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Juba Peace Talks: Featuring The Conflict (2- South Kordufan)

Juba Peace Talks: Featuring The Conflict (2- South Kordufan)

By: Rogia al-Shafee

 

KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Eyes are these days turned towards the City of Juba, Capital of Southern Sudan, where the long-awaited peace talks between the government and rebel groups from Darfur, Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile districts are in progress since Monday.

In this opportunity, Sudanow gives reminders of general information about, and the root causes of the conflict in those areas. In this concern the magazine published yesterday an article about Darfur and below is another one about Nuba Mountains, the war zone in South Kordufan:

 

A total 98 Nuba Mountains, with peaks as high as 1500 metres, extend over a considerably large area (some 48,000 square kilometers) of South Kordufan State.

The mountains range is marked as one of the most fertile agricultural lands in Sudan. The range is also a well-known tourist attraction destination due to its wide Flora and Fiona diversity in addition to its fantastic moderate weather all through the year.

Unfortunately, prolonged disputes over pasture and land tenancy rights, coupled with armed conflicts, have incurred heavy damage on the region and compromised its tourist investment potential.

The inhabitants of the Nuba Mountains are many tribal groups known with the common collective name "Nuba". They are well-known for their peaceful nature, generous attitude and productive spirit, as reiterated by engineer Hassan Digeeg, a renowned tribal figure in the area.

At times of peace, the inhabitants of the Mountains work hard to cultivate the land and breed cattle. It was never strange to meet a youth as young as twenty years of age who owned herds of two or three thousand cattle or camels or harvesting a crop of more than 1000 bags of sorghum, sesame or peanut.

But war and armed conflicts have already taken its toll on the peaceful inhabitants of the Nuba Mountains. The farms have been destroyed and most of the herds perished due to the restriction of grazing pastures as direct consequence of the war, and also due to the lack of basic veterinarian care.

Engineer Digeeg also added that the marginalization and biased policy adopted by the defunct Bashir’s regime against the inhabitants of the Nuba Mountains have instilled a deep sense of bitterness into the new youth generation of the Nuba Mountains leading them to raise up arms against the defunct regime, leading to mass migration of people and animals and ultimately to the destruction of what was once known as a notably rich and diversified habitat of Fiona and Flora.

 

Natural Resources:

The Southern Kordufan State is home to around 35% of the total fertile agricultural land of Sudan. The state also contributes 75% of total Sudan’s animal and agricultural product exports, where it is home to some of the finest world-renowned medical cotton, Gum Arabic, and quality sesame and oil-producing cereals.

In this context, engineer Digeeg criticized Sudanese scholars and researchers for not paying enough attention and regard to the diversified wealth potential of Nuba Mountains. However, he still holds to a genuine hope that when the war ends, and peace finally restored, the Nuba Mountains region will be devoted the attention and care it deserves as a vitally important national wealth area.

It is also noted that most oil reserves are situated in Southern Kordufan State. International geologists and soil experts also estimate that the state is home to one third of the world’s underground storage of precious metals and minerals such as gold, ore, copper and uranium. Some European countries have even expressed interest to buy sand dunes from Southern Kordufan, to quote the words of engineer Digeeg.

The area also contains vast tourism potential due to its diversified environment and cultural diversity as it is home to diversified traditional folkloric dance and music styles as well as handicraft and potter products. Even amidst the harsh times of war the Nuba inhabitants never let go of their natural love to dancing and singing.

 

Reasons for Conflict:

Engineer Digeeg concurred with university professor Jumaa Kunda that the conflict in the area dated back to an era well before the defunct regime’s period, to the post-colonial era, where land tenancy rights in the fertile region were regularly removed from the inhabitants by successive national governments to be granted to businessmen and investors. Such practices were further enhanced during the defunct Bashir’s regime term in light of the methodological marginalization policies adopted by the government against the region and its inhabitants.

Under the toppled Bashir’s regime, the Nuba Mountains Agricultural Corporation, which had been established in 1924, was dissolved and liquidated. The corporation used to provide work opportunities for caretakers of thousands of families in the area. It also provided micro-financing loans and seeds for small producers and contributes to healthcare and educational services.

The liquidation of the Corporation is considered by many researchers as one of the reasons that forced the unemployed Mountains youths to join the rebels and stand up in arms in the face of their persecutors.

Adding insult to injury, the defunct Bashir’s regime removed agricultural tenancies from their native owners on the premises that the owners held no title deeds to the land, and re-allocated the confiscated tenancies to outsiders.

Unable to settle huge agricultural bank loans, some natives were also forced to sell their tenancies to outsider merchants, army officers and civil servants and ended up as waged workers in what was once their own land tenancies. As a result many families had to leave their home dwellings and migrate to other areas.

Professor Jumaa Kunda said in a paper that in Habeela area alone around 500 families had migrated upon the confiscation of their land by the government to establish agricultural projects on.

Professor Kunda further drew attention to the outcomes of the Nuba Conference, which was held following Nifasha peace agreement with the South Sudan rebels, where it was recommended that the Nuba Mountains land tenancies should be redistributed, highlighting the fact that a number of 70 tribal armed conflicts, in 2005 alone, revolved over natural resources. The years 2007 and 2008 witnessed three armed conflicts, each, over natural resources.

Another type of conflict that was fueled by the defunct regime’s policies was the armed conflicts between pastoralists and farmers over cattle routes, since the Bashir’s government had limited the traditionally recognized pasture areas leading pastoralists to trespass into agricultural land.

Another aspect of the conflict, as related by engineer Digeeg, was the competition among the elites, and also between international arms traders.

But above all, the defunct regime’s political and social marginalization policies, inhumane practices and discriminatory measures against the inhabitants of the Nuba Mountains and their environment have led to all the misery and suffering that have plagued the whole Nuba Mountains region, as stated by engineer Digeeg.

Nuba rebels joined fighting alongside the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) of southern Sudan against the central government in early 1990s.

 

Potential Negotiated Solutions:

The main armed movement that leads the Nuba Mountains struggle against the centeral government is the SPM-North currently headed by Abdelaziz Adam Alhilu. He said at Juba talks last Monday that the African Union held 22 rounds of peace talks between the Sudanese government and the rebels but the two sides had failed to address the root causes of the problem. Luckily enough, addressing the root causes of the problem is the approach now being adopted by the transitional government cabinet. The government has already formed a high council for peace under chairmanship of the president of the Sovereign Council, Abdulfattah Al-Burhan, and membership of sovereign council members, the prime minister, justice minister and other three experts. This high peace council is tasked with the drafting of general policies and measures that address the root causes of the problem.

All eyes are now focused on Juba talks that started last Monday to see an end to this lengthy bloody conflict that has so far wasted a lot of valuable and most needed human and natural resources.                

 

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IN/AS

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Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...

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