Sudan: Tribal Tribulations


December 4, 2009: The Nuba Mountains lie in central Sudan, which puts the territory along a fault line between the national government (north Sudan) and the Government of South Sudan (GOSS, south Sudan). During the two decades of north-south civil war, the Nuba Mountain villages were frequent targets of Sudanese Air Force strikes (usually by Antonov transports rigged as bombers). The World Food Program also fed a substantial number of refugees who fled from their homes for months and sometimes years. Sudan Peoples Liberation Army troops are found in most key Nuba Mountain towns, but the area is surrounded by “northern zones.” The region is supposed to hold its own referendum (called popular consultations) to decide which side (national government or GOSS) it will align with. The date for the decision remains uncertain. Reporters visiting the area say local residents indicate they prefer belonging to the south, but because the region is isolated, the national government may not accept a “pro-GOSS” decision. The mountains are part of South Kordofan state, which is also an oil producing region. The area has its own factions; tribes in the Nuba range practice Christianity, Islam, and animism, but they do not want to be forced to join the north's predominantly Arab culture and they do not want to submit to Sharia law. If the north does not permit the Nuba Mountain region to join South Sudan, a new guerrilla war could erupt.

December 1, 2009: The national government has extended the time period for voter registration. Sudanese voters now have until December 7 to register. The date for the national elections has been pushed back, too, from April 5, 2010, to April 11. Many Sudanese believe the elections will be delayed again, if only because of the logistics involved in getting voting materials into Sudan's back country. According to a number of reports, citizens in the south and Darfur expect the national government to cheat.

November 29, 2009: The Darfur Freedom Eagles (aka Liberation Falcons, aka Freedom Eagles of Africa) are back. The clandestine group (which seems to favor the national government) claims it recently kidnapped three French aid workers in the Central African Republic. The Eagles press statement said it kidnapped the Frenchmen in order to put pressure on the French government. France has been a long time and consistent critic of the Omar al-Bashir government's policy in Darfur.

November 26, 2009: A Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction in Darfur accused the government of launching two attacks in North Darfur state. The accusation is that Sudan government forces attacked the town of Jebel Eissa and al-Harra.

November 24, 2009: Ugandan Lords resistance Army (LRA) rebels launched an attack in the Nzara area of West Equatoria state. This is the third attack in the region this month by the LRA. Seven civilians were killed in the attacks.

November 22, 2009: The government of Qatar, which is sponsoring peace talks in Darfur, has once again postponed negotiations. The Qataris announced the postponement on November 16, but some diplomats remained hopeful that the “Qatari initiative” would still bring the national government and several Darfur rebel groups to the table. This round of talks was supposed to begin on October 28.

November 21, 2009: West Equatoria state has asked the UN to permit members of its UNMIS (UN Mission in Sudan) peacekeeping force to defend Sudanese civilians from attacks by Uganda's Lords Resistance Army. According to the state government, the UNMIS mandate permits “protecting” civilians. The government wants the UNMIS troops to be able to defend civilians (meaning a more robust rules of engagement for the force). One state spokesman even suggested UNMIS conduct a joint operation against the LRA, along with Congolese and South Sudanese forces, as well as security forces from the Central African Republic (CAR). The request is not so radical, given a UN Security Council statement (from November 17) that the various UN missions in Congo, the CAR, and Sudan should coordinate with one another in order to protect civilians against the LRA.

November 18, 2009: The government of South Sudan (GOSS) reported another major fight occurred between two ethnic groups. An armed group from the Mundari tribe attacked two villages of the Dinka Aliap tribe. One report said the attack began as a cattle raid, but many southerners claim that this is a smokescreen for attacks by pro-national government forces upon southern tribes. However, the Dinka Aliap and the Mundari do have a long history of cattle raids and tribal clashes. Some 47 people were killed in the ethnic battles. The Dinka had 10 killed and 16 wounded. The Dinka reported they found 37 Mundari dead.




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