Groups in Sudan such as the Nuba people of South Kordofan might choose independence from the main state, given the choice.
In view of the gaping disparities between regional cultures and approaches to land, divisions appear set to continue - not least because of the government’s enduring failure to understand what land means for many populations.
To us, land symbolises home or a place where we shelter after so much traveling.” A patchwork of ethnic groups exists in Sudan and ties to land are crucial to their identity. In conflictive areas, defence of land is typically at the crux of the local struggles, whether it is at the High Dam projects in the Northern State, or the land conflicts in South Kordofan.
In both of these cases, the state is acting in complete opposition with the needs of locals.
To understand people’s deep-rooted ties to the land, language tells the story. The Dinka people, South Sudan’s largest native group, for example, dub their territory ‘Fingh’ meaning homeland.
Land is also vital for semi-nomadic groups like the Zaghawa, a major Darfurian tribe. Despite their mobility, Ezzidine Omar, a Zaghawa trader, stressed his group’s keen sense of homeland. We prefer to settle in one place. To us, land symbolises home or a place where we shelter after so much traveling,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nubians in far northern Sudan have a saying: A Nubian only abandons his palm trees when he dies.”
It is clear that these groups, what ever their origins, are not going to give up their homeland without a struggle.
A Nubian only abandons his palm trees when he dies.”
Links to the land play a key role in inter-communal and ethnicised conflicts, alongside the pressure of dwindling natural resources and other factors: political, religious, generational, ethnic and clan divisions.
But land remains key. And unfortunately the actions so far taken by the central government in many areas of Sudan go against the meaning land holds for the people living in those areas. The government cannot go on acting like this forever, and if it does, divisions will grow.