The conflict in South Kordofan and
the Blue Nile states have displaced and killed thousands of people, more
specifically 250,000 people have
been displaced from the Nuba mountains since mid-2011 (UNHCR, 2016) many
of whom escaping to Ethiopia (Radio Dabanga, 2017). This war commencing from South
Sudan’s independence, started in South Kordofan and spread to the neighbouring
Blue Nile state when the government of Sudan began a crusade to
defeat the Sudan Revolutionary Front, who wanted to overthrow the government of
President Omar al-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 and Equality Movement, the United People’s Front for
Liberation and Justice, the Sudan Liberation/A and the Sudan Liberation Army/M,
thus creating a national agenda (Sudan Tribune, 2013). It is therefore
important to consider that this conflict is inextricably linked with the War in
Darfur. I will focus on the trajectory and
impacts of this conflict and explore why the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states between the
government of Sudan and the Sudan Revolutionary Front is stuck in a stalemate
in order to conclude that
this armed struggle is a repeat of past conflicts – the same issues manifesting themselves in a different form.

 

South Kordofan is home to a
population that is demographically diverse in terms of ethnicity and religion (ARC,
2016).  This divide is between the Nuba inhabitants
who follow Christian, animist but mostly Islamic beliefs, and several other
Arab tribes including the Misseriya located in the west region, and the Hawazma
located in the east region. Since Sudan gained independence in 1956, tensions
between the Nuba people and the Arab-dominated government of Sudan has been
recurrent and it has been argued that this was the origin of the conflict. Throughout
Sudan’s history, there has been a lack of political representation of the Nuba
people and perceived marginalization in the centres of power in Khartoum. During
the First and Second Sudanese Civil Wars, many Nuba identified with the South,
as the central government carried out aggressive policies toward the Nuba on
several occasions.  Later in the 1980s,
the SPLA began recruiting in the Nuba Mountains and the al’Mahdi government began
recruiting members of Arab tribes into paramilitaries, with the aim of
destroying Nuba villages.

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The 1989 coup that brought Omar
al-Bashir closer to presidency worsened the relationship between Khartoum and
the Nuba and in 1992, the government declared a fight against the enemies of
Islam, on the African Nuba people of South Kordofan, which Alex de Waal described
as the “genocidal campaign of a government at the height of its ideological
hubris.” (de Waal, 2004). This jihad by the Islamist Government of Sudan in
Khartoum with the use of aerial bombardments indiscriminately bombing
Nuba villages indicated an arbitrary extermination campaign (International
Crisis Group, 2013). It is clear that the Sudanese Armed Forces were motivated by regime
survival which was dependant on destroying and preventing the establishment of
insurgencies in other regions to deny rebels a base of support, as they saw all
populations in rebel-held areas as an imminent threat to the survival of the
regime (Tubiana and Gramizzi, 2013). The aerial attacks
against the rebels were a humanitarian disaster and have had environmental
impacts as remote violence increased from 66 in 2015 to 100 in 2016, destroying
harvests and contributing to food insecurities (ACLED Data, 2016). The
ensuing climate of fear caused further exacerbated the widespread food
insecurity as thousands of civilians settled in caves in attempts to survive
the aerial attacks thus rendering them incapable of farming. Furthermore, it has been reported that 2
million people have been affected by human
rights abuses, with approximately 500,000 being forcefully displaced by the end
of 2014 (Radio Dabanga, 2017).

 

Other internal factors exacerbated the crisis
such as the Sudanese governments’ refusal to grant the United Nations and other
humanitarian organizations access to the region therefore sufficient food and
medical assistance could not be delivered. Since fighting increased due to Omar
al-Bashir’s government in 2015, in the lead up to the elections, the
Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the European Union have provided
assistance in monitoring and implementing the peace agreement between the
rebels signed by Salva Kiir, amid hostility against the international community.  Following this, the United Nations established
UNMISS in 2016 to further monitor the human rights disasters and provide
shelter to civilians (Human Rights Watch, 2017).

 

Conclusively, the root causes of the conflict in South Kordofan
are the perceived marginalization, both economically and politically of Sudan’s
peripheral regions by the elite throughout Sudan’s history, namely the central
government in Khartoum. Instances of cultural exploitation have also occurred
as there is a lack of representation of other ethnicities given the internal
divisions within Khartoum’s elite (Malik, 2014). It is also important to
consider the immediate trigger for the conflict which followed from the Comprehensive
Peace Agreement signed in 2005. Failure to implement key mandates of this
agreement foreshadowed the ongoing state of war that broke out again in 2011
and why it is still continuing. Ultimately, the conflict
in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are complex and it is evident that they
link with the Second Sudanese Civil War and the conflict in Darfur, which has
been ongoing since 2003. The wars in these states do not represent a new conflict
for Sudan, but rather a manifestation of Sudan’s fundamental problem since the
1980s; the ideological opposition between Khartoum attempting to centralize the
country with a
dominant Arab-Islamic identity, versus the SRF’s agenda for a more decentralised
Sudan. Whilst there have been several peace talks aimed at resolving the
conflict, they have not succeeded and all three wars have threatened domestic and regional stability (IMF, 2014). These
internal divisions between South
Kordofan and the Blue Nile itself, also benefit Khartoum in their method of limiting
peace talks in order to prevent reform.  Subsequently, this stalemate is likely to
continue until President Omar al-Bashir is revoked from his presidency.