the Disillusioned kid: Remember Darfur?
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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Remember Darfur?

A post at the Head Heeb provides a reminder that the conflict in Darfur continues apace, depite the almost total lack of mainstream media attention. Jonathan links to an article about the plight of nomadic groups caught in the middle of the conflict between government backed Janjawid militiamen and sedentary African tribes:
Around Kabkabiya, the ruins of destroyed villages lie scattered. They appear deserted, but a closer look reveals that several small, nomadic communities of Arab origin still eke out a living in the region.

The majority consider themselves members of the Riziegat ethnic community - one of the larger groups of Arab pastoralists in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

Amongst the Riziegat are a number of clan-based communities such as the Mahadia, Maharia, and Mahami. These are composed of families. When the nomads are on the move, a group of close families usually travel together under the leadership of a clan head.

The nomads, who aid workers say are in their thousands, have largely been unnoticed by the international community, and Darfur's other residents often equate them with the notorious "Janjawid" - the government allied militia who have been accused of terrorising the region's non-Arab tribes.

The nomads live with the constant fear of being attacked by the rebels of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), who could mistake them for the Janjawid.
The article suggests that the conflict has done very serious damage to relations between different groups in the region, which may prove difficult to repair:
"We used to mix with other groups," [Wave Abdallah, a chief from the Maharia community] said. "There was understanding and cooperation and there was no fear - even in school our children were mixed together.

"Now, the whole area is divided into Arab and non-Arab [African] groups; into so-called Janjawid and rebels. And because the rebels and the nomads are both in the field, the nomads suffer," he added.
It describes the traditional relationship between villages and the nomads as "symbiotic." Nomads had once been able to go to villages when in need of food or assistance from doctors, but many villagers have now been emptied by the Janjawid. One positive sign is that where the nomads animals were being looted on a daily basis prior to the arrival of African Union troops, this has now reduced considerably.

The situation in Darfur remains critical. This being the case the media silence on the issue is tragic. Compared with the coverage it received last year, however, it seems particularly strange. Perhaps, as some of us have suggested cynically, people really can only deal with one African issue at a time and this year Niger's the one. David Morse, suggests that part of the reasoning behind the media silence as well as the almost schizophrenic policy of the Bush Administration (screaming "genocide!" one minute and then seeking to undermine Darfur Peace and Accountability Act the next) is interest in Sudan's oil. Whatever the truth, the losers in all of this are those living in the region who don't just encounter the conflict on the odd occasions where it gets into the news, but have to live with it on a daily basis.

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