Home | Comment & Analysis    Sunday 18 July 2004

Situation in Darfur goes beyond a ’humanitarian crisis’

separation
increase
decrease
separation
separation

Editorial, The Durango Herald

July 18, 2004 — Bad news is, unfortunately, the best geography lesson. This is certainly the case with the tragic conflict in Darfur, in western Sudan. When I visited that vast and mountainous region on a research trip in 1980 I did not imagine that it would be in the headlines around the world a quarter century later - nor would I have wished it such a fate.

The news coverage (see, for example, "Systematic slaughter unfolds in Sudan," Herald , July 11) is a welcome sign of growing international sensitivity about such crises. I want to touch on three aspects of this conflict that relate it to many other events in the world.

First, the crisis is described as a conflict between Arabs and black Africans. Yes and no. There is no question that the government of Sudan and its allies have fostered Arab ethnic and cultural chauvinism or that the militias that have perpetuated much of the violence against populations of farmers in Darfur are Arabic-speaking pastoralists. American conceptions of race, however, do not apply - all Darfurians are black in American eyes (which is not to say that American fantasies of race are more logical than Sudanese fantasies).

Ethnicity has been manipulated by politicians but the fact is that the different ethnic groups in Darfur have been bound together by centuries of trade, intermarriage, assimilation by adoption or enslavement, sharing of resources and so forth. All Darfurians are Muslims so, unlike southern Sudan, religion is not a major issue here.

Second, this is not just a struggle between a government and rebels. The central actors in this tragedy are nongovernmental entities - militias known as Janjaweed ("horsemen"). These militias are not bound to any human rights conventions, unlike the Sudanese government. In a land stalked by drought and poverty they have used the weapons given them by the government during the north-south civil war to loot their neighbors among the Fur and Masalit ethnic groups and to seize land and wells. In other words, their agenda may overlap with the government’s (fighting the rebels) but it is far from identical.

Militias such as the Janjaweed are an example of a worldwide trend, the emergence of gangs and networks that may or may not have political aims but which are essentially criminal organizations. It is seizing land by driving out its inhabitants. It is plunder of livestock and other goods. It is enslavement. And it is rape, including gang rape and the holding of sex hostages. Women and girls, the most politically marginalized, are the victims of atrocities that are both criminal and political, as they have been in so many other wars.

Finally, the fighting and displacement in Darfur - perhaps 10,000 killed, more than 1 million displaced - are not an isolated phenomenon. They are part of a complex web of national and international politics.

A weak and unstable government in distant Khartoum has often relied on divide-and-rule tactics to try to control Darfur. Chronic civil war in neighboring Chad, which shares many of the same ethnic groups as Darfur, has contributed to instability in the region. In fact, internal conflicts in Chad and Sudan have long fed each other in an endless cycle. Oil-rich Libya to the north has pursued its own objectives in the region. Western countries support existing governments in the region to bolster the fight against terrorism. And a continuous flow of labor migrants, refugees, political operatives, guns and contraband across borders is just as much a part of the situation in Darfur as so-called "tribal warfare."

This is globalization with a vengeance. Some of the profits from this war may find their way far from the camps of destitute displaced people in western Sudan.

African wars and suffering have long been placed in the "humanitarian crisis" category. We have said, "It’s very sad. But let’s get real - Africa just doesn’t matter much." In this time of terrorism, AIDS, criminal networks, energy shortfalls and environmental debate, we need to re-examine that assumption.

Neil McHugh teaches African history at Fort Lewis College. He has spent time in Darfur and conducted research for a doctorate degree in another part of Sudan.



The views expressed in the 'Comment and Analysis' section are solely the opinions of the writers. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not Sudan Tribune.

If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to comment@sudantribune.com

Sudan Tribune reserves the right to edit articles before publication. Please include your full name, relevant personal information and political affiliations.
Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.


The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.



Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis


Security Arrangements in Sudan: Achilles heels of peace and democratic transformation 2019-12-10 05:47:59 By Elwathig Kameir This article is intended to act as an eye-opener for all the Sudanese political forces. It aims to shed light on the huge challenges that will be faced by the December (...)

Egypt final push to secure zero-sum water-share agreement 2019-12-09 14:11:32 By Ermias Hailu After Egypt’s failure to integrate Eritrea to its territories by the end of the second world war, due to Emperor Haile Selassie’s superior diplomatic skills, the then Egyptian Pan- (...)

Defending kleptocrat is like defending devils before God 2019-12-09 12:34:30 By Zechariah Makuach Maror On Friday 6. Dec. 2019 the Dawn newspaper published an article in it Vol.4 Issue 1111 written by a clumsy writer called Peter Wek Ayom Wek titled "response to (...)


MORE






Latest Press Releases


S. Korea supports UN communities building resilience project in Sudan’s Blue Nile 2019-09-09 09:26:41 UNDP Sudan September 5, 2019 (KHARTOUM) - An agreement was signed on 5th of September between the Korean Ambassador, His Excellency. Lee Ki-Seong and Dr. Selva Ramachandran, Resident (...)

Sudanese lawyers and Human rights defenders back calls for civil rule 2019-04-26 10:22:06 Press statement by 55 Sudanese lawyers and Human rights defenders on Sudan Sit-in and Peaceful Protest Khartoum -24/04/2019 We, the undersigned (55) Sudanese lawyers and human rights defenders, (...)

South Sudan’s Lafon youth condemn killings of civilians by Pari community 2019-04-03 21:54:29 Press Statement on the Fighting between Pari/ Pacidi and Lotuko/Lokiri on 24/3/2019 Release by The Lafon County Youth Union: We, the Lafon County Youth Union hereby condemn the atrocities and (...)


MORE

Copyright © 2003-2019 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.