Genocidal Plague Besets Darfur
A Historical Perspective
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- Chapter 1. Background to the Darfur Conflict and Major Actors
- Chapter 2. Traditional Peacekeeping Authorities in Darfur
- Chapter 3. The Rebel Movements
- Chapter 4. Categories or Persons or Groups Who Participated in the Conflict
- Chapter 5. The Genocide—A War of Total Destruction (2003–2004)
- Chapter 6. The Legal Concept of Genocide and Its Application in Darfur
- Chapter 7. Genocide: A Critical Analysis of Darfur Conflict in Sudan
- Chapter 8. Relations Between Darfur and Neighboring Chad
- Chapter 9. International Community: Reaction to the Darfur Crisis—“Seeing the Flames and Feeling the Heat”
- Chapter 10. Concept of the United Nations and Darfur Crisis
- Chapter 11. Darfur—Not Safe
John Kimani Waweru
A Historical Perspective
New York • Bern • Berlin
Brussels • Vienna • Oxford • Warsaw
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Kimani Waweru, John, author.
Title: Genocidal plague besets Darfur: a historical perspective / John Kimani Waweru.
Description: New York: Peter Lang, 2020.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2019022450 | ISBN 978-1-4331-7174-1 (hardback: alk. paper) ISBN 978-1-4331-7175-8 (ebook pdf) ISBN 978-1-4331-7176-5 (epub) | ISBN 978-1-4331-7177-2 (mobi)
Subjects: LCSH: Genocide—Sudan—Darfur. Sudan—History—Darfur Conflict, 2003–
Classification: LCC DT159.6.D27 K557 | DDC 962.404/3—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019022450 DOI 10.3726/b15902
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About the book
The Darfur conﬂict began in February 2003 and became the ‘World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis’ according to the U.N. records. The international community has been slow to respond to the crisis in Darfur. The U.N. Commission of Inquiry in Darfur concluded that the atrocities amounted to ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ and the Human Rights Watch supported this. Conversely, the U.S. government declared that ‘genocide’ was indeed committed in Darfur. This sentiment was supported by the European Union, Germany and Canada. The role of the international community in Darfur is of great signiﬁcance because, as the twentieth century proves, the absence of punitive measures against the perpetrators, the ignorance of victims and the forgetfulness of such crimes facilitate the path for genocides to happen again.
This eBook can be cited
This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.
Table of contents
Index←v | vi→ ←vi | 1→
The chapter attempts to trace the root causes of the Darfur crisis to the distant history and to cumulative as well as recent factors that have shaped the events which produced the crisis, which is vital as this will give us a comprehensive understanding of the conflict. Many different approaches have been cited to analyzing and understanding the conflict; some have attributed the conflict to what they called the inherent warring nature of tribalism while others have focused on the pressures of ecological degradation, which sheds light on the limiting natural resource base, land, etc.
Darfur has been the scene of a bloody conflict for the past several years that has led to the deaths of thousands of people and the displacement of more than 2.5 million others. This crisis has been termed as “the worst world’s humanitarian crisis” while the United States has even labeled it as genocide, in fact comparable to the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
The international community has been riveted by these tragic events and it has even attracted unprecedented media attention. But rather than providing a nuanced analysis of the root causes of the conflict, much of the international media coverage tends to follow the familiar patterns of sensationalizing←1 | 2→ the story. Pictures of miserable refugees living in squalid conditions and caricatured accounts of Arabs killing Black African tribes have characterized the Darfur tragedy.
Political and Social Perspective
With an estimated population of six million, Darfur is geographically a vast area comprising approximately 250,000 square km. It is Sudan’s largest region in terms of landmass and population. With a long history of ethnic and racial strife, Darfur is one of the least developed regions in Sudan. Darfur being located in the north-western region of the country shares Sudan’s international borders with the Republic of Chad to the west, Libya to the northwest and Central Africa Republic to the southwest.
Appointed by the central government in Khartoum, each of the three states in Darfur like other states in Sudan is governed by a Governor (Wali) who is supported by a local administration. The capitals of the three Darfur states are Nyala in South Darfur, El Geneina in West Darfur and Al-Fashir, the capital of North Darfur and also the historical hub of the region. Spread across the region are a few other major towns that serve as local administrative and commercial centers. Living in small villages and settlements are the majority of the population, mostly composed of only a few hundred families. Subsistence agriculture and limited commercial farming including cattle rearing form the basis of the economy of the three Darfur states. Transhumance is also practiced due to diverse climatic conditions.
In the area of the Jebel Marrah plateau, Darfur remained a sultanate, which merged its three provinces (Nyala in South Darfur, El-Fashir in North Darfur and El-Geneina in West Darfur). With some interruptions, Darfur due to its tribal diversity with over 36 tribal affiliations was able to survive for a considerable period, but in 1917, the area was eventually seized by the British and incorporated into the rest of the country under the British–Egyptian rule. Although Darfur is inhabited by diverse ethnic groups their difference was not distinct and they lived harmoniously together, but after conflicts exploded, differences began and individual allegiances were heavily determined by tribal affiliations. During the time of Gaafar Nimeiry’s rule, which saw the introduction of local government, the historical tribal structure that dated back many centuries and still felt in Darfur was greatly weakened. Some of the tribes are predominantly agriculturalist and sedentary living mainly from crop production during and following the rainy season from July to September. Among←2 | 3→ the agriculturalists are the Fur, the Barni, the Tama, the Jebel, the Aranga and the Masaalit, while the Rherzeghat and the Zaghawa are classified as sedentary cattle keepers. The Taaysha, the Habaneya, the Beni Helba and the Mahameed are nomadic and semi-nomadic ethnic groups that keep cattle and camels. Even though Arabic is the chief language spoken as all these tribes are Muslims, some still retain their own traditional languages.
At the very center of politics for a long time in Darfur is the land issue whereby traditionally landownership has been communal. The traditional division of land into homelands has been crucial in the local self-perception of the population, locally known as “dar”, which are simply areas to which individual tribes can lay a historical claim. Dating back to the beginning of the 20th century is the traditional attribution of land to individual tribes in existence. This was when the last sultan of Darfur, Sultan Ali Dinar, decreed this division, a decree that was accepted by all tribes. Some general observations based on this decree can be made to show that the division of land was not geographically demarcated exactly, but it was only an estimate. For instance, the Zaghawa tribe is still predominant in the northern parts of West Darfur and some western parts of North Darfur. This also includes the northern parts of West Darfur, which is referred to as the homeland of the Zaghawa (Dar-Zaghawa). The Masaalit occupies the areas south of El-Geneina in West Darfur. The name ‘Darfur’, which apparently means the homeland of the Fur, incidentally, is the actual area where this tribe has its homeland and is situated in the center of the Darfur region, around the Jebel Marrah area, covering an area where the borders of the three states of Darfur meet, but also stretching inland into all three states.
Members of the tribe historically owned the land collectively and the tribal leadership determined its utility. Land allocation was exclusively done by the tribal leaders whereby members used the apportioned land for settlement, animal rearing, farming, etc. This became a reality when changes in the land laws were made in the 1970s and individual ownership became possible. The State was empowered over all the rights of land ownership and by law, if one has held a parcel of land for at least one year, one had the right to owe it legally. Nonetheless, if one demonstrated loyalty to the government, with the enactment of the land bylaws, the government reciprocated by providing land to such individuals regardless of whether one owned a piece of land or not. In recent years, however, this government policy has impacted both on the ecological and demographical transformation of intertribal relations. The areas mostly affected are around the Jebel Marrah Plateau, which is part of the Sahara desert that experiences aridity throughout the year.←3 | 4→
Fighting over scarce resources between agriculturalists and pastoralists intensified in the 1970s and the 1980s due to the negative effects of drought and desertification. Communal violence was also experienced. Communal conflicts can be defined as events where (a) there is violence and (b) two or more communally identified groups confront each other or members of the other group at some point during the violence (Varshney, 2002: 309).
The nomadic pastoralists constantly invaded the fields and orchards of the agriculturalists in search of water and pasture, further intensifying violence, the effect of transhumance notwithstanding. Through customary laws, the Darfur ethnic societies traditionally resolved their differences, particularly the numerous disputes which took place between nomadic and sedentary tribes including murders and cattle rustling. The respective tribal leaders resolved disputes between members of the ethnic societies who often met and arrived at an amicable solution. Darfur remained an independent sultanate until the 1890s when it became associated with the larger Sudan. The new structures of local administration introduced by President Gaafar Nimeiry formally ended the tribal system of land laws and to that effect, the Government of Sudan appointed new administrators of these institutions who were mandated with executive and judicial powers. The application of traditional system of land laws was drastically reduced by these changes although the informal tribal systems still persisted. Local leaders were appointed on the basis of their political loyalty to the government, unlike in the past where social status was the basic criterion. The Khartoum government became the undisputed arbitrator of the traditional conflicts as the appointed officials were financed and empowered by the government. This move exacerbated the disagreements of the warring parties due to the appointees’ failure to perform their duties effectively.
Libya developed a new foreign expansionist policy by supporting the rulers in Chad through the supply of more weapons. The other countries sought to check Libya’s expansionist ambition by also pouring arms into Chad. This move aggravated intertribal conflicts not only in Chad but also in Darfur and the wider Sudan. The situation worsened as several Chadian armed rebellions were launched from Darfur followed by an infiltration of more arms from the war-torn southern Sudan. As a result, whole tribes as well as some villages began to organize their own militias and defense groups, to defend and promote the interests of the tribe or the village. Subsequently, differences between African and Arab tribes were realized in the years preceding and during the current conflict in Darfur. At the same time, tribal identity of individuals gained more currency and this distinction stemmed to a large extent from←4 | 5→ the cumulative effects of marginalization, competing economic interests and more recently from the political polarization which has engulfed the region.
Looking at the distant past, three different but decisive dynasties exist in Darfur. First was the ‘Dajo’ dynasty, which ruled Darfur from the 13th to the 16th century and whose political center lay in the southeast of Jebel Marrah. The second was the ‘Tunjur’ dynasty, which ruled Darfur up to the 17th century and whose center of power was north of Jebel Marrah. Finally there was the ‘Keira’ dynasty whose center was Turra in Jebel Marrah but later shifted to Al-Fashir. In 1874, Keira dynasty was overpowered by Turks but the Fur never gave up their resistance. They formed a strong opposition during the Mahdiya Islamic rule and strongly fought for their independence such that when the Mahdiya came to an end in 1898, Ali Dinar of the Keira dynasty declared himself the Sultan of Darfur. He bravely resisted the British when they invaded the sultanate, but he was defeated in 1916, marking the end of an independent Darfur.
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- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. VI, 254 pp.