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Ethnic minorities under siege in Sudan

International

Local Sudanese community leaders are on a mission to raise awareness of the plight of marginalised ethnic groups under siege from the Sudan army and foreign interest in their resources.

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Indigenous communities of the Nuba Mountains, Abyie and Blue Nile territories just north of the border with South Sudan were promised self-determination by the Sudanese Government as part of the peace agreement with South Sudan in 2005.

Abdullah Teia, vice president of the African Communities Organisation of South Australia, and Simon Angok, from the Catholic African community, say the Sudan Government has reneged on its promise to the indigenous communities, which include a mix of traditional African, Christian and Muslim peoples who don’t identify with northern Sudan.

They say aerial attacks on civilians by the Sudan army are forcing thousands to flee to refugee camps in South Sudan and preventing farmers from working the land. Aid organisations have pulled out of the region and there is little communication with the outside world.

Mr Teia, who comes from the Nuba Mountains, said he was concerned about the children who were being “left behind” because they couldn’t attend school.

Another problem was landmines. The Government was supposed to hand over maps showing the location of landmines as part of the peace agreement but this never eventuated.

“Every day someone is being hit and there are many victims who have lost limbs,” Mr Teia said.

Compounding the situation is the increasing level of interest in the region’s mineral, agricultural and water resources from the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia.

“There is a social planning agenda at play here,” he says.

“An agenda towards depopulating territories of indigenous peoples to replace them with premium farming land that they lease to wealthy Gulf nations to feed their people, or to even populate with people from across the Arabian peninsula in years to come.

“Food insecurity and lack of water is a big problem for these countries.”

Of particular concern is the Blue Nile basin agreement which is due for renewal and “bound to cause conflict”.

Mr Angok says the indigenous communities have also been let down by the South Sudan government which has “taken its eyes off the core issues”.

“It’s a massive failure on the part of the Government of South Sudan,” he said. “This is about human rights and the continuation of the very existence of our people and the land that belongs to them.

“The land is the envy of the people in the region and they want to kill the people and get rid of them and use the land for themselves.”

He says the current administration in South Sudan should be going into the “corridors of power” such as the United Nations and the Arab Leauge.

“They have to speak out,” he says.

Mr Angok says the problem is bigger now than before South Sudan’s independence in 2011 because no-one knows what is going on.

“Before we were able to inform people in the media, in parishes and mosques, to put pressure on political leaders,” he says.

“Right now the voice that kept people engaged and updated has gone silent.

“People in Australia need to know that South Sudanese and marginalised peoples need their support for full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (with Sudan).”

Mr Teia is hoping to find support to educate young people from the Nuba Mountains so they can help their people to have a future.

Both men would like to see an interest group established in South Australia and are developing a proposal to put to community, church and political leaders.

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