By Luka Biong Deng*
The people of Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile have been forgotten in the prolonged tension between Sudan and South Sudan and they sometimes feel betrayed by both South Sudan and International Community. During the two decades of civil war between the SPLM and Government of Sudan, the people of Nuba Mountains were denied humanitarian access under the Operations Life-line Sudan and paid enormous costs with their remarkable participation in the liberation struggle. With the conclusion of the CPA and unlike the people of the South, the people of Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile did not enjoy the peace dividends as the post-conflict multi-donors trust fund was managed by the national government without their participation. Even the popular consultation that was granted to them by the CPA as fruits of their participation in the prolonged civil war was not conducted but instead they were pushed against their will into another civil war.
With the South having its independence and now in the process of normalizing its relations with Khartoum, the people of Nuba Mountains and Blue are on the run and displaced either under trees or in caves or took refuge in the South with appalling conditions. Sudan has skillfully used its diplomatic cards to ensure that South is delinked from the people of Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. Apparently, the South took serious measures of disengaging with the SPLM-North not only by dismissing those soldiers and officers from Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile who were in the SPLA but also those civilians including medical doctors and teachers who were working in the public institutions. The South with pressure of international community has become timid to show its solidarity with their comrades with whom they had fought together liberation struggle that resulted in the independence of the South. Even with thousands of people of Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile who took refuge in South Sudan, the South has not been able to show its solidarity by contributing with humanitarian assistance to improve the atrocious conditions of these refugees. With flow of its oil now for export through Sudan, the Government of South Sudan has a moral obligation to support the people of Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, particularly the civilian population who are now refugees in the South or in the areas under the control of SPLM-North.
The African Union has not been able to show its credibility in ensuring the humanitarian access to the people of Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. The Tripartite Agreement between African Union, United Nation and Arab League for humanitarian assistance to the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile is being aborted by Sudan. Even the grave human rights abuses that were committed by Sudan in the Nuba Mountains have not been investigated or unanimously condemned by the international community. The next 21st Ordinary Meeting of the African Union of the Heads of States and Government scheduled to take place in Addis Ababa in May is expected to honour their commitment to the people of Nuba Mountains and Blue by endorsing the AUHIP’s Draft Proposal for Cessation of Hostilities Agreement that will facilitate humanitarian access to the affected population in these two states and to call upon Sudan and SPLM-North to sign and fully implement this proposed agreement.
With Sudan now agreeing to allow the flow of oil of the South through its territory so as to rescue its failing economy, it has started its blackmailing strategy by announcing the release of political detainees and allowing the flow of humanitarian assistance to the people of Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. Now international community is bought into this strategy and with short memory, Sudan is being seen as reforming and some even started taking initiative to work towards deference of indictment of Bashir for more two years so that he can deliver more peace in Sudan. The administration of US President Barak Obama has even extended invitation to the notorious leaders of NCP to visit Washington for bilateral meetings.
Playing to this rhythm of blackmailing strategy of Sudan, the World Food Program in Khartoum announced a major breakthrough in the humanitarian situation in Blue Nile state as Khartoum allowed the WFP to work in a limited area under control of Government of Sudan. The United States has even announced of its contribution of $150 million to help relieve food insecurity in Sudan’s war-torn Blue Nile state. The fact of the matter is that the Government of Sudan did not allow humanitarian access to areas controlled by the SPLM-North. These areas instead of receiving humanitarian assistance are being bombarded by the Sudanese military airplanes. By supporting humanitarian assistance in the government controlled areas only, the international community will contribute in forcing the people in the areas of the SPLM-North to return to the government controlled areas where they will be subjected again to more carnage.
We may need to think out of the box instead of continuing crying about humanitarian access to Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile because Sudan will not allow it to happen as it continues to refuse to sign an immediate humanitarian cessation of hostilities in accordance to the resolutions of the African Union and UN Security Council. While international community will continue to ensure humanitarian access to all the areas under both Sudan and SPLM-North, it is a high time for international community to initiate some micro-humanitarian access initiatives that would practically respond to the needs of the people in the areas under the control of the SPLM-North.
In order to reduce the exposure of women in these areas to aerial bombardment and attacks by the Sudan Armed Forces, is it possible to avail solar stoves that would reduce women risking their lives in collecting firewood? As people are struggling in the caves with darkness and snakes, will not be possible to avail solar generators or even hand crank and solar radios that will not only provide light but also news much needed by these resilient people of Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile? Given the inaccessibility and bad roads, will it not be possible to provide donkeys that would assist in transporting vulnerable and victims of the Sudan’s aerial bombardments to the nearest health facilities as well as encouraging trading not only with the South but also with the areas under control of Sudan. Also subsidizing affordable telephones in these areas would greatly help in connecting these people with outside world as well as reporting instantly the atrocities being committed by Sudan.
*Luka Biong Deng is Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School and a senior member of South Sudan’s ruling SPLM. He can be reached at email@example.com. This article was originally published by the New Nation Newspaper