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Articles and ViewsJanjaweed Leader Hilal and his Search for a new Tribal War in Darfur B
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Janjaweed Leader Hilal and his Search for a new Tribal War in Darfur B

09-15-2013, 08:11 PM
Abdullahi Osman El-Tom

Janjaweed Leader Hilal and his Search for a new Tribal War in Darfur B

    Janjaweed Leader Hilal and his Search for a new Tribal War in Darfur
    By: Abdullahi Osman El-Tom
    16/09/2013: Musa Hilal, Janjaweed Leader and Assistant to President Al-Bashir is not new to controversy. His most recent revelation came in a 50 minutes speech to his followers in the training camp of Misteriha, Darfur.

    The speech, still hotly debated on Sudan media conveys an important message: Hilal remains true to his character as an intransigent Janjaweed leader. His shuttling between a Khartoum villa and the saddle of a camel in his Sheikhdom in Darfur did little to dampen his hooligan spirit. The speech is a textbook one on the art of mobilisation for a new tribal war in Darfur, this time between Hilal’s Abbala (camel nomads) groups and the Berti. Others might see the speech as inciting hatred of everybody in Darfur against the Berti ethnic group.

    Sheikh Musa Hilal is not new to Janjaweedism, a localised brand of modern terrorism. Indeed a brief look at his biography shows Hilal has learnt nothing over the last three decades and has remained true to his nature as a hooligan and a Janjaweed leader. Hilal was one of the pillars of the racist “Arab Gathering” movement of the 1980s. The manifesto of the Arab Gathering, issued in two statements, resembles the Hutu Ten Commandments that prompted the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s. Mimicking the Hutu Ten Commandments, the Arab Gathering called for the annihilation of “Zurga (black”) populations in order to effect total control of the so-called “Arabs” over the western states of Sudan in 20 years.

    Months before Al-Bashir took over in 1989, Hilal came under fire from Tigani Seise, the then Governor of Darfur. Seise charged Hilal of causing grave insecurity in the region and provoking tribal warfare. Governor Seise stripped Hilal of his post as a sheikh (Nazir) of the Umjallul/ Mahameed ethnic group, a position he had inherited from his father. It is to be noted that the term Mahameed is relatively new to Darfur. Until fairly recently, the Mahameed used to be called Umjallul, a relatively small and insignificant group of camel nomads.

    Years later, General Ibrahim Suleiman, Governor of Darfur, came to a similar conclusion about Hilal. He found him guilty of stirring up ethnic conflicts resulting in the massacre of innocent civilians. General Suleiman got Hilal convicted and exiled him out of Darfur to serve his jail sentence in a prison in Port Sudan. When the Darfur conflict erupted in 2003, Vice President Ali Osman Taha released Hilal and brought him back to mobilize and train more Janjaweed to help the government fight the rebels. He excelled in his new assignment and formed his notorious Janjaweed army with the flowery name: “the Mobile, Light, Quick and Horrible Forces” (Al Mutaharikat Al Khafifa, A Saria Almorea). His forces evolved into a brutal killing machine similar to the Nazi Waffen-SS brigades.

    With his new force in place, and with the full backing of the government, Hilal spread havoc among the innocents in Darfur. His Janjaweed targeted unarmed villagers, burned down villages and raped women among those classified as African or Zurga (black) but rarely came near forces of the armed movements. In all that, he acted in his capacity as a top commander of the government Border Guard. His atrocities elevated him to rank among the 50-plus unofficial Human Rights Watch ICC list. It is reputed that the ICC itself has another list, yet to be unveiled and which include Hilal as well. The USA government too sanctioned Hilal while the UN placed him under asset freeze and travel embargo.

    Hilal’s addiction to ethnic violence is proverbial. Even as recent as last month, Hilal dispatched a force of around 300 fighters to assist the Rezeigat of Al Dein in their tribal war against their Arab neighbours, the Malia. The latter, known to be superb snipers, wiped out Hilal’s force altogether.

    But Hilal remained indispensible for genocidaire Al-Bashir who offered him a post as a Presidential Assistant for Federal Affairs. Al-Bashir later used Hilal in a rather baffling way to improve his relationship with Chad. As if to stress his affectionate relationship with him, Al-Bashir officiated as the father of the bride in the marriage of Hilal’s daughter to the Chadian President Idris Deby. The wedding netted Hilal a substantial dowry running into millions of US dollars, some of which has undoubtedly gone to procure more arms for his Janjaweed force.

    In his inflammatory speech and in a delusionary manner, Hilal portrayed himself as peacemaker, a government reformist and an internationally respected leader. Leaving his rather silly self-grandiosity aside, his speech was riddled with some insidious calls. In a characteristic mob-mobilisation fashion, Hilal lashed out at his neighbours, the Berti, to whom the Governor of North Darfur allegedly belongs. Amid the usual jihad war cry “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar”, Hilal demonised the Berti and accused them of monopolising government posts in North Darfur. “The posts of cooks too went to the Berti, even though they only know how to cook watermelons”, Hilal roared, amid the sarcastic laughter of his Janjaweed audience. His speech was indeed a prelude and an open invitation for war against the Berti.

    In his speech, Hilal sends a message to his master Al-Bashir who is threatening a major reshuffle of all top posts in the country. It is no secret that Hilal is setting his eyes on the governorship of North Darfur, currently occupied by his arch-rival and fellow Khartoum puppet Osman Kibir. In his sermon, Hilal used every conceivable slur word he could think of against Governor Kibir. He accused him of theft, nepotism, corruption, injustice, violence, instigation of tribal wars and so forth. Hilal’s effort to incite hatred against Kibir as well as against the Berti went further than that. He told his followers that “they are ruled by a ####### slave,” meaning Kibir. Archaic and primitive as it may be, classification of the Berti among other indigenous Darfuri groups as slaves is central to Janjaweed culture. What is even more bizarre, the same ethos is also central to the culture of the ruling elite of the whole country. Here is what Turabi said about President Al-Bashir: “He [Al Bashir] is also a racist who called the Southerners slaves. Even his former minister for several years Ali Al Haj, who is a doctor from far west Sudan, Al-Bashir used to call ‘al-feraikh’ meaning a small slave as a word of contempt” Sudan Tribune 13/09/2013.

    It obvious from the above quotations that neither Hilal, nor Al-Bashir is fit to run a pig farm let away a region or a country. I hope national and international activists take this plain fact into account in their effort to bring an end to the current crisis in Sudan.

    Abdullahi Osman El-Tom is Head of Strategic Planning of JEM.
    He can be reached at: [email protected]

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