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The conflict in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states have displaced and killed thousands of people, more specifically 250,000 people have been displaced from the Nuba mountains since mid-2011 (UNHCR, 2016) many of whom escaping to Ethiopia (Radio Dabanga, 2017). This war commencing from South Sudan’s independence started in South Kordofan and spread to the neighbouring Blue Nile state when the government of Sudan began a crusade to defeat the Sudan Revolutionary Front, who wanted to replace president Omar al-Bashir’s government with a democracy (Trone, 2014). The SRF, led by the SPLM-N, comprises of an alliance with Darfuri rebel groups, including the Justice and Equality Movement, the United People’s Front for Liberation and Justice, the Sudan Liberation/A and the Sudan Liberation Army/M, thus creating a national agenda (Sudan Tribune, 2013). It is therefore important to consider that this conflict is inextricably linked with the War in Darfur. I will focus on the impacts of this conflict and explore why the conflict in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states between the government of Sudan and the Sudan Revolutionary Front is stuck in an impasse. 

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South Kordofan is home to a population that is demographically diverse in terms of ethnicity and religion (ARC, 2016).  This divide is between the Nuba inhabitants who predominantly follow Islamic beliefs, and several other Arab tribes including the Misseriya located in the west region, and the Hawazma located in the east region. It has been argued that the origin of the conflict in South Kordofan dates back to Sudan’s independence in 1956 as tensions between the government of Sudan who believed in an Islamist regime and the Nuba who were marginalized began to arise. During the First and Second Sudanese Civil Wars, many Nuba identified with the South, as the central government antagonised them via channels of legitimate policies (Trone, 2014).

The 1989 coup that brought Omar al-Bashir closer to presidency worsened the relationship between Khartoum and the Nuba and in 1992, the government declared a fight against the enemies of Islam, on the African Nuba people of South Kordofan, which Alex de Waal described as the “genocidal campaign of a government at the height of its ideological hubris.” (de Waal, 2004). This jihad by the Islamist Government of Sudan in Khartoum with the use of aerial bombardments indiscriminately bombing Nuba villages indicated an arbitrary extermination campaign (International Crisis Group, 2013). It is clear that the Sudanese Armed Forces wanted to destroy and prevent the establishment of insurgencies in other regions to deny rebels a base of support, as they viewed the inhabitants of the areas that were controlled by the rebels as imminent threats to the survival of the regime (Tubiana and Gramizzi, 2013). 

The aerial attacks against the rebels were a humanitarian disaster and have had environmental impacts as remote violence increased from 66 in 2015 to 100 in 2016, destroying harvests and contributing to food insecurities (ACLED Data, 2016). It has been reported that the ensuing fear caused further exacerbated the widespread food insecurity as thousands of civilians settled in caves in attempts to survive the aerial attacks thus rendering them incapable of farming (Trone, 2014). Furthermore, it has been argued that around 2 million people have been affected by human rights abuses, with approximately 500,000 being forcefully displaced by the end of 2014 (Radio Dabanga, 2017). 

Other internal factors exacerbated the crisis such as the Sudanese governments’ refusal to grant the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations access to the region therefore sufficient food and medical assistance could not be delivered (Trone, 2014). Since fighting increased due to Omar al-Bashir’s government in 2015, in the lead up to the elections, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the European Union have provided assistance in monitoring and implementing the peace agreement between the rebels signed by Salva Kiir, amid hostility against the international community.  Following this, the United Nations established UNMISS in 2016 to further monitor the human rights disasters and provide shelter to civilians (Human Rights Watch, 2017).

Conclusively, the root causes of the conflict in South Kordofan are the perceived marginalization, both economically and politically of Sudan’s peripheral regions by the elite throughout Sudan’s history, namely the central government in Khartoum. Instances of cultural exploitation have also occurred as there is a lack of representation of other ethnicities given the internal divisions within Khartoum’s elite (Malik, 2014). It is also important to consider the immediate trigger for the conflict, which followed from the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005. Failure to implement key mandates of this agreement foreshadowed the ongoing state of war that broke out again in 2011 and why it is still continuing. Ultimately, the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are complex and it is evident that they link with the Second Sudanese Civil War and the conflict in Darfur. The wars in these states represent a manifestation of Sudan’s fundamental problem since the 1980s; the ideological opposition between Khartoum attempting to centralise the country with a dominant Arab-Islamic identity, versus the SRF’s agenda for a more decentralised Sudan. Whilst there have been several peace talks aimed at resolving the conflict, they have not succeeded and all three wars have threatened domestic and regional stability (IMF, 2014). These internal divisions between South Kordofan and the Blue Nile itself, also benefit Khartoum as they limit peace talks and prevent reform (Aljazeera, 2016) and unless Omar al-Bashir steps down, it is unlikely that this impasse will end.

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