Learn more about Janjaweed
The Janjaweed (Arabic: جنجويد, variously transliterated Janjawid, Janjawed, Jingaweit, Jinjaweed, Janjawiid, Janjiwid, Janjaweit, etc.) is a blanket term used to describe mostly armed gunmen in Darfur, western Sudan. Using the United Nations definition, the Janjaweed comprises fighters claiming Arab-speaking black African background, the core of which are from an Abbala (camel herder) background with significant recruitment from the Baggara (cattle herder) people. Since 2003 it has been one of the principal actors in the Darfur conflict, which has pitted the nomadic Arab-identifying Muslim Sudanese against the sedentary non-Arab Muslim Sudanese population of the region in a battle over resource and land allocation.
The name Janjaweed is often believed to mean something in a dialect of Western Sudan. Generically meaning ‘hordes’ in colloquial Arab, there is no evidence for etymological connection between Janjaweed and ‘jinn’ (spirit), ‘jim’ (‘G’ as in G3 rifle), or ‘jawad’ (horse). The Janjaweed are the successor to an earlier Arab tribal militia, the Murahilin (literally “nomads”), which had existed for many years beforehand.
The term is instead a derivative of the Persian word, jang, "war", and jangawee, "warrior." The term was adopted by the Mahdists in Sudan along with the idea of the Mahdi---a lingering tradition of the old Rustamid Ibadi dynasty of Tunisia who hailed from a Persian background. The Ismaili Shia Fatimids dynasty, who conquered the Rustamids, inherited the term and carried it to Egypt, thence Sudan. The Mahdists showed a strong Shia ideological imprint, although they were Sunnis in their belief. The term Janjaweed is an Arabicized version of Jangawee--, which stood for "faith warriors" among the old Shia communitees of North Africa in the medieval times.
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Government - Janjaweed
The Janjaweed first emerged in 1988 after Chadian President Hissène Habré, backed by France and the United States, defeated the Libyan army, thereby ending Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi’s territorial designs on Chad. Libya’s Chadian protégé, Acheickh Ibn Omer Saeed, retreated with his Arab militia forces to Darfur, where they were hosted by Sheikh Musa Hilal, the newly-elevated chief of the Mahamid Rizeigat Arabs of north Darfur. Hilal’s tribesmen had earlier smuggled Libyan weapons to Ibn Omer’s forces. A French-Chadian incursion destroyed Ibn Omer’s camp, but his weapons remained with his Mahamid hosts, along with an Arab supremacist ideology associated with the Libyan-sponsored ‘Arab Reunion’. The Janjaweed are primarily "Abbala" or camel-herders, although some "Baggara" or cattle herders joined their ranks in 2004.
Throughout the 1990s, the Janjaweed were an amalgam of Chadian and Darfurian "Arab" militia, tolerated by the Sudan Government, pursuing local agendas of controlling land. The majority of Darfur’s Arabs, the Baggara confederation, were and remain uninvolved in the war. In 1999-2000, faced with threats of insurgencies in Western and Northern Darfur, Khartoum’s security armed the Janjaweed forces. When the insurgency escalated in February 2003, spearheaded by the Sudan Liberation Movement, and the Justice and Equality Movement, the Sudanese Government responded by utilizing the Janjaweed as its main counter-insurgency force. Protracting the militia to attack and recover the rebel held areas of Darfur, the Janjaweed however conducted a scorched earth campaign of mass atrocity targeting civilians in the region of Darfur. A large number of world leaders and countries have declared the Janjaweed killings in Darfur to be genocide, since they have killed an estimated 100,000 civilians in the last three years. The U.S. State Department and others in 2004 named leading Janjaweed commanders including Musa Hilal as suspected genocide criminals. The UN Security Council called for the Janjaweed to be disarmed.
By early 2006, many Janjaweed had been absorbed into the Sudan Armed Forces including the Popular Defence Forces and Border Guards. Meanwhile, the Janjaweed expanded to include some Arab-speaking tribes in eastern Darfur, not historically associated with the original Janjaweed. Chadian "Arabs" were also increasingly active in seeking to reestablish a political base in Chad, as part of the Unified Forces for a Democratic Change (FUC) coalition.
Musa Hilal, who heads a small but powerful Darfurian "Arab" tribe , is suspected by the US State Department of being a leader of the Janjaweed BBC. The New Yorker quotes him: " I am a tribal leader. ... The government call to arms is carried out through the tribal leaders." He admits recruiting but denies being in the military chain of command, according to Human Rights Watch.
 External links
- Picture essay of the Janjaweed
- "Who Are the Janjaweed? A guide to the Sudanese militiamen" by Brendan I. Koerner, Slate (magazine), July 19, 2005
- Darfur Documents Confirm Government Policy of Militia Support
- Janjaweed Chief Says Sudan Government Backed Attacks
- "Who are the Darfurians? Arab and African Identities, Violence and External Engagement", SSRC and GEI, Harvard, undated
- "Darfur's War of Definitions" by Ramzy Baroud, Antiwar.com, August 26, 2004