Sudan was again in the headlines recently with the signing of a peace agreement to end the conflict in Darfur. English to Africa reporter, Angel Tabe, spoke about the accord with Suliman Baldo, the program director for the International Crisis Group (ICG).
When asked whether the conflict was ethnic, political, or economic in nature, Baldo says, “The conflict in Dafur is in fact all of these at once. Its root causes are the environmental degradation that this region witnessed, leading to competition over natural resources… The central government started taking sides … and to counter this rebellion, recruited militia on an ethnic basis…[thus transforming the conflict into an ethnic polarizing conflict].”
Baldo describes the main players as “the indigenous population of Dafur, who are settled farmers of non-Arab origin…It so happens that the rebels who challenged the government in 2003 were all from the same main indigenous group in Dafur of African origin… and the government recruited militias of groups of Arab background, which came to be known as the Janjaweed...They conducted the anti-insurgency campaign to attack the communities from which the rebels hailed….This was an organized campaign, aimed at this people because of their origin.”
Baldo says the recent peace accord “is the first step to bring peace and security to the region. It is a very complex conflict and it is necessary to have a robust international peace-keeping mission on the ground... currently the African Union forces are overstretched … and are unable to protect civilians,” but adds that much more still needs to be accomplished.
Baldo says Osama Bin Laden’s threat to send Al-Qaeda militants to fight in Darfur is “merely opportunistic.” He adds that there are some national movements “which actually threaten to fight any foreign insurgents that would come to Dafur.” Baldo says because of the current international fight against terrorism, it wouldn’t be wise for the government of Sudan to welcome Al-Quaeda-related jihadists: “True most hard line officials use this statement, but that was for propaganda purposes…Khartoum should distance itself from it.”