.

Factbook

Mapping environmental conflicts and cooperation

Factbook

0
Comments

Conflict between Masalit and Reizegat Abbala in Sudan

Type of conflict sub
Intensity 3
Region
Northern Africa
Time 1944 ‐ 1999
Countries Sudan
Resources Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Conflict Summary Violent clashes between the Masalit and Reizegat Abbala are one of many conflicts originating from diminishing land and water resources in the wake of...
Conflict between Masalit and Reizegat Abbala in Sudan
Violent clashes between the Masalit and Reizegat Abbala are one of many conflicts originating from diminishing land and water resources in the wake of spreading desertification, population growth and agricultural expansion in Darfur. In the present case, land conflicts were further exacerbated by biased government policies in favor of the “Arab” groups such as the Reizegat.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

Sudan has been affected by spreading desertification and severe droughts in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to diminished land and water resources.

Intermediary Mechanisms

Land and water scarcity forced the pastoralist Reizegat Abbala from northern Darfur to relocate further south, causing tensions over resources with sedentary Masalit farmers. Furthermore, the government of Sudan began exploiting Arab-African animosities in order to weaken communities, such as the “African” Masalit, suspected of supporting emerging rebel movements.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

Land conflicts between the two groups were further exacerbated by biased government policies in favour of “Arab” communities, such as the Reizegat. In 1998 and 1999, conflict over contested land between the Masalit and the Reizegat Abbala culminated and left more than 400 people dead.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversMore frequent/intense extreme weather events lead to decreased water availability.More frequent/intense extreme weather events reduce available land.Demographic changes increase pressures on available water resources.Demographic changes increase pressures on available land resources.Economic developments lead to changes in land use.Water scarcity undermines water-dependent livelihoods.Changes in land use reduce available/usable land.Land scarcity undermines the livelihoods of agricultural producers.Loss of livelihoods leads to migration.State elites strategically use livelihood insecurity for political advantage/power.Migration leads to conflicts between migrants and residents.Use of resource, livelihood, and health pressures for political advantage/power increases tensions between groups.An increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.More Frequent / Intense Extreme Weather EventsAn increase in the scarcity of clean water and/or an increased variability in water supply.Increased Water ScarcityReduced availability of/ access to land.Increased Land ScarcityChange in population density, age structure, or ethnic makeup.Demographic ChangeA broad concept to cover economic growth in general but also specific economic changes or changes of incentives.Economic DevelopmentA change in the usage of environmentally relevant land.Land Use ChangeA threat or destruction of livelihoods dependent on the availability of environmental resources / goods.Livelihood Insecurity(In)voluntary long and short-term movements of people within or across state boundaries.Displacements / MigrationUse of resource, livelihood, and health pressures for political advantage/power.PoliticisationNon-violent or violent tensions and conflicts between different societal groups.Grievances between Societal Groups
Context Factors
  • Water-stressed Area
  • Food Insecurity
  • History of Conflict
  • Insecure Land Tenure
  • Low Level of Economic Development
  • Political Marginalization
  • Power Differential
  • Weak Institutions
Conflict History

In 1998 and 1999, conflict over contested land between the African Masalit and the Arab Reizegat Abbala culminated and left more than 400 people dead. Resource competition between the two groups had characterized their relationship for decades. However, the clashes in the late 1990s were different from previous ones, as they included a high degree of violence, rape, killings, stripping of assets and systematic destruction of agricultural resources (UCDP, 2015).

Resource scarcity, migration and conflict
Spreading desertification and severe droughts in the 1970s and 1980s have forced pastoralist groups from northern Darfur, such as the Reizegat Abbala, to relocate further south. This has led to tensions over crop damages and access to water, as well as violent competition over land with southern farming communities such as the Masalit (de Waal, 2007Unruh & Abdul-Jalil, 2012; see also Droughts, migration and communal conflicts in Darfur). However, the scope and gravity of this conflict cannot be fully understood without acknowledging major institutional and political failures by the government of Sudan.

Institutional vacuum and competing land claims
The abolition of the Native Administration System by the government of Sudan in 1971 had crippled much of the functionality of the customary institutions that could have provided the basis for flexible resource sharing agreements between northern pastoralists and southern farmers. A situation further aggravated by the lack of providing adequate substitutes in statutory law. The resulting institutional vacuum could be exploited by northern groups such as the Reizegat Abbala to claim land customarily assigned to the Masalit, creating major tensions between these communities (see Unruh & Abdul-Jalil, 2012).

Ethnic polarisation and the role of the government of Sudan
Furthermore, the regional government supported land claims of northern communities with “Arab” identity at the expense of southern communities with “African” identity. In 1995 the State of West Darfur divided the land of the Masalit (“Dar Masalit”) among Masalit and northern pastoralists such as the Reizegat Abbala, encouraging the latter to start evicting Masalit from newly acquired territories and prompting the formation of Masalit self-defense militias (Bradbury et al., 2006).

Finally, the government of Sudan started arming and supporting northern pastoralist as part of a counter-insurgency strategy in Darfur. This strategy aimed at the exploitation of Arab-African animosities in order to weaken “African” communities such as the Masalit, which were suspected to support emerging rebel movements in Darfur and southern Sudan (Bradbury et al., 2006Takana, 2008Brosché, 2012; see also Civil war in Darfur). Taken together, these factors contributed to the violent escalation of land conflicts between Masalit and Reizegat Abbala in the late 1990. A heavy handed response by government forces in 1999 could briefly stop the violence. Yet, severe political discriminations experienced during the 1990s incited many Masalit to join other non-Arab groups in opposing the government in an open revolt in 2003.

Resolution Efforts

At the beginning of January in 1999, security forces were able to briefly bring the fighting under control, before it escalated again at the end of the month.

Government sponsored reconciliation
In mid-February, the Khartoum government sent the minister of Federal Relations, Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir, and Lieutenant-General Mohamed Ahmed al-Dabi, to the region to mediate and resolve the conflict. In early June, a government-hosted reconciliation meeting led to an accord between Masalit and Reizegat Abbala, ending the fighting and stipulating yearly meetings to organize the contentious issue of access to water and grazing resources (UCDP, 2015). The government also established special courts to punish those accused of instigating the violence in Dar Masalit. Fourteen were sentenced to death. However, some government sponsored reconciliation conferences would also become the scene of confrontations between Masalit and Arab groups, with the former bearing the brunt of the violence (Bradbury et al., 2006).

Persisting grievances and inter-group animosities
Despite the accord of 1999, thousands of Masalit refugees refused to return to their homes due to still present violence and fears of a renewed escalation of the conflict. Even though immediate fighting between Masalit and Reizegat Abbala could briefly be stopped in 1999, the conflict between the Masalit and Reizegat Abbala was one of the major factors leading up to the Masalit eventually joining forces with other non-Arab groups, such as the Fur and Zaghawa, in opposing the government in open revolt in 2003 (UCDP, 2015; see also Civil war in Darfur).

Intensities & Influences
conflict intensity scale
Intensities
International / Geopolitical Intensity
Human Suffering

Influences
Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Fatalities
400
Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation Regional
Mass Displacement Less than 100.000 and less than 10% of the country's population are displaced within the country.
Cross Border Mass Displacement No
Resources
Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Resolution Success
Reduction in Violence There was no reduction in violence.
Resolve of displacement problems Displacement continues to cause discontent and/or other problems.
Reduction in geographical scope There has been no reduction in geographical scope.
Increased capacity to address grievance in the future There is no increased capacity to address grievances in the future.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been mostly ignored.
Causal Attribution of Decrease in Conflict Intensity There has been no reduction in intensity
General opencollapse
Country Data in Comparison
ConflictNoData Created with Sketch.
Fault Lines Defining Conflict Parties
Purely Environmental | Cultural   ♦   Occupational   ♦   Economic   ♦   Urban / Rural   ♦   National / International conflict   ♦   Sub-national political


Actors
Participation Conflict Party     Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Masalit community
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Reizegar Abbala community
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Sudanese Government
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
State of West Darfur
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
3 Treaty/agreement A reconciliation meeting between the Masalit and the Reizegat Abbala was hosted by the government leading to an accord to end the fighting and stipulating yearly meetings to discuss the issues of access to water and grazing resources.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Character of the contested good Public good: No one can be excluded from use and the good is not depleted.
Structure of decision-making power / interdependence Symmetric: All parties can affect the environmental resource equally.
Broad conflict characterization Resource Capture is present.
Ecological marginalization is not present.
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse
×