The conflict inSouth Kordofan and the Blue Nile states have displaced and killed thousands ofpeople, more specifically 250,000 people have been displaced from the Nubamountains since mid-2011 (UNHCR, 2016) many of whom escaping to Ethiopia (RadioDabanga, 2017). This war commencing from South Sudan’s independence started inSouth Kordofan and spread to the neighbouring Blue Nile state when thegovernment 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 forLiberation and Justice, the Sudan Liberation/A and the Sudan Liberation Army/M,thus creating a national agenda (Sudan Tribune, 2013). It is thereforeimportant to consider that this conflict is inextricably linked with the War inDarfur. I will focus on the impacts of this conflict and explore why theconflict in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states between the government ofSudan and the Sudan Revolutionary Front is stuck in an impasse. South Kordofan ishome to a population that is demographically diverse in terms of ethnicity andreligion (ARC, 2016). This divide isbetween the Nuba inhabitants who predominantly follow Islamic beliefs, andseveral 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 originof the conflict in South Kordofan dates back to Sudan’s independence in 1956 astensions between the government of Sudan who believed in an Islamist regime andthe Nuba who were marginalized began to arise. During the First and SecondSudanese Civil Wars, many Nuba identified with the South, as the centralgovernment antagonised them via channels of legitimate policies (Trone, 2014). The 1989 coup thatbrought Omar al-Bashir closer to presidency worsened the relationship betweenKhartoum and the Nuba and in 1992, the government declared a fight against theenemies of Islam, on the African Nuba people of South Kordofan, which Alex de Waaldescribed as the “genocidal campaign of a government at the height of itsideological hubris.” (de Waal, 2004).
This jihad by the Islamist Government ofSudan in Khartoum with the use of aerial bombardments indiscriminately bombingNuba villages indicated an arbitrary extermination campaign (InternationalCrisis Group, 2013). It is clear that the Sudanese Armed Forces were motivatedby regime survival which was dependant on destroying and preventing theestablishment of insurgencies in other regions to deny rebels a base ofsupport, as they saw all populations in rebel-held areas as an imminent threatto the survival of the regime (Tubiana and Gramizzi, 2013). The aerial attacksagainst the rebels were a humanitarian disaster and have had environmental impactsas remote violence increased from 66 in 2015 to 100 in 2016, destroyingharvests and contributing to food insecurities (ACLED Data, 2016). The ensuingclimate of fear caused further exacerbated the widespread food insecurity asthousands of civilians settled in caves in attempts to survive the aerialattacks thus rendering them incapable of farming. Furthermore, it has beenreported that 2 million people have been affected by human rights abuses, withapproximately 500,000 being forcefully displaced by the end of 2014 (RadioDabanga, 2017).
Other internalfactors exacerbated the crisis such as the Sudanese governments’ refusal togrant the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations access to theregion therefore sufficient food and medical assistance could not be delivered.Since fighting increased due to Omar al-Bashir’s government in 2015, in thelead up to the elections, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development andthe European Union have provided assistance in monitoring and implementing thepeace agreement between the rebels signed by Salva Kiir, amid hostility againstthe international community. Followingthis, the United Nations established UNMISS in 2016 to further monitor thehuman rights disasters and provide shelter to civilians (Human Rights Watch,2017). Conclusively, theroot causes of the conflict in South Kordofan are the perceivedmarginalization, both economically and politically of Sudan’s peripheralregions by the elite throughout Sudan’s history, namely the central governmentin Khartoum.
Instances of cultural exploitation have also occurred as there isa lack of representation of other ethnicities given the internal divisionswithin Khartoum’s elite (Malik, 2014). It is also important to consider theimmediate trigger for the conflict, which followed from the Comprehensive PeaceAgreement signed in 2005. Failure to implement key mandates of this agreementforeshadowed the ongoing state of war that broke out again in 2011 and why itis still continuing. Ultimately, the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nilestates are complex and it is evident that they link with the Second SudaneseCivil War and the conflict in Darfur. The wars in these states represent amanifestation of Sudan’s fundamental problem since the 1980s; the ideologicalopposition between Khartoum attempting to centralise the country with adominant Arab-Islamic identity, versus the SRF’s agenda for a moredecentralised Sudan. Whilst there have been several peace talks aimed atresolving the conflict, they have not succeeded and all three wars havethreatened domestic and regional stability (IMF, 2014). These internaldivisions between South Kordofan and the Blue Nile itself, also benefitKhartoum as they limit peace talks and prevent reform (Aljazeera, 2016) andunless Omar al-Bashir steps down, it is unlikely that this impasse will end.