Explaining Darfur

>From the magazine issue dated Apr 27, 2009

Say "darfur" and hor rific images leap to mind: Janjaweed, genocide. But most 
of us would be hard- pressed to explain the violence there, beyond the popular 
no tion that it's ethnic cleansing of Africans by Arabs. Columbia University 
scholar Mahmood Mamdani's brilliant new book, "Saviors and Survivors," explains 
why this assumption is incor rect, and why it's undermining peace efforts in 
the region.
The Idea:The Darfur conflict, Mamdani says, is fundamental ly between tribes 
(both Arab and non-Arab) who have rights to a homeland—and through that, 
political representation— and tribes who don't. This is key to understanding 
the situation and how to remedy it.
The Evidence:When the British colonized Darfur—at the time a polyglot 
sultanate—they pur sued a retribalization policy that classified certain 
peoples as "na tive" and others as "immigrant," giving land and political 
rights to the former while disenfran chising the lat ter. This system produced 
long- simmering ten sions between nomadic and sedentary Dar furis. Add to that 
decades of se vere drought that drove nomads south onto their neighbors' land, 
as well as meddling by Libya, America and Chad— which militarized Darfur tribes 
as Cold War proxies—and by the mid-'80s, the region had ex ploded in civil war, 
which spi raled into an international con flict with escalating atrocities.
The Conclusion: The old colo nial land-rights system must be overhauled before 
Darfur's tribes can find a common path forward and integrate into a peaceful, 
multiethnic whole.

URL: http://www.newsweek.com/id/194622


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