SUDAN WATCH: Sudan proposes Libyan role in Darfur peace implementation

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sudan proposes Libyan role in Darfur peace implementation

The Sudan Tribune is one of the few news sites to pick up on the story that Sudan proposes Libyan role in Darfur peace implementation.

The article claims press reports in Khartoum say al-Khalifa also asked Gaddafi to persuade the dissident rebels groups, particularly SLM/A's al-Nur faction, to join the peace deal.

My heart lifts whenever I read such news. I've followed almost every news report on Col Gaddafi's efforts to broker peace for Darfur and logged most of it here at Sudan Watch.

Map of Libya

Gaddafi seems to mean what he says because throughout the past two years, he's followed through on everything, from opening up routes to get emergency food into Darfur to bringing together warring parties and tribes under one roof.

Al-Bashir welcomes Gaddafi

Photo: Sudanese president al-Bashir welcomes Libyan leader Col Gaddfi to Khartoum March 23, 2006 for Arab summit held in the capital.

Col Gaddafi appears to be a great joiner of people. He speaks different languages, in more ways than one. I believe he continues to be instrumental in building bridges of trust between the warring parties and tribal leaders in the Sudan.

I've found it difficult to believe the regime in Khartoum have control over the so-called Janjaweed. Sudan is a country the size of Europe. Tribal leaders lord it over huge swathes of the Sudan, ruling through benevolence and fear. Searing heat, harsh flat terrain, sand storms, rainy seasons, mud, floods, nomads, livestock, watering holes, camels, tribal customs and traditions all part of a way of life that has not changed since the year dot.

A few years ago, one of the Janjaweed leaders, Musa Hilal, explained to the press that he and the other tribal leaders have no need to take orders from Khartoum. It seems they rule in a way they feel works best. How else does one contain anarchy and retain sovereignty in such a huge poverty stricken country where there is little or no infrastructure?

I imagine all the different Sudanese tribes, dialects, customs, traditions and culture to be as diverse as those in all the different countries of Europe. Some African leaders talk of their vision for a "United States of Africa". Sudan is one quarter the size of the US. My wish for the Sudan is that it separates religion from government. One cannot serve God and mammon alike. There are thousands of different religions. People ought to be free to choose their own faith. Religion and government should be separate. I'd like to see the Sudanese president opening up to the world's media and start a real good blog aimed at fostering real understanding, not propaganda. From what I have seen online, Sudan has a lot to offer. It is a beautiful country with a fascinating history and culture, friendly people and interesting art.

Millions of people in the Sudan have never received an education and do not know how to read or write. Many of them believe if they wear a written message in a pouch around their body it will provide protection from harm and ward off evil spirits.

Man from a Falata tribe in Sudan selling Hidjab

Photo: Man from a Falata tribe selling "Hidjab" which are pages from Quran inside of amulet made of leather. (Vit Hassan, Khartoum)

Man from a Funj tribe in Sudan selling voodoo

Photo: Man from a Funj tribe selling voodoo (Vit Hassan, Khartoum)

Voodoo from skin of a monkey

Photo: Voodoo from skin of a monkey (Vit Hassan, Khartoum)

Note UN SGSR Jan Pronk, in his blog entry 28 April 2006 explains the following about Darfur:
Quite a few tribes are engaged in violent conflict with each other. As a matter of fact, many Sudanese believe that the Darfur conflict is not political, but tribal. In my view it is both. The demands of the rebel movements concerning sharing of power and wealth are of a political nature. A high government official in Darfur, a Darfurian himself, appointed by the Khartoum government and member of the ruling National Congress Party, once told me that there are Darfurians who fight the government and other Darfurians, who do not fight, but the latter share with the rebels a grudge against the government. Darfur against Khartoum; it is a political conflict.

But the conflict is also tribal. The tribal dimension is often underestimated by people outside Sudan. However, tribal conflicts are age-old and deeply rooted. There is an ethnic dimension to the tribal conflicts, to the extent that some tribes are considered to be African, others Arab. There is also an economic dimension: the struggle for land and water, the looting of cattle, the most important resource of many tribes. Tribal conflicts are often related to land claims, with a long history. Some tribes consider themselves as more Darfurian than others, because they settled in Darfur much earlier. Some tribes, though living in Darfur since many generations, are still considered to be Chadian, or West African. Some tribes were favored by the British colonial regime. Others were accustomed to keep slaves. Some tribes are more closely affiliated with the rebels (the Fur, the Zaghawa and the Massaliet). Other tribes are more inclined to support notions of pan-Arabism.

Many tribes have militia, in order to defend their interests. They fight ruthlessly, retaliate out of proportion and often use pre-emptive strikes. Killing of women and children is seen as an acceptable form of revenge for the looting of cattle. Militia do not respect human rights or international law. No wonder that notions of genocide and ethnic cleansing have been used in order to describe the ordeals of the victims of the militia.

The Sudanese government and the authorities in Darfur have taken many initiatives to organize tribal reconciliation conferences. There are old traditions underlying such reconciliations. Respecting them would guarantee that the tribal leaders representing their tribes in the reconciliations have been chosen by the tribes themselves, instead of being appointed by the authorities. The tradition also guarantees that there is mediation by respected facilitators, independent of the government. An essential element of reconciliation is the payment of blood money as a form of compensation of the victims. However, though some efforts were successful, most reconciliations did not last long. The modernization of the governance system in Darfur during the last twenty years has undermined the position of traditional leaders. The war did the same. A new generation with easy access to weapons has lost respect for traditional leaders. Moreover, the government, eager to stay in power, has not been able to withstand temptations to manipulate traditional leaders. The outcome of quite a few of these reconciliations could not be sustained. Some were more or less imposed on weaker tribes, who were threatened that they would be attacked if they would not sign. In other reconciliation conferences appointed leaders dominated the deliberations. Often not all damage that had been done in the past was considered due for compensation. Perpetrators of the crimes often were not indicted, but only had to pay blood money. This practice did not help to bring an end to the impunity prevailing throughout Darfur. Moreover, the agreed sums of blood money often were not paid. So, often new attacks took place, again resulting in revenge and retaliation.

To a certain extent this was due to the fact that the authorities had an understandable interest in reconciliation amongst tribes fighting each other. Too soon success was claimed. The government was even more enticed to do so, when tribal reconciliations were considered an alternative to the political negotiations with the rebel movements.

For these reasons the UN has been reluctant to associate itself with the reconciliation efforts. However, they are necessary, not as a substitute for political talks, but as an essential complement. We have participated as observer in some sessions and promised that, if the conditions of fairness would be met, we could help in the follow up of the reconciliation with reconstruction and development programs to the benefit of the tribes concerned.
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Photo: Musa Hilal, an Arab tribal chief accused by the United States of leading a dreaded militia in Darfur, rides his horse in Misitiriyha in north Darfur, Sudan, May 10, 2005. (Reuters/Beatrice Mategwa/Sudan Watch archive)

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Photo Musa Hilal, chief of Arab Rizeigat tribe in Mistiriyha, North Darfur, Sudan May 10, 2005 (Reuters/Taipei Times)
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Photos about various tribes, folklore and traditions in Sudan

See "Sudan through my eyes" - a photoset on Flickr created by 27-year-old Vit Hassan in Khartoum, Sudan. [see top right hand corner and click on words "View as slideshow" - wait for a few seconds for slideshow to begin, click on any photo to pause and read captions]
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Sudan Facts and Figures

Sudan is almost the same size as the following 15 countries put together: UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, Slovenia and Greece.

At 212,000 square miles, the whole of Darfur is as big as France and North Darfur is 100,000 square miles 3 times larger than the UK.

North Darfur is more than 1,000 miles from Khartoum, the capital of Sudan - about the same distance as from London to Rome. [Source: http://www.kidsforkids.org.uk/pdfs/SudanFacts2005.pdf]

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