Open letter to General Lazarus Sambeyweo from Nuba Civil Society Organisations, regarding the Machakos Protocol

to: General Lazarus Sambeyweo, Special Envoy to the IGAD on Peace in the Sudan
from: Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in the SPLM controlled areas of the Nuba Mountains (1)
subject: Clarification on Machakos Protocol Agreement between the Government of Sudan and SPLA/M

August 14th, 2002

In the context of the on-going negotiations brokered by IGAD we, the CSO representing the people of Nuba Mountains in SPLM areas, wish to express our concerns about some key issues regarding the future of the Nuba Mountains Regions. While welcoming and appreciating any efforts for ending the tragic and protracted conflict in Sudan, we would like the international community and all the stake-holders to be fully aware of the causes and nature of the conflict in Nuba Mountains and the aspirations of the Nuba people. Without understanding the root causes of the conflict and the aspirations of the Nuba people and hence addressing them comprehensively and sensitively, there would be a danger that this present window of opportunity for achieving a just, durable and sustainable peace in Sudan will be seriously jeopardized and your efforts and goodwill will be undermined.

Our main concern relates to the political future of the Nuba people and the people of Southern Blue Nile and Abyei which has become inextricably linked to international perceptions as to what are, or are not, the legitimate boundaries between “North and “South Sudan. In particular we are worried by what appears to be a growing assumption that the boundaries drawn at the time of independence in 1956 are still relevant to the current negotiations. It is essential that all stake-holders realize that any proposals which leave the people of the Nuba Mountains Southern Blue Nile and Abyei under the administrative jurisdi ction of the current NIF Regime (or any future unrepresentative government) in Khartoum can not hope to succeed in generating a durable peace or cessation of conflict.

We wish to draw your attention to Annex I of the final, revised United Nations Nuba Mountains Programme for Advancing Conflict Transformation as agreed upon by HAC, SRRA and all international partners in the recent historic meeting in Umm Sirdiba. This summarizes many of the key issues of the causes and nature of the conflict in Nuba Mountains and correctly highlights its political nature and the atrocities, which the Nuba people have suffered in their fights for freedom.

As the document states:

[A] significant proportion of the Nuba people would not be satisfied with a peace settlement at any price. It is assumed therefore that any successful negotiated settlement will have to include genuine and satisfactory improvements in terms of political representation, sustained and
equitable access to resources, and legal guarantees that Nuba societi es will have the freedom to express their identity on their own terms.

The key point now is that there is no longer any illusion that such “satisfactory improvements could realistically be achieved if the Nuba Mountains Region or Southern Blue Nile, were to become under the jurisdiction of the current Government of Sudan.

The reasons for our lack of trust in the Northern elite’s governments, especially the present regime, in Khartoum are well known and many. To highlight but a few of these policies: the overt fundamentalist nature of the NIF; the imposition of Islamic Sharia law and a fundamentalist type of Islam; its lack of any genuine democratization, linked to its clear Arabist, self-serving policies that expressly deny the right of self-expression or self identification; domination and control of national wealth and economic exploitation of the people they have impoverished, in addition to a catalogue of well documented human rights abuses against the Nuba including ethnic and cultural cleansing, genocide and massive dislocation of Nuba people from their motherland. The appalling conditions in which the vast majority of Nuba people currently trying to survive in the north (whether in the camps of Kordofan or the shanty towns of Khartoum) are further testimony to reality of the unacceptable tendencies of the northern regime.

The GoS may argue that the Nuba people are part of the North for several reasons. Firstly, because it is geographically located in the center of Sudan. Secondly, the majority of people are currently living in areas under the GoS control. Thirdly, around on third of the Nuba people are Muslim and their culture is closer to that of the
north. Fourthly, there is a significant number of Arabs living and moving through the region. Examining the GoS arguments deeper, Nubas connection to the north is unjustifiable. Though located in the center of Sudan, it borders directly connected with SPLM/A positions to the south. Though the majority of Nuba people are in GoS areas, most were displaced by GoS offensives (especially in the late 80s early 90s) and are living in refugee camps or impoverished in shantytowns outside of the region. Though one third are Muslim, they among the first to reject the GoS imposition of Sharia law and suffered the first GoS declared jihad in Sudan. The Nuba Muslim community is among the strongest advocates for religious tolerance and freedom and the promotion of cultural and ethnic diversity in the Nuba Mountains. Though there is a strong Arab influence, it is not positive. Nubas ethnic diversity in large part comes from being the last refuge on the Arab slave route. Our history is a story of political, ethnic, cultural and economic margnilization and exploitation by the Arab North.

Ethnically, culturally and socially the Nuba are much closer to the black African people of Southern Sudan and Southern Blue Nile than to the Northern Arabs who have marginalised the Nuba and other Africans for so long.

Specifically, the Nuba should be part of the South for the following main reasons:

  1. Nuba have been fighting under the SPLM/A since 1984 against Khartoum regimes.
  2. Common experience in armed struggle since 1975 under Anya-nya-2.
  3. Joint political struggle since 1965 under the umbrella of the then congress of the New Force s.
  4. Treated together under the closed District Ordinance from 19221947 by the condominium Rule.
  5. The Resolution of SPLM National convention 1994, that New Sudan is composed of five (5) Regions namely, Upper Nile, Equatoria, Bahar Ghazal, Southern Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile.
  6. Nuba Mountains Regional Congress Resolutions June 2002 to continue the struggle under SPLM/A.
  7. Marginalization and under development.
  8. Slavery and slave trade.
  9. Religious persecution.
  10. Ethnically and culturally all Africans. Versus Arab North.
  11. Geographical inter-relation and interconnection.
  12. Racial discrimination and social segregation.
  13. Continuous atrocities and human rights violations by GOS

The Nuba people cannot live in harmony and coexist peacefully with the peoples of the North. Our strong adherence to religious tolerance, our strong African cultural identity and traditions, and our keen interest in freedom of belief are in direct contrast and conflict with the intolerant, dominating, and exclusive culture of the Arabs in the North.

Therefore, the political future of the Nuba is inextricably linked to that of the people of Southern Sudan, Southern Blue Nile and Abyei in one Southern state that is secular, democratic and federated. Any attempt to de -link the Nuba from that of the South would run the risk of jeopardizing the whole peace process in the Sudan. This position has recently been unambiguously endorsed by the recent meeting of the Nuba Regional Congress in the Nuba Mountains last June where over 1,000 Nuba people participated.

Given these realities, we strongly urge the international community and other stakeholders in the current IGAD talks to consider very carefully the key issue of borders. It is vital that we work together to generate a durable opportunity for peace. That opportunity will be seriously undermined if Nuba Mountains, Abyei or Southern Blue Nile were to come under the administrative borders of the current NIF Regime in Khartoum.

With reference to Machakos Protocol signed on 20 th July 2002 between the GOS and SPLM/A under the auspices of the IGAD peace process, we understand that the aim is to resolve the outstanding issues and realization of a comprehensive peace in Sudan. With reference to part A (Agreed principles) point (1.3) of the protocol which reads that: ‘that the people of South Sudan have the right to self determination, inter -alia, through a referendum to determine their future status', the definition of the terms “People of South Sudan and the border between North and South, the people of Nuba Mountains Region should be included as part of the people of South Sudan for the purposes of the right of self-determination, interim period arrangements and to vote together as a block in the Referendum for either unity or cession.

We would like you to support our following position:

  1. The Nuba Mountains (and Southern Blue Nile and Abyei) should be administered as part of the Southern confederation during the interim period
  2. Though we unequivocally believe that the future of the Nuba people are part of the South, it is essential that the silent majority of the Nuba people living in the North will have the chance to express their preference, together with the rest of the Nuba on the following options:
    a. Whether to continue as part of the Southern state,
    b. Create an independent state, or
    c. Join the Northern state
  3. The referendum for self-determination for the Nuba shall take place within two to three years of the interim period
  4. If the Nuba people vote for continuation of the interim arrangements (in point 1 above), they will then all vote as a block on whether to affirm the interim confederal arrangements or opt for independence.

Yours faithfully,
Signed on behalf of the Civil Society Organisations in the Nuba Mountains

Mr Musa Abdul Bagi Fadul
Head of the Nuba Regional Congress

Dr Sawsan Mohmed Almakki
Nuba Women Association

Mr Musa Kuwa Mekkai
Komolo Transport

Mr Ali Abdel-Rhman
Youth Association

Mr Neroun Philip Ajo
Executive Director of NRRDO

Dr Abdalla Mansour
Professionals Association

Mr Ramadan Hassan Nimir
Workers Association

Dr Ahmed Abdel-Rahman Saeed
Policy Advisory Committee


Mr Alan Goulty, UK,
Envoy for peace in Sudan

Mr Jeff Millington, US,
Observer for IGAD peace process

Mr Halvor Ashjem, Norway,
Observer for the IGAD peace process

Mr Paola Imeral, Italy,
Observer for IGAD peace process

CDR Salva Kiir Mayar Diit
Deputy Chairman, SPLM and COGS, SPLA

DR John Garang de Mabior
Chairman, SPLM and C-in-C, SPLA

(1) Postal Address: C/O: NRRDO, Waiki Way, AACC Building, Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya,
Telephone: +254 2 448540, E-mail: