Darfurizing Southern Kordufan
by Mahamat Ousman
January 29, 2008
Going public with the possibility of Darfurizing Southern Kordufan has long been overdue. I have been considering this for over two years now. For all intents and purposes, what is happening in Southern Kordufan now has all the ingredients/symptoms of what has led Darfur to the catastrophic status quo. These symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following: the formation of militias with or without the Central Government’s knowledge/consent (Government of National Unity, GoNU), the tribes taking the law into their own hands, the total absence of personal security, the thriving highway bandits, the formation of rebel groups, etc….
So far as the formation of militias goes, the recent events at Guirinti (dialectal Arabic for hippo) in the vicinity of Al Mairam give all the more credence to the hypothesis above. Here you are with tribal chiefs waging war against an army, or, worse still, an army waging war against tribal chiefs. We have seen much of this reported in the local mass media in the past few weeks. Indeed, the chiefs are leaders of the Misseiria tribe, and the army is the SPLA. Without delving deep into the causes behind the sad events, the outcome remains to be the same: a loss of dear lives of young compatriots who are supposed to be building this country. Officially at least, we know where the SPLA gets its arms from. For the SPLA to be armed is justified, but for the tribes to have such heavy armor is baffling to say the least. But where do these chiefs, basically militia leaders, get their arms from? Who funds them and why? What will the final outcome be?
Another case in point is what happened in Dabker, a small village about 20 kilometers east of Abu Zabad, about a year or so ago. To be more specific, a committee was formed in Dabker by the leaders of one of the tribes in the area. Then they formed a tribal militia that started threatening the other ethnic groups. They tried to form alliances with some ethnic groups to twist the arms of some other ethnicities . And when one of those other ethnic groups in the area (the Sulaihab of Dabker) refused to take sides, the Committee sent them a memo telling them that “if you are not with us, then you are against us”. The Sulaihab refused to take sides, apparently, because they thought they had had nothing to do with the feuds that that Committee had with some other ethnic groups. This committee, called the Committee for Fostering Peace, included 20 members of one single ethnic group. In fact, it is an open secret in and around Dabker that this ethnic group had a feud with another ethic group that resulted in a massacre where 13 people were shot dead point blank.
In its attempts to “foster peace”, the Committee invited nine individuals of the Sulaihab tribe to attend a meeting. And it was mentioned on the invitation cards that this Committee would (ostensibly) like to discuss the security situation in Dabker; the venue of the meeting was the cattle marketplace. These are the names of the nine individuals:
Soon after receiving the invitation, the nine people held a meeting to discuss the appropriate response because that invitation was actually a culmination of other antagonistic, destabilizing acts such as issuing written death threats to certain inhabitants in Dabker. They nine agreed to write a memorandum that covered the following queries and points:
The Committee received the memorandum but did not respond. On the day of the supposed meeting, some animal herders and pupils were seen carrying sticks and knives. When asked why they were carrying weapons, they said they came to attend the meeting. Upon receiving answers to some of the points in the memorandum, the nine people decided to boycott the meeting. The Committee held the meeting and decided to take punitive measures (liquidation) against those nine while some others suggested that these nine be given three days to act responsibly, i.e., attend the meeting and pledge allegiance. At this point, a mediator came into play. His efforts resulted in giving the Sulaihab just 5 days. In the days that followed, the mediator called for a meeting. At the meeting, he presented a handwritten letter singed by the head of the aforementioned Committee in which he (i.e. the head of the committee) made it clear that the Sulaihab were given only 5 days to pledge allegiance, or they would be held accountable by the Committee and punished. The Sulaihab did not pledge allegiance; therefore, some thugs carried out the death threats that resulted in the brutal killing of two Sulaihab individuals. Masked criminals/killers came under the cover of darkness and gunned the two down in cold blood. And those two killings were just the beginning, apparently. It seems that the leaders of the tribal militia decided that the refusal to take sides had no other interpretation than animosity, so they decided to shove the “enemies” off their way. Will those aggressors be made to toe the line? Will justice be meted out? Let us wait and see!!!
Taking justice into one’s own hands is better illustrated by an incident that took place around Abu Junuk about a week or two ago. It all started when a skirmish had taken place around Abu Junuk between two ethnic groups. (By the way, Abu Junuk is a small village to the south of Abu Zabad.) The authorities in Abu Zabad interfered, caught the suspected culprits, and put them in jail. Then the course of events took an unexpected twist. An extraordinary challenge to the sovereignty of the state happened in Abu Zabad. In an unprecedented move, the tribal kinsmen of the suspects raided the jail at night and freed their kinsmen, stark evidence of taking justice into one’s own hands. How could this happen in the presence of an effective government? It is pretty clear, to me at least, that things are rapidly spinning out control in Southern Kordufan .
When it comes to personal security, a quick consideration of what is happening in Habila would drive the point home. During my stay in Dilling for Eid Al Adha, herdsmen tried to get their cattle into sorghum farms. Needless to say, the farmers defended their territory. Hadn’t the local authorities in Dilling quickly intervened, that incident would have resulted in bloodshed. Luckily, all had gone peacefully for nobody was injured or killed, but the incident did not augur well for what is to come. Indeed, about a week ago, a farmer was killed defending his farm against herders who insisted on letting their cattle feed on the deceased farmer’s sorghum farm. As you can see, the last incident turned out to be fatal, and these are not isolated cases.
In conclusion, anybody who has the will to piece these “ingredients” together will paint a very bleak picture: Southern Kordufan is being Darfurized. These are the same kinds of events that led to the chaos in Darfur , a chaotic situation that has resulted in so much misery, destitution, hatred, displacement, hunger, etc…. I think the GoNU should draw lessons from what has happened in Darfur . One might sympathize with the Government for the first, possibly honest, mistake in Darfur . But a replication of the same scenario would leave one with no room but to suspect collusion. Here I am, shouting at the top of my voice for the whole wide world to hear, informing the peoples of the world about the catastrophe that is in the offing for the people in Southern Kordufan , unless/until something urgent and decisive is done to reverse the current course of events. Put succinctly, Southern Kordufan is heading towards an abyss.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Mahamat Abdeddine Ousman, a lecturer
Cell phone: 00966 542373524
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