The Darfur Conflict in Evolving Politico-economic and Socio-cultural Contexts: The 'Games', the 'Players' and the 'Stakes'
The atrocities in Darfur have to be understood in the context of a multitude of 'games' involving local, regional, national and international 'players'. Darfur is a region (about the size of England) in Western Sudan. The region is multi-ethnic (but overwhelmingly Muslim) with various African ethnic groups (e. g. Fur, Mazalit,) as farmers in a middle zone, or as agro-pastoralists (e. g. Zaghawa) in a north-western zone; with Arab Camel nomads in a northern zone, and Baggara Arabs as cattle nomads in a southern zone. In the 1960s the relations between the Arabs and non-Arabs were largely symbiotic. However, among the educated Fur elite a more articulate regional movement had already emerged. In the 1970s conflicts between nomads and farmers caused by resource competition were evident. As the national Government from the 1980s pursued a more aggressive Islamization policy based the radical teachings of the Muslim Brothers, confrontations between the Central Government and the non-Arab groups in Darfur intensified, leading to more united regional political movements and armed resistance. The 'players' in the Darfur 'game' are positioned with reference to overlapping and contrasting interests: ethnic identities; ecologic competition; economic polarization between Darfur and the Nile valley; rivalry between traditional Islamic brotherhoods (Ansar and Khatmiya) with their affiliation to different traditional political parties (Umma and DUP); the growth of the National Islamic Front party ideologically affiliated with the Muslim Brothers. This complex situation produced rapid changes of alliances between different 'players', and stimulated them to engage in intensive symbolic work to create solidarities among competing factions. In this complex 'game' the weak central Government (opposed even by traditional Islamic Brotherhoods) have played the dangerous card of arming local militias recruited from Arab nomad groups. To disarm them is difficult and can lead them to turn their weapons against the Government.
Keywords: Darfur, Ethnic Boundaries, Muslim Brotherhoods, Political Integration, Economic Dualism
Prof. Gunnar Haaland
Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen