Earlier today, the AU Panel on Darfur met with a delegation of North Darfur Arabs, who had earlier convened a workshop to prepare their responses to a series of questions posed by the Panel, on the four subjects of peace, reconciliation, justice and Darfur in Sudan. Arab community leaders had come from all parts of North Darfur for what one of them said was their first extended discussion with foreign visitors. They chose Ustaz Hassan Abdel Aziz Hassan, who heads the Arab Coordination Council, as their spokesman (he is pictured below). The key point that Ustaz Hassan presented was that the Arabs must be part of any solution and must be represented in any peace talks. This theme was picked up by others throughout the discussion: they were resentful and fearful of any attempts to imply that they were not full citizens of Darfur with the same rights as everyone else. Among the statements was, “We are an original part of Darfur. Our existence in Darfur precedes the existence of Sudan as a nation.” Another reflected on what he saw as the sinister implications of ethnically-exclusive armed groups calling themselves liberation movements: “What is meant by the liberation of Darfur? […]
A new report from the Small Arms Survey by Julie Flint, “Beyond Janjaweed: Understanding the Militias of Darfur,” examines the Arab militia in Darfur, through the stages of mobilization, mutiny and their current dance of distrust with the Khartoum authorities. Julie Flint’s report is the first extended description and analysis of the Arab militia in the public sphere. It is based on field research over an extended period. It is unequalled. This posting is drawn from the summary. Six years after Darfurians drawn largely from non-Arab tribes declared themselves in rebellion, Sudan’s westernmost region is a confusion of armed enclaves and seemingly intractable conflicts. The Government’s writ runs only in the towns, and even there its control is being challenged by the militias it armed to fight the rebels in 2003. The number of violent deaths in Darfur is much reduced and the multi-fronted government-militia offensives that set Darfur ablaze in 2003-04 have given way to a new pattern of periods of relative calm with spikes of violence. About one third of the violent fatalities in 2008 and early 2009 were people killed in intra-Arab clashes aimed at securing land and authority. The militias have taken on a life of […]
The situation in the Afar land of Northeastern Ethiopia is reminiscent of early Darfur: desperately impoverished nomadic communities pushed to the limit. With one important distinction: government presence, and possibly “too much of it,” as NGO workers often complain. Ethiopia’s federal system helps ease the conflict between settlers and the nomads. Were the Afars armed by the Ethiopian government and pitted against the Somalis for territorial gain over the Ogaden, it doesn’t take an educated guess figure out that similar bloodshed would unfold in Ethiopia as it did in Darfur. And studying the efforts to improve the lot of the Afar also tells us how some of the challenges facing Darfur’s nomads can also be surmounted.
Livelihoods, Power and Choice: the Vulnerability of the Northern Rizaygat, Darfur, Sudan, is the latest report on Darfur from the Feinstein International Famine Center. Livelihoods in Darfur are intimately linked to the conflict, none more so than the livelihoods of the camel herding nomads known as the Northern Rizaygat. Their notoriety as part of the Janjaweed militia has obscured from view how their lives and livelihoods have been affected by conflict. Based on fieldwork in rural Darfur, this report uses a livelihoods lens to illustrate the processes that have contributed to the vulnerability of the Darfuri nomads who have much in common with pastoralists globally. Severe pressures on pastoralist livelihoods have contributed to ‘maladaptive’ livelihood strategies that are often linked to violence and conflict, and undermine the livelihoods of both victims and perpetrators. They have suffered relative exclusion and vilification by the international community, including by humanitarians, international peace processes and international advocacy. Apart from their politicized image, other reasons for their exclusion are because they are widely perceived by the international community as less vulnerable, and also because they are hard-to-reach, living in scattered rural communities and alienated by their treatment internationally. This report challenges the widely held misperceptions […]
Darfur’s Arabs are back in the spotlight—as victims, as Janjawiid, and as rebels. The relationship between the Sudan government and the Darfur Arabs has never been simple, and it’s not getting any less so now. Most important is to recognize that Darfur’s Arabs—despite their silence—are nobody’s fools.
This last week I was in Kutum—the first time I have spent more than a day in the north Darfur town since November-December 1985. It was fascinating to be back in the district after a gap of 22 years. The physical landscape is unchanged. The gardens of Wadi Kutum are as beautiful as ever, almost fully cultivated, forming a ribbon of dark green through the dry landscape. After working their gardens in the daytime, the farmers return to Kutum and Fata Borno at dusk to spend the night. The town center itself still consists of the same rows of shabby mud-built stores along one side of the wadi, with the run-down administrative buildings on the hillside opposite. A new mosque is the only sign of change. But most of the surrounding villages are now abandoned, their residents living either in the much-expanded outskirts of Kutum, or in the displaced camps of Kassab and Fata Borno. All was quiet while I was there, but a few days before some gunshots were reported on the outskirts of Kassab, and fifty miles to the north, rebels and government soldiers battled over a small outpost, with eight soldiers reported dead. One of the two […]