Don’t Forget Darfur’s Arabs

Last year I argued that Darfur’s Arabs needed to be represented at the peace talks, even if this meant giving a seat to the militia leaders who make up the Janjaweed. This dynamic has been completely overlooked in the crisis, but if there is to be peace in Darfur the Arab tribes there will need to buy into it.

Activists tend to argue that this unduly complicates things and makes peace less attainable, but I strongly disagree. If a peace deal was signed between the central government and the rebels (which is even less likely now), there is little reason to believe that the Janjaweed militias would lay down their arms and go home. Activists believe that the Janjaweed are just puppets of the central government, but they have their own agenda as well.

Here’s a bit from my report on the various Arab tribes in Darfur.

The Rizigat tribe is the largest contributor to the Janjaweed forces, though not all of its clans have participated in the fighting. The Rizigat are made up of the Abala and Baggara tribes, among other smaller groups. The Abala are made up of many large clans, including the Mahria from where most of the Janjaweed militias derive. The Baggara, for the most part, have stayed out of the fighting. Their leader, Saeed Madibo, has maintained a stance of neutrality in the conflict, although reports indicate that some Baggara have joined with the Janjaweed forces.

I bring this up because I was happy to read Julie Flint arguing a similar point (but from the other angle) at Making Sense of Darfur:

In any future peace talks, once the immediate danger of conflagration is past, Darfur must be represented by a wide range of its sons and daughters—not just by unelected men with guns who have forgotten their dream.

She is talking about the rebels, not the Janjaweed. A distinction increasingly blurred these days.

Originally posted at On Political Risk. For an inside look at the Darfur rebels, and some analysis of the complex motivations of all the parties involved, see also Kurt Pelda’s Darfur Diaries.

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