2020 Conflict Analysis Central Darfur, Sudan

Originally published



Intercommunal conflicts are one of the major elements of instability in Darfur. The Jebel Marra area of Golo is no exception and experiences intercommunal conflicts intermittently. Intercommunal conflicts are integral parts of a system of war shaped by multi-level factors at national, regional and local levels.

This report presents the findings of a baseline conflict analysis in Golo, Central Darfur that was commissioned by Danish Refugee Council Sudan in August 2020. The conflict analysis aimed to highlight the major drivers of intercommunal conflicts in Golo and the main actors who contribute to these conflicts negatively or positively. Developing recommendations for a conflict-sensitive presence for DRC in the area as well as for proposing activities for tackling the roots causes of these intercommunal conflicts was a main purpose for this baseline. The baseline objectives were achieved using a mix of qualitative methodologies engaging a wide range of stakeholders.

Conflict actors’ analysis

In analysing the intercommunal conflict actors, our analysis moved away from the broad generalisations about intercommunal conflicts in Darfur that employ ethnicity or livelihood lenses. Instead, communities were categorised into villages, inhabited mostly by sedentary communities and damrahs or nomads’ settlements inhabited by mobile pastoralists. The relationship between the villages and damrahs are not always shaped by antagonism. Guldo villages and Golo damrahs enjoy relatively good relationships, however, the relationship between Golo villages and Golo damrahs is disrupted. The disruption of the relationship between Golo villages and Golo damrahs resulted from a series of criminal incidents committed by individuals perceived as community members of one group against the other group. These crimes included animal theft, crop destruction or murdering of community members.

It is very important to note that the relationship between these communities is heavily influenced by the national level conflicts. These actors, whether on the government’s side or the rebels’ side are increasingly fragmented. The lack of a comprehensive peace agreement between the government and the Sudan Liberation Army- Abdulwhid (SLA-AW) plays a negative role in the relationship between the villages and the damrahs. However, the fragmentation within the government and SLA negatively affects the overall security of the area. This is particularly true given the documented crimes committed by military elements on both sides.

In Golo, various actors are involved in conflict resolution for different types of conflicts including those related to access to natural resources as well as other forms of disputes. The Native Administration’s structure of Ajaweed (customary mediators) is responsible for mediating settlements for natural resources-based conflicts. A local Peace and Reconciliation Committee (PRC) comprised of Native Administration leaders in all communities is responsible for tackling intercommunal disputes. These local structures have been successful in resolving many disputes in the area, but they are faced with different contextual and organisational challenges.

The humanitarian sector plays a vital role which is appreciated by all communities in responding to urgent needs of communities and in conflict resolution. There is a Peacebuilding Coordination Forum led by the Locality Commissioner and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and comprised of different humanitarian actors that was established to ensure a coordinated approach to peacebuilding interventions. Despite the role the sector plays, communities still face many gaps in health, water, education and food security.

Conflict causes analysis

The findings of the baseline conflict analysis indicate that the conflict between Golo villages and Golo damrahs is caused by grievances on both sides. The grievances are associated with security incidences or violations of institutions that organise access to natural resources. Crop damage; felling down of trees; and animal theft committed by damrahs’ pastoralists are the main grievances of Golo villages community members. Moreover, Golo villages blame attacks on farmers by armed militias associated with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on Golo damrahs. On the other hand, the grievances of Golo damrahs are fuelled by animal rustling crimes committed by the SLA-AW elements, whom they consider community members of Golo villages, that in many cases result in murdering or injuring of herders from the damrahs.

A proper understanding of the issues involved in the intercommunal conflict should acknowledge the historical grievances of the communities and how these grievances were incorporated into the wider system of conflict in the region. As other communities in Darfur, the communities in Golo have been marginalised by successive central governments. A lack of basic services and infrastructure as well as poor public institutions are at the heart of Darfur’s marginalisation. While many individuals in Golo villages opposed the neglect of the central government by supporting the rebellion, the Northern Rezeigat historical grievances of being landless and poorly served were manipulated by the central government in its counterinsurgency. This has resulted in a polarised relationship between the groups that opposed the government and those who allied with the government.

“There has always been competition between Jebel Marra communities, but it is now shaped by antagonism”, one participant to this study indicated. In discussing this tense relationship, there is a need to recognise the environmental, political, and contextual processes in play. Successive droughts and population growth has played a role in intensifying the conflict over natural resources and economic and political interests are associated with the triggers of the intercommunal conflict. Moreover, prevalence of small arms is one of the dynamics of the conflict in the region that leads to increased criminal activities and hinders the local conflict resolution mechanisms.

The baseline conflict analysis identified a wide range of negative consequences on the daily lives of Golo communities. Loss of community members was the highest cost the communities endured. Women and youth are severely affected by the communal conflicts because it has limited their livelihood opportunities and increased their economic hardships. The disrupted relationships between the villages and damrahs had an adverse impact on their rural livelihoods and reduced their resilience.

Peacebuilding architecture analysis

Locally driven and externally promoted peacebuilding interventions exist in Golo under five major themes, i.e. environmental, political, economic, social, and security. Local initiatives for cooperation over access to natural resources and environmental conservation activities are being implemented by a wide range of actors. These local initiatives are supported by communal and governmental institutions.

The transitional period in Sudan is heralded as the pathway for peace in the country. Sudan’s Transitional Government (STG) declared that their objective is to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with the SLA-AW. If a breakthrough in the negotiations between these two parties is made, that would have a positive trickle-down effect on the relationships between the villages and damrahs. The appointment of a new civilian government in Central Darfur is expected to contribute to stability in Golo and the whole state.

Livelihood interventions implemented by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) support the recovery of Golo’s population after long periods of displacement and instability. The economic recovery in some areas is built on exchange of services and goods facilitated by markets, with markets being an important institution for connecting different communities.

Attempts at promoting peaceful dialogue between different communities in Golo are led by the United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and local structures of the Native Administration. Moreover, there are examples of communal actions that bring communities from damrahs and villages to work on common goods. All these activities play a positive role in rebuilding the relationships between different communities.

Government military and police checkpoints as well as the ceasefire agreements between the government and SLA-AW improved the overall security situation in Golo.

A robust peacebuilding approach needs to address the proximate and structural causes of local conflicts. Accordingly, the report recommendations to focus on the following issues:

  1. DRC and its partners should concentrate their efforts on supporting the existing peacebuilding and conflict preventions structures instead of creating parallel ones. These structures need to be supported by capacity building and their efforts needs to be complemented with impactful development interventions. Moreover, more inclusion for women and youth in these structures is needed to ensure that their interests are not overlooked.

  2. Enhancing the social economic wellbeing of local households through promoting social services of health and education; supporting traditional livelihoods; building the entrepreneurship capacity of women and youth through skills development and finance; and investing in basic infrastructure.

  3. Setting clear advocacy goals around key structural causes of conflict including reaching a comprehensive peace agreement in Sudan that leaves no actor or community behind; implementing a security sector reform policy; protecting human rights; and promoting the rule of law.