War in Nuba Mountains threatens to escalate; many sufferers not reached by food aid

Sudan: Up to 200,000 refugees in South Kordofan

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) warns of an expansion of the war in the Nuba Mountains in the Sudanese state of South Kordofan. "If the international community does not step up its efforts to achieve peace, the fighting between the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Sudanese army threatens to spread to the neighboring state of Blue Nile," said Ulrich Delius of the STP's Africa section on Wednesday in Göttingen. Due to continuous eruptions of armed fighting and bombing, the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan is dramatic. Of the civilians who have fled the violence, up to some 200,000 people, many can no longer be reached by aid organizations. "If the fighting overflows to the Blue Nile state this will have catastrophic consequences for Sudan and for security in all of East Africa," asserts Delius, because then Sudan would be ablaze from its border with Ethiopia in the east to Chad in the far west.

Fighting broke out in the Nuba Mountains on 5 June 2011. Over the past few days, the signs of an impending escalation have increased. The governor of the state of Blue Nile, Malik Agar of the SPLM, declared that the Nuba Mountains must not be abandoned in the war against the Sudanese army. Reliable eyewitnesses have reported massive human rights abuses by Sudanese soldiers, as well as random air strikes on civilians. Human rights experts at the United Nations have demanded an independent investigation of alleged crimes against humanity.

Both the Nuba peoples in the state of South Kordofan (population: approx. 1.2 million), whose cultures are very African, and the more Arabized African communities in the Blue Nile state (population: approx. 800,000) complain of discrimination in Arab-dominated Sudan. According to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in January 2005, both regions are to hold referenda in 2011 concerning their future. To date, however, no realistic schedule has emerged, and the dissatisfaction among the people in both regions is growing.

After the Sudanese government refused to acknowledge the ethnic diversity of the Sudan and announced plans to redouble Arabization efforts in the country, the SPLM in the Nuba Mountains took up arms. As early as the 1990s, Nuba responded with armed resistance to Sudanese soldiers who were committing genocide on the indigenous peoples. Thus it cannot be expected that the Nuba will give in any time soon. "The Sudanese government has not pursued a policy of equilibrium either; rather, the military is increasing its influence. They are backing a military solution and the unconditional submission of this long-neglected region," said Delius.