Sei sulla pagina 1di 54

Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

Beyond Darfur: Identity and Conflict in Sudan

The dominant race in a society, whether it is white or otherwise, rarely admits to its own racism. Denial is near universal. The reasons are manifold. It has a huge vested interest in its own privilege. It is often oblivious to its own prejudices. It will regard its racist attitudes as nothing more than common sense, having the force and justification of nature. Only when it is challenged by those in the receiving end is

Nations are never honest

racism ousted, and attitudes begin to

about themselves: they are all in varying degree of denial. (Martin Jacques). 1


Sudan is plagued by conflicts. The civil war in the south has entered the record books as

the longest war in Africa. And as the world was looking forward to seeing an end to this

war with a historic comprehensive peace agreement accomplished early this year 2005,

another serious civil war was and still is intensifying in Darfur, while a low intensity one

has for years been continuing in eastern Sudan. In all these conflicts, perception of

identity lies at the heart of the problem. Glossing over the diversity of identities in Sudan

constitutes the fundamental problem and defines all the Sudanese conflicts. The northern

ruling class who inherited the power and privileges from the British colonial authorities

has never accepted the people of the South, the Nuba Mountains and the Angasana as

who they are, but they rather thought of them as who they ought to be. The people of

Darfur, and the Beja, in eastern Sudan, who are Muslims 2 and speak what is considered

“broken” brand of Arabic, represent the ultimate example of what the people of the south,

the Angessana and the Nuba Mountains ought to be. For decades, the northern ruling

class has been taking the people of Darfur and the Beja for granted. Being religiously,

culturally and politically appended to the northern riverian groups, 3 the people of Drafur

and eastern Sudan were thought of as reflecting a distorted image of the northern

collective self, 4 and therefore they know their inferior position in the social and racial

hierarchy, accepting whatever the ruling class decided for them in gratitude. Employing

the leverages of the state, the northern ruling class pursued an essentially social

engineering project aiming to produce a similar population in the south, the Nuba

Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

Mountains, and the Angessana Hills. The ruling class believed that things in Darfur and eastern Sudan were bound to continue like that for ever, since the developmental, educational and cultural policies, which were devised by them, were geared to ensure their absolute political and social dominance. However, events proved them wrong.

Identity: a historical overview

Identity has always been a central dimension in Sudan’s socio-political context. Travellers into the Funj kingdom in the first quarter of the 16 th century found a population that was stratified according to racial or ethnic identities, and that these strata were "so distinct that there is no one individual who does not know to which he belongs". 5 The Arabs sat at the top of the social hierarchy, the matter which led to the desire by the rest of the population to belong to them. The whisper campaign against the Funj, which branded them "pagans from the White Nile" devoid of Arab ancestry, illustrates the social atmosphere in the kingdom during the reign of king Badi III. In response to that defamation campaign, he announced officially in a circular to his subjects that he and his folk descended from the Arabs, specifying the Ummayads as his ancestors. 6 The collapse of the Funj kingdom in front of the Turko-Egyptian forces in 1821, removed the last barrier in front of the ascendancy of the Arabized groups domination, i.e. the political authority of the Funj. As the fate of the population was determined according to the invaders’ perception of the people’s racial and cultural identities, the new authorities put the Arabized groups above the “others”. This is the time when the position of Arabized groups, as agents of Turkish, European and Arab slave traders was augmented. It is also the time when most of northern families owned slaves. By the end of the 19 th century, the British colonial authorities also based their policies on more or less the same perception of northern and southern identities. They dealt with the northern identity as well defined and fully developed, whereas they dealt with the southern identity as developing and open to possibilities. They respected and maintained the northern identity whereas they tried to alter and “protect” the southern identity. 7 The struggle at that stage was not between the northern and southern identities, it is rather between competing designs of how the southern identity ought to be, the

Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

northern Sudanese and British designs. The southern identity was not a subject in that

conflict; it was rather its object.

Clashes of Identities The civil war, which started in southern Sudan in 1955, is now unanimously described as

a clash of identities. 8 As put by an African President, it is a problem between the people

with the turbans and the people with ostrich feathers. 9 The armed insurgency in Darfur,

western Sudan, which took the form of a full fledged war in 2003, is based on visible

racial/ethnic discourse. The two armed insurgent groups, the Sudan Liberation

Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), declared that

Sudan has always been controlled by Arab ethnic groups, which institutionalized their

racial prejudices, and marginalized the "black" people of the country and pushed them to

a reduced mode of existence. 10 It has also been revealed that it is JEM's leaders who are

the anonymous authors of the much-talked-about publication titled The Black Book:

Imbalance of Power and Wealth in the Sudan. 11 The book gives a statistical account of

racially-based monopoly of power in post independence Sudan, making the point that the

country has been dominated by only three Arabized ethnic groups. 12

The response by the government to the insurgency in Darfur has been fierce and bears

striking similarities to its conduct of the war in the southern Sudan; the use of the

government’s army and air force, the creation of militias from local-area Arab ethnic

groups and the licence granted to them to kill, rape and pillage. The fact that people in

Darfur are Muslims does not make the onslaught against them any less brutal, or those in

power any more compassionate towards fellow Muslims, prompting intellectuals from

Darfur to seek explanation in racism, and the colour of the skin. 13

While the international community’s rhetoric far exceeds its deeds, the carnage in Darfur continues unabated. Whole communities have been destroyed, wiped out or uprooted from their ancestral homeland. 14 Villages continue to be ransacked, families torn apart, children killed and women raped. 15 Yet, the world is still debating how to describe the tragedy. But whatever legal term the world agrees upon, whether genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, 16 identity and racial supremacy constitute the cultural matrix beneath these atrocities, and this is what this paper sets to discuss.

Basic Questions

The basic questions this paper seeks to address are: what underlies these conflicts in Sudan? What are the cultural and racial underpinnings that define the types of atrocity perpetrated in the South and Darfur? The aim is to look at the cultural roots of the conflicts, focusing on the exclusive nature of northern Sudanese identity. The attempt is to reveal the connection between the way northern Sudanese define themselves in relation to the “others” 17 in the country, and the type of anti-insurgency strategy adopted by the government on the one hand, and the apparent tolerance by the general public in the North of the atrocities committed against the people in these regions on the other hand. And by extension, the paper also looks at the complacent and apologetic responses to these atrocities in the Arab World, and relates them to the question of identity. Once this is established, the paper will move on to make the link between the exclusive nature of the northern identity, and by which they sought to define the whole country, and the violent reaction by those groups who chafe against these definitions.

What is Identity? Social identity is the culmination of racial and cultural traits that define a group of people. The classical theory treats social identities as primordially given and inherited like the biological traits. This theory started to give way to the idea that identities are constructed by choice, and are always subject to reconstruction. 18 Identity, by its nature as a social construct, is open to manipulation and contrivances. It could be founded on weak, remote, imagined or fabricated bases, yet it has the capacity to become like a religious belief. Despite their constructed nature, identity categories, in Laitin’s words, “have the power to subsume and even to colonize individuals”. 19 This

Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

is why some sociologists see constructed identities as “deviant” because they demonstrate “excessive instrumental expediency” and a sign of “inner maladjustment”. 20 We will later see how this is true for not only the northern Sudanese constructed identity, but also for the inhabitants of Darfur region.

A Living Entity From the forgoing, one could conclude that identity is a living entity that grows and evolves. It has an element of continuity and change, and although change in identity is a slow process, it takes big leaps in turns of history, and during wars and deep social tension or turmoil. Identity has a centre and a periphery; in any social identity, there is always an in-group, which represents the desired social identity, and a peripheral group, which have to adjust in order to identify with the model. In such cases the former represents the core, and occupies the centre stage of that social identity whereas the latter represents the outer circle and occupies the margin. The former is privileged, and the latter seeks to be so. The former has the power to legitimize or de- legitimize the latter, i.e. to give recognition to the group’s claims, or to pass judgement on them. 21 Identity is therefore shaped by three elements; a. a claim laid down by a social group, i.e. self definition of a group, b. the others’ definition of the same group, c. the position of the centre of that identity, i.e. the inner group, and whether they offer recognition to the group’s claims or not.

To sum this discussion up, one would say that identity is the way by which a social group defines itself, and is defined by others. 22 It is interplay between self perception and others’ perception, including the centre of identity. The result of this interplay is that the “others” either give recognition to the group’s claims or pass judgement on it. 23

Harmonious and Problematic Identities Thus if these three elements interact in a harmonious way, i.e. if people’s definition of themselves matches with other people’s definition of them, and that the centre of that identity grants them recognition, then this particular community is said to be living in equilibrium. Here is where the cultural and political elite steps in to give meaning to this equilibrium by providing it with a set of beliefs, constraints, principle, 24 myth, and symbolic order. 25


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

On the other hand, if the three elements interact contradictorily, i.e. if people’s perception of themselves does not match with the way other people define them, or, more seriously, if the legitimizing powers did not recognize the community’s definition of itself, then this particular community is said to live in disharmony. In such a case, the symbolic order does not emanate from the community's collective self, but is usually borrowed from the centre of the identity that the community is aspiring for, and wants to "be". These conditions set the scene for the paradoxes of identity to become visible, for instability to creep into the community, and for the crisis of identity to loom in the horizon. 26

Paradoxes of Identity in Northern Sudan

I have argued, in another place, that the northern Sudanese suffer a crisis of identity.

The root cause of this crisis stems from the fact that northern Sudanese live in a split world. While they believe that they descended from an Arab “father” and an African “mother”, they identify with the father and suppress the mother. However, the problem is that the mother is so prevailing all over their physiognomy to the extent that renders the father invisible, if not an imaginative creation. While northerners consider themselves Arabs, the “real” Arabs in the Arab World, especially in the Gulf and the Fertile Crescent, do not recognise them as such, but consider them ‘abeed, slaves. 27 It is as if that northerners, when they look in the mirror, see their invisible father only by the power of their imagination, while the Arabs, when they look at northerners, see their African mother by the naked eye.

I also argued that culturally, northern Sudanese have borrowed all the signification

system of the Arabic culture, and the symbolic order of the Arabic language. The signification system of the Arabic culture and the symbolic order of the Arabic language standardise the “white” colour and stigmatise the “black” colour, at both the cultural and social levels. 28

Another paradox is that northerners who are generally “brown to black” are totally subsumed by the Arabic culture, which is essentially “white”. 29 In using the signification system of this culture, which despises the black colour, northerners do not find themselves, but they find the embodiment of the centre. The northern self is absent as a subject in this system. It is only seen, as an object, through the eyes of the


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

centre. And the eyes of the centre detest, despise and scorn the black colour, aswad, plural sudan, as is abundantly evident in classical and modern Arabic cultural products, whether in poetry, classical literature, history and fiqh books, or in every day usage. 30 For instance, when northerners read al-Mutanabi’s satirical poems against Kafur, which are essentially racist, they identify with the former despite the fact that the latter was Nubian, just like them. At the level of language usage, northerners use the words “white” and “black” to symbolize good and evil, happiness and sadness, purity and corruption, good omen and bad omen. Expressions such as “the black day”, “the black market”, “somebody’s heart is white or black”, are uttered by northerners normally without any indication that users are being conscious to the self-detestation involved in this language usage. This obvious “misfit” inevitably leads to internalization of inferiority, “self-depreciation”, and “a crippling self-hatred. It also leads to self-deception. This is evident by the fact that instead of adapting the Arabic language in order to fit their physiognomy, northerners chose to fantasize about their physiognomy to fit the language. 31

Socially, northerners call black people ‘abeed, slaves, just like the Arabs do, the matter which defines and explains their suppressive attitude towards the African component of the country, whether embodied inside themselves, or projected outside themselves in the image of southerners, Darfurians, Nubas and Angessena.

Politically, the northern ruling class decided that Sudan belong to the League of Arab States shortly after independence, and thus they placed the country, along with Somalia, Mauritania, Djibouti, and Comoros, in the margin of the Arab World. 32

Historically, northern Sudanese worked as agents of Arabs, Turkish and European slave traders, and traded in people from the black African Sudanese as we will see later. 33 Psychologically, the average northern Sudanese yearn to be white or at least with light complexion. This colour consciousness is so strong that the first thing northerners do, when a child is born, is to look at the colour of its ear, lest it will be dark, for it gives them an indication of its future colour. Northerners also suffer an invisibility complex that drives them to be more Christian than the Pope, and hence the over emphasis on their Arab identity. 34


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

Adopting an identity that placed them in the margin of the “real” Arabs’ identity,

northerners pushed non-Arab Sudanese to the margin of their own identity, so that the

latter were placed in the margin of the margin. However, the biggest paradox about

northern Sudanese identity is that while they, on the one hand, call black people in

their own country “slaves”, northerners, on the other hand are called “slaves”

themselves by the “real” Arabs outside Sudan. On the basis of the forgoing, one

would conclude that northerners, by appending themselves to the Arab world in this

manner, are well placed to play the role of the agent that executes on behalf of the

Arabs a cultural mission in Sudan and beyond.

Agency to the Centre

It has been mentioned earlier that northern Sudanese have historically worked as

agents to foreign slave traders, including Arabs. Also most of the slaves hunted in

Sudan were exported to the Arab World. 35 One of the most prevailing statements

among northern cultural entrepreneurs is that Sudan is a bridge between the Arab

world and Africa, usually referring to it as “the dark continent”, imparting to it Arabic

culture and Islamic religion. Consequently, Sudan became the home of many

organisations and institutions that propagate Arabic Islamic culture, such as Khartoum

International Institution for Arabic language, The Institute for Teaching Arabic to

non-Arabic Speakers, the African Islamic Institute, the Organisation for the

Propagation of Islam, and its specialised offshoot, the African Islamic Agency for

Relief, Dan Fodio Humanitarian Corporation for Trade, The African Council for

Private Education, and the African Humanitarian Association for Childhood and

Motherhood. The ultimate objective of these institutions is “to work towards the

spread of Islam and the Deepening of Islamic Culture in Africa”. Sudan, the margin,

is the agent through which the centre, the Arab World, is to carry this objective out. 36

Describing the role of an agent that northerners play for the centre, Ibrahim has said

the following:

This role which had been designed for us by the Arabic Islamic Propagation Approach has caused us great hardship. As a result of our readiness to undertake this task, we looked down upon our fellow citizens as worthless and primitive people who have no culture or religion. We have accused their language of intelligibility (‘ujma), and their religion of paganism, and we set out, aided with the state machinery, to destroy their languages and cultures, and to substitute them with the correct language (Arabic) and the right religion (Islam). The consequent was a fundamental misunderstanding or clash between


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

the Arabic Islamic group and the African group, a clash which has resulted in the civil war. 37

The designated role of the agent for the Arabic Islamic culture has led northerners to

two main distortions with regard to the nation building in Sudan, according to Ibrahim.

The first distortion is with regard to the drive to build an Islamic state in Sudan, for

this call has never emanated from an internal need that yearns for social justice and an

ethical state. Propagation of Islam through jihad and missionary methods has always

been the main factor behind this call. The second distortion is with regard to the ruling

class. The majority of this class has confused their official role as state men who are

supposed to serve all citizens, and their role as agents of the Arabic Islamic culture.

Their second role has mostly prevailed. In their pursuance to get military help to fight

the rebel movement in the South, the ruling class has always relied on the Arab

countries. Their main argument was that Arabisim and Islam in Sudan, and not Sudan

itself, are threatened by the rebel movement. As Ibrahim has rightly observed, “that

who set out to mobilise people and obtain help was not the statesman but rather the

agent”. He continued to say:

What we fear is that the future ruling class will come out of those who have been fed and brought up in the Institutions of the propagation of Arabic Islamic culture (with its lucrative work conditions - for they pay in dollars, and are exempt from taxes, and have regional and international connections), who deeply believe that the Arabic Islamic group in Sudan is there on behalf of the Arabs and the Muslims, and not on behalf of themselves. If this happens, we fear that the role of agency will completely take over the role of statesmanship. 38

Indeed this is a prophecy that has come true. We will see later that the role of agency

which northerners have set in full motion in relation to the South is now operating

with little variation in relation to Darfur.

Southern Identity: a historical synopsis

Little historical information is known about the South before the Turko-Egyptian

conquest in 1820. 39 However, whatever type of life was evolving in the South until

1820, it was disrupted by the Turko-Egyptian conquest, which introduced the South to

the world, and to the northern Sudanese, as a source of slavery, and therefore defining

the North-South relations as one between a master, i.e. slave owner or slave trader,

and a chattel. We will see later that the essence of this relation, which is control and


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

domination, has remained the same, despite the disappearance of the slavery

institution; it just took other forms. Been defined as inferior, the southern identity has

always been targeted for either subjugation, or alteration. This has continued

the Turko-Egyptian era, the Mahdi era, the Condominium era, and post independence era. We will see later that the same attitude has also defined the relations with the other groups that are defined by the northern culture and establishment as “black” or “African”, never mind whether they experienced slavery or not, and whether they are Muslims, such as the black people of Darfur, or not.


Slave Trade and identity It has been mentioned that the Slave trade was one of the most influential factors that contributed to the definition of the North – South relations. Of course slavery is not a Turko-Egyptian invention. Slavery and slave trade had existed since immemorial times in many parts of the world. However, the Turko-Egyptian invasion of Sudan created a huge demand for slaves, as one of the major objectives of the invasion was to hunt for slaves in order to build a slave army. 40 Northerners then became agents for Turkish, European and Arab slave traders. Later on northerners traded in the human commodity independently. 41 As was mentioned earlier, this agency role later took another form.

When the abolition movement gained strength, the European countries, in conjunction with Turkey, started to fight the slave trade. Prompted by this, the Khedive Ismail, through the appointment of General Gordon as Governor of Equatoria, succeeded to some extent in suppressing the trade. 42 This was the time when European traders disappeared from scene leaving behind Arab and northern Sudanese traders visible to the southerners as the only dealers still operating and resisting the Government’s efforts to stop the trade. 43 This was also the time when "Islam and Arabic were associated with the administration and the slave traders", and were resisted by southerners, especially the Nilotics, whereas the Church, as represented by English and French missionaries were working against the slave trade. 44 When Al-Mahdi destroyed the Turko-Egyptian regime, the slave trade came back in full rigor, and this time it was a purely northern enterprise. 45 This continued in many parts of the country for more than two decades after the re-conquer of Sudan by the Condominium powers in 1898. Slave raids by the Nomad Arabs against the Nuba in southern Kordofan


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

continued until 1912, and in the Blue Nile Sheikh Khojali el-Hassan and his wife Sitt Amna traded in the Angassana people until 1928, when Sitt Amna was arrested and convicted. 46

The Missionaries and Identity Alteration The Turko-Egyptian conquest of Sudan opened the South for European exploration expeditions and missionary societies. The essence of missionary work is the assumption that the South is a cultural and religious vacuum that should be filled in with the right culture and the right religion, i.e. it is about identity alteration. Another aspect of the missionary work is protective; they felt that this cultural vacuum needed to be protected from a threat of what they judged as a neighbouring superior culture in the north. Thus they aimed to remove any Arab or Islamic influences in the South, and to stop future possibilities. This is evident from the writing of General Gordon, Governor of Equatoria in 1871, to the Church Missionary Society in England inviting their work to this province. 47

As a result of the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, the southern Sudan became more accessible to the missionary communities to continue their pursuit of identity alteration. This process suffered a brief disruption caused by al-Mahadi revolution that overthrew the Turks in 1885, but business continued as usual, if not with more zeal, after the Anglo-Egyptian conquest of the country in 1898. 48

The British Colonial Authorities and Southern Identity When the British colonized Sudan in 1898, they passed judgement on northern and southern Sudanese identities. They ranked the Arabized groups of the north over the black African groups. Anthropologist C. G. Seligman, who was sponsored by the colonial government in Khartoum to study the groups inhabiting Sudan, for the purpose of helping the administration to rule effectively, described the southern tribes as “savages”. 49 The new British administration in Sudan assigned the Christian missionaries the task of civilizing these “savages” by teaching them “elements of common sense, good behaviour and obedience to government authority”. 50 On the other hand, the British showed great deference to the Arabized groups of the north and maintained and enhanced their Arabic-Islamic identity. 51


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

However, the British also followed a policy aiming to protect the south from any cultural influence by the north. Thus they set out to put barriers that would stop the natural movement and interaction between the south and the north fearing that it may lead to the spread of elements of the northern identity in the south. With this end in view, they changed the official Friday holiday to Sunday, and replaced the Egyptian Army units in the south by the Equatoria Corps consisting only of locals, under British Command. Furthermore the south was administered independently. This policy, which continued from 1898 to 1920, aimed to prepare the South to develop separately from the north. The three memoranda that would determine the British policy in the South between 1920-1947, stated explicitly the following: a. “the separation of the Negroid from the Arab territories”, b. the eventual assimilation of

the south to “the Government of other African possessions, such as Uganda and East Africa”, and c. Islamic influence was to be kept out of the south, by cutting off “the

southern (black) portion of the Sudan

from the northern Area”. 52

In 1922, the Closed Districts order was promulgated to declare the south as a closed district. Admission to it was not allowed unless a permit was obtained from the Government. Northern traders were prevented from trading freely in the south by the “Permits to Trade Order” (1925). Governors were explicitly instructed to limit the existence of the Gallaba, i.e. northern traders, in towns and along established trade routes in the South. 53 It was intended that the number of Egyptians and northern Sudanese traders in the South be decreased "unobtrusively but progressively" and be replaced by Christian Greeks and Syrians. The order also aimed at reducing the number of southerners who would be persuaded to look for employment in the North. Traders who were already in the south were pressured to leave, and by 1932 the mission was almost accomplished. 54 Southern tribes neighbouring Arab tribes in Darfur and Kordofan were physically removed from their areas to the south in order to prevent contacts with them. 55

The British Authorities and Pieces of Identity It has been mentioned above that the government made every effort to protect the southern identity from the elements constituting the northern identity, namely Arabic


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

language, Islam and northern way of life. Arabic language was to be replaced by

English language, which was made the means of communication in the south, and the

local "vernaculars". Arabic language was considered the key that would "open the

doors for the spread of Islam, Arabize the south and introduce the northern Sudanese

outlook". 56 Arabic names were also considered as pieces of the northern identity

which southerners should be protected from. Chiefs and their people were advised not

to adopt Arabic names, and those who had already adopted them, were advised to

change their names to tribal ones. Northern clothing was a visible piece of identity

which infiltrated the south. It has to be eliminated. Southerners were persuaded to

adopt European styles instead of "Arabic" ones. 57 Traders were instructed not to sell

"Arab" type of dress to southerners. In 1935, the District Commissioner of the

Western District of Bahr al Ghazal wrote a letter to three main trading agents that

supplied goods to the area reprimanding them of not following the government's

directions regarding clothes to the letter. The letter says:

I notice that in spite of frequent requests to the contrary; large quantities of Arab clothing are still being made and worn. Please note that in future it is forbidden to make or sell such clothing. Shirts should be made short, with a collar and opening down the front in the European fashion and not an open neck as worn by the Baggara of Darfur. Also tagias (hats) as worn by Arabs to wind emmas (turbans) round are not to be sold in future. No more Arab clothing is to be made as from today. You are given till the end of February to disperse your present stock. This order applies to all outside agents as owners of sewing machines. 58

Even female genital mutilation (or circumcision) was forbidden in the south not

because it is cruel in itself, but because it was treated as a piece of northern identity

that had to be removed. 59 Intermarriages between northerners and southerners were

not allowed, as they would produce northerners. To close the gates for such a

possibility, all northerners working in the south were transferred to the north. 60

Education in the south was left totally to the missionaries, subsidized by Government,

in order to help in the process of alteration of southern identity towards a western way

of life based on Christianity and English language. 61

Vulnerable identity


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

However, during the few years that preceded independence, the British government,

feeling that its separation policy had practically failed, decided to reverse it and to opt

for a unified Sudan. 62 This shift in the government’s policy, coupled by the slogans of

"One Sudan" voiced by the northern Graduates Congress, raised the worries of the

missionary society as to the real threat that would pose to the southern identity. In

particular, the worry increased since northerners demonstrated a strong tendency

towards the recognition of Islam and Arabic language as major elements of their

national identity. To the missionaries, if Islam would to become the state religion, and

Arabic the official language, then the designed southern identity, which is based on

Christianity, western culture and English language, would be gravely endangered.

Also they knew that the educational policy in the south would end up in the hands of

the northerners, as the 1942 Graduates' Congress Memorandum to the British

Authorities demanded. 63 However, for their own reasons, the British chose not to fill

their minds with the problems lying ahead. On the 16 th of December 1946, in his

memorandum to the Governors of the provinces and Heads of departments, Mr.

Robertson, the Civil Secretary stated that:

The peoples of the southern Sudan are distinctively African and Negroid, but that geography and economics combine (so far as can be foreseen at the present time) to render them inextricably bound for future development to the middle-eastern and Arabicized northern Sudan: and therefore to ensure that they shall, by educational and economic development, be equipped to stand up for themselves in the future as socially and economically the equals of their partners of the northern Sudan in the Sudan of the future”. 64

However, the distinctively "African and Negroid" people of southern Sudan had soon

come to experience the full flare of being "inextricably" bound to the "Arabicized"


The Northern Elite and Elements of Identity

It has been mentioned that the British showed great respect to the northern identity.

They consciously promoted it. 65 Their educational policies targeted mainly the

Arabic-speaking, Muslim communities of the central riverian north. 66 Within these

communities the beneficiaries of their education were sons of prominent families; the

Mahdi and Khalifa families, the Madhist amirs (commanders), and "fine Arab"

notable families. 67 In the early twentieth century, nationalism started to nurture among

the young-modern-educated-generations of these families. 68 This educated class

started to explore their identity in Arabic poems, essays, and other literary forms.


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

They “glorified the Arabic language, an Arab ethnic heritage, and Islam as the core values of this nationalism". 69 By the 1940s, the nationalist political movement started to vaguely nominate its own northern identity to be the national identity of the whole country. In 1942, the Graduates Congress submitted a memorandum to the Government demanding measures indicative of this feeling. Among the demands are the abolition of the closed areas ordinances, lifting restrictions on trade and on movement within the Sudan, cancellation of subsidy to the missionaries and the unification of the educational syllabuses in the northern and southern Sudan. 70 If we take these demands at their face value, they look legitimate; a united country should be allowed to integrate naturally. However, reading that memorandum in light of northerners' political behaviour since independence until the present moment reveals the intention underlying these demands; it is the soul of the south that what they are after. Pieces of Identity: the Northern turn With the exception of the Communist and the Republican parties, there was a general consensus among the northern political elite that the different identity of the South is the major cause behind the conflict and therefore to resolve the problem you have to remove the cause. 71 The process of Islamization and Arabization is thought of as the obvious mechanism that would change the southern identity, and bring it in harmony with the northern identity. The military government of General Ibrahim 'Abboud, 1958-1964, aimed for this final solution to the problem. Its strategy was simple; to undo the pieces of identity that British had done in the south, and to replace them with northern ones. Therefore the government expelled all the missionaries and stepped up the spread of Islam and Arabic language in the south. A number of Qur'anic schools and Islamic institutes were opened in Juba, Kadok, Wau, Miridi, Yei and Raja, while people's practice of Christianity was curtailed. The holiday was changed to Friday, Chiefs' and people's names were changed to Arabic names and northern dress was imposed upon them. 72 The government built Mosques and sent Islamic preachers into the south. Arabic language becomes the official language in the south with English as the second language. 73 Assimilation of the southern identity via forceful Arabization and Islamization is now the official policy of the north vigorously pursued by the different governments, except for the period from 1969 to 1983. 74 With the advent of the current National Islamic Front (NIF) in June 1989, the process was put to a top gear, with the south perceived as the first step of taking Islam to the heart of Africa. 75


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

How Northerners understood the Southern Rebellion Civil war in the south started in 1955. Since that day, the northern ruling class, which controlled the power with the advent of independence in 1956, understood the rebellion as an outside conspiracy by the colonial powers and the Church aiming to separate the south from the north. The “closed districts” law and the measures taken by the British administration between 1930-38 to link Southern Sudan to central and Eastern Africa was usually mentioned as evidence to support the conspiracy theory. A counter strategy was adopted by the successive governments in the north aiming to undo what had been done by the British administration and the Church. Not only this, but the strategy also aimed to achieve the “final solution” by removing what was considered the “weakest link” that the colonial powers exploited, i.e. the different identity of the south. This is how the assimilation scheme came into being. Therefore there is recognition from the start by the northern ruling class that identity lies at the root of the problem. However, as mentioned above, the northern ruling class did not view the southern identity as a subject, but rather as an object to be won in a contest with the colonial powers. To them, there was no such a thing as “southern identity”; all that existed was only an empty frame waiting to be filled with the pieces of the northern identity. The contest therefore was not with the southern identity, but rather over it. This is why they continued to talk about western conspiracies by the Church and western governments long after independence and the expulsion of the missionaries. A Dissident Northern View However, there is an exception to this mainstream trend, the Republicans and the Communists. The Communists were a step a head of the traditional northern parties in recognizing the special characteristics of the south, and to call for an autonomous government. However, like the traditional parties, the Communists opposed the southern parties’ demand for federalism in the south. 76 The Republicans, on the other hand, were the first to call for a federal system for all of the country. They were also the first to define the civil war in the south as a problem of governance. Ustadh Mahmoud Mohamed Taha said in 1955, in a treatise on the southern Problem: “the solution for the problem of the south lies in the solution of the problem of the north”. 77 To Taha, the problem in the south was only the symptom of a chronic disease which he identified as the absence of an adequate national project that would accommodate the different entities in the country. In other words, Taha deplored the


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

elites for their lack of vision for the country; for not concerning themselves with the

people of the south and for neglecting the plight of “our fellow citizens in the south

who were condemned by the 20 th century civilisation to live in abject poverty; hungry,

ridden by illnesses, naked and bare footed”. 78 However, Taha’s alerts went, as a cry in

the wilderness, un-noted. It took northerners, the ruling elite and the cultural

entrepreneurs alike, almost half a century of dodgery and unlimited losses in lives,

properties and opportunities to recognise that the final solution that they vigorously

sought was unattainable, and that their assimilation scheme for the south has indeed

failed. 79 They are yet to recognise that it was essentially wrong. However, nobody

knows how much it will take the north to extend the lessons learned from the south to

the “others” in the Nuba Mountain, the Angessana Mountains, and Darfur.

Darfur: Hell on Earth

In his briefing to the Security Council on the outcome of the Report of the

International Commission of Enquiry on Darfur (ICED), Kofi Annan, the UN

Secretary General, said that the report “demonstrates beyond all doubt that the last

two years have been little short of hell on earth for our fellow human beings in

Darfur”. 80 Indeed hell is what all the reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights

Watch, and international media had found and graphically described. Millions of BBC

Panorama viewers watched hell on earth when they saw the live testimonies of real

human beings; people of flesh and blood, not just statistics, speaking to them from the

bottom of that hell. People like Khadija, a Darfurian woman, an embodiment of

human misery and sadness, who wished she was dead. Standing among the debris of

her neighborhood, describing the scene that the Janjaweed had left behind, she said:

I found the body of my 4 year old son by the hospital. I picked him up and went looking for my other two children. I found them dead inside the school. They'd been hiding in the corner of the classroom. There were lots of dead children lying in front of the school. There is so much sadness. God forgive me, it would be better to be dead”. 81

This testimony echoes hundreds of others, collected by Amnesty International,

Human Rights Watch, other human rights organizations, ICED and independent

journalists. They all described a pattern of systematic attacks on civilians in Darfur. In

these attacks, men were killed, women were systematically raped and villagers were

forcibly displaced from their homes which were burnt; their crops and cattle were


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

burnt or looted. 82 The attackers, besides the Sudanese army and its Air Force, are identified as government-sponsored Arab militias, or Janjawid. The victims are unfailingly from Fur, Masalit, Zaghawa, Dajo, 83 and other smaller black African tribes lumped together by the Arab tribes of Darfur under the term “Zurqa”, meaning blacks. 84 The term Zurga, came into usage in 1980s charged with racial prejudice. It denotes people of lower human worth, of non-Arab ancestry, uncivilized, semi-pagans, deserve to be enslaved. 85

Yet the government of Sudan, the Arabic media, high profile Islamists leaders, many northern Sudanese educated and intellectuals are at varying degrees of denial and tolerance of this hell on earth. Northerners in general, with the exception of the few, reacted to the news coming from Darfur with either indifference or denial, but most disturbingly, some of them reacted with outright racism. 86 Good intentioned northerners were nervous and dismayed; asking whether this is true, but as usual, many are ready to buy the official version of the events, especially when it comes through a third party, like the Arabic media. Questions such as “why is this focus on Darfur by the international media and western governments?” or “in whose name and for whose agenda?” or “whether there are huge mineral resources in Darfur that the west knows about” are frequently asked in Sudanese and Arabic media, as well as Islamic websites. These media outlets cast doubts on the “west’s sudden interest in Sudan” and suggest that strategic and economic interests, and not humanitarian reasons, are the main motivating factors for action. 87 The common denominator among all the elements of this trend is as follows:

There is no genocide or ethnic cleansing in Darfur and there is no mass rape of women.

The Janjaweed are not synonymous with Arab tribes, and there are no “Arabs” per se in Darfur, for they all look alike. There is no relationship or coordination between the government’s forces and the Janjaweed.

This is a local problem; a tribal conflict over scarce resources. It was blown out of proportion by the USA and western powers in a plot to defame Islam, divide Sudan, and most importantly distract the world’s attention from


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

embarrassing news coming from Iraq and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 88

All these pointers indicate that something is fundamentally wrong with these people and bodies. The people of Darfur did not figure in their thinking, and were dropped from the equation; their human sufferings were not of concern to the people and bodies who entertain these views. By venting frustration that the focus on the plight of the people of Darfur has shifted the world’s attention from the plight of the Palestinian and Iraqi people they are essentially saying that the human worth of the latter is more than the human worth of the former. By trying to find reasons for the international concern with the sufferings of the people of Darfur away from what it really is, which is sheer outrage by the public opinion in many countries at the perpetrators of these atrocities, and human sympathy with the victims, the advocates of these views are simply saying that in Darfur, it is the land, not the people, that matters to them. I will come back to discuss some representations of these views. However, first I will discuss the racial basis of the conflict.

The Ethnic Composition of Darfur

Abdullahi Osman El-Tom, an anthropologist from Darfur, describes a process of identification in Darfur that is very similar to the process of identification in the riverian north. A number of ethnic groups, the majority of which are black African Muslims, inhabit Darfur. Some of these groups still retain their original African languages but using Arabic as a lingua franca. Others have long lost their indigenous languages and have been speaking Arabic, as their mother tongue, for centuries and have identified with the Arabs. 89 However, there is a major division between black African ethnic groups, or the so-called Zurga on the one hand, whether they speak Arabic as a mother tongue or not, and the Arab tribes on the other. Among the “Zurga” are the Fur, the Masaaliet, the Zaghawa the Salaamat, the Meidobe and the Berti. Among the Arab tribes are the Baggara, the Rizaigat, the Zayadia, the Maalia and the Beni Halba. 90

The process of Arabization in Darfur

Since the 16 th century, when the Funj king, Badi III, issued a royal decree announcing that he and his folk "descended from the Arabs, and indeed from the Ummayyads”, 91


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

all ethnic groups in this part of the world, knew that claims to Arabic and Islamic

identity helps in bringing them closer to the power circles and the privileges that come

with it. As a result now almost all the ethnic groups in the geographical northern

Sudan have claims to Arab pedigree. This is true for the Nubians of the north, some

of the Nuba tribes especially in the eastern part of the Nuba Mountains, the Beja in

eastern Sudan, the Hawazma of Kordofan and the Fur of Darfur. El-Tom tells us that

many of the “Zurga” tribes had also laid claims to Arab descend. He says:

Some of these groups who profess Arab connections in Darfur still retain their African languages while others have lost theirs to Arabic in the last century or two. Examples here are the Zaghawa, the Fur, the Berti, the Slamat and Meidobe, to mention but a few. Claims of these groups to Arab ancestry are often accompanied by written pedigrees codifying their ancestral link with either the Prophet Mohammed or with his close associates. Sometimes, these pedigrees bear authentication stamps bought in Saudi Arabia. Incredible as it may be, there are now commercial offices in Saudi Arabia trading on verification of these pedigrees. 92

Indeed this passage is very enlightening. It shows that the process of identification

with the Arabs that had been completed in the riverian (read the political) north is still

working in the geographical north. The new development is that now the riverian

north, which is lurking in the margin of the Arab identity, has become the centre of

identity for Darfur and the other regions. The riverian north now has the power to

recognise or mis-recognise the margin’s claims.

Reconstructing Identity

However, this process, El-Tom tells us, has been interrupted by the recent events in

Darfur. Both the centre and the peripheries are now forced to review their convictions.

El-Tom tells us that some of the “Zurga” groups in Darfur who claimed to be Arabs

are now doing some rethinking. He states the following:

Surprisingly many ethnic groups … speak Arabic as their mother tongue and have, at least until a few years ago, courted both Arab ancestry and culture. For the latter category, Africanism has finally superseded language, Islam and the influence of Arab culture as a determining factor of identity. For them, Africanism connotes both historic belonging to the land and pride in their darker colour but above all distinctiveness from their new Arab opponents. 93

Indeed, this passage, if it proves to be true, indicates that the scene is set for a shift of

identity, and that these groups started to reconstruct their identities. These groups


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

now feel that they are not allowed to be the people that they wanted to be. Or in other

words, they feel that the centre of the identity that they aspire to be is not

legitimising their claims. I have argued in another place that the tension between the

centre and the peripheries may lay dormant or works at a low key in normal and

peaceful times. At such times the umbrella of Arab identity seems to embrace all the

social groups that lay claims to it. But in times of severe conflicts the centre uses and

often abuses the power of recognition. It can withdraw the umbrella from any of the

peripheral social groups whenever it sees it necessary to do so. 94

The “Zurga” groups feel that the centre of identity has used its power of recognition/

mis-recognition against their interests. The government of Sudan, which is the centre

in this case, sided with the Arab tribes in Darfur, and withdrew the umbrella of

recognition from the “Zurga”, the matter which instigated the latter to re-think their


Therefore, these tribes who have undergone the process of Arabization to the extent of

losing their own tongue to Arabic, and their real ancestors to Arab ones purchased

from salesmen in Saudi Arabia, to review their identities. El-Tom states that:

The current crisis has changed all previous population categorisations. It precipitated a new division that operates as an ideology that is consciously enacted on the ground as an arbiter of alliance among various ethnic groups. Darfur can now be primarily divided into two broad categories, Arabs, mostly but not all nomads, who have a strong claim to Arab culture and ancestry and Black Africans (Zurga) who regard themselves as essentially non-Arab and African in origin.

Education as a Process of Alienation

The State, which is the expression of the northern identity, was employed to

accelerate the Arabization process in Darfur. Development and education are the two

biggest mechanisms used by the northern ruling class in this process. Darfur, like

other regions in Sudan, was marginalised in terms of development and services, as the

Black Book demonstrates. 95 According to the same book, out of more than one a half

million people in the State of Western Darfur, only 4,211 children were able to sit for

the final Primary School Examination. The authors of the book go on to state that:

This number is less than the number of primary school leavers in a single Local Administrative Area in the northern region. The comparison becomes somewhat bizarre when we realise one Local


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

Administrative Area in Darfur has population that is equal to that of the entire northern region”. 96 However, although the authors of the Black Book have made the case that schools are

scandalously few in Darfur, they did not speak about the content of education that the

Darfurian child goes through if he or she is among the lucky few who find their way

to schools. The educational policy has always been decided by the northern ruling

class, and the content of the curriculum is designed according to their outlook. The

core of the educational aim was to emphasise elements of the northern identity, i.e.

Arabic language, northern way of life, the Arabs history in Sudan, history and

geography of the Arab world, and Islam. The curriculum is very scant on pre-Islamic

ancient history of Nubia. Indeed the visibility of this history which attracted people

passing by the National Museum in Khartoum was specifically worrying to the

zealous Arabists and Islamists for whom the history of Sudan starts with coming of

the Arabs to Bilad as-Sudan, the land of the blacks, so they laboured to hide it. This is

evident in a notorious decree issued by the then Minister of Culture and Information,

Abdullah Mohamed Ahmed, in the early 1990s, that all pre-Islamic symbols in the

National Museum in Khartoum be removed and replaced by artefacts that reflected

Islamic culture and history. 97 Such a vision of history has now become evident

among the non-Arabic segment of Sudanese, such as in Darfur. The curriculum is

almost totally oblivious to the histories, cultures, religions, languages and ways of life

of the other Sudanese people, in southern, western or eastern Sudan. Insensitivity to

the “other” takes the form of an insult when it comes to glorifying northern slave

traders, such as al-Zubeir Basha Rahama, who is presented in school history classes as

a national hero. The curriculum is therefore designed to produce two categories of

graduates; on the one hand, it produces in the riverian north, a person who feels that

he or she is an Arab and therefore racially and culturally superior to the “others” who

share the country with him or her, especially those whom he or she defines as black

Africans. In other words, it produces a young person who is aware of his or her place

at the top of the racial hierarchy, and is able to rank the rest under him or her

accordingly. 98 On the other hand, it produces from the “other” regions, such as Darfur

and the Nuba Mountains, a person who is alienated from his or herself, culture and

people and who would want to be a northerner. Students from this second category are

made to feel inferior to the northerners in every respect, economically, socially,


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

culturally, linguistically and even in their accent. El-Tom tells us of his own

experience with this curriculum. He said:

As a child growing up in Darfur, I was taught to look beyond the Red Sea and explore my history as part of the Arab peninsula and its glorious Arab Islamic Empire. When I was a young boy at Alfashir secondary school, our four classrooms were named after the famous four Islamic Khalifas. i.e. Successors of the Prophet Mohammed (Abu Bakr, Omer, Othman and Ali). When Arab-Islamic history gives way, it is replaced by symbols from northern Sudan and rarely by those from the marginalized areas in the country. The hostels in both the intermediate and secondary schools that I attended bore the names of Sudanese historical figures like Tihraqa, Nijoomi, Abu Likailik and Dinar; the last being the only Darfuri who was occasionally honoured by this deliberate reinvention of history. 99

Simply the children in the non-Arabic speaking areas do not find themselves in the

curriculum. Not only this, but they are also made to feel ashamed of themselves, their

languages and cultural practices. Dr. Sherif Harir, an academic from Darfur, and

currently one of the leaders of SLA, also spoke of his own experience as a child with

the education system. He stated that when the curriculum “reflected local Sudanese

life, it was a local life beyond the bounds of the Fur or Darfur local reality”. It only

reflects the northern riverian culture which is portrayed as a higher form of culture in

comparison with which the local Darfurian customs looked “embarrassingly primitive

and outdated”. 100 It is a well known practice that children are forbidden from speaking

in their own languages in schools as a mater of policy; schools punish pupils who are

caught with the “R” word, i.e. speaking in their own local languages which are called

Rutanas”. This policy aims at “encouraging” these children to dispose of their own

languages, as useless garbage. El-Tom tells us that this policy has resulted in the fact


Sudanese who still have a rutana feel embarrassed to show it. Speaking it is taken to be vulgar in the company of others and it is better to pretend not to have one at all. To have had one in the past is stigmatic enough, but to have one now is beyond forgiveness. Among other things, it means immediate exclusion from the Arab- Islamic club and you lose your right to belong. 101

The curriculum, aided by the mainstream culture and the media, is therefore

designed to produce two types of people, dominant and dominated. Harir tells us that

by the end of secondary education, i.e. just before university education, the children

in Darfur end up with “a near total alienation” from their local cultures. 102


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

Understandably, when these young people come to Khartoum for university education, their alienation becomes complete and their inferiority becomes visible to them. They see themselves through the revelation of the northern world, and measure their souls “by a tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity” to use Du Bois’ expression. 103 Indeed Du Bois’ words accurately describe the northerners’ identification with the Arab World, which is also an example of a dislocated psyche.

The sad irony, however, is that the Darfurian educated class has reproduced the northerners’ story with the Arab World at a local level, taking the northern ruling class as the embodiment of their aspirations, and the centre of their identity. Harir tells us that at the end of their university education, a few of these educated people from Darfur and other similar peripheral regions find their way back to their communities, and that the majority sever their links with their roots, and “seek integration into the dominant riverian culture”. 104 Dr. Tijani Hasan an-Amin, a university professor from Darfur, who assumed a number of senior positions in the current government, gives an example of an individual whose alienation is so complete that he severed all links with his culture and people. He is known to have once said, “since I joined civilisation, I have never returned to the “west”. By civilisation, he meant Khartoum, and by the “west” he meant western Sudan. In this way, the northern ruling class remains in control, and they can even employ educated individuals from these regions to further their racist policies. Ali al-Haj, and Khalil, both held senior positions in the current government before their fall out with it, and both from Darfur’s “Zurga” tribes, are a living testimony to this type of employment. Both are known for mobilizing their people for the war in the south, under the slogan of Jihad, and the latter was known to have fought personally in this Jihad.

The Black Book: why is it “Black”?

The damage inflicted by the educational system in the psyche of some of the Darfurian educated class is evident in the title of this book. The authors of this book, “the Seekers of Truth and Justice”, are black people themselves, and they are chafing against racially based injustices, yet they can’t see the “falsehood” and “injustice” that made the colour black a symbol of all things bad, dirty, evil, and corrupted. It is the racism of “white” cultures against “black” people expressed at the linguistic level. It is remarkable that such educated and politically conscious people did not see the


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

paradox in using an expression that insults the colour of their skin. To use the symbolic order of the Arabic culture shows that they are still culturally colonised, and that their oppressor is inside them. They needed to liberate their minds first and think about how the mere use of language dis-empowers them. This is of course also true for northerners’ use of Arabic language.

The “Idea” behind the Janjaweed

The rocket that took the word “Janjaweed” from a very local usage in Darfur to the circles of the UN, the European Parliament and the White House has been fuelling up by the unspeakable miseries of the so called “Zurga” communities in Darfur. A few theories were offered as to what the word means, but this is not important; what is important however is the “idea” behind the Janjaweed, which is the proxy. In this proxy, the targeted victims may change, the contracted killer may change, but the “idea” is constant. Another constant in this proxy is the identity of the target; it has to be non-Arab, black African. 105

The Janjaweed are the contracted agents in relation to victims of Darfur. In relation to the victims of the south, the contracted agents were the Murahelin. Within the northern ruling class the “idea” is not new; it was old and central to their thinking. They even have an expression for it, as part of the well known racist slurs rife among the northern political elites against the black African Sudanese. 106 The expression is, aktul al-‘Abid bil- ‘abid, kill the slave by the slave. The first ‘abid in this racist slur, when it first came into usage, indicates the southerners, whereas the second ‘abid, indicates the people from Darfur and the Nuba Mountains, who constitute the bulk of the “national” army’s rank and file, 107 and who were deployed to the South to fight the rebels. Later on, in the mid 1980s, when the cost of the war became untenable for the government, with the rebel forces gaining strength while the army’s fortunes were waning; the “idea” was revived and developed. The Transitional Military Council, (TMC) of Suwar ed-Dahab, that controlled the government after the 1985 April Uprising, was the body to be credited or discredited (depends on where you stand) for the re-invention of the “idea”. Nevertheless, Sadqi al-Mahdi, who was elected prime minister a year later, was the one who saw it fully operational. 108

The contracted agents of the “idea” during that time were the Murahelin, who were recruited among the Baggara tribes in Kordofan and Darfur, to fight a cheap war for


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

the ruling class and provide a buffer zone against the southern rebels. 109 But this new tribal army was not paid by the state, and its weaponry of small arms was no match to the SPLA arsenal. Also it is not difficult to imagine that they do not have any motivation whatsoever to risk their lives in attacking SPLA’s positions for the sake of a ruling class that equally marginalised them, called them gharaba 110 and ranks them in the racial hierarchy not far above their southern neighbours. Therefore, and as expected, the Murahelin used their newly acquired weapons to pursue their own tribal expansionist agenda; to grab more land and steal more wealth from the Dinka. They attacked their civilian neighbours, instead of SPLA positions, and they killed, looted and enslaved them. In 1987, the Murahelin committed a massacre against their neighbouring Dinka in ad-Du’ayn, where around 1500 people were killed; some of them were burned alive inside train carriages in which they hid from their attackers, others were killed inside the police station under the eyes of the law, in an obvious testimony that the killers were acting in absolute impunity. 111 The only thing Sadiq’s government could do, was to stage a huge cover up operation, to ensure that news of the massacre would not reach the outside world. When two university professors, Suliman Baldo and Ushari Mahmoud, dared to break the government’s embargo on the news of the massacre, and exposed it to the world in a book titled the Massacre of Du’ayn, they were harassed and intimidated by the government’s security apparatus. 112 They were even attacked by Sadiq himself in a speech he delivered to the national Parliament. Needless to say that to this day the perpetrators of this heinous crime were not held responsible. This is a blatant case of institutional racism, as a northern Sudanese writer has observed. 113 In the same year 1987, Sadiq’s government gave its blessing to a new alliance that emerged in Darfur under the name of “the Arab Congregation”. A delegation from this congregation, which consisted of 27 Arab tribes, visited Khartoum and met with Sadiq al-Mahdi to lobby him to their agenda. Their plan was to create “an Arab balance” in Darfur favourable for Khartoum and its policy in the region. 114 For the “Zurga” tribes of Darfur, the Arab Congregation’s real agenda was to annihilate them. 115 The congregation was therefore the incubator which nurtured the Janjaweed.

The government recruited the Janjaweed from this congregation of the Arab tribes of Darfur, who are equally marginalised, to fight the new rebel movements in the area. As expected, the Arab congregation happily took the opportunity which granted


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

them not only the governments arms and logistic support, but also the backing of the might of the Sudanese Air Force. They therefore turned to their neighbouring marginalised Zurgatribes to pursue their own expansionist tribal war, with a clear ethnic cleansing intent. 116 But unfortunately for Khartoum government, this time Satellite pictures of hundreds of torched villages aborted all governments attempts to cover up; atrocities against the civilians in Darfur were fully exposed by the international media, and international human rights organisations.

Responses in the North

The Government of Sudan

Failing to hamper the flow of news to international media, the government of Sudan tried hard to minimise the damage that tarnished its image. Although the governments image has never been good since it came to power in June 1989, it improved considerably as a result of the peace agreement with the SPLM/A signed on January 9, 2005. The Sudanese diplomacy was mobilising all its resources to control the damage done to the government by this exposure; their strategy was to significantly downsize the estimates of those who perished in Darfur, to attribute the devastation and atrocities to all the parties to the conflict, not just the government or the Janjaweed, to put the responsibility of the disaster on the shoulders of the rebels as the ones who started it all, and to project the worlds concerns as interference in Sudans affairs. 117 The governments media machine was focussing on western conspiracy against al-mashrual-hadari of the nation, (the civilization project), meaning the NIF state in Sudan.

At the UNs bodies and agencies, the government, armed with big oil contracts, and alliances with look-alike regimes, aggressively campaigned to abort, delay, or water down any condemnations, decisions or resolutions by the UN Human Rights Commission, or the Security Council. The Sudanese Foreign Minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, was on the record boasting his success in avoiding sanctions. 118 Now, the newly released RICED report on the atrocities in Darfur, has accused the government and the Janjaweed militias of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The report also includes the names of 51 individuals it recommends for prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The file has been sealed, to be opened only by a ‘competent prosecutor’. 119 Mr. Ismails focus is now how to avoid the ICC,


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

for meaningless show trials inside Sudan. All this is usual stuff that does not surprise

any of those who know how the current system of governance operates in Sudan.

Northern Opposition Parties

However, what is remarkable was the type of responses by the northern

establishment outside the government, such as the opposition political parties, and

representatives of the conservative northern cultural entrepreneurs. The Umma Party

(UP), the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the National Democratic Alliance

(NDA), either kept silent, or talked about the crisis with water in their mouths. To

the best of my knowledge, as a person who is closely following the events, to this

date, neither the NDA nor the DUP have issued a statement on Darfur. This is not

only my observation, but of many others, who wrote expressing their dismay that the

NDP, in its latest meeting, has issued a statement on the arrest and extradition of

Colonel Abdel Aziz Khalid, the leader of the defunct Alliance Forces, from the

United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Sudan, and failed to issue a statement condemning

what was going on in Darfur. 120 As for the UP, whose main support comes from

Darfur, 121 it decided to side with the perpetrators rather than the people of Darfur. It

did not surprise many, especially those who know the role Sadiqs government

played in seeing the birth of the Arab Congregation in 1987 that the UP went to

coordinate consultation and action with the ruling party the National Conference (NC)

in May 2003. 122 The outcome of this partnership demonstrated that it was a

partnership in guilt; the UP designed the policy when it was in government until

1989, and the NC, who controls the current government, executed it. No wonder the

statement stressed that the two parties share a common vision and the responsibility

to resolve the problem, and also no wonder that the point of departure for their

solution of the problem is to take military action to crush the rebellion. 123 Their

analysis of the crisis is predictable; a local tribal conflict over resources, and the rest

of the thesis. Their joint statement issued placed the problem anywhere but at the

door steps of the northern ruling establishment. The statement says:

[T]he conversion of the Darfur crisis from a traditional conflict over resources and a tribal dispute to an open rebellion due to the occurrence of other factors that were not known before the present crisis, such as the growth of tribal and regional orientations; the growth of school drop-outs and a graduates’ high rate of unemployment; the culture of violence and abundance of arms; a


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

general belief that the government negotiates only with armed groups; the presence of armed militias; political manoeuvring; and the engagement of neighbours and international bodies in the crisis. 124

The sense of detachment in this passage is striking. It is as if these factors were

created by a mysterious third party that cannot be identified. Questions such as who

is responsible for the proliferation of arms in the region, or who caused the belief

that the government only negotiates with armed groups, or who spread the culture of

violence in whole country by making Sudan the Mecca of jihadists from all over the

Muslim world, did not figure in this analysis. Their mention of regional and

international intervention in the crisis is a normal tone that Khartoum plays day in

and day out, but their reference to the growth of “tribal and regional orientations” is

specifically interesting. It is not only interesting because they detached themselves

from it, as if these “tribal and regional orientations” grew by themselves like wild

berries and that nobody had sown their seeds, i.e. qayim barous as the northern

expression goes, but also because of the use this particular expression. It reminds us

of another expression m’uamara ‘unsuriyya, i.e. racist conspiracy, which was used to

describe failed military coup attempts led by army officers from western Sudan.

What the joint statement failed to say, is that there is an increased awareness among

all the marginalised people of Sudan that the northern ruling class in its entirety, as

expressed by its various versions that controlled the government since independence,

whether military or civilian, secular, sectarian, or Islamist, has failed them, and that

it failed them because it is essentially racist. The “growth of tribal and regional

orientations” is therefore the making of the northern establishment’s own hands, and

the violent reaction by these regions should be understood in this light; it is chickens

coming home to roost.

Northern Cultural Entrepreneurs

The response by the mainstream opposition political parties, which does not differ

from the government’s position, shows that the northern political establishment in

government and opposition holds essentially the same attitude towards Darfur’s

black African communities. This attitude is also expressed in writing and in silence

by the mainstream cultural entrepreneurs of the North, who assigned to themselves

the role of the custodians of the Arabic and Islamic culture in Sudan. They think of


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

themselves as Arabs, and of Sudan as an Arab country. Their views of the identity of Sudan are by and large exclusive; they are very suspicious of any call to rethink the identity of the country or to build a multi-dimensional identity in the country. They are generally suspicious towards the SPLM/A’s political project of New Sudan, but the enmity of some of them towards it is phobic. They suspect and detest those northerners who identify or sympathise with the idea of the New Sudan, or working for a more inclusive northern identity. In what follows I will discuss the response of four of the top representatives of this trend, El-Tayib Salih, Dr. Khalid Al-Mubarak, Dr. Ibrahim El-Shush and Dr. Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim.

El-Tayib Salih

El-Tayib Salih is a novelist of international fame. Although he is not a political figure, and shows visible resentment of politicians, his occasional outbursts of anger towards the NIF government expressed in short strong articles were widely circulated and talked about long after they were written. These creative outbursts were a source of admiration among the vast majority of educated Sudanese, of course except the NIF leaders and supporters who obviously hated them. However, many of his readers wonder what motivates these occasional outbursts, and whether his concerns correspond to the gravity of the situation at the time of writing. For instance, he remained silent when the whole country was shocked by the execution of Mahmoud Mohamed Taha on the basis apostasy. 125 Many people expected him to speak out against this outrageous crime by the state against the life of a respected Sudanese, a fellow writer and an important thinker killed for the peaceful expression of his opinions. Also as a genius novelist, Salih was expected to be inspired by the dramatic and heroic way in which Taha faced his prosecutors and his death.

Now people have been waiting for El-Tayib Salih to speak out on Darfur, the scene of the “worst humanitarian disasters” as described by the UN, but he did not. El- Tayib Salih has won a number of literary prizes in the Arab world; the latest of them was the Cairo Prize for Great Talents in Novel Writing, which he won early this March 2005. He was widely expected to use this high profile occasion to speak out for Darfur in his ceremonial speech, but he did not. He used the occasion to speak out for something else; he criticised the implementation of Shari’a in Sudan, powering scorn on the Sudanese Islamists for their zeal about Shari’a while their


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

country does not contain a single grave of a Companion of the Prophet Mohammad. He never mentioned Darfur, the matter which instigated a lot of criticisms against him in Sudanese online discussion forums. Many of these criticisms attributed his indifference about Darfur to his strong feeling of his Arab identity which does not allow him to identify with black Africans.

Khalid Al-Mubarak

Khalid Al-Mubarak is an academic, a play write and journalist. He is known for his harsh criticism of the SPLM/A which he accused of targeting Arabism and Islam in Sudan. The northern contingency within the SPLM, and specially Dr. Mansour Khalid, has the lion share of Al-Mubarak’s criticism. He writes a daily column in al- Ra’y al-‘Aam Newspaper. Dr. Al-Mubarak has never condemned the government on Darfur. When he spoke on the issue, he was general, indirect and vague. In one of his articles he commented on articles in the press that vent their anger at all the khawajat, i.e. western humanitarian workers in Darfur, lumping them together in the same basket. He went on to say that “although there are the war lord type of khawajat who are motivated by self interests, and “religious” as well as other hidden agenda that we cannot prove in a court of law, they do not represent the Great Power’s policy, witness is that they failed to abort the peace deal between the government and the SPLM/A as they had failed before in their campaign to invade Sudan or impose sanctions on the country”. The other type of Khawajat, according to al-Mubarak, is the representatives of the big international NGOs, such as Medicins Sans Frontiers who refused to condemn the government of Sudan, and said that his job is to save lives, and the representative of Oxfam who told the BBC that he needed three urgent things, money, equipment and volunteers, and he did not call for attacking or invading Sudan”. He also said that it would be stupid if we did not assume that the first type of Khawajat would try to infiltrate the good ones but that can only succeed at the lower level of employment and at the same time the checks and balances in these NGOs as well as their experiences and knowledge of the world and their democratic heritage secure them from falling in the hands of governments or hidden “fingers”. Although Dr. Al-Mubarak defends the work of good Khawajat, he nonetheless strengthens the thesis of the western interference in Sudan’s affairs through Darfur; a thesis essentially used by the government of Sudan and its protégés to eclipse the sufferings of the people of Darfur. Another weakness in Dr. Al-


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

Mubarak’s comment is that he makes the condemnation of the government of Sudan, or calling for any sort of international pressure on it as a criterion that disqualifies NGOs from being among the “good” Khawajat. Human rights organisations such Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned the government of Sudan for the atrocities it had committed against the “Zurga” of Darfur in the strongest possible way; they call for accountability and an end to impunity; for prosecuting the perpetrators before the ICC, and for reparation for the victims. Does that make them among the bad Khawajat? By reproducing the government’s thesis of “crying wolf”, Dr. Al-Mubarak helps the perpetrator, i.e. the real “wolf”, and fails the victims of Darfur.

In another article Dr. Al-Mubarak was reporting a public debate on the “Political Ramifications of the Foreign Intervention in Sudan” organised by the Students Union in Khartoum, to which he was a contributor. In his intervention, Dr. Al-Mubarak agreed with those who entertain the idea that oil is behind the international focus on Darfur, but at the same time he informed his audience that both the Report of International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the UN (RICID), and the Report of the Sudanese Commission of Inquiries on Darfur (RSCID), agreed that gross human rights violations took place in Darfur, and that these violations were committed by all parties to the conflict. He also reiterated his praise of Medicins Sans Frontiers who works without any interference in “our policies”. As for Amnesty International, he said that its reports condemned curbing rights and liberties (in the west) under the guise of fighting “terror”, and that these reports criticised what had happened in Abu Ghreib and Guantanamo”. It is remarkable how Dr. Al-Mubarak equally distributed the gross human rights violations that took place in Darfur evenly to “all parties to the conflict”, without spelling them out. There are three parties to the conflict, the government of Sudan, the Janjaweed and the rebels. The atrocities by the two rebel movements that the RICID mentions are incomparable by any standards to the atrocities committed by the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed. The mass rape of women, the mass burning of villages, and mass looting of livestock are all committed by the latter, not the former. For instance, the RICID says the following:

“ from all the accounts the Commission finds that the vast majority of attacks on civilians in villages have been carried out by Government of the Sudan armed forces and Janjaweed. … Although attacks by the rebel forces have also taken place, the


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

Commission have found no evidence that these are wide spread or that they have

been systematically targeted against the civilian population. Incidents of the rebel

attacks are mostly against military targets, police or security forces”. 126 However,

what was really amazing is that when Dr. Al-Mubarak mentioned Amnesty

International’s reports, he chose to tell his audience about the organisation’s reports

on places far away from Darfur, Guantanamo and Abu-Grieb, while the subject of

the activity was Darfur. Amnesty International issued numerous reports on Darfur, 127

one of them was devoted exclusively to rape as a weapon of war used by the

Janjaweed. One wonders why on earth Dr. Al-Mubarak did not mention these reports

in a forum on Darfur, and why instead he mentioned the organisation’s reports on

Abu Ghreib and Guantanamou? Does that have anything to do with the identity of

the victims and the perpetrators in each case? On the one hand, the victims in Darfur

are the black African tribes, or the “Zurga”, whereas the perpetrators are the “Arabs”.

On the other hand, the victims in Guantanamou and Abu Ghreib are Arabs while the

perpetrators are the American Khawajat. And taking in consideration that al-

Mubarak is an arch proponent of Arabism in Sudan, one wonders whether his

contribution say anything about where his real concerns are.

Dr. Ibrahim Ash-Shush

Dr. Ibrahim Ash-Shush is a literary critic, writer, journalist and a former chief editor

of Ad-Doha Magazine. He is an active advocate of Arabism in Sudan, and a frequent

critic of the SPLM/A through his column in Al-Ra’y Al-‘Aam Newspaper. He

accused the SPLM/A of chasing with the hounds and running with the hares;

supporting the rebels in Darfur, while preparing for power sharing with the

government in Khartoum. Dr. Ash-Shush also criticised the international community,

the UN and its Secretary General Kofi Anan, the Security Council and the European

Union for focussing on Darfur, and not moving a limb towards the daily slaughter in

Palestine and Iraq. He said in an article titled “when the sky rains milk and honey”:

The airport in Al-Fashir receives aeroplanes of every type, from Arabia, Asia, Europe and America, carrying tons of food, some of it canned in the American way. The world suddenly discovered that there is a gap in food supply in Darfur which should be filled, otherwise the world is doomed. Darfur news is everywhere broadcasted in radios and satellite TVs. The European Union which was hiding during the invasion of Iraq, probably regretting missing


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

the train for the spoils of Iraq, now roars and reveals its teeth in relation to Darfur. The UN which was not moved at all by the massacres of the Palestinians and the Iraqis, woke up for Darfur, and the respected Security Council issued a strong statement expressing its concern regarding the humanitarian disaster in Darfur promoting it above all the world’s other disasters. Kufi Anan, the quiet man of the UN, expressed his concern by sending a commission of inquiry. His humanitarian coordinator in Sudan could not wait until the Commission of Inquiry ordered by his boss concludes its work and had said openly “in a full mouth” that there was ethnic cleansing against the Negro tribes of Darfur. The whole world came to Darfur; no one was left behind; the Red Cross along with the Red Crescent and all the humanitarian organisations rushed in an unprecedented race to save the people of Darfur from poverty, bombardment and ethnic cleansing. And so, in a wink of an eye, God has changed the state of this part of the world from the misery of poverty to become the heaven of happiness and from insignificance to international fame. 128

This passage contains all the components that constitute the common denominator

among the Arabs, and the advocates of Arabism in Sudan; detesting the international

concern with the misery of the people of Darfur, wishing if it had been on Palestine

and Iraq instead. It is the same thesis that we discussed above expressed in crude and

insensitive way that borders on racism. What makes a Sudanese intellectual such as

As-Shush to express such unhappiness with world coming to save the lives of his

country men, women and children? Why he envied the people of Darfur in an

unenviable situation? Why he calls their misery in the displaced and refugee camps

“heavens of happiness”? Why he accused the world of double standards, and indeed

it is so, and he didn’t see his own double standard in human sympathy when he feels

for the Palestinians and Iraqis but not for the Darfurians? Is it because he identifies

with the perpetrators not the victims? This proves beyond doubts that the northern

cultural entrepreneurs are marketing the northern establishment’s policies against the

black African component of the country, and that neither the political establishment

nor the cultural entrepreneurs can act in a “national” way as Sudanese, and they

cannot help not being agents of the centre of the Arab identity.

Dr. Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim

Dr. Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim is an academic, writer and journalist. He currently teaches in the USA 129 and has recently become a frequent traveller to Sudan and the Gulf where he presented public talks on culture and politics. He is an example of those who migrated from Marxism to courting Islamism. The distance he travelled in this


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

journey could be measured by the far cry between his book Marxism and the issue of Language in Sudan in 1976 130 , and his book Shari’a and Modernity in 2004. 131 Suffice it to say that he leaped, in the 28 years that separates these two works, from a staunch advocate of multiculturalism and multilingualism in Sudan to an advocate of Arabism and Shari’a. Ibrahim chose to apologise for the northern establishment’s policies in Darfur through academia. He wrote a short article titled “Janjaweed: The Other Side of the Story”. 132 In this article he traces the history of the term to its romatic origins that makes a Janjaweed similar to Robin Hood, and how this poetic tradition decended to thuggerry. He goes on to disscoiate the Janjaweed from the Arabs tribes; it is rather banditry that attracts thugs from all tribes. 133 The government of Sudan does not have control over the janjaweed. Taking in consideration the size of Darfur, the complex situation in the area and the traditional weakness of the central governments, he tends to take seriously the government’s denial having control over the Janjaweed. He does that despite his knowledge that “it is logical to assume that the current regime might have occasionally set the Janjaweed loose against the two rebel movements in Darfur”. 134 This “logical assumption” is based on two undisputed facts:

(a) historically “the central governments have been in the habit of using selected local communities to fight a proxy”, and (b) that post independence governments used this strategy in southern Sudan to destroy the rebels from within. 135

Two main observations should be made here. First, Ibrahim takes the government’s denial to have control over the Janjaweed seriously, whereas everybody else does not. 1 Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of the UN, just to name a few, all confirmed that the government of Sudan armed the Janjaweed, and coordinated attacks with them. One wonders whether Ibrahim does not take these bodies “seriously”. Second, he turns the government’s association with the Janjaweed to a mere “logical assumption” while the concrete facts on the ground looking him right in the eye. These facts which researchers from human rights organisations, and the UN fact finding missions have vigourously been digging out, and which were published in numerous reports all consistent in establishing the connection as well as coordinated attacks between the government and the

Janjaweed. 136 To give just one example, the Report of International Commission of Inquiry

on Darfur to the UN (RICID) states that “the fact that some of the attacks received aerial support presents a clear indication of the link between the Janjaweed and the government of Sudan” 137 This is the sad reality in Darfur; the real ugly world which Ibrahim did not want to see. This is why he looked away from it, left behind his back, and scaped from to his imagined worlds; the poetic and romantic worlds of histroy, concepts and assupmtions. One wonders what Ibrahim would say now after the testimoney of Musa Hilal, the Janjaweed leader, to Human Rights Watch (HRW). In a videoed testimony, Hilal said that the government of Sudan directed all military activities of the militia forces he had recruited. 138

However, Ibrahim’s habit to employ his academic skills to apologise for the northern establishment is not new. He did it before during the massacre of ad-Du’ayn mentioned above. The perpetrators of this massacre were Arab tribesmen, the Baggara, and the victims were Dinka. The government attempted a cover up, but the massacre was exposed by two academicians from the University of Khartoum, Baldo and Mahmoud. Ibrahim’s contribution to this issue was to look for the academic loopholes in their book that carried the title of ad-Du’ayn Massacre. He criticised the


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

“methodological weaknesses” in their research, and although he does not dispute the facts contained in the book, he accused them of writing their book “without knowledge or guidance”, and of being motivated by their ideological and political bias against the government of the day. 139 Later on, he called this great work “a book that received undeserved wide publicity”, which he described as bayikh, a word that could mean a “sick joke”. 140

He also followed the same approach in relation to an article that I wrote on slavery in Sudan. 141 In criticising this article, which also attracted the attention of Ash-Shush, Ibrahim followed his favourite approach, i.e. weakness in research methodology; when he fails to dispute the substance, he goes for the form. 142 His main criticism is that I did not refer to any incident or news item with regard to slavery from a neutral Sudanese source, 143 and that I totally depended on western academic, Church, and media sources, which means to him a short-cut to “internal orientalism”. 144 Again there are a couple of observations here. First, Ibrahim gives the impression that there was a variety of Sudanese sources that meet his criteria, and that I chose not to use them. Everybody knows that the government at that time 1997 was in the peak of its oppressive policies. It was and still is controlling all the media outlets inside Sudan, and that there was not a single credible source that was allowed to report incidents of slavery in the country. The news was not coming out of Sudan only through the western media and Church sources (which are of course discredited by Ibrahim) but also through human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch as well as the UN Special Raporteur. 145 So, if I was not to use these “western” sources, for fear of “internal orientalism”, and not to use the work of Baldo and Mahmoud, for fear of their ideological and political bias, what was left for me to do? The answer is obvious isn’t it; if I don’t want to join him in dancing to the government’s tone, then I should keep my mouth shut. I can’t think of any thing more convenient idea for the northern establishment than this. Second, the only occasion in which I referred to a Sudanese incident, according to Ibrahim, I also got it wrong, so I can’t win. 146 He referred to the incident of a young woman that resorted to the Shari’a court to enable her to marry the man she loved, against the will of her father who objected to the marriage on the basis that the man descended from an ex slaves family. 147 The case went through three levels of Shari’a court. The court of the first instance denied the woman leave to marry and ruled in favour of her father. The woman appealed to the Province Court which overturned the lower court’s ruling. The father then appealed to the Shari’a High Court which upheld the ruling of the Province Court. 148 My conclusion regarding this case, which Ibrahim did not like, was that, except for the court of the first instance, none of the courts, which overturned the ruling of the first court, faced the issue of slavery in Shari’a. All the reasoning that they employed departs from their implied conviction that slavery exists in Shari’a, and that it is a good reason for disqualifying a man from marrying a free woman. The fact that the two higher courts ruled in favour of the woman and her fiancé by using technical arguments such as there is no prove that the man’s family were slaves and hearsay evidence is not admissible in court, or that slavery in Sudan did not conform to the Islamic concept of slavery, did not make the ruling a good precedence. It would have been a good precedence had the court adopted the reasoning made by the plaintive. The woman argued that “today in Sudan there is no slavery, all people are free, and matters of freedom and genealogy upon which kafa’a (equality in standard


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

and worth) rests differ from one generation to another and according to the changes in people’s belief”. 149 Ibrahim did not address this point, and he made a sweeping conclusion that “slavery and all that is derived from it or hanged on it is detested in Shari’a”, a statement that is not founded on any reasoning or authority whatsoever, and which is refuted by the case at hand, and by the institution of slavery that remained intact for 1400 years, and could have still been there hadn’t it been interrupted by the intervention of the “western” powers. The foregoing demonstrates that Ibrahim, who can see the “other’s” biases, and methodological weaknesses, cannot see his own sloppiness which is obviously caused by his ideological bias. One cannot believe that this is the same Ibrahim who produced the prophetic piece on the agency of northerners to the Arab world which I referred to earlier. He turned 180 degrees to become one of the arch agents of the Arab world.

Reaction in the Arab World

In the Arab world the main concern is the international “intervention” in Sudan.

They see it as part of a big conspiracy against the Muslim and Arab worlds; it started

with Afghanistan, then Iraq and now Sudan while Syria and Iran in the queue. To

give just the titles of the programs devoted by one satellite channel, al-Jazeera TV,

for the Darfur crisis, one mentions the following: Darfur and International Pressure

on Khartoum aired 26/7/2004, 150 among the sub-headings of this program are:

“international and American focus on Darfur and the reasons behind it”; “accusations

against Sudan Government”; “fears that Sudan may be occupied”, “the importance of

a political solution and the risks of imposing sanctions”. Another program was titled

Darfur Opened the Door Wide for International Intervention in Sudan 151 . A third

program was titled Darfur between Humanitarian Motivation and Interests of Great

Powers aired 6/8/2004. 152 The fourth program, which was a sheer propaganda on

behalf of the government, is titled the Causes of the Crisis in Darfur, which was a

prolonged interview with Al’Awwa aired on September 15, 2004. 153 In what follows,

I will discuss comments made by Sheikh Yusif al-Qaradawi, and Dr. Mohamed Said

al-‘Awwa. The first is the chairman of the International Union of the Muslim Ulama

(IUMU), and the second is the secretary General of the same organisation. IUMU is

a newly established organisation that declared itself as a reference for all Muslims of

the world, whether Sunni or Shi’a, Arabs and non-Arabs. Among its members are

some Sudanese Islamists, including Dr. Hassan el-Turabi, and Dr. Isam Ahmed el-

Bashir, current minister of Religious Affairs.

Sheihk al-Qaradawi: Darfur and Zionism


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

Responding to an official invitation by the government of Sudan, Sheikh al- Qaradawi, along with Dr. Mohammad Salim al-‘Awwa, both Egyptians, headed a delegation from IUMU to Sudan. The main objectives of the visit as declared by the delegation were to have first hand information on what had been going on in Darfur, to defuse this crisis which distorted the image of Islam, and to facilitate reconciliation between the Muslims of Darfur. The delegation was received in Khartoum with a hype of publicity by the president of Sudan, his vice president, and a number of ministers, and the religious establishment. Sheikh al-Qaradawi led the Friday prayer in the Martyrs Mosque in Khartoum, where all the officials prayed behind him and the whole ceremony was broadcasted live in the national radio and TV. In this ceremony, the Sheikh accused western governments of conspiring against Islam, and western NGOs working in Darfur of using humanitarian assistance as a disguise for missionary work, aiming to convert the people of Darfur to Christianity, as part of their religious war against Islam. He also stressed the need “to strengthen the religious knowledge of the people of Darfur”, and to meet their material needs. 154 He urged the fighting parties to stop this war, which gave the enemies of the Umma the opportunity to intervene in Muslims’ affairs. 155

The delegation then travelled to Darfur, and met with the governors of Darfur and other local officials and tribal leaders. They also visited some displaced camps run by the government. At the end of the visit, the Sheikh issued a statement reiterating that “the Zionists are behind what is happening in Darfur in order to cause turmoil in Sudan and to distract the Umma from its focus on Iraq and Palestine”. 156

Despite that the declared objective of his visit was to find out the reality on the ground, his Friday speech shows that the Sheikh had made his mind about the events even before he reached Darfur. In all his comments, the Sheikh was indifferent to the immense sufferings of the ordinary people of Darfur. In his grandiose and strategic concerns with the Zionist conspiracy against Islam, these sufferings figured as insignificant details. His misrepresentation of the reality in Darfur is breathtaking, and his remarks were devoid of the human sympathy with the victims, if not loaded with racial prejudice. One wonders why the Sheikh was so concerned with the fact that the humanitarian work, which has saved thousands of lives, is carried out by Christian NGOs, more than he was concerned with the loss of lives and livelihood of his fellow Muslims. Why is it that in mid of this engulfing disaster he was calling for


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

strengthening the Islamic knowledge of the people of Darfur? It is as if religion is more important than the human life, or that God has created people for the sake of religion, not religion for sake of people.

The answer to these questions can be found in one word, identity; the identity of the government of Sudan, the identity of the perpetrators, and the identity of the victims. First, the government of Sudan is Islamic, and controlled by people who were originally Muslim Brothers, i.e. belonging to the Sheikhs own original organisation. The Sheikh is also known for his attempts to mend the rift between Dr. Hassan Al- Turabi and his former followers who sidelined him. The Sheikh’s new organisation IUMU includes Al- Turabi himself, and government’s minister of Religious Affairs. The Sheikh was concerned with the distortion to the image of Islam, and since addresing the real cause of this distortion, i.e. the government and the Janjaweed, is out of the question, he had to invent or imagine other causes, which the mental frame of his audiences in the Arab world is ready to accept, such as Zionism. Second, the identity of the perpetrators of these heinous atrocities, i.e. the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed, are both Arabs (at least in their own eyes), as well as Muslims. This is very embarrassing and counter productive for the Sheikh’s basic assumption, on which he bases his activism day in and day out, i.e. presenting the Arabs and Muslims as victims of western, Christian, and Jewish aggression. Therefore, a double edge strategy has to be adopted, first to deny that there are Arabs in Darfur (I will discuss this point further later on), and second to present Darfur’s crisis as the making of the real aggressors, i.e. western powers, Zionism and Christianity, and therefore to fit it comfortably within the Sheikh’s scheme.

Third, the identity of the victims is obviously black Africans. Although the Sheikh discovered that the people of Darfur are Muslims, 157 he was obviously influenced by the attitude of his Islamist brothers in Sudan towards the Darfurian Islam. To them Darfurian Islam is somewhat contaminated with local traditional customs incompatible with the strict Arabian Islam. 158 Qaradawi’s call for strengthening the knowledge of Islam of the Darfurian people, as well as his fearing their conversion to Christianity, could be understood in this light. This could also explain why he did not show sympathy with them, and his concerns that Darfur would distract the world from the miseries of the Iraqis and the Palestinians. The Iraqis and the Palestinians are Arabs like him in every respect, in their looks and their outlook. Neither their


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

Arabic identity nor their Islam is questionable to him, so he identifies with them completely, and sees himself in them. They represent to him the “self” whereas the black people of Darfur represent the “other”. When it comes to Sudan, the Sheikh identifies with the northern ruling establishment, who share with him his Islamists ideology and who are much closer to him racially than the black people of Darfur.

Mohammad Saleem Al-‘Awwa: Khartoum Did Nothing Wrong

Dr. Al’Awwa, IUMU’s Secretary General, gave an interview to Al-Jazeera TV immediately after the delegation returned from Khartoum. 159 The presenter who conducted the interview was Ahmed Mansour, an Egyptian Islamist, in his program Bila Hidud, (without Borders) broadcasted on September 15, 2004. The presenter kept repeating that Dr. Al-‘Awwa had just come from the Darfur, and he was going to reveal the reality about the events in Darfur after he had seen things on the ground. Dr. al-'Awwa presented an elaborate defence and apology for the government of Sudan. His version of the events is simply the official version that I mentioned above; that this is a tribal conflict between nomads and sedentary farmers over scarce resources. It is not an ethnic conflict and the violations were either exaggerated or invented. 160 Although Dr. Al-‘Awwa insisted that all the reports that accuse the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed of committing genocide and mass rape are false and sheer lies, he took special care to refute the accusations of the racial and ethnic basis of the atrocities, and mass rape.

Racial and Ethnical Dimension

Al- ‘Awwa’s thesis was simply that this is not a racial division between the Arabs and the Africans. Beofre he came to Darfur, he thought that the conflict was between the Arabs, who are Muslims, and the Africans, who are pagans. But when he arrived in Darfur, he discovered that there are no Arabs in Darfur, and that they are 100% Muslims. A thousand years of intermarriage between the Arabs and the Africans resulted in a mixture that cannot be called pure Arab or pure African. They all look alike; but because some of them trace their roots to the Arab tribes, and others trace them to African tribes, hence the erroneous talk of Arabs and Africans. 161 He continues to tell an anecdote about the former USA Secretary of State, Colin Powel. He said: “when Powel visited Darfur, he spoke about the Arabs and the Africans. In


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

response to that the Wali (Governor) of Darfur asked Powel whether he could point out who is Arab and who is African from among the people present in the meeting. Colin Powel took the challenge but got it all wrong; every one he thought was an

Arab turned out to be an African and vice

up”. 162 And he concluded by saying: “there is no difference in features, colour or language between the people of Darfur; they all look alike, and speak this beautiful, soft Qur’anic Arabic”. 163 On the basis of this argument, Al-‘Awwa concludes that the division in Darfur is between the nomads and the sedentary farmers, and the conflict is over resources. This is the basic thesis on which Al- ‘Awwa founded his case of no genocide; those who accuse Sudan government of genocide claim that it colluded with Arab tribes intent on destroying, in part or in whole, the Africa tribes, and since he proves that there is no Arabs in Darfur, the whole theory collapses.

After 6 or 7 attempts, he gave

Al-‘Awwa’s theory shows that he is either confused or deliberately confusing. The classification of Arab versus African tribes in Darfur was not made by an outside third party, but was made by the people of Darfur themselves. The fact of the matter is that there are tribes in Darfur who call themselves Arabs, regardless of Al-‘Awwa agreeing with them or not. They have a league or an alliance called the “Congregation of the Arab Tribes in Darfur”. The fact that they do not look like “real” Arabs in feature or colour is not relevant here. What is relevant, however, is that they classified “other” tribes in Darfur as “Zurga”, and attacked them as such, which makes it a racially motivated act. According to the people of Darfur therefore there are Arab villages which the Report of International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the UN (RICID) found intact and untouched, and there are “Zurga” villages that the same report found razed to the ground. 164 Had Al-‘Awwa been honest with himself, he could have reached the same conclusion as Amnesty International reports have found, that the “ethnic and racial ideology which permeates the attacks of 2003 and 2004 in Darfur has become a cruel and crucial reality”. 165 And as the labels “Arabs” and “Zurga” in many incidents might not correspond to features, colour, or language, outsiders usually notice the stark paradox of a black people, claiming to be Arab, calling other black people “black” or “Zurga”, and try to destroy them. It is remarkable that Al-‘Awwa failed to see that, although he came very close to saying it when he mentioned that unless somebody tells you that he is an Arab you will never know you are in a presence of one, and that the proof of their Arab roots is found in


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

their family trees, which he cannot dispute as Islam requires him to believe whoever claims to have descended from an Arab father. So, as we can see he ended up confirming indirectly what he started by denying, i.e. there are those who call themselves Arabs and those who call themselves black Africans in Darfur.

Rape is not really rape

Al-‘Awwa insisted that there was no rape at all: “we investigated the matter when we were in Khartoum with members of Parliament from Darfur. When we went to Darfur we interviewed many women who told us there was no any rape”. 166 When the presenter referred him to Amnesty International’s report Rape as Weapon of War in Darfur, he tried to turn the whole subject into a semantics problem. Dr. Al-‘Awwa offered a remarkable explanation of how these international human rights bodies might have got it wrong: “they might have confused the word qasib, i.e. to drive somebody from their home by force, with iqtisab, rape”. He spoke of an old woman in a displaced camp who said to him “ghasabouna” meaning they drove us from our homes, which is very close in pronunciation to the word “ightasabouna”, 167 which means they raped us. This is his first line of defence.

His second line of defence was what he describes as testimonies of “credible” individuals, and who is more credible than the “pious” deputy Wali (governor) of Darfur, a court judge in Darfur, and the former chief justice Dafa'-Allah al-Haj Yousif, the chair of the Sudanese Commission of Enquiry appointed by the government to investigate allegations of violations in Darfur. Al-‘Awwa’s witnesses remind one of the Sudanese popular saying al-kalib shahdu dhanabu, which can be translated as “the accused dog has presented its tail as its witness”. However, in presenting his first testimonial evidence, Dr. Al- ‘Awwa drew a pathetic image of the deputy Wali of Darfur. In describing the deputy’s reaction to the accusations of mass rape, he said: “the deputy was trembling with rage; he lost his speech for some moments and then said to me ‘fear God in us, are you saying that the people of Darfur had committed adultery’?” 168 The deputy’s reasoning, which obviously defies all reason, goes like this: rape did not take place in Darfur, and the evidence is simply that the people of Darfur do not commit adultery. What is implied in the deputy’s response is that, (a) adultery is more serious than rape, and (b) it is impossible for his subjects to commit adultery. Since the deputy did not dispute death, destruction, and


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

looting to have taken place, one assumes that he wanted to convince us that his subjects can kill, burn and pillage, but they cannot rape because after all they are not adulterous.

Al-‘Awwa’s second testimonial evidence, was from an important court judge in Darfur. This was very dramatic. He asked the judge whether there were any cases of rape that he knows of. The judge said yes, there was one case which he tried. The judge continued to tell a story of how the rebels of Darfur, in their drive to incriminate the government of rape, went to recruit prostitutes, males and females, to perform an act of rape, and to film it in order to produce the pornographic film to the international media as evidence of rape. These prostitutes, according to this version of the story, were caught by the government security personnel, and were put to trial where they all admitted that they had been recruited by the rebels. 169 This story was widely publicized by the government in its propaganda war against the rebels well before IUMU’s delegation went to Sudan. Dr. Al-‘Awwa retold this story in al- Jazeera without feeling that it contradicted the Wali’s virtual society where his subjects are just incapable of committing adultery.

Nontheless, what Al-‘Awwa probably doesn’t know is that there are people in this world who try to verify things instead of repeating them. Amnesty International did exactly that. A delegate from the organization, who was visiting Sudan, investigated this particular incident, met with 4 of the accused women in their prison, and published its findings in a report titled Sudan Darfur: No one to complain to: No respite for the victims, impunity for the perpetrators. 170 The story as reported by Amnesty International is as follows: on the first of August 2004, what is called the “positive security” arrested 12 persons, all from Mellit, a town North of al-Fasher under government control. Those arrested include four women, and 8 men. 171 At the time of the arrests, the local authorities announced that they had uncovered an attempt by people from Mellit to fabricate a video tape attempting to show that rapes had been committed in the region. Some government reports attributed such fabrication to rebel groups, others to “an international NGO” who was said to have paid people to make such a video. The four women spent about a month being tortured during the day at the office of the “positive” security, and transferred at night to a dark cell in the prison for women in al-Fasher. They were asked to confess to the story, and the positive


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

security prepared the documents and the vedio camera in order to film the confession.

The rport goes on to say:

Some of the women confessed to the story under duress. Su’ad Al Nur was reportedly less severely tortured, apparently because she was coerced into saying that the other women had participated in making a video about rape: “They took me away and said that they knew I had not made the video but that I had to say I did. And then they punished me very heavily. The next day I said that I did the pictures.” Mariam Mohamed Dinar said: “After this torture I was forced to confess to this story. I didn’t sign anything but they wrote a document. They put some paper to cover my eyes and I was taken in picture with a video camera that they had on their shoulder. Su’ad and I were then pictured in different situations: sitting down, standing up, with telephones and we were forced to say on these phones that we did it.” 172

When these women brought in front of a Judge, they told him that they were tortured

into confessing that they had participated in making a video. The judge reportedly

ordered their transfer back to the office of the “positive” security, because they were

trying to change their confession, where they were further tortured. The three

members of the “positive” security responsible for their arrest told them: “The niyaba

belongs to us, the positive security belongs to us”. 173 The four women interviewed by

Amnesty International are all responsible for the care of children or sick relatives.

They were adamant that they did not know why they had been arrested and knew

nothing about the alleged video tape. 174

The third testimonial evidence was from a former Chief Justice Haj Yousif the Chair

of the Commission of Enquiry. Al-‘Awwa said that the Commission investigated the

issue of rape thoroughly and found not a single case. Haj Yusif told him that because

he expected that women of Darfur might not talk about such a sensitive issue as rape

to his committee directly, he commissioned women with legal and medical

backgrounds to do the job for him. The commissioned team went to the displaced

women in the camps and interviewed them. They did not find a single case of rape.

Isn’t this remarkable? These women must have either gone to the wrong camp, or the

credibility gap between them and the displaced Darfurian women in these camps was

so big that rendered talking to them pointless. Otherwise what made women like

Hawa and Kalima face the BBC camera and talk to Hilary Anderson about their

predicaments, and prevents other women from talking to the Sudanese Commission of


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

Enquiry or its commissioned women. Millions of the BBC viewers felt anger and

outrage when they watched Hawa saying: “Five of the men surrounded me. I was

paralyzed with fear. I could not get away. I was trapped. They raped me one after the

other. After this I tried to find my father and my son”. They also watched Kalima

saying “They raped me. There was nothing I could do”. 175 Doesn’t that say

something about the Commission of Enquiry headed by the former Chief Justice and

its credibility?

Now feeling that he made his case, Al-‘Awwa concluded by saying:

The fact of the matter is that the accusations of rape were made to defame the government and the people of Sudan to make the case for foreign intervention in the country. The Sudan Government did not do any wrong. All these accusations are false. There is a plan to subjugate Sudan to the west. Darfur is rich with pure iron ore, uranium, and oil. Darfur is the Gate of Islam to Africa. The unified Muslims of Darfur are a threat to the west. That is why Darfur is a target. Now we must talk about the conspiracy. What is going on in Palestine and Darfur is a part of the conspiracy. The Zionist enemies are working in Darfur. 176

This is simply a representative of the centre defending his agent. In this defence, the

strategic considerations eclipse the human tragedy, and people do not matter. What

matters is the land, not the people, and the wealth, not the lives. Indeed, this is the

centre defending itself, and in doing so, it reduces Sudan to a bridge that takes the

centre to the heart of the “dark” continent, reduces Darfur into a gate at the end of

this bridge, and reduces the government into the guard sitting that gate.


This is an attempt to dig out the deepest roots of the war in Sudan. It is my thesis that

the civil war in Sudan rests comfortably on the rock of racial identity. The deepest

root of the war is not political, economic or developmental; it is rather psychological.

Many people, including the insurgents of Darfur, spoke about the politics of

marginalization as a cause of the war, which is true to a certain level. The follow up

question then will be what is the cause of the politics of marginalization? It is true that

all the regions of Sudan, probably except Khartoum and some parts of Jazira, are at

some degree of marginalization in development, with relative differences among them

of course, but it is not true that the causes of marginalization are the same in all the


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

regions. To be more specific, I would say it is true that the northern region, al- shamaliyya, where the ruling class comes from, is marginalized, but it is not marginalized for the same reasons the southern, Western or Eastern regions are marginalized. The northern region is marginalized because most of its population migrated to central Sudan, mainly Khartoum and the Jazira, formed the merchant class in the whole country, and its children controlled the seat of power in Khartoum. In other words, whereas the northern region is marginalized, in terms of lack of infra- structure and industry, the people of the region are not. Those who remained in the region, mainly elderly people, were subsidized by money transfers from their sons and daughters in central Sudan well before people started to migrate to the Gulf. In Sudan we have a saying that can be translated as “those whose hands hold the pen do not write themselves unhappy”, meaning that decision makers do not take decisions against their own interests. Therefore, there is a racial element that adds to the reasons of the marginalization of the southern, western and eastern Sudan that is not found among the reasons that led to the marginalization of the northern region.

In early 1969, during the second democratic government in Sudan, a new prefab hospital was built in my town, al-Housh, in central Sudan. As children, we watched people chuckling and pointing to the name “Juba” that was written in all the packaged materials that the hospital was assembled from. We later understood that the hospital was donated to Juba from somewhere overseas, but the then minister of finance, 177 who was the representative of our constituency in the Constitutional Assembly, had high-jacked it to his own constituency. Could there be any explanation other than the racial worth of people?

The roots of the war are visible in the words of Hikma, (the name means wisdom) who told Hilary Anderson that she heard her attackers saying: "The blacks are slaves, the blacks are stupid, catch them alive, tie them up, take them away with you." 178

It is also my thesis that the cruelty that the northern ruling class has demonstrated in suppressing the black component of the country is a reflection of the strong desire of northerners to eliminate the black component within themselves. As mentioned earlier in this paper, the theory that the vast majority of the northern elites believe in is that they descended from an Arab father and an African mother. However, they identify


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

with the father and exclude the mother from their consciousness. Like the classical pre-Islamic heroic poet ‘Antra, northerners are ashamed of their mother. As he viewed her as ugliness in incarnation; calling her a she-hyena, and resembling her legs to those of an ostrich, and her hair to black pepper, so do the northerners. 179 I see the suppression of the southerners, the Nubas, the Angessanas, and Darfurians as an outwardly projection of relentless suppression of the mother inside the northern self. This is a call for northern Sudanese to face up to their reality; to discuss the paradoxes of their imagined identity, and to review it; to accept and acknowledge the mother inside them; to be first class Sudanese, not second class Arabs. Unless this happens they will not accept the “others” as their equals, and we will continue to miss significant opportunities that hold incalculable promise for the future of our country, and perhaps for the entire region’s peace.

1 Martin Jacques, The Global Hierarchy of Race: as the only group that never suffers systemic racism, whites are in denial about its impact, the Guardian/UK, 20/9/2003.

2 Although they are Muslims, their Islam is considered defected, contaminated or deviating from the way pure Islam is conceived, especially by the religious establishment in the north, as well as by the Islamists in Sudan.

3 Most of the Beja have always been affiliated with the Khatmiyya sect whereas the people of Darfur have represented the hard core zealous supporter of the Ansar sect.

4 They thought of them as not having the “correct” Islam, or the “right” Arabic language, and that they lack Arab ancestry.


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

5 R. S. O'Fahey and J. L. Spaulding, Kingdoms of the Sudan, (London: Methuen & Co LTD, 1974), p.


6 R. S. O'Fahey and J. L. Spaulding, Kingdoms of the Sudan, 31-33.

7 Sharkey, Colonialism and the Culture, vol., 1, 40- 58.

8 This war is the longest in Africa; it continued intermittently for more than forty years and has claimed about two million lives and displaced about five millions. For more information on this see address to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva by Dr. John Garang on March 24, 1999, News Article by UNHR on March 27, 1999. For more details on the war as a clash of identities, see Francis M. Deng, War of Visions: Conflict of Identities in the Sudan, (Washington, D.C.: The Bookings Institution, 1995). Also see Mansour Khalid, War and Peace in Sudan: a tale of two countries, Dar el- Turath, Cairo, 2003.

9 This is how President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda described the conflict, see address by John Garang at the signing ceremony of Sudan peace deal on the 9 th of January 2005. It can be found in the internet at this site;

10 The two armed insurgent groups demanded the end of the marginalization of Darfur and granting protection to the people of the region whom they claimed to represent.

11 This piece of information has been revealed by the translator of the book, Dr. Abdullahi Osman El- Tom, of NUIM, Co. Kildare, Ireland, in his introduction to the English translation of the book. He stated that: “As of last year (March 2003), some of the activists involved in the preparation of Book took arms against the government”. The book is found in the following website

12 Meaning the Jaaliyin, the Shaygiya and the Danagla. 13 See Abdullahi Osman el-Toum, “Darfur People: Too Black for the Arab-Islamic Project of Sudan”, a paper presented in SOAS on December 4, 2004.

14 Human Rights Watch, Darfur Destroyed: Ethnic Cleansing by Government and Militia Forces in Western Sudan, Vol.16, No. 6(A), May 2004, and “If We Return We Will Be Killed,” November 2004.

15 Amnesty International, Darfur: Rape as a weapon of war: sexual violence and its consequences AI Index: AFR 54/076/2004, 19 July 2004. Also se Human Rights Watch Darfur Destroyed: Ethnic Cleansing by Government and Militia Forces in Western Sudan, Vol.16, No. 6(A), May 2004. 16 On July 22, 2004, the US Congress unanimously passed a resolution declaring the atrocities being committed in Darfur "a genocide", and calling on the White House to intervene multilaterally or even unilaterally to stop the violence. In January 2005, a UN Commission of Inquiry found that no genocidal policy has been pursued and implemented in Darfur by the government authorities, directly or through the militias under their control. However, the report accused the government of war crimes and crimes against humanity, naming 51 government officials to be prosecuted. See Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (RICID).

17 The “others” are those who do not define themselves as Arabs such as in southern Sudan, the Nuba Mountains, the Angassana, and Darfur.

18 Laitin, “A Theory of Identities”, p. 14.

19 Ibid., p.18.

20 George A. De Vos, “A Psycho-cultural Approach to Ethnic Interaction in Contemporary Research", in Marthsa E. Bernal and George P. Knight, ed. Ethnic Identity: Formation and Transmission among Hispanic and other Minoroties, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), 235-68.

21 See Albaqir Mukhtar, “the Crisis of Identity in Northern Sudan, the dilemma of a black people with a white culture”, in Race and Identity ion the Nile Valley: ancient and modern perspectives, eds. Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban and Kharyssa Rhodes, The Red Sea Press, 2004.

22 Deng, War of Visions, p. 1.

23 Erik H. Erikson, Identity: Youth and Crisis, (New York: Norton, 1968), 19-23

24 Ibid.

25 See Albaqir Mukhtar, ibid.

26 ibid.

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid.


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

30 For an elaborate discussion of this point please see the above paper, where I have given a number of examples from classical literature as well as from the Qur’an and the Hadith.

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid.

33 Ibid.

34 Ibid.

35 Hunwick, West Africa and the Arab World, 1990.

36 Abdellahi Ali Abrahim, al-Thaqafa wal-Dimogratiyya fil-Sudan, (Cairo: Dar al-Amin, 1996), 31.

37 Ibid., 30.

38 Ibid., 31.

39 Beshir, Mohamed Omer, The Southern Sudan, Background to Conflict, (C. Hurst & Co.) 1968, p. 9

40 Ibid, p. 12.

41 Al-Zubeir Rahama and Al Aqqad not only became independent traders, but they established their rule in certain regions. See ibid, p. 13.

42 Ibid, p. 13.

43 General Gordon had to appoint Al Zubeir Governor of Bahr al-Ghazal province as the only way to bring him under the Government's authority, and reduce his activities as a slave trader. See Beshir, ibid, p. 13.

44 Ibid, p. 13.

45 It is to be noted that MO Beshir argues that the Khalifa Abdullahi's intention behind his numerous expeditions in the South was to recruit jihadiyas, soldiers, for his army and not to acquire slaves. He also said that private slave trading was prohibited by the Khalifa. See ibid, p. 16.

46 Ibid, p. 21.

47 Ibid, p. 15.

48 Ibid, p. 16.

49 C. G. Seligman and Brenda Z. Seligman, Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul ltd., First published in 1932, Revised 1965), XVIII.

50 Ibid.

51 J. S. Trimingham, The Christian Approach, p. 25.

52 Mohamed Omer, The Southern Sudan, Background to Conflict, (C. Hurst & Co.) 1968, p. 41.

53 Ibid, p. 42.

54 Ibid, p. 50.

55 Ibid, pp. 50-51.

56 Ibid, p. 44.

57 Ibid, p. 52.

58 Ibid.

59 Ibid.

60 Ibid.

61 Ibid, p. 53.

62 Ibid, p. 63.

63 Ibid.

64 Ibid.

65 J. S. Trimingham, The Christian Approach, p. 25.

66 Heather J. Sharkey, Colonialism and the Culture of Colonialism in the Northern Sudan, Ph.D. Dissertation, (Princeton: Priceton University, 1998), vol. 1, p. 40.

66 Deng, War of Visions, p. 4.

67 Sharkey, Colonialism and the Culture, vol., 1, pp. 40- 58.

68 Ibid. p. 34.

69 Ibid, p. 34.

70 Ibid, p. 63.

71 The Communist Party recognized the differences between the North and South and advocated autonomy for the South. The Republican Party saw the "Southern Problem" as the symptom of the disease and that the problem lies in the North. Their motto was "the solution of the problem in the South lies in the solution of the problem in the North". For the position of the Communist Party see Beshir ibid, p. 85. For the position of the Republican Party see the Southern Sudan; the Problem and the Solution, Omdurman, 1983.

72 See Khaled, Mansour, War and Peace in Sudan: a story of two countries, Arabic version, Dar el- Turath, 2003, p. 235.

73 Beshir, Mohamed Omer, The Southern Sudan, Background to Conflict, (C. Hurst & Co.) 1968, p. 81.


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

74 Influenced by the Communist party in its early days, the May military government declared for the first time in Sudan that the government recognises the unique characteristics of the Southern people and their right to develop "their respective customs and traditions within a united Sudan". See Beshir The Southern Sudan From Conflict to Peace, Khartoum Bookshop, 1975, p. 73.

75 Mansour Khaled mentioned that Ghazi Salaheddin, the chief peace negotiator for the Government of Sudan told four Africa foreign ministers who are all Christians, that his government has a mission to Islamize Africa. See Khalid, ibid, p. 830.

76 Khalid, Mansour, War and Peace in Sudan: a story of two countries, Arabic version, Dar el-Turath, 2003, pp. 219-220.

77 Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, al-Sifr al-Awwal (the first treatise), Khartoum, first edition 1945, 2 nd edition 1976. This book is in the web at the following address:

78 Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, ibid.

79 The North has tried for the past fifty years to define the whole country in terms of its own perceived identity. By signing the peace agreement with the SPLM/A on the 9 th of January 2005, the Islamists government was indirectly acknowledging that that its project for the South has failed. 80 Reuters, February 17, 2005. This could be found in the following website:;:4215882d:df2ec5d34e86e0?type=topNews&localeKey=e


81 Khadija, a woman from Darfur who lost all her 3 children plus her husband and brother. These are her words to Hilary Anderson, the BBC Panorama presenter. The New Killing fields BBC-1, Date of transmission 14:11:04

82 Amnesty International, Darfur: Rape as a weapon of war: sexual violence and its consequences AI Index: AFR 54/076/2004, 19 July 2004. See also Human Rights Watch reports: Darfur in Flames:

Atrocities in Western Sudan, Vol.16, No.5 (A), April 2004, Darfur Destroyed: Ethnic Cleansing by Government and Militia Forces in Western Sudan, Vol.16, No. 6(A), May 2004, “Darfur Documents Confirm Government Policy of Militia Support,” July 20, 2004, “Empty Promises: Continuing Abuses in Darfur, Sudan,” August 11, 2004, and “If We Return We Will Be Killed,” November 2004.

83 Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (RICID), p. 3. Also see Addressing Crimes Against Humanity and “Ethnic Cleansing” in Darfur, Sudan. Testimony of Jemera Rone before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, June 10, 2004. This could be found in this website:

84 Sherif Harir, Racism in Islamic disguise,? Retreating Nationalism and Upsurging Ethnicity in Darfur, Sudan, Centre for Development Studies, University of Bergen, 1992.

85 Although the word azrag (plural zurug), meaning blacks, was used in Kordofan and Darfur, to distinguish between two clans of Baggara Arabs, Misseirya Zurug (literally blues, but it means blacks), and Misseiriya Humur, (literally red, but it means whites), in a fairly neutral way, this was not the case when it is used by the Arab tribes in relation to the African

tribes in Darfur. See Jamal M. Adam, “Why the indigenous people of Darfur are exposed to destruction”, an unpublished paper found in the following website,

86 Most of the racist comments were uttered either by officials such as Mr. Mustafa Osman Ismail, Sudan’s Foreign Minister, or by people who identify with the Northern establishment in general, or with the government in particular. Mr. Ismail was on the record for resembling the rebels in Darfur to lice, in an interview with the NPR radio in the USA on September 25, 2004. He said to his interviewer Scott Simon: “if your clothes are infested with lice, you can’t help staining your fingers with blood in the process of picking them up”. In an interview with Sudan TV, Su’ad al-Fatih, a leading NIF woman activist and member of parliament, vented her anger at the international media because it showed these dirty, ugly, hungry and ragged people of Darfur. She blamed Sudan’s Satellite TV because it did not counter that image by showing the well fed well dressed good looking Sudanese. A poet called Abdel Qadir Sabeel questioned that there was any rape because it was unbelievable to him that a man, even a Janjaweed, would be tempted by these ugly women. For Mr Ismail’s comments find the link here: For comments on Su’ad al-Fatih’s slur, see Abdle Qadir Sabeel’s offensive comments were said in and caused uproar and a wave of reactions, but later were removed from the board. For a general comment on racism in the


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

sudaneseonline discussion board see the following link:


87 Kareem M. Kamel, The Dilemmas of Darfur: The Politics of Disintegration, Oil, and Foreign Intervention, 17/10/2004. This article could be found in the following website:

88 See Ahmed Mansour’s interview with Mohamed Salim al-Awwa, in his program “Bila Hidud” (Without Borders), and the program Akhtar min Ra’y, (More than One Opinion), under the title: Darfur between humanitarian intentions and scheming of Great powers, presented by Malik al-Tireiki on 6/8/2004. It can be found in the following website:




Abdullahi Osman el-Toum, ibid.


See R. S. O'Fahey and J. L. Spaulding, Kingdoms of the Sudan, p. 31.

92 Abdullahi Osman el-Toum, “Darfur People: Too Black for the Arab-Islamic Project of Sudan”, an unpublished paper presented in Oxford University on October 2001, p. 8.

93 Ibid, p. 3.

94 Mukhtar, ibid.

95 The Black Book: Imbalance of Power and Wealth in the Sudan, part 1, anonymous author (seekers of truth and justice). This book is found in the following website

96 Ibid, p. 4.

97 Ibid.

98 The racial hierarchy can be more or less ranked as follows: At the bottom of the hierarchy is the black African component of the country, namely the Southerners, the Nuba, and the Angessana, especially the non-Muslims among them. A step higher come those among the first category who professed Islam. A step higher come the black African tribes of Darfur, who are 100% Muslims. A step up the ladder come the Baggara tribes of Kordofan and Darfur who extensively intermarried with their neighbouring Southerners and Nuba, until they become very dark), nick-named al-Gharaba (westerners). A step above come the other Arab tribes of northern Kordofan, mainly the Kababish, (some of them in northern Darfur). With this category or close to it comes the Beja of Eastern Sudan, as well as the Rashayda. Although this category is not considered racially inferior to the ruling class, they are considered inferior in terms of culture and modernity. At the top of the racial hierarchy sit the people from the riverian North from whom the ruling class comes.

99 Ibid, p. 4.

100 Harir, ibid, p. 10.

101 Ibid, p 14.

102 Ibid, p. 10. 103 W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, The Souls of the Black Folk, Essays and Sketches, (Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co, 1908), p. 3.

104 Sherif Harir, ibid, p. 11.

105 Religion doe not count in the identity of the victims as events in Darfur demonstrated. The Islam of the Fur, Massalit and Zaghawa was suspected anyway, and considered inferior to the Islam of the northern communities in the popular northern culture.

106 Mansour Khalid says the following: “In the closed circles of Northern Sudan there is a series of unprintable slurs for Sudanese of non-Arab stock, all reflective of semi-concealed prejudice”. See Khalid’s The Government they Deserve: the role of the elite in Sudan’s political evolution. Kegan Paul International, London & New York, 1990, p. 135. However, it was true until that racist slurs were unprintable until 1990, when Khalid wrote his book, but things changed since then. Now we’ve lived to see Northerners removing this last barrier and make their racist slurs printable and publish them in the internet. The sudneseonline discussion forum is full of this shameful stuff. To give just one example of how some Northerners have sunk into the lowest depth of racism, there is a member of the discussion forum called Mohamed al-Sheikh traded insults to another member of the forum, who is a Southerner, and called him ya ‘abb ya wadel-ghalfa’, (oh you slave son of uncircumcised mother), and he attached his name and photo to his racist slur. 107 This is basically due to the scarcity of education and development schemes in Darfur and other regions, which leaves the army the only modern institution open to them for employment as it requires little or no education. See Harir, ibid, p. 17.

108 Mansour Khalid, War and Peace in Sudan: a tale of two countries, Dar el-Turath, Cairo, 2003, p.



Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

109 Ibid.

110 The word gharaba literally means individuals who are coming from the gharib, i.e. western Sudan, but is used as a derogatory term to indicate people from Kordofan and Darfur.

111 Mansour Khalid, ibid, p. 413

112 Ibid, p. 414.

113 Khalid mentioned that M. M. Salih said in a letter to Francis Deng, that the behavior of some Arab tribes against their Southern neighbors reflects a type of thinking at the apex of government based on racial supremacy. See Khalid, ibid, p. 413.

114 El-Tom, ibid.

115 Sherif Harir, ibid, p.14.

116 See Human Rights Watch Darfur Destroyed: Ethnic Cleansing by Government and Militia Forces in Western Sudan, Vol.16, No. 6(A), May 2004.

117 Ashahed M. Muhammad, Factual Analysis: “Truth, Tyranny and Tribalism, Truth Establishment Institute”, V12, No. 1, August 2004.

118 This policy was articulated by the Foreign Minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail in numerous occasions, salient among them was an interview with the Sudanese Satellite TV, in a program called “In the Front”, presented by Ahmed al-Ballal al-Tayib, immediately after the visit by US Secretary General, Kufi Annan, and US Secretary of State Colin Powel.

119 RICID.

120 Find the discussion on this subject in this link:


121 For the exploitative relation of the UP with the people of Darfur “who never failed to provide a solid block of support for the UP”, see Harir, ibid, p. 18.

122 Mahgoub El-Tigani, Inside Darfur: Etnic genocide by a Governance Crisis,Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle east, 24:2, 2004.

123 Ibid. 124 Mahgoub El-Tigani, “Government Lies Will Not Solve the Sudan’s Crisis: A Critique of the Umma- National Congress Agreement on Darfur,” Sudan Tribune, 25 May 2004, <>.

125 Mahmoud Mohamed Taha (1909-1985) was the founder and leader of the Republican Brothers. He was tried and executed by the former president of Sudan Jaafer Nimeiri on the basis of apostasy. Taha issued a leaflet criticizing the ignorant application of Shari’a, and calling for it to be repealed, and the war in the South to be resolved politically. For more details on the life and works of Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, see the following website:

126 RICID, ibid, p. 64.

127 Amnesty International issued more than 10 reports and public statements on Darfur in the period between May 2004 to January 2005. To see Amnesty International’s work on Darfur visit the organization’s website at

128 Mohamed Ibrahim Ash-Shush, When Sky Rains Milk and Honey, Al-Ra’y Al-‘Aam, 25/4/2004.

129 He teaches African history and Islam at the University Of Missouri-Columbia.

130 The book criticized the idea of having a formal language of the State, which will inevitably discriminate against the other languages in the country, which will ultimately lead to the cultural domination of the chosen language. See Ibrahim, Marxism and the Issue of Language in Sudan, 1976.

131 In this book Ibrahim aims at understanding Islamic Fundamentalism as a liberation project from colonization, at the level of legislation. For more on this see Ibrahim, Al-Sahri’a wal Hadatha, Al- Amin Publications, Cairo, 2004.

132 Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim, “Janjaweed: The Other Side of the Story”. This article can be found in this website:

133 Ibid.

134 Ibid.

135 Ibid.

136 Ibid, p. 74. Also see Amnesty International’s “Arming the perpetrators of grave abuses in Darfur”, public Statement, 16 November, 2004; and Amnesty International’s No one to complain to: civilians in need of urgent protection, 2 December, 2004.

137 Report of International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the UN (RICID), p. 65. 138 Human Rights Watch (HRW), Darfur: Militia Leader Implicates Khartoum find the testimony in this website


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

139 Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim, Slavery in Sudan; Towards an Anthropology of News, Khartoum, 2004, pp.


140 Ibid.

141 This is an article that I wrote in al-Fajr Newspaper. See Albaqir Mukhtar, “Turabi and Slavery in Sudan”, al-Fajr Newspaper, 11/6/1997.

142 Ibrahim, ibid.

143 He mentions the book of Suliman Baldo and Ushari Mahmoud as an example of a source that is not neutral. He describes their book as influenced by their ideological affiliation and political activism. See ibid, p.31.

144 Ibid.

145 See Casper Biro, Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan, report submitted to the UN Commission on Human Rights, 52 nd Session, February 1996.

146 Ibrahim, pp. 33-34.

147 Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, Islamic Law and Society in the Sudan, Frank Cass and Company Limited, 1987, pp 127-129).

148 Ibid.

149 Ibid, p. 127.

150 Here is the link for this program:

151 Here is the link for this program:

152 Here the link for this program:

153 Here is the link for this program:


154 Sheikh Qaradawi’s website, the address of this page is


155 ibid.

156 Al-Sharq al-Qatariyya, 11 September 2004. Can be viewed on the following web-site


157 Before their visit, Sheikh Qaradawi and Dr. Al-‘Awwa, his Secretary General, thought that the people of Darfur were pagans. See the interview with A-‘Awwa in al-Jazeera on this website:

158 It is known that the Islamic movement and specifically Turabi accuse the Sudanese Islam in general of being mixed with some local customs that are incompatible with the “correct” Islam. This is more so for Darfur, where the local customs and social practices are considered rather permissive, especially in relation to alcohol consumption and relationship and sexual behavior.

159 Al-Jazeera TV, for instance, devoted a number of programs to Darfur in an obvious effort to counter attack this perceived western conspiracy. Salient among these efforts are two programs; the first is Bila Hudud, (Without Borders), an interview with Mohamed Salim al ‘Awwa, Secretary General of the International Union of Muslim ‘Ulama (religious leaders), on 15 September 2004, and the second is Minbar al-Jazira, (al-Jazira Forum), an interview with Dr. Mansour Hassan, Secretary General of the Physicians Union in Alexandria. The interviews were conducted after the two men came from a visit to Darfur.

160 See the interview with A-‘Awwa in al-Jazeera on this website:

161 Ibid, p. 2.

162 Ibid, p. 3.

163 Ibid.

164 RICID, ibid, p. 65.

165 Amnesty International, Darfur: Rape as a weapon of war: sexual violence and its consequences AI Index: AFR 54/076/2004, 19 July 2004.

166 RICID, Ibid.

167 Ibid.

168 Ibid.


Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar (PhD)

169 Ibid.

170 Amnesty International, Sudan Darfur: No one to complain to: No respite for the victims, impunity for the perpetrators December 2004 AI Index: AFR 54/138/2004.

171 The report include details about the 12 detainees, including their names, villages, the jobs of those who work among them, the prisons they were held in, and the details of the torture that each of the 4 women had been subjected to.

172 Ibid, p. 28.

173 Ibid.

174 Ibid.

175 Hilary Anderson, Panorama, The New Killing fields, BBC-1, Date of transmission 14:11:04

176 Al-Jazeera TV, bila hudud, ibid.

177 This is al-Sharif Hussein al-Hindi, minister of finance until May 1969 when Numeiri came to power. He led the opisition against Numeiri, and with Sadiq al-Mahadi, he led the failed military invasion from Libya in 1976. He died outside Sudan.

178 Ibid.

179 See 'Abduh Badawi, al-shu'ara' al-sud wa khasa'isuhum fi-l Shi'r al-'Arabi, (Cairo, 1973), p. 31.