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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 replace president Omar al-Bashir’s government 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 impacts of this conflict and explore why the
conflict in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states between the government of
Sudan and the Sudan Revolutionary Front is stuck in an impasse.

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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 predominantly follow Islamic beliefs, and
several other Arab tribes including the Misseriya located in the west region,
and the Hawazma located in the east region. It has been argued that the origin
of the conflict in South Kordofan dates back to Sudan’s independence in 1956 as
tensions between the government of Sudan who believed in an Islamist regime and
the Nuba who were marginalized began to arise. During the First and Second
Sudanese Civil Wars, many Nuba identified with the South, as the central
government antagonised them via channels of legitimate policies (Trone, 2014).


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,


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. The wars in these states represent a
manifestation of Sudan’s fundamental problem since the 1980s; the ideological
opposition between Khartoum attempting to centralise 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 as they limit peace talks and prevent reform (Aljazeera, 2016) and
unless Omar al-Bashir steps down, it is unlikely that this impasse will end.


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