Blue Nile blues

Posted: September 9, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

Khartoum made life hard for the indigenous black Africans of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. This oppression may lead them to follow the South Sudan example, chronicles Gamal Nkrumah 

Once again Sudan shudders. It was never going to be easy for Khartoum to live without South Sudan. Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir was hoping to win support for his peace initiative with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

A minimalist reading of the contemporary history of Sudan could argue that the SPLM, and especially its SPLM-North Sector has emerged as the champion of the peripheral peoples of Northern Sudan. These are peoples whose allegiance is to South Sudan, or at least the “New Sudan” that the late John Garang, the founding father of the SPLM, propagated.

Garang’s vision was of a united Sudan in which not only southerners, but also all the non-Arabised, indigenous black Africans of Sudan had a say in how their country was run. He insisted that the SPLM was not a secessionist movement but rather one that defended the rights of the underdog in Sudan. Hundreds of thousands of non-Arabised Sudanese from the North such as the Nuba people of South Kordofan and the Ngassena people of the Blue Nile as well as a considerable number of Sudanese Arabs joined the ranks of the SPLM. Garang’s SPLM was a Pan-Sudanese, Pan-African movement. It was never a secessionist southern Sudanese group. Garang’s policy was to go global, or at least continental, look local. Development, he recognised, is a global business run from a village.

In the mix of languages and peoples in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, underdevelopment and abject poverty have taken their toll on the people of these two border areas between northern and southern Sudan. Politically and culturally, they are more akin to South Sudan. They feel excluded from the decision-making process in Khartoum.

The peoples of South Kordofan and Blue Nile are not Arabised, like the northern Sudanese even though their territories are administered as part of northern Sudan. They believe that their prospects, economic and political, will look pretty good if they are part of the newly independent South Sudan. They are not necessarily all Muslim, even though a substantial number of the peoples of South Kordofan and Blue Nile are actually Muslim. However, the political predicament that they face is not about religion, rather it is a question of race.

Northern Sudanese, in particular the ruling clique, despise the indigenous African black-skinned races of Sudan and treat them like slaves. Arabs rule the roost. Racial oppression, including de jure segregation left a bitter legacy in the political dynamics of Sudan. With the secession of South Sudan, the crisis of racial politics remains in the northern two-thirds of the country.

Is it possible that Khartoum has its priorities a bit, shall we say, upside down? Race and religion raise passions in Sudan to an intensity that appears bizarre in the rest of the Arab world. Other Arabs regard Sudan as the Land of Blacks, a literal translation of Sudan in Arabic. However, the Sudanese themselves are acutely conscious of the different shades of black among themselves. There is blue black, the darkest complexion; there is green, the next darkest, then red and then yellow. This is how the Sudanese define their blackness. The blue people are invariably the non-Arabised indigenous Africans and they form the majority of the country’s population. People in western Sudan — Darfur and Kordofan — are mostly blue. People in Blue Nile, not surprisingly, are blue, too.

Khartoum, the national capital has more than its fair share of blue people. However, the powers that be are invariably reds and greens, with the yellows monopolising the economy. The arguments which successive Sudanese governments and state officials have used to justify their strategy of genocide are bogus.

Since independence from Britain in 1956, Sudan has used the threat of war to bludgeon the blues into submission. Successive Sudanese governments have actually gone to war to bring the blues to their knees. Yet cynically using genocide to bully blues in this way is an abuse of the legal process, which is ostensibly based on Islamic Sharia laws, and a barbarous evasion of democratic accountability.

The people of South Kordofan do not accept the their new governor who they say was forcibly imposed on them by Khartoum and President Al-Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP). Governor Ahmed Haroun of South Kordofan is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity. Fighting broke out and SPLM fighters were ordered to disarm after Ahmed Haroun was declared the state’s new governor. SPLM-North Sector enjoys considerable support among ethnic Nuba people of South Kordofan and they will settle for nothing less than full integration into the political system of Khartoum as members of the SPLM.

Cheated of victory in this year’s governorship elections, the Nuba people of South Kordofan are even contemplating joining South Sudan where they believe their citizenship rights will be guaranteed. The South Sudan Self-Determination referendum last July led to the independence of South Sudan as a sovereign state. When the south seceded, the aspirations of South Kordofan and Blue Nile were addressed in guaranteeing autonomy as part of North Sudan.

Khartoum embarked instead on a policy of appointing military governors without consulting the locals. The implementation of the South Kordofan and Blue Nile protocols was flagrantly ignored by the ruling NCP in Khartoum. SPLM-North Sector has protested and rightly insists it deserves a more prominent role in northern Sudanese politics.

It is in this context that Sudanese government spokeswoman Sanaa Hamad told the BBC that Blue Nile is no longer a war zone and that its inhabitants are enjoying peace. Yehia Mohamed is the military governor of Blue Nile, and he has pursued a policy of heavy-handed mass castigation of the indigenous blue people of Blue Nile. To a large extent, it is the peace of the dead.

Yet if one set of arguments could and should be drummed into the heads of northern politicians, the set to choose is the incorporation of the indigenous peoples in the political process. The former governor of Blue Nile Malik Agor was elected leader of SPLM-North Sector, a political boost for the non-Arabised, marginalised peoples of northern Sudan.

Meanwhile, northern Sudanese troops are accused of ethnic cleansing in Blue Nile. More than 20 people were killed in recent clashes between the SPLM forces and Sudanese government troops. Some 20,000 refugees fled across the border into neighbouring Ethiopia.

The pretense of religious piety by the NCP government, their bad faith and hypocrisy in dealing with the longsuffering people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile have outraged the international community. “Ordering families to return to a highly dangerous region where bombings continue is senseless,” the London-based Amnesty International spokesman explained recently. This points to the wider crisis of racism in Sudan. The danger is that the peoples of South Kordofan and Blue Nile are tempted as never before to join forces with Western powers and even Israel to rid themselves of northern hegemony. This is an issue the gravely concerns Egypt. Cairo, for instance, seeks clarification concerning the curious question of the hoisting of the Southern Sudanese flag over Jerusalem. Juba has chosen Jerusalem as the location for its new embassy in Israel.

The Arab world hopes that the day will not come when Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur do not follow suit. But for now, Khartoum’s adversaries in Sudan will be obliged to refute that negative image.

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