History of the Nuba, part III

History, part I
History, part II

VII. Independence (1956)
VIII. Nimeiri’s regime (1969-1985)
IX. War in the Nuba Mountains (1985 - 2002)
X. Peace (2002 - 2011)
XI. Return to war

VII. Independence (1956)

The uneven development of South and North Sudan disturbed the build-up towards independence. The political process was dominated by Northern parties, who occupied nearly all Government posts. Promises were made and broken. In August 1955, a mutiny in Torit by the Equatoria Corps [a military unit composed of Southerners] resulted in the deaths of 261 Northern Sudanese and 75 Southerners.

Failing democracy
Sudan declared its independence on January 1, 1956. The Southern demand for a federal state was brushed aside and the first National Government set out to unify the country by means of education. It took over the missionary schools in the South and in the Nuba Mountains, and started building new schools. Democracy proved unsuccessful: Northern political parties were too engaged in power games to address the problems of the country. Southern parties were too weak. In 1958 the army stepped in: Lieutenant General Ibrahim Abboud became president of Sudan (1958-1964). His policy for union: arabisation of the country and suppression of political opposition. When the missionaries turned against his Government in 1962, they were expelled from the South and the Nuba Mountains. The conflict between the Government and Southern opposition turned into civil war.1

Anya Nya
Most Southern politicians went into exile. They formed the Sudan African National Union (SANU), headed by J.H. Oduhu. In South Sudan, remnants of the Equatoria Corps joined with other former soldiers and policemen into a violent rebel movement called Anya Nya [snake venom]. It strove for separation from the North. Abboud sent nearly the entire Sudanese Army to the South but it was unable to suppress the rebellion. Eventually a general uprising in the North forced Abboud to step down.2

Events in Kordofan
The civil war in the South had little impact on life in the Nuba Mountains, except for the Nuba men who re-enlisted in the army to fight the Anya Nya, and a small number who joined the Anya Nya.3. More important was the continuous process of arabisation. The Government stimulated the adoption of Arab names and the use of Arab language. Many Nuba adopted Arabic customs because they perceived their own cultures as backward. At the same time Christian missionary work was continued by Nuba clergy. Father Butrus Tia Shukai for example preached in Koalib; Heiban and Moro.4 Among both Muslims and Christians tribal identity remained strong.

Presumably towards the end of the Abboud regime Stevenson wrote:
Added to the Nuba diversity are the newer differences in educational level and in religion. Some have been attracted to Islam, others to Christianity [but many] are content at the moment to follow traditional ways. The Nuba peoples are today perhaps more Nuba-conscious, i.e. more conscious of themselves as a regional entity, desirous of having their proper share of education and employment and economic progress, and more consciously aware of their need to have a voice in the nation’s affairs by electing members to Parliament who will make sure that their interests get a fair hearing.5

General Union of the Nuba Mountains (GUN)
In 1964, the October Popular Uprising restored democracy in the Sudan. In the same year, a number of Nuba intellectuals organised themselves in the General Union of the Nuba Mountains. GUN participated in the parliamentary elections of 1965. One of the party members was Yousif Kuwa, who campaigned with Atroun Attia, ‘a prominent Nuba politicians those days’.6 Headed by Philip Abbas Ghaboush GUN entered Parliament with eight seats won in Southern Kordofan. Expectations were high but the new government did very little for the country. The problems in the South were not solved. The peripheral areas of the North, like the Nuba Mountains, the Ingassana Hills, Darfur and the Beja country, were left without resources. Disappointed leaders from these areas had already worked together in various political alliances. Now they started to consider the possibility of a military take-over

VIII. Nuba during Nimeiri’s regime (1969-1985)

In 1969 the army again took power. Colonel Jafaar Mohamed an-Nimeiri became President of the Sudan. All political parties were banned. After initial attempts to resolve the problems in the South through force, Nimeiri reverted to negotiations. In 1972 the Addis Ababa Agreement was signed, preserving the unity of the country by giving the South autonomy in all but national matters like defence, foreign affairs, currency and finance. Since the Nuba were living in the north, they hardly profited from the agreement.

Pressure on traditional cultures
Initially President Nimeiri was not very interested in changing the cultures of the Nuba. As a socialist he was not interested in creating a state religion and he allowed children from Christian families to be taught the catechism in school. Development and progress were his priority and in this light we should see the Government’s pressure on the Nuba to abandon their traditional way of living. For a while merchants were forbidden to sell anything to a person who was not dressed, for example. In a later stage of Nimeir’s rule islamisation once again became the answer to the country’s diversities. Nuba students received grants to study Islam and returned to their communities to proselytise. Islam did not run too deeply in most Nuba communities though. The belief in charms, spells, possession and rituals remained. Even strongly arabised communities like the Miri for example, would keep their tribal identity and continue to observe many of their traditional practices.7

Labour migration
In the 1970's, economic development of the area changed the Nuba communities dramatically. To establish a family; to have some luxury, to buy commodities and clothes: there were many reasons why the Nuba wanted money. And there were many job opportunities: in the army and the police service; in shops, clinics and schools; or on the large agricultural schemes that were being established. Many uneducated men went to the cities of the North. They could experience discrimination, but the people I interviewed agree that during Nimeiri’s regime it was not so bad. However, an uneducated Nuba would usually find only jobs of low esteem.

Labour migration had a profound impact on economic and social life in the Nuba Mountains. Women worked the far farms alone. Large herds became a rare sight because there were no young men to guard the cattle. Many rituals would no longer be held at the appropriate time or place. Village life became less and less attractive for the girls8, who started dreaming of escape with a man who had made it in the city.9 

Traditionally, each Nuba tribe would consider the wider area around the hills it inhabited to belong to the community. Whomsoever cleared a patch of land for cultivation, owned it. The land remained family property. This became more problematic in 1968, when the government began to encourage mechanised farming. Under the Mechanised Farming Corporation Act, 60% of land was to be allocated to local people and no-one was to have more than one farm. In practice, this was ignored.  For the Nuba, financing the lease on a plot was more difficult than to the Arabs, and some outside landowners ended up with more than 20 farms. Many of the Jellaba had no farming experience. Soil depletion led to diminishing yields. Soon land was brought under cultivation outside the official schemes

Matters worsened for the Nuba in 1970. Under the Unregistered Land Act, all land not registered prior to 1970, fell to the State. The government assumed broad powers of eviction in order to clear land for schemes. There was no recognition of the rights of the Nuba who, although not having legal title, had been using land for generations.  The regulations were complicated and unfavourable to the Nuba.10

The agricultural schemes attracted many Arab Sudanese, both Jellaba and Baggara, who started to settle near the mountains. By 1974, Leni Riefenstahl remarked that the exposure to the Arab culture and the money economy had changed 'her' Nuba (the Masakin Qisar) beyond recognition.11 Possibly she was too focussed on the changed attitude towards nudity, because Islam and Christianity still did not run deeply in most Nuba communities. Traditional beliefs and customs remained a vital part of Nuba life. Even strongly arabised communities like, for example, the Miri, would keep their tribal identity and continue to observe many of their traditional practices. 12

Nuba politicians
While a spirit of optimism captured the Sudan after the signing of the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972, the parties that were supposed to defend the interest of the Nuba achieved very little in terms of improving living standards in Southern Kordofan. Shortly after the 1965 elections, the GUN had already split into two factions. One was headed by Philip Abbas Ghaboush, who was stressing Nuba identity and cooperation with other Africans. The other was headed by Mahmud Hasib, who wanted to cooperate with the Baggara and Jellaba in Southern Kordofan.13 In 1969, Philip Abbas Ghaboush was forced to leave the country. He was sentenced to death in absentia for his involvement in an attempted coup that had been staged to take place just days before Nimeiri seized power.14 The faction of Mahmud Hasib allied itself to Nimairi’s regime. In 1977, serving as Governor of Kordofan, Hasib publicly demanded more regional autonomy, he was shouted down by Nimeiri. Many Nuba were disillusioned with their leaders.15 In the same year, Philip Abbas participated in another coup attempt, this time in Juba, with, among others, Mohamed Haroun Kafi and Yunis Dumi Kallo. 16

In 1972, Nuba students at Tilo Secondary School in Kadugli formed Rabita al-Abna Jibal al-Nuba [the Nuba League], a secret political society, in reaction to attempts of the Ittijaha al-Islami, [Islamic Direction, linked to Hassan al-Turabi], to take over the various student bodies at Tilo. The League’s first president was Kamil Kuwa Mekki, a younger brother to Yousif Kuwa. Among the members were Abdel Aziz al-Hilu and Daniel Kodi. Many members of the Nuba League went to Khartoum University in 1976, where they met other politically engaged Nuba students. Together they formed the Komolo [Youth] movement, in 1977. Yousif Kuwa Mekki became the leader of this secret body, which emphasised its Nuba identity.

Operating clandestinely, Komolo would have a strong influence on the future of the Nuba. Abdel Aziz al-Hilu, Daniel Kodi, Ismael Khamis Jelab, and Neroun Philip are some of the well known members. In 1980 Yousif Kuwa took a job at Tilo Higher Secondary School, and started recruiting among Nuba students and teachers. In 1981, Komolo formed the basis for Youif Kuwa's successful election to the Regional Government of Kordofan. He became Deputy Speaker in the assembly. The Arab dominated Assembly, however, did not address any of the issues important to the Nuba, like education or economic progress in the Nuba Mountains. In the same year, Daniel Kodi was elected to the National Assembly. But the only political party allowed was Nimeiri’s Sudan Socialist Union, and the democratic process was a farce.

Anya Nya II
In the late 1970s, Philip Abbas Ghaboush founded a new Nuba party: the Sudan National party (SNP). The SNP participated in several alliances of southern parties and parties representing northern peoples like the Fur and the Beja. Behind the scenes Philip Abbas was in contact with re-emerging rebel movements in the South, generally called Anya Nya II. He recruited Nuba for the armed struggle and sent them to Ethiopian, where the rebels received military training from the Ethiopian Government. (Ethiopia supported the Southerners against the Government of Sudan because the Government of Sudan supported Eritrean secessionists against Ethiopia.) Daniel Kodi helped Komolo members move to the rebels’ bases in Ethiopia. The recruited Nuba brought the Anya Nya to the Nuba Mountains in 1982, where they trained more men. Violence was limited to a raid on a police post in 1983.

During the first decades of independence, Nuba-Baggara relationships improved considerably in most parts of the Mountains. Baggara might take the Nuba herds north, and when they returned to Southern Kordofan, the Nuba boys might look after the Baggara herds. A growing number of Baggara settled permanently in Southern Kordofan to take up farming. Politically, the Baggara were strongly tied to the Umma Party that had evolved around the descendents of the Mahdi. Some had been cooperating with the General Union of the Nuba Mountains at the 1965 elections, but the Nuba tended to focus more on their African identity than on their regional identity.

The introduction of mechanised farming in 1968, affected the Baggara who grazed their herds in the Nuba Mountains. They found themselves shut off from access to pastures and wells. In spite of official regulations trek routes were blocked by large farms. The inevitable happened: the Baggara started to graze their cattle on Nuba land, destroying crops or harvests and occupying wells. During the 1970s, severe drought in Northern Kordofan forced the Baggara to come southwards sooner and to stay longer. This again increased tensions between the Nuba and the Baggara over land and water use.17 After 1975, the economy of Sudan started to falter. Inflation rose, and the Government rationed fuel and consumer goods. Distribution took place according to a district system that largely followed ethnic boundaries. As a result, competition for resources increased polarisation between Nuba and Arabs.18

Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)
By 1983, Sudan’s economy was in a deplorable state. People went on strike throughout the country, protesting against poor economic and social conditions. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of refugees entered the Sudan from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Nimeiri’s plans for an administrative re-division of the South were met with an armed uprising in the South. The mutiny of three southern battalions of the Sudanese Army in Bor and Ayod was instigated by southern officers in the National army who had been planning a rebellion for years. Lieutenant Colonel John Garang de Mabior was part of the conspiracy. He joined the rebelling battalions and led them to Ethiopia, where they came together with Anya Nya II.19

Supported by Ethiopian President Mengistu, Garang united the rebelling battalions with part of the Anya Nya into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Garang became the Commander-in-Chief. In June, the political wing of the SPLA, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) issued its Manifesto, calling for a secular, united New Sudan where all people would be treated equally. In September 1983, in a desperate bid to stay in power, Nimeiri imposed Shari’a [Islamic law]. In response many more southerners joined the SPLA.

Nuba and the SPLA
We now get to a very turbulent part of Nuba history, in which part of the Nuba engaged themselves in the war against the Government. Philip Abbas Ghaboush was probably the first link between the Nuba and the Southerners. He had remained in close contact with the Southern rebellion ever since the time of the first Anya Nya. Behind the scenes he recruited Nuba men and sent them to the Anya Nya II bases in Ethiopia. 

Daniel Kodi was another link with the Southerners. As member of the National Assembly after the 1981 elections, he soon established contacts with southern movements. Although Kodi was a member of Komolo he did not act as a Komolo representative in these contacts. Just like Philip Abbas, Kodi started sending people to the Anya Nya II. He also established contacts with the movement that would later become the SPLA. When the Bor mutiny took place, he was already aware of the conspiracy, probably through Lam Akol and Edward Lino. Lam Akol was active as a lecturer in Khartoum before he officially got into politics. At the same time he was an SPLM contact from the start – even before the founding of the Movement. Edward Lino was part of the same secret Khartoum cell recruiting intellectuals for the SPLM/A, with Peter Nyot. This cell became the nucleus for the SPLM office once John Garang had left for Ethiopia.20 In 1981, Kamil Kuwa was working in Libya, where he joined a small group of Southern Sudanese. Together they set up an office in Tripoli that was to become instrumental in channelling Muammar al-Gaddafi’s military support to the SPLA.

John Garang sent the 1983 SPLM Manifesto to Daniel Kodi, who seems to have inititated the discussion whether Komolo should collectively join the SPLM or not. Edward Lino went to Kadugli to see Yousif Kuwa, and they came to Khartoum together. In the house of Philip Abbas Ghabush Yousif Kuwa met with Lam Akol; Daniel Kodi and Abdel Aziz Adam al-Hilu. They discussed the Manifesto and the consequences of joining the armed struggle. Joining the SPLA might strengthen the Nuba position in their conflict with the Government of Sudan and what is more, the Komolo members did not believe an isolated rebellion in the Nuba Mountains could be sustained for long. Tthey considered the Movement as a means to draw international attention to their cause and at the same time, the vision of a New Sudan that John Garang proposed, a united country with equal opportunities for all, had great appeal to them. In the end, they decided that Yousif should go to Ethiopia to discuss the matter further with John Garang. Lam Akol drove him to the airport.

Yousif Kuwa met with John Garang and joined the Movement in 1984. He announced his decision on the SPLM radio, broadcasting form Ethiopia, and called upon all the Nuba to join the fight for freedom. Soon Telephone Kuku, Yunis Abd Sadr, Yousif Karra and Ouwad Al Karim followed him to Ethiopia. Not all Nuba were happy with Yousif Kuwa’s action. Some Komolo members felt that he had gone against the agreement that he would report back to them. They also seem to have felt confronted with a fait accompli: Yousif Kuwa’s announcement made any Nuba a suspect of having joined the rebellion. 21 Kuwa's first assignment was to head the SPLA Office in Yemen. The office had a similar function as the office in Tripoli. Since the Nuba were living in northern Sudan, John Garang quickly put Yousif Kuwa forward as evidence that the SPLA was not merely a Dinka or Southern movement. He started to address the Southern Sudanese to convince them that the SPLA was fighting for all the Sudanese. They listened to him. The former teacher soon became an alternate member of the SPLA's high command.

Coup Attempts
Komolo members were involved in several coup attempts. In 1983, there was one involving Ismael Khamis, Mudir Batallah Kapitulek, and Yunis Abd Sadr. And in 1984, Philip Abbas and Daniel Kodi participated in another attempt. In both instances, the plot was discovered. The conspirators were only imprisoned for brief periods of time. After his exposure, Daniel Kodi went to Ethiopia and was appointed to the SPLM Office in Addis Ababa.

IX. War in the Nuba Mountains (1985 - 2002)

In 1985, Nimeiri was overthrown by Lieutenant General Suar al-Dahab. He announced a return to democracy after a transitional period of one year. Following parliamentary elections in 1986, Sadiq al-Mahdi formed a number of coalition governments that were unable to solve the problems of the country.

In Khartoum
During the transitional period, Philip Abbas staged another coup, with Ismael Khamis, Mudir Batallah, and Yunis Abd Sadr. It failed. After a brief imprisonment, Khamis, Batallah and Abd Sadr left to join the SPLA. Philip Abbas participatde in the elections with his Sudan National Party, which gained eight seats, including the constituency of Al-Hadj Yusif in Omdurman. The SNP worked together with the Southern opposition in the Union of Sudan African Parties. The Nuba politicians of different parties could not agree on a united Nuba policy. H.A. Kadouf  remembers:
Each had its own hidden political agenda… I knew off hand that all of these parties were fused with members from clandestine Nuba societies such as: Komolo and Nahnu Kadugli. Some of the Nuba youth were strangely enough with the Arab socialists etc… It was proved later that some of these young Nuba intellectuals… were driven more by their own political ideologies than by any common Nuba political interest.22

The Misseriya Baggara in Kordofan had been buying arms since 1983, and were raiding Dinka communities with impunity in Kordofan and Abyei. But by 1985, SPLA task forces were active in the Bahr al-Ghazal. One of those forces followed a group of Misseriya raiders to al-Gardud on the Southern outskirts of the Nuba Mountains and killed 60 of the Baggara. Around that time, Defence Minister General Fadlallah Burma Nassir, himself a Misseriya Zuruq, started to arm the Baggara, turning them into militias known as Murahaliin. Soon the Murahaliin used their guns to intimidate the Nuba population. Robbery and violent attacks became common practice in the Western Mountains. So when a small SPLA task force entered the Mountains in 1986, to recruit among the young men, many were eager to join.

Rather than trying to end the violence in Southern Kordofan, Sadiq al-Mahdi’s Government armed and organised the Hawazma also. The army started to take part in the fighting. As early as January 1986, it attacked people and villages suspected of SPLA sympathies. The first direct clashes with the SPLA took place in June 1987, when the Volcano Battalion, headed by Yousif Kuwa, entered the Nuba Mountains. The incursion led to more violence by Murahaliin and Government army.

New Kush
Abdel Aziz al-Hilu and Yousif Kuwa assembled large groups of recruits and sent them to the SPLA training centres in Ethiopia. The first groups walked for three months to get there. During 1988, the Government army targeted villages known to have sent recruits to the SPLA. (De Waal and Ajawin) The recruits returned in 1989, as the New Kush Brigade. Entering from the south the SPLA turned toward Kadugli, the main town in Southern Kordofan. The SPLA established itself in a large part of the Nuba Mountains and stayed. The Government launched campaigns against villages where the SPLA had been reported to be.

The soldiers of the New Kush Brigade were ‘no angels’ either. Some of them rampaged against the Nuba population. The worst offenders were court-marshalled and executed. (Kuwa) SPLA soldiers would usually kill any captured Government soldier. (De Waal and Ajawin) Arab civilians were targeted too. In Moro several Jellaba were killed, some of whom were married to Moro women. (Mohamed Salih) Mechanised farms were attacked, Jellaba were ambushed and killed. The SPLA attacked Hawazma villages, forcing the civilian population to seek the safety of the towns.23

Violence, isolation, poverty
On June 30, 1989, Colonel Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir took power in Khartoum. He agreed to a cease fire with the South and allowed the United Nations to bring aid to the civilian population in the areas under SPLM administration (Operation Lifeline Sudan).The Nuba Mountains, however, were excluded from the arrangement. Instead, al-Bashir legalised the Murahaliin and brought them under Government authority as the Popular Defence Forces (PDF). The fighting escalated into all-out war. The Government army and the PDF continued to burn villages; destroy crops and kill people. They deliberately targeted the educated Nuba. Members of Komolo were persecuted. Relatives of known SPLA leaders disappeared.

Schools were closed. Medical care was no longer available. The farms in the plains were abandoned. Drought and violence combined to cause severe famine from 1990-1993. Thousands of people died of hunger. The Nuba in the SPLA controlled area were largely cut off from the outside world. People would still find ways to travel to Khartoum,24 but trade came to a halt and extreme poverty was the result. Civilians were taken from their villages to so-called Peace Camps, were many were kept against their will. Others went to the camps voluntarily in the hope of getting some food, clothes, medical treatment, or education for their children. People who returned from the Government area would often be treated with suspicion by the SPLA.

Government controlled areas
The civilian population under Government control also suffered. Many people were displaced, either to the larger towns in South Kordofan, like Kadugli and Dilling, or to El Obeid, Omdurman and Khartoum. Grain production was low, and the draught during the early 1990s, touched everyone. In general, however, the Nuba in the Government area were better off than those in the SPLA area. Health care and education, though very poor, were at least available. Government garrison towns and Peace Camps received food relief from the UN, which was not allowed to the SPLA area. The people had some basic commodities. Insecurity was less in the Government areas. SPLA soldiers sometimes raided for cattle in nearby 'enemy' villages, but after 1993, for lack of ammunition, the SPLA launched only one large attack, in 1998.25  In contrast the Government army mounted large scale campaigns against the SPLA every dry season.

In between the parties
From the beginning of the war in the Nuba Mountains, Baggara traders smuggled people and commodities from the Government area into the SPLM area. Government officers were bribed. In 1993, the Misseriya realised that they were victims of the war like the Nuba. They signed the Buram agreement with the Nuba. In exchange for grain and cattle, Baggara traders brought salt, clothes, and medicine. This continued until the end of 1993, when government troops took Buram. The 1995 Regifi Agreement closely followed the previous accord. In 1996, the Nuba concluded the Kain Agreement with the Rawawga who even brought ammunition to the SPLA.26

Nuba against Nuba
A growing sense of common Nuba identity has not yet replaced tribal allegiances. The Nuba peoples had different experiences throughout the centuries. Different levels of education, of economic development, of arabisation, etc., give them different outlooks on life. This was reflected in the situation in the Nuba Mountains during the war. Nuba politicians, chiefs, and officials worked with or for the Government all through the war. Were they corrupted opportunists, replacing the Nuba of integrity who had been killed or chased? (De Waal and Ajawin) Did they fear the Government? Were the Nuba who joined the Government army just poor brainwashed sods looking for money, as the SPLA officers used to claim? Or did they have very different ideas about their place in Sudan than the Nuba who joined the SPLA? Judging from the outcome of the Gubernatorial and State elections of May 2011, the population was and has remained devided on the question whom they entrust their future most, with an edge for the SPLM in popular support (and a much wider margin if only the Nuba people were taken into consideration) but not in the numbers of representatives (see below).

Yousif Kuwa
Shortly after the SPLA had occupied, or liberated, large areas in the Nuba Mountain, Yousif Kuwa began to develop a civil administration, from village level upwards to the whole region under his command. However, in 1991, two members of the SPLA High Command, Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon and Lam Akol Ajawin, tried to oust John Garang from the SPLA leadership. The coup failed, Machar and Akol broke away from the SPLA and continued as the Nasir Faction. Suddenly the SPLA troops in the Nuba Mountains became isolated from the South. Supplies no longer reached the Mountains, and Yousif Kuwa faced a mutiny among his officers.

Considering the near hopelessness of the situation he decided to consult the Nuba people. In 1992, he called together representatives of all segments of the population and asked them whether they wanted to surrender, or continue to fight. The Advisory Council voted in favour of fighting. The Council became a permanent institution that discussed many social and political developments, passing recommendations to a legislative council that turned them into guidelines for the civil administration.

The SPLA held on to large parts of the Mountains. Although the violence never stopped the parties fought each other to a standstill. This changed after 1998, when Yousif Kuwa was diagnosed with cancer. Treatment kept him away for long periods of time, leaving command to deputies who were not quite up to the task of securing the area. They did not have Kuwa's political skills and personal charisma. Meanwhile logistical support from the SPLA in the South remained bad. Large areas were lost to the Government army, and the number of internally displaced persons grew dramatically.27

Relief and international pressure
Kuwa and several other prominent Nuba were frequently travelling abroad to raise awareness about the war in the Nuba Mountains. They met with parliamentarians, human rights activists, aid organisations, journalists, etc. Dr. Suleiman Musa Rahhal, co-founder of Nuba Mountains Solidarity Abroad, tried relentlessly to stir western governments into acting against eradication of the Nuba. Neroun Philip, head of Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Society (later NRRDO), managed to convince several large NGO's that the humanitarian crisis in the Mountains was urgent enough to ignore the flight ban and assist the people in the SPLA controlled areas.

In 1999, a UN assessment team investigated the needs of the Nuba people on both sides of the demarcation line. Despite growing pressure on the Sudanese Government, relief was not allowed to be flown in until November 2001. Earlier that year, the US had committed itself to what it hoped would be a final effort to restore peace to Sudan. Special envoy John Danforth called a Nuba Mountains cease fire crucial for his plan to build confidence between the Government and the SPLM. Yousif Kuwa did not live to see this development: he died on March 31, 2001.

X. Peace

Nuba Mountains Cease Fire Agreement
In January 2002, the Government of Sudan and the SPLA/Nuba agreed on a cease fire under international monitoring that went into effect on January 21. For the SPLA It had been negotiated by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu, Daniel Kodi, Neroun Philip, and two Southerners. Mutrif Siddiq Ali Nimeiri was heading the Government team. Hostilities were suspended; restrictions on relief flights were lifted. People of both sides were allowed to travel freely throughout the whole area. NGO's started to clear landmines, to strike water holes, to provide medical assistance, etc. Many agricultural, economic and social development projects were initiated to restore the enormous damage the people suffered from the war. The progress was not as fast as people had expected, but compared to the period of war, life in the Nuba Mountains became considerably better.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
The number of Nuba refugees outside Kordofan might be estimated as high as one million by the end of 2001. 300,000 IDPs returned to Southern Kordofan between 2002 and 2004.28 However, many people remained cautious: they prefered to wait and see how the situation in Southern Kordofan would develop. Others returned to Khartoum when they failed to find basic services in the Nuba Mountains, like clean water, education, and health care. In 2008, the IDPs became an important issue for the SPLM during the national census. Then Deputy Governor Daniel Kodi called for a boycot of the census arguing that it would not be representative when a large part of the IDPs had not yet returned to South Kordofan. It became clear that without the return of more IDPs, the Nuba might even be outnumbered in the State after the 2004 Comprehensive Peace Agreement amalgamated Misseriya-dominated West Kordofan to South Kordofan.

Comprehensive Peace Agreement
The cease fire in the Nuba Mountains was renewed several times while the Government and the SPLM were being pushed hard by the mediating countries and organisations to reach an accord. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was finally signed on December 31, 2004. It entailed protocols for power and wealth sharing, a time path to Presidential and General elections and provided for a referendum on independence in Southern Sudan. Both parties did pledge to work towards making unity attractive.

The future of the Nuba Mountains was one of the last issues to be resolved. The Protocol on the Resolution of Conflict in Southern Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile States was not half as detailed as the Nuba (or the people of Blue Nile for that matter) had hoped it would be. Although it gave the Nuba a certain share in National wealth and National representation, it did not include a referendum on where the Nuba wanted to belong in case the South would secede: to the North or to the South (or to an independent state). Important issues, like land ownership, measure of autonomy, or freedom of religion, were left to be resolved in later procedures.

No right of self-determination
The demand for self-determination had been voiced by all Nuba opposing the Government, no matter how deep the political or personal differences. Inside or outside the SPLM/A: they all wanted a chance for the Nuba people to decide upon their own future. The fact that the SPLM/A leadership - mandated to negotiate on behalf of the Nuba during the All Nuba Conference in Kauda in 2002 - did not insist on Nuba self-determination in spite of earlier pledges, left a deep scar. Many felt the SPLM/A had sold the Nuba short. They feared that the Southerners would not seriously try to keep the country together and that secession of the South would only put the Nuba in the middle of more conflicts. Even Nuba leaders like Abdel Aziz al-Hilu or Daniel Kodi, who were on the CPA negotiating team, made it clear that they were extremely unhappy with the outcome.

The importance of the Nuba soldiers for the fighting force of the SPLA will be acknowledged by most people in the SPLA. And the credibility of the SPLM's aspirations as a national movement depended not to a small degree on the participation of the Nuba. In this light it is difficult to understand why the leading Nuba in the SPLA who were directly involved in policy making accepted that the SPLM/A, contrary to the Government of Sudan, never made Nuba self-determination a breaking point in any negotiations. Not in the NDA meeting in Asmara in 1995, not in the IGAD negotiations during the following years, and eventually not in the Naivasha peace talks. Perhaps initially the Nuba leaders in the SPLM/A were not adamant about self-determination because they believed that the Government of Sudan would fall sooner or later, and the SPLM/A could dictate the terms for peace. But as this optimistic scenario was becoming less likely, they did stress the importance of self-determination with John Garang, when he visited the First All Nuba Conference in Kauda, in 2002. Because of Garang's promises to 'include the Nuba', they mandated the SPLM/A to represent them during the peace negotions. But their aspirations were not met.

At the 2004 CPA negotiations in Naivasha the Nuba issue, together with that of Blue Nile and Abyei, was being pushed towards the final stage of negotiating. It remained one of the last issues to be resolved. Right until the end, the Nuba might still have gotten self-determination, or not. Eventually the Government stuck to its refusal and self-determination for Abyei was traded off against the guarantee that neither Nuba Mountains or Blue Nile could leave the North in case the South would secede. One can speculate that John Garang told the Nuba negotiators that 'this was the best we can do', and promised to do everything in his power as Sudan's Vice-President and as the potential next President to improve the conditions of the agreement of the Nuba and Blue Nile through the process of popular consultation. Then it was up to the Nuba and the people of Blue Nile to blow up the negotiations or sign. They signed, and a few months later, John Garang died in a helicopter crash and almost overnight, the priorities of the SPLM/A were with the South more than with the whole of the country.

Elections and Popular Consultation
The Protocol for Southern Kordofan would only have become final when it had been endorsed by the elected members of the State Assembly. A ‘popular consultation’ would take place after the National and Regional elections, scheduled for 2009. Following this consultation, the representatives in the Southern Kordofan Assembly would have the right to either endorse the agreement as it had been drawn up in Naivasha, or to renegotiate it with the elected Central Government. This rather complex arrangement made the outcome of the elections of particular importance to the contesting parties: the winner of the elections in South Kordofan would get a chance to reform the Protocol - provided that the National Government were inclined to accommodate such reforms. As a consequence, demographics became a major concern in South Kordofan while state politics took on the aspect of a prolonged election campaign with predominantly negative overtones.

In preparation of the elections, a national census was held in April 2008. Deputy Governor Daniel Kodi initially announced a boycott of the census in South Kordofan that he later revoked, only to claim afterwards that the exercise had failed. Reasons for the boycott included insecurity in the State, insufficient efforts to accommodate IDPs, and a lack of census forms in the English language. In response to the SPLM objections a new census was conducted in South Kordofan in June 2010. The results significantly increased the 1,406,404 count recorded by the disputed census to 2,508,268 persons. Accordingly, the Khartoum-based National Elections Commission (NEC), which administers the elections, redrew geographic constituencies in November and December 2010, dividing the state into 32 geographic constituencies that generally favoured the National Congress Party of President al-Beshir by creating relatively small constituencies likely to vote NCP and relatively large constituencies voting SPLM.

Slow implementation of the CPA
During the interim period, the South Kordofan State Assembly existed of appointed members, 45% of whom are of the SPLM, and 55% are of the NCP. They struggled to draw up a State Constitution, and pass the necessary State Legislation to ensure orderly administration. The process of implementing the CPA was constantly delayed for a number of reasons, causing a lot of frustration with both the representatives and the population. Some modest progress was made in the formation of Joint Integrated Units of Government and SPLA forces. Recruitment and training started for a joint police force that would be deployed throughout Southern Kordofan. Administrative integration never materialised, de facto continuing the separated spheres of influence of the Government and the SPLM, including check points on the roads leading from one area to the other. People did move relatively freely, economic activity grew and more and more Nuba people returned to their homes.

Development of the war-ravaged state however, was stalled by political rivalry. According to the CPA, the governorship was to rotate between the SPLM and the NCP and Ismael Khamis Jelab took the first turn for the SPLM. He did not succeed in securing the funds from Khartoum required to start rebuilding the area or restore basic services to the population. Towards the end of his governorship, he was replaced by Daniel Kodi. Governorship rotated to the NCP and Kodi became Vice-Governor. His performance was such that the SPLM Security Council of South Kordofan impeached him. He was replaced by Abdel Aziz Adam al Hilu. In response, the NCP appointed Ahmed Mohamed Haroun - indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity perpetrated in Darfur - as Governor of South Kordofan. Suddenly, all funds for reconstruction were released: roads were being constructed, hospitals built, airlines opened.

Meanwhile, a long-awaited referendum on unity or independence took place in South Sudan in January 2011. The overwhelming majority of the population (99%) voted for secession. The implications for the Nuba in the SPLM were clear: from now on they were 'a problem of the North'.

The election process

Voter registration
In an atmosphere of mutual distrust, voter registration in South Kordofan took place from Jan. 20 to Feb. 12, 2011. The Carter Center, as observing party to the elections, noted "several shortcomings that hurt the inclusiveness and integrity of voter registration and resulted in low turnout. This included the failure of the National Elections Commission's (NEC) to devote sufficient registration teams to conduct a comprehensive voter registration process and create a new registry, and the lack of appropriate voter education to ensure participation of all eligible voters. [...] According to the NEC, some 642,555 people registered, approximately 100,000 fewer voters than during the April 2010 elections." According to the Carter Center, this did not compromise the integrity of the overall process.

Elections and results
Elections were conducted on May 2, 2011. There were three candidates for the Governorship: incumbent Governor Ahmed Mohamed Haroun, incumbent Deputy-Governor Abdel Aziz Adam al-Hilu and SPLA commander Telefon Kuku abu Jalha, the latter being held prisoner by the SPLA in Juba. The Sudanese Group for Democracy and Elections (SuGDE) that witnessed the election process, reported only minor irregularities in their South Kordofan Elections Statement of 12 May, 2011. This was corroborated by the Carter Center that said that "despite a climate of heightened insecurity and instances of procedural irregularities that removed an important safeguard of the process, South Kordofan’s elections were generally peaceful and credible. The voting, counting, and results aggregation processes were conducted in a nonpartisan and transparent manner under intense scrutiny from leading political parties."

The final outcome of the elections showed a shallow lead for Haroun of 6,000 votes over al-Hilu. Telefon Kuku, who had had no chance to campaign in person, only attracted a small number of voters. The popular vote was in favour of the SPLM, however, only 10 out of 32 constituencies went to the SPLM. SPLM claimed fraud during the tally and tabulation procedure but, according to the Carter Center, " these claims were mostly unsubstantiated, they proved impossible to investigate and were thus dismissed by the SHEC [State High Election Commission, NotE]". The Carter Center also called the elections "generally peaceful and credible". The SPLM refused to accept the outcome and declined an invitation by Governor Haroun to negotiate a power-sharing agreement.

A Rift Valley report of August 2011, two months after the renewed outbreak of war, raised questions about the validity of the election process. It does not document proof that the election results were manipulated, it does show that they could have been manipulated.

XI. Return to War (2011- )

Preparations for war
Without any prospect of a peaceful solution, both the Sudan Government and the SPLA prepared for the inevitable confrontation. On May 23, 2011, The Government of Sudan sent an ultimatum to the SPLM/A in Juba that all SPLA soldiers should withdraw south of the 1956 North-South border before June 1, 2011. The SPLA stated that as the Nuba soldiers were not Southern Sudanese, it saw no ground to recall them: they belong to North Sudan. SAF started amassing troops into South Kordofan while Nuba fighters in the SPLA stationed just across the border in South Sudan returned to their home areas.

It is important to note that during the transition period, the Nuba fighters in the SPLA continued to belong to the SPLA proper: their salaries and equipment came from Juba. This is significant because it allowed for several years of military reinforcements in terms of training and materiel that reduced SAF's military advantage to the use of air support - a means that it continues to deploy frequently and indiscriminately.

Outbreak of violence
On June 5, 2011, fighting broke out in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan. According to the SPLA, Government troops progressed to disarm SPLA soldiers in the JIU who offered resistance leading to the onset of conflict. According to the Government, conflict started when SPLA soldiers attacked a police station. In the following hours and days, fighting erupted in many places in South Kordofan. Kadugli was worst hit, with SAF and security forces allegedly combing the city door to door in search of known SPLM/A sympathisers. Summary executions have been reported as well as targeted attacks on community leaders.

It soon became clear that the SPLA (hence on known as SPLA-North, or SPLA-N) was well prepared: it took control of large parts of the rural areas and pinned down SAF in Kadugli. However, the Government sent more reinforcements and managed to stay in control of the larger towns and the roads leading from El Obeid to Dilling and Kadugli. Fierce battles were fought over strategic towns like Buram and Talodi but the Government remained in control of these places. Thus far (November 2014) neither party has gained a definitive edge but the military balance is far more even in terms of materiel and logistics than it ever was during the previous war in the Nuba Mountains.

Sudan Revolutionary Front
Little more than a month after the outbreak of violence in South Kordofan, Southern Sudan became an independent Republic. Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Beshir attended the official ceremony in Juba on July 9, 2011. Kind words were spoken but no one believed that the two Sudans would be friendly neighbours any time soon. Too many issues were unresolved, including border demarcation, the status of Abyei, oil transportation fees, and of course the position of the SPLM/A in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Officially Juba severed all ties with their former political and military allies but Khartoum insists until today that the SPLM/A-N continues to receive support from South Sudan. By the looks of it, Sudan and South Sudan have perpetuated their conflict by proxy, with Sudan supporting armed uprisings in South Sudan agains the SPLM/A and South Sudan supporting the SPLM/A-N against the Government of Sudan.

On September 1, 2011, the Blue Nile state too became a theatre of war. Although the elections in Blue Nile had been favourable for the SPLM in so far as that its candidate Malik Agar had been elected Governor tensions had been mounting, as Malik Agar was heading the SPLM-N political party that was already bound up in conflict in South Kordofan. SAF and SPLA-N engaged in fierce fighting over Damazin and on September 2, 2011, Agar was relieved from his function as Governor of Blue Nile.

In November 2011, SPLM-N and JEM, the Justice and Equality Movement from Darfur that has been fighting the Government of Sudan for years and had staged a daring attack on Khartoum in 2008, signed an agreement officially joining their forces under the command of Abdel Aziz al-Hilu. JEM and SPLM-N had already conducted several successful joint or co-ordinated operations in South Kordofan but now they announced the formation of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) that strives for a national agenda of change with the aim of toppling the regime of President al-Beshir. The combined SPLA-N and JEM forces have been on the offensive ever since, capturing some towns, occupying others only briefly, but always appearing one step ahead of the Sudan Armed Forces. The brief occupation of Abu Karshola in May 2013, triggered the Government of Sudan into conducting a nationwide campaign to enlist volunteers into the army and the Popular Defence Forces (PDF).

Displaced population
Hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of South Kordofan, many of whom had only recently returned to their homes, have been leaving the contested areas in a steady flow of refugees both to northern cities like El Obeid and Khartoum and towards South Sudan, where the refugee centre in Yida soon became overcrowded. Indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas from Sudan Air Force's Antonovs caused the population to abandon their homes in the plains and look for cover up the mountains where caves might provide some shelter. As a result from the conflict and the bombing campaign, agricultural activity was severely limited, resulting in insufficient harvests and widespread food insecurity.

No humanitarian access
Much like during the previous war, humanitarian organisations that could alleviate the suffering of the affected communities do not have official access to the SPLA-N areas. Any negotiations over humanitarian access have been subordinated to political and strategic issues by both the Government and the SPLM-N. The Government insist that any assistance to the SPLM-N areas would be overseen by Government officials so that it would not benefit the SPLA-N fighters, while the SPLM-N demands that any humanitarian assistance would only arrive from areas not under Government control, to make sure no Government spies disguised as humanitarians can enter the SPLA-N territory.

Peace negotiations
Between the SRF proclaimed goal of capturing Khartoum to oust President al-Beshir and the Governments promise to crush the rebellion once and for all, there is little room for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Whether perceived as local ( the Nuba supporters of SPLM-N claim a larger share in power), national (wealth and power sharing between centre and periphery is unequal) or international (the Nuba are caught up in a Kashmir-like situation between North and South Sudan), the mutual distrust seems too deep to be overcome by even the staunchest of international mediation efforts. Nonetheless, The African Union High-level Implimentation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP) that oversees the implementation of the agreements between Sudan an South Sudan, also sponsors negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the SPLM-N that should lead to a political solution.

History, part I
History, part II


1. Beshir, M.O.: The Southern Sudan, Background to Conflict. 1968
2. Ibid.
3. Iten, O. :Fungor, Ein Nuba Dorf wird ruiniert, 1983
4. Simeon, J.L.: Butrus Tia Shukai, 1931 to 1985; story submitted in 2003 to the Dictionary of African Christian Biography: www.dacb.org
5. Stevenson, A.C.: The Nuba People of Kordofan Province, 1984
6. Yousif Kuwa interviewed by  Stephen Amin: "Life is a school and with great lessons" Africanews Issue 61, April 2001
7. Baumann, G.: National Integration and Local Integrity, the Miri of the Nuba Mountains in the Sudan, 1987
8. Mohamed Salih, M.A.: Generation and Migration: Identity Crisis and Political Change among the Moro of the Nuba Mountains; GeoJournal 25.1 51-57, 1991
9. Baumann, 1987
10. Harragin, S.: Nuba Mountains Land and Natural Resources Study; Part I – Land Study, 2003.
11. Riefenstahl, L.: Die Nuba von Kau, 1976.
12. Baumann, 1987
13. Saavedra, M.: Ethnicity, resources and the central state: politics in the Nuba Mountains, 1950 to the 1990s; Kordofan Invaded, Peripheral and Social Transformation in Islamic Africa (Stiansen and Kevane ed.), 1998, pp.223-253.
14. Aguda, O.: Arabism and Pan-Arabism in Sudanese Politics; The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Jun., 1973), pp. 177-200
15. Kadouf , H.A.: Marginalization and Resistance: The Plight of the Nuba People; New Political Science, Volume 23, Number 1, 2001
16. De Waal, A. and Ajawin, Y.: Facing Genocide, the Nuba of Sudan, 1995. Marshall, M.G.: Conflict Trends in Africa, 1946-2004: A Macro-Comparative Perspective; CSP Centre for Systemic Peace. And: Gandul, I.G.: Reconciliation and local unity in Southern Kordofan , 5/15/2005 (sudaneseonline.com)
17. Harragin, 2003
18. Saavedra, 1998
19. Duany, W.: contribution the U.S. Institute of Peace Conference ‘Religion, Nationalism, and Peace in Sudan’ Tuesday, September 16, 1997. Also: Interview with John Garang in Heritage, Khartoum, Nov. 2, 9 and 16, 1987.
20. For the role of Dr. Lam Akol I relied on private correspondence between the author and K. Ajawin, brother to Joanis Ajawin and Lam Akol. Much of the information might be found in ‘Inside an African Revolution’ by L. Akol. Conformation of some of the events and additional information come from an Interview with Commander Edward Lino, Sudan Vision,  February 24, 2004
21. Everyone involved remarks that Yousif Kuwa was supposed to report on his meeting with John Garang. Only few people hinted at the consequences of his aparantly single handed decision to join the SPLA.
22. Kadouf, H.A.:  United We Stand and Divided We Fall; The Nuba Vision, Vol. 1, Issue 1, June 2001
23. Adam, Biraima M.: contribution to the Wikipedia. Also: private correspondence with the author, 2007.
24. As Timo, my guide in 2000, told me: “Khartoum is in our blood”.
25. Next Year in Kadugli; Africa Confidential January 1998, Vol 39 No 1
26. Suliman, M.:  The Nuba conflict in the Sudan; Institute for African Alternatives (www.ifaanet.org)
27. NRRDO: Emergency Report on Buram County, January 25, 2001.
28. International Organization for Migration: IDP Intentions Concerning Return to their Places of Origin;
Sample Survey; Khartoum, North, East, Central Sudan and Nuba, Khartoum, June 2005. Also: UNHC/NMPACT, Returnee Data Collection in Southern Kordofan at Five Entry Points, 1st May-3rd June, 2005.


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