Appointment of new Deputy Governor angers Nuba

By Nanne op 't Ende

July 5, 2007

Anger has flared up in the Nuba Mountains and spreads among the Nuba in diaspora over the appointment of Ismael Khamis Jelab as Deputy Governor.

Ismael Khamis Jelab is a Major General in the SPLA. For the past two years he has been the Governor of South Kordofan for the SPLM. Before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended the war in the Nuba Mountains, he was Deputy Governor of South Kordofan in the SPLM administered area, first under Yousif Kuwa Mekki, and later under Abdel Aziz Adam al Hilu.

The appointment of Ismael Khamis as Governor to South Kordofan in 2005 was not undisputed. Many believed he lacked the qualities to tackle the huge problems in South Kordofan, ranging from mutual distrust between the parties (NCP and SPLM) to continuous incidents of violence; from total lack of development to the need to integrate Sudan Armed Forces with SPLA forces.

Shortly after his appointment, Ismael Khamis faced an angry crowd of people opposing his Governorship. "I am not doing this for myself," he told them. "I want to work for the Nuba people. But I can only do that with your help. If you refuse me, I will step down. If you give me a chance, I will do everything in my power to secure a better future for the Nuba people." This turned the mood around. Briefly.

In April 2006, nearly a year after Ismael Khamis took office, few of the problems had been tackled, only a care-taker Government had been established. The distrust between NCP and SPLM made political progress impossible, leading to numerous problems in the daily running of the State (which is quite hard when no budgets have been determined) and growing frustrations among the SPLM supporters.

Now, in July 2007, the largest progress made so far would be the passing of the State Constitution by the Parliament. Over all development in the State is still meagre, and only few people displaced by the war return home. There still is no Joint Integrated Force to maintain security.; both parties have only reconfirmed their intention to form it according to the Protocols of the CPA.

The argument that all the delays are NCP tactics to discredit the SPLM Governorship, although not unfounded, could not take away the impression that Governor Ismael Khamis was not really up to the task of countering these tactics.

At the same time, many Nuba started to feel abandoned by the SPLM politicians in Khartoum, notably by First Vice President Salva Kiir, who did very little to back up Ismael Khamis. By pressing home, for example, the integration of armed forces and police forces in South Kordofan, by making sure funds for development would be released, Salva Kiir would have shown he had not forgotten the loyalty of the Nuba in the SPLA. Nothing of the sort happened.

In stead, First Vice President Salva Kiir allowed Governor Ismael Khamis Jelab to be appointed as the next Deputy Governor. Some believe he actually nominated Ismael Khamis, against the wishes of many leading Nuba, who preferred Daniel Kodi Angelo Comba (Federal Minister of Animal Resources and Fishery), and the Nuba SPLA soldiers, who had nominated Neroun Philip (South Kordofan State Minister of Water and Rural development) by a clear majority.

Many Nuba fear the appointment of the new Governor will lead to new violence.

The new Governor of South Kordofan, Omer Suleiman Adam is from the Misseriya - one of the Arab tribes in Kordofan. He comes from a town called Abu Zabad, North-West of Dilling. From being a teacher in Omdurman in the 1970s, he became one of the hardliners in the National Islamic Front, now the National Congress Party.

In 1995, African Rigths mentions Omer Sueliman Adam in connection to the forced relocation of civilians to so-called 'peace camps':

"In April 1991, the Peace and Resttlement Administration for South Kordofan was established. It was headed by Omer Suleiman Adam. In February 1992, Omer Suleiman declared that 22 "peace villages" had been prepared, for seventy thousand "returnees" from the SPLA. (The term "returnees" has since been used for all those enticed into government-held towns, abducted by government forces or living in SPLA-controlled areas overrun by the government.) He then spoke of plans for resettling 500,000 people - equivalent to the entire population in the areas controlled by the SPLA and in the rural areas contested between the SPLA and the government." (African Rights, Facing Genocide, the Nuba of Sudan, p.121)

Some Nuba consider Omer Suleiman Adam to be a leader of the Popular Defense Forces in South Kordofan, who were instrumental in destroying Nuba villages and driving people away from their homes. With this man as a Governor, who is going to protect the Nuba from the continuous violence by the Arab militias? they wonder, and few believe Ismael Khamis Jelab, who's Governorship is perceived as a failure, will be up to it.

The fact that Vice President Salva Kiir has not done anything to prevent the appointment of both Omer Suleiman Adam and Ismael Khamis Jelab, is a very grave dissappointment to the Nuba in the SPLM/A. In 2005, at the First Nuba Mountains Traditional Leaders Conference, the SPLM/A:

"assured the participants that the SPLM/A was now part of the Government and there would be no more support given to such illegal militia that had terrorised the population. There would now be a shared 'Joint Defence Board' and the north and south have equal responsibilities and powers on the Board. He also said that on the South Kordofan Security board there were equal powers between the Government and SPLM/A and that security issues concerning the state would be decided upon within the state." (Comprehensice Report of the First Traditional Leaders Conference in Nuba Mountains, Julud, 17th July - 22nd July 2005)

Two years later, security has not improved. Violent clashes between Nuba and Baggara are common, sometimes resulting in loss of life and destruction of property. Militias of Misseriya Arabs are still active in South Kordofan. In May the road between El Obeid and Kaduqli was blocked by SPLM supporters after militias had attacked a Nuba village leaving several people dead.

Nuba on their own

"It's a clear sign, and not only by Omer alBeshir," said one prominent member of the Nuba community. "The National Congres Party clearly aims at destabilising the whole area, so they can postpone the elections indefinitely. The NCP knows they would lose in South Kordofan. But the worst part is that Salva Kiir did nothing to prevent Omer Suleiman and Ismael Khamis to be appointed.

"It feels like a betrayel. We know John Garang would have never allowed someone like Omer Suleiman to become Governor of South Kordofan. He would have never let Ismael Khamis come back as Deputy Governor after such a failed Governorship. But Salva Kiir doesn't care. He thinks only about his position in the South. He has betrayed the vision of John Garang for a United Sudan. We Nuba are now completely on our own. "


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