The six-month cease-fire agreement for the Nuba Mountains signed on 19th January 2002 in Burgenstock by both the Government of Sudan and SPLM/SPLA under the mediation of the US and Swiss Governments has now only a few weeks left before it expires. All Nuba welcomed this accord, which succeeded in stopping the Government’s arial bombardment and shelling of innocent civilians in the Mountains. It also succeeded in allowing humanitarian access for international agencies to deliver food to people who have been denied relief aid for almost a decade and it has brought relative security in the region, as people are able to move freely within the Nuba Mountains.
This of course is a great step forward. However, there is concern among many Nuba about what will come next, particularly if the cease-fire is not renewed when it expires on 22 July. Nobody knows what will happen to the Nuba. We hope that the parties concerned will agree on the renewal of the agreement. We all know that the cease-fire agreement is only a peace building confidence process, not a peace settlement or agreement as the government media claims and which tends to confuse people. It contains no hint of a political solution for the people of the Nuba Mountains.
What is clear is that the peace process for Sudan has gained a new momentum due to the recent involvement of United States, Britain, Switzerland and Norway. All these countries are committed to helping the people of Sudan in order to end the war. This commitment was confirmed by President Bush last month when he extended the mission of his Peace Envoy to Sudan, John Danforth and said: "The United States is committed to helping the aggrieved people of the Sudan to achieve a lasting and just peace, all parties at the talks must make every efforts to ensure the discussions are a success."
The international community is now taking serious measures to resolve Sudan’s conflict. There is now talk about a round table conference perhaps similar to that organised for the warring parties in Afghanistan. Yet neither the Nuba in the SPLA controlled areas nor the Nuba politicians in the government occupied parts of the mountains are taking this seriously. Most importantly they do not know what the Nuba want. Many have been asked the question, what do the Nuba want? Unfortunately, no one can give the right answer to this because the Nuba are divided between different warring parties, who have vast interests in the Nuba Mountains and also have their own different agendas for the Nuba.
This is why Nuba Survival has recently been trying to organise an international Nuba conference and to invite Nuba from all political parties, civil societies, communities and intellectuals to try to achieve a consensus on the political future for the Nuba people. However, those in the SPLA/M were the only group of Nuba who are reluctant to participate (without giving any reasons), despite the fact that the majority of the Nuba under the government controlled areas and in the Diaspora accepted the idea. Some made contributions, giving suggestions, making comments and accepting to write papers on the topics to be tabled at the conference for discussion.
The Nuba Vision believes that the cease-fire agreement is a golden opportunity for the Nuba that will never be repeated and we should not allow this vital chance to slip away from us. Nuba principles and political rights must come first and above everything - including personal gain. The conference which Nuba Survival has been working to organise is not aiming to establish or promote any political party but to achieve a consensus among all Nuba of different political shades on the basic principles of peace, governance and democracy in the Nuba Mountains. There is no hidden agenda to make Nuba in the SPLA to fear to participate. After all, every Nuba person has a stake in the Nuba Mountains and the right to participate in decisions to be made for the future of the Nuba Mountains. On the other hand, statistically those in the SPLA controlled areas in Nuba Mountains do not represent the majority of the Nuba people, as they represent less than a quarter of the Nuba population, hence they cannot decide the future of the whole Nuba alone. The destiny of the Nuba people can only de decided by the Nuba themselves and certainly not by the outsiders, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) or other parties who have interests in the Nuba Mountains.
Our vision for the future is that the Nuba should maintain their identity and the right to be Nuba, maintaining their cultural identity and tolerance. They should do what they like according to their wishes without the hegemony from any party. How many Nuba today would like to live under sharia law? The answer is simple: only very few would accept to live under an Islamic constitution or sharia laws. Nuba want to eat what they like, drink what they like and wear what they like, not to conform to Khartoum’s warped vision of an Arab/Islamic identity for Sudan. Any settlement that fails to acknowledge these issues is doomed to failure.
Our vision for the Nuba is that we need the Nuba voice to be heard and not to be silenced. Being sceptical towards the SPLA/M approach to Nuba’s right to self-determination and to demand the right to decide their future themselves does not mean that we support the government or its policy towards the people of Nuba Mountains. The position is very clear on this issue. If Sudan is to be divided the Nuba should have the right to choose whether to live in the north, south or in their own independent state. They should also be entitled to their say in whether the country is to divide or unite.
In conclusion, the international community should become involved in supporting Nuba struggle and that Nuba should be represented in the coming proposed roundtable conference as Nuba delegates, separate form NDA, SPLA and Government delegates. A workable peace solution cannot be built on injustice. Therefore we need to have the consensus of all Nuba people to decide their destiny in Sudan.