Sunday, July 25, 2004

Sudan/Darfur: a MUST read

Alex de Waal on the crisis in Darfur.

The article is worth reading in its entirety ... but I will excerpt one bit. It's an issue that has been nagging at me for months -- the characterization of the conflict in Darfur as one between "Arabs" and "Africans".
Characterising the Darfur war as 'Arabs' versus 'Africans' obscures the reality. Darfur's Arabs are black, indigenous, African and Muslim - just like Darfur's non-Arabs, who hail from the Fur, Masalit, Zaghawa and a dozen smaller tribes.

Until recently, Darfurians used the term 'Arab' in its ancient sense of 'bedouin'. These Arabic-speaking nomads are distinct from the inheritors of the Arab culture of the Nile and the Fertile Crescent.

'Arabism' in Darfur is a political ideology, recently imported, after Colonel Gadaffi nurtured dreams of an 'Arab belt' across Africa, and recruited Chadian Arabs, Darfurians and west African Tuaregs to spearhead his invasion of Chad in the 1980s. He failed, but the legacy of arms, militia organisation and Arab supremacist ideology lives on.

Alex de Waal is director of Justice Africa. In May, the organization published a briefing ... Prospects for Peace in Sudan.