Making Connections


Loosely translated as "evil horsemen", the Janjaweed is an Arab militia that has carried out the campaign against the people of Darfur. Although it is described as an Arab militia, the term does not necessarily describe all Arabs. Not all Arabs in the region are fighting on behalf of the Janjaweed; some are fighting with the rebels. Likewise, there are non-Arabs who support the Janjaweed. It has been said that these forces are government backed, but the government denies this connection, despite the fact that they clearly called on Arab tribes who were most likely connected to the Janjaweed, to assist in the fight against rebels in 2003. Local and central government officials played a key role in recruiting and organizing militia members, some of whom were outlaws and convicted felons. Victims have said that the Janjaweed is acting on behalf of the government, and many of them do not see the difference between the Janjaweed, the army, and police.

Popular Defense Force (PDF)

The PDF is the militia of the government. Victims have described their attackers as Janjaweed, and as wearing the same uniform, carrying the same weapons, and having the same deployment of the PDF. Victims have used the word “Janjaweed” to describe men who led attacks on villages and killed civilians. These men were later confirmed as members of the Popular Defense Force, the militia of the government, demonstrating further the apparent connection between the government and the Janjaweed.

The Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A)

The SLM/A is the largest rebel group in Darfur. It is mainly composed of Zaghawa, Fur, and Masalit (who are considered black Africans), as well as some Arab tribes. Originally called the Darfur Liberation Movement, the SLM/A called for a united democratic Sudan with a separation of state and religion. They aim to solve the fundamental problems of the country and restructure the government on a basis of equality and decentralization of power. The Movement has said that it seeks to equally distribute the country's wealth and political power.

Their cause is directed against the Khartoum government. It has claimed that post-independence government has pursued a policy of marginalization, racial discrimination, exploitation, and divisiveness, and this has disrupted the peaceful coexistence between African and Arab communities.

The SLM/A is divided into two parts: the political arm ("movement") and the military arm ("army"). The non-military chair is Abdel Wahid Mohamed al Nur and the main military leader and Secretary General is Minnie Arkawi Minawi. Little is known about the movement's internal structure. It has obtained weapons from looting government installations such as police stations and army barracks, and it may have foreign support. There are certain areas that are said to be under SLM/A control but this is not known for sure because of the group's operation as a mobile guerilla force.


Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)

The Justice and Equality Movement is also a Darfur-based rebel group that emerged in 2001. The movement formed part of the armed rebellion against the government-launched attack in early 2003. It is usually difficult to distinguish the JEM from the SLM/A, but it has been reported that members of JEM wear yellow turbans. The SLM/A has a larger military than the JEM, but the JEM appears to be more political.

JEM aims to show that there is an imbalance in terms of economic and social development in Darfur and other regions in the Sudan. Their manifesto, the “Black Book,” details the way in which the Sudan's post-independence administrations have been dominated by three tribes from the Nile valley, north of Khartoum. These tribes have held at least half of cabinet positions in the government since 1956, including the current president, General Omar Hassan El-Bashir. According to the Black Book, these three tribes are completely unrepresentative of the people of the Sudan, noting that they only represent five percent of the population. The north of the country is influential in the government as well as in the military hierarchy. These leaders have tried to impose a uniform Arab and Islamic culture on the Sudan. This imposition is meant to appeal to marginalized Sudanese, and based on this information, the JEM is fighting against the marginalization and for political change. There is not very much information available about the size and location for the JEM, but it is known that most of its members seem to belong to the Zaghawa tribes. Most JEM activity has been reported in the northern parts of West Darfur.

Many victims have also alleged that the Sudanese government is at least partly responsible for the attacks on Darfurians. The government has admitted to mobilizing "self-defense militias" in response to the 2003 rebellion, but it denies links to the Janjaweed. The government has also denied the accusation that it is attempting to "cleanse" the region of black Africans. Yet it is difficult to believe this claim when numerous refugees have stated that after air raids by government aircraft, the Janjaweed has ridden into the villages, slaughtering men, raping women, and stealing whatever they could find. Women reported being kidnapped and held for more than a week as sex slaves before being released.