Darfur People: Too Black for the Arab-Islamic Project of Sudan

Abdullahi Osman El-Tom, Ph.D

Email: Abdhullahi.Eltom@Nuim.ie



“Any village you pass through you must burn.  That way, when the villagers come back, they will have a surprise waiting for them” (An Antanov pilot ordering a ground commander of a government army battalion in Darfur, Sudan; US Senator John McCain 2004).


“An Antanov pilot over Darfur reports to his Khartoum commander: There is nothing under me except grass cottages, Sir.”

“I order you to bomb them and expel their religion (tallay deenhum; render them unbelievers)”the commander orders back”.



Since its Independence in 1956, Sudan has been dominated by three ethnic groups from the Northern Region of Sudan which constitutes no more than 5% of the population of the state.  Using the state machinery, a tripartite coalition of these ethnic groups has promoted a policy of Arab Islamism that ensures a near-total control over wealth and power in the country.  The minority power is further enhanced by monopoly over modernity and modernization that was once a preserve of the colonial elite.  This monopoly has been maintained at a huge cost, resulting in poverty, disease, famine and regional uprisings including the current one in Darfur

Key words: Darfur, Janjaweed, ethnicity, SLA, SLMA, JEM, Fur, Zaghawa, Masaaleit


Author’s Testimony:

The eminent Sudanese scholar Francis Deng once said; “what divides us is what we don’t talk about” What we don’t talk about is in effect a taboo that has stifled debate and prevented true discussion among past and current Sudanese scholars.  This situation has made it impossible to debate certain issues whose examination is crucial to solving the most obstinate of Sudan’s persistent problems.


Well, in some way, that taboo has long been broken.  A milestone in its destruction was the courageous publication of the Black Book of Sudan. With 80,000 dead, 2m displaced in Darfur (November 04), and the numbers are expected to rise, the Darfuris are left with no time for niceties, and certainly not for taboos.  As Martin Luther King expressed, an abscess can only be cured if its ugly pus is fully exposed to the air.  Let that be the mission of this article.


Before we proceed any further, let me define where I stand with regard to the current crisis in Darfur.  From the reader’s perspective, discerning the author’s label is crucial to buying into the goods.  As a matter of principle and like many others the world over, I take the view that war is neither an ideal nor an effective way of conflict resolution, particularly if the conflict is primarily political in nature, such as the current problem in Darfur. As a matter of fact, most of us, from and in Darfur have never been party to the decision to raise arms against the government of Khartoum.  Despite, many Dafuris, including government supporters concur with the grievances and the objectives of Darfur rebels but do not share raising arms to pursue these objectives.  


However, once the armed struggle started, most Darfuris found themselves with little choice but to take a stand and only one stand.  Let us, Darfuris, and particularly those who are deemed too African for Sudan, face it; we simply cannot afford to let the armed movement fail.  Fortunately, the realisation of the objectives of Darfur Movement needs not be entirely achieved through armed struggle.  It is not too late to lay down arms and continue the struggle through peaceful negotiations of the problem.



Darfur Problem:

Scholars working on the current Darfur crisis have often looked inside the Region in search of its causes.  Not surprisingly, this approach reduces discussion of the problem to localized indices like drought, environmental degradation, conflicts over local resources and tribalism (see below).  This paper departs from this approach for two reasons.  Firstly, Darfur is not an isolated region.  It is part and parcel of a national structure and which the policies of Khartoum governments have played a great part.  Secondly, Darfur is not in any way unique in its problems.  Its plight is shared by other regions in Sudan and with which it is intricately connected.  Darfur should be seen as an indivisible part of a defective whole that is bedevilled by the hegemony of a favoured tranche over the rest of Sudan. To this I turn now.


Darfur, Land and People:

Darfur, the size of France and covering an area of 160,000 square miles, lies between 22 and 27 Longitude East and 10 and 16 Latitude North. It has a population of 6 million, which constitutes roughly a fifth of Sudan’s current population.  Darfur is inhabited by numerous ethnic groups that are all Muslims.  The majority of Darfur’s population is now classified as Black African, some retaining their original African languages but using Arabic as a lingua franca.  Others have long lost their indigenous languages and have been speaking Arabic, as their mother tongue, for centuries.  Major ethnic groups in Darfur on the so-called Black African side are the Fur, the Masaaliet, the Zaghawa the Salaamat, the Meidobe and the Berti.  On the Arab side are the Baggara, the Rizaigat, the Zayadia, the Maalia and the Beni Halba.  It must be noted that this list consists of only a handful of ethnic groups in Darfur and that division between one group and another is fluid, ideological and subject to continuous change. 


The population of Darfur is categorised in different ways, each time according to the purpose at hand.  Sometimes, the division is based on language whereby you have Arabic speakers versus non-Arabic speakers.  Equally you have distinctions based on mode of livelihood whereby you have pastoralists, sedentary farmers and urban dwellers.  Yet, another division stresses the extent of ideological claim to Arab identity or culture.  A far less useful way is to use ethnic boundary as a marker between one group and another like the Fur, the Zaghawa, the Massalit, ..etc (see Ibrahim 2004 and 1984, Ahmed and Harir 1982, O’Fahay 1980, Abdul Jalil 1984 and Sulaiman 1997).


The current crisis has changed all previous population categorisations.  It precipitated a new division that operates as an ideology that is consciously enacted on the ground as an arbiter of alliance among various ethnic groups.  Darfur can now be primarily divided into two broad categories, Arabs, mostly but not all nomads, who have a strong claim to Arab culture and ancestry and Black Africans (Zurga) who regard themselves as essentially non-Arab and African in origin.  Surprisingly, many ethnic groups in the latter category speak Arabic as their mother tongue and have, at least until a few years ago, courted both Arab ancestry and culture.   For the latter category, Africanism has finally superseded language, Islam and the influence of Arab culture as a determining factor of identity.  For them, Africanism connotes both historic belonging to the land and pride in their darker colour but above all distinctiveness from their new Arab opponents.  



Information on Darfur’s history is still scant and hard to come by.  Notable exceptions are the writings of O’Fahay who stood as a pillar among the few who toiled hard to unveil the history of Darfur (O’Fahey 1969 and 1980; also Theobold 1956). From the 14th century right through to the 19th century, Darfur was dominated by three Kingdoms, the Dajo between the 13th to the 16th century, the Tunjur who ruled Jebel Mara until the 17th century and the Keira Dynasty which was only partially defeated by the Turks in 1874.   Hence Darfur was, to a great degree, a separate sultanate until it was annexed to current Sudan by the British in 1916.  With the exception of a brief period of its history (1887-1898), Darfur stood as separate kingdom whose borders encroached into Chad but occasionally moved east deep into the current Region of Kordofan.  (see also Ibrahim 2004). 


The paucity of knowledge of Darfur’s history is not accidental.  Rather it is a logical outcome of the orchestrated state campaign to obliterate the history of non-Northern Sudanese.  The success of this campaign is so spectacular that many of the target populations have accepted their banishment from history.  In official Sudanese discourse, Darfur has always presented as a Region of no history in line with other marginalized areas in the Sudan.  As a child growing up in Darfur, I was taught to look beyond the Red Sea and explore my history as part of the Arab peninsula and its glorious Arab Islamic Empire.  When I was a young boy at Alfashir secondary school, our four classrooms were named after the famous four Islamic Khalifas. i.e. Successors of the Prophet Mohammed (Abu Bakr, Omer, Othman and Ali).


When Arab-Islmic history gives way, it is replaced by symbols from northern Sudan and rarely by those from the marginalized areas in the country.  The hostels in both the intermediate and secondary schools that I attended bore the names of Sudanese historical figures like Tihraqa,  Nijoomi, Abu Likailik and Dinar; the last being the only Darfuri who was occasionally honoured by this deliberate reinvention of history. 


The onslaught on Darfur history was so overwhelming that the local people too participated in it.  The blatancy of this project to clear history of non-Arab elements was so much exemplified by an order of a then fanatic Minister of Culture and Information (1980s) to decree that all pre-Islamic symbols in the National Museum in Khartoum be removed and replaced by artefacts that reflected Islamic culture and history.  Such a vision of history has now become evident among the marginalised, particularly in Darfur.  My own District town of Umkeddada in North Darfur is now divided into four residential quarters officially known as: Muzdalifa, Safa, Taqwa and Al-Slam.  Two of these names refer to pilgrimage spots in Saudi Arabia and the third (Taqwa) can simply be translated as –Islamic- “piety”.  Only one of the four chosen names (Alsalam) refers to a general human virtue but that too equally resonates with Islamic philosophy, teaching and thought.  After all, the word Salam is a derivative of the term “Aslama ” (Became a Muslim), and is central to Islamic greeting formulae and is also used in Islamic prayers.  


The evolution of nations is a long and arduous process that cannot be pinned down to a definite date in its history.  Sudan as a nation is no exception and its birth cannot be referenced to a single date. Nonetheless there are certain landmarks in its history and I will take the liberty of starting from just over a century ago. The Mahdist state in Sudan, 1885-1898 was a land mark in the formation of the present official Sudanese national identity but only if we leapfrog history and omit the golden era of Amara Dunqus, the king of the first Black Sultanate in central Sudan.    The Mahdits era is important not only due to its ability to bring together a substantial territory of the current Sudan under one rule, but because it was the last indigenous leadership that colonialism used as basis for modern Sudan. The cleavage of that Mahdist state is central to our plight today.  So much energy, historisim, national and western scholastic endeavour have reduced that cleavage to simple religious differences.  Hence you have northern Muslims versus Christian cum animist south.  But the Mahdist state reflected the realities of Sudan differently and this image might be a better base for analysing current Sudan


In the Mahdist reign, the state witnessed intense struggle between two main groups, the Ashraf (honourable descendents of Prophet Mohammad) who identified with the Mahdi and the Gharraba (Westerners of Darfur and Kordofan) who sided with Alkhalifa Abdullahi.   In some ways, the seeds of what was to become the nucleus of Sudanese identity were sown.  The Ashraf, were to be staged as the core of that identity as against the Gharraba who occupied a position of inferiority in the new mould.  Although the Mahdist movement was instigated by the ills of the Turkish rule (1881-1885) which included slavery, the abolition of slavery was not central to Mahdist policies.  In the Mahdist policies, slavery was tolerated if not encouraged by the state  because trade with the outside world came to a halt.  More damagingly, a slave mentality was augmented during the Mahdist regime through the institutionalisation of Arab hegemony during the reign of the Khalifa. Ironically, The Mahdi did little about slavery in the Sudan under the pretext that there was no clear statement regarding its abolition in the Koran.  At the same time, he channelled considerable energy into banning the use and sale of tobacco which did not feature in the Koran (Hashim 2004:12).


It is possible to argue that Khalifa Abdullahi had no choice as slavery was historically part and parcel of the Islamisation of the Sudan.  For example, the 14th century intrusion of Islam into north Sudan was signalled by the Baqt Treaty which was made conditional on the provision of slaves to the Islamic state in Egypt.  The Turkish invasion of the Sudan itself was driven by several motives, one of those was to procure slaves. Since then, black Sudanese have become associated with slaves for good.  It has to be conceded, however, that the association of blackness with slavery in the Arab mentality or in Arab mythology/ history dates back much earlier.


The Mahdi’s successor Khalifa Abdullahi found himself in an unenviable position.  To begin with, he was a Fulani adopted into the Baggara Arabs of western Sudan.  While the Baggara to this day profess their Arab ancestry, their intermixing with indigenous black Africans left them with a colour that betrayed their aspiration to be regarded as true Arabs.  Moreover, The Khalifa needed the support of many ethnic groups whom he lashed to Ombdurman to back him against the Riverain people who openly declared themselves as the rightful heirs of Almadhi who died a few months after the fall of Khartoum.  Not surprisingly, the Khalifa had to pursue a ruthless regime to remain in power.  His legendary show of force was displayed every week in Omdurman in what was at the time a residential park that bears the name Alarada, the Display Park to this day.  In his pursuit to maintain his power, The Khalifa committed several atrocities, the most infamous of which was his onslaught on Berber, a Riverain city which was accused of collaborating with the invaders. The Khalifa has never been forgiven for his excesses, although the Mahdi emerged almost untainted by all the ills of the Mahdist state.


The legacy of Almahdi is inseparable from the present Arab Islamic Project and the construction of Sudanese identity.  Almahdi’s credentials rested on two pillars.  Firstly, he was a theological scholar with a mission that afterwards earned him sainthood.  Secondly, he had “the right pedigree” connecting him directly with the Prophet Mohammed.  Beyond that, Almahdi’s capabilities were rather limited.  Or at least, he did not live to prove otherwiseWhile Almahdi dedicated his short victorious life to discharging his baraka (blessings), it was the Khalifa who oversaw the mundane work of laying the foundation of the new state, the present Sudan.  Despite his alleged Arab credentials, the Khalifa was constantly challenged by the so-called Asharaf .  Claiming to be related to Almahdi, the Asharaf saw themselves as a cut above others and legitimate heirs of Almahdi.  For them, to be dominated by westerners in the guise of the Khalifa and his fellow countrymen was, in short heretic.   Although the Khalifa persevered, he left behind a nation that was nowhere near the melting pot-state that was accommodative of diverse populations.  His own courtship of Arab ancestry allowed the slave mentality that equated blackness with slave to prevail.  His alienation of the northern ethnic groups paved the way for his demise as those groups became the vanguards of the invading Anglo-Egyptian armies.


As I mentioned before the Khalifa retained the perils of the Mahdist rule, while the Mahdi, being a northerner emerged as a natural hero worshipped to this day in Sudan’s history and mythology.  Why, not?  He was instrumental in entrenching the current Arab-Islamic monoculture.  His fellow northern merchants known as Jallaba (procurers of goods – slaves in the past) were encouraged to retain their slave-trade mentality in return for their financial support of the Mahdist revolution.


The Anglo-Egyptian rule of the Sudan afterwards (1898-1956) laid the foundation for modern Sudan but equally for many of its present ills. Western commanders of the Khalifa’s army retreated to form the last kingdom of Darfur under Sultan Ali Dinar.  For those ethnic groups north of Khartoum, the new era was that of unlimited opportunity.  Having lost faith in the Mahdist Regime and its western supporters, they flocked to welcome and fight for their new masters, the colonial invaders.  The colonial regime rewarded them by making them their assistants and later their heirs. 


In its pursuit of establishing a modern state with a modern civic society, the colonial regime also established regulated markets all over the country.  The Jallaba (merchants, procurers of goods) of the Riverain Sudan were to play an important role in this sphere.  Their early flight from excessive tax imposed by the Turkish Regime (1821-1885) led to their exodus from Riverain Sudan to the areas far away from the Nile (Beck 1997).  This dispersion proved worthwhile during and after the independence of the country.  Northern traders in non-northern cities of the Sudan continue to operate as conduits to redirect wealth into the same clans of northern Sudan.  These Jallabas monopolise both trade and parastatal agencies for their own enrichment.



The biggest benefit of the colonial regime to the hegemony of Riverain Sudan was yet to come.   Colonialism rested on the monopoly of modernity that underpinned the philosophy of all modern European Empires. Through this monopoly, colonial staff portrayed themselves as of superior standing in terms of rationality, science, order, discipline, etc.  Flip the coin and you get the attributes which were associated with the  natives.  They were to accept their position as superstitious, chaotic, unruly, tribalistic, irrational and barbaric (see Bernal 1997).  This construct of social relations ran throughout every colonial institution and was part and parcel of the colonial machinery of legitimacy.  With the demise of colonial rule, members of the Riverain Sudan simply slotted themselves into the social relations vacuum left by their colonial masters.  As colonial heirs, Riverain Sudanese assumed the mantel of being the vanguards of modernity in Sudan, complete with its colonial attributes.  They were to become the civilised, the rational, the scientific, the orderly, etc.  These attributes were central to Riverain Sudan’s claim to legitimacy to rule the country and are part of a discourse that remains alive to this day. Non-Northerners who were in the margins of power in the Sudan were portrayed as superstitious, primitive, tribalistic, etc, the same qualities that were once the preserve of all Sudanese nationals. 



Darfur at a crossroads:

Since the independence of Sudan in 1956, Sudan has been packaged to both insiders and outsiders as an outright Arab-Islamic country.  Throughout its post-independence life, the ruling class in the Sudan have pursued this project with impeccable rigour, impertinent and oblivious to its consequences.  This Arab-Islamic project proceeded unhindered and survived irrespective of the democratic, socialist, military or religious credentials of the government of the day.  What is even more perplexing is that had the ruling class been faithful to this project, Darfur would be facing fewer problems today.  At least, Darfur is 100% Muslim, a substantial proportion of the population have credible claim to “Arab ancestry” and all Black Darfuris use Arabic as a mother tongue or as a lingua franca.  There is however another agenda behind this project that has taken many marginal Sudanese like the Darfuris several decades to comprehend.  


The chosen Arab-Islamic identity is not only a symbolic tag.  Rather, it is a discourse through which the entire Sudan can be managed and ordered into specific social relations.  More lethal than that, it is so elastic and flexible that it can pave, so to speak, different routes that lead to the same station, a “dead end” one might say.  Hence, irrespective of the nature of the government that sits in Khartoum, the social relations seem to remain the same.  The marginalized retain their marginality and the ruling elite of the north prevail with their power and privileges intact (see below). 


Throughout the last four hundred years or so of Sudan’s history, those who had a successful claim to Arab-Islamic orientation have progressively increased their hold on power.  The last three decades  have been no exception.  These decades have rather been characterised by an acceleration of the same process.  Arab-Islamic ideology has come to besiege every Sudanese citizen, rich or poor, Arab or African, powerful or dispossessed, marginalized or otherwise.   


Islam was primarily spread by people of Arab culture.  In many ways, it is hard to disentangle Islam from Arab culture.  Wherever there are Muslims, the world over, one can observe substantial elements of Arab culture underpinning their Islam.  It is therefore not unreasonable to expect some confusion, if not outright interchangeability between the process of Islamisation and that of Arabisation.  The Sudan is certainly not unique in this regard.  From North Africa to India to the Far East, many Muslim ethnic groups also claim to be Arabs.  Nowhere is this phenomenon clearer than in the Sudan.  In the local vernacular, Arabisation and Islamisation are seen as synonymous and interchangeable.  For example, circumcision which is seen as Islamic in Sudan is referred equally as Arabisation (taareeb) or admittance into Sunna, i.e. the prophetic way of life (idkhalhum filsunna; see El;-Tom 1998).  This understanding of the dual aspects of being a Muslim has had wide ramifications on ethnicity and its transformation over decades if not centuries in the Sudan


At the present, the Nubians of Northern Sudan like the Danagla claim to be Arabs and so do the Bija of east Sudan and the Hawazma of Kordofan.  In Darfur, many of the current groups that are now classified as Africans and hence dispossessed of their acquired Arab connections also make similar claims but the situation is changing fast.  Some of these groups who profess Arab connections in Darfur still retain their African languages while others have lost theirs to Arabic in the last century or two.  Examples here are the Zaghawa, the Fur, the Berti, the Slamat and Meidobe, to mention but a few.  Claims of these groups to Arab ancestry are often accompanied by written pedigrees codifying their ancestral link with either Prophet Mohammed or with his close associates.  Sometimes, these pedigrees bear authentication stamps bought in Saudi Arabia.  Incredible at it may be, there are now commercial offices in Saudi Arabia trading on verification of these pedigrees.


As alluded to earlier, it was not the simple claim to Arab ancestry which elevated Riverain Sudan to its hegemonic position in the country.  Rather, it was their opportunistic monopolisation of modernity that was once the preserve of British colonial staff.  By appropriating modernity and becoming its overseers in the Sudan, they have succeeded in dislodging many other ethnic groups across the Sudan who can mobilise their claim to Arab ancestry.  Nomadic groups like the Kababish, the Ziyadiya, the Rashaida and the Zibaidiya can all profess Arab identity to an extent that cannot be matched by the current hegemonic groups in the country.  However, in the current discourse of power, they are classified as essentially backward and at odds with modernity. 



Why the Janjaweed:

The term Janjaweed which has now entered international lexicons is new to most Sudanese including the Darfuris.  The term literally means “hordes” but has also taken descriptive connotations and hence other translations like “unruly men on horses”, “Arab Militias”, “jinn on horses” or even “horsemen brandishing JIM 3 machine guns (Jawad = horse).  The term became popular in the mid 1980s following assaults of Arab militias in west Darfur.


The formation of the Janjaweed was neither spontaneous, nor accidental. Rather it was the result of planned actions by successive Khartoum governments. Ironically, if the Janjaweed were to look for a god-father in the apex of power in Kharoum, they can find that in the guise of none other than Sadiq Almahdi, reputed to have led the most flourishing democracy in post-independent Sudan (1986-1989).  It was Almadhi who signalled to the Arab groups that expanding their power base could go hand in hand with the national ideal of promoting Arab-Islamic culture; that they could massacre thousands and thousands in their search for new wealth and in an ethnic cleansing fashion without facing the law; and that their leaders could maintain respectability and associate freely with the ruling elite.


With the accession of John Garang to power in the south in 1983, the fortunes of the Sudanese army started to wane.  Having lost faith in successive Khartoum governments, the marginalized areas in the country were no longer providing fresh recruits to the army.  With extreme foolishness, the government turned to Arab groups to use as conduits in its war against the south.  The Arab groups obliged in return for provision of arms and protection from the law.  Thus in 1987, the government of Sadiq Almahdi armed the Baggara Arabs of south Kordofan to provide a buffer zone against the rebels in the south.  Enslavement, burning of villages and cattle grabbing became the order of the day.  Under protection of the state, the Arabs prospered at the expense of the innocent ethnic groups that were deemed to be affiliated to the SPLA (Sudanese People’s Liberation Army of the south).


But the power base of the Arabs did not stop at the gate of the Southern Region.  Darfur too saw orchestrated attacks on the Fur and the Masaleit in an organised fashion.  Africa Watch narrates how these attacks were preceded by a warning a day ahead by the Nomads to the Black farmers ordering them to vacate their villages

(Africa Watch 1990; quoted in Sulaiman 1994:26).


There can be no doubt that the atrocities of the Janjaweed proceeded with the blessings of Khartoum governments, past and present.  In 1987, Sadiq Almahdi met with what was called “the Arab Congregation”.  Their intention was - and still is clear to create “an Arab balance” in Darfur favourable for Khartoum and its policy of mono Arab-Islamic culture.  The Congregation is still active, with branches in most Darfur towns and has been vocal in several local elections even during Albashir’s government.   


The free reign given to the Arabs to pillage, massacre, rape and enslave those who were not fortunate enough to fit into the Khartoum racists’ project was chillingly demonstrated in Al-Diein city, of Darfur during Almahdi’s highly praised democracy.  The Baggara massacred their once neighbours and workers in a holocaust-style slaughter.  1,000 were murdered, some burnt alive near a police station and 1,000 survivors were taken slaves.  The courageous writers (Baldo and Ushari) who exposed this to the public were castigated by Khartoum scholars for defects in their research methodology.  The government of Sadiq Almahi, remained faithful to its Arab allies.  As Hashim put it in his breathtaking article: “If you want to kill out a case - in Sudan-, form a committee for it”; and that is what the Prime Minster did.  We are still waiting (Hashim  2004:29). And if Almahdi were to look for anything comforting in his response to that massacre, let me remind him of his government’s participation in the mass burial of the victims.  But that too was instigated by uncomfortable motives; for Al-Diein’s people including the killers had to be spared the sight of rotten, mutilated and charred bodies around them and the imminent outbreak of disease in the city.  


The collaboration of the Janjaweed has taken a much lethal turn in the life of the present government.  Their leaders are now promoted to the highest Government positions in Dafur ranging from heads of security to state governors.  The convergence of the Khartoum government with the Janjaweed is now so bizarre that one of their leaders is now among the government delegation to  the UN/African Union Peace Negotiations on  the Darfur Crisis.



What is obscene about the government’s use of the Arab militia is that it has demonstrated its failure from day one.  Yet, the Arab militia continue to be mobilised. In 1987, the Arab militia proved to be no match for the SPLA against whom they were launched in the first place.  Instead, they redirected their lethal weapons against the innocent and clearly unarmed civilians with stunning brutality.  They obliterated thousands of villages in the Abye area while carefully avoiding any contact with the SPLA.


The same chilling story is now repeated in Darfur.  Neither the militia, now called Janjaweed, nor the army can confront the so-called rebels in Darfur.  Rather, the Janjaweed war, backed by heavy aerial bombardment, is mainly waged against innocent civilians.






The Black Book, the Hegemony of the North and the Zapping of Darfur:

Anyone who is interested in unveiling Darfur’s grievances and hence the current rebellion doesn’t need to go very far.  The question of Darfur is well articulated in the well-known publication “The Black Book of Sudan: Imbalance of Wealth and Power in Sudan”.  This is a mysterious book which appeared in the streets of Khartoum in 2000.  At the time of its appearance, the Book was produced by an unknown group under the name, Seekers of Truth and Justice.  We now know that most of these authors come from the current Darfur group, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). 


The mystery of the Black Book was compounded by its impeccable method of distribution which was executed with military precision.  A once-off distribution of the book took place at Friday prayer in the capital to avoid government tight censorship.  Within days, the Book took on a life of its own.  With no copy- right attached, the Book continued circulating through spontaneous photocopying.  Most readers of the Black Book had not seen the original copy of the document.  Within days, the Book became a topic of conversation at every grass root venue in the Sudan.  While only 500 copies were printed by the authors, the free duplication of the Book led government Security to put the figure at 10,000. Part Two of the Black Book followed four years later (JEM 2004)




In a nutshell, the Book (Parts I and II) claims that Sudan has been controlled by the Northern Region throughout its independent history; that this control remained the same irrespective of the nature of the government of the day.  The Northern hegemony has prevailed through democratic, theocratic, socialist and military governments alike.  The domination of the North which is reckoned to constitute only five percent of Sudan’s population is so pervasive and has been maintained at huge cost to the nation.   This disparity of wealth and power has led to the current crisis in the country.  Let me now try and throw some light on this thesis.  The claim is supported by an impressive array of statistics showing the regional origins of all key office holders in the country,  Ministers, heads of Sudan Central Banks, Prime Ministers, Heads of Universities, etc.




To begin with, all the presidents / Prime Ministers of the Sudan  have come from the very five percent of the Northern Region.  Going through the ministerial positions dating from 1956 to 1989, a whopping 62% went to the North while only 11% went to the Western Region which includes both Darfur and Kordofan and which area holds 33% of Sudan’s population.  During the first decade of the reign of the present government (Albashir’s), the North controlled 60% of the national ministerial positions, while the share of Darfur with its 20% of Sudan’s population was around 11%.  The same pattern of government domination can also been seen in membership of the Revolutionary Command Council where the North had 53% representation while Darfur had just 13%.  50% of the Presidential Advisors also came from the North as opposed to 10% from Darfur (see Table 1). 


State Governors too did not escape this Northern hegemony.  During the same period, 40% of State Governors came from the North, while the share of Darfur remained dismal at 15% (see Table 1).  The statistics of power sharing if not power holding are boringly similar throughout leaving no hope for those whose fortunes destined them  to have been born outside the ethnic groups of the Northern Region.  The same pattern of high job allocation also occurs at other levels including the positions of Attorney Generals, Heads of Constitutional Courts, National Security, Police Force, Ambassadors, Bank Managers, the Geizra Scheme and the top Public and Semi State companies (Ibid).


This unusual disparity in high job allocation left a clear deficit in the developmental fortunes of non-Northern States.  This is apparent in various developmental indices revealed in the Black Book.  For example, Primary School enrolment is 88% for the North as opposed to 31% in Darfur.  The rate of Hospital beds per 100,000 is 151 in the Northern Region compared to 24.7 in Darfur.  Again there are 13.4 doctors per 100,000 in the Northern Region compared to 1.9 in Darfur (see Table 2, also Ibrahim 2004).  Using corroborative statistics from various sources including the World Bank, the IMF and the African Development Bank, Cobham has this to say about the conclusions of the Black Book:

“The Black Book of Sudan (Anonymous, 2004a and 2004b in English translation) sets out data showing the disproportionate access to power – since independence 1956 – of the 5% of the population from the Northern states. It further makes the claim that this has led to distorted distribution of government resources and therefore of development opportunities.  This paper has used the most recent reliable data, much of it provided by current government itself, to explore this claim.  The results offer overwhelming support” (Cobham 2005:9).




Regional Division of Key Offices in Sudan




Northern Region

Southern Region




As % of Sudan population





Presidents 1956-Date

All of Northern Origin





National Ministers 1989 to 2000





Members of Revolutionary Command Council 1989-Date





Presidential Advisors 1994-2001






State Governors excluding Southern States


All from the South



Attorney Generals 89-2000





Heads of Constitutional Court





Heads of National Internal Security





Heads of External National Security





Sudan Intelligence System





Heads of National Police Force





Sudanese Ambassadors (2000)





Sudan Consuls





Presidents of Universities (56)





Managers of Bank of Sudan






Mangers of Other Banks and Financial Houses






Managers of Gezira Scheme





Major Public Companies (52)











TABLE. 2: Human Development (adapted from Ibrahim 2004)

 Item/ Region

Northern Region

Southern Region



% of Sudan’s





Primary School





Hospitals per 100,000





Hospital beds per





Doctors per 100,000






The Tripartite Coalition of the Northern Region:

When the British colonial government left the Sudan in 1956, nationals had to be promoted to fill their vacated posts.  There were altogether 800 new civil service posts.  778 of these posts went to persons from the Northern Province while the remaining eight Provinces of the Sudan were left to haggle over the leftovers.  The divine right of the North to rule Sudan was thus inscribed in no uncertain terms. But there was a problem.  The divine right must be safeguarded against subsequent change of governments, some were democratic but most were not.  But there was no limit to the genius of our Northern leaders and here lies the story of the tripartite coalition of the north (Kayan Al-Shimal, hence KASH). The term KASH can loosely be translated as “the Northern Entity” referring to a body that was/is entrusted with promoting the interests of the Northern Region.  But don’t hold your breath!  KASH is open only for elite ethnic groups, just in case other Northerners delude themselves dreaming of being treated like proper Northerners.  There is no place in KASH for lowly “nomads” like the Manaseer and it is equally off bounds for those unfortunate enough to speak Nubian or other African languages as a mother tongue.  These non-Arabic languages are referred to as “rutanas” and that can simply be translated in the Arabic language as “gibberish, incomprehensible” or simply “bird’s talk”.  These rutanas are considered no good and the sooner they vanish from the Sudan, the better.  Not surprisingly, Sudanese who “still” have a rutana feel embarrassed to show it.  Speaking it is taken to be vulgar in the company of others and it is better to pretend not to have one at all. To have had one in the past is stigmatic enough, but to have one now is beyond forgiveness.  Among other things, it means immediate exclusion from the Arab-Islamic club and you lose your right to belong.  The Mahas of the Northern Region now deny that they ever had a rutana even though living memory proves otherwise (Hashim 2004).  Most of these rutana groups in the North have remained virtually unknown to the rest of the Sudan with whom they share the fate of the marginalized majority.  They are meant to remain non-existent, invisible except for nosy anthropologists and archaeologists.



So who are those members of the club?  Well, no prize for guessing for you only have to check the Presidents and the Prime Ministers of the Sudan since independence and you will work it out. If your memory cannot take you that far back, not to worry, just pay attention to Albashir and his close associates in Khartoum’s Presidential Palace.  KASH is an exclusive club, barely big enough for the three most formidable ethnic groups of the North.  These are the Jaaliyeen (President Albashir), the Shaigiya (Ex-President Sir Alkhatim, Current Deputy President Taha) and the Danagla (Ex-Prime Minster Almahdi, Ex-President Nimeiri, Ex-Deputy President of Alzibair; see Table 1). So boringly uniform that the Presidential Palace in Khartoum should be renamed, KASH Palace, Northern Entity Palace or simply register it for the Jaaliyeen, the Shaiygiya and the Danagla.  One does not need to have a sophisticated mind to conclude that this is no way to run a modern state. But this is precisely what has proved incomprehensible for our leaders to date.


But what is the function of KASH?  Well it is plain and simple,  irrespective of the nature of the government in Khartoum, democratic or otherwise, military or otherwise, fanatic or otherwise, socialist or otherwise, jobs must remain in the hands of the boys and wealth must flow into the Northern Region.  Other ethnic groups from the Northern Region can be co-opted from time to time, but rarely to key posts.  However, by virtue of sharing the North with the eminent members of KASH, they ultimately benefit in term of flow of resources into the Northern Region.  As far as the rest of the country is concerned, they are only used if they prove their worth to KASH and only until political uncertainty is brought under control and a more worthy Northerner is found.  Thus when Turabi who is of  northern origin was dislodged from power, a situation of extreme uncertainty arose in  Khartoum. To deprive Turabi of any support from Darfur, Albashir rushed Ustaz Tigani Sirag, a Darfuri to occupy his position.  Barely 3 weeks later, there was no need for a Darfuri in such a prominent position.  When the dust had finally settled and Turbai, the once formidable imam of the regime, turned out to be no more than a paper tiger, Ustaz Sirag was not even granted the honour of being notified about his dismissal.   The disappearance of his official car from in front of his office was enough to remind him of his place and teach him about the divine right of the North to rule the country, a right that he happily and humbly accepted for long. 


KASH became a formal organisation following the abortive coup of Hasan Hesain in 1976.  Although the attempt was orchestrated by Almahdi’s Party, it was led by a Darfuri born combatant.  That was too much for the North.  When the Northerners topple an elected government in Khartoum, it is often assumed that it must be for the good of the nation.  Not if the leaders of the coup happen to be among the marginalised people.  Thus, Hesain’s attempt at power was immediately dismissed as that of mercenaries.  The westerners who dared to challenge the northern hegemony were banished from the Sudan altogether.  For a brief period, Radio Omdurman described them as “the Black Tigers” (Alfuhoud al-soud).  The term was telling as it implied that other Sudanese nationals, and particularly the rightful rulers are/were something other than black.  The term Black Tigers was subsequently replaced by the term mercenaries, a label which still freely and unashamedly circulates in popular Sudanese imagery.  For days after the abortive coup, the media in Khartoum continued to broadcast interviews with captive coup leaders.  Their poor command of Khartoum colloquial Arabic was mocked and interpreted as evidence of their lack of belonging to Sudan and hence the term mercenaries. 


Before I leave this section, I must emphasise that not every member of the ethnic groups that form the tripartite alliance approves of the selfish and short-minded mission of KASH. Fortunately, these ethnic groups contain many citizens who are working hard and aspiring to build a just Sudan that is accommodative of all, irrespective of ethnic differences.


Khartoum, the “White” City and its Black Belt.

1983 was the first time that Darfur had a Darfuri governor.  The struggle to have just that was not easy.  It took a formidable uprising that brought the regional capital Alfashir to a stand still.  Finally, the dictator, Nimeiri had to concede and humiliatingly had to produce a Presidential Decree against his Constitution and withdraw his handpicked puppet nominee in favour of one acceptable to the people.  That was an important gain but nowhere enough to assuage the feelings of marginalisation in the Sudan.  Sadly, the media in Khartoum still thinks otherwise.  For example, Khartoum intellectuals still maintain that the South has long been ruled by southerners and must shut up and stop complaining.   By continuing the fight, the SPLA must harbour other ills.  The same “Home Rule” is now conceded to Darfur in the guise of federation or even regional autonomy.  As far as Khartoum the centre of power is concerned, it is to remain off bounds for southerners and westerners.


Despite the existence of the River Nile, the Northern Region remains most inhospitable for human habitation and with exceptionally low carrying capacity in comparison to many other Regions in the Sudan.  Traditionally, the Northern Region has always been an area of out-migration.  As the capital of a state and a seat of government dominated by Northerners, Khartoum became a favoured destination for immigrants from the Northern Region.  Their access to jobs has, over the years, remained exceptionally high and disproportionate to the size of their population. But Khartoum too has attracted others from all over the Sudan.  Lack of development in other regions of the Sudan made Khartoum, by default, attractive, if only to avail of the meagre services which it offered.  Despite this, and oblivious to history, the Northerners seem to have extended their right to rule and treat Khartoum as a northern city.  This view metamorphosed into a powerful ideology that makes it imperative on others like the Southerners and the Darfuris to forget about Khartoum and be content with ruling their own regions.  Dream on KASH!


In his recent work on the current Sudan crisis, Hashim maintains that the name Khartoum, traditionally pronounced as Khertum is of Dinka origin. Khartoum owes its name to the Dinka language and in which the words “ker tom” refer to “the river confluence”.  (Hashim 2004:41). It is to be noted that the term Khartoum has no Arabic origin. Earlier attempts to rewrite history by referring the term Khartoum to the Arabic origin “khurtoum”, meaning “elephant’s trunk” simply did not sell well in Sudanese schools.  Moreover, and just 250 years ago, the White Nile that extended north of Jabal Aulia on the outskirt of Khartoum was Shillukland (Ibid).


As for Omdorman, it owes its name to Darfur.  Traders from Darfur who were not well versed in Arabic referred to a female food seller as mother of Abdurahman (umduraman).  Recent history shows that until the Mahdi, 1885- 1898, the city of Omdorman was nothing but a small market and a few scattered fishing hamlets.


The Northern ownership of Khartoum is not a simple dream.  It is an ideology that successive governments have pursued with vigour.  Reminiscent of the now defunct South African Apartheid system, and in the name of tackling fighting and loitering, those who were deemed too dark for Khartoum were often rounded up by the army and the police to be sent back to their very areas which were impoverished by Khartoum government.  These raids were practised throughout the reign of all governments that have ruled the Sudan since the 1970s.  However this practice has become much harsher during the reign of Albashir’s government and particularly during the time in office of Deputy President Alzibair whose hatred of the Gharraba, not to mention the Southerners was legendary.  Hashim says those who were herded out did not understand the action and thought that their leaders at the top had lost their common sense (Hashim 2004:41).  But it gets even more bizarre and you could be forgiven for confusing Khartoum for an all white Afrikaner’s city.  The racist philosopher of the current regime, Hasan Mekki, portrayed Khartoum as a city besieged by black people.  For that he invented or elsewhere popularised the unfortunate term “Black Belt” (alhizam Alaswad), referring to those who live in the outskirts of Khartoum.  These are impoverished sectors of the capital and most but not all of them are populated from the Southern and Western Regions.  The eminent philosopher or more accurately eminent bigot, described those “black people” as descending to Khartoum filling it with flies during the day and spoiling its peace with night burglary.  The “Black Belt” is responsible for messing up the otherwise tranquil life of the - certainly not black - Khartoumese people.  So perplexing is the inability of members of KASH to accept the very plane fact that they too are black culminating in a deep inferiority complex.  This complex, described by Mukhtar as “identity crisis” is chillingly and no less embarrassingly revealed in the following words:


“In1990, a group of Northern Sudanese in Birmingham in Britain convened a meeting to discuss how to fill in the Local Council’s Form, and especially the question about the social category.  They felt they did not fit in any of the categories that include, among others, White, Afro-Caribbean, Asian, Black African, and others.  It was clear to them to tick on “Others”, but what was not clear was whether to specify as “Sudanese, Sudanese Arab or just Arab”.  There was a heated discussion before they finally settled on “Sudanese Arab”.  When the question why not to tick on the category of Black African was raised, the immediate response was that, “but we are not blacks” (Mukhtar 2004:6).


Well, Khartoum certainly belongs to the Northern Region.  But in as much as it does, it also belongs to other Sudanese irrespective of their colour shade, Region or religion.  Ironically speaking, the common denominator of those described as black here is neither colour nor, religion or even Regional origin.  It is poverty that is consequential to their marginalisation. 



The Road to War in Darfur:

It is legitimate to question the wisdom of taking arms against the government of Khartoum and to assume that a peaceful way of addressing the problem would have been better.  One thing is however sure in the case of Darfur.  Arms were raised only after failure of Khartoum to listen to the voice of peace and which was raised on numerous occasions by Darfuri leaders.

Callous dictators facing catastrophe often hide behind ignorance blaming their advisers for not conveying to them the extent of imminent disasters until it is too late.

With their strong control of the media , dictators always run the risk of forfeiting the use of, so to speak, “early warning systems” that could make them act in timely fashion.  Well, Albashir and his predecessors simply do not have the luxury of hiding behind ignorance.  Despite his oppressive control over the media, Albashir’s government knowingly sat and watched Darfur progressing towards war. Instead of extinguishing the fire, he and his government added more fuel to it.


I cannot possibly match Harir’s excellent documentation of the Janjaweed atrocities in Darfur and which prevailed long before the current armed “rebellion”.  Harir shows how many opportunities were lost by reducing a clearly political problem to its military underpinnings (see Harir 1992,1993).  Let us start the debate from a much later date in the history of Janjaweed atrocities and the government intransigence in Darfur.


January 1999 witnessed a colossal attack by the so-called Arabs on their African neighbours in West Darfur.  The assault was orchestrated and assisted by the army and led to the death of over 100 unarmed civilians, the burning of 100 villages and the displacement of thousands all for the sake of land and wealth.  The crisis led to a well publicised condemnation of all political parties including the opposition parties. Albashir himself shed few crocodile tears and sent his envoy to bring things under control.


Darfuri people too did not stand idly by and engaged with the Presidential Palace warning Albashir about the eminent disaster facing the country.  Their Memorandum of March 1999 was accompanied by 1300 signatures of Darfuri dignitaries, including key figures in Albashir’s government.  The Memorandum was very detailed and covered the cause of the problem as well as outlining ways towards its circumvention.  Had the government paid attention to that Memorandum and followed it to the letter, there would not be at war now in Darfur.  Instead, the government harassed those who signed the Memorandum and declared the crisis as nothing but a subversive action premeditated by enemies of the government (see excellent documentation of the crisis by Abu Ahmed 2004).


The Darfur Armed Movements:

There are currently two main armed movements operating in Darfur.  The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM) is the biggest.  It is an off-shoot of an earlier movement led by Bolad (see Harir 1993).  Bolad, a Darfuri himself was a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood of the 1970s and 1980s.  Following his defection from the Muslim Brotherhood, he resurfaced in Darfur leading an SPLA (of Garang) battalion in 1991.  His battalion was defeated and he was captured and later killed by his captives.


The second Darfur Movement operates under the title, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).  It operated as a clandestine movement throughout the 1990s but became known to most of us much later.  JEM is famous for the publication of the Black Book of Sudan referred to earlier although some of the numerous authors (54) are now members of the SLM/A.  JEM is often portrayed as an affiliate of Turabi’s Popular Party where many of its current leaders learned the ABC of politics.  This alleged connection with the Popular Party of Turabi has been over-milked by Albashir’s government in an attempt to galvanise the Sudanese public against JEM. 


Both, SPLM and JEM are broad organisations that accommodate many who are unified by broader objectives and a common enemy.  The objectives of both Movements boil down to establishing a Sudan that is free of ethnic, colour, cultural, religious or regional marginalisation. 


By late 1980s, the government of Khartoum was fighting for its survival following numerous defeats in the south.  It found new allies among the Janjaweed who were enticed by the promise of expanding their land and wealth base.  It was a lethal marriage.  By 2002, the indigenous Darfuris, hence referred as Zurga could not take it anymore.  A perfect environment for armed insurgence ensued. 


In February 2003, the Movements of Darfur began their assaults.  It was clear from the beginning that it was an armed rebellion and not simply armed robberies as the government wanted to maintain.  Darfuri people in and out of the government approached the Khartoum authorities to move immediately and accept that the rebellion was instigated by political grievances that cannot be reduced to military operations.  Khartoum listened and participated in the selection of a committee of 80 prominent people representing all stakeholders in Darfur.  It was a wise course of action and the Committee soon moved into a positive debate with the so-called new rebels of Darfur.  But Khartoum had another vision.  For many at the top echelons, the Movements were no more than amateur boys who could easily be crushed by the army.  In April 2003, Albahsir convened a Dual Summit with Dibbi, the President of Chad. The Summit worked out a plan to annihilate the armed movement and that was declared in no uncertain terms.  Days after the summit, Darfur witnessed its most intensive aerial bombardment.  The attack was brutal and indiscriminate and devoid of any strategy of targeting the rebels or sparing unarmed civilians.  The assault continued, non-stop for five days.  The message to the rebels was crystal clear, attack the government troops and we will bomb your innocent people.  This strategy still underlies Khartoum’s military operations in Darfur (See prelude).


The response of the rebels was impeccable and swift. Even before the government’s bombardment was over, “the amateur boys” hit back.  They attacked Alfashir, the capital of the Region and the seat of the army HQ, burning six airplanes, killing 32 army members and taking the Army Commander captive (later released unharmed).  The rebels entered the army HQ and emptied it of its weapons and vehicles.  Then they marched into the city centre for a rally and a speech before they withdrew with the loss of 20 men.  Documenting this incident, Abu Khalid narrates that rebels had no interest in harming civilians including top government officials.  They ordered many of them to leave their offices to their homes and that included the head of the Popular Defence Force, clearly a target given the circumstances (Abu Khalid 2004:16).


The successful attack on Alfashir was devastating for the government of Khartoum.   Their new enemy proved to be more than a bunch of disorganized adventurers.  As described by a top Sudanese Amy General, their attack combined elements of military surprise, accurate timing, clear targeting and swift entry and exit with minimum casualties, the dream of every military commander.


As for the rebels, the attack on Alfashir was a turning point in their Movement. It clearly catapulted them into a force that cannot be taken for granted. Their attempts to avoid civilian casualties won them much praise in the city.  It was clearly at odds with the normal behaviour of the Sudanese army, in peace or in combat.  Through their public rally, the rebels were able to present their case and counteract government propaganda.  Not surprisingly, the Movements have never since then run short of volunteers to go to the battlefield.


The predicament of Khartoum’s government is getting worse.  The marginalisation thesis has now reached every corner in the Sudan and is likely to lead to other similar rebellions.  At least two other new movements have already declared war against Khartoum in recent months and formed alliances with Darfur’s Movements.  These are the Shahama (Pride) Movement of the Mesaieria Arabs of Kordofan and the Maalia Arabs of Abkarinka in Darfur.  The armed rebels in the East “Red Lions” and numerous Arab groups have also signed a memorandum with the Darfur Movement.  With that, it is clear that Khartoum’s dilemma is now taking a different twist.  In Khartoum’s lexicon, these groups do not figure among the Zurga (Blacks) of Sudan.  Rather, they are Arabs and hence part of the pool that has traditionally allied itself with the Khartoum government.  Perhaps receiving Garang in Khartoum is after all not that bad.  It is a lesser evil.  At least Khartoum’s rulers can still count on the Islamic card that can be raised to keep “Christian” Garang at arm’s length and to rally others against him.  That cannot be done with the Gharraba (westerners). They may prove too close for comfort and a much harder nut to crack. 



Abu Ahmed, Khalid (2004) Dafur Watergate and the Politics of lies.  [http://www.sudanjem.com]


Abdul-Jalil, M. A. (1984) “The dynamics of ethnic identification in Northern Darfur”, in: M. O. Beshir (ed.) The Sudan ethnicity and national cohesionBayreuth: University of Bayreuth.


Africa Watch.  (1990) “The forgotten war in Darfur flares again.  A Report”.  London.


Ahmed, A. M. and Harir, S.  (1982) “Sudanese rural society: Its development and dynamism”. DSRC, University of Khartoum Press, (Arabic).


Beck, K. (1997)  “Tribesmen, townsmen and the struggle about a proper life-style in northern Kordofan”.  In: M. Kevane and E. Stiansen (ed.s).  Kordofan invaded: Peripheral incorporation and social transformation in Islamic Africa. Leiden: Brill.


Bernal, Victoria, (1997) “Colonial moral economy and the discipline of development: The Gezira Scheme and modern Sudan”, Cultural Anthropology.  12(4): 447-479.


Cobham, Alex,  (2005) “Causes of conflict in Sudan: Testing the Black Book”.  QEH Working Paper Series No. 121.  University of Oxford.


El-Tom, Abdullahi, (1998) “Female circumcision and ethnic identity in Sudan with special reference to the Berti of Darfur”, GeoJournal 46(2): 163-170. 


El-Tom, Abdullahi, (1998) “Islam and ethnic identity among the Berti of Darfur, Sudan”,  GeoJournal 46,(2): 155-162. 


El-Tom, Abdullahi, (2003) “The Black Book of Sudan: Imbalance of power and wealth in Sudan”. Journal of African International Affairs 1(2): 25-35.  Also in OSREA  (2002) and in Review of African Political Economy 2003, 30(97): 501-511 (Joint authorship with M.A.Salih).


Ibrahim, F. (2004) “Ideas on the background of the present conflict in Darfur: Discussion Paper”.   University of Bayreuth, Germany.


Ibrahim, F. (1984) “Ecological imbalance in the Republic of the Sudan: With special reference to desertification in Darfur”.  Paper presented to the University of Bayreuth. Germany.


Hashim, Mohammad Jalal  (2004) To be or not to be; Sudan at crossroads.  http://www.sudanjem.com


Harir, S. (1992) Militarization of the conflict, displacement and the legitimacy of the State: A case from Darfur, Western Sudan.  Paper presented top CDS, University of Bergen. Norway.


Harir, S. (1993) “Racism in Islamic discourse!  Retreating nationalism and upsurging ethnicity in Dar Fur, Sudan”,  Paper presented to CDS, University of Bergen, Norway.


JEM  (2004) The Black Book: Imbalance of Power of Wealth in Sudan, Part I and II. English Translation. UK: JEM.


Mukhtar, Al-Baqir Al-Afif. (2005) “The crisis of identity in Northern Sudan: a dilemma of a black people with a white culture”, in C. Fluehr-Lobban and K. Rhodes Race and identity in the Nile Valley: ancient and modern perspectives.  The Red Sea Press.


O’Fahey, R. S. (1969) “Religion and trade in the Keira Sultanate of Dar Fur”, in: Y. F. Hassan (ed.), Sudan in AfricaKhartoum: KUP.


O’Fahey, R. S. (1980) State and society in DarfurLondon: C. Hurst and Company.


Sulaiman, M. (1994) “War in Darfur or the Desert versus the oasis syndrome.  Sudan Programme Paper No. 3.  IFAA-UK.


Theobold, A. B. (1956) Ali Dinar: Last Sultan of Dar Fur 1898-1916London: Longman.