People’s high hopes become even greater when the two warring parties signed an agreement in Machakos, Kenya on 20th July 2002 in the presence of Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) mediators and partners. The two most contentious issues: separation of religion from state and self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan, were supposedly resolved.
However, Machakos discussed only the IGAD Declaration of Principles (DOP) and did not deliberate the Nuba issue nor the other marginalised areas in northern Sudan. It was hoped that these issues would be discussed in Machakos 2 together with the other major issues including security, cease-fire, national constitution etc.
Unfortunately, the negotiations broke down when the SPLA captured Torit on 1st of September and the Government immediately responded by withdrawing its delegation from the peace talks. This break down of negotiations has been considered by many people, including IGAD mediators and partners as a serious matter. The government took this as an excuse to declare war on all fronts and called for a ‘Jihad’ to recapture Torit. The question is how to return to negotiations when the hostilities have deteriorated so dangerously. The government has already set conditions to return to the negotiation table, but can Machakos deliver?
The Nubas’ immediate concern is what will happen now to the Burgenstock cease-fire agreement for the Nuba Mountains? The coming weeks and months are crucial.
The people of Southern Sudan have made their point - they want an independent state. It is clear that all Southerners whether in SPLA or non-SPLA are united over the issue of self-determination for the South. This of course puts the Nuba in a difficult dilemma. Because neither the international community, nor the Sudanese Government or National Democratic Alliance (NDA) accept the right of self-determination for the Nuba or other marginalised people in the north.
This question of self-determination for the people of Nuba Mountains has been raised over the past six years at numerous international conferences by Nuba intellectuals, politicians and human rights groups. At the Human Rights conference in Kampala, July 2000, the participants unanimously affirmed the right of self-determination for the Nuba people and the people of Blue Nile because they have irrefutable claims.
Past experience makes the Nuba fear that, under whatever government, the Northern politicians will continue to maintain the same policy of divide and rule, Islamisation and Arabisation throughout Sudan. They fear that their cultures will continue to be undermined and suppressed and that any guarantee for autonomy can be easily overruled and reversed. Equally, many fear joining the Southern state because the southerners have problems of their own and Nuba do not want to be caught in their conflicts.
Most Nuba are staunchly unionist and believe their interest are best served in a united, democratic, secular Sudan. Unity in diversity is what should hold the country together. Being in the geographical centre of Sudan and caught in the centre of the conflict, the Nuba need to play an effective role - together with other marginalised people of the north - to ensure the unity of Sudan and stop fragmentation on the basis of race or religion.
What we Sudanese most lack is respect for the rights of others. This can be resolved through a change of cultural attitudes and the establishment of a unitary constitution, which will give every individual the full rights of citizenship - irrespective of race, religion or belief.
The Nuba demand the right to self-determination, preferably within a united democratic country. We should exercise it immediately should the people of Southern Sudan opt for an independent South state in their promised referendum. This view is probably held by the majority of the Nuba people, who are increasingly drawing this to the attention of the negotiators. The Nuba Mountains should be treated as a separate entity from both the Government and SPLA and should be under the supervision of the United Nations during the Transitional Period.
The reason for this is because the Nuba are currently disunited and divided between three different camps: The Government, the SPLA and the NDA. In addition, the Arab tribes who share the land need to be consulted on this issue too. It would be unwise for any single group to decide alone the future of the Nuba. Such historic decisions should be made collectively by the entirely people.
Machakos may be the best chance for peace for Sudan and if miss this window of opportunity we cannot blame anyone except ourselves. What is needed is fairness and for all the Sudanese to be involved in deciding the future of their country. The decision cannot be left to two warring parties who do not represent the views of all the Sudanese people.
Following the suspension of the Machakos peace talks, the IGAD Partners are carrying out consultations among themselves and with Nuba inside Sudan on how the Cease-fire can be translated into a lasting peace. These activities are in line with IGAD recommendations that ‘the contested areas adjacent to the South (Abyei, the Nuba Mountains, and southern Blue Nile), affirm a mechanism for determining the wishes of inhabitants, and create special arrangements for these areas to take their unique present circumstance’ into account their history of severe marginalisation and therefore, it is important that the issue of the Nuba people and other marginalised areas be included on the agenda of the next round of talks. The ethnic groups have genuine aspirations and grievances - which can not be glossed important that the issue of the Nuba people and other marginalised areas be included on the agenda of the next round of talks. These ethnic groups have genuine aspirations and grievances - which can not be glossed over in the rush to a quick-fix solution to Sudan’s highly complex civil war.
Nuba Vision believes that It is vital that all the Sudanese people from different ethnic groups, civil organisations and political parties - should at some stage be invited to a round table conference at Machakos which is to be held and political parties - should at some stage be invited to a round table conference at Machakos which is to be held on 14th October 2002 to decide the future of their country. A genuine comprehensive peace settlement for the country will need the endorsement by the entire Sudanese people.