Letter to Claire Short

Rt. Hon. Claire Short MP
Secretary for International Development
The House of Commons
London SW1A

Dear Ms Short,

Nuba Survival, the London-based human rights group campaigning for the Nuba people in central Sudan, would like to express on behalf of the Nuba in Sudan and elsewhere its sincere gratitude to the governments of the United States of America (and in particular to former senator John Danforth), of Switzerland, and of United Kingdom, for their unremitting efforts to bring about a cessation of hostilities in the Nuba Mountains.

We are pleased that you have visited Sudan recently in person, and have seen for yourself the suffering of the people, and we urge you to do your utmost to bring about a just and a lasting peace in our country.

The Nuba are grateful for the historic accord signed on 19 January at Burgenstock. This is totally different from all previous agreements signed by the warring parties, since for the first time it includes provision for international monitoring . This accord may be considered as a foundation for a comprehensive peace for the whole of Sudan. The long isolation and denial of humanitarian access to the people of the Nuba Mountains will hopefully be ended with the enforcement of the Burgenstock Cease-fire Agreement.

As there is now relative peace in the Nuba Mountains, we would like the United Kingdom to take the lead, together with the United States and other European countries, in developing the Nuba Mountains region, which has suffered so severely. It is important to stress that the level of human suffering and the destruction brought by 18 years of civil war in the Nuba Mountains are enormous. The people in the Nuba Mountains now face immense challenges in rebuilding their lives. The education infrastructure, health services, water systems, social development and roads have all been destroyed. In addition hundreds of thousands of Nuba are displaced all over the country, most of them living in appalling conditions in the outskirts of cities in northern Sudan. These people would like to return and settle in their homeland and will need support. This why we are appealing to Britain and the other European countries to help the Nuba rehabilitate themselves.

We believe that the Swiss accord is definitely a step forward for peace in Sudan. However, the road to peace in the Nuba Mountains and for the whole of Sudan is still a long one. On the political level, the Nuba support the Inter-Government Authority for Development (IGAD) Declaration of Principles, which we believe is the best platform for Sudanese to discuss the future of their country. However, both the IGAD and the Egypt/Libya peace initiatives seem to ignore the special situation of the Nuba and other indigenous groups in Northern Sudan.

While any agreement that brings peace to Sudan can only be welcomed, the Nuba are deeply concerned that a peace agreement that does not settle the concerns of the Nuba and other non-Arab groups in the country cannot achieve the justice and stability that Sudan needs. A peace that only means the perpetuation of injustice for those marginalised people who collectively comprise a majority of Northern Sudan’s population, will surely be a recipe for future conflict.

We believe that now more than ever there is a pressing need for a comprehensive peace in Sudan, along the lines laid down in the IGAD Declaration of Principles. Significantly, the IGAD Committee members in their last meeting in Khartoum agreed to integrate the Egyptian/Libyan peace initiative into IGAD, and mandated President Moi of Kenya to do that and to prepare a round table conference, which is now imminent.

However, the Nuba are extremely concerned about their representation in this coming conference due to the lack of proper representation in previous national fora such as in NDA or IGAD. Because they have not hitherto been given the opportunity to speak for themselves, it is essential that the Nuba delegation for the peace talks should come as Nuba and not under the umbrella of the SPLA or NDA, so that they can argue for the rights of the Nuba with a strong and united voice. The claim made by the Government and the SPLM at IGAD, that the Nuba Mountains are part and parcel of either of the North or of the South, is not acceptable and it is rejected by virtually the entire population of the Nuba Mountains.

The Nuba demand the right to self-determination in full. They have a strong case, which is based on their long historical record of suffering from abuse, injustice, discrimination and marginalisation and above all they are claiming it and fighting for it. Our demand is for the right to self-determination within a united Democratic secular Sudan, which should be exercised in a period not more than three months after the people of Southern Sudan had carried out their referendum and decided to opt for an independent Southern state. In this case the people of Nuba Mountains shall exercise their right to self-determination to chose one of the following options open to them:

1. to choose to join the northern state;

2. to choose to join the southern state;

3. to choose to establish their

own independent state.

During the agreed interim period the Nuba Mountains should be administered independently from both North and South and under international supervision.

Your Excellency, we would like to bring also to your attention the following important points:

l The Burgenstock Cease-fire Agreement for the Nuba Mountain should be consolidated and the cease-fire should continue to apply after the initial six month period to avoid the risk of a brutal war again returning to the region.

l The international community should arrange to bring all the Sudanese to a round table peace conference, under the Chairmanship of President Moi, assisted by Egypt, the USA, the UK and Norway.

l The IGAD Declaration of Principles should be the basis for peace negotiations at this conference, because it stipulates the right to self-determination and a transitional period.

l All Sudanese political parties should be represented at this conference.

l During the interim period, both the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile should be administered separately from the central government.

l In the case of the Government of Sudan refusing to renew the cease-fire agreement when it expires in 6 months time, and deciding to continue its bombardment in the Nuba Mountains and elsewhere, the international community should impose a no fly-zone to protect the civilian population under the Geneva Convention.

Finally, we appeal to you to use your good offices to ensure that a just and lasting comprehensive peace settlement is achieved in the Sudan, and that the political rights of the people of the marginalised areas in the northern Sudan, including the Nuba, are redressed and respected.

We trust that this receives your urgent attention.

Yours sincerely,

Suleiman Musa Rahhal

Chairman/Nuba Survival