The Risk of Rebellion in Kordofan

by Hafiz Mohammed

August 7, 2008

Yesterday it was reported in al Rayaam newspaper that there is a new rebellion in the Nuba mountains. In fact the rebellion has been going on for some time. Two months ago one of Sudan Liberation Movement’s commanders on a visit to London told me that they have been approached by a commander from the Nuba mountains asking them to supply him with arms. He refused to mention the name, but told me about the plans which include stockpiling arms and start training their members until 2011, when the South votes for secession they will start an armed struggle asking for self determination for the Nuba mountains.

This article explains the background to the rebellion and provides information about its leadership and aims.

Kordofan region is one of the most marginalized regions of Sudan, through in the modern history of Sudan it has made a huge contribution to the national economy of the country through its main economic activity, agriculture, producing oil seeds and gum Arabic. Many people from Kordofan fought in Sudan’s civil wars as low ranking soldiers. Even during the democratic period they only served as a mechanism to vote in the elites from the central riverain areas into government, especially DUP in the towns and Umma party in the rural areas. But the people of Kordofan never succeeded in having any of the problems facing them addressed by the government. These problems include lack of water, schools and health services. Their involvement in the economic activities was either as small farmers or as labourers for the big mechanised farms. These farms are mainly owned by people from the central Nile areas in the north of the country, and their creation usually resulted in dispossession of smallholder farmers. This policy, which started in the early 1970s, has resulted in a serious environmental impact on the whole region.

Kordofan suffers from lack of water especially in the northern part of the region the successive government in Khartoum failed to address this issue seriously. In the early 1980s the regional suffered from a severe drought that resulted in mass migration from the rural areas, especially in the northern part. Most of those villagers are still living as squatters around in main towns include the capital Khartoum.

People from some parts of the Nuba mountain in Southern Kordofan joined the Sudan Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the 1980s and they fought civil war for 20 years, which ended in 2005 by the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). However, most of the Nuba are not happy about what the got out of the peace agreement, namely the ‘Three Areas Protocol’ which some of them considered as a sell-out by the SPLM. According to the CPA South Kordofan State will have a government which shared between the National Congress Party (NCP) and the SPLM and the south will vote for self determination in 2011 but people on the Nuba mountains will only have a local consultations.

The state government has faced many difficulties from the start. This has been due to lack of understanding between the two main partners. It took them more than one year to agree on an interim state constitution. Now it is more than three years since the start of the interim period and the local people have not seen any dividends from the peace agreement. This is due to mismanagement and malpractice by all the parties in the government. Some of the areas which were occupied by SPLM before the agreement are still remaining under their control with the state government exercising no authority over them. Recently there were many clashes between some of the militias supported by the NCP and some elements from SPLM that led to insecurity in many areas. Continuing arms proliferation in the region represents a serious threat to many areas in the west and the east part of southern Kordofan.

The eastern part on southern Kordofan was very peaceful and secure during the wartime, but recently due to the rivalry between SPLM and NCP, the area has witnessed many violent conflict the most recent one was in June this year which cost more than fifteen lives. The SPLM and the NCP agreed to fully implement security arrangement by moving most of SPLA forces to the South and deploy the joint integrated units and police in the area. Some local NCP leaders have played the role of arming some Arab tribes in the area using some known tribal leaders. Those militias threaten the peace and stability in the region, which in turn led to the increase of banditry and armed robbery. Their main plan was to target farmers from non Arabs, The police in the eastern part of south Kordofan has received many reports of armed killing but has done nothing about them and failed to bring any of the perpetrators to justice. That let to big numbers of other tribes to join SPLA to get arms to protect themselves.

Yesterday’s newspaper report spoke of a new rebel group in South Kordofan led by someone called Al Balola. His full name (not given in the article) is Al Balola Hamid Abdel Bagi. He was a former army sergeant in the Sudanese army originally from the Arab tribe of Al Hawazma in Umm Barambita in the locality of Rashad. He started recruiting people from Um Barambita and the surrounding areas, and even though he is from an Arab tribe he has been targeting people from different tribes including Nuba (Kawalib), Arab (Aiadga and Hawazma) and others. At the same time he recruited people in Khartoum from different tribes and even some members of the SLA-Minni Minawi have joined them. Their movement is called SPLM/A-2. The have opened an office in al Amarat in Khartoum, which is a sign that they have financial backing. A senior source from SPLM in the Nuba Mountains said the group has the backing of Riak Machar the Vice President of Southern Sudan government and the deputy leader of SPLM.

The security forces have started cracking them down by arresting some of the recruits and that let to them abandoning their Khartoum office today, but the recruitment is still going on in the Nuba mountains. Al Balola is capitalising of the extent of disappointment and dissolution among people of the Nuba mountains, especially the youth who are graduates, that is caused by the lack of development, with unemployment rate among the youth is over 90%. They have seen no changes in the living standard since the signing of the CPA. South Kordofan gets around 2% of the oil revenue according to the CPA Wealth-Sharing Protocol, and this amount is supposed to be used for development. There is no sign of development. At the same time the region is not able to pay the salaries of the teachers and this has lead to the loss of more than half of the school terms in the last few years as the teachers have to resort to other activities to survive.

The problem of south Kordofan is not lack of resources but corruption and mismanagement by the two main partners in the state government. The SPLM and the NCP have deliberately chosen people who are not fit to run government offices. They main using whatever means to create a political support base at any cost. The current governor is a militia leader and the commissioner of Rashad locality is a militia leader also.

North Kordofan was peaceful during the twenty years of wars in south Kordofan, but for that last three years some military movements have been established in the region. This was due to many reasons. The main one is marginalisation and lack of development which the region has been suffering from for many years. The second factor is the armed conflict in the neighbouring region of Darfur as some of the armed movements in Darfur decided to widen the war by moving it east. Especially the Justice and Equality movement led by Dr Khalil Ibrahim has done this. Khalil selected his deputy from Kordofan and started talking about the link between the problems in Darfur and Kordofan. There are indeed similarities between the problems in the two regions which are marginalisation and luck of basic services and development.

North Kordofan has also seen the birth of some local armed movements. The first one was the Kordofan Alliance for Development. The recent one is Kordofan Youths.

The problems in Kordofan represent a recipe for disaster. It needs genuine efforts from all the parties to prevent the region from descending into violence.


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