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Four years on, Sudan partners dance to different tunes

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The EastAfrican
Posted Saturday, January 10 2009 at 10:53

Sudan last Friday marked the fourth anniversary of the peace deal that
ended the 21-year civil war, but will the peace deal survive the
remaining two years of the transitional period?

The parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in
Nairobi on January 9, 2005, have been able to implement the larger
parts of the agreement, such as the government of national unity and
the general maintenance of peace.

But sensitive issues such as the Abyei boundary and the oil revenue
threaten the peace deal, raising fears the general election may not be
held on schedule this year.

While both partners — the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan
Liberation People’s Movement (SPLM)—concur that a return to war would
not be in their best interests, the distrust between them has
contributed to the slowness in implementation of the peace deal.

The ongoing stockpiling of arms by both partners is not helping matters

The South sees Khartoum’s actions as a calculated move to have the
peace deal renegotiated whereas it feels the CPA contains both the
foundation and the mechanisms for lasting peace and does not need to
be renegotiated.

Khartoum, on the other hand, maintains that the resources required for
rehabilitation and reconstruction are beyond the capabilities of the
central government and that of the south, and is blaming the donors
for failing to honour pledges made at the 2005 Oslo Donor Conference.

According to the Sudanese ambassador to Kenya, Majok Guandong, the two
partners have made major achievements in the past four years,
including the establishment of the governments of national unity and
that of the south, and the prevailing peace in the country.

“You don’t expect the effects of the war to be overcome in a short
time. However, the obstacles are being tackled by both partners and we
are confident the agreement will hold,” said Mr Guandong.

Still, the obstacles are greater than the two partners are willing to

Evidence that the implementation of CPA is not going smoothly, came in
October 2007, when the SPLM suspended its participation in the
government of national unity for two months because the NCP was not
implementing key aspects of the agreement, like disclosing what is due
to the South from the country’s oil revenues.

Although the dispute was later resolved, the underlying difficulties
remain, with the Abyei boundary and the disarmament of armed groups
topping the list.

According to a government statement sent to the The EastAfrican from
Khartoum, peace in Sudan cannot be fully achieved if some actors in
the international community continue to hinder any move towards peace
in Darfur.

“The road to peace and development needs concerted effort by all those
who are concerned. Anybody can trigger war but peace needs true
leadership that minds the interests of the whole country,” the Foreign
Ministry said in a statement.

However, some allies of both sides, who are still armed, feel that
they have not seen any dividend of the peace deal and feel abandoned.

Among the yet to be fulfilled phases of the peace deal are the return
and resettlement of those who were displaced by the civil war,
development projects and creation of an integrated state government

The CPA was meant to end years of high-handed governance and
marginalisation of certain sections of the country and transform
Sudan’s governance system into an open, transparent, inclusive and
democratic one. Its failure could mean Sudan returning to full-scale
war, with devastating consequences for the entire region.

Still, both parties have contributed in some ways to the slow
implementation of the peace deal.

While the NCP views democratic transformation as contained in the
agreement as a threat to its survival and dominance, the SPLM is
focused on Southern issues leaving Khartoum to deal with the national

As with the Somali peace deal, international focus on the
implementation of the peace deal has been lacking, with attention
shifting to Darfur, and of late, the threat by International Criminal
Court to indict President Omar al-Bashir. For instance, power and
wealth sharing have to be spearheaded by Khartoum and pushed forward
by the international guarantors.

According to experts in Sudan, the NCP still wants a partnership but
one that downgrades the SPLM from a national challenger to a purely
South-based junior partner.

Rather than heap the blame on Khartoum, the SPLM needs to reconcile
competing interests within its ranks and insist on transparent
decision-making processes, especially when it comes to procurement.

Secondly, the SPLM rank and file remain divided between those who
favour outright secession come the 2011 referendum and those who
believe in the New Sudan where the SPLM’s Salva Kiir can challenge
President al-Bashir for the national leadership.

Still, Sudan watchers are doubtful whether the election scheduled for
this year will be held, especially with the ICC issue hanging over
president al-Bashir and the fact that the results of the census held
last April — which were to form the basis for redrawing constituencies
for the 2009 elections — are yet to be released.

So far, the government of national unity has appointed the electoral
commission after consultations with all political forces in the

The commission is headed by respected lawyer Abel Alier, a former
vice-president and former head of the High Executive Council for
Southern Sudan. But the voter registration will only start after
President al-Bashir dissolves parliament.

Observers argue that a successful democratic election in Sudan will
not be possible if the international guarantors and the UN remain
disengaged from the CPA, due in part to preoccupation with Darfur and
in part to a lack of consensus on the way forward.

In the meantime, there are suspicions that SPLM — having realised that
it cannot rely on guarantors to force Khartoum to implement the peace
deal in full — is busy building up its military capacity and forging
alliance with marginalised movements and rebel factions within Darfur,
Kordofan, the east and the far north, as a deterrent to the NCP.


Written by torit1955

January 12, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Sudan:’Thousands made slaves’ in Darfur

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‘Thousands made slaves’ in Darfur

A Sudanese rebel fighter watches an abandoned village less than an hour after Janjaweed militiamen set it ablaze in Darfur in September 2004

Strong evidence has emerged of children and adults being used as slaves in Sudan’s Darfur region, a study says.

Kidnapped men have been forced to work on farmland controlled by Janjaweed militias, a coalition of African charities says.

Eyewitnesses also say the Sudanese army has been involved in abducting women and children to be sex slaves and domestic staff for troops in Khartoum.

Up to 300,000 people have died since conflict began in Darfur in 2003.

At least 2.7 million people have fled their homes.

Sudan’s government has not yet commented on the allegations in the report, published by the Darfur Consortium on Wednesday.


Being in a refugee camp is no safeguard against attack by militiamen

The group of 50 charities says it has around 100 eyewitness accounts from former abductees.

Thousands of people from non-Arabic speaking ethnic groups in Darfur have been targeted, its report says.

Victims have been rounded up during joint attacks on villages by the Arabic-speaking Janjaweed and the Sudanese Armed Forces, according to the study.

Civilians are also tortured and killed while their villages are razed to ethnically cleanse areas, which are then repopulated with Arabic-speaking people, including nomads from Chad, Niger, Mali and Cameroon, it says.

They were kept telling us that we are not human beings and we are here to serve them
Testimony from unnamed boy

Most of the abductees are women and girls, but there is new evidence in Darfur of kidnappers targeting men and boys for forced agricultural labour, says the report.

The abducted women and girls, meanwhile, are raped and forced to marry their captors as well as carry out household chores and sometimes cultivate crops, according to the study.

‘Told to serve’

The report includes the testimony of children forced to become domestic workers.

Child refugee

Kidnapped children are made domestic slaves, says the study

One boy said he had suffered regular beatings from his Janjaweed abductors.

“They were treating me and the other boys very badly, they kept telling us that we are not human beings and we are here to serve them, I also worked on their farms,” he said.

A woman said she was kidnapped from a refugee camp and her captors “used us like their wives in the night and during the day we worked all the time.

“The men they abducted with us were used to look after their livestock. We worked all day, all week with no rest.”

Sudan’s government has always denied the existence of slavery in the country, although Khartoum has previously admitted abductions occurred in the north-south civil war of 1983-2005, when up to 14,000 people were kidnapped.

A Rwandan African Union soldier surveys an abandoned village in Darfur in June 2006

The report calls for the joint UN-AU force to be beefed-up

But a senior Sudanese politician who did not wanted to be named said kidnappings had also occurred more recently in Darfur.

“The army captured many children and women hiding in the bush outside burnt villages,” he told the report’s authors.

“They were transported by plane to Khartoum at night and divided up among soldiers as domestic workers and, in some cases, wives.”

Call to action

The report urged Sudan’s government to disband the Janjaweed and other militia and to fully co-operate with the United Nations and the African Union.

Dismas Nkunda, co-chair of the Darfur Consortium, said: “Urgent action is clearly required to prevent further abductions and associated human rights violations, and to release and assist those who are still being held.”

The study also calls for the mandate of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur (Unamid) to be beefed up so it can use force to protect civilians.

The Darfur Consortium also wants Khartoum to prosecute all those responsible for abductions and ban them from holding public office. It notes that no-one has ever been arrested over the wave of kidnappings.

Written by torit1955

December 17, 2008 at 11:24 am

Military options against LRA will end in fiasco.

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In response to the tripartite military operations involving Uganda, Congo an South Sudan forces against LRA in Garamba forest Congo, Boutrus Biel present a grim scenario of the possible reactions of Joseph Kony through the resort to his gruesome tactics of spreading his forces out thinly, return to Sudan and targeting soft targets including poorly defended areas and citizens, a repeat of his usual modus operandi.

Military options against LRA will end in fiasco.

By: Boutros Biel

December 14, 2008


For those who won’t let mine be part of their analysis, I will have names forged or invented, however, at the end of the opposition, truth will emerge for this argument and that is my belief and along with other optimists here and there. “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it” said George S. If only to best recall my experience of the Lord Resistance Army’s alleged crimes while in Uganda. Those painful days when Mr. Opio of the UNHCR Pakelle-Adjumani base was gunned down by the same Konyi’s Last Ruthless Aim {LRA}.

LRA soldiers keep guard at the assembly point in Ri-Kwangba on the Sudan-Congo border, Western Equatoria, April 10, 2008. (Reuters)

LRA soldiers keep guard at the assembly point in Ri-Kwangba on the Sudan-Congo border, Western Equatoria, April 10, 2008. (Reuters)

As if that was not enough, my own teacher, Engineer Tobia Odwa from ‘Kocoa Seminary’ was let permanently go along the same Gulu-Adjumani road. Those series of atrocities were committed by the LRA in the face of so called Uganda People’s Defence Forces {UPDF} and I don’t think if there’s anyone to convince the Southern Sudanese exile returnees from Uganda that dealing with LRA militarily is an easy ride solution to the regional atrocities committed. Madi of Nimule or those who had been to Eastern Equatoria in places like Parjok, Magwi, name them and of late the Kajo-Keji citizens plus Western Equatorians combined, in honesty, can be perfect witnesses to my assertion. LRA led by the same man Joseph Konyi has not changed anything per se. The group is still as it was in the beginning and now as it shall always be with its terror without end.

The former Catholic man’s army is tuned to wipe whoever his spirits direct to hook off {I wonder why the Catholic Church doesn’t revoke his Christian name ‘Joseph’ and equally excommunicate him from the mother church}!. The ICC arrest warrant is a possible obstacle to the Final Peace Agreement expected between Museveni-led government and Kony-manuveuvred group however, Joseph Konyi, the man would have challenged Museveni to the greatest heights had he{Konyi}signed on November 29th, 2008 the Final Peace Agreement. Museveni would have no excuses over withdrawing the ICC thing from the Haque. For Joseph Konyi, as of now whichever way, the risks on his own life are very high. If he doesn’t sign, he would remain in the bushes of Southern Sudan exchanging the location with that of DR. Congo and Central African Republic and not as a free as he assumes but as the most insecure man ever known on earth.

LRA as usual kills indiscriminately and that’s why Konyi didn’t spare his own right hand man Vincent Otti———his own deputy over years who managed to survive with him under worst UPDF hunts even when those LRA members like Sam Okolo their spokesman betrayed their cause. Otti remained loyal to Konyi and LRA command but unfortunately Konyi slaughtered him instantly. GoSS Vice President Riek Machar has been one of the patient guys to see sense of persuading LRA through diplomacy other than barrel of the guns but there are majority in Juba and Kampala who doesn’t see the wisdom of this tactful dealing emphasized by Dr. Machar. The impatient and incalculable group had long wanted to deal away with Konyi militarily little did anyone imagine what would be the repercussion of dealing gun-fully with a mafia of confused and objective less group whose composition leaves a lot to be desired.

When the SPLA and the Uganda People’s Defence Forces{UPDF} plus that orphan army left in the hands of young Joseph Kabila so desire to attack LRA militarily as they have just done, then the entire Equatoria region and Juba itself ought to prepare henceforth to meet the real devil. LRA would go back to its old evil tactics of moving in series of twos, twenty, threes, etc. They will cause havocs between Nimule-Juba road, Yei-Kaya and Yei-Juba roads. They will also stage ambushes to civilian and humanitarian vehicles along Torit-Juba road. Places like Gulu-Attiak-Adjumani, Pakwach-Karuma roads in Uganda would become insecure again. Abductions will become the order of the day. South Sudan, DR Congo and Central African Republic combined will become battlefields. Neither the SPLA nor the UPDF would be able to contain the situation. One would ask simply; ‘how can big and well equipped armies like UPDF and SPLA fail to defeat the tiny ill-armed rebel group led by uneducated former catechist Konyi? The answer is simple, LRA if came directly to fight, either the SPLA or the UPDF would wipe them in very short time but that has not been the case. The styles used by LRA are ever of amusement to both armies.

The LRA uses methods like ‘shoot’ ‘kill’, ‘spoil’ and ‘go’! How many UPDF soldiers had the LRA killed in Northern Uganda? How many SPLA soldiers did the LRA murder in Nimule and most parts of Eastern Equatoria? Honest answers can be frankly found with the SPLA and UPDF soldiers who one day witnessed the LRA atrocities. Therefore, it’s my humble opinion that Museveni-Konyi Peace Talks brokered by South Sudan number 2 Dr. Riek Machar must not be left. This Last Ruthless Aim {LRA} is worst than corruption in Southern Sudan and will take many lives if allowed to go back to its many years’ madness. Those non analysts who mislead GoSS leadership must not discourage its Vice President Riek Machar. General Salva Kiir must not be misadvised to discard his own child {Museveni-Konyi Peace Initiative} which the General had much worked to make available through his deputy Riek Machar. History has shown that only few managed to take pride to outnumber rebel movement through the barrel of the gun. As we are all aware of, war is very expensive and dealing with LRA militarily is very expensive business which neither South Sudan nor Uganda, DR Congo and CAR combined will escape its evil fruits if so desired to choose the unknown side of the coin.

When the first bullet is re-fired on LRA, then Bashir-Konyi relationship would take double face. Janjaweed in form of Ambororo being in Western and Central Equatoria lands will by Khartoum be armed to teeth and may probably join hand with any devil for the worst. South Sudan will be engaged in avoidable unnecessary wars. It will be difficult for the GoSS leadership to function effectively in Juba. As consequence, citizens would lose interest in their government due to rampant insecurity much as prevalent circumstances will portray GoSS as being incapable to protect its own citizens . Cattle rustlings would be rampant in Jonglei, Lakes and Eastern Equatoria states simply because insecurity will be very high as SPLA will be engaged in non objective war with LRA. Those being non patriotic and irresponsible nationalists will double their grab for public property—by that point in time, it will be very difficult for General Salva Kiir Mayardit to clear-cut whether to continue declaring war on LRA or on corruption. VP Machar would have been discouraged very long time ago and would just sit in the towel to exercise his gentlemanship for the sake of peace and order within the SPLM and GoSS.

Those drunk now to fight LRA in order to cause insecurity and increase corruption in the South shall have gotten their lion share and already turned pretending to join the discontented citizens to level GoSS as if ‘a failed Government’——–hence critics would thus come up to say; ‘you see, didn’t we talk of it that GoSS under Salva Kiir and Riek Machar is unable government?’. The likes of Dr. Turabi would have been on the stage preaching slogans such as ‘look, southerners can’t manage to govern themselves’. Discontented Southern citizens due to insecurity and corruption plus other circumstances may consider 2011 referendum a forgone conclusion if not approached it with mixed or unprepared hearts and minds.

Against all this background, it’s now better to pursue LRA peacefully till they sign the Final Peace Agreement with their archenemy Museveni other than South Sudan being falsely lured to war that will later be hard to extinguish. The slogan that ‘’if you want peace, prepare for war’’ is irrelevant in the LRA case. The group has had no relevant objective and therefore, be handled with care—–peacefully and tactfully. Fellow Southerners, believe it that military option against LRA, will be a great miscalculation and unforgivable boomerang to South Sudan and GoSS which’s the sitting government of the day will leave to regr. ———–For president of the Republic of Uganda General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, his country and his presidential guards have nothing to worry this time round as the most unpredictable war of LRA has been technically transferred to Southern Sudan and be fought here henceforth. However, it’s no of underestimation that the LRA will sneak back to Uganda and will possibly cause insecurity under the ‘hit’ and ‘run’ tactics with frequent roaming to and fro as the main battles will be wrestled in South Sudan. Is GoSS through SPLA really prepared to fight the war for others and moreover in Southern Sudan? It’s unfortunate indeed, that only a few of Southern Sudanese who are able to see while sitting what others are unable to project even when they are standing. Anybody listening there????? Let’s kick well, the ball is still up and the rest is left to the conventional wisdom of concerned Southerners!

Written by torit1955

December 15, 2008 at 9:28 am

Egypt: Violence, Crime And the Hip-Hop Identity – Sudanese Youth in Cairo

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Egypt: Violence, Crime And the Hip-Hop Identity – Sudanese Youth in Cairo

Natalie I. Forcier

11 December 2008

The trauma of displacement that faces refugees all over the world frequently manifests itself in negative ways. Young Sudanese refugees living in Cairo find themselves on the margins of society and are drawn into a life of violence. Natalie Forcier examines the gang culture that has emerged. Looking at two such groups, Outlaws and Lost Boys, based in Northern and Southern Cairo, and how the politics of their home country combined with the harsh existence in Cairo plays itself out violently. She concludes that programs should focus on addressing the underlying issues of lack of structured activities and limited access to educational and skill training opportunities in order to quell the violence

The youth of the Sudanese refugee community in Cairo, Egypt have transformed their identities in response to the structural barriers they face and their displacement experience. Some of these transformations have been positive – creating social peer networks and forging a new individual identity that rejects the refugee stereotype of poverty. However, other transformations are negative — creating violent rivalries between two groups (the Outlaws in areas of northern Cairo and the Lost Boys in areas of southern Cairo) whose attacks and retaliation have caused countless severe injuries to both rival group members and other refugees. In addition, some of these youth have begun to rely on criminal activity as a livelihood strategy, capitalizing on an intimidating identity resulting from the violence perpetuated by Sudanese youth.

Violence and criminal activity among youth are the result of underlying social and economic issues, which in this case have been compounded by marginalization and an inability to integrate within Egyptian society. In the case of the Outlaws and Lost Boys, these underlying problems are lack of access to education as well as other structured activities, programs, and opportunity and deprivation of traditional sources of identity, respect, and masculinity.

The groups, the Outlaws and Lost Boys, play positive roles in the lives of these young men. They support each other emotionally and financially, assisting one another in finding housing and work opportunities. They also ensure that if one member is in the hospital that he has access to food, clothing and money as necessary. Young men frequently pool their money together to help out a member who may be going through a particularly rough time. In addition, both groups plan structured recreational activities such as football tournaments, parties, Nile cruises, and trips to the beach.

On an individual level, these young men have chosen to adopt a physical manifestation of the hip-hop identity (style of dress, external mannerisms). This manifestation is not an attempt to mimic African-American culture, but rather is a rejection of the proscribed refugee identity characterized by poverty and lack of opportunity in favor of an identity that emphasizes material wealth and financial success. In being excluded from mainstream society, they have chosen to redefine individuals who warrant respect, and have identified these individuals as non-white men who confront the system, overcome obstacles and promote an African/black identity, most notably hip-hop artists and African-American sports stars, but the most prominent and revered figure being Bob Marley.

The style of dress associated with the hip-hop identity is characterized by designer labels, jewelry, and an overall look that (due to globalization) represents wealth. To a certain extent, this physical manifestation is not a farce, as the clothing they wear is more expensive than the traditional alternatives available in Cairo. However, their distinct choices to have two sets of pants and three shirts of a certain style versus three times as many of a traditional style, indicates a desire to project an alternative self-image.. Although the style of dress is hip-hop, the style of music is more commonly reggae or reggaeton, further showing that the values of honor and respect are being reassigned to non-white men who have defined societal constraints or “the system” at large, not simply African-American rap artists.

In addition to the social support and activities offered by the groups, the Outlaws and Lost Boys offer young men a sense of belonging and group identity of which they have otherwise been deprived. These young men have separated themselves from the conflicts and group identity markers traditionally associated with being Sudanese (geographic politics, tribal affiliation, religion) and therefore do not belong to any type of traditional, coherent, structured group. Some members view this as a positive aspect, noting that “We have 200 men from two different religions and seven different tribes and we live together and eat together in peace.” Unfortunately however, a new conflict has been manufactured that perpetuates inter-group violence. Another young man explained, “The things that happen in Sudan, those aren’t our problems anymore. Our problems are here. North, South, tribes, religion, that is not who we are. We are Outlaws. We are Lost Boys.”

The violent acts committed by the Outlaws and Lost Boys are brutal. Attackers many times target knees and elbows with the intent to permanently disable the victims. The final blow is a machete to the forehead. These types of attacks do not comprise the majority, but occur frequently enough to be well known. The majority of attacks are cuts on the arms resulting from alley fights while trying to obtain money, mobile phones, or jewelry. The inflictions on the arms are the result of the victim attempting to shield himself from the machete when being swung towards his head. It is important to note however that the majority of members of the Outlaws and Lost Boys do not own machetes or weapons of any kind. Of those who do, the primary reason noted for owning or carrying weapons is protection, and an only a smaller subset (approximately 20-30 individuals) routinely engage in violent activities.

In many ways, the Outlaws and Lost Boys have recreated the civil conflict in Sudan, positioning themselves as soldiers fighting for a cause rather than armed youth engaging in randomized violence. This is exhibited through: (1) accused affiliations pitting the two groups against each other because of support from the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army/Government of South Sudan (SPLA/GoSS) and the Khartoum government; (2) the strategic, mission-like character of a majority of the attacks; and (3) the language used by the young men when speaking about the reasons behind the violence and the injuries inflicted upon others.

The power of purported political alliances does not lie in any truth they may have, but rather in the fact that many individuals believe them to be true. A geographical conflict between two groups, fueled by allegiances with different sides of an independence movement, allows some to “justify” their violent actions on a political basis, at least in the moment. At several points members from both groups accused the other of receiving support, whether financially or through assistance in working with Egyptian authorities, from the SPLA/GoSS or the Khartoum government. Individual members would make these assertions of the other group, although the allegiances were never consistent (both groups were accused of receiving support from SPLA/GoSS and the Khartoum government). When questioned about this, it was always denied and refuted, although individuals also were quick to characterize the entire situation as “political.” While both sides vehemently denied ever having contact with government authorities, they were convinced of the political affiliation of the other group.

Although some of the acts of violence committed by young men have been spontaneous, all indicate that a majority of them are extremely well planned and executed with targets, maps, exit strategies, and contingency plans. Individuals from both the Lost Boys and the Outlaws were able to detail the different strategies used by their group as well as the others in attacks they had witnessed. Many times attacks had been planned days in advance, sometimes even with advance warning to the other group. Both groups referenced intelligence-gathering mechanisms employed prior to attacks, most commonly through female counterparts, although noted that these were rare as such activities were extremely difficult and dangerous.

The language of depersonalization indicates that young men truly view members of the rival group as “the enemy” rather than as individuals. One group used the word “mission” to describe the violent activities, while the other group used the word “campaign.” To correspond with this terminology, all attempts to stop the violence were referred to as “peace treaties” or “peace agreements,” which are drafted in rounds of “negotiations.”

During several occasions, non-group members have been injured during attacks by attempting to stop the violence. Many young men explained this by saying that the only reason people they are not targeting may be hurt is because sometimes “civilians get involved.” The word “civilian” was used on several occasions to describe bystanders to violent attacks. When I asked a young man to clarify what he meant by “civilian” he said, “A civilian is someone not involved in the conflict – like a normal person.” This in turn implies that they view themselves as the opposite of civilians, individuals who are involved in “the conflict” — soldiers.

There are a separate set of reasons that perpetuate the violence and cause it to continue beyond initial incidents: acts of disrespect, retaliation, and gossip. It is worth discussing each of these in turn and how they cause the violence to continue.

Many acts of retaliatory violence occur as the result of members of the rival group simply being present in their territories. Many will travel to rival group areas to visit family members or girlfriends, and leave without engaging in criminal or violent acts. Nonetheless, merely “stepping foot” in the area is considered a severe transgression. Benard (1986) notes that “[t]he kind of acts of violence most common among refugees [are]…quarrels over the allocation of goods but also over quite trivial matters, escalating into violence in a manner that has been described as infantile” (627, emphasis added). However, this “infantilization” of refugees in displacement that causes violence also fits into a larger framework as a psychological defense mechanism in response to “their dependency, their dubious legal status, and the arbitrary nature of the power and the rules they are subjected to” (Benard 1986: 627).

Retaliation is a strong impetus for causing attacks to occur between groups. Retaliatory justice is highly integrated with informal codes of behavior associated with informal networks resulting from marginalization from mainstream society, including situations where police protection or legal justice may not be feasible. Police authorities are rarely, if ever, engaged in these situations for three reasons: (1) to involve the authorities would label the victim or bystanders as a “snitch,” one of the worst titles possible in street culture; (2) many of the young men do not have legal refugee status or visas; and (3) the areas in which the young men live lack police protection in general, and as such even if the police were called, there is no guarantee they would come. The only perceived available option, retaliation, reiterates the concept of an equal punishment for an equal offense, and “rough justice” as practiced by these young men is viewed as holding a higher level of justice since those wronged are entitled to claim their rights directly.

Many retaliatory attacks target individuals that were not involved in violence. On several occasions victims would name the same three individuals from the rival group as the perpetrators. This became problematic when the individuals accused would have an alibi for their whereabouts that I could personally corroborate. When explored further, it was found that not only is blame quickly assigned many times incorrectly, but also that this information is used to fuel retaliatory attacks and for police reports. Young women play a particularly key role in perpetuating the gossip, as they maintain friendships and relationships with young men in both groups and on several occasions have invented stories about being attacked or robbed in order to use the rival group to carry out personal vendettas.

Acts of disrespect, retaliation and gossip can be viewed as the fuel that ensures the continuance of violence between the two groups. In the struggle for masculinity, respect and legitimacy, violence is both the means for obtaining these values and the way in which they are deprived. Being the victim of a violent attack is considered an emasculating act of disrespect, while being the attacker embodies the opposite values.

Ignoring the violence and its underlying causes will not stop the problem. Groups will continue to grow as younger generations age and begin to face the same structural barriers as these young men. In order to stop the violence, the underlying problems causing youth to assert themselves in this manner must be addressed. Programs aiming to broker peace agreements between the two groups by working with leadership have been unsuccessful in the past and the anger resulting from failed peace agreements can actually spike violence. Instead, programs should focus on addressing the underlying issues of lack of structured activities and limited access to educational and skill training opportunities in order to quell the violence.

Work Cited:

Benard, C. 1986. “Politics and the Refugee Experience.” Political Science Quarterly 101 (4): 39-62.

* Natalie I. Forcier is with the Centre for Migration and Refugee Studies at the American University, Cairo

Written by torit1955

December 13, 2008 at 10:38 pm