Universities mobilise to quell conflict in Blue Nile region

Sudanese universities have joined a peace-building movement, recognising its potential to prevent and mitigate conflict after hundreds of people were killed, wounded and displaced in tribal clashes in the southern Blue Nile province.

“Sensing the national responsibility of university professors, we announce the launch of an initiative to support peaceful coexistence and promote social cohesion in coordination with the Blue Nile University Professors’ Alliance (BNUPA) to maximise the principle of peaceful coexistence and reject tribalism and violence,” the Association of Sudanese Professors at Universities, Faculties and Higher Institutions (ASPUFHI) said in a statement on 21 July.

The ASPUFHI-BNUPA peaceful coexistence-building initiative in conflict-affected areas of the Blue Nile province focuses on tackling the root drivers of instability such as institutional and capacity gaps, environmental threats, gender inequalities and human security challenges.

It will also endeavour to build peace strategies that are linked to local economic recovery along with promoting peace, culture and nurturing values of tolerance and co-existence among members of vulnerable communities.

The movement also views the initiative as part of attempts to end the 25 October 2021 military coup. They blame the current “dictatorship” for tribalism, racism and regionalism that is affecting the country’s well-being, the association’s statement indicated.

The coup halted a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians that had been agreed on after former president Omar al-Bashir’s overthrow and was meant to lead to democratic elections by late 2023.

What is driving tribal clashes?

From 19 July, tribal fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile state has led to 105 deaths as well as 225 people sustaining injuries and 8,470 people being displaced from their homes after violence broke out earlier in July over a land dispute between the Birta and Hausa ethnic groups on the back of the killing of a farmer in the Gisan area.

The government has imposed a curfew and banned large gatherings in the city of Al-Roseires and Al-Damazin city, the capital of the Blue Nile state, in a bid to quell the violence.

The executive office of the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) issued a statement condemning acts of violence, whatever its source, and holds the military coup authority fully responsible for the successive renewal of the tribal violence in many areas in the country.

Said the FFC: “These deteriorating security conditions are an inevitable result of the failure of the coup authority to provide security and safety for citizens.” The FFC statement called for the overturning of the coup to enable freedom, peace and justice, which respects human dignity.

“We also renew our vehement rejection of all forms of tribal and regional mobilisation, which is based on hatred and hostility to the other …” the FFC statement pointed out.

The FFC – the main drivers of the revolution that overthrew the 30-year al-Bashir dictatorship in 2019 – is an overarching alliance of activists and opposition groups, including university staff.

Another statement accused the military leadership of exacerbating ethnic tensions in the Blue Nile state for personal gains.

“We call on all the resistance committees in Sudan and all the civil forces to unite and move quickly against the civil war and the fighting in the country,” it read, saying it was the only way to end the military rule.

The statement was issued on 19 July and signed by several organisations, including the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, an umbrella group of independent professional unions, including doctors, engineers, teachers and lawyers and also representing the Association of Sudanese Professors at Universities, Faculties and Higher Institutes.

University closure

The council of deans of the Blue Nile University decided to suspend studies and exams for all university faculties, according to an announcement on 16 July.

“The decision was taken to preserve the lives of students, provided that studies and exams will resume on 31 July,” the statement noted.

Within the framework of the university’s social responsibility towards society, the Blue Nile University provided support to people affected by the current tribal violence events in the Blue Nile region, according to BNU’s statement.

The statement noted that BNU had provided foodstuffs and facilitated the transportation of drinking water and medical supplies by members of the Association of Students of the College of Medicine and Health Sciences who assisted medical staff in hospitals and camps in providing medical treatment and blood donation.

A group of engineering graduates also provided financial support to people affected by the conflict.

“The university calls on all parties to raise the voice of wisdom, stop the bloodshed and spread peaceful coexistence,” according to the statement.