The conflict in South Kordofan andthe Blue Nile states have displaced and killed thousands of people, morespecifically 250,000 people havebeen displaced from the Nuba mountains since mid-2011 (UNHCR, 2016) manyof whom escaping to Ethiopia (Radio Dabanga, 2017). This fighting broke out inthe onset of South Sudan’s independence, starting in South Kordofan andspreading to the neighbouring Blue Nile state when the government of Sudan began a crusade to defeat the SudanRevolutionary Front, who wanted to overthrow the government of President Omaral-Bashir and replace it with a democracy. The SRF, led by the SPLM-N,comprises of an alliance with Darfuri rebel groups, including the Justice andEquality Movement, the Sudan Liberation Army Abdul Wahid, the Sudan LiberationArmy Minni Minnawai, and the United People’s Front for Liberation and Justice, thuscreating a national agenda (Sudan Tribune, 2013). It is therefore important toconsider that this conflict is inextricably linked with the War in Darfur.
I will focus on the trajectory and impacts of thisconflict and explorewhy the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states between the government of Sudanand the Sudan Revolutionary Front is stuck in a stalemate in order to conclude that this armed struggleis a repeat of past conflicts – the same issues manifestingthemselves in a different form. South Kordofan is home to apopulation that is demographically diverse in terms of ethnicity and religion (ARC,2016). This divide is between the Nuba inhabitantswho follow Christian, animist but mostly Islamic beliefs, and several otherArab tribes including the Misseriya located in the west region, and the Hawazmalocated in the east region. Since Sudan gained independence in 1956, tensionsbetween the Nuba people and the Arab-dominated government of Sudan has beenrecurrent and it has been argued that this was the origin of the conflict. ThroughoutSudan’s history, there has been a lack of political representation of the Nubapeople and perceived marginalization in the centres of power in Khartoum.
Duringthe First and Second Sudanese Civil Wars, many Nuba identified with the South,as the central government carried out aggressive policies toward the Nuba onseveral occasions. Later in the 1980s,the SPLA began recruiting in the Nuba Mountains and the al’Mahdi government beganrecruiting members of Arab tribes into paramilitaries, with the aim ofdestroying Nuba villages. The 1989 coup that brought Omaral-Bashir closer to presidency worsened the relationship between Khartoum andthe Nuba and in 1992, the government declared a fight against the enemies ofIslam, on the African Nuba people of South Kordofan, which Alex de Waal describedas the “genocidal campaign of a government at the height of its ideologicalhubris.” (de Waal, 2004). This jihad by the Islamist Government of Sudan inKhartoum resulted in mass executions, and the use of aerial bombardments indiscriminatelybombing Nuba villages indicated their aims to ethnically cleansethe Nuba Mountain people during this arbitrary extermination campaign (InternationalCrisis Group, 2013). It is clear that the Sudanese Armed Forces were motivated by regimesurvival which was dependant on destroying and preventing the establishment ofinsurgencies in other regions to deny rebels a base of support, as they saw allpopulations in rebel-held areas as an imminent threat to the survival of theregime (Tubiana and Gramizzi, 2013). The aerial attacksagainst the rebels were a humanitarian disaster and have had environmentalimpacts as remote violence increased from 66 in 2015 to 100 in 2016, destroyingharvests and contributing to food insecurities (ACLED Data, 2016).
Theensuing climate of fear caused further exacerbated the widespread foodinsecurity as thousands of civilians settled in caves in attempts to survivethe aerial attacks thus rendering them incapable of farming. Furthermore, it has been reported that 2million people have been affected by humanrights abuses, with approximately 500,000 being forcefully displaced by the endof 2014 (Radio Dabanga, 2017). Other internal factors exacerbated the crisissuch as the Sudanese governments’ refusal to grant the United Nations and otherhumanitarian organizations access to the region therefore sufficient food andmedical assistance could not be delivered. Since fighting increased due to Omaral-Bashir’s government in 2015, in the lead up to the elections, theIntergovernmental Authority on Development and the European Union have providedassistance in monitoring and implementing the peace agreement between therebels signed by Salva Kiir, amid hostility against the international community. Following this, the United Nations establishedUNMISS in 2016 to further monitor the human rights disasters and provideshelter to civilians (Human Rights Watch, 2017).
Conclusively, the root causes of the conflict in South Kordofanare the perceived marginalization, both economically and politically of Sudan’speripheral regions by the elite throughout Sudan’s history, namely the centralgovernment in Khartoum. Instances of cultural exploitation have also occurredas there is a lack of representation of other ethnicities given the internaldivisions within Khartoum’s elite (Malik, 2014). It is also important toconsider the immediate trigger for the conflict following the 2005Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the Second Sudanese Civil Warbetween the Sudanese Government and the SPLM rebels.
Failure to implement keymandates of this agreement foreshadowed the ongoing state of war that broke outagain in 2011 and why it is still continuing. Ultimately, the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are complex andit is evident that they link with the Second Sudanese Civil War and theconflict in Darfur, which has been ongoing since 2003. The wars in these statesdo not represent a new conflict for Sudan, but rather a manifestation ofSudan’s fundamental problem since the 1980s; the ideological opposition betweenKhartoum attempting to centralize the country with a dominant Arab-Islamic identity, versusthe SRF’s agenda for a more decentralised Sudan.
Whilst therehave been several peace talks aimed at resolving the conflict, they have notsucceeded and all three wars have threatened domestic andregional stability (IMF, 2014). These internal divisions between South Kordofan and the BlueNile itself, also benefit Khartoum’s strategy to limit peace talks in order toprevent reform. Subsequently, thisstalemate is likely to continue until President Omar al-Bashir is revoked from his presidency.