A chance for peace in Darfur?

Asmaa Al-Husseini , Tuesday 21 Jun 2022

Will the latest reconciliation agreement in Darfur put an end to bloodshed or is it just another photo-op?

Sudanese villagers walk in the war-torn town of Golo in central Darfur.  AFP
Sudanese villagers walk in the war-torn town of Golo in central Darfur. AFP


The Rezeigat and Misseriya tribes signed a reconciliation agreement on Saturday following clashes that led to the death of hundreds, injury of thousands, and displacement of tens of thousands of Sudanese.

Present at the signing, which took place in a festive atmosphere in Al-Geneina, west Darfur, were – among other, high-level Sudanese officials – Vice President of the Sovereignty Council and Commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, aka Hemeti.

The signatories and attendees expressed their hope that the agreement would end war and destruction in Darfur, which has endured heavy fighting since 2003. According to UN estimates, some 300,000 Sudanese died and three million people were displaced in clashes during the reign of toppled president Omar Al-Bashir. However, the Sudanese government put the death toll at 10,000.

The war in Darfur led the UN Security Council to charge Al-Bashir and a number of his aides at the International Criminal Court with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

During his speech at the signing ceremony, Hemeti said the Sudanese government will not allow chaos, the lack of security, and crimes to persist. He added that the regular forces will stop attempts to sabotage the state, pledging to put in place tight security plans. Peace should be ensured through “deterrence and the extension of respect for the state” and rule of law, Hemeti stated.

He also expressed the hope that the reconciliation agreement will end clashes between the Rezeigat and Misseriya tribes once and for all.

Masar Abdelrahman Aseel, one of Rezeigat’s tribal leaders, said the clan will work on closing all the loopholes in the reconciliation, making it a model to emulate, and calling for a permanent, comprehensive solution.

Despite the ray of hope the agreement gave to stop bloodshed and find Darfur’s lost peace, many observers from Darfur and other parts of Sudan opined that bloodshed and destruction in the region will only stop through real, tangible measures on the ground.

Amir Hafez Al-Sheikh, one of the leaders of the Misseriya tribe, said the war that erupted between the two tribes led to killing, displacement and burning of villages, stressing the need to impose the “respect for the state” by increasing security vehicles to deter outlaws. He noted that there are reasons that fuel conflicts between tribes, such as the emergence of tribal fanaticism, partisan and regional polarisation on social media, as well as extremist ideologies.

Sudanese author and political analyst Fayez Al-Salik told Al-Ahram Weekly controlling the situation in Darfur is extremely complicated amid the lack of security. Stability in Darfur is not granted, even after the reconciliation agreement, due to the spread of weapons among Arab and non-Arab tribes, and the common notion that every group has to protect itself and earn its rights by the power of arms, he added. Al-Salik pointed out that all the parties want to control Darfur’s resources, especially gold.

Failure to address the roots of the problem indicates that conflicts may erupt at any time, and without seizing weapons, achieving development, enforcing stability and the presence of forces that can impose respect for the state, conflicts will not stop nor will peace prevail in Darfur, he noted.

Sudanese author and political analyst Abdul-Azim Shawki told the Weekly that the government’s plan is based on the heavy deployment of security forces to enforce the law, chasing down criminals and punishing them. He believes that “the state is accused in some cases of being a partner in those crimes, or turning a blind eye to some crimes, often failing to catch the culprits, possibly lacking the necessary capabilities.”

Shawki said that tribal interests sometimes outweigh the higher interests of Sudan, with some tribal members enrolled in the RSF or the army turning a blind eye to conflicts in their tribes to tip the scale in their tribe’s favour.

Al-Bashir’s regime used to orchestrate battles and arm tribes, Shawki added, pointing out that the recent events in Darfur are the outcome of the practices of Al-Bashir, whose forces launched attacks on some areas with Antonov planes.

For the state to enforce respect, Shawki stated, resources for development are needed. Respect cannot be imposed by force of arms because the borders are expansive. He explained that the withdrawal of UNAMID in 2020 had a negative impact on Sudan’s security, stressing that despite criticisms directed at UNAMID and attempts to weaken it by the previous regime, it was still recording violations.

Making matters worse is the plummeting economic conditions in Sudan and tribal aspirations to control other tribes. Gold mining and the rise of the price of land is another reason why peace is difficult to attain, Shawki said.

Partial and security solutions and empty promises are not enough to solve the problem in Darfur, he noted, stressing that development, the permanent presence of security forces, improving living conditions, and disarming people and tribes are the means for peace to prevail.

Adam Rigal, the spokesman of the General Coordination of Displaced Persons and Refugees in Darfur, concurred, saying that the present calm in Darfur is not indication enough of security as long as the real causes of the conflict are still present. All the committees concerned with investigating the massacres and violent incidents that took place in Darfur since the fall of the previous regime have not revealed their results, he added.

Sudanese journalist Al-Sir Al-Sayed believes that the crisis in Sudan needs to be resolved at a grassroots level to avoid tribal strife, racism and hate speech, stressing the importance of the strict application of the law.

The problem, however, is that tribal strife is rearing its ugly head extensively over all of Sudan once more. Many Sudanese observers and politicians believe that before solving tribal problems the crises of the centre of Sudan should be addressed first.

At present, Sudan is suffering from political tensions, security fragility, economic and social deterioration, which exacerbates the crises in the far stretches of the country, threatened with more flare-ups and armed confrontations if the political conflicts in Khartoum are not resolved.

The UN warned that 40 per cent of the Sudanese population is threatened with starvation. Moreover, regional and international conditions are casting heavy shadows over Sudan, making matters worse on all fronts.

A version of this article appears in print in the 23 June, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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