The uncertain future of the Nuba when South Sudan opts for independence in 2011 Referendum on Self Determination (RSD)

BY: Dr Justin Ambago Ramba, MD,

United Kingdom
NOV. 25, 2008 ( South Sudan Nation)

Three years have passed since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 which ended the 21 years of blood shed between the SPLM (South Sudan, Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile) and the Arab-dominated Islamic government of Khartoum. The Nuba mountains per the agreement is now being ruled during the six year interim period by a government of national unity formed by the National Congress Party (NCP) 52% and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) 48%.

Though relative peace has come to the region, it is still hard for the people of the Nuba Mountains to forget how they suffered in the hands of the Khartoum Islamic army and its pastoralist Arab militias, who practically mounted a war of racial cleansing against the Nuba.

When the people of the Nuba Mountains took up arms in 1984, their 10,000 strong men joined the ranks of the SPLM/A and fought side by side with their counter-parts from South Sudan and Southern Blue Nile throughout the liberation struggle with an ultimate goal of liberating the marginalised people of the Sudan under the banner of creating a “New Sudan”.

Unfortunately the peace agreement negotiations in Machakos and later in Naivasha took a different trend mostly due to the negative attitudes of the NIF/NCP government of Khartoum. In order to save the talks from collapsing, the mediators (US, Britain, Norway and others) had to dictate most of the protocols on the warring parties. .

Truly, it was unfortunate for the Sudanese people that some of the CPA protocols were forced on them which resulted in the entire truce been negotiated and signed in pieces, between the NIF/NCP led government of Khartoum and the four SPLM delegations each representing a geographical entity, this very move dealt the fatal blow to the dream of the “New Sudan” on which the Nuba people were betting.

The result was that South Sudan and Abyei were granted the right to self determination.  In fact the peace in the south was based on various "trade-offs" between the parties involved. For example, the southerners received the possibility of self-determination and seceding from the north, and Khartoum was allowed to maintain Sharia law in the north, while the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile, being both parts of the geographical north, received the right to what is known as the “Popular Consultation” to be held at the end of the six years interim period.

The CPA allows the SPLM/A to retain its army, train and transform it into a modern disciplined men and women. The SPLM soldiers are all located in south Sudan except for those who are members of the Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) which expected to form the nucleus for the future Sudanese Army should South vote for a united Sudan in the coming referendum. With this in mind, it means that there are several thousands of SPLA fighters who hail from the Nuba Mountains currently in the SPLA military barracks in south Sudan awaiting the results of the referendum and popular consultation expected take place in 2011.

Though the people of south Sudan are willing to accept a disciplined version of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) as a national non-partisan army, the weakness shown by the SPLM leadership in the first half of the interim period has shuttered the dreams of many and so many are now looking for salvation to come from outside the SPLM/NCP partnership, as both Parties have grossly failed the marginalized people.

The southerners believe that though the SPLM has proved to be corrupt, tribalistic and lacking a strong charismatic leadership, something they badly need at this crucial moment in their history, they also are quick to understand and hold Khartoum responsible for delaying the implementation of the various CPA protocols in keep with the time frames agreed upon. This has made the people to reconsider their already weak position on the unity of the Sudan.

It is now an open secret that the rift between the South and the North has even deepened the more. And if the referendum for self determination were to be conducted today, more than 90% of the Southerners would vote for Separation as confirmed recently by the SPLM Secretary General Comrade Pagan Amum.

We are now left with less than three years before the interim period ends and the future for maintaining the unity of the Sudan is bleaker than ever before, especially as far as the south Sudanese are concerned. The naked truth is that, people in the south have come to a very strong conviction that the Muslim Arabs of the north are not yet ready to accept a ”New United Sudan“, this now gives the upper hand of decision making to the die-hard traditional south Sudan nationalists to propagate for an independent state by the year 2011, as the right option which is also a constitutional right to opt for without any tangible opposition from the unionist camp.

While the people of the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile will have the right to “Popular Consultations” to determine their future status, it still remains quite ambiguous to so many as how effective is this so called “Popular Consultation'  actually going to help the Nuba people to realize their aspirations.

At this juncture, it can’t go without recognizing the fact that there are the Nuba and the Ingassana people who lived for over two decades under the SPLM rule in the liberated areas, who never ever thought for one minute that they would be again incorporated into the Arab Islamic north. There is a widely shared fear that if the South separates, the Nuba Mountains region will undergo serious problems, as there are some Nuba in the SPLM who may like to go with the South.

One thing for certain is that South Sudan is leaning towards Independence come the 2011 referendum, yet at the same time there are strong sentiments in the South to stand by the people of the Nuba Mountains, the Blue Nile and Darfur in their just struggle for liberation, equality and justice.

However, given the two decades history of joint struggle of the southerners and the Nuba, the wars of the Nuba shall remain the wars of South Sudan.

Unfortunately as it is the case in the south, the people of the Nuba Mountains are as well disappointed with the performance of the government of national unity in Kadugli. The expected peace dividends have not been forthcoming. These gross shortcomings have lead to lot of resentments amongst the inhabitants of the Nuba Mountains. And currently a good number of the Nuba intellectuals, academics, and members of the civic society are now openly voicing their disappointment with the CPA (Nuba Mountains). They clearly say that they were let down by the SPLM at CPA negotiations at Naivasha in 2005, thus depriving them from securing the right of the people of the Nuba Mountains to self determination in line with south Sudan and Abyei.

Nevertheless, with all the preceding arguments, I do not at any moment doubt the ability of the Nuba intellectuals and revolutionaries in drawing up a plan “B” before the end of the interim period which can be brought forward in the 'Popular Consultations” in 2011, where the people of the Nuba Mountains can make up their minds on one of these three options: either to remain part of the North, join the South or opt for a separate state in the central Sudan.

I think now it is high time that decisions on the future of the Nuba people be taken by the Nuba themselves and nowhere else but in the Nuba Mountains, not Juba, not Khartoum. All the people of the Nuba Mountains regardless of their political, religious, ethnic, or linguistic differences must leave all these differences behind them and come together to address the root causes to the regions problems. It can be done and it should be done, after all the Nuba Mountains is one of the natural resources-rich places in the Sudan besides its vast fertile agricultural land. END

N.B: The author of this article is a south Sudanese doctor living in the United Kingdom. He has worked  both as a junior doctor (Tegali al Abassiya– Dilling) and a Consultant Obstetrician & Gynecologist (Mother Bakhita Maternity Hospital, Dilling) in the Nuba Mountains between 1986 to 2004. He has had several unpleasant encounters with the brutal National Islamic Front government throughout his stay in the Nuba Mountains and have been labeled as persona non grata and made to leave the Nuba Mountains on several occasions, but kept coming back due to his deep love for the Nuba people and a dedication to contribute in their struggle against the Khartoum oppressors. He can be reached at:


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