Sunday, December 21, 2008

The changing Darfuris

There is a fascinating article in the NY Times that describes the increasing power of youths in Darfur's camp. What I found interesting is how their years in the camp changed their perspective on life:

“Before, our desires were simple when it came to education, to culture — all we really thought about was farming,” said Adam Haroun Ahmed, 20, who arrived in the camp at 15. “The colonization, the oppression, all the brutal things done to us by the janjaweed caused us to change our views.”

When asked to describe his old village, his school friends jostling around him shouted down the idea. “It is something in the past, almost imaginary,” one yelled. Another chimed in, “It is so far from our reality that we don’t want to be there.” -Neil Macfarquhar
Before the conflict they were (mostly) uneducated farmers with very little understanding of the wider world. But the experience in the war and the camps, with its politicization and western based NGO education, has broadened their horizon. This new awareness is a bad sign for the sheiks and other traditional Darfuri power brokers. As the article shows, the newly politicized youths are now taking over power in the camps. It is also a cause for concern for Khartoum, as controlling Darfur was easier when the populace was by and large uneducated and predominantly under the control of local chieftains.

But as the article says, the youths have very high expectations:
Mr. Abdullah reeled off four prerequisites before the shabab in any camp would agree to negotiations between Darfur rebels and the government: disarming the government militias; prosecuting those responsible for war crimes, starting with Mr. Bashir; expelling anyone who settled on land stolen from the displaced farmers; and carrying out all United Nations Security Council resolutions on Darfur.
Just like in the Palestinian refugee camps, education and politicization bred extremism and unrealistic expectations. This recipe did not exactly bring lasting peace in Palestine, let us hope the results will be more suitable in Darfur.


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