Sunday 12 August 2007

The Far North of Sudan: The Next Conflict?

This originally appeared on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 12 August 2007.


While the world's media are concentrating on the deployment of peacekeepers to Sudan's troubled Darfur, a new threat is rapidly emerging in two areas of northern Sudan where the government is building hydro-electric dams that will displace local communities and could ultimately create a new conflict zone.

The older project, the Merowe dam along the fourth cataract of the Nile, begun in 2003 and due to become operational as early as 2008, is to be the second largest in Africa and significantly boost national energy production. It has been contested by the local population who will not only lose their traditional homelands but are also being refused access by the government to the new waterfront land. Though the locals are not entirely opposed to the dam, numerous negotiations have failed to address adequately their demands for resettlement and compensation, leading to tension and clashes in which civilians have been killed and arrested by security forces.

The second project is further north, in the area of Kajbar, and threatens to submerge parts of the ancient Nubian homeland, much of which was already lost when Egypt opened the Aswan High Dam in 1964. It faces near unanimous opposition from the Nubian community. Originally proposed in 1995 then cancelled in 1999, it was revived in early 2007. There have already been several violent clashes between the Nubians and the government, and the risk of more is very real.