|ARMING THE MILITIAS||THE
Among the armed militias' first targets were the Nuba people of Southern Kordofan, who were regarded as sympathisers and likely accomplices of the SPLA.
The Nuba are not Southern Sudanese like the Dinka. Instead they are a collection of indigenous African peoples, believed to have originated as far as North Darfur and Nubia, who over the centuries retreated into the hills in the face of invasion from the North.
Nuba people have embraced Christianity and Islam in equal proportions while maintaining older religious beliefs and customs. Known abroad for their wrestling and body art, they have provided fighting men for many armies, first as slaves and later as recruits to the British Army and even the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Top
Nuba society is nonetheless tolerant and avoids divisive conflict; traditional practices such as the keeping of pigs and the consumption of local alcohol, inimical to stricter Muslims, are accommodated.
They have many similarities with the people of the Ingessana Hills further to the east. Since the ending of the Closed Districts Ordinances in the 1940s they have found themselves under pressure from Northern Sudanese who seek to homogenise them into the dominant Arab-Islamic culture and to exploit their land. This pressure has grown into systematic destruction in the last decade or more.Top
As with Dinka-Rezeigat relations, the Nuba farmers and their nomadic pastoralist neighbours, the Mescriya, had managed to live reasonably peacefully alongside one another over the last hundred years. The balance was upset by two things: the government's arming of some of the more war-like Meserlya clans, and its growing sequestration of the fertile lowlands on which the Nuba used to farm, and through which the nomads used to pass with their herds.
From the 1970s more and more land was taken by merchant-farmers for mechanised farming schemes, squeezing out the traditional livelihoods of both the Mescriya and the Nuba.. By arming the Meseriya, the government was turning the weak against the weaker.Top