”The greatest achievement of Arabism in the Sudan has been the unquestioned acceptance of the whole world that this is an Arab state, in spite of the fact that only 40 per cent of the population is Arab… The predominance of the Arab Sudanese in the country’s culture, politics, administration, commerce and industry makes it de facto an Arab country.” unknown
Darfur is very complex. After reading books and articles about it, listening to aid workers speak about their experience there and seeing tons of pictures, I still can’t contain my confusion. I feel confident talking to strangers, friends and colleagues about the conflict in Darfur but sometimes I feel that I don’t know the whole story. I wasn’t there. I didn’t witness the conflict unfold; I didn’t see the violence they talk about in Darfur.
For many years, I saw the world as a pink place. I was never a refugee. I was privileged. I didn’t have to walk to school; I had a car and later on, a driver. We travelled a lot.
I left Sudan when I was 2 but I visited every two years. I didn’t know much about the war there because I never experienced it, I was not directly affected by it. I was only indirectly affected by it (for e.g:- we pay war taxes and most of the money is spent on the army not health care etc...). When I used to hear about the massacres carried out by my government militia, I was shocked. Violence?war?dead bodies? I’ve never seen any of it. Living in Khartoum, eating ice-cream, drinking latte at western-style cafes and going to lavish weddings was more Sudanese to me than war.
When I got older, I noticed that all my cousins had to go to the South to fight after high school. The grandmothers cursed the government and the mothers cried as their 16 year old sons went to training camps in the South. I was told that the supervisors there are extremely mean to young men raised abroad. My cousins who were raised in rich gulf-nations suffered the most. They took their belongings and the ones who brought food with them were forced to eat everything….all at once…until they vomited.
I remember when one of my cousins finished high school and my aunt was so glad he didn’t have to go to the camps because he had asthma. Ironically, she was happy he had asthma that day. He was lucky, he had a reason not to go but others didn’t. If they didn’t go, they couldn’t go to university and if they postponed it and went to university, they couldn’t get a job after graduation. This was the Sudan in the 1990’s. This was the new Sudan according to the “national salvation” government who preached what Islam taught and did the exact opposite. No justice. No equality.
I always laughed when I read the North/South war because it wasn’t a North vs. South war.I do use this to describe the conflict but shouldn’t it the North be replaced by brutal government who happened to be from the North?
I didn’t want the war. I don’t know anyone who wanted to fight. Not even the Northerners. People were tired of fighting and depressed at the struggling.
Sudanese refugees in neighboring African countries wanted to go home. Some of them spent over 20 years in refugee camps. Many young men and women were raised there…in the refugee camps. People should have the right to live a decent life in their country. Being a refugee in another country is not as bad as being a refugee in your own country. Many Sudanese are refugees in their own countries. Aren’t IDP’s refugees in their own country? Aren’t people living in slums living the lives of refugees?
Since independence Sudan was at peace about 10 years (maximum! I still need to do the math) but it was finally coming to an end.
From 2003 to 2005, the government and the SPLM were finally getting somewhere. Dr.John Garang wanted to talk for so long. He wanted peace and unity. The government finally decided to get it over with and talk. The guns were put aside for a while and negotiations started. Finally, Africa’s longest-running war ended and the much anticipated peace agreement was signed. Oil proved itself to be a very profitable export and our economy was becoming one of the fastest-growing in the world. It seemed that Sudan will be a regional powerhouse and we will start developing our country and rebuild all the destroyed towns and villages. I was thrilled. I was proud of my country!
I spoke too soon. Darfur happened.
Darfur didn’t start in 2005 but only in 2005 did it become a pressing issue. In 2005, it was on every TV channel and every newspaper. I was so overwhelmed by the peace agreement; I overlooked another conflict in my country. Sadly, I wasn’t the only one to do so. The prime minister was so focused on this peace agreement; he made a decision to just “let Darfur happen”. When Darfur happened, I was too tired to give it the same attention I gave the “South/North war”. The first time I read about Darfur, the only thing I said was “Here we go again”.
This is why I’m writing many posts about Darfur. I wanted to know what’s really going on and help others understand the conflict. I want to give more accurate definitions of Janjaweed than “devils on horsebacks” and show people that Darfur is more than an Arab vs. Africans conflict. The conflict is historical (it didn’t just happen all of a sudden, many events triggered it), regional (it involves Libya and Chad) and political.