Tag: <span>Omar Al-Bashir</span>

Darfur Appeals

Renewed Violence in Darfur: An Unstable Sudan.

Featured Image: Pro-government militia in Darfur. By Henry Ridgwell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

24 April 2022; saw renewed violence in the Darfur Provence of Sudan between Arab militias and the indigenous tribes of the area, the Masalit and the Fur. The violence began in 2003 and has caused some 300,000 deaths and some three million displaced. While most of the fighting was when General Omar al-Bashir was President; his overthrow by new military leadership has not fundamentally improved the situation.

Omar Al Bashir

Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, listens to a speech during the opening of the 20th session of The New Partnership for Africa’s Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 31, 2009. By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Darfur Conflict.

Darfur is the western edge of Sudan. Its longist foreign frontier is with Chad; but communication with Libya is easy for camel herders and gunrunners. To the south lies the Central African Republic – a state with a very unstable government; which feels the fallout from the Darfur conflict. Darfur served as a buffer area between the French colony of Chad and the English-held Sudan until 1916; when French-English rivalry was overshadowed by the common enemy, Germany, in World War I. Darfur; which had been loosely part of the Ottoman Empire; was integrated into Sudan with no consultation either with the people of Darfur or with those in Sudan.

Thus; Darfur was always the neglected child in Sudan – a child no one had asked to be there. Only after 1945 were some development projects undertaken; but basically Darfur remained an area of pastoralists – some tribes specializing in camels and others in cattle – and settled agriculturalists. Camel and cattle-raising tribes from Chad would move into Darfur and vice-versa. There were frontiers between tribes; but they did not correspond to state boundaries.

The Black Book: Imbalance of Power and Wealth in Sudan.

In May 2000; intellectuals and government civil servants from Darfur; calling themselves the Seekers of Truth and Justice wrote The Black Book: Imbalance of Power and Wealth in Sudan. The study ended with specific recommendations for governmental and social action. While the book was widely read; it produced no new initiatives in sharing power or wealth. Some leaders in Darfur had the impression that the government was withdrawing services; especially in health and education. Schools were closed; and the number of children in school decreased.

After the failure of the intellectual efforts of The Black Book; the conviction that only violence was taken seriously started to grow among Darfur leaders. They started thinking about a strategy of a sharp; and swift show of violent strength that would force the government to negotiate with Darfur. The insurgency in Darfur began in the Spring of 2003. As Julie Flint and Alex de Waal point out in their useful history of the start of the Darfur war “Darfur’s rebels are an awkward coalition of Fur and Masalet villagers, Zaghawa Bedouins out of patience with Khartoum; a handful of professional who dared to take on leadership. Few of Darfur’s guerrillas had military experience or discipline before they took up arms.

The two main rebel groups are united by deep resentment at the marginalization of Darfur; but are not natural bedfellows and could easily be split apart… In the first months of 2003, these half-formed and inexperienced rebel fronts were catapulted out of obscurity to face challenges for which they were totally unprepared.” (1)

Islamic Legion.

The government in Khartoum was also unprepared for the Darfur insurgency. The government’s attention, as well as the bulk of the army, was turned toward the civil war in the south of Sudan. The government turned the fight against the Darfur movements to its security agencies – a narrow group of men uniterested in internal politics or external relations.

They decided to use the air force to bomb villages; and to use foreign troops to do the fighting on the ground. The foreign troops came from Libya. Colonel Gaddafi had created in the early 1980s an “Islamic Legion” and recruited militiamen from Mauritania, Chad, Mali in his efforts to create a union of Libya and Chad – or to annex part of northern Chad. When Gaddafi’s Chadian interests faded at the end of the 1980s; the Islamic Legion soldiers were left to look after themselves and so were ready to work for new paymasters.

Gaddafi

Muamar Muhamad Abu-minyar el Gadafi. By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Evildoers on Horseback.

The Sudanese security people brought the Islamic Legion soldiers to Darfur; gave them weapons but no pay. They were to pay themselves by taking what they could from the villages they attacked. In addition; prisoners from Darfur’s jails were released on condition of joining the militias. Rape of women and young girls was widely practiced both as a means of terror and as a “reward” for the fighters; since they were not paid. These militias became know as the Janjaweed (“the evildoers on horseback”.)

Although the Darfur conflict has largely faded from the media headlines; it continues producing many refugees, internally-displaced persons, unused farmland and political unrest. The conflicts in Darfur have destroyed many of the older patterns of dispute settlement among groups; as well as much of the economic infrastructure. The social texture and trust among groups is likely to be more difficult to rebuild than homes, livestock and water wells.

The joint African Union – United Nations peacekeeping force has not been able to produce peace. Peacekeeping forces need a peace to keep; and while there have been lulls in fighting; there has been no peace to keep. Banditry, criminal activities and periodic military action continues. It is impossible to know if the current outbreak of armed violence has local causes; or if it is a reflection of instability at the central government level. The situation in Darfur remains critical and needs to be watched closely.

 

Note.

1) Julie Flint and Alex de Wall. Darfur: A Short History of a Long War (London, Zed Books, 2005).

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Darfur Appeals

Continuing Instability in the Darfur Conflicts.

12 Mar 2021 – Despite the removal after 30 years of power of the Sudanese military dictator Omar Al-Bashir and his subsequent arrest; stability has not returned to Darfur; where fighting began in 2003. Although the Darfur conflict has faded from the headlines; it continues producing many refugees, internally-displaced persons, unused farmland, and political unrest.  The joint African Union-United Nations force (MINAUD); has not been able to produce peace.  Peacekeeping forces need a peace to keep;  and during the past 13 years there have been lulls in fighting; but no peace to keep.

The Darfur conflict of western Sudan; is a textbook example of how programmed escalation of violence can get out of control. Neither the insurgencies nor the government-backed forces; have been able to carry out good faith negotiations; or deal with the fundamental issue of how to get cattle farmers and settled agriculturalists to live together; in a relatively cooperative way.

South Sudan.

Darfur (the home of the Fur);  was always marginal to the politics of modern Sudan and to the two phases of the North-South civil war;  which took place from 1954-1972 and from 1982-2005; ultimately leading to the creation of a separate State, South Sudan.  Darfur;  about the size of France; had been an independent Sultanate; loosely related to the Ottoman Empire.  It was on a major trade route from West Africa to Egypt; and so populations from what is now northern Nigeria, Niger, Mali; and Chad joined the older ethnic groups of the area: the Fur, Masalit, the Zaghawa, and the Birgit.

However; Nomads from Libya also moved south into Darfur.  As the population density was low; a style of life with mutual interaction between pastoral herdsmen and settled agriculturalists; with some livestock developed. Increasingly, however; there was ever-greater competition for water and forage; made scarce by environmental degradation and the spread of the desert.

A “Marriage” was Desirable.

France and England left Darfur as a buffer zone between the French colonial holdings — what is now Chad — and the Anglo-Egyptian controlled Sudan.  French-English rivalry in West Africa had nearly led earlier to a war;  and so a desert buffer was of more use than its low agricultural and livestock production would provide to either European colonial power.  It was only in 1916,  during the First World War; when French-English colonial; rivalry paled in front of the common German enemy; that the English annexed Darfur to the Sudan; without asking anyone in Darfur or Sudan;  if such a ‘marriage’ was desirable.

Thus, Darfur continued its existence; as an environmentally fragile area of Sudan.  It was marginal in economics; but was largely self-sufficient.  Once Sudan was granted its independence in 1956; Darfur became politically as well as economically marginal.  Darfur’s people have received less education, less healthcare, less development assistance; and fewer government posts than any other region.  Southerners were given government and administrative posts; in the hope of diminishing the violent North-South divide.

Share the Wealth and Administrative Reform.

There was no such incentive to ‘share the wealth’ with Darfur.  Its political weight was even lessened; when Darfur in a 1995 ‘administrative reform’ was divided into three provinces: Northern Darfur, Western Darfur, and Southern Darfur.  Some areas that were historically part of Darfur; were added to Northern and Western Bahr El-Ghazal.  The division of Darfur did not lead to better local government; or to additional services from the central government.  It must be added that Darfur’s political leadership had a special skill in supporting national political leaders; just as the national leaders were about to lose power — first Al Sadig al Mahdi and then Hassan al-Turabi.

The Black Book.

In 2000; Darfur’s political leadership had met to draw up a Black Book; which detailed the region’s systematic under-representation in national government; since independence. The Black Book marked the start of a rapprochement between the Islamist and the more secular radicals of Darfur; which took form three years later with the rise of the more secular Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Islamist-leaning Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

However;  at the level of the central government; the Black Book led to no steps to increase the political and economic position of Darfur.  This lack of reaction convinced some in Darfur; that only violent action would bring recognition and compromise as the North-South civil war had done.

Little Red Book.

The two Darfur groups, SLA and JEM; started to structure themselves, gather weapons and men. The idea was to strike in a spectacular way; which would lead the government to take notice and to start power and wealth-sharing negotiations.  Not having read the “Little Red Book” of Mao; they did not envisage a long drawn out conflict of the countryside against the towns of Darfur.

By February 2003; the two groups were prepared to act;  and in one night attacked and destroyed many of Sudan’s military planes based at El Fasher.  The Sudan military lost in one night more planes than it had in 20 years of war against the South.

The Evildoers on Horseback.

However; the central government’s ‘security elite’ — battle hardened from its fight against the South starting in 1982;  and knowing that the regular army was over-extended and tired of fighting— decided to use against the Darfur insurgents; techniques which had been used with some success against the South: to arm and to give free reign to militias and other irregular forces.

Thus; the government armed and directed existing armed groups in Darfur — popular defense forces and existing tribal militias.  The government also started putting together a fluid and shadowy group; now called the Janjaweed (“the evildoers on horseback”).  To the extent that the makeup of the Janjaweed is known; it seems to be a collection of bandits of Chadians; who had used Darfur as a safe haven for the long-lasting insurgencies in Chad;  some from Libya’s Islamic Forces; which had once been under the control of the Libyan government; but left wandering when Libyan policy changed.

The SLA or The JEM.

The Sudanese central government gave these groups guns, uniforms, equipment and indications where to attack; but no regular pay. Thus; these militias had to pay themselves by looting homes, crops, livestock, by taking slaves and raping women and girls.  Village after village was destroyed; on the pretext that some in the village supported either the SLA or the JEM; crops were burned, water wells filled with sand.  As many people as possible fled to Chad; or to areas thought safer within Darfur.

Darfur represents a classic case of how violence gets out of control; and goes beyond the aims for which it was first used.   There have been splits within both the SLA and the JEM; mostly on tribal lines, making negotiations all the more difficult.  Darfur is also a classic example that U.N. military forces do not create stable civil societies. There is yet much to be done; and there are very few positive signs of necessary action.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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