all central governments that ruled Sudan were not good nationalist systems. This is contemplated by the virtue of concentrating power and economic swell in the riverain north, metaphorically known as the Sudan.
Land issue is a touchy and contentious subject and therefore the scope of this presentation would not be appropriate for addressing it but the inhabitants of the state need to reconsider redressing the land disputes. An inclusive and people-led process is required to iron out the grievances of ownership and redistribution mechanisms must be devised. Mechanisms that guarantee the rights of the indigenous people- that is, the Nuba -to their ancestral land must be devised. Equally, the Baggara Arabs and all other groups should have a share of the land. Inseparable from ownership is the land use regulations, soil management and reclamation. For the sustainability of the fragile soil resulting from extraordinary cultivation and forest clearing, strict regulations must be implemented to avert and reverse ecological degradation while maintaining the economic and social life of the people of Southern Kordofan State and ultimately restore the destroyed friendly relations between the Nuba and the Baggara Arabs. Such protective measures would not come from people who have no strong connections to the land, such as, the absentee landlords. Therefore, it is entirely peoples’ decision to embrace the peace agreement with its shortcomings and, collectively, exert extra but positive efforts in order to acquire more gains from the accord. Definitely, such a benefit would come from local unity and the unification of the agenda, exhaling the dubious and covert ‘agenda’ of the centre.
The history has taken its full circle to dictate the notion of regionalism or federation, previously refuted so many times by the riverain center of power. Now, to truly realize the abundant economic resources in the state, the people of the state must revisit their priorities and redirect their attention to the state. This is essential, because the interests of the communities of Southern Kordofan State are within the boundaries of their rich state. This is in no way an encouragement to abandon the ‘Federal’ ploy where all ‘games’ of the people, by the people and for the people should converge. But rather a call to take the peoples’ agenda in an upward approach rather than downward mode even though it is difficult to scale-up against gravity. The people of Southern Kordofan State would not be able to exercise this task unless they reconcile, unite and work together for their destiny. The history always reminds and tells us that our brethren in the ‘north’ - those in power -, sufficiently differ in matters concerning the whole ‘Sudan’ and its all people, especially the margins, but when these affairs tap on their very interests, they unite only to forget the entire country and its peoples and their regions become top priority of their agenda.
A ‘healthy mind is in a healthy body’: this is a widely believed dictum. The reality of this maxim is void in Southern Kordofan State where war and hatred had caused profound destruction and deterioration in every conceivable infrastructure. Indeed the war has produced physically, physiologically and, unfortunately, morally weak and sick-minds. All of this is the product of unhealthy cadavers effected by the lack of healthcare, deprivation and/or improper nourishment, mental stagnation for the mental exercise provided by education. This is true for all people of the state, perhaps, with no exception. One or two generations of young adults and additional generations of school-age children are illiterate due to lack of education. This miserable situation needs to be fixed wherein every child - and adults too, if they desire - gets the chance to attend the school. This is important because Southern Kordofan State, and the Sudan as a country, needs future educated leaders, who understand the meaning of leadership, leaders who could differentiate between authority and responsibility and capable of sailing their citizens, all of them, against raging waters to safety!
It is imperative to demonstrate the deterioration of public services and how the destruction took toll on these services; Kadugli High School, dubbed as Tillaw, would be used as a perfect example. Before the war broke out, there were at best three regular high schools, including only one for females in the state. With a systematic campaign against the Nuba in early 1990s, the well-known and legendary Kadugli High School has been converted to the production field for the Mujahideen (holy warriors) and center for monitoring the infamous operations. Today, the same school is the Head Quarters for Joint Military Commission (JMC) charged with overseeing and observing the Nuba Mountains Ceasefire Agreement instead of knowledge acquiring institution. Tillaw must be credited for the many leaders, including some who served and are still serving the current Government despite the fact that some may attempt to challenge this assertion. Power of knowledge, not the destructive force and sounds of guns, is what Southern Kordofan State demands. The gun, hopefully, has accomplished its mission and the choice for the people of the state is to cleverly desert it. It would be a grave decision if they choose to resort to the power of weapon again. The people of Southern Kordofan State deserve better. They eagerly demand schools, running water services, hospitals, roads and all that caused them to take up arms for every settled or nomadic community. In short, lasting and sustainable peace, which is attainable, is the demand. Again, the people of Southern Kordofan State are capable of accomplishing - by disregarding, abandoning and discarding the ills of the center - and embracing reconciliation and local unity, which could be utilized - in turn - to foster the national unity of the entire country.
As alluded to earlier, Southern Kordofan State is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural state with its diversity rooted deeply in its people. This characteristic identifies the state as micro-Cosmo of Sudan or better yet of Africa. Key examples of cultural diversity include the following local folklores: nuggara, mardoum (previously perceived as exclusively performed by the Baggara Arabs), bukhsa, kamballa, kirang and wrestling (believed to be Nuba myths) and kaytta (if still exists, is performed by the Nigerian/Malian descendants). The reality of life in the state was that the aforementioned traditions were cementing factors wherein the Nuba and Baggara Arabs profess most of them with no distinction. Not only did wrestling become an annual ritual among the Nuba tribes, but it had also become a cementing factor between them and the Baggara Arabs as a social gathering and material-free competition. How many Nuba and Baggara Arabs have become friends, named their children after each other and even intermarriages occurred as a result of wrestling friendships sprung from this worldwide famous competition?
Looking back to history produces mixed and confusing feelings: sadness and sorrows of time that yields numbness; and the best of time that generates sensation of immense urge to return to it. But the ills of the rotten head of the fish - that is, Khartoum power center- in trying to destroy the myth once in the name of religion and many times in the name of race distracts such a return to ‘the past’. To illustrate, once a Sudanese folklore team went to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to participate in one of the Arab carnivals (it is absolutely all right). It is worth noting that the nuggara, mardoum, kamballa and kirang were performed on the UAE stage in the name of Sudan by different performers from all over the country. But the dismay was, and is still, the immense hypocritical stance that Khartoum governments display by vigorously hitting the chest in the international or Arab arenas that these are Sudanese culture while internally deemed to destroy these cultures or their real recitalists. The take-home message is that this richness in regional culture is the one that doesn’t only bond the people of Southern Kordofan State, but the Sudan. The people of the state must be made aware of, and that the source and mothers of all ailments in the communities is the center. Therefore, these cultures must be revived, developed and promoted statewide, nationally and internationally without prejudice to any as a unifying catalyst among many unity ingredients.
From August 1955 to December 2004, with barely eleven years of relative peace, the Sudan witnessed an all out destruction. The people of the margins - that is, the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, Dar Fur and Eastern Sudan - did not escape the scorched-earth devastation of the war. Mischaracterization of the problem of Sudan as the problem of the South coupled with imbalanced development in the country exploiting religious and racial dissention has led the people of the margins to pick up arms against the successive central governments. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement has ended the conflict in the South, the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile. The success of this accord depends heavily on how the people of Southern Kordofan State arrive at a common understanding of the terms and provisions of the accord. Essential to this understanding and success is the relations between the ethnically heterogeneous, but culturally and religiously semi-homogeneous groups. Reconciliation and the promotion of culture of peace and unity among these groups should be enhanced in order to realize benefits of the peace agreement and harvest the state’s abundant natural resources. Recognition and development of cultural diversity is central to social and peaceful coexistence. Land ownership remains the challenge and probably the sole component that the Government would deliberately ponder to incite the people of the state against each other. A unified stance is needed to contain Khartoum’s ‘divide and rule’ tactics.
(1) Southern Kordofan/Nuba Mountains region will be used interchangeably to denote the geographical area without prejudice to its political and administrative designation agreed upon by the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Also the people of the Nuba Mountains refer to the inhabitants of the region – namely, the Nuba, Baggara ‘Arabs’, Fellata, Dinka, Nuer, Fur, …etc. - unless otherwise stated. The Fellata is used to indiscriminately describe the descendants of West Africa people – viz., the Hawsa, Borno, Bargo, Follani, …etc. - and of countries neighbouring the Sudan from the west – for instance, Chad.
(2) See Khalid, M, The Government they Deserve: The Role of the Elite in Sudan’s Political Evolution, London, 1990; Deng, F M, War of Visions: Conflicts of Identities in the Sudan, Washington, 1995; Sikainga, A A, Slaves into Workers: Emancipation and Labor in Colonial Sudan, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1996; Salih, M M, al-Sahafa al-Sudaniyya fi nisf Qarn, Part I, the Sudanese Studies Centre, Cairo, 1996; Korita, Y, ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Latif wa Thwrat 1924: Bahath fi Masadir al-Thwra al-Sudaniyya, (translated from English into Arabic by Majdi al-Na’eem), the Sudanese Studies Centre, Cairo, 1997; and Suliman, M, Sudan: The War of Identity and Resources, London, 2002.
(3) Khalid, M, The Government they Deserve: The Role of the Elite in Sudan’s Political Evolution, London, 1990.
(4) According Khalid, M, The Government they Deserve: The Role of the Elite in Sudan’s Political Evolution, London, 1990, Ali ‘Abd Latif was imprisoned and released in 1923, became a celebrity and founded the WFL with, allegedly, financial support from the Egyptian government but mysteriously tagged the goals of the movement to include “the unity of the Nile valley”. The riots of 1924 in which Ali ‘Abd al-Latif was involved angered the British who entrusted both the black officers and the Shaigiyya. The British believed that the black non-Arab officers would be resistant or less susceptible to the Egyptian influence. Likewise, the British faith in Shaigiyya was due their reluctant or unenthusiastic support to the Mahdism.
(6) According to Khalid, M, The Government they Deserve: The Role of the Elite in Sudan’s Political Evolution, London, 1990, Gen Ibrahim Abboud’s ambitions prior to November 11, 1958 coup d’etat were to open an automobile garage after retirement as he confined to his close inner circles.
(7) For an exclusive reading on power struggle between Sadiq al-Mahdi and his colleagues in the Umma Party - including his uncle, Sayyid al-Hadi al-Mahdi, see Mahjoub, M A, al-Dimocratiyya fi al-Mizan: Ta’amulat fi al-Siyasat al-Arabiyya wa al-Afrikiyya, Khartoum University Press, October 1989.
(8) For more details, See Aguda, O, Arabism and Pan-Africanism in Sudanese Politics, The Journal of Modern African Studies, 1973; Abbas, P, Growth of Black Political Consciousness in Northern Sudan, Africa Today, Vol 20, No 3, 1973; Hoagland, Ed, African Calliope: A Journey to the Sudan, New York, 1978; and Asharq al-Awsat, August 26, 1993.
(9) Bola, A, Masarat Jadeeda, Eritrea, August 1998.
(10) Rev Philip ‘Abbas ‘Ghabboush is a renounced politician from the Nuba Mountains who devoted his entire life for the cause of the deprived people of the black Sudan. Rev ‘Ghabboush has tremendous charisma and considerable followers among the Nuba people, the Southerners and he wields a strong support and alliances with the Beja people of Eastern Sudan, the Fur in Dar Fur and a sizable number of the Nubians of the far North.
(11) See Khalid, M, Nimeiri and the Revolution of Dis-May, London, 1985.
(12) Lt-Gen Swar al-Dahab heavily built his reputation on the tremendous wealth of his family sophist religious background, and was believed to be a moderate Muslim and highly regarded by his peers and subordinates in the military. It is believed that he was reluctant to assume power to keep his promise of not abrogating the oath of loyalty he took to defend the Nimeiri regime. Swar al-Dahab also set an unprecedented example by handing over power to the civilians one year after the takeover as he promised.
(13) Dr Jazouli Dafa Allah is a medical doctor from a small village on the eastern bank of the Blue Nile not far from Wad Medani town, Gezira. He capitalised on his medical profession, a prestigious field in the Sudan and as a leader of the Sudan Medical Council.
(14) It was during Sadiq al-Mahdi’s tenure when certain tribes in Kordofan, northern parts of the South and Dar Fur were armed and charged to defend the pastoralists and nomads allegedly against Southern insurgents. It is worth mentioning that the majority of the Umma Party MPs were from Western Sudan.
(15) Dr Hassan al-Turabi is married to Sadiq al-Mahdi’s sister – namely, Wisal al-Mahdi. It is then natural that the familial bonds are maintained and protected at any cost. This assumption is validated by the possibility of the two leaders taking turns in running the country’s affairs and probably their offspring. For instance, when Sadiq al-Mahdi became the Prime Minister and Dr Hassan al-Turabi was appointed the Attorney-General, a committee was formed to carry out an investigation into the dealings of the Islamic banks, including Faisal Islamic Bank. The two men reached a compromise that led to Sadiq stopping this committee to achieve its objectives, while Turabi releasing Dr Shareif al-Tuhami, an Umma Party member, who was imprisoned on charges of corruption committed when he was the Minister of Energy during Nimeiri’ tenure (Khalid, M, The Government they Deserve: The Role of the Elite in Sudan’s Political Evolution, London, 1990).
(16) See Sadiq al-Mahdi’s books, al-‘A’wda (the Return) and Tahatdoon (Rightly Guided). Part of the Umma Party army that joined Sadiq al-Mahdi in Eritrea returned home with him. They were stationed at Da’irat al-Mahdi and were discontented due to the preferential treatment their leaders received: a situation nearly created unprecedented catastrophe, though some of these disgruntled soldiers attacked Dr Omer Nour al-Da’yem, Sadiq’s now deceased assistant and staunch Umma Party loyalist.
(17) Al-Bashir, I H, In Search of the Lost Wisdom: War and Peace in the Nuba Mountains, Khartoum, 2002.
(18) In 1992, the NIF regime declared ‘Jihad’ (a holy war) on the Nuba people whose majority are devout Muslims. The Muslim majority argument as propagated by Dr ‘Atabani and the NIF stalwarts, proved to be a racial campaign to eradicate the Nuba people out of the face of the earth.
(19) It is arguable that Dr ‘Atabani proved the NIF’s guilt of liquidating the Nuba who ‘were’ once the majority, but were reduced to ‘minority’ by the infamous declaration of holy war and forced relocation to distant concentration camps in al-Obied, Sodri, Bara, …etc. all in Northern Kordofan State.
(20) The historically provincial capital of the Greater Kordofan was Talodi (Southern Kordofan/Nuba Mountains); it was then moved to al-Obied as a result of Nuba rebellion against the Condominium Rule. It should also be noted that the changes in the name of the region never magnetized much attention nor was it a source of disagreement between the people of the Nuba Mountains region. Ironically, names of many localities in Southern Kordofan State and other parts of Sudan have been changed by the NIF Government without a protest. The loud outcry made by the NIF during the peace negotiations was solely due to utter stubbornness and feet dragging in order not to conclude the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The paradigm set forth by the NIF, especially in Southern Kordofan State, is detrimental to the reversal process in the future should people choose to revert the old names.
(21) Asharq al-Awsat, February 22, 2005. The origin of Dinar goes back to the Roman Empire, and the word Dinar comes from the Italian language, which means money, and the Spanish word for money too is dinero. The Arabs adopted this word from their contacts with the outside world, including the colonisation of southern Spain – namely, Andalusia.
(22) Al-Jazeera News Network, March 25, 2005. This is a part of sermon given by Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi during Juma prayer, Sudan.
(23) Sudanile. Omer Al-Qara’i Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi Wa Al-Enkfa’eya wa Da’awi Al-Tajdeed. March 08, 2005.
(24) Sudaneseonline. January 16, 2005.
(25) The use of Arabs in parentheses should not be understood as demeaning or prejudice against the Arab descendants. Its use is only to indicate that the people of Southern Kordofan State are multi-racial as a result of intermarriages, and hence it is hard to find pure Arab lineage in the area.
(26) Suliman, M, Sudan: War of Identity and Resource, London, 2002; and de Waal, A, Facing Genocide: The Nuba of Sudan, Africa Watch, London, 1995.
(27) Many other dissatisfied groups from Northern, Eastern and Western Sudan, including the Baggara Arabs, joined the SPLM/A to fight the Nimeiri regime. The manifesto of the movement was appealing to these groups since it addressed the fundamental problems of the whole Sudan. Neither, at all, was the insurgency against the people of the state, namely the Baggara, nor was it a fight against any other group except the Government and its supporters. Interestingly and ironically, the influx of the Nuba into the front lines of the movement increased exponentially during the democratically elected Government of Sayyid Sadiq al-Mahdi. The peak armament occurred when Fadl Allah Buram Naserr, a Baggara Arab from Southern Kordofan State and affiliated to the Umma Party, was Minister of Defense. This is another example of how the central Government has been using the people of the margin to carry out atrocities against their own people.
(28) De Waal, A, Massacre in the Mountains While the World Looked the Other Way, 2005 in http://www.thepolitician.org/sudan/articles/massacre_in_the_mountains.html.
(29) Flinet, J, Democracy in a War Zone: The Nuba Parliament, in The Right to be Nuba: The Story of a Sudanese People’s Struggle for Survival, Rahhal, S M (editor). The Red Sea Press Inc, cccccc, 2001. Page 103.
(30) De Waal, A, Massacre in the Mountains While the World Looked the Other Way, 2005 in http://www.thepolitician.org/sudan/articles/massacre_in_the_mountains.html.
(31) Verse 13, Surrat al-Hujurat.
(32) Verse 6, Surrat al-Kafiroun.
(33) De Waal A. Facing Genocide: The Nuba of Sudan, 1995. African Rights. ISBN 1899477047.
(34) See Suliman, M, Sudan: War of Identity and Resource, London, 2002. The main Southern group, led by Dr Riek Machar, Dr Lam Akol Ajawin and Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, broke away from the mainstream SPLM/A, headed by Dr John Garang, and later signed the so-called Khartoum Peace Agreement with the Sudan Government in Khartoum. The NIF armed the splinters and made promises of power and wealth to dissident factions, but limited the distribution of ammunition, and kept both the real power and the wealth. Most of these leaders were given political appointments in the South, but were located impotently in Khartoum while the NIF security organs were running the business in the sacred lands. The NIF comfortably sat back and watched the sight of Southerners killing Southerners (Sudan Democratic Gazette, October 1996).
(35) Peace from Within, see http://www.sudanupdate.org/REPORTS/Oil/13pw.html.
(36) See the terms of the Nuba Mountains Ceasefire Agreement, Switzerland, January 19, 2002. http://www.iss.co.za/AF/RegOrg/unity_to_union/pdfs/igad/NubaCeasefire.pdf.
(37) See the resolutions of All Nuba Conference, Kauda, the Nuba Mountains, December 2-5, 2002. http://www.arkamani.org/newcush_files/hist_documents/ancfullreport1.htm.
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