Sudan: Juba Peace Talks - Featuring the Conflict (3 - the Blue Nile Area)

Military positioned in North Darfur (file photo).
2 October 2019

Taking the opportunity of Juba peace talks between the government and rebel groups from Darfur, Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile districts, Sudanow gives reminders of general information about, and the root causes of the conflict in those areas.

In this concern the magazine has already published two articles about Darfur and Nuba Mountains.

Below is another one about the Blue Nile area:

Nature of the Land and its Inhabitants:

The Blue Nile State is located in the South East of the country, bordering Ethiopia and the Republic of Southern Sudan. It is Sudan's most rich territory with respect to environmental and climatic diversity. There we find the rich savannah with its heavy rainfall and its wide expanses of forests. It is also endowed with a multitude of valleys, creaks and flat fertile lands.

The Blue Nile society encompasses the Berta (the major ethnic group in the area), Engasana, Hamaj, Funj and other African tribes. In addition, the area is dwelt by some Arab tribes as Kenana and Hamada, in addition to some migrant tribes like the Fulani and Hausa. All the Blue Nile tribes are Moslem.

According to Mr. Esam Omer Ibrahim, a citizen of the blue Nile capital Addamazeen and a leading figure in the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the Blue Nile inhabitants are tender hearted, in addition to their ability for peaceful co-existence with others.

He said the Blue Nile people have a love for work, and work collectively in agriculture and home building. Women of the Blue Nile area are productive and help men in farming. But the Blue Nile individual turns very difficult if offended, Esam said.

Natural and Economic Resources:

The Blue Nile is rich in wide fertile lands, coupled with a diverse climate and abundant rain, river and creak waters addition to the Rosairis Dam (which feeds the Sudan with much hydroelectric power).

And if Sudan is dubbed "the World's Food Basket", the Blue Nile can be a flagship for attaining this goal, asserts Mr. Esam.

The Blue Nile soil grows a lot of cash crops such as sorghum, sesame, gum-Arabic and sun flower. Fruits and vegetables are also grown in the area, in particular along the River Blue Nile from Damazin to Sinja. Here one can find affluent banana, citric and mango orchards. The area is also covered with vast acacia forests, which if reasonably exploited can feed the economy with vast quantities of Gum Arabic. Unfortunately, the civil war has forced a lot of wildlife to escape the region into Ethiopia and Kenya and the few animals that remained took refuge in the Dinder game reserve. Also, land mismanagement has caused the country to lose a vast forest and wildlife wealth that could have boosted the country's tourist activity.

The Blue Nile with its diverse scenery and affluent minerals, primarily gold, is a good asset for the Sudan.

Further, the Blue Nile lands harbor good quantities of mica, iron, chrome, marble. Explorations have confirmed the existence of vast quantities of petroleum and uranium. Natural tilk powder has also been discovered in the Blue Nile hills.

"All that is needed in the Blue Nile is scientific research and a good infrastructure.

Causes Of The Conflict:

Mr. Esam asserts that grievances in the Blue Nile had started during the colonial rule, and when the British rulers quit the country they were replaced by military rulers who oppressed the people.

When John Garang started the war in Southern Sudan, some disgruntled Blue Nile intellectuals joined him with a number of young men from the region. They joined the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and its civilian arm the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) out of the belief that militarymight is the shortest road towards justice, after they felt that the region was marginalized with respect to education opportunities. They noted that the citizens of the region were deprived from academic education that could help them take the lead and exploit their region's resources in a modern scientific manner. They also noted that with the exception of the Engasana ethnicity, not many of the Blue Nile region citizens were able to access modern education. The only education opportunities available for those citizens were artisan education. That was the policy of the British colonialists, which was also followed by the neocolonialists, said Mr. Esam.

In the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) the Government signed with the SPLM , South Sudan was granted the right to self-determination, while the Blue Nile and South Kordofan (referred to as The Two Areas), which joined armed struggle with the southern Sudan's SPLM/A, were granted the right to popular consultation as a mechanism for solving problems and realizing the expectations of the people of those areas,

The popular consultation was meant to explore the views of the people of the Two Areas in the CPA and whether it could fulfill their expectations. The popular consultation also sought to realize a final settlement for the two regions' political dispute with the central government. It also sought to correct any shortfalls in the constitutional, political, administrative and economic arrangements, within the framework of the CPA provisions as regards the two areas,

Popular education about the popular consultation was not adequate, as each party tried to interpret it the way it liked. Each party also used to accuse the other party of not thoroughly understanding the connotations of the popular consultation.

That situation had created mistrust between the two parties, culminated into military confrontations two months after the cessation of Southern Sudan from the mother country in July 2011.

As a result of those confrontations the central government sacked the Blue Nile's elected governor Malik Agar of the SPLM and replaced him with a military governor after imposing the state of emergency in the region, thus ending a brief period of peace and the region returned to war between the central government and the SPLM/North

Now people are hopeful, as the December-April 2019 Revolution government took reins, that all these grievances will be remedied. "The spirit that prevailed during the sit-in at the Army General Command when Southern Sudanese shouted: "we will not go back unless the South comes back", needs to be emulated again in order to achieve lasting and equitable peace all over the country." Mr. Esam said.

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