The recent declaration of independence by South Sudan from its northern neighbor is certainly a welcome event. After two civil wars (1955-1972 and 1983-2005) that took the lives of more than 2.5 million Christians and animists, secession was the only reasonable option. Of course, there are immediate challenges for South Sudan, as it seems unlikely that 7,000 UN peacekeeping troops can protect a new nation that has vast oil reserves and a population living largely in abject poverty.
But what about North Sudan’s future? One noteworthy development in the north is the aerial bombardment targeting civilians in the Nuba Mountains, which are part of the petroleum-rich province of South Kordofan that will be the main oil producing region for North Sudan, following the south’s secession. The Nuba Mountains – once a base for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army that fought against the Arab-led government in Khartoum during the second civil war – are primarily inhabited by the Nuban people, a mixed Christian and Muslim population with their own language and culture.
Indeed, as Amar Amoun (a Nuban MP in North Sudan’s opposition) says, the bombing is a deliberate tactic to depopulate the Nuba Mountains. With Nuban rebels starting to take up arms and hoping to achieve more civil rights or independence for the Nuban people, war with the central government appears likely, hence the potential for another humanitarian catastrophe as in Darfur.
Here is the heart of the issue. It’s all very well to have South Sudan secede, but the root of the problem has still not been addressed: namely, the traditional doctrines of jihad that underlie the Islamist and Arab supremacist ideology of the ruling elite in Khartoum.