Darfur Arab Tribes Could Tip Scales In War-torn Sudan

Sudanese refugees gather as "Doctors Without Borders" teams provide assistance to war-wounded individuals from West Darfur, Sudan, at Adre Hospital in Chad (Reuters).
Sudanese refugees gather as "Doctors Without Borders" teams provide assistance to war-wounded individuals from West Darfur, Sudan, at Adre Hospital in Chad (Reuters).
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Darfur Arab Tribes Could Tip Scales In War-torn Sudan

Sudanese refugees gather as "Doctors Without Borders" teams provide assistance to war-wounded individuals from West Darfur, Sudan, at Adre Hospital in Chad (Reuters).
Sudanese refugees gather as "Doctors Without Borders" teams provide assistance to war-wounded individuals from West Darfur, Sudan, at Adre Hospital in Chad (Reuters).

A dozen Arab tribal leaders from Sudan's western region of Darfur have pledged allegiance to paramilitaries at war with the army -- a move analysts warn could tip the scales in the months-long conflict.

The war between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, has wreaked havoc on Darfur, where experts fear a widening ethnic divide could spell more violence.

In a video released Monday, leaders from seven of South Darfur state's main tribes urged their members to desert the army and fight instead for the rivalling RSF.

"This announcement will have a massive impact" on the war in Sudan, which has killed nearly 3,000 people, said veteran local journalist Abdelmoneim Madibo.

"Like in El Geneina, it will divide South Darfur between Arabs and non-Arabs," he told AFP, referring to the West Darfur capital which has been the scene of major bloodshed and ethnically targeted attacks.

The RSF paramilitary group traces its origins to the Janjaweed -- feared Arab militiamen who committed widespread atrocities against non-Arab ethnic minorities in Darfur starting in 2003.

Many fear a repeat of history in the latest war, with residents and the United Nations reporting civilians being targeted and killed for their ethnicity by the RSF and allied militiamen.

Both sides have long courted young men in Darfur, which is home to a quarter of Sudan's population.

But experts point out that while the war has already taken on an ethnic dimension in the region, it has yet to impact the makeup of the forces, which are comprised of both Arab and non-Arab groups.

The army's second-in-command in both Nyala and neighbouring East Darfur are generals from the Arab Misseriya tribe. Meanwhile, the armed forces count several officers from the Rizeigat tribe -- Daglo's own -- among their ranks.

The leaders of both tribes appeared in Monday's video, rallying support for the RSF.

There has yet to be an exodus from the army's ranks. However, analysts fear the tribal push could bring about further ethnic stratification.

Darfur specialist Adam Mahdi said the announcement carries tremendous weight, saying the tribal leaders represent "the real government" in the region and without them, "the army holds no respect or legitimacy".

The point of Monday's video, he told AFP, was to draw a line in the sand, cut off army recruitment and "clearly state the allegiance" of these tribes to the RSF.

The army could find itself facing a broad united front "pushing it out of South Darfur, where most of its bases have fallen," Mahdi told AFP.

The temptation could be "to arm other tribes and launch a proxy war," he added.

A military source dismissed the call to arms as "a media stunt" by tribal leaders "out for their own interests", speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

For the moment, he said, those interests converge with those of Daglo -- who is "trying to prove he has tribes' support".

But in both southern and eastern Darfur, where Arab tribes are the majority, local fighters have joined the fray on the RSF's side, according to several residents.

Adam Issa Bishara, a member of the Rizeigat tribe, told AFP he is preparing to go and fight for the RSF in Khartoum.

"They're our cousins, we can't abandon them," he said.

The RSF have not announced how many of their forces have been killed under near-daily air strikes from the armed forces in Khartoum.

Mere hours after Monday's video appeared online, witnesses in a West Darfur town reported an attack "by armed men from Arab tribes supported by the RSF".

Activists in West Darfur have accused the RSF of "executing" civilians for being part of the Massalit tribe, one of the major non-Arab ethnic groups in the region,

Rights defenders, tribal leaders and international groups have condemned the assassinations of Massalit officials in the West Darfur capital of El Geneina, which has seen some of the worst fighting in the current war.

Observers say the center of fighting in Darfur -- a region the size of France -- is shifting to Nyala, the capital of South Darfur and Sudan's second-largest city.



Has the West Succeeded in Containing Houthi Red Sea Attacks?

This handout photo released by the US Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) shows US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft of the Carrier Strike Group 2 (CSG2), deployed to support maritime security in the Middle East region, flying over the Red Sea on June 11, 2024. (US Navy/AFP)
This handout photo released by the US Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) shows US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft of the Carrier Strike Group 2 (CSG2), deployed to support maritime security in the Middle East region, flying over the Red Sea on June 11, 2024. (US Navy/AFP)
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Has the West Succeeded in Containing Houthi Red Sea Attacks?

This handout photo released by the US Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) shows US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft of the Carrier Strike Group 2 (CSG2), deployed to support maritime security in the Middle East region, flying over the Red Sea on June 11, 2024. (US Navy/AFP)
This handout photo released by the US Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) shows US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft of the Carrier Strike Group 2 (CSG2), deployed to support maritime security in the Middle East region, flying over the Red Sea on June 11, 2024. (US Navy/AFP)

The US and western powers appear “incapable” of containing the attacks by the Houthis in Yemen against commercial ships in the Red Sea eight months after the Iran-backed militias started launching their operations.

The Houthis have been carrying out drone and missile strikes on shipping lanes since November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in Israel's war in Gaza.

The US, UK and European powers have since dispatched missions to the region to counter these attacks with apparent little success as the Houthis have upped their operations, with their strikes even reaching the Mediterranean.

Dr. Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen's Information Ministry, said the West still wrongly believes that the Houthis can be “rehabilitated” and employed to combat terrorism.

US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking said in April that a military solution was not possible to resolve the problem in Yemen.

Ghallab added that the US, West and even China have “all failed” in containing the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea and their threats to international navigation.

“The Houthis are a suicideal phenomenon that is more dangerous than ISIS, the Taliban and al-Qaeda. These groups did not threaten international trade the way the Houthis are doing now. In spite of this, the West is still incapable of taking firm decisions,” he went on to say.

The Houthis are labeled as “reckless”, not “terrorist”, when they violate the interests of the Yemeni people and the entire world, he lamented.

“The Americans have a blind spot in handling the Yemeni file. They are still following Obama’s approach and favoring Iran’s agents in the region,” Ghallab stressed.

The Americans and UK have carried out around 530 strikes against the Houthis since January, leaving 58 of their members dead and 86 injured, according to the militias.

The Houthi attacks have so far hit 27 ships, sinking two.

Ghallab wondered why western powers have yet to strike the Houthi command and control centers. The US is only targeting command and control centers from where the rockets are being fired, but they have yet to attack critical Houthi locations.

Have the western powers struck a deal with the Houthis as part of a plan to legitimize them in Yemen and turn them into a partner with all national powers? he asked.

He dismissed the possibility, stressing that the Houthis are extorting the Arab coalition, legitimate Yemeni government and international community.

Moreover, he warned that the world is facing in the Houthis “an organized and professional terrorist” group, meanwhile, “no one is prepared to support the legitimate powers in Yemen to end the Iran-made crime in the country.”

“The world remains blind when it comes to Yemen. Yes, the Houthis may be claiming victories now, but, at the end of the day, they will be defeated,” he remarked.

Asked about the best way to confront the Houthis, he replied: “The answer may be impossible, but it is simple. We have a real force on the ground in Yemen, not just in regions held by the legitimate government, but in Hodeidah, Saada and Sanaa. Everyone there is looking for salvation from the Houthis.”

“Are foreign powers prepared to support the real forces so that a Yemeni state can be formed?” he wondered, while noting that the West “is opposed to the idea of freedom and revolution in Yemen.”

“This is a western problem, not a Russian or Chinese one. This isn’t a conspiracy,” he went on to say. “Rather, the West is strategically blind to the situation.”