Speaking in a focus group discussion reported by the National Democratic Institute’s study of the “three areas” of South Kordofan, Abyei and Blue Nile, a Nuba man complained that “The peace is now three years and there is supposed to be tangible things. The government should have expressed its presence, but for us here there is no government.” This is one among many worrying statements in this important report about the disappointing outcomes of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the fears of a return to war. People are notably more optimistic in Blue Nile. Abyei is flashpoint: the Ngok Dinka interviewees report that their relations with the Missiriya have been irreparably damaged and that they will all be voting to join the South. But the gravest messages come from the Nuba Mountains, where insecurity is still a major worry and inter-ethnic tensions are high. Several issues of major concern stand out. One is that while people are all in favor of elections, most will vote along ethnic lines and many will not accept a governor who is not from their ethnicity (broadly construed). A second is that the process of “popular consultation” provided for in the CPA is not well-understood […]
Many thanks to Alex de Waal for posting my briefing on land issues in Sudan on his blog last month and for stimulating so many interesting contributions on such a critical topic. I have just returned from Juba where I have been carrying out research on the reintegration of IDPs and refugees returning to the South. The magnitude and the urgency of the land crisis in Juba are a further testimony to the centrality of the land question for the stability of Sudan. The briefing I prepared for SSRC was commissioned as a short, non-academic piece for policy makers, and it therefore does not explore the multiplicity of land issues in their full complexity. The paper only aims to highlight key issues and dynamics, outline possible scenarios and offer broad recommendations. I am glad that it has generated so many in-depth and insightful responses on this blog, though I cannot fail to note that the majority of contributions have been focused on Darfur. The resolution of the land question is critical throughout the country and it is taking an increasingly urgent dimension in the South as a result of the arrival of such large numbers of returnees. Of the various […]
Overview 1. The NCP-SPLM partnership for the CPA stands at a critical juncture. The NCP sees the 2009 elections as its route to internal and international legitimacy and is hoping that problems with the census and elections can be pinned on others (the SPLM, the Darfurians). Both parties have failed to find a compromise to the Abyei situation. 2. The NCP strategy for the elections is to organize politically in the central regions of the North, expecting to use its money and organization to win on the basis of pre-election agreements with other Northern parties, and to utilize security methods to control elections in the peripheral areas including Darfur and the South, where necessary postponing elections altogether. The Northern parties are distrustful of both NCP and SPLM. The SPLM faces the challenge of organizing its own electoral strategy for the North. 3. The economic crisis of the last nine months is a major headache for the NCP. Economic hardship undermines the NCP’s popularity among its constituents and creates difficulties for its patronage-based mechanism for controlling the country. The NCP has moved to consolidate central control of state finances. 4. The SPLM Convention scheduled for May will be a pivotal event […]
In the Sudanese context of prolonged conflict, mobility of pastoral groups into the transitional areas such as South Kordofan and Blue Nile and the drive for compensation for the dispossession of lands where petroleum is found, rural land is being gradually and consistently transformed from communal use to private possession. The lack of a land tenure system and the absence of cadastral registration exacerbate the problem. The movement towards privatization of land has been one of a slow pace towards commoditization in spite of the prevailing customary norms and traditional practices. Competition over access to shrinking land and natural resources has increasingly become the prime mover of disputes and conflicts in the transitional areas. Land is set to become a scarce commodity due to a combination of rapid population increase and the demands made on land access by oil exploration and commercial farming. Issues such as desertification, land degradation, loss of biological diversity and deforestation will have negative impact on sustained income generation and on Sudan’s future prospects. It follows logically that a review of government policies on land and natural resources is of prime importance to consolidate peace. A comprehensive mapping of land and natural resources in the transitional […]
Posted on behalf of Michael Kevane Sudan’s land issues are big and dangerous. Let’s gingerly walk around this growling cur with a big stick and not be too optimistic about what land tenure interventions can do to promote peace and stability. Sara Pantuliano’s paper seems targeted at the UN administrator who needs a set of talking points when meeting with counterparts. You could hear Obama or Clinton repeating these phrases if they arose in a debate about Sudan: “The reform of land tenure legislation, administration and management is a complex, long-term process, which needs to be addressed as an immediate priority by all relevant national actors, both at the local and central government levels, with appropriate and sustained technical support and expertise from international actors.” Sara’s short paper is an odd read. Here is this ambitiously general call for doing many things better (reform land laws that discriminate against women; resolve the Abyei boundary), in a context where the parties that have the power to make such determinations have not even been able to agree to establish the National Land Commission! On to specifics. The report makes four broad recommendations: 1) At present regional NGO/UN efforts should be discouraged in […]
Land is a central issue in both rural and urban Sudan and contests over land claims have been a recurrent cause of unrest and conflict in the country. Successive reforms of land law have not resulted in a unified framework for land tenure across the country, but to the contrary strengthened the hand of the elites close to government at the expense of rural people. Tensions have been sharpest in South Kordofan but land issues are also at the heart of the conflicts in Eastern Sudan and Darfur. The CPA acknowledges the importance of land to peace in Sudan, and enshrines parallel legal systems in northern and southern Sudan, but has deferred the most crucial land questions for the post-agreement phase—an act of political expediency that creates new problems for the future. The full paper can be accessed here.
Two new scholarly books help us understand how people in Sudan’s peripheries survive—or don’t—and place the frontierland governance in a deep historical context. One is Wendy James’s ethnography of the Uduk people of Blue Nile during the last two decades of war and flight, and the other is Martin Daly’s history of Darfur. Wendy James‘s three books on the Uduk people of southern Blue Nile, a frontier area of northern Sudan that abuts both southern Sudan and Ethiopia, describe not only how the Uduk people have been transformed by war and forced displacement—and yet have retained and even rediscovered important parts of their collective identity—but also how discipline of social anthropology itself has been transformed over the same time period. When Prof. James first worked with the Uduk in the 1960s she wrote ethnography in the classic style. The third part of her trilogy, War and Survival in Sudan’s Borderlands: Voices from the Blue Nile, is a mixture of ethnography, contemporary history and rapportage, exploration of historical sources, and humanitarian engagement. War and Survival recounts in vivid depth the ordeals undergone by a small community that found itself in the frontline of Sudan’s civil war, whose members were scattered north […]
Moments of crisis are also moments of opportunity. Sudan at the present has all the dimensions of an imminent crisis that could unravel the major achievements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the uncertain progress towards democracy. The sharpest manifestation of the crisis is the SPLM’s suspension of its participation in the Government of National Unity, announced on October 11. As well as an attempt to push through an overdue cabinet reshuffle–held up by President Omar al Bashir–it was a signal that caught the attention of the international community, especially the U.S., which had been neglecting the CPA. But it was also a risky step, especially insofar as the SPLM does not appear to have had a clear plan for how to follow it up. The SPLM action may yet generate its own momentum, with unforeseeable consequences. A disturbing and unanticipated event was Monday’s press conference by vice president Ali Osman Taha, in which the NCP’s leading proponent of the CPA angrily condemned the SPLM, and also implied that the U.S. was complicit in the withdrawal. It is hard to read exactly what compelled Ali Osman to make this statement, but we should be worried that it could prefigure a […]
War in Darfur and the Search for Peace is a collection of 15 essays by six Sudanese and eleven non-Sudanese scholars and specialists, published in September 2007 by Harvard University Press. This is the first of two postings that provides an outline of the origins of the book, its significance, and some of the main threads of the argument. This posting focuses on the "turbulent state" framework for understanding Sudan’s persistent dysfunction.
In the coming year, Kordofan is at serious risk of large scale violence—and any such violence could have disastrous ramifications for the whole of Sudan. Here’s why. The central political issues in Sudan today are the 2009 general elections and the 2011 referendum on self-determination for Southern Sudan. If either of these were to fail, the prospect of major hostilities looms. Kordofan is the location of several possible flashpoints for war, and should there be a new war for any reason, it is certain that it would engulf Kordofan and cause immense human suffering. There are five particular causes for concern. 1. Abyei—the disputed district on the border between Kordofan and Southern Sudan. Historically most Abyei residents were Ngok Dinka but the war saw a large influx of Misiriya Arabs. One of the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was for the residents of Abyei to vote on whether they should be part of the North or the South, and an Abyei Boundary Commission was established to determine where Abyei’s boundaries lie. These boundaries are important not just for the people who live there but for the governments in Khartoum and Juba, partly because there is a lot of oil […]