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August 05, 2004

Ryle on the Sudan

Disaster in Darfur by John Ryle. [Via the New York Review of Books.]

Ryle discusses the current political, ethnic, and religious tensions in the Sudan. He compares and contrasts the current crisis in Darfur with the 21-year civil war between northern and southern Sudan. The Sudanese government honed its counterinsurgency tactics during the civil war. Local militias backed by the military proved a successful formula which is now being used to subdue Darfur.

Unlike the civil war in which the Muslim north faced off against the Christian/Animist south, the current conflict pits Muslim against Muslim. This time, the government's talk of jihad has been replaced by race hatred against the black, Arabic-speaking Fur people.

Ryle writes:

Control of the peripheral regions of Sudan has come to depend on a strategy that combines administrative neglect with ethnic polarization and the clandestine, state-sponsored violence of the Janjawiid and other government-backed militias. The present government's indiscriminate use of this strategy—its deliberate disruption of the balance of enmity maintained between pastoralists and settled people—combines with the indiscriminate spread of weaponry to make great tracts of the region ungovernable. In the south and the west guns are now ubiquitous. "Kalash au bilash; kalash begib al kash," runs a catchphrase from Darfur, "You're trash without a Kalashnikov; get some cash with a Kalashnikov."

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