Last week President Omar al Bashir and the cabinet visited South Kordofan State in the heart of the Nuba Mountains. While the residents welcomed this long overdue recognition of the importance of their state and its significance to the implementation of the CPA, the event also reminded them that the CPA was, for them, not truly an agreement at all. The many members of the SPLM/A in South Kordofan fought long and hard against extreme odds for the right of self-determination for the Nuba people. They demanded self-determination as an inalienable right in recognition of their distinct ethnic and cultural identity, their massive sufferings during the war and their strong stand in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in the South, but were denied that right in the Karen Accords and only received an inadequate substitute, a “popular consultation” on the status of South Kordofan within Northern Sudan. Many Nuba people, especially those living within the “closed district” controlled by the SPLM with its headquarters in Kauda, are still living under the erroneous impression that they will be able to cast their votes to join the South, like the Ngok Dinka people of Abyei.
The CPA was in fact the latest in a long line of agreements in which the SPLM won rights for the Southerners but conceded an inadequate compromise for the Nuba. In the 1994 SPLM-Umma Party agreement and the 1995 Asmara Declaration of the NDA, the right of self-determination for the Nuba was explicitly excluded. In the 2002 Machakos Protocol there was no mention of the Nuba. When Nuba organizations convened a consultation in Kampala soon after Machakos to discuss the right of self-determination, the SPLM undermined it by holding a “Convention” in Kauda in which the Nuba members of SPLM were persuaded to give unconditional support to the SPLM leadership to negotiate on their behalf.
Where will the Nuba stand in 2011 if the Referendum goes as expected for separation? This is the question that preoccupies many residents in the Nuba Mountains. The New Kush Division of the SPLM did not fight all those years, many of them without even a single ammunition box supplied from the parent Movement in the South, many of them without a single promotion given to the front-line commanders, to have their rights traded away. If self-determination is a right for the South and Abyei it should be no less a right for the Nuba.
The genie of self-determination is out of the box for Sudan and it can not be put back inside. It is out of the box for Southern Sudan and it is out of the box for the Nuba and all the other marginalized peoples. If there is a new war in South Kordofan the Nuba will be demanding nothing less than the full rights of self-determination.
The NCP opposed the right of self-determination for the South because they know it will not stop there. They categorically opposed to the extension of self-determination to the Nuba and Blue Nile because they knew full well that all the marginalized peoples of Sudan would be up in arms, demanding either to run the country in which they form a demographic majority or to pull it to pieces and enjoy control of their own ancestral homelands.
If the Darfuri people can not settle their differences by 2011 then the new war in Darfur will also be a war of self-determination as well. In fact Dr. Khalil Ibrahim has already put self-determination on the table. Historically speaking, Darfur’s claim to an independent statehood is as strong or stronger than anybody else’s in Sudan. Darfur was independent until 1916 and before then had hundreds of years of existence as an independent state.
The National Congress is preparing for this eventuality. The economic investment of the regime is focused on the “Hamdi Triangle” and completely ignoring the rest of the country. The security policy shows the same calculations at work, building up a hierarchy of security institutions depending on the value they place on the territory in question. According to the evidence before our eyes they will consolidate their defences around the Hamdi Triangle using security agencies staffed exclusively from the Three Tribes and play divide and rule with the remainder finding many willing takers in the tribes who will lose out in any self-determination for the marginalized. The Arabs of South Kordofan and Darfur will become minorities if confederal or independent states come into being and for sure they will resist and take arms from Khartoum.
Gaafar Numeyri’s policy of redivision of the South in 1981 set in motion an unstoppable logic of division among the tribes of the south, with the Dinka opposing redivision because they forfeited their dominant share of power in the Southern Autonomous Region, and the Nuer and Equatorians supporting it because they could dominate their smaller regions of Upper Nile and Equatoria respectively, and the smaller tribes opposing redivision because they were now more vulnerable to their neighbours taking control of the apparatus of government. The policy of Korkora (redivision) set the South on a slippery slope war, a war that included both the SPLA rebellion and also the tribal wars of small tribe militias that fought on the side of Khartoum and made the war into an internal South-South civil war.
From the vantage point of South Kordofan, the road of self-determination may become the logic of Korkora taken to its ultimate limit, the disintegration of the Sudanese nation. Within our one million square miles we have 570 tribes and 130 languages, each one which can claim the right to self-determination. If we follow where this road is taking us, each one will become its own separate tribal kingdom. Our leaders, focused only on their manoeuvering for tomorrow, need to rise to the challenge of saving our nation, whether as one state, or two states, or many states. Since the Darfur rebellion and the purging of the Sudan Armed Forces there are no national institutions left and the security institutions which are the pillars of the NCP rule are drawn more and more from the kinsmen of the ruling clique. Since the death of the late Dr. John Garang the champions of a different vision of Sudan have faded from the political scene and the programme of the New Sudan has become a slogan under which each is taking care of his own.
The true meaning of “self determination” is a people taking charge of their own destiny and forging their vision of a common future. In Sudan today “self determination” is becoming the road to fragmentation and ruin.