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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

SLA MAY BE KILLERS BUT DARFUR WAS ONCE AN EMPIRE

“Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the utmost exactness and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue.”

-Francis parkman

HISTORY IN THE NEWS: DEVOTED TO THE DEEP ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD.

BULLETIN. The African Union announced that it was fighters with the Darfur rebel group, the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) that are believed to have shot and killed two African Union peacekeepers and wounded a third in the Darfur region. Durfur has been fighting a war against Sudanese aggression for several years.

BULLET: When Darfurians turn the table and become the aggressors, we might recall that Darfur too, once had an empire.

IN THE NEWS TODAY. The shootings took place last Monday but it is particularly distressing to learn that Darfur’s SLA was responsible. The guerilla group, led by Joseph Mennawi, was one of two factions that originally signed the Darfur peace agreement with Sudan last May. The coalition of Darfur rebel groups that rejected the accord, the National Redemption Front, condemned the killings.

LOOKING BACK: The history of Darfur goes back at least 1,800 years when the region was ruled by the Daju kings. From the 17th to the 19th centuries the Muslim Keira Sultans of Darfur ruled over lands stretching eastward into Sudan, almost as far as the Nile. Indeed, the history of Sudan collides repeatedly with that of darfur. In the 19th century, Egypt and Sudan moved in on Darfur’s empire until it finally fell to British-backed Egypt in 1874. Over the following decade Britain and Egypt fought Sudan for control of the entire region. In 1916, with Egypt a full British colony, Darfur made one last rebellion against the British before being subjugated and made part of the British colony of Sudan. In 1954, Sudan became independent. With the arrival of repeated droughts since the 1960s, Darfur became involved in rivalry for land and water with nomadic Arab groups to the north The nomads have been supported by Sudan. In response, rebel secessionist guerilla groups like the SLA have sprung up in defense of Darfur. In the past few years, hundreds of thousand s of Darfurians have died.

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FROM PAST INTO PRESENT: The SLA may have disappointed those who have faith in Darfur’s peqaceful intentions. It would do well to remember , however, that Darfur has a historical memory of independence. Beneath the international struggle to bring peace and human rights to the area, there lies an ancient conflict between the Muslim farmers of Darfur who once had an empire- and the herding and slave-trading Arabs from Sudan and from the deserts to the north.

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