Title: تحالف جديد "قد" يعيد تشكيل الصراع في دارفور..A new alliance could reshape the conflict in Darfu
Author: esam gabralla
Date: 23-04-2007, 12:34 PM
للمتابعين للصراع في دارفور... ما رايكم؟
|Quote: A new alliance could reshape the conflict in Darfur|
By Lydia Polgreen
Published IHT: April 13, 2007
ABECHE, Chad: The two rebels sitting together on a dry riverbed could just as easily have been sworn enemies, perched on opposite sides of an abyss that has cleaved their homeland in two.
But their talks on a military alliance of Arab and non-Arab tribes in Darfur could radically reshape the conflict, giving new life to rebel groups that have fought for more than four years against Khartoum and undermining the government's use of Arab militias to quell the rebellion.
Adam Shogar, a commander of the Sudan Liberation Army, the non-Arab rebels at the center of the Darfur conflict, stretched a coal-black arm at Yassine Yousef Abdul Rahman, his copper-skinned, brown-eyed counterpart from an Arab insurgency group also opposed to the government, studying him carefully with midnight eyes.
"We are brothers for Darfur," Shogar said. "We are in the same struggle for our rights."
The meeting of the two men took place here in eastern Chad, where representatives of the main rebel groups fighting the government and its allied tribal militias in Darfur have gathered to try to join forces, either to negotiate a settlement to the crisis in Darfur or to mount a decisive offensive against the government.
"The government fear is if the Darfur Arabs unify and move against them, that is a decisive switch in the balance of power," said Alex de Waal, a Sudan scholar at Justice Africa, a research institution in London, who has studied Darfur for decades. "Should they shift against the government then the government is in deep trouble."
The struggle in Darfur has often been portrayed as one between Arabs and Africans, nomads and farmers, with the former bent on slaughtering the latter. But the conflict has never been that simple.
In many ways, Darfur's Arab tribes have the same grievances as the African farmers, and the same suspicion that Sudan's central government in Khartoum views them as marginal and expendable. And they fear that the government is trying to scapegoat them as the sole authors of the killing.
Here in eastern Chad, where the intertribal violence gripping Darfur has spilled over, Arab tribes have found themselves victims of non-Arab militias armed by Chad's government, according to tribal leaders.
The complex and shifting role of Arab tribes in both Sudan and Chad underscores how difficult it will be to secure a political solution to the four-year-old crisis that has sent 2.3 million fleeing their homes, killed as many as 450,000 and set off a broad conflict in one of the most unstable parts of the world.
The main perpetrators of some of the worst atrocities have been government-sponsored Arab militias that have come to be known by a local epithet, the janjaweed.
The Sudanese government turned to these militias as a kind of counterinsurgency force because its own military, weakened by a long civil war in the south and made up largely of non-Arab recruits, could not be relied upon to crush the rebellion among non-Arab Darfur tribes.
While some tribal leaders, most notably Musa Hilal and Ali Kushayb, heeded this call, most did not, and chose instead to remain on the sidelines, according to de Waal and other Sudan experts. Arab leaders in Darfur say that fewer than a quarter of tribesmen in the region took up arms against their non-Arab neighbors.
Indeed, the relationship between the central government, dominated by three small Arab tribes living along the Nile, and the Darfur Arabs, who claim a heritage going back to the Prophet Muhammad, is often antagonistic. Darfur's Arabs have long been the stalwarts of the main opposition Umma Party, perhaps the largest and most popular political party in northern Sudan.
The boom-and-bust cycle of livestock herding has often left Darfur's Arabs destitute, especially during the great droughts of the 1970s and 80s. An ancient land tenure system controlled by the farm-based non-Arab tribes has led to conflicts between nomads and settled tribes for centuries, but these traditionally have been resolved through local tribunals and traditional mediation.
But the systems broke down in the 1980s and 90s, as the Khartoum government sought to exercise greater control over Darfur. Political and traditional leaders at the state and tribal level were replaced by Arab candidates closer to the government.
Darfur Arabs have also suffered in the Darfur conflict. Some of their traditional migration routes, which they have traversed for hundreds of years, have been cut off by the fighting, forcing some nomads to become sedentary.
Arabs say they have been ignored by aid agencies, which have focused on non-Arab tribes, which make up the vast majority of the displaced and refugees.
"The suffering of Arab nomads in this conflict has been completely ignored," said Mohammed El Sayed Hassan, director of Al Massar, a charity working in North Darfur to help nomads. "For centuries we have had friendship and exchange with the Fur people and other African tribes. Now we are seen as killers." The Fur are a non-Arab group in Western Sudan.
Indeed, nomads and farmers have depended on each other for centuries to survive on some of the world's most forbidding terrain. Farmers allowed herders to traverse their lands, and the herders brought milk and meat. They also transported farm goods to markets, and traded durable goods not usually available in remote farming villages. The farmers bartered these items for vegetables and grain the nomads ate on their treks.
"The economic relationships between the Arabs and their non-Arab neighbors have been very close," de Waal said. "Given enough time they are likely to make common cause against the government."
The government has faced this disastrous turn of events before - a militia it armed to fight the rebels in the civil war in the south eventually joined the rebels, forcing the government to accept a cease-fire. Militias from south Darfur that fought in the southern civil war were also blamed by the government for the slaving raids that were the signature atrocity of that conflict. Those militias were so angry at the betrayal that they refused to fight for the government in Darfur, de Waal said.
In Chad, Arab tribes say they have suffered reprisal attacks by non-Arab militias. Around Goz Beida, a town southeast of Abeche and a good 95 kilometers, or about 60 miles, from the Sudanese border, interethnic violence has driven out tens of thousands of people, most of them ethnic Africans living in squalid, makeshift camps.
The Chadian government has blamed Sudan for this violence, but local officials say that while Sudanese Arab militias have been deeply implicated in cross-border raids closer to the porous frontier, much of the violence is between Arab and non-Arab Chadians.
Said Brahim, who until recently was the sultan of Dar Silla, a region of eastern Chad that is home to a combustible mix of tribes, said that intertribal violence was exacting a terrible toll. He is a member of the non-Arab Dadjo tribe, but at a recent meeting with United Nations officials he brought along a prominent Arab sheik, El Mahdi al-Samani of the Heimat tribe.
A courtly man dressed in a flowing yellow robe and matching embroidered skullcap, Brahim spoke in impeccable French, bemoaning the divisions that were tearing his community apart.
"Are politics going to destroy centuries of friendship?" he asked. "The picture is so bleak that I cannot even tell you how bad things are getting." Gesturing at Samani, he added, "He is being rejected. People are now wary of him because he is an Arab."
The two wizened men described the violence that has enveloped their communities. In all, 140,000 Chadians have been displaced in interethnic fighting, the vast majority from Dadjo and other non-Arab tribes. Samani said 10 villages of Arab families had been displaced in the latest fighting, fleeing toward Darfur against the advance of Dadjo militias.
Some Chadian Arabs have joined the janjaweed, but Samani said he has tried to prevent this.
"If they come to recruit our men, my men shoot at them," he said.
Brahim said that he surrendered his position of sultan to his son under pressure from the Chadian government, because he opposed the government policy of arming Dadjo militias to fight Arab militias from Sudan and Chad. Senior Western diplomats confirmed that this arming was taking place.
Like the Sudanese Army, Chad's military is stretched thin by its efforts to fight several rebel groups based in Sudan that are trying to overthrow President Idriss Deby of Chad. Arming local ethnic militias is an expedient way to deal with security problems along the border, but the experiences of Darfur and the civil war in southern Sudan has shown that once militias are unleashed, they are nearly impossible to control, experts say.
Beyond that, Chad, like Sudan, has now rejected a United Nations peacekeeping force on its soil, saying it will accept only police, not troops.
In Darfur, the loyalty and obedience of janjaweed militias is highly suspect. Rahman and his fellow fighters said that many Arabs felt betrayed by the government and would not stand down even if they were ordered to do so by Khartoum.
"Our brothers will join us if we call them," he said. "If this government wants to fight, we can take them from power with no problem."
Avoiding all-out war by negotiating a new political settlement has been the main diplomatic objective over the past few months. John Holmes, the United Nations undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, who just completed a tour of the Darfur region, said that one of the most important messages he planned to bring to the Security Council was the complexity of the conflict here.
"It is not simply Arab versus African, nomad versus farmer," Holmes said. "It is a political problem, and it needs a political solution."