Blogger Sudanese Knight provides on-the-ground observations from the war-torn nation:
I had a meeting today with local community leaders, and half the people turned up with whips. This must be one of the few places in the world where turning up to a meeting with a whip gets you fearful respect from your peers – if you have a whip it probably means you have a horse or a camel. And if you have a horse or a camel it means you are powerful enough to hold onto it. Those people who used to have them got them stolen by the ‘nomads’, or rather, by the sub-sector of nomads who are known to many as janjaweed.
The janjaweed identity is quite fluid – you need to ask yourself who’s name-calling and why. Linguistically I am told it simply means ‘men on horseback’. Negative connotations are not new, however, as there have long been groups of such men who roamed around this wild west rustling other people’s cattle. Now, JJ or janjaweed has become a label which is used by the ‘non-Arabs’ (or ‘Africans’) to describe all the Arabs, nomads, and cattle-herders. For example, when my driver points at someone on a horse and says JJ (or “Juliet Juliet Whisky”, as he likes to call them) I have to ask myself which tribe my driver belongs to. I don’t actually know the answer, though I have a few ideas –he must be ‘African’, certainly. To make things more complicated, though most of the ‘Arabs’ are also nomads, moving their herds of cattle from place to place, not all of them are; some of them actually farm the land. And although most of the Africans are farmers, some of them also own cattle, and they move with their cattle while leaving their families at home in the villages. So, the binary Arab/African distinction doesn’t match the nomad/farmer distinction.
Meanwhile, the political reality in the country remains dire (and the international reaction shamefully inadequate.)