Racism: Fresh civil war simmers in Sudan as SPLM-N cries foul

Sudanese demonstrators, from the Nuba mountains, take part in a demonstration in the capital Khartoum on May 1, 2019.

Photo credit: File

SPLM-North, one of the rebel groups in Sudan, is threatening to seek independence if there is no agreement on a clear separation between religion and the state.

The SPLM-N had signed a declaration of principles (DOP) with the government in March 2021, but the rebels are claiming that Khartoum has reneged on the agreement after the October coup.

SPLM-N, leader Abel Aziz al-Hilu talks about these challenges.

Q: You stated recently that the Nuba Mountains would seek independence if there was no agreement on a clear separation between religion and the state. Do you still maintain that position?

A: There is nothing new that came in my recent statement about independence for the two peoples of Nuba and Funj of Blue Nile. This is our position since the time of CPA negotiations 2002-2005. We were part of the mother SPLM/A organisation and members of its negotiations team in Naivasha -Kenya by then.

The same causes led IGAD mediators to support the right of self-determination for Southern Sudan at that time apply to Nuba and Blue Nile peoples, but they excluded us. IGAD realised that issues of identity and political Islam are the causes behind Sudan's problem and the long civil war.

Once Southern Sudan seceded in 2011, Khartoum attacked us and a new fighting South emerged that extend from the Blue Nile at the border with Ethiopia through Nuba Mountains, Abyei area to Darfur at the border with Central Africa and Chad.

The causes of the continuation of the civil war in the new South are the same that led Juba to secede. These are religious persecution, oppression, racism, violence, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and extermination of the Africans who remained in the North.

Q: In March 2021, SPLM-N signed a declaration of principles with General Abdel Fattah a-Burhan and the Sudanese government in Juba. What has changed since the agreement?

A: Gen Burhan signed with us a Declaration of Principles (DOP) that separates religion and the state, but he backtracked, conducted a coup de tat on October 25, 2021, and scrapped the DOP to avoid commitment to separate cultural, ethnic, and regional identities from the state.  Then, how can we talk about democracy and equal citizenship or unity under the laws of Sharia Islamic Law that divides people and discriminates against non-Muslims?

The DOP was intended to address the root causes of the problem in Sudan, whether it was political Islam or identity question.  On the further discussion of the framework agreement, our team discovered that the government delegation was clinging to Sharia Islamic law and the Arab /Islamic nature of the Sudanese state, despite the fact that Africans are the majority and the country is characterized by many diversities. When the two sides reached a deadlock, the government delegation pulled out of the Juba peace forum in June 2021 and returned to Khartoum leaving the SPLM-N team on the table.

Q: Is there any change of Khartoum’s approach to the people of Nuba Mountains since Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in 2019?

A: For the Nuba and Funj people of Blue Nile, the situation in terms of security became worse after the overthrow of Omar Bashiir in 2019. Aggression and atrocities expanded to Nuba unarmed civilians who are living far away from the war zone in places like Port Sudan and Kasala towns in the Red Sea states. In addition, there are wanton killings of Nuba civilians living in government-controlled towns within Nuba Mountains like Kadugli, and recent atrocities in Lagawa. The same in Blue Nile too. 

Q: What is the level of discrimination against the people of the Nuba Mountains, and are they still being bombed by Molotov planes?

A: The Nuba and Funj peoples are marginalised and excluded from power and wealth.  The two regions are underdeveloped with no basic infrastructure. There is a lack of participation of the peoples of the two regions in decision-making institutions, whether at the regional or national levels.

The central government confiscated over ten million feddans (acres) of the fertile land of the two peoples, and gave it to absentee landlords, civil service bureaucrats, military elites and foreigners.  So, the marginalised people of the two regions are deprived of their land and transformed from owners to workers in their own land. Those Nuba and Funj who migrate to the towns of the north find themselves in the shanty towns employed in menial jobs.

Moreover, the government of late adopted a new strategy of displacement of the indigenous peoples of their land and replacing them by other groups of foreigners and loyal Arab tribes. Because of displacement, extra judicial killings and the use of food and medicine as additional weapons, there over half million refugees from the two regions scattered across South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt and other continents of Europe and America. 

Q: Nuba Mountains, Abyei southern Blue Nile—known commonly as “Three Areas” had not made any progress on peace since the 2005 CPA. What are the issues?

A: The CPA - 2005 provided the right to Popular Consultation for the peoples of the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile regions, besides the right to referendum for the people of Abyei. But after the independence of South Sudan, Khartoum denied the three peoples the chance to exercise their rights stipulated in the CPA.  Instead, Khartoum attacked the three peoples of Nuba Mountains, Funj, and Dinka of Abyei immediately after the independence of South Sudan with the intention to crush them militarily.

 Q: Is SPLM-N in a good military position to push for independence, and would you want to join South Sudan despite the CPA having left the region in Sudan?

A: The SPLM-N/Army managed to repulse seven offensives and countered scores of military campaigns and attacks launched by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in the eight years of Omar Bashiir 2011-2019. The SPLM-N/A succeeded to defend its liberated areas in the two regions of the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile.  Instead, the SPLM-N/A army expanded on the account of the government and annexed more territories to the areas under its control.  The SPLM-N/A is strong enough and capable of achieving its goals, whether it is sound and just unity, i.e., secular democratic, decentralized Sudan, or total independence through the exercise of the right to self-determination.

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