The Humanitarian Crisis in the Nuba Mountains

As a region sandwiched between South Sudan and Sudan, the Nuba Mountains is a melting pot for both Africans and Arabs. The region has an estimated population of 3 million, with the Nuba constituting over 70% while the Baggara Arabs make up 20% of the population. The other 10% is a group of minority communities including the Hawsa, Fellata (of West African descent) and Northern Arab merchants (Jellaba).

Located in South Kordofan State in the South of Sudan, the Nuba Mountains has been a conflict zone for more than three decades. The region bore the brunt of the Sudanese civil war and currently suffers the repercussions of instability in South Sudan as well as the continued hostilities between the South Sudanese government and rebel SPLM opposition led by Riek Machar. The region sided with the SPLM/A against the Sudan Government during the Sudan conflict and fought with Southern Sudan for 20 years until the Nuba Mountains protocol was signed in 2002 in Switzerland as well as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005), which gave the region a semi-autonomous status. The area enjoyed a semblance of peace for a short period.

In June 2011, the region plunged back into conflict following disputed elections results for the South Kordofan State. Since then, the region has been at the center of an armed conflict between Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). Aerial bombardments and attacks on civilian populations have persisted, disrupting life and driving hundreds of thousands from their homes and has affected agricultural production thus rendering communities in the region food insecure.

Since 2011, the food security situation in SPLM-N-controlled areas of the state has been increasingly complex and volatile. The ongoing conflict is primarily responsible for interrupting agricultural cultivation and food security was further affected by localized droughts in 2012 and flooding in 2013.

The banning of international aid and development agencies from intervening in the region by Sudan’s President, Al-Bashir, in June 2011, resulted in a serious humanitarian crisis, which continues to date. Despite the ban, a number of NGOs have managed to carry out cross-border aid operations through South Sudan and while such operations provide much-needed relief, this is not an ideal situation and cannot fully provide the needed humanitarian support. Currently, the region is under constant aerial bombardment and ground fighting, which has resulted in civilian casualties and displacement in the rebel controlled areas (Buram, Dellami, Heiban, Rashad County and Um Dorain), with communities hiding out in caves. Despite the dire humanitarian crisis in the region, the situation Nuba Mountains has largely been understated and unaddressed as the global community focuses on the crisis in South Sudan.
The conflict with the Sudan Armed Forces is driven by the long-term grievances based on decades of neglect and marginalization by the Khartoum regime, which consolidated political and economic power among pro-Khartoum supporters, mainly community member of Arab origin. Long-term civil war, marginalization and discrimination by the Khartoum regime, limited opportunities for development as well as the establishment of civil society institutions that could provide necessary services for local communities.

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