Divided They Fall: The Fragmentation of Darfur s Rebel Groups. By Victor Tanner and Jérôme Tubiana - PDF

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6 Divided They Fall: The Fragmentation of Darfur s Rebel Groups By Victor Tanner and Jérôme Tubiana Copyright The Small Arms Survey Published in Switzerland by the Small Arms Survey Small Arms Survey,

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6 Divided They Fall: The Fragmentation of Darfur s Rebel Groups By Victor Tanner and Jérôme Tubiana Copyright The Small Arms Survey Published in Switzerland by the Small Arms Survey Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva 2007 First published in July 2007 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the Small Arms Survey, or as expressly permitted by law, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Publications Manager, Small Arms Survey, at the address below. Small Arms Survey Graduate Institute of International Studies 47 Avenue Blanc, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland Copyedited by Michael Griffin Cartography by MAPgrafix Typeset in Optima and Palatino by Richard Jones, Exile: Design & Editorial Services Printed by nbmedia in Geneva, Switzerland ISBN The Small Arms Survey is an independent research project located at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Established in 1999, the project is supported by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and by sustained contributions from the Governments of Belgium, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The Survey is also grateful for past and current project support received from the Governments of Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, New Zealand, and the United States, as well as from different United Nations agencies, programmes, and institutes. The objectives of the Small Arms Survey are: to be the principal source of public information on all aspects of small arms and armed violence; to serve as a resource centre for governments, policy-makers, researchers, and activists; to monitor national and international initiatives (governmental and nongovernmental) on small arms; to support efforts to address the effects of small arms proliferation and misuse; and to act as a clearinghouse for the sharing of information and the dissemination of best practices. The Survey also sponsors field research and information-gathering efforts, especially in affected states and regions. The project has an international staff with expertise in security studies, political science, law, economics, development studies, and sociology, and collaborates with a network of researchers, partner institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and governments in more than 50 countries. Small Arms Survey Graduate Institute of International Studies 47 Avenue Blanc, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland Phone: Fax: Web site: Small Arms Survey HSBA Working Paper 6 Tanner and Tubiana Divided They Fall The Human Security Baseline Assessment Contents The Sudan Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) is a multi-year research project ( ) administered by the Small Arms Survey. It has been developed in cooperation with the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), the UN Development Programme, and a wide array of international and Sudanese NGO partners. Through the active generation and dissemination of timely empirical research, the HSBA project works to support disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), security sector reform (SSR), and arms control interventions to promote security. The HSBA is being carried out by a multidisciplinary team of regional, security, and public health specialists. It reviews the spatial distribution of armed violence throughout Sudan and offers policy-relevant advice to redress insecurity. HSBA Working Papers are timely and user-friendly reports on current research activities in English and Arabic. Future papers will focus on a variety of issues, including victimization and perceptions of security, armed groups, and local security arrangements. The project also generates a series of Issue Briefs. The HSBA project is supported by Canada, the UK Government Conflict Prevention Pool, and the Danish International Development Agency (Danida). For more information contact: Claire Mc Evoy HSBA Project Coordinator Small Arms Survey, 47 Avenue Blanc 1202 Geneva, Switzerland Web site: (click on Sudan) HSBA Working Paper series editor: Emile LeBrun Acronyms and abbreviations... 7 About the authors... 8 Acknowledgements... 9 A note on transliteration from Arabic Abstract I. Historical roots of the Darfur insurgency Marginalization and resistance in Darfur A time of growing violence ( ) II. The Sudan Liberation Army before the Abuja peace talks Early efforts and the Darfur Liberation Front Seeking support outside Darfur From all-out war to the DPA ( ) III. The Justice and Equality Movement before the Abuja peace talks Punching above its weight The Turabi link Ethnic politics A national programme Relations between the JEM and the SLA IV. Tactics of the SLA and the JEM Military tactics Popular support Small Arms Survey HSBA Working Paper 6 Tanner and Tubiana Divided They Fall V. Abuja and the withering of SLA-Minni The Darfur Peace Agreement SLA-Minni: hurtling towards irrelevance Other pro-dpa groups: GoS proxy militias? VI. Non-signatory groups Non-signatory SLA factions The JEM after Abuja The National Redemption Front: a failed coalition Coming together after the NRF The NMRD: Sudanese rebels or Chadian militia? Bringing the janjawid to the rebel side VII. Conclusion Endnotes Bibliography Acronyms and abbreviations CFC Ceasefire Commission CPA Comprehensive Peace Agreement DLF Darfur Liberation Front DPA Darfur Peace Agreement ESPA Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement G 19 Group of 19 GoS Government of Sudan JEM Justice and Equality Movement MPS Mouvement patriotique du salut (Patriotic Salvation Movement) NCO Non-commissioned officer NCP National Congress Party NDA National Democratic Alliance NIF National Islamic Front NMRD National Movement for Reform and Development NRF National Redemption Front NSF Non-signatory factions PCP Popular Congress Party PDF Popular Defence Forces SFDA Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance SLM/A Sudan Liberation Movement/Army SPLM/A Sudan People s Liberation Movement/Army Small Arms Survey HSBA Working Paper 6 Tanner and Tubiana Divided They Fall About the authors Acknowledgements Victor Tanner is a researcher on societies affected by war. He first lived in Darfur in Since 2002, he has conducted field research in many parts of Darfur. His reports include Rule of Lawlessness, Causes and Consequences of the Darfur Crisis (2005) and a chapter (with Dr Abdul-Jabbar Abdallah Fadul) for a forthcoming volume on Darfur edited by Alex de Waal for Harvard University Press. Tanner is an adjunct faculty member at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, in Washington DC. The authors wish to offer deep thanks to the many, many Darfurians who shared their time, knowledge, wisdom, and hospitality with us in the course of our trips to their region. We are also indebted to Julie Flint, Marc Lavergne, Theo Murphy, Sara Pantuliano, and John Young for their valuable reviews of an early draft. Jérôme Tubiana holds a Ph.D in African Studies. Over the past 12 years he has conducted field research missions in northern and eastern Chad, western Sudan, and eastern Niger, focusing on the Tubu (Teda-Daza) and Beri (Zaghawa and Bideyat) peoples. Since 2004, he has worked in Sudan and Chad as a researcher on Darfur for various NGOs, most notably Action contre la faim (ACF). As a freelance journalist and photographer, he has written for a number of French newspapers and publications on Chad and the Horn of Africa. Small Arms Survey HSBA Working Paper 6 Tanner and Tubiana Divided They Fall A note on transliteration from Arabic Abstract In rendering Arabic names and words into English, we sought a transcription that was both simple and that most closely resembled the Arabic pronunciation. For this reason we transcribed words beginning with so-called sun letters as they are pronounced, for example as-sudan (rather than al-sudan) and ed- Da`in (rather than el-da`in). We also tried to respect Sudanese pronunciation by using, for example, a g for the letter qaf (e.g. Rizeigat, Gasim) and a z for the letter dhal (e.g. ingaz), and transcribing other letters according to the Sudanese dialect. We retained the accepted French spelling for Chadian names as they are normally written (e.g. Mahamat Ismaïl, not Mohammad Isma`il). We used the diacritical mark ` for the letter `ayn, except at the beginning of names, where we left the `ayn unmarked (e.g. Abdallah, Ali). We included the article in place names as el (rather than al) because it seemed more in keeping with English usage. Likewise, we followed English usage and dropped the initial article in certain place names that carry the article in Arabic (e.g. Geneina, Khartoum). Finally, we hyphenated all names based on the pattern abdallah, such as Abdesh-Shafi` or Abdel-Wahid, because writing Abdeshshafi` or Abdelwahid seemed too long, and writing Abdel Wahid or Abdesh Shafi` would inevitably lead some people to call them Mr Wahid or Mr Shafi`. In early 2003, after several years of simmering violence, rebel groups in Darfur launched a full-scale rebellion against Sudanese government targets. Two groups emerged. The Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) enjoyed early successes, capturing el-fasher airport, but then nearly succumbed to Khartoum s brutal counter-offensive. It was further weakened by internal tensions between its two leaders, Abdel-Wahid Mohammad Nur (a Fur) and Minni Arku Minawi (a Zaghawa). The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) was more developed politically than the SLA but less significant militarily. The JEM s narrow Zaghawa Kobe ethnic base further undermined it, as did the Islamist past of many of its leaders, particularly the chairman, Dr Khalil Ibrahim. Only one faction of the divided SLA (SLA-Minni) signed the Darfur Peace Agreement in Abuja, Nigeria in May In the 12 months since, SLA-Minni has all but withered, while the non-signatory groups, especially the Group of 19, beat back a Sudanese army offensive under the banner of a new, united group, the National Redemption Front. The rebels new-found unity was undermined by a lack of political cooperation, however, and collective military resilience was not enough to keep them together. By late 2006, the non-signatory rebels had splintered into a variety of groups. Any political solution in Darfur will first require that the rebels unite, and this is increasingly difficult with the rapid proliferation of groups. The international community has been so far unwilling to invest the time and effort to support a unification effort, which will be by definition a long-term endeavour. Without that unity, however, there will be no sustainable peace in Darfur. 10 Small Arms Survey HSBA Working Paper 6 Tanner and Tubiana Divided They Fall 11 I. Historical roots of the Darfur insurgency Marginalization and resistance in Darfur In Darfur, the tradition of opposition to central government is an old one. The Sultanate of Darfur, a centralized state with effective administrative and security institutions, endured for over 300 years as a counterweight to state authority in the Nile Valley. During the Mahdist state ( ), when Sudan was ruled by a Muslim messianic movement, the most serious internal challenge came from Darfur rebels in the years The Khalifa Abdullahi, who succeeded the mahdi Mohammad Ahmad, fought a ruthless campaign of suppression, triggering Darfur s worst period of violence in modern history before the present conflict. It took the British until 1916 to subdue Darfur, ending the sultanate a full 18 years after Kitchener s victory over the Madhist armies at Omdurman. Darfur occupies a special place in Sudanese eyes. Large, populous, and deeply rural, with vibrant tribal and Islamic identities and a strong warrior tradition, the region is simultaneously the object of affection, disdain, and fear (Tanner, 2005, pp ). For the last 180 years, governments in Khartoum have repeatedly struggled to control this faraway and restive province. The tradition of rebellion continued after Sudanese independence in In the late 1950s and early 1960s, two clandestine groups, al-lahib al-ahmar (the Red Flame) and Suni (named after a mountain village in Jebel Marra), articulated Darfurian dissatisfaction with jallaba domination and the need for all Darfurians, including Arabs, to assert their rights. 1 This was part of a broader trend: elsewhere in Sudan, the Beja Congress in the east and the General Union of the Nuba in the Nuba Mountains were speaking out on behalf of other marginalized peoples. Later, a movement called the Darfur Development Front appeared, headed by Ahmad Direige, a respected Fur leader. In the early 1980s, Darfurians, especially students at the University of Khartoum, mobilized in an effort to force the Nimeiri regime to appoint a Darfurian as governor of Darfur, which was then a single province. Violence ensued, but the protesters 12 Small Arms Survey HSBA Working Paper 6 Tanner and Tubiana Divided They Fall 13 did not back down and Nimeiri ultimately relented, naming Direige as governor (Harir, 1994, pp. 156 and 158). When the Nimeiri regime fell, ultimately giving way to the democratic government of Sadiq al-mahdi, many Darfurians, especially non-arabs, hoped to see an end to the neglect they had suffered since independence. But marginalization only increased. The origins of the present Darfur rebel groups, like the conflict itself, are thus rooted in the political dynamics of Sudan over the past 20 years. A time of growing violence ( ) By the time the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) emerged in early 2003, launching a spate of attacks on government targets, parts of Darfur had been in open war for several years (Flint and de Waal, 2005, p. 76). 2 In 2001 and 2002, GoS-backed attacks on non-arab communities increased, especially around Jebel Marra and in Dar Zaghawa. The Darfurian rebels have been shaped by violence at local, national, and regional levels. At the local level, the region has been the scene of a number of conflicts over the past 20 years that foreshadowed the present one. In , Fur communities faced a coalition of Arab pastoralists who, probably for the first time in Darfur s history of communal conflict, had coalesced as Arabs. Violence was widespread: villages were burned, men were hunted down and killed, women raped, livestock looted, wells poisoned, and trees cut down. The conflict was partly driven by competition over resources. After the drought the worst time in a long dry period stretching back to the great Sahelian droughts of the early 1970s large numbers of camel-herding nomads moved south in search of pasture and water. Arab groups, and especially camel herders, looked with envy at the well-watered Fur country of Jebel Marra and its western foothills. At the same time, sedentary groups were increasing practices that restricted the movement of herds, such as dry-season wadi farming and fencing large tracts of non-cultivated land (zarayib al-hawa, literally wind enclosures ). Ominously, both sides feel that their livelihood their very way of life is under threat. And each side feels the other is responsible (Tanner, 2005, pp ). Another element was the rise of GoS-supported Arab militias, increasingly referred to locally as janjawid. 3 In the latter half of the 1990s, armed Arab groups in West Darfur attacked Masalit communities. Many were Abbala, camel herding pastoralists also known as Jammala, fleeing the repression of the Goran-dominated regime of Hissène Habré in Chad. 4 Also, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were repeated clashes between Zaghawa and Arab camel herders in North Darfur. Their violent and political nature made them precursors to the current Darfur conflict, although they were mild by comparison. At the national level, a key development in the 1980s and 1990s was the retreat of the GoS from its traditional role as mediator in local conflicts. From the late 1980s, both the Umma party of Sadiq al-mahdi, which dominated the brief democratic phase that followed Nimeiri s overthrow, and Hassan at- Turabi s National Islamic Front (NIF), which seized power in a military coup in 1989, sought to ride local surges of Arab ethno-nationalism. The main expression of the Arab supremacist discourse was the so-called Arab Gathering (attajammu` al-`arabi), an informal grouping of Darfur s Arab leaders (Flint and de Waal, 2005, p. 76). The aims of the Umma and the NIF were two-fold: to consolidate political power by harnessing the Darfur elites and to keep Darfur under heel at low cost. These policies had a strong impact on non-arab elites. The first generation of educated non-arab Darfurians tended to rally around the Umma, while the second was attuned to the NIF s more radical agenda. Disenchantment came twice: the Umma sided with the Arabs in the Fur Arab conflict of ; and the Turabi faction of the NIF, which had done most to attract non-arab Darfurians, lost out to President Omar al-bashir in an internal party struggle in This disappointment with national politics fuelled Darfurian opposition to Khartoum from 2001 onward. The other national factor was the North South conflict between the GoS and the Sudan People s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). The SPLA provided the Darfur rebels with early support in the form of weapons and training (see p. 21). It also exerted political influence on the SLA, which adopted an agenda for national reform reminiscent of Garang s vision of New Sudan a united, decentralized, democratic, and secular Sudan. 14 Small Arms Survey HSBA Working Paper 6 Tanner and Tubiana Divided They Fall 15 More important, perhaps, was the role that the North South conflict played in influencing the timing of the armed rebellion in Darfur. As the internationallymediated negotiations between the GoS and the SPLA gained momentum in Kenya in 2002, Darfur leaders began to fear that the future political make-up of the country was being decided without them. They launched armed operations in 2002 and officially declared their rebellion as the SLA and the JEM in early Several other factors were crucial to the genesis of the Darfur rebellion. Blowback from three decades of war in Chad and meddling by Libya in the form of weapons, exiled fighters, and successive waves of migrants who could be mobilized by rebels and governments alike were key ingredients in the conflict. Across the central Sahel region, drought, discriminatory politics, and lack of investment in marginalized rural areas all contributed to the instability by triggering violent responses from people who felt neglected and oppressed. II. The Sudan Liberation Army before the Abuja peace talks Early efforts and the Darfur Liberation Front The roots of the SLA lie in the clandestine efforts of a group of educated Darfurian opponents of the NIF regime to mobilize village self-defence committees. These were local groups that Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit villagers set up in the 1990s (or, in the case of some Fur areas, the late 1980s) to fend off attacks by GoS-supported Arab militias. In the Fur received arms from Hissène Habré s Chadian regime to fight the Mouvement patriotique du salut (Patriotic Salvation Movement, or MPS), a Chadian Zaghawa rebel group formed by Idriss Déby with the support of Sudanese Zaghawa and the NIF (Tubiana, 2006a, p. 24). (This supply line dried up in December 1990 when Déby replaced Habré as Chad s president.) Despite attempts to organize them in the 1980s and 1990s, the self-defence committees were poorly equipped and coordinated. They relied on small traders and a few local officials, bartering sugar rations and livestock for light weapons and ammunition from the Chadian military. There was little coop
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