Nobody wants to go back to war, but...
Implementation of the CPA in South Kordofan

By Nanne op 't Ende
Tilburg, Netherlands
May 31, 2006

While the eyes of the world are focused on the violence in Darfur, developments in South Kordofan and other marginalised areas may well turn out to be more destabilising to the peace in Sudan.


For many years, the Nuba Mountains were a front in the civil war that devastated Sudan. Part of the Nuba Mountains was controlled by the Government of Sudan (GoS); part was under control of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). In January 2002 the GoS and the SPLA agreed to a cease fire in the Nuba Mountains.

The cease fire held, and it formed the overture for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that was signed on January 9, 2005. This article deals with the delays and obstacles that prevent proper implementation of the CPA in South Kordofan.

The Nuba and the CPA

Initially the GoS refused to include the Nuba Mountains in the negotiations. The 2002 Memorandum of Understanding that formed the basis for negotiations to the CPA only mentioned a solution for the people of South Sudan. Because the SPLA had agreed to this arrangement, it had to spend a lot of leverage just to get the marginalised areas (Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Abyei) included in the CPA. This partly explains why the CPA is less favourable to the Nuba Mountains than to the South.

Then the GoS, well aware of its unpopularity among the Nuba, dissolved Western Kordofan State just before signing the CPA. The State territory AND the considerable Arab nomad population were added to South Kordofan.

Finally the parties settled for some half-way solution that was concluded in Naivasha as the Protocol between the GoS and the SPLM/A on the resolution of conflict in Southern Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile States. Abyei got its own protocol.

The Protocol for Southern Kordofan does not recognise the right of the Nuba for self-determination.

It does say that during three years following the signing of the Agreement, the National Congress Party (NCP) and the SPLM will share power in South Kordofan; they will pass an interim State constitution in parliament; form a State government to take care of business; and prepare for State and National elections in 2009. The elections will be followed by popular consultation, in which the representatives of the people will decide what happens next with South Kordofan.

Popular Consultation

So South Kordofan politics are all about the 2009 National and State elections, and the following popular consultation. What popular consultation actually is, depends on the outcome of the elections:

The State Legislature and the Presidency will both form commissions that evaluate the implementation of the CPA in South Kordofan. After the elections , the State Government and the National Government can make changes to the arrangements for South Kordofan based on the reports by both commissions. Then the South Kordofan Parliament votes on the (adapted) agreement. When the Parliament endorses the agreement, it becomes final; when the Parliament wants to change it first, it will have to start negotiations with the National Government.

This means that if either party wins both National and State elections, it can define the relationship between the Central Government and the State. In theory, this way the SPLM could even change the arrangement to include the right of the Nuba for self-determination.

The NCP and the CPA

In general the NCP isn't too keen on power sharing - it has agreed to the CPA under large pressure. The party also seems to have found a strategy to undermine the CPA without clearly violating it. In South Kordofan, the key is that many Nuba expected things to change with SPLM coming to power.

This makes it politically rewarding for the NCP in South Kordofan to obstruct the CPA rather than to implement it, especially during the SPLM Governorship. If the SPLM can't deliver the long anticipated development of infrastructure, public service and economy, supporters and party members will become frustrated. Part of this frustration will be turned against the SPLM.

Problems with implementation

It should therefore come as no surprise that the implementation of the CPA is not progressing well in South Kordofan. The most prominent issues:

1. No State constitution
Parliament has been on leave since the members were installed. Reason is an ongoing conflict between the two parties (NCP and SPLM) over the position of the Speaker of Parliament. Meanwhile South Kordofan has no constitution, which means Parliament can not determine budgets, it can not pass legislation and it can not control the Government.

2. Provisional Government
Ismael Khamis Jelab (SPLM) was sworn in as State Governor in September 2005. He could not present a care taker Government before March 2006, because the NCP refused to nominate their candidates. The Government can not be installed properly before Parliament has passed the constitution.

3. Blocked Budgets
The people in South Kordofan have no money to pay taxes, so most of the State's revenues have to come from the central Government in Khartoum. A considerable share of Sudan's total budget for development is reserved for South Kordofan; the State is also entitled to 2% of national oil revenues. Yet hardly any money reaches the State because Sudan's Ministries of Oil, of Finance, and of the Interior do not release the allocated budgets. All three Ministries are headed by the NCP.

4. Delayed Integration
Integrating South Kordofan's separate administrations is crucial for stability in the State. However, integration of the Civil Administration has to wait until Parliament has passed its Interim Constitution. Meanwhile the head of the State police refuses to recognise the SPLA police as a legitimate partner: integrating the two forces is out of the question.

The formation of a Joined/Integrated Military Unit is detailed in the security arrangements of the CPA. Three SPLA battalions have been waiting for half a year now to be integrated with soldiers of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), but according to the SPLA, SAF has not even begun selecting soldiers and officers. SAF commanders say the Integration is on schedule.

5. Hostilities
According to Governor Ismael Khamis Jelab, the security situation has improved. In the past two months no more incidents between the SAF and the SPLA have occurred. There are still clashes though between Arab nomads, organised in the Popular Defence Forces, and SPLM supporters. These conflicts remain a threat to peace and stability in the State.

6. Overt SAF presence
While the SPLA has called the majority of its soldiers to the barracks in accordance with the CPA, the SAF soldiers are still walking around armed and in uniform in every town in South Kordofan that used to be under their control. This overt presence has a negative impact on the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly. There are no official restrictions on political activities but people fear for repercussions.

Other problems

15 years of war have created or emphasised many differences between the Nuba from both sides. Religious differences, tribal differences and differences in mentality, just to mention a few. They might be overcome, if the parties start working together towards unity. As this is clearly not happening yet, these differences will only become the focus of election campaigns.

And let's not forget there are other inhabitants of South Kordofan besides the Nuba. The Arab nomads have been a party to the conflict. Al though the SPLM seems to downplay the nomads' share in the war itself, there is a lot of distrust between the Nuba and the nomads that goes beyond the age old rivalry over land and water.

Nuba leaders

It takes strong politicians to overcome such problems. In the late Yousif Kuwa the Nuba had a leader whose call for unity and tolerance was respected. He was also the type of tireless campaigner the Nuba need so badly. Who are the people that are taking on the challenge today?

Some prominent Nuba in the SPLM are:

Abdelaziz Adam al Hilu, political co-ordinator of the SPLM in North Sudan. Not a Nuba; he grew up in South Kordoan though and he was a driving force in the 1989 military campaign that gave the SPLA a strong position in the Nuba Mountains. He currently prepares the SPLM in the North for the 2009 elections; he is also a key person in the nomination of SPLM members for Sudan's Government. This puts him in a position to influence policy in favour of the Nuba, but it also makes him invisible to the Nuba people.

Ismael Khamis Jelab, Governor of Southern Kordofan. He was the second man behind Yousif Kuwa and then behind Abdelaziz al Hilu; the Governorship was a logical step. However, Ismael Khamis isn't perceived to unite and inspire the Nuba people quite as well. Fair or not: many Nuba are opposed to his Governorship.

Daniel Kodi Angelo Comba is the State Minister for Animal Resources and Fishery - a post below his intellectual and political capacities. Daniel Kodi is the most experienced Nuba politician for the SPLM. It appears however that health problems prevent him from taking a more prominent role.

The NCP doesn't have many prominent Nuba in its ranks. Ibrahim Mohamed Bellendia is the Speaker of the South Kordofan Assembly. 30 years ago he worked closely together with Yousif Kuwa and Daniel Kodi, but he never joined the SPLM/A. He believes it takes experience, relationships and money to rule - things he found with the NCP.

There are certainly capable, ambitious Nuba outside the SPLM (or the NCP), but at the moment none of them has the resources to play an important role. The only one to mention is Philip Abbas Gaboush, the leader of the United Sudan National Party. Father Philip is a famous Nuba politician, almost as critical of the SPLM as he is of the NCP. He is still passionate about the Nuba cause but he is also 84 years old.

None of these men seems to be able to unite the Nuba, and to inspire them to overcome the differences and the party rivalry. Maybe that would be an impossible thing to wish for?

Conclusion: towards elections

There are still three years left to go until the National and State elections. In that time anything can happen. There could be a break through in the working relationship between the NCP and the SPLM. New political leaders could come up to unite and inspire the Nuba people.

There could also be a clear tendency in the South towards unity, which would make it easier for the SPLM in the Nuba Mountains to convince the people that they didn't fight for nothing.

If nothing changes in the rivalry between the parties and if none of the Nuba leaders is able to transcend it, we can expect three more years of obstruction, three more years of frustration, increasingly tough political talk and - I fear - increasing violence. Let's just hope the parties make it to the National and State elections.

Campaigns will probably focus on the role of the SPLM in the country; on the question of who is to blame for the lack of development in South Kordofan; on land ownership; and on religion - Islamic law versus secularity. This won't help in any way to bring the people in South Kordofan together or to speed up development. More over: by not working together, the parties only achieve that one of them is going to be left empty handed - and that may not be an acceptable outcome.


The Nuba Mountains Homepage was made by Nanne op 't Ende.
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