Part II of The Sudanese Islamists’ Wars: Processes of Disintegration from Khalil to Turabi Khalil’s War The mutual hostility among the Islamists has been merciless. However, the same al-Turabi supporters who had subjected other political, social, and ethnic groups to such treatment now complained of their fate, after the state turned against them. But this hostility that came with the second republic has brought out into the open very serious elements with dire consequences. The first of these relates to the way that the Islamists’ will to order and strategies of control turned into impulses that brought in their wake claims of difference based on regional solidarity. In turn, these presented themselves as particularist individual and group demands which metamorphosed into everything that the Islamists, with their universalistic aspirations, had earlier resented and feared. It was one of the Islamists’ strategies to encourage those of their members who belong to Sufi turq or leading tribal families to penetrate these institutions and replace their fathers or relatives as leaders. Firstly, because of the high numbers of Darfurian students who had been joining the Islamist movement for the last four decades, especially at the University of Khartoum, and secondly because of the […]
Part I: The Sudanese Islamists’ Wars: Processes of Disintegration from al-Turabi to Khalil In an interview published on 22 May in the London based Saudi Daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, Khalil Ibrahim, leader of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) confirmed that he had been part of the Islamist regime of Khartoum when that regime declared its intention to pursue “a rule based on justice and equality.” However, Khalil claimed that it did not take him long to “discover that the regime and its troupe had stolen the people’s food and they were not more than a bandit of thieves who exaggerated [their claim] and manipulated Islam. That is why we rejected the regime and took arms against it.” Such a statement could provide to our thinking that Khalil claims that he alone represents true ‘Justice and Equality’ while the Khartoum regime represents a diversion from that pursuit. In the same interview, however, Khalil denied any relationship with Hasan al-Turabi or his Popular Congress Party (PCP) asserting that linking him to al-Turabi typifies a form of “condescension to the marginalized” by depicting them as “always in need for someone to plan for them and think on their behalf.” Two days after the Omdurman […]
The modern history of Sudan is riddled with bloodshed, destruction and squandered chances for peace and democracy. Consistently, the worst case scenario comes to pass and, just when it seems as though things could get no worse, they do precisely that. But occasionally, the Sudanese succeed in snatching an improbable victory for peace and civility from the jaws of turmoil. And despite repeatedly quivering at the edge of complete societal collapse, Sudan has consistently managed to survive in a recognizable form. Can it continue to do so? The question, ‘Can Sudan Survive?’ was the topic of my lecture to the Royal African Society in London last week. What I tried to do in the lecture was to examine four defining features of Sudanese political life. Each of the four has contributed to grievance, instability and violence. And yet within each one, lies the possibility for keeping Sudan intact (whether as one country or two). The first feature is the extreme disparity between center and periphery, the source of so much grief and grievance. One outcome of this is the accelerated urbanization of Sudanese society, a topic debated on this blog. Urbanization is widely seen as socially unhealthy, even pathological. But, […]
This post is also available in French (PDF, 96KB).
Land has often been described as a key motivation for the Arabs and non-Arabs who actively participated in the “Janjaweed” in Darfur and southeast Chad (see my article “Darfur: a Conflict for Land” in Alex de Waal (ed.), War in Darfur and the Search for Peace.) One of the primary traits of the Darfur crisis (like the Dar Sila crisis in Chad) can be described as a split between those members of the population with territories (hawakir) due to traditional, mainly pre-colonial land rights and those who have none – a split which is not exactly the same as the ethnic divisions between Arabs and non-Arabs that are so often presented without nuance.
In the wake of JEM’s attack on Omdurman, a number of correspondents have urged closer, critical examination of the rebel movements. This is long overdue. In the last few weeks, the “movements”—more often than not, shifting collections of commanders rather than organised groups with clear platforms and principles—have continued to give proof that their concern, whatever it once was, is now more for themselves than the people on whose behalf they took up arms and whom they now purport to represent. The abuses of Minni Minawi are by now well known—although still rewarded with an office in the presidential palace, a fancy if meaningless title, and respectful audiences with western leaders. JEM’s offensive needs no further comment. If it has been welcomed, anywhere in Sudan, I have missed it. In the ranks of the other “movements”, in the last few weeks, the original leader of the SLA, Abdel Wahid Mohamed al Nur, has refused to meet Suleiman Jamous of SLA Unity to discuss ways of working together for the good of Darfurians. (Let us not speak of rebel “unity”. It has never existed in Darfur, and never will.) Abubaker Mohammad Kado, formerly of Sudan security but now of SLA Unity, […]
The text of my presentation to the BBC’s World Tonight last week is now available online. (With a sentence added to reflect JEM’s attack on Khartoum, which occurred between my recording the piece and the time it was broadcast.) The more substantive article on which this was based was published last year in International Affairs and is available here.
Posted on behalf of Abdullahi al Tom. I am dismayed by de Waal’s venomous article on JEM’s invasion of Omdurman code-named “Operation Long Arm”. In this article, de Waal declares that Khartoum security agents have” no justification for arresting affiliates of the SLA”. The conclusion is clear for those who are sympathetic to JEM, but may have played no role in the invasion of the capital. In as much as the article exposes de Waal’s enmity against JEM, it equally reveals the shallowness of his expertise. In his revelation, our guru expert alleges Khalil has transformed the insignificant JEM into a personal tribal fiefdom, that Darfurians who accompanied him had no liking for JEM, that Khalil has launched his attack in order to provoke Khartoum for further reprisal on innocent Darfurians and that Khalil is a jihadist who still retains his political Islam; whatever that means; end of thesis. For readers who do not know de Waal, he is now the top expert on Darfur appearing in every relevant international venue. During the Abuja Peace Talks, I met his co-author and sidekick Julie Flint in a London to Abuja plane. She told me with great relief that “the Americans had […]
A completely revised and updated (to January 2008) version of the book written by Julie Flint and myself is official launched this week. It’s available in both the UK (Zed Books) and the US (Palgrave-Macmillan). Our earlier “short history” concluded in the early months of 2005, just as the phase of intense hostilities was coming to an end–though that was far from clear at the time. The new edition is nearly twice as long and contains a mass of new material, derived from field visits on both sides of the lines and personal involvement in many of the key episodes. Darfur: A New History of a Long War revises and expands the existing chapters with new material on the role of the Arabs, the links between the SLA and SPLA, and new details on the origins of the JEM. Protagonists on all sides provided us with new evidence and insights into key episodes that led to the war. The New History is twice as long as the first edition. A completely new chapter deals with the new phase of the war during 2005 and early 2006, when the huge government counter-offensives were replaced with a different pattern of violence as […]
Last Saturday’s attack on Omdurman represented a serious development in Sudanese politics, with significant ramifications that may impact the entire country. Since its independence in 1956, Sudan has been submerged in a number of civil wars. Wars with the South spanned more than 40 years, with only nine years of peace in between. More than two million people lost their lives as a result. The most recent civil war, still raging in the western region of Darfur, began in 2003; so far around 250,000 people have died. Yet throughout these many years of war, people in the northern and central areas of the country did not feel the direct effects of war, except for its impact on the economy; because of media censorship, news of the war was available only on satellite televisions and international radio – luxuries that only a few owned. And so, despite these wars, the successive governments in Khartoum have managed to hang on to power. As one journalist put it, “you can fight for a hundred years but without reaching Khartoum, it is impossible to change the government”. Since 1956 there have only been two means of securing regime change in Sudan: either by military […]
The World Tonight last night on BBC Radio 4 was a 45 minute special devoted to an examination of the UK’s foreign policy. It was structured around Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s four priorities, viz terrorism, conflict and the responsibility to protect, carbon and the international system, with interviews and clips preceding a section by section interview with the Foreign Secretary. The section on R2P was introduced with a contribution from Alex de Waal proposing that R2P is no more than a slogan and concluding “RIP R2P” (with the emphasis falling on “peace”). David Miliband responds after that. You can listen to it for the next few days on this link; the section on R2P is between 19.19 and 19.26.