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cc In response to Mahmood Mamdani's article

Mahmood Mamdani’s recent article

To suggest that 'Arabs never constituted a single racial group. Contemporary scholarship has shown that the Arab tribes of Sudan were not migrants from the Middle East but indigenous groups that became Arabs starting in the 18th century' is misleading. Regarding the people of Darfur, P.M. Holt and M.W. Daly, in their A History of the Sudan write that, 'The Arabization of the Northern Sudan resulted from the penetration of the region by tribes who had already migrated from Arabia to Upper Egypt… the Fur… [a]lthough surrounded by a flood of immigrant Arab tribes, … succeeded in establishing a dynastic Muslim state which was not finally extinguished until 1916.' In Darfur, as in other areas of Sudan, Arab and African cannot always be physically recognised. Most people are black, Arab or African. The difference is cultural and ethnic not racial, in much the same way as Jew and Arab, Pakistani and Indian, Protestant and Catholic in Ireland, and Japanese and Chinese are not visible differences. In Darfur both Arabs and Africans are overwhelmingly Muslims, but many Arabs regard the Africanist cultural influences in the Islam of the Africans as tainted. Furthermore, Africans have their own languages and do not have Arabic as a home-language or mother-tongue.

Much of the contestation is admittedly over resources. However, the use of rape, pillage, looting and scorched-earth policies to uproot the African ethnicities is now known to the whole world. The idea of lightening the colour of Africans through rape is common. Depopulated areas are then systematically resettled with Arab ethnicities, even non-Sudanese. The Sudan Tribune of 7 May 2008 reported that, 'There are around 120,000 of them who came from Niger to Wadi Saleh. This also occurred in north, west and south of Zalingi. They are building new villages for them in these areas. This is a serious matter. Khartoum clearly is continuing its policies of repopulating Darfur with tribes from other countries.' This is only the tip of the iceberg.

In the Wall Street Journal of 18 June 2008, Abdel Wahid al-Nur, leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), argued that, 'We must prevail to preserve the unity of Sudan. In a truly democratic and secular Sudan, neither the South, nor Darfur, nor any other region would be tempted to secede… We must prevail to stabilize the region and spread democracy. We must prevail to help Sudan return to its natural, legitimate geopolitical place – which is the African continent and not the Arab or Muslim world. At the same time, we must forge new alliances, no longer based upon race or religion, but upon shared values of freedom and democracy.' The sagacious course of action to right the wrongs wreaked on the people of Darfur is to give them back their dignity and a chance to shape and control their destiny. They must have regional autonomy and self-rule along the lines of the South and the Beja country. Most importantly the Arabisation of Africans must stop.

* Kwesi Kwaa Prah is the director of the Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society (CASAS) based in Cape Town, South Africa.
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