|I thought I’d do something different and write an informative post about the major conflicts happening in Sudan. I hope there are some who will find it interesting and helpful.|
|Sudan’s conflicts are many and complex. I lived in Khartoum, the capital of the North, for two years, and am by no means an expert. Still, during that time I traveled in the North, studied many maps, read press releases from every political faction under the sun, and most importantly, met people from every part of the country and heard their stories. When I read about the continuing conflicts in the news, I do so with a strong sense of place. I find that many people here in the States are interested in the conflicts in Sudan – Darfur, North/South, Nuba Mountains – but find it difficult (and understandably so) to piece together the different things they have read and seen in the news into a comprehensible whole. Dealing with a topic like this is a bit of a stylistic departure for this blog, but I thought that some might find it interesting, and it is an important topic to me. I’ve decided to approach the conflicts from a regional perspective, giving an overview of the situation in each region.|
|North Sudan :: North Sudan (which is now just Sudan since the South seceded), is a large and ethnically diverse region. The capital of North Sudan is Khartoum, and the majority of the population are of Arab-African descent and speak Arabic as their first language. Sudan is a member of the Arab League. Although Sudan is offically a representative democracy, in actuality it is a one-party state ruled by the National Congress Party (NCP) led by President Omar Al-Bashir (ba-SHEER). President Bashir has long had the overwhelming support of the Arab majority and is a member of the largest Arab tribe in Sudan. Following the events of the Arab spring in 2011, some opposition to Bashir has arisen among younger Arabs from other tribes, but Bashir’s position remains strong due to the loyalty of his own tribe and his willingness to wage merciless war against any and all opposition. Bashir’s government has practiced scorched-earth policies of suppressing rebellion in Darfur and the Nuba Mountains, and Bashir himself is considered a war criminal by the International Criminal Court and has been charged with genocide.|
|South Sudan :: The Nation of South Sudan was formed last year on July 9, 2011. After decades of brutal civil war, which produced the refugees known as the Lost Boys of Sudan among many others, the North and South signed a peace agreement in 2004 which set up a power-sharing government over the whole country. While in effect, this joint government functioned like a two-state federation between the government of the South in Juba and the government of the North in Khartoum. The peace agreement was set to last 7 years, and during that time several things were to be accomplished: the disputed border between the North and South was to be settled, a census was to be taken, democratic elections were to be held, and finally, the South would be allowed to vote on whether or not to secede and become their own country in 2011. Of those items on the agenda, the census and final vote were the only two which happened with real success. Therefore, although the South has successfully seceded, the border remains disputed. This is hugely important because the border-land is an oil-rich region, and drawing the line in one place or another is the difference in hundreds of millions of dollars annually for each nation. Border skirmishes have become intensified since 2011. The South has begun aiding rebels in the regions just north of the border, which has brought an onslaught of Bashir’s military tactics into those regions. The South also faces some division from within because its government was initially formed around the loose structure of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which was made up of charismatic generals who essentially controlled their own smaller armies (think warlords). They have been working together for a long time, though, and they see a common cause in the national identity of South Sudan.
The refugee situation in the South is incredibly bleak. Thousands of people displaced from the conflict regions have nowhere to go, and thousands more who, although they are ethnically Southerners, had lived in the North all their lives have been denied citizenship in the North and have been forced to move to the South. The majority of South Sudanese live according to traditional animistic practices. An influential minority are Christian, and a smaller minority is Muslim.
|Darfur :: Darfur is a region in North Sudan (or just Sudan), but the population of this region is mixed between Africans who claim Arab descent (or Arabicized people) and Africans who do not. All of these people are members of various tribes and sub-tribes, and the primary source of ethnic self-identity is found in their tribe. Major tribes in Darfur which do not claim Arab descent include the Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit, all of whom speak different tribal languages. Many of the Arab tribes belong to an Arab super-tribe called the Baggara. Both the Arab tribes and non-Arab tribes are almost entirely Muslim and, though it is often overlooked, both are African. (Arab and African are not mutually exclusive categories in this case.) Because of famine in the late 80s, there began to be conflicts between all the tribes over resources. Arab tribes, all speaking the same language, formed natural alliances. They were armed and aided by the government in Khartoum and formed militias that were called the Janjaweed. After decades of raidings and government systems that practiced apartheid-like rule, in 2003 the non-Arab tribes formed their own militias and attacked government compounds, openly declaring rebellion. The Khartoum government responded with overwhelming force which has been labeled genocide by many. Possibly as many as 460,000 have died in the conflict (this includes both sides) and 3.2 million have been displaced. The most fierce fighting has passed, and the leadership of both sides have made serious attempts at discussing peace, but nothing firm has come about yet.|
|The Nuba Mountains :: This region is experiencing perhaps the worst conflict in Sudan right now. The Nuba Mountains region comprises over 40 tribes, each with their own language. The tribes retain many of their traditional African customs, and are even famous and loved in Sudan for their traditional wrestling matches. In addition to this African traditionalism, many of the tribes are Christian and some are Muslim, each tribe practicing one faith or the other as a part of their tribal identity. The region lies just inside the border of the North, but many of the Nuba Mountain people have historically sided with South Sudanese. The non-Arab Nuba Mountain people have long lived under the same apartheid-like systems that sparked the Darfur conflict, and the South has a long history of allying with and arming the Nuba Mtn. rebel groups in the larger dispute over the North/South border.
At times the brutal conflict in this region becomes about religion, and entire villages will be decimated for being Muslim or Christian, and sometimes nearby Arab Muslim tribes will back one side while Christians from the South will back the other. Thousands of children have fled the fighting in this region and are being talked about as the New Lost Boys of Sudan. Right now, one refugee camp just on the South side of the border in a city called Yida is growing at rate of 1,000 new refugees a day even though that camp is itself too near the conflict zones to be safe and is likely to be shut down by the United Nations soon.