Conflict in South Kordofan

The Complexity of Sudan’s Interlocking Crises

By
The ICRC in the field South Sudan, Maban County. Women collect supplies from the ICRC.
Conflict in South Kordofan : The Complexity of Sudan’s Interlocking Crises - Michelle Trone

Abstract

In Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been displaced and thousands more killed since June 2011, when the government of Sudan began a campaign to crush an insurgency led by the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of groups aiming to overthrow the government of President Omar al-Bashir. Clashes between the rebels and the government have intensified since late 2013, but the conflict remains stuck in a stalemate. This paper analyzes the trajectory of this conflict, focusing primarily on South Kordofan state, and the relationship between current and past conflicts in Sudan, in particular the Second Civil War (1983-2005) and the Darfur conflict (2003-present). The aim of this paper is to conclude whether this armed struggle is a repeat of past conflicts – the same issues manifesting themselves in a different form – or whether it represents something new and different.

Introduction

In Sudan, the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states between the government of Sudan and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) is stuck in a stalemate. This complex conflict is inextricably linked with past conflicts in Sudan, in particular the conflict in Darfur, which has been ongoing since 2003, and the Second Civil War, which ended in 2005 and killed approximately two million. The root cause of all three conflicts is the perceived marginalization and exploitation of Sudan’s peripheral regions by the central government in Khartoum. Additional causes include divisions within Khartoum’s elite and environmental factors, in particular land dispossession. While the immediate trigger for the conflict was the resolution of the Second Civil War and the failure to implement key provisions of the resulting 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), this conflict more closely resembles the ongoing conflict in Darfur. The government’s strategy of targeting civilians to deny rebels a base of support and the resulting humanitarian catastrophe, which has been exacerbated by the government’s refusal to allow humanitarian organizations access to much of the region, is strongly reminiscent of Darfur. Several attempted peace talks have failed to resolve the conflict. This stalemate is likely to continue until the underlying root cause of the conflict – the marginalization of the peripheries of the state by Khartoum – is resolved, which would require a fundamental restructuring of the Sudanese state and the removal of President Omar al-Bashir from power.

Demographic and Historical Factors

South Kordofan and Blue Nile are both states in Sudan, located near the disputed border with South Sudan. South Kordofan is characterized by its mountainous terrain, and is home to an ethnically and religiously diverse population, namely the Nuba people and several Arab tribes. The Nuba include more than 100 distinct non-Arab tribes who speak more than 100 languages. The largest concentration of Nuba is in the foothills of the South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains. The majority of Nuba practice Islam, although many also follow Christian and animist beliefs. In addition to the Nuba, South Kordofan is home to several Arab tribes, mostly cattle-herders known as Baggara. The two major Arab tribes are the Misseriya, from the west, and the Hawazma, from the east. The demographic diversity of South Kordofan, with its mix of nomadic and sedentary peoples, bears similarities to the demographics of the Darfur region. In addition to the various Nuba and Arab groups, South Kordofan is also home to a significant number of Darfuris, in particular the Masalit and Borgo, who come from the Wadday sultanate in eastern Chad.

Since Sudan’s independence in 1956, conflict and animosity between the Nuba people of South Kordofan and the Arab-dominated government of Sudan has been recurrent. There has been almost no representation of Nuba in the centers of power in Khartoum throughout Sudan’s history, and the central government has repeatedly carried out aggressive policies towards the Nuba. Frustrated by their lack of political representation and perceived marginalization by Khartoum, many Nuba identified with the southern cause during both the First and Second Civil Wars between the north and the south. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the key southern combatant during the Second Civil War, began recruiting in the Nuba Mountains in the 1980s. At the same time, the government of Sadiq al’Mahdi began to recruit members of Arab tribes into militias, encouraging them to attack Nuba villages. This policy of using Arab militias as proxy forces (which the government later repeated in Darfur) proved to be counter-productive and led to increased support for the SPLA.[1] An estimated 30,000 Nuba fought with the south during the Second Civil War, and many of these same Nuba tribesmen are today once again rebelling against Khartoum, reflecting that today’s conflict is in some ways a continuation of this previous war.[2]

Following the 1989 coup d'état that brought Omar al-Bashir and Hassan al-Turabi to power, the relationship between Khartoum and the Nuba worsened. The government declared jihad on the Nuba people in 1992, legitimizing the killing of Christians, animists, and Muslim "apostates." The scholar Alex de Waal called the 1992 jihad against the Nuba the “genocidal campaign of a government at the height of its ideological hubris.”[3] The government embarked upon a campaign of destruction, placing thousands of Nuba into "peace camps," murdering thousands of young men, using rape as a weapon of war, and dropping bombs on entire Nuba villages in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.[4] The government’s brutal counter-insurgency tactics later used in Darfur were honed during this time. While exact figures are difficult to determine, the fighting displaced an estimated 1.5 million, many of whom only returned to the Nuba Mountains following a 2002 Swiss-brokered ceasefire.[5]

The Sudan Revolutionary Front: Actors and Goals

The current conflict is between the government of Sudan and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of groups aiming to overthrow the government of President Omar al-Bashir and replace it with a democracy. The SRF, which was created in November 2011, has a national agenda, and includes disenchanted groups from other regions as well. It aims to unify disparate political and opposition groups to trigger the fall of the central government. The SRF is led by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a military force that broke off from the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in 2011. In addition to the SPLM-N, the SRF includes multiple Darfuri rebels groups, including the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the Sudan Liberation Army – Minni Minnawai (SLA-MM), and a small contingent from the Sudan Liberation Army – Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW). A rebel group from eastern Sudan, the United People’s Front for Liberation and Justice (UPFLJ), also recently joined the SRF.[6] Some dissidents from opposition parties, including the National Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party, provide support for the SRF as well.

The goals of the SRF resemble the "New Sudan" agenda of the SPLA during the Second Civil War and the goals of the Darfuri rebels. While the term "New Sudan" is not used, the SRF’s political goals echo the vision of John Garang, the SPLA’s former leader, of a grand alliance of marginalized groups from the exploited peripheries uniting to change the power structures and create a unified, secular, and democratic Sudan. The agenda is not secession, making this conflict dissimilar to the First Civil War (1956-1972). The SRF’s goals, outlined in an October 2012 document titled “Re-structuring of the Sudanese State,” include the establishment of a decentralized and federal administration “where all powers are delegated to the regions” which includes the “distribution of power and wealth on the basis of the population average for each region.”[7] Echoing the calls of rebels in Darfur and South Sudan, the SRF calls for a constitution based on the separation of state and religion, although some groups within the SRF are against this secular position. The SRF does not seek a localized quick fix for South Kordofan, but rather has a national agenda emphasizing all Sudan’s marginalized; thus its manifesto reflects the priorities of the Nuba, the Darfuris, pastoralists, and the other diverse groups making up the SRF.[8] This alliance of diverse groups recalls the Sudan Liberation Army, originally created in July 2001 as the Darfur Liberation Front, which united diverse groups in Darfur (Fur, Zaghawa, and Massalit fighters) with a common goal. [9]

Within the SRF, the SPLM-N is the largest organization, with an estimated 30,000 fighters, mostly Nuba tribesmen.[10] However, the Darfuri rebel groups, in particular the JEM, play an important role and have a long history in South Kordofan. The JEM has recruited clandestinely in South Kordofan since the Second Civil War, in particular among students who sided with al-Turabi after his 1999 split from al-Bashir, although its geographic focus remained in Darfur throughout the 2000s. Following the outbreak of hostilities in South Kordofan in June 2011, the JEM began moving forces from Darfur to South Kordofan, and carried out the first of many joint operations with the SPLM-N in July 2011. These joint operations, one of which led to the death of the JEM’s leader Khalil Ibrahim in December 2011, have been crucial to rebel victories. By mid-2012, half of all the JEM’s forces were fighting in South Kordofan, while the other half remained in Darfur. The JEM/SPLM-N relationship is indicative of the larger links between the conflicts in Darfur and South Kordofan – not only do these two conflicts involve many of the same actors and organizations, but the rebels in each region work together, sharing a united strategy and working towards common goals.

The Government of Sudan: Motivations, Strategy, and Tactics

The government of Sudan’s motivations, strategy, and tactics exhibit strong similarities to its motivations, strategy, and tactics used both in Darfur and during the Second Civil War. As in Darfur, the government is motivated by regime survival and the belief that this survival depends on striking as hard as possible to destroy support for insurgents and to prevent the establishment of insurgencies in other regions. Hardliners in Khartoum increasingly view concessions to the peripheries as dangerous steps towards separatism, which poses a serious threat to the very existence of the state and the survival of the regime.[11]

Just like in Darfur and during the Second Civil War, the government’s strategy in South Kordofan is to target civilians suspected of supporting the rebels to deny the rebels a base of support. The resulting humanitarian catastrophe was labeled a potential genocide by major newspapers within the first month of the campaign in June 2011.[12] Journalists such as Nick Kristof, who sounded the alarm of genocide in Darfur, have repeatedly made comparisons between the humanitarian situation in Darfur and South Kordofan, while a 2011 Washington Post Op-Ed stated that the situation in the Nuba Mountains was “reminiscent of Rwanda.”[13]The government forces have indiscriminately bombed villages, failing to make any distinction between civilians and combatants. Instead, all populations in rebel-held areas are viewed by the government as enemies and therefore legitimate targets. The reported human rights abuses committed are similar to those committed in Darfur, including arbitrary executions, forced displacement, mass arrests of civilians, and cases of rape and sexual violence.[14]

The resulting climate of fear has caused thousands of civilians in the Nuba Mountains to move into caves, where the fear of aerial bombardment has left them unable to farm. This has resulted in widespread food insecurity; an October 2013 survey by the Enough Project found that 43% of households in the Nuba Mountains do not even have enough food to last a week.[15] John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, describes the strategy as, “Starvation is the objective. Draining the water to catch the fish is one of the oldest counterinsurgency strategies known to man.”[16] The government has denied international humanitarian organizations access to much of the region, blocking the delivery of both food and medical assistance. Even the UN was blocked from entering South Kordofan and Blue Nile for a polio vaccination campaign.[17] These humanitarian concerns, exacerbated by the government blockade, have spurred mass migrations out of the area. By mid-2012, the number of refugees from Blue Nile and South Kordofan at the Yida Refugee Camp in South Sudan had grown to 65,000, and by 2014 the number of refugees in camps in Ethiopia and South Sudan had swelled to more than 210,000.[18] The government’s brutality and the resulting humanitarian catastrophe are strongly reminiscent of events in Darfur, although the death toll is lower.

The government’s tactics in South Kordofan are different from the tactics used in either Darfur or during the Second Civil War. While in Darfur the government primarily fought through proxy forces, known as the Janjaweed, the government in South Kordofan has fought directly via the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). During the 1980s and 1990s, the government used a “counterinsurgency on the cheap” tactic in South Kordofan by mobilizing Misseriya Arab militias and encouraging them to attack civilian villages whose residents were suspected of supporting the rebels, with the evidence for support being their non-Arab identity. This tactic is very similar to what occurred in Darfur, where the Janjaweed was made up largely of nomadic Arab tribes targeting primarily non-Arab groups. Many of the Misseriya Arab militias who fought with the government during the 1980s were incorporated into the paramilitary Popular Defense Forces (PDF) after 1989. The PDF continues to fight in South Kordofan despite the fact that it was officially disbanded by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the Second Civil War and led to the creation of an independent South Sudan in 2011.

The tactic of fighting through proxy forces is no longer used with much frequency in South Kordofan, due in part to shifting loyalties of the Arab tribes. The Misseriya Arabs have grown increasingly frustrated with Khartoum since 2005, in particular due to its decision to abolish West Kordofan state, which represented their homeland. In July 2011, the government organized a conference to ask the Misseriya traditional leaders to mobilize militias on behalf of the government – the leaders refused because there were now so many Misseriya on the SRF side that they wanted to avoid inter-tribal fighting.[19] By mid-2012, there were more than 1000 Misseriya estimated to be actively fighting with the SRF and against the government.[20] The Hawazma Arabs are also beginning to switch sides, and a Hawazma politician estimated that around 300-400 Hawazma are fighting with rebels. [21] While the government no longer employs these Arab militias, there may be small numbers of proxy forces fighting on behalf of Kharotum. There have been unverified reports of combatants from Khartoum-supported Chadian rebel groups who had operated in Darfur, such as the Union des Forces pour la Democratie et le Developpment, fighting in South Kordofan.[22]

Despite these shifting loyalties, there is still an ethnic and religious dimension to the conflict, and there remains a perception that the government is trying to impose an Arab-Islamic identity on all Sudanese. As in Darfur and South Sudan, the majority of fighters perceive themselves as "Africans" fighting against an "Arab" regime, although most Nuba, like most Darfuris, are Muslim. Abdelaziz Adam al-Hilu, the SPLM-N Commander and former Deputy Governor of South Kordofan, said that the root cause of the conflict was that, "Khartoum doesn’t want to recognize the diversity in the country. They are going for a monolithic type of state based on only two parameters, that is Arabism and Islam."[23] However, overall ethnic cleavages in South Kordofan are less pronounced than they were during the Second Civil War and the Darfur conflict.

Root Causes

The root causes of conflict in South Kordofan have much in common with the root causes of the conflict in Darfur and those of the First and Second Civil Wars. At the heart of all these conflicts is the perceived political, economic, and cultural marginalization of Sudan’s peripheries by Khartoum. Economic and political power has been concentrated in a culturally homogenous elite in Khartoum throughout Sudan’s history. Eighty percent of elites in power belong to three small Arab riverain tribes who make up 5-6% of the population. There is little representation of other groups, ethnicities, or regions in Sudan’s centers of power. The majority of Sudan’s GDP is concentrated in Khartoum, while the peripheries of the country remain largely poor and undeveloped. For example, Malik Agar, former governor of Blue Nile state and currently the leader of the SRF, calculated that when he was governor, each day $237,600 worth of chrome and minerals left Blue Nile, Blue Nile’s Roseires Dam produced electricity worth $75 million a year, and yet the state received none of the revenue or benefits from either the minerals or the dam.[24] South Kordofan is an oil-producing state, but these oil revenues flow directly to Khartoum, which spends almost none of this revenue on development in country’s peripheries. These examples illustrate the exploitation at the heart of these conflicts.

Divisions within Khartoum’s elite – an unstable power center – are another contributing factor to this complex conflict. Divisions within the National Congress Party (NCP), the ruling party led by al-Bashir, continue to increase, and policy tends to be driven by a group of hardliners who favor military might over concessions.[25] Power is centralized in a small clique around President al-Bashir; this clique relies heavily on networks of personal loyalty and tribal allegiance. Dissatisfaction with this small group, and with al-Bashir in particular, is no longer confined to the peripheries, but has spread to the armed forces, where six senior officers from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) were arrested (and eventually pardoned) following a failed coup attempt in November 2012. Dissatisfaction with al-Bashir has also spread to the streets of Khartoum, where sporadic protests, spurred in part by Sudan’s faltering economy, have been ongoing since 2011 and have often been put down with bullets.[26] Facing threats from all sides and lacking internal political cohesion, the regime is growing increasingly fragile, and views rebellions, such as the current insurgency in South Kordofan, as a threat to its survival. This logic, in particular the belief that regime survival is dependent upon striking as hard as possible to destroy support for insurgents, underlies the government’s harsh tactics in South Kordofan, Darfur, and during the Second Civil War.

Another root cause of the conflict is related to environmental issues and land dispossession. As in Darfur, ecological stress is a condition, though not a direct cause in and of itself, of the conflict.[27] In 1968, the government began developing large-scale mechanized farming schemes in South Kordofan. This was facilitated by General Gaafar Nimeiry’s passage of the Land Act, which made undocumented land government property. Collective and individual land ownership was based on custom, rather than official records, resulting in large tracts of land being taken from Nuba and given to private investors. Commercial farming land jumped from half a million hectares in 1968 to 5 million hectares in 1986.[28] This dramatic increase in land used for commercial farming, combined with persistent droughts throughout the 1970s and 1980s, caused environmental degradation through soil erosion. The resulting reduction in land available to farmers and pastoralists led to increasing competition and conflict between Nuba farmers and Arab pastoralists, many of whom moved from North Kordofan state into South Kordofan in search of land. Guma Kunda Kroney, a Nuba land expert, said, “the encroachment of mechanized rain-fed farming into the customary Nuba farming land bringing socioeconomic devastation [was] the single most important issue behind the extension of the civil war into the Nuba Mountains.”[29] These environmental conditions of conflict bear similarities to Darfur, where climatic and environmental factors, such as the expanding Sahara, led to increased internal migration, causing increasing demands on land and water in Darfur and spurring conflict between migratory Arab tribes and sedentary farmers. Repeated droughts worsened the situation in both South Kordofan and Darfur. As in Darfur, government policy, such as al-Bashir’s policy of expelling Nubans from their land, exacerbated ecological problems.[30]

Antecedents to the Conflict

The antecedents of the current conflict were the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the May 2011 gubernatorial election, and the unresolved status of Nuba SPLA combatants following the Second Civil War. The CPA served as an important trigger by sending a simple message that “rebellion pays.” After decades of rebellion and war, the CPA gave the people of southern Sudan the right to hold an independence referendum in January 2011. With 98.83% of the population voting for independence, the Republic of South Sudan declared independence on July 9, 2011. Rebels in Darfur and in South Kordofan took heed of this message.

The most important trigger for the conflict was the failure to implement key provisions of the CPA, in particular the promised popular consultations to address long-held grievances.[31]South Kordofan and Blue Niles states, known as the “two areas,” were not given the right of self-determination in the CPA. Instead, the CPA assigned them popular consultations, which were supposed to be overseen by the state’s legislatures. The aim of these popular consultations, which were originally scheduled to be concluded by July 2011, was to address issues left unresolved by the CPA, such as land ownership. The six-year interim period from 2005-2011 was marked by a failure of all parties to implement CPA-mandated disarmament, land commissions, and popular consultations. The power sharing agreements in South Kordofan set up by the CPA, which required that the NCP control 55% and the SPLM-N control 45% of the legislative and executive bodies until elections were held, were implemented very slowly. Ahmed Haroun of the NCP became governor in 2009, with Abdelaziz Adam al-Hilu acting as his SPLM-N deputy. Haroun had been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Darfur, while Al-Hilu, whose father was a Darfuri Masalit, had fought in Darfur and been trained by John Garang.[32] Once again, the strong links between the conflicts in Darfur and South Kordofan are made evident by the fact that many of the same actors are involved in both.

John Garang’s unexpected death in 2005 further contributed to the CPA’s failures, as much SPLA support in South Kordofan was based on Garang’s personality. Upon his death, many in South Kordofan feared that his replacements would not honor his promises that he would not abandon the Nuba in exchange for South Sudan’s independence.[33] On the day of South Sudan’s independence, President Salva Kiir stated, “I want to assure the people of Abyei, Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan that we have not forgotten you.”[34] However, this rhetoric does not match the reality on the ground. Although President al-Bashir routinely accuses his foes in Juba of backing the SPLM-N, in fact Juba has provided the SPLM-N with only limited political and logistical support since independence, and has not been found to provide the SPLM-N with either fighters or weapons.[35]

A second important trigger was the May 2011 gubernatorial election, which pitted SPLM-N Deputy Governor Abdelaziz Adam al-Hilu against NCP Governor Ahmed Haroun. The election’s importance stemmed from the fact that the winning candidate and the elected legislative assembly would be responsible for several important issues, including the census and the aforementioned popular consultations.[36] The month before the election, President al-Bashir said that the NCP would take the South Kordofan “either by ballot boxes or by bullet boxes.”[37] Haroun won the election by a mere 6,500 votes – a margin of less than 1.5%. The NCP obtained 33 seats in legislative assembly, while the SPLM obtained 21. Before the votes were even counted, the SPLM-N accused Khartoum of rigging the election, accusing the NCP of including votes from a fake polling center. The Carter Center, the only international observer, stated that, “Despite a climate of heightened insecurity and instances of procedural irregularities that removed an important safeguard of the process, South Kordofan's elections were generally peaceful and credible.”[38] However, the Carter Center’s findings were criticized by many. For example, Al-Jazeera claimed to have obtained figures showing that the Al-Hilu was ahead by 14,000 votes after counting results from all but six polling stations.[39] The election dramatically increased tensions between the NCP and the SPLM-N.

A third trigger for the crisis was the unresolved status of Nuba SPLA combatants. This reflects the fact that the conclusion of the Second Civil War contributed to the outbreak of the South Kordofan conflict. The CPA stipulated that all SPLA forces in Sudan (the ninth division in South Kordofan and the tenth division in Blue Nile) must withdraw to South Sudan, except for 3,300 who would be incorporated in the Joint Integrated Unites (JIUs) which were to include equal number of SAF and SPLA fighters. Following the conclusion of the Second Civil War, the SPLA claimed that all SPLA fighters from South Kordofan were in Jaw, in South Sudan’s Unity State near the South Kordofan border. However, international observers could not verify this, and military observers believed that thousands of SPLA troops remained in South Kordofan.[40]Beginning in January 2011, troops of the ninth division left Jaw for South Kordofan in large numbers.[41] The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP) attempted to diffuse the tension by proposing that these soldiers be integrated into the SAF, but Khartoum refused and instead stated that all SPLA soldiers, even those who had previously been allowed to remain as part of JIUs, must withdraw to South Sudan by April 9, 2011. Khartoum wanted to dismantle this large armed force linked to the almost-independent South Sudan, and did not believe that the SPLA should have any armed combatants in Sudan. The SPLA refused to obey, and instead continued moving troops back into South Kordofan.

By the May elections, nearly all Nuba SPLA troops had returned to South Kordofan.[42] In May, the SAF invaded Abyei, another contested border region, driving more than 100,000 residents from the area.[43] Emboldened by the weak international response to the seizure of Abyei and its victory in South Kordofan’s elections, Khartoum demanded that all southern-allied fighters still in the north disarm. On June 1, the SAF began to disarm SPLA troops. The first shots of the war were fired on June 5 when an SPLA soldier refused to be disarmed in Um Durein, a city southeast of South Kordofan’s capital, Kadugli. The fighting spread to Kadugli on June 6 when SAF units attacked Al-Hilu’s home, and by June 7 fighting had begun in the Nuba Mountains. By the time South Sudan declared independence on July 9, the first refugees from South Kordofan were entering Yida Refugee Camp in South Sudan. A week later, a leaked UN report revealed eyewitness accounts of mass graves, air assaults, and executions. When South Sudan became independent, the SPLA fighters in South Kordofan and in Blue Nile officially formed the SPLM-N. The timing of the war, starting just as South Sudan declared independence, makes clear the links between these events and Sudan’s Second Civil War – the resolution of the Second Civil War, and the CPA in particular, triggered the current conflict.

Stalemate

While the bulk of the war has been fought in South Kordofan, in September 2011 the SAF invaded Blue Nile state. As in South Kordofan and Darfur, the government immediately cut off outside humanitarian access to the region, and within weeks more than 100,000 refugees had entered Ethiopia and South Sudan.[44] Over the next year, the conflict in both states continued to worsen. While exact figures are difficult to determine, the UN estimates that at least 1.2 million have been displaced since 2011, with more than 210,000 living in refugee camps in South Sudan and Ethiopia.[45] The war remains in a stalemate, with neither side able to declare a victory militarily, as the people of the region continue to suffer. The rebels in Blue Nile state hold little land and primarily use guerilla warfare tactics, while the rebels in South Kordofan control large parts of the Nuba Mountains and have occasional military victories.

Multiple attempted peace agreements, such as the February 2012 Tripartite Proposal by the UN, African Union, and League of Arab States, have failed to resolve the conflict. While both the SPLM-N and Khartoum signed the Tripartite Proposal in August 2012, by November 2012 the agreement had expired.[46] The most recent talks collapsed in March 2014, with the African Union (AU) mediators releasing a statement that, "The panel is of the view that as matters stand, it is impossible to bridge the chasm between the parties."[47] The failure of multiple peace agreements is reminiscent of Darfur, where agreements such as the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur have failed to produce results.[48] While the CPA ended the Second Civil War, the conflicts in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur are ongoing and appear unlikely to be resolved soon.

The role of the international community has been limited throughout this conflict. This stands in strong contrast to the outsize role played by the international community, in particular the United States, during Sudan’s past conflicts. International pressure by the United States played a major role in persuading the governments of South Kordofan and Blue Nile to sign the protocol on the “two areas” on May 26, 2004, which replaced the call for referendums (desired by the local SPLA) with the popular consultations. While the international community has undoubtedly altered the trajectory of both the Second Civil War and of the conflict in Darfur, it has remained largely silent in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The AU and the UN have tried to broker peace agreements, the UN has passed numerous resolutions on the subject, and policymakers in the US and in Europe have expressed concern, but a concerted international effort to resolve the conflict has not been undertaken.[49]

In conclusion, Sudan’s multiple crises are complex and inextricably linked to one another. The war in South Kordofan and Blue Nile is new, but it is between old enemies – the actors and organizations involved, the root causes of the war, and the government’s strategy, tactics, and motivations are strikingly similar to past conflicts, in particular the conflict in Darfur. While it was the resolution of the Second Civil War and the CPA that triggered this crisis, overall the conflict bears more similarities to Darfur than to the Second Civil War. The war in South Kordofan is not a new or different conflict for Sudan, but is rather the most recent manifestation of Sudan’s fundamental problem of the center versus the peripheries.

Notes & References

  1. “Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan” International Crisis Group. February 14 2013. http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/africa/horn-of-africa/sudan/198-sudans-spreading-conflict-i-war-in-south-kordofan.pdf
  2. Ibid.
  3. De Waal, Alex. “Counter-insurgency on the Cheap.” London Review of Books. Vol. 26 No. 15. 2004.
  4. “Sudan: Eradicating the Nuba.” Africa Watch. Vol. 4 Issue 10. September 9, 1992.http://www.hrw.org/reports/pdfs/s/sudan/sudan929.pdf
  5. “Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan.” International Crisis Group. February 14 2013.
  6. “Eastern Sudan group joins SRF rebels.” Sudan Tribune. October 3 2013. http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article48289
  7. Gramizzi, Claudio and Tubiana, Jérôme. “New War, old enemies: Conflict dynamics in South Kordofan.” Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. March 2013. http://www.smallarmssurveysudan.org/fileadmin/docs/working-papers/HSBA-WP29-S.Kordofan.pdf
  8. Ibid.
  9. Cockett, Richard. “Sudan: Darfur and the Failure of an African State.” Yale University Press. 2010.
  10. “Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan” International Crisis Group. February 14 2013.
  11. Gramizzi, Claudio and Tubiana, Jérôme. “New War, old enemies: Conflict dynamics in South Kordofan.” Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. March 2013.
  12. Reeves, Eric. “In Sudan, genocide anew?” Washington Post. June 17 2011.http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-sudan-genocide-anew/2011/06/17/AGVhCVZH_story.html
  13. Kristoff, Nick. “Starving its Own Children.” New York Times. June 2 2012.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/03/opinion/sunday/kristof-starving-its-own-children.html?_r=0 and Reeves, Eric. “Passive in the Face of Sudan’s Atrocities.” Washington Post. February 9, 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/washingtons-passive-response-to-sudans-atrocities/2012/01/31/gIQA4qhW2Q_story.html
  14. Gramizzi, Claudio and Tubiana, Jérôme. “New War, old enemies: Conflict dynamics in South Kordofan.” Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. March 2013.
  15. “Life in the Nuba Mountains”, The Enough Project. Oct 13 2013.http://www.enoughproject.org/reports/life-nuba-mountains
  16. Prendergast, John. “Why Washington can’t just sit by and let another full-fledged war break out in Sudan.” Foreign Policy. March 4 2013. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/03/04/preventing_the_next_mali_sudan
  17. Reeves, Eric. “In Sudan, genocide anew?” Washington Post. June 17 2011.http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-sudan-genocide-anew/2011/06/17/AGVhCVZH_story.html and “Polio vaccination campaign in Sudan has failed, UN admits” The Guardian. November 11 2013.http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/12/polio-vaccination-sudan-failed-united-nations
  18. Snapp, Trevor. “Death in the Nuba Mountains.” Foreign Policy. July 9 2012.http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/07/09/death_in_the_nuba_mountains
  19. “Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan” International Crisis Group. February 14 2013.
  20. Gramizzi, Claudio and Tubiana, Jérôme. “New War, old enemies: Conflict dynamics in South Kordofan.” Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. March 2013.
  21. “Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan” International Crisis Group. February 14 2013.
  22. Gramizzi, Claudio and Tubiana, Jérôme. “New War, old enemies: Conflict dynamics in South Kordofan.” Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. March 2013.
  23. McConnell, Tristan. “South Kordofan's rebel general explains his battle against Sudan President Omar al-Bashir” Global Post. May 8, 2012http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120502/south-kordofans-rebel-general-explains-his-battle-against-sudan-
  24. Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (II): War in Blue Nile” International Crisis Group. June 18 2013. http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/africa/horn-of-africa/sudan/204-sudans-spreading-conflict-ii-war-in-blue-nile.pdf
  25. “Divisions in Sudan’s Ruling Party and the Threat to the Country’s Stability.” International Crisis Group. May 4, 2011.
    http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/africa/horn-of-africa/sudan/174%20Divisions%20in%20Sudans%20Ruling%20Party%20and%20the%20Threat%20to%20the%20Countrys%20Future%20Stability%202
  26. “At least 29 killed in central Sudan's worst unrest for years." Reuters. September 29, 2013.http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/26/us-sudan-protest-idUSBRE98P0K620130926
  27. De Waal, Alex. “Is climate change the culprit for Darfur?” July 2008.
  28. “Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan” International Crisis Group. February 14 2013.
  29. Gramizzi, Claudio and Tubiana, Jérôme. “New War, old enemies: Conflict dynamics in South Kordofan.” Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. March 2013.
  30. Verini, James. “The Battle for South Kordofan.” Foreign Policy. January 22 2013.http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/01/22/the_battle_for_south_kordofan_sudan#sthash.Mzff5xuI.dpbs
  31. “Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan” International Crisis Group. February 14 2013.
  32. Natsios, Andrew. “Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know.” Oxford University Press. 2012.
  33. “Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan” International Crisis Group. February 14 2013.
  34. “South Sudan Celebrates New Beginning.” Al Jazeera. July 9 2011.http://m.aljazeera.com/story/20117972241183461
  35. Gramizzi, Claudio and Tubiana, Jérôme. “New War, old enemies: Conflict dynamics in South Kordofan.” Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. March 2013.
  36. “Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan” International Crisis Group. February 14 2013.
  37. Ibid.
  38. “Vote in South Vote in South Kordofan is Peaceful and Credible.” Carter Center. May 18 2011. http://www.cartercenter.org/news/pr/sudan-051811.html
  39. “ICC suspect lags behind SPLM candidate in South Kordofan elections: Al-Jazeera.” Sudan Tribune. May 7, 2011. http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article38805
  40. “Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan” International Crisis Group. February 14 2013.
  41. Gramizzi, Claudio and Tubiana, Jérôme. “New War, old enemies: Conflict dynamics in South Kordofan.” Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. March 2013.
  42. “Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan” International Crisis Group. February 14 2013.
  43. Hamilton, Rebecca. “Terror in Abyei.” Foreign Policy. June 20, 2011.http://www.foreignpolicy.com/node/825631
  44. "Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (II): War in Blue Nile” International Crisis Group. June 18 2013.
  45. Bariyo, Nicholas. “Sudan Peace Talks Break Down: African Union Had Hoped to Broker a Cease Fire.” The Wall Street Journal. March 3, 2014. And “Under Siege: Indiscriminate Bombing and Abuses in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.” Human Rights Watch. December 2012. http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/sudan1212webwcover_0.pdf
  46. “Tripartite Agreement Dies.” Radio Tamazuj. November 14 2012.https://radiotamazuj.org/en/article/tripartite-agreement-dies
  47. Bariyo, Nicholas. “Sudan Peace Talks Break Down: African Union Had Hoped to Broker a Cease Fire.” The Wall Street Journal. March 3, 2014.
  48. “Failing Darfur.” Enough Project. August 2012.http://www.enoughproject.org/files/DDPDimplementation.pdf
  49. UN Security Council Resolution 2046. May 2012. http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2012/sc10632.doc.htm
Michelle Trone is an M.A. candidate at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies concentrating in Conflict Management. Prior to SAIS, Michelle worked for the World Bank’s Department of Global Security, where she monitored and analyzed the impact of political and security developments on World Bank operations. Michelle has also previously worked for an NGO in India, and she holds a B.A. from Emory University.