Update to SDN35537.E of 27 October 2000 on the distinction between the Nuba and the Nubians and whether Nubians are being mistreated by state authorities because of their ethnicity [SDN36347.E]

Sudan: A Country Study makes a distinction between the Nubians and the Nuba (1991, 74 & 83). It states that "in the early 1990s, the Nubians were the second most significant Muslim group in Sudan, their homeland being the Nile River valley in far northern Sudan and southern Egypt...Almost all Nile Nubians speak Arabic as a second language; some near Dunqualah have been largely arabized and are referred to as Dunqulah" (ibid., 74).

On the other hand,

living in the Nuba Mountains of southern Kurdufan State were perhaps three dozen small groups collectively called the Nuba but varying considerably in their culture and social organization...despite the arabization of the people around them, only small numbers of Nuba had adopted Arabic as a home language, and even fewer had been converted to Islam. Most remained cultivators, animal husbandry played only a small part in their economy (ibid., 83).

Information posted on the University of Minnesota Emuseum Website states that Nubians can also found in Uganda and Kenya (n.d.). This source states that

the Nubi, or Nubians, are now estimated to number 10,000...the Nubi originated in the Sudan and spread to various East African countries due to their involvement with the British army. Some also stayed when they escaped from slavers as they were being driven from their homes to the coast. They are mainly found in urban centres such as Nairobi, Eldama-Ravine, and Bumbo (Uganda)...this community faces a number of socio-economic problem and political problems that have reduced their self-esteem. The people live mainly in the slum areas where the electricity, water, and sanitary conditions are poor. Families have difficulty paying school fees and this leads to school dropout and involvement in drug use. This problem is made worse by the urban surroundings. The Nubi people also face a problem where their land is being bought by the rich. There does not appear to be a strong political identity for the Nubi in Kenya and they are not prominent in current politics (ibid.).

Encyclopedia of the Orient, adds that

Although Sudan had remained the main homeland of Nubians through their long history, many of their descendants today Egypt [sic.]. But still the majority of Nubians of today are Sudanese. With only a population of slightly above 300,000 they are a minority in both countries. Nevertheless being of African descent they resemble other Sudanese people more than Egyptians...Nubians were displaced and relocated in other areas in both Sudan and Egypt. Great Nubian monuments and historical sites were drowned and lost for good...The unique characteristic of Nubian is shown in their culture (dress, dances, traditions and music) as well as their indigenous language which is the common feature of all Nubians (n.d).

The director of the Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies at Georgetown University and co-author of The Sudan: Unity and Diversity in a Multiucultral State corroborated the above information. He also added that generally, the Nubians in the Sudan are not being discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity (19 Mar. 2001). However, he explained, some prominent Nubians are also members of the UMMA Party or the United Democratic Party (UDP). He said that the relationship between such Nubians and the current government would be strained (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Director, Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies, George Washington University, and co- author of The Sudan: Unity and Diversity in a Multicultural State, Washington, DC. 19 March 2000. Telephone interview.

Encylopedia of the Orient [n.p, n.d]. "Nubians." http://I-cias.com/e.o./nubians.htm [Accessed: 16 Mar. 2001]

Sudan. A Country Study. 1991. Edited by Helen Chapin Metz. Washington, DC: Secretary of the Army.

University of Minnesota. n.d. "Nubi." http://www.emuseum.mnsu.edu/cultural/oldworld/africa/nubi.html [Accessed: 16 Mar. 2001]

Additional Sources Consulted

Africa Confidential [London].

Africa Contemporary Record [London].

Africa Research Bulletin [Oxford].

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 1994-1997.

IRB Databases.

Keesing's Record World Events [Cambridge]. 1988-1990.

Sudan Democratic Gazette [London].

Search engines including:




Internet sites including:

Africa News


Human Rights Watch