Collectanea Sudanica vol.1

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Collectanea Sudanica vol.1




264 s.


Cisło, Waldemar (ed.)
Różański, Jarosław (ed.)
Ząbek, Maciej (ed.)


Centre Baba-Simon a Figuil (Camerun)




Institute of the Dialogue of Culture and Religion UKSW


Licencja PIA





pol, ang, franc




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vol. 1
Edited by
Waldemar Cisło
Jarosław Różański
Maciej Ząbek

Collectanea Sudanica

Collectanea Sudanica
vol. 1

Edited by
Waldemar Cisło, Jarosław Różański and Maciej Ząbek

Centre Baba-Simon à Figuil (Cameroun)
Institute of the Dialogue of Culture and Religion
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw
Figuil – Warsaw 2017

Prof. Hayder Ibrahim Ali
Prof. Sayyid Hamid Hurreiz
© Copyright by Jarosław Różański

Wydawnictwo „Bernardinum” Sp. z o.o.
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tel. +48 58 536 17 57, fax +48 58 536 17 26
ISBN 978-83-8127-003-8
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Table of Contents
Introduction....................................................................... 7
Changes in the anthropological structure
of the Sudan Zone population............................................. 9
Land and the environment versus customary
and statute laws Environmental and political pressures
on the Daba of northern Cameroon....................................31
Les objectifs non cachées – les objectifs cachées.
L’incompatibilité des scénarios sur le champ local
de la collaboration de développement................................51
Reasons of the conflict in the Central African Republic
(2012-2014)..................................................................... 69
Ethnic and linguistic diversity in the Sudan....................... 89
Historical importance of Arab Muslim communities
in the Central Sudan Zone................................................101

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with
a Metal Detector............................................................. 123
The South Sudan House in Amarat:
South Sudanese enclaves in Khartoum.............................151
Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses
de valises; masculinités militarisées et hommes
devenus femmes: les guerres au Sud Soudan...................187
Causes and Human Security Threats
of Irregular Migration Outflow from Bale,
Southeastern Ethiopia......................................................217

Among the most often used criteria for merging two or more
groups of people into one culture are anthropometrical characteristics, geographical territory, common history, language, religion and social organization including an economic system and
authority structure. On the basis of these criteria can be distinguished the macroregion of the Sudan, separating, to put it simply, the sands and rocks of the Sahara from the forested region of
Africa. Collectanea Sudanica, vol. 1. is the beginning of a new
interdisciplinary publication series which takes as its theme the
Sudan region (bilād as-Sūdān – ‫ – بالد السودان‬the Lands of the Blacks1),
including the territories of the two Sudan republics (Republic of
the Sudan and Republic of South Sudan).
Certainly this research area allows for discussion. It is howe­ver
necessary to emphasize that in Black Africa all efforts at situating,
uniting, and classifying individual cultures and their greater circles come up against numerous difficulties, among which the most
basic seems to be a poor knowledge of many tribes or ethnic groups.
All classifications and distinctions appear here as debatable and
only agreed upon as a last resort.
The name bilād as-Sūdān originates from medieval Arab geographers who
gave this name to terrain inhabited by dark-skinned peoples south of the Sahara.
Here follows a list of Arab geographers in chronological order: al-Jaqubi (891),
al-Masudi (956), Ibn Hawqal (977), al-Bakri (1094), Idrisi (1166), Ibn Said
(1274), Ibn Battuta (1377), Ibn Chaldun (1406), Maqrizi (1442) i Leo Africanus



The inhabitants of the Sudan merge with, and at the same time
are distinguished from, the neighboring tribes and cultures. Their
living environment continues to be chiefly the savannah region,
along with its vegetation acclimated to the climate and soil, as
well as the widespread raising of livestock. History also binds
these peoples, but their main ties come from trade and mutual
As noted above, this publication series has an interdisciplinary
character. Its intent is to unite geographers, archeologists, ethno­
logists, linguists, cultural studies experts, political scientists, eco­
nomists, sociologists, and all others who are involved in research
for this region of Africa. The texts featured will not as a rule have
a unified theme. Neither do they come from one research center,
but are open to other research communities. Individual volumes
are meant to present a broad spectrum of the region. The texts
are published in English or in French. Thanks to this broad formula authors will be able to continually bring “something new”
to the process of getting to know the region and its culture.


Sudan in Arabic means “Land of the Black”. From the anthropological point of view, however, Sudan – as a geographic and
cultural zone – is a transitional area between Black and White
Africa. To consider Sudan as a geographical zone one ought to
include in our considerations the Sahel adjoining it in the north,
the entire Sahara, and the southern edge or the equatorial forest
border zone. Only in this way our considerations will make sense.
The western edge of the area of our interest is the Atlantic Ocean
and the Canary Islands that have always been connected with
Africa. The eastern border of the area of our interest is the Red
Sea, which in anthropological perspective means the Arabian
Peninsula lying beyond it, as this narrow inner sea has always
been a border easy to cross.
We will primarily be interested in the anthropological structure
changes that have taken place over the last few millennia. ObviKarol Piasecki – University of Szczecin (Poland), Humanities Faculty,
Chair of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology
This paper is a slightly revised version of the text published in Bilad as-Sudan, vol. 3, Legacy of past (Dziedzictwo przeszłości).


Karol Piasecki

ously, we will have to refer to even more remote periods of time,
as far as possible. The higher time limitation will be the beginning
of the colonial era, that is essentially the onset of the modern era.
We will of course utilize many later (sometimes just contemporary)
materials that help to throw some light on the past. To investigate
the changes in the Sudanese population we must begin with getting acquainted with its contemporary anthropological structure.
Its complete discussion became possible with the development of
anthropogeography, an extremely important field for anthropology, without which any un understanding of humanity’s history
would be impossible. The rapid development of this branch of
anthropology was interrupted in the middle of the 20th century
by the Second World War, following which anthropogeography
came to be regarded as an attempt at a racist description of humanity.
The fundamental assumption of anthropogeography is the
extension of zoological zoogeography onto the sub-species level
with reference to genus Homo. There are many attempts at presenting the anthropological structure of Africa, and Sudan in
particular, of which we will discuss the works by von Eicksted and
Renato Biasutti2. The differences between them amount to the
number of units distinguished, but their general areas are essentially similar (Plates 1 and 2). We shall concentrate on Biasutti’s
approach3 as seen in Plate 1, supplementing it with references to
For broader treatment see the papers in vol. 3 of Bilad as-Sudan and the
same author. The theses presented there are in broad agreement with this author’s views. Unfortunately the above-mentioned sources do not have anthropological structure maps and use a different methodology, which makes then
of little use to us.
R. Biasutti, Le razze i popoli della Terra, t. 3, Africa, Torino, 1959.
W. Hirschberg, Völkerkunde Africas, Mannheim, 1965.

Changes in the anthropological structure of the Sudan…


Plate 1. Distribution of contemporary African races (by R. Biasutti, Le razze
e i popoli della Terra, t. 3, Africa, Torino, 1959, p. 95, changed): p – Pygmies,
l –Libyans, (m+b) – rasa Mediterraneans with Berberoids, nr – Nordics,
b – Brachycephals (Armenoids), su – Sudanese, nl – Nilots, sl – Silvids,
e – Ethiopids, sh – Saharids.

The geographic races division of the contemporary world according to Biasutti is given in terms suggested by Andrzej Wierciński
in the second edition of the Polish Little Anthropological Dictionary5.
Biasutti’s analysis involves several levels. The highest one is the
circles of forms corresponding to subspecies in terms of zoological
taxonomy, then we have racial stems corresponding
to great races of other approaches, subdivided into races and
sub-races. One should remember that the criteria which distinguish
these units are essentially the physical build characteristics with
no cultural or historical references.
A. Wierciński, entry „rasa geograficzna” (geographical race) [in:] Mały
Słownik Antropologiczny (ed. 2), Warszawa, 1976, pp. 370-377.


Karol Piasecki

Plate 2. Distribution of African races before European conquest by Eickstedta (from W. Hirschberg, Völkerkunde Afrikas, Mannheim,1965, s. 16,

In Sudan and its adjacent areas in the north and south we are
dealing with three circles of geographic forms. The first one is the
Equatorial Forms Circle including the Negroid Racial Stem (a
branch of the Pygmy with the Babinga and Bambuti races, and a
branch of the Negroid with the Sudanese, Nilotic and Forest races). The second one is the Boreal Forms Circle with the Europoid
Race Stem (here we have the Europid branch with the following
races: Mediterranean (including the Berber sub-race), Oriental
(Libian sub-race, and Nordic). The last two races belonging to the
Subequatorial Derivative Forms Circle (Ethiopid branch) and the
Ethiopian and the Saharan races.
According to Biasutti’s map the north of Sudan is populated
by the Libyan, Saharan, and Ethiopian races, with the Sudanese
race in the south. The Libyan race appears in its western part, the
Saharan race in the centre, and the Ethiopian race in the east.
From north Sahara we can see the influences of the Mediterranean, Berber, and Nordic races, and the brachocephalic, under which

Changes in the anthropological structure of the Sudan…


term we should understand the Armenoids that are not distinguished by Biasutti as a separate race.
To make these units clear let us present their brief characteristics (according to Biasutti6). And so7:
– The Pygmies are characterized by dwarfish body height (pigmoidal), slightly lower with the Bambuti (up to 143 cm) than
with the Babinga (1488 cm), reddish-brown skin, stocky body
build, very clear prognatism9, narrow and noneverted lips,
very broad nose (broader with the Bambuti) with bulbous ending, and mesocephalic skull with brachiocephalic tendency.
The eyes are black. The hair is curled in separate curls (this
type of hair is sometimes called “fil-fil”, the Arabic name for
pepper, as in African markets pepper is sold “by heaps”).
– The Libyans are characterized by swarthy skin, dark brown
eyes, dark brown or black hair, medium height (165 cm), long
skull, and narrow, protruding nose.
– The Mediterraneans are of lower height (up to 162 cm), lighter skin of matte white or swarthy, large dark brown eyes, dark
brown hair, mesocephalic10 skull, and very narrow, protruding
Not all of these agree with the units employed by the Polish Anthropological
The inconsistency in names between the text and the maps comes from
the fact that the map shows an older version of Biasutti’s division, not fully
Here and onwards „height” refers to men. Women’s height is usually ca.
10 cms lower.
Prognatism means the protrusion of alveolar (dental) part of the face towards the front. The face straight in the profile and not protruding is called
orthognatic. Mesognatism is the intermediate form.
The relationship of the width of neurocranium to its length is one of the
most important anthropological indices. In this context we distinguish long
skulls (width clearly smaller than length) named dolichocephalic, shorter ones


Karol Piasecki

– The Berberoids have darker skin, clearly broader nose, long
head and mesognathic face with thick, slightly everted lips.
Their hair is brown or black, frequently curly.
– The Sudanese11 are characterized by prolonged head, blackbrown skin, evident prognatism, strongly everted, broad lips,
flat broad nose, tall body height (175 cms), and athletic or
leptosomic body build.
– The Nilotes are taller than all the others (182 cms), have extremely dark-black skin and also extremely leptosomic body
build with clearly elongated limbs and long, small head. Their
noses are a bit narrower than previous races.
– The Silvids are of medium height (165 cms), dark brown skin,
medium head and extremely broad nose.
– The Ethiopids have clearly dark skin, woolly or curly hair, medium height (168 cms), long skull, large almond-shape eyes,
protruding straight and narrow nose with a high base, and
orthognatic or mesognathic face.
– The Saharids have broader faces than the previous group and
broader nose with deep base.
– The Nordics appearing in the Maghreb north represent the
Boreal Forms Circle (Europoid). They have light skin, eyes and
hair, are rather tall (173 cms), have long heads, and narrow,
strongly protruding noses of high base.
– Biasutti’s brachiocephals are of course the white Armenoids
characterized by varying height (medium to tall), very short
head, light milky skin, dark eyes and chestnut hair. Their noses are long, narrow, strongly protruding, straight or crooked.

(width and length practically same) named brachycephalic, and the mesocephalic
being in-between the two main types.
Of course this designation has no state or national character here.

Changes in the anthropological structure of the Sudan…


The map given by von Eickstedt is clearly more detailed (Plate 2).
The author does not distinguish separate Saharans among the
Ethiopoids, thus giving the impression that the entire Sudan zone
is dominated by the arrivals from Ethiopia. He is much more precise when dealing with the various units within the Europoids
(the white Variety), clearly distinguishing the Berberoids from
the Mediterraneans and Orientaloids. Unfortunately, he includes
both the brachycephalic (that according to the Polish Anthropological School12 and armenoid element derivatives) as well as the
derivatives of the dolichocephalic oriental element under the
Orientaloid group, which is an obvious misunderstanding. We
can see here the dilemma of the geographic approach. As one
descends lower and lower in the classifications, the unity thus
distinguished begin to lose its broader sense, lacking the discri­
minative values13 for generalization. This problem is solved only
by individual typology that makes use of domination structures
that allow determining the geographic ranges of anthropological

The characteristic of the anthropological elements counted as white vary
according to the Polish Anthropological School following the I. Michalski and
T. Henzel’s systems – in the part that concerns Nubia, and in practice, the entire
Eastern Sudan, is presented in two papers in Polish by the author (Struktura
antropologiczna Nubii i Pustyni Nubijskiej, [in:] Wokół IV Katarakty. Społeczności
wiejskie nad środkowym Nilem przed wielką zmianą, Maciej Ząbek, ed., Warszawa,
2005, pp. 33-44, and Struktura antropologiczna dawnej Nubii, [in:] Sudan. Bogactwo kultur i wewnętrzne napięcia, Waldemar Cisły, Jarosław Różański and
Maciej Ząbek, eds., Warszawa, 2012, pp. 83-94). The readers are referred to
those papers for further details.
Of course we mean the discrimination in mathematical (taxonomic) meaning, not cultural-political.
Compare: I. Michalski, Struktura antropologiczna Polski w świetle Wojskowego Zdjęcia Antropologicznego, Łódź, 1949, and this same author: Remarks
about the anthropological structure of Egypt, [in:] Publications of the Joint


Karol Piasecki

The Berber substratum in North Africa is considerably old.
Andrzej Wierciński connects it with the age of predynastic migrations15 when the Berberoid reached Africa and India from West
Asia. Discussing it in the terms of so-called Hamitic Hypothesis16
it would be the first, the oldest hamitising wave. In their westward
migration the Berbers have finally reached the Canary Islands17
and the Iberian Peninsula18. All throughout North Africa, including the western Sahara, the anthropological Berber element and
the Berber language strata are clearly connected. However, one
should be careful when approaching the unity of anthropological,
language, and culture structures. This also concerns the Berbers
in the Canary Islands, where they have imposed their languages
upon the earlier, cromanionoids-mediterranean anthropological
substratum19. The subsequent migrations of the black populations
to the islands did not change its language structure.
Arabic-Polish Anthropological Expedition 1958/1959, Warszawa-Poznań-Cairo,
1964, pp. 201-237.
A. Wierciński, Introductory remarks concerning the anthropology of Ancient
Egypt, “Bulletin de la Societé d’Égypte”, t. 32, 1958, pp. 73-84, and this same
author: Analiza struktury rasowej Egiptu w epoce przeddynastycznej, “Materiały
i Prace Antropologiczne”, 56, 1963, pp. 5-80.
Compare: K. Jaworska, Charakterystyka antropologiczna niektórych szczepów dorzecza Ubangi, “Acta Anthropologica Lodziendzia”, 8, 1962, and K. Piasecki,
Structura… 2005.
Compare: I. Schwidetzky, Die vorspanische Bevölkerung der Kanarischen
Insel, “Homo”, Beihaft 1, 1963, and this same author: Die vorspanische und die
heutige Bevölkerung der Kanarischen Inseln. Kontinuität und Diskontinuität von
Bevölkerungsstrukturen, “Homo”, 22, pp. 226-252.
The connection between Iberia and Berberia is obvious and has frequently
been pointed out in antiquity sources, particularly in the context of there having
been another Iberia – the Caucasian one – besides the Transpyrenean Iberia.
See: H. Vallois, Les hommes de Cro-Magnon et les “Guanches”, “Anuario
de Estudios Atlanticos, 1969, pp. 24-31 and I. Schwidetzky, Investigaciones antropologicas en las Islas Canarias. Estudio comparative entre las población actual y
prehistorica, Sta Cruz de Tenerife, 1975.

Changes in the anthropological structure of the Sudan…


The cromanionoid (also the paleoeuropean element) is one of
two light-pigmented elements of the white race. These are its characteristics: tall, strong body build, large long head, short broad
face, and relatively broad, straight, strongly protruding nose. The
eyes are small, deep-seated, light blue, light blond hair (often red),
very light pinkish skin. It appeared ca. 40 thousand years ago (some
authors claim it was as long as 60 thousand years ago) in Europe
where it has survived until today, chiefly in the northern part of
the continent.
The cromanionoids component was presented in the anthropological structure of North Africa among the epipaleolithic population of the Caspian culture20. This culture survived in the Maghreb until the Neolithic. We do not know when exactly did the
cromanionoids appeared in the Canary Islands. There is some
ground to connect them with the megalithic cultures not only in
the Canary Island but also all over the Sahara up to the Egyptian
Western Desert. It is there, at the Nabta Plaja site, stone megalithic constructions were found, and where Gottfried Kurth claims
the paleoeuropoids, that is cromanionoids and negroids21, were
present already in the paleolithic and mesolithic. Zygmunt Krzak
claims that it was Sahara that was the homeland of megalithic
cultures. This can by supported not only by the dating of local
megalithic objects (the oldest calibration date is almost six thousand years BC) and the common appearance of the megaliths in

See: R.-P. Charles, Recherches sur l’unite de la structure de l’Africe Méditerranéenne, “Bulletin de la Sociéte de Géographie d’Égypte”, vol. 36, 1964,
pp. 41-86.
See: G. Kurth, Zur Rassengeschichte von Mittel- und Ostafrica, [in:] Rassengeschichte der Menschheit. 3 Lieferung. Africa I: Nord- und Mittelafrica, Műnchen-Wien, 1975, pp. 171-183.


Karol Piasecki

the Sahara, but also by the survival of the tradition of building
stone circles in southern Sudan22.
The Nordic element, marked in Biasutti’s map in the Maghreb
mountains and Tunis all but left out by von Eichsted, is an important component of the West Berber racial structure. In the earlier
times it surely reached much farther east, if the Libyan mercenaries in Ptolomeid services were described as tall, blue-eyed blonds.
Detailed anthropological survey of the Rif Mountains showed the
extremely high percentage of blue-eyed blonds among some tribes
of the local Berbers23. It is true that Carleton Coon does not describe them as Nordic, but he finds no difference between them
and the dwellers of Northern Europe24. Both the light-pigmented
racial components, and doubtlessly the cromanionoid, are most
probably connected with the Garamantes who controlled the huge
areas of Sahara from the earliest times until the age of Islamic
expansion. We can also find the stories about tall, blue-eyed blonds25
See: Krzak Z., Megality świata, Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków, 2001.
See: C. S. Coon, Tribes of the Rif, Cambridge, 1931.
Nothing suggests connecting the Nordics of the Rif Mountains with the
German migrations to North Africa in the 5th century OE, or with the Slavic
slaves of whom there were plenty in the area in the early Muslim epoch. The
local tradition, which is extremely long-lasting as far as family coligations are
concerned, is silent on the subject. Coon does not suggest this hypothesis,
The chariots that appear rather frequently in the early Saharan rock art
indicate an invasion of peoples from the east, from the steppes of Asia. It must
have been much earlier than the possible raids in the West carried out by the
Hyxos after conquering Egypt. The participation of the Nordic in them cannot
be excluded. The Hyxos political and cultural influences in the sub-Saharan area
are of no doubt(D. Lange, Abwanderung der assyrichen tamkaru nach Nubien,
Darfur und ins Tschadseegebiet, [in:] Europejczycy, Afrykanie, Inni; Bronisław
Nowak, Mirosław Nagielski and Jerzy Pysiak, eds., Warszawa, 2011, pp. 199-226)
but all the iconographic sources present the Hyxos as dark-haired (in terms of
the Polish School of Anthropology, an oriental or even armenoidal element).
The Garamanta-Hyxos connection requires further study.

Changes in the anthropological structure of the Sudan…


among the Garamantes. The Tuareg of today, though, owe the
blue carnation of their skins to the clothing dyed with indigo, and
they are not Nordic.
The orientalids in Eickstedt’s map partially cover the are marked
by Biasutti as mediterraneans and berberids. Identifying the north
Saharan orientalid belt as a relative accumulation of the Arab
tribes who marched West under the banner of the Prophet26 is
relatively easy. However, numerous mediterranean enclaves are
most probably of much earlier origin. Another point that needs
explanation is the origin of Kordofan in connection with the Arab
tribes of the area27. It seems that the berberoid presence in Transaharan and Saharan structure was underestimated. On the other
hand, Eickstedt has clearly overestimated its role in the population
substratum of the whole of North Africa. We must also remember
the depopulation of the locals due to slave trade which has significantly lowered the role of anthropological substratum in favour
of the invaders. The rich tribes of Arab nomads have significantly grew in numbers in the meantime, chiefly at the expense of
local populations, and changed their anthropological structure
to a degree.
Of course, if it were possible to substitute the geographic races system and mapping of the anthropological formations in terms
of PSA (Polish Anthropological School), the map of the anthropological structure of Sudan and the areas adjoining it would be
much cleared. Unfortunately, as far as the typological data is concerned, we have too little of measurement data that covers Egypt,
a part of East Africa, the northern and eastern edges of the Con26
Of course the Arabs appear in North Africa and the Sudan zone much
earlier, but this was speeded up by islamization.
Compare: A. N.-D. Lebeuf, Les populations du Tchad (Nord du 10e), Paris,


Karol Piasecki

go Forest, and some prehistoric series28 scattered in space and
time. All this, however – if we make a critical use of the works by
Biasutti, Eckstedt, and other authors – allows us to construct preliminary hypotheses concerning the changes of anthropological
The oldest early Holocene stage that we can connect with the
Mesolithic age gives us a few bone findings, and some additional
information in engravings and rock art. Paradoxically, what is
most valuable here is the south European findings. The doubtlessly negroidal (bushmenoidal)29 skeletons from epipaleolithic
sites of Monte Circeo and Grimaldi Cave (in Italy) clearly demonstrate that the given racial element in mesolith must have covered
the western shores of the Mediterranean Sea30, the entire Sahara
and Sudan. The available skeleton evidence and rock art prove
that the population of Sudan in mesolith consisted not only of
cromanionoids and mediterranoids31, but of bushmenoids32, as
The remaining material was either investigated using a different technique
than the classical Martin method (R. Martin, K. Saller, Lerhbuch der Anthropologie
in systematischer Darstellung, Stuttgard, 1957), or has been described in terms
of medium values, or is still awaiting interpretation.
An abridged description of the bushmenoid (negroidal) element according
to Michalski and Henzel (T. Henzel, I. Michalski, Podstawy klasyfikacji człowieka
w ujęciu Tadeusza Henzla i Ireneusza Michalskiego, “Przegląd Antropologiczny”,
t. 21, 2, 1955, pp. 537-662) goes as follows: very low height (up to 159 cms),
light yellow-brownish skin, black hair (of the fil-fil type), dark eyes. The head
small and very long, flattened face showing the influence of yellow variety,
similarly with the eyelid form. Nose flat and very broad. Frequent steatopygia
(deposits of fat in the buttocks of both sexes and in women’s breasts).
Also the European.
See: D. Ferembach, Historie raciale du Sahara (au Nord du Tropique du
Cancer), [in:] Rassengeschichte der Menschheit. 3 Lieferung. Afrika I: Nord- und
Mittelafrika, Műnchen-Wien, 1975, pp. 185-232.
See: E. Strouhal, Rassengeschichte Ägyptens, [in:] Rassengeschichte der
Menschheit. 3 Lieferung. Afrika I: Nord- und Mittelafrika, Műnchen-Wien, 1975,
pp. 9-89.

Changes in the anthropological structure of the Sudan…


well. This is further demonstrated by numerous images of people
in both Saharan and Iberian rock art33. The gradual changes of
climate and desertification of today’s Sahara created better conditions for the black type of population, gradually eliminating the
white population or pushing it further north. This was paralleled
by the extinction of the cromanionoidal element whose size even
in northern Europe has declined to just a few percent.
The effect of these changes was that right from the beginning
of neolith there existed in Sub-Saharan Africa a compact block of
the black type of population, which was internally differentiated
due to the presence inside it of two evolutionally distinct groups:
the older one (pygmoids, negroids and australoids) and the modern formation created by the equatorial and nigrid (sudanese)34
element. The anthropological structure of the Sudan zone, originally of mixed character, has moved towards an increased role
of the black element. It was at that time, most probably, that the
equatorial element in western Sudan and the Sudanese in Eastern
Sudan came to dominate over the elements of the older strata.
The gradual expansion of the population of that strata towards
the south eventually pushed the bushmenoids and pygmoids
southward. The increasing role of cattle breeding led to the exSee: R. Biasutti, A. Micheli, La prehistoria Africana, [in:] Le raze e I popoli
della Terra, t. 3, Afrika, Torino, 1959, pp. 3-71.
Since these racial elements have not yet been described we present their
brief characteristics. Sudan element (or Nigric) according to the typological
system by Michalski (T. Henzel, I. Michalski, Podstawy… 1955) ) is the most-pigmented one of all humankind. The skin is black, black eyes, grey woolly hair.
Very tall (182 cms), very slim body build and characteristic very flat broad nose
with deep base. This element is best adjusted to high temperatures and equatorial
climate. The equatorial element according to K. Jaworska is tall, skin not so
dark, mesocephalic skull, very broad nose in profile (from concaved to convected). The australoid, then, is mixed white-black element medium tall to tall,
tendency to leptosome, dark brown skin, thick hair, very long skull, long face
with very broad nose. The entire head build is very archaic.


Karol Piasecki

tinction of the bushmenoids. The pygmoids, as a group connected with the forest environment, have never been particularly
numerous in the savannah zone.
A subsequent stage of the change of Sudan’s anthropological
structure was the increasing expansion of the white element reaching Sudan from east and north, the so-called hamitization35, even
though we still see the dominance of the black variety36.
Hamitization is the process of superimposing the white population37 onto the black variety substratum. The usual effects of it
are the individuals of “europeidal” features typical for the white
variety, but dark-pigmented (as in the black variety) and with
strongly curled hair. With women, we see more distinct tendency
to the black variety features. As both black and white varieties are
internally varied the result of crossing them may give even more
morphological differentiation, hence the extreme variety of the
forms observed. Even the most general observations show that
the degree of mestization (mixing) increased clearly towards the
south of Nubia (that is up the Nile). Of course, the recent years
have obscured the ancient relations due to the arrival of large

In older literature and in some other languages and authors we find the
spelling with h/kh, which seems not correct thanks to the possibility of confusion
with the silent “h”.
See: M. – C. Chamla, Les populations anciennes du sahara et regions limothropes, Étude des restos osseux humanes néolithiques et protohistoriques, “Mém.
De Centre Rech. Anthrop. Préhist. Ethnograph”, 9, 1968, Paris.
Here one should stress the difference between linguistic phenomena and
the anthropological changes of biological character. The Kushites – culturally
and historically Hamitic – use the kushitic languages that are related to the
Semitic ones and do not have to be connected with the Hamites in biological
terms, that is with the population that resulted from depositing layers of white
variety immigrants upon the black-variety substratum. The best proof that the
two can intermingle is the fact that most of today’s, hamitized population of
Sudan speaks Arabic, a Semitic language!

Changes in the anthropological structure of the Sudan…


numbers of refugees from the south, particularly in the cities and
larger villages.
Thus far, researchers in hamitization38 show that there were
a few (at least 3) migration waves clearly separated in time. The
oldest one, dated for III millennium BC39 at the earliest, was connected with the berberoid element, and in its east-west movement
it followed the shores of North Africa to the shores of the Atlantic
Ocean. It is doubtlessly connected with the earliest spread of the
Berber languages, and it is possible that it was preceded by the
people who gave the beginning to Chad languages40. It may be
connected with the introduction of cattle breeding, but it seems
or likely to be connected to the megalithic peoples’ migrations
and the early stages of goat and sheep breeding.
The second wave of hamitization was dominated by the Mediterranean element that is generally regarded to the main component of the earliest agricultural peoples (also in Europe). The
oriental element appeared with third wave. This type, representFor Polish works on the subject see: I. Michalski, Remarks…, K. Jaworska,
Charakterystyka…, A. Wierciński, Analiza….
It is not impossible that we could talk here about the turn of IV/III millennia BC.
These languages appear primarily in central Sudan. According to Biasutti
this area was peopled by the Sudanese population, and according to Eickstedt,
the Saharan one. The connection of those languages with the Lappish (Saami)
languages that has been proved beyond doubt by Maloletko (A. M. Maloletko,
Drevnie narody Sibiri. Etničeskij sostav po dannym toponimii, t.1, Predystorija
čeloveka i jazyka. Uralcy, Tomsk, 1999) makes one wonder about the early holocene relations between the white and black varieties, all the more so since the
genetic Lappish-Berber connections have also been demonstrated (A. Achilli et
all., Saami and Berbers – an unexpected mitochondrial DNA link, “American Journal
of Human Genetics”, 76, 2005, pp. 883-886). In any case the Chadic languages
must have appeared in Africa much earlier than the Hamitic ones (the Berber
languages belong to the semito-hamitic family which together Chadic constitutes
the Afrasiatic languages).


Karol Piasecki

ed by the Arab tribes specializing in camel and horse breeding,
reached Africa either directly across the Red Sea or by going round
from the north41.
The last phase42 of hamitization is connected with the beginnings of the bronze age and civilization influences, and it brings
into view the armenoidal element, the one that is most scarce in
Sudan, concentrating in the cities. One should not forget that the
entire process was a very complex one, differing in time, and no
wave of migrations was homogenous or short-lived. There were
also secondary movements, reverse movement, etc. The chronology of various phases is only approximate, so it is easier to ascribe
it to historical periods than to try finding individual dates for them.
The hamitization gradient that is easy to observe and clearly
pointing southwards, manifested in the increasingly large presence
of the black variety (Plate 3), finds its confirmation in the Lower
Nile valley43.

The Arabic tribes penetrated into Africa already in the first millenium BC,
but their most intensive expansion is connected with the spread of Islam (Y. Fadl
Hasan, The Arabs of the Sudan, Khartoum, 1973). Islamization of Nubia and the
entire eastern Sudan was relatively the latest one thanks to the resistance of the
local Christian states, so the “Arabization” of the Nile Valley in terms of the
anthropological structure change is clearly weak. It really ends in the 19th century, when we see the last cases of the entire Arabian tribes resettling across the
Red Sea.
Of course one could also talk about the „post-hamitic” Europeanization
of the anthropological structure, particularly in Eastern Sudan, where in the
19th century we see the Turkish (and even Hungarian!) influences connected
with the presence of Ottoman troops (E. Strouhal, Rassengeschichte…). The
West European influences in their former African colonies are just as
See: A. Wierciński, Analiza… , I. Michalski, Remarks… , K. Piasecki, Christianization and changes in Nubia’s anthropological structure, [in:] Between the
Cataracts, „Polish Archeology in the Mediterranean, Supplement Series, vol. 2,
fasc. 2, 2010, pp. 625-632.

Changes in the anthropological structure of the Sudan…


Plate 3. Hamitization of modern Africa (by K. Piasecki, Christianization and
changes in Nubia’s anthropological structure, [in:] Between the Cataracts,
„Polish Archeology in the Mediterranean”, Supplement Series, volume 2,
fasc.2, 2010, p. 626). Lines 25% i 50% show participation of white variety
elements in anthropological structure. The points signified the localization
of investigated series. b –berberoid, e – mediterranoid, h – armenoid,
k – orientalid, y – cromanionoid.

The Holocene history of the changes of the anthropological
structure of the Sudan population has not been fully explained
so far, particularly in its earliest stages. The data accumulated so
far allows the following conclusions to drawn:
1. The epipaleolithic and Mesolithic population of Sudan was
constituted by the archaic elements of the white variety: cro-


Karol Piasecki

manionoid and mediterranoid elements, and the archaic elements of the black variety, i.e. negroid (bushmenoid) and
pygmoid. Also, the presence of australoid as admixture (particularly in the east)44 cannot be excluded, as it has appeared
there in latter times,
2. The expansion of the younger elements of the black variety
(equatorial and Sudanese) that came with the climate changes pushed the archaic elements into refugial areas and largely
limited their number,
3. Neolithisation of Sudan is connected with succeeding Hamitization waves which are responsible for the varietal black-white
mix that is typical for the anthropological characteristics of
the area (in the sense of variety),
4. For particularising and verifying the above model more
studies of the contemporary population and archaeological
evidence are needed.

This element probably came to be in upper paleolith in near Asia with the
superimposition of the residual, morphologically white Neanderthals onto the
black variety (the Sudanese and equatorial elements). This element has subsequently migrated from there to south Asia and Austronesia.

Changes in the anthropological structure of the Sudan…


Achilli A. et all., Saami and Berbers – an unexpected mitochondrial
DNA link, „American Journal of Human Genetics” 76 (2005),
pp. 883-886.
Biasutti R., Le razze e i popoli della Terra, t. 3, Africa, Torino 1959.
Biasutti R., Micheli A., La preistoria africana, in: Le razze e i popoli della
Terra, t. 3, Africa, Torino 1959, pp. 3-71.
Chamla M.-C., Les populations anciennes du Sahara et des régiones limithrophes, Étude des restos osseux humaines néolithiques et protohistoriques, „Mém. de Centre Rech. anthrop. préhist. ethnograph” 9 (1968).
Charles R.-P., Recherches sur l’unite de structure de l’Afrique Méditerranéenne, „Bulletin de la Sociéte de Géographie d’Égypte” (1964),
v. 36, pp. 41-86.
Coon C. S., Tribes of the Rif, Cambridge, 1931.
Fadl Hasan Y., The Arabs of the Sudan, Khartoum 1973.
Ferembach D., Histoire raciale de l’Afrique du Nord, in: Rassengeschichte
der Menschheit. 3 Lieferung. Afrika I: Nord- und Mittelafrika,
Műnchen-Wien 1975, pp. 90-141
Ferembach D., Histoire raciale du Sahara septentrional (au Nord du
Tropique du Cancer), in: Rassengeschichte der Menschheit. 3 Lieferung. Afrika I: Nord- und Mittelafrika, Műnchen-Wien 1975, pp.
Henzel T., Michalski I., Podstawy klasyfikacji człowieka w ujęciu Tadeusza Henzla i Ireneusza Michalskiego, „Przegląd Antropologiczny”
(1955), t. 21, 2, pp. 537-662.
Hiernaux J., Afrique moyenne, in: Rassengeschichte der Menschheit. 3 Lieferung. Afrika I: Nord- und Mittelafrika, Műnchen-Wien, 1975,
pp. 185-232.
Hirschberg W., Völkerkunde Afrikas, Mannheim 1965.
Jaworska K., Charakterystyka antropologiczna niektórych szczepów
dorzecza Ubangi, „Acta Anthropologica Lodziendzia” 8 (1962).
Krzak Z., Megality świata, Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków 2001.


Karol Piasecki

Kurth G., Zur Rassengeschichte von Mittel- und Ostafrica, in: Rassengeschichte der Menschheit. 3 Lieferung. Afrika I: Nord- und Mittelafrika, Műnchen-Wien 1975, pp. 171-183.
Lange D., Abwanderung der assyrichen tamkāru nach Nubien, Darfur und
ins Tschadseegebiet, in: Europejczycy, Afrykanie, Inni, Bronisław
Nowak, Mirosław Nagielski and Jerzy Pysiak (eds.), Warszawa
2011, pp. 199-226.
Lebeuf A. N.-D., Les populations du Tchad (Nord du 10e parallèle), Paris
Maloletko A. M., Dawne narody Syberii. Etničeskij sostav po dannym toponimii, t. 1, Predystorija čeloveka i jazyka. Uralcy, Tomsk 1999.
Martin R., Saller K., Lerhbuch der Anthropologie in systematischer Darstellung, Stuttgard 1957.
Michalski I., Struktura antropologiczna Polski w świetle Wojskowego Zdjęcia Antropologicznego, Łódź 1949.
Michalski I., Remarks about the anthropological structure of Egypt, in:
Publications of the Joint Arabic-Polish Anthropological Expedition
1958/1959, Warszawa-Poznań-Cairo 1964, pp. 201-237.
Piasecki K., Struktura antropologiczna Nubii i Pustyni Nubijskiej, in:
M. Ząbek, ed., Wokół IV Katarakty. Społeczności wiejskie nad środkowym Nilem przed wielką zmianą, Warszawa 2005, pp. 33-44.
Piasecki K., Christianization and changes in Nubia’s anthropological structure, in: Between the Cataracts, „Polish Archeology in the Medite­
rranean”, Supplement Series (2010), volume 2, fasc. 2, pp. 625632
Piasecki K., Struktura antropologiczna dawnej Nubii, in: Waldemar Cisło, Jarosław Różański i Maciej Ząbek (eds.), Sudan. Bogactwo
kultur i wewnętrzne napięcia, Warszawa, 2012, pp. 83-94.
Posnansky M., East Africa and the Nile Valley in Early Times, in: Yūsuf
Fadl Hasan (ed.), Sudan in Africa, Khartoum 1971, pp. 51-71.
Schwidetzky I., Investigaciones antropologicas en las Islas Canarias. Estudio comparativo entre las población actual y prehistorica, Sta
Cruz de Tenerife 1975.
Schwidetzky I., Die vorspanische Bevölkerung der Kanarischen Insel,
“Homo” (1963) Beihaft 1.

Changes in the anthropological structure of the Sudan…


Schwidetzky I., Die vorspanische und die heutige Bevölkerung der Kanarischen Inseln. Kontinuität und Diskontinuität von Bevölkerungsstrukturen, “Homo” 22 (1971), pp. 226-252.
Strouhal E., Rassengeschichte Ägyptens, in: Rassengeschichte der Menschheit. 3 Lieferung. Afrika I: Nord- und Mittelafrika, MűnchenWien 1975, pp. 9-89.
Vallois H., Les hommes de Cro-Magnon et les „Guanches”, „Anuario de
Estudios Atlanticos” (1969), pp. 24-31.
Wierciński A., Introductory remarks concerning the anthropology of
Ancient Egypt, „Bulletin de la Societé d’Égypte” t. 31(1958),
pp. 73-84.
Wierciński A., Analiza struktury rasowej ludności Egiptu w epoce przeddynastycznej, „Materiały i Prace Antropologiczne”, 56 (1963),
pp. 5-80
Wierciński A., entry: rasa geograficzna, [in:] Mały Słownik Antropologiczny (ed. 2), Warszawa, 1976, pp. 370-377.
A. Wierciński, Kontrowersje wokół Polskiej Szkoły Antropologicznej, in:
Teoria i empiria w Polskiej Szkole Antropologicznej, „Seria Antropologia” 11 (1985).
(translated by Piotr Klafkowski)

Les transformations de la structure anthropologique
de la population de la zone du Soudan
L’article résume les données sur les transformations de la structure
anthropologique de la population de la zone soudanaise. Il aborde les
approches de Biasutti et Eickstedt en les comparant avec les résultats de
l’école polonaise d’anthropologie. Il met en évidence le rôle des composantes archaïques de la population (homme de Cro-Magnon et négroïde)
et l’impact de la hamitisation sur la population contemporaine de cette


Environmental and political pressures on the
Daba of northern Cameroon

The Mandara Mountains in northern Cameroon exemplify the
dynamic of cultural processes connected with various forms of
space management. I have used the ethnic group of Daba living
in the south-eastern edge of the Mandara massif in northern Cameroon to discuss the phenomena that are typical of the region.
Advantageous soil conditions and the abundance of flora and
fauna in the mountain area favoured settlement. The area was
settled by the remainder of various migrational waves which in
the past marched across the area of present-day Cameroon. The
settlers were primarily drawn to the areas by the defensive values of the mountains, found in the centre of plains, which were an
area of numerous tribal wars and slave hunts. The Mandara mountains offered shelter to everybody who wanted to flee the expansion of the Muslim states of Central Sudan. In the 19th c., the
mountains became a refuge zone surrounded from all sides (by
the Kingdom of Mandara in north and the state of Fulbe in the


Ryszard Vorbrich

south), a unique island of the old, archaic culture, classified by
ethnologists as paleonigritic type1.
In the melting pot thus formed groups of migrants mixed in
different proportions and assimilated to a different degrees the
racial, linguistic and customary features of their neighbours. As
a result – a unique complicated and specific complex of cultural
features formed in many microregions of the massifs2. This led to
the formation of several separate ethnic groups. Due to their animistic beliefs, they were called “Kirdi” (“pagans”) by the Muslim
The settlement of numerous human groups in the mountains
complicated the existing ethnic relations. An increase of the density of population by several times triggered a process which led
to the deterioration of the natural environment. The hunger for
land motivated the highlanders to clear many forest zones. It did
not permit the application of a long-term fallowness which favours the reconstruction of the natural arborescent flora. As a result,
the country turned into steppes and many animal species left it.
Tropical rains more easily washed the soil from slopes which did
not have the protection of a permanent root system of the arbo1
I write about this more broadly in: Ethnic and settlement processes in a refuge
territory and forms of social and political organization, “Hemispheres. Studies
on Cultures and Societies”, vol. 5 (1988), pp. 165-192.
This concentration of ethnic and cultural boundaries led some researchers
to indentify hundreds of micro ethnicities in the region, covering individual villages
or settlements, with a population of between a few hundred and a few thousand.
For example, in describing the ethnic situation of a single department of Guider,
Jacques Lestringant speaks of “a hundred ethnic micro groups.” Lestringant, Les
pays Guider Au Cameroun. Essai d’histoire regionale, Versailles, 1964: p. 79.
Kirdi originates from the barma language [although some sources trace
it to the language of Shoa Arabs (ABÉ C., Espace public et recompositions de la
pratique au Cameroun, Polis/RCSS/CSSR (2006), v. 13, Nos. 1–2, p. 41)] and
means literally “the infidel,” “the mangy dog” (Garine I., Kirdi, in: G. Balandier,
J. Maquet (éds.), Dictionnaire des civilisations africaines, Paris 1968, p. 232.

Land and the environment versus customary and statute laws


rescent flora. The yield of the soil decreased. Famines were very
The demographic pressure could be discharged only after external political factors, which disinclined people from a resettlement
of piedmont valleys, had ceased. Among the political factors, which
interfered with an agricultural management of the piedmont valleys, one should primarily mention the pressure of warlike shepherds
and especially that of Fulbe landlord. The mini-states they created
(so-called lamidats, governed by local feudal lords – lamido) fought
a “holy war” with the “pagans” from the mountains for almost the
entire 19th century. The highlanders responded with a guerrilla
war, which, at times, did not differ from banditry. The conflicts
continued in the 20th c. even after the “colonial peace” was introduced by Germans and later French. The Fulbe landlords found
support of representatives of local colonial authorities whom they
convinced without any effort that a “pagan” is synonymous with
a “bandit”. The attitude of the colonial administration intensified
both the aversion and isolation of the highlander population. The
situation did not change much in the first decades of Cameroon’s
independence – the Fulbe landlords gained dominance in the new
country, especially in the north. In this context, it is Daba highlanders who found themselves in the most disadvantageous position,
as Lamido Babale, who claimed the right to rule the Daba-inhabited district of Mayo Oulo, was president Ahmadou Ahidjo’s most
trusted man. Babale’s special clout enabled him in the 1960s, 1970s
and 1980s to perpetrate numerous acts of abuse, including physical abuse, against Daba highlanders.
Nonetheless it can be said that the Daba were the ethnic group
which opposed external influence of both the Fulbe landlord and/
Famine would often force Daba highlanders to sell their children for a handful
of millet. Cf. J. Lestringant, op. cit., pp. 120, 394).


Ryszard Vorbrich

or colonial administration for the longest time. At the beginning
of the 20th c., i.e., at the birth of the colonial epoch, they were the
last ethnic group of this part of Cameroon which, as a whole,
retained independence with respect to the state of Fulbe-Adamaua
that propagated Islam. The persistent resistance of the Daba to
the French administration and to the Fulbe landlords, who represented the former, was the reason for numerous armed incidents
during the interwar period. This independent stance of the highlanders led eventually (in 1940) to the formation of a special status administrative unit in the part of the ethnic Daba area. The
status is depicted in the official name, i.e. Groupement Daba Independants. Eighteen local communities were included in to the
administrative unit: they are formally and directly administered
by a sub-prefect from distant Guider. This, however, is only nominal authority. No representative of the administration showed
up for many years in any of the parts of the area. Hence, the political disintegration of the mountainous communities of the Daba.
Each of the 18 villages was a socially and economy, and, to some
extent, also politically independent unit of territorial organization.
This situation led to the miniaturization of the local economic
The formation of traditional forms of socio-political organization of Daba was not uniform in the entire ethnic area of Daba.
The complex ethnogenesis of the tribes of the Mandara massif
finds its reflection in the ethnic structure of the ethno-linguistic
group under study. Five sub-groups can be distinguished: Daba-Hina, Moutouroua, Kola, Mousgoy and Daba-apparents in total
I write about this more broadly in Daba – górale północnego Kamerunu.
Afrykańska gospodarka tradycyjna pod presją historii i warunków ekologicznych
[Daba – Impact of History and Ecology on the African Tropical Economy], PTL.
Prace Etnologiczne t. 13, Wrocław: PTL 1989, pp. 277.

Land and the environment versus customary and statute laws


from 20 to 30 thousand people, depending on the source6. The
last two sub-groups are most numerous. The members of the sub-group know as Daba-Mousgoy, inhabiting mainly the Mousgoy
canton, are estimated to number 6-7 thousand people whereas
the inhabitants of Groupement Daba Independants, who can be
associated with the Daba-apparents sub-group, are estimated to
number over 8 thousand peoples. Both main sub-groups differ
with respect to the types of traditional form of the socio-political
organization, developed throughout centuries. In the middle of
the 19th century Daba-Mousgoy created a strong expansive chiefdom. A simpler from of political and territorial organization,
comprising single local communities, is more typical of the other
sub-group, defined sometimes as Daba-Independents.
Different forms of the socio-political organization affected the
formation of two separate types of spatial organization as well as
exerted influence on the scale of an economic system among the
main sub-groups of Daba.
Thanks to a strong centralized authority and military potential,
Daba-Mousgoy could effectively oppose the pressure of culturally alien Fulbe on the piedmont areas, more easily accessible to
agriculture. Their chiefdom was the only one of the few independent political units of the pagans (so called “Kirdi”) which remained until the colonial times. In its heyday the chiefdom of Mousgoy comprised several villages. The villages did not form
independent political and economic units. Their former chiefs,
while retaining the functions of religious leaders, were under the
authority of the chiefdom leader. A military organization of the
chiefdom provided for the defence against any external threat as
Estimates vary, cf., A. Podlewski, La dynamique des proncipales populations
du Nord Cameroun, entre Bénoue et Lac Tchad, Yaoundé, 1964 , p. 110; J. Lestringant,
… tab. Population; H. Pierrete, Esquise phonographique d,un parler Daba. La
Mazagway, Yaoundé 1978, p. 3,


Ryszard Vorbrich

well as for free and safe migration of individuals within the chiefdom. Daba-Mousgoy regarded the space between villages as
a positive value, as something homely. The feeling of security
combined with awareness of common interests, strengthened the
feeling of solidarity and the economic links between local communities. A system of goods redistribution, typical of each chiefdom, linked all units and groups with respect to economy and
outlined relatively extensive borders of the local economic system,
convergent with the territory of the chiefdom.
The inhabitants of the mountainous settlements located in the
area of the Groupement Daba Independants7 retained the genuine acephalous character of the social organisation. While making
use of the natural environment, they created a specific form of
the political organization referred to by the present author as
a “mountainous residential aggregate”. The areas of individual
mountainous residential aggregates overlap more or less those of
physiographic massifs.
At the time of slave-hunts and attacks of Fulbe, a no-man’s-land
extended in deserted valleys between settlements located on the
hills. Since the second half of the twentieth century, when threat
has disappeared and the mountainous valleys have been partly
brought under cultivation, borders between the mountainous
residential aggregates, although not formally identified, usually
proceed alongside valleys, rivers and streams. This gave the mountainous residential aggregates an easily noticeable character
of spatially isolated human settlements. During tribal struggles,
the social and economic isolation of individual settlement complexes was even greater. The cavalry of Fulbe ventured frequently
(especially during the seed and harvest time) into the mountaFor about 20 years they have officially used the name Groupement Daba,
without the adjective “Independants”.

Land and the environment versus customary and statute laws


inous valleys, apprehending farmers who travelled between the
massifs or who tried to farm lots located a bit lower. Thus, the
extensive and fertile areas of the mountainous valleys had a negative spatial value for the Daba highlanders. Space was evaluated
here not from the viewpoint of its economic value but from that
of its defensive value. Peaks of hills had a positive value. They did
not provide sufficient amounts of soil and water for the dwellers
but were safe. This contributed to a greater isolation of the settlers
as a consequence, and was not conducive to the emergence of
conflicts of frontier lands.
The reluctance to settle valleys remained in the psyche of the
highlanders long after the political factors which created it had
ceased to act. The territory of a typical mountainous residential
aggregate remained to the end of the 20th century the fundamental unit of territorial organization of Daba highlanders. Enlarged
by the adjoining areas of valleys, it reaches 30-40 km². The organization is formed by a socially, politically, economically and religiously integrated usually community of settlers of about 500
people, often of heterogeneous origin. The structure of kinship
and territorial organization cross on the political plane. Particular residential aggregates are inhabited by mixed ancestral groups
of which families whose pedigree goes back to first settler, the
founder of the aggregate, are dominant. Within kinship groups,
authority8 is exercised by leader of lineage (or gens) as well as
fathers of families.
In the old days they controlled the life of family (or gens),
resolved controversies, helped relatives who needed assistance.
The chief of the residential aggregate, the member of the dominant
From the anthropological perspective we should rather talk about leadership
or decisive influence (R. Vorbrich, Plemienna i postplemienna Afryka. Koncepcje
i postaci wspólnoty w dawnej i współczesnej Afryce, Poznań: Wydawnictwo
Naukowe UAM 2012, pp. 114-115).


Ryszard Vorbrich

gens, provides for the stability of the local social (religious and
economic) system. Thus he was the judge and mediator in controversies between different kinship groups as the “chief of the
earth” (bay), he distributed arable lots, and to this day performs
important functions in agricultural cults, mediates in contacts
with the outside world9. In traditional local communities there
were also leadership functions excluded from the authority of the
political leader and taken over by the “war chief” (bay hyl) and
the “rain chief” (by van)10. They served to provide for the security and integrity of the local group and for the efficient functioning
of the economy.
The title of land co-ownership is held by all persons who are
permanent inhabitants of the area of a residential aggregate and
who belong to a kinship group that is politically recognized in this
area. Since rights to the land are not gained through affiliation to
a gens or a tribe but through the acquisition of the rights of a
number of territorial community, in the case of Daba highlanders
(as before said: Daba-Independents) we cannot speak of one common system of land management. In the case of traditional mountainous residential aggregates we are dealing here with many

Since the 1980s, “chieftains of the earth” were installed in secondary administration system, as accepted (appointed) by state authorities, “village chiefs”.
It helped to change their social status of traditional chiefs. On the one hand,
they lost their independence from external factors, on the other hand, they have
gained a new legitimacy of their power over members of the community. (R. Vorbrich, Wódz jako funkcjonariusz. Despotyzm zdecentralizowany w społeczeństwie
postplemiennym Kamerunu, „Lud” t. 88 (2004), pp. 219-236.
However, the war chief function has disappeared in the 70s of the last
century. The last armed conflict between local communities took place in 19751976. The Teleki residents accused then the inhabitants Mandama of provoking
drought. The function of rain chief is reborn in particular local communities (or
regional communities) in each generation.

Land and the environment versus customary and statute laws


self-contained and independent land systems which determine
the small scale of the local economic system.
In this way, the social and economic organisation of the Daba
fitted the tribe society model. It is marked by low relevance of
kinship in social relations and structures (while territorial bonds
still prevail). It was limited (both in physical space and time) to
public, legal and political connections. Economy of structures can
be observed, seen in the cohesion and self-sufficiency of local
communities as well as in the large degree of concentration of
public roles in the same individuals and institutions11.
On average, a mountainous residential aggregate is divided
into districts situated on the opposite slopes of the massif. The
number of the districts has grown recently: this was followed by
an effective settlement and cultivation of border no-man lands.
The latter have names, but their boundaries were initially not
identified. Over time, such peripheral districts gained independence and definitively separated from the native mountainous
residential aggregate.
This lay at the root of many local conflicts. Their character is
discussed below in the example of the village of Zagalam (Zakalam).
The means for organising space described above began to change in the latter half of the twentieth century. As the political situation stabilised, the advent of a “postcolonial peace” changed
people’s perception of valleys as dangerous areas. The local population consequently began to increase as the process of settlement intensified in the “no-man’s land” of the foothills. This starCompare definitions of tribal society: I. M. Lewis, Tribal society, in: D. Sills
(ed.), International encyclopaedia of the social sciences, Cambridge 1964, v. 18,
pp. 245-261 or A. W. Southall, The illusion of Tribe, in: R.R. Grinker, S. Lubkemann,
Steiner C. (eds.) Perspectives on Africa. A Reader in Culture, History, and
Representation, Chichester 2010, pp. 83–95.


Ryszard Vorbrich

ted a competition for land based on a new and different set of
principles. Norms derived from common law, rooted in (non-transferable) community ownership of land, clashed here with norms
that promoted the desacralisation and marketization of land.
Those making claims to land could no longer merely appeal to
tradition (the heritage of their ancestors – “seniority” in a hierarchical system of shared ownership).
Moreover, in this competition for land, a new element was
introduced – the Government’s economic policy, which set out
two conflicting goals.
First, it sought to extend the state’s jurisdiction to the whole
of the territory (including the tribal areas) within the country’s
borders. Second, it sought to incorporate Cameroon’s tribal communities into the wider national economy based on market principles.
Earlier attempts by the colonial administration to settle the
issue of land ownership were generally not very favourable for
traditional communities. Decrees issued in 1920 and 1921 introduced the concept of “vacant and ownerless lands” (terres vacantes et sans maître)12. This allowed vast expanses of the country
(especially valuable forest areas) to be incorporated into state
forest reserves. As a consequence, local Daba communities were
left with only those lands that (according to the letter of the law)
“belonged to natives or native communities on the basis of custom
and tradition”13. This threatened to deprive the expanding population of highlanders of the ability to make use of fallow lands in
the valleys.

Article 2 of the Decree (p. 52), cited after: G. Masson, La misse en valeur
des territoires du Cameroun places sous le mandate Français, Paris 1928, p. 37.

Land and the environment versus customary and statute laws


These lowlands were initially occupied by the Daba (and other
inhabitants of the mountainous regions of northern Cameroon)
in a spontaneous and rather haphazard manner. This mass movement “toward the valleys” prompted the authorities to legally
regulate the phenomenon. The decree of 19 April 1959 already
guaranteed the collective right to land in areas “necessary for
current and future members of a community”14.
However, the legislature was careful not to use even once in
this case the term “property”, and instead used the term “possession” or “occupation”. As a result, the new land law did not give
traditional local communities ownership rights to the land they
used, but maintained (and normalised) only the right to collective use of larger areas of land than was currently effectively utilised. In its adaptation of legal terminology to the social realities
of tribal communities, the legislature defined, first and foremost,
the term traditionally associated with land tenure – “community”.
The decree stated that a community (communauté) is “a collection
of people linked by bonds of kinship, living together by adoption
or association in a given area”15. In the commentary to the definition, it is suggested that the concept of community refers primarily to ancestral structures (lineage). Significantly, it is stipulated as well that a community thus understood has no legal
personality and therefore cannot own land, and possesses only
the right to its use. This had profound consequences for the commoditisation (marketization) of the agricultural economy16. The
Laws adopted in independent Cameroon (in 1963 and 1966) specified
more precisely the relation between a custom-based and state legal system
(S. Melone, La parente et la terre dans strategie du developpment, Paris 1972,
p. 158)
Ibid, p. 159.
It should be added that as early as 1927, plans were made for a special
procedure to legalise individual rights to land, which was supposed to give it


Ryszard Vorbrich

still unclear status of land hampered its commoditization (and
consequently blocked access to loans).
This situation changed with the land reforms of 1974 and 197617,
which established terms for obtaining the title to land, and introduced new regulations concerning access to land (and forests) in
Cameroon. They also introduced a “system of dominions”, which
created three categories of land: areas owned by (domains of)
the state or other public authorities, private lands, and so-called.
“national domains”18.
From the point of view of local communities and their competition for land, of crucial importance were the lands included in
the national and private domains. The national domain created
a kind of land reserve, areas of which local communities living
within traditional tribal structures could seek to have apportioned
as community property. Such communities (collectivités coutumières)

the quality of a good. This procedure required that an individual seeking to
identify and register their property rights mark the site with stakes. On a specified
day, an administration official, after informing the leaders of traditional local
social structures, conducted a site visit, during which all those present were
called on to make known any competing claims. A protocol was drawn up, and
parties making competing claims had three months to document and formally
present their case. (see Melone, op. cit., p. 160).
Ordinance No. 74/1 of 6 July 1974 and Decree No. 76/165 of 27 April
In addition to its unifying function, the reform aimed at establishing
“unoccupied lands” that could be managed by the government as an instrument
for intensifying agricultural production, especially in the context of its national
development strategy. This reform strengthened the sphere of state ownership
at the expense of local communities. It resulted in cases of populations of
“indigenous peoples” being displaced from the land and property assets they
had inherited. Cf. A. Teyssier, O Hamadou, C. Seighnobos, Expériences de médiation
foncière dans le Nord-Cameroun, FAO Corporate Document Repository [http://]

Land and the environment versus customary and statute laws


could be given areas of this category of land for collective use,
but only under certain conditions19.
Local communities which failed to acquire the status of administrative chiefdoms within a specified timeframe (in the 1970s
and 1980s) were threatened with marginalization. They found
themselves at a disadvantage in terms of access to land resources
deemed part of the “national domain”. At a particular disadvantage were the residents of settlements established in the late twentieth century in the valleys between mountains that were “sandwiched” between larger neighbours. It should therefore come
as no surprise that over time (beginning in the early twenty-first
century) there intensified a tendency among them to “fight” to
become a chiefdom. This was supposed to open up a legal path
to obtaining parts of the national domain.
An example of such activity is provided by the village of Zakalam (also written as Djakalam) in the Groupement Daba20. This
small village (with a population of about 300) is sandwiched between large villages – groups of highland settlements with a long-standing status as chiefdoms: Mandama (to the east), Teleki (also
written as Teriki – to the west), Matalao (to the north) and Taski
(to the south).

As specified in the land decree, “a national domain free of any effective
occupation (may be conferred) under a temporary concession provided that it
will continue to be developed (utilised). This is a condition for a transition to
(a form of) permanent concession and full ownership through the land registry”.
(Article I, Decree No.76/165 of 27 April 1976).
A “groupement” in this case is the equivalent of a district (commune).


Ryszard Vorbrich

The relationship between Zakalam and Mandama illustrates
well a new type of social relations and competition for land in the
region of the Mandara massif.
Due to a historical coincidence, over the last 30 years Mandama has grown into a political and economic centre in Daba country. In the mid-twentieth century, M.T. (one of the sons of the
then-village chief – Mazoum Bay) became the personal chauffeur
of the wife of president M. Ahidjo, and the leader’s half-brother
– D.T. – was sent to school (on orders of the colonial authorities).
Their children, who were educated in the city, currently hold high
and influential positions in political, economic, and cultural institutions in the capital and on the regional level. This has given
the current village chief (the uncle of these educated Daba elites)
access to national decision-making and opinion-forming bodies.
This has also allowed the other residents of Mandama to benefit
from ties to the wider world. Mandama today has a health centre,
two secondary schools, and a Catholic parish, and a new post
office and other facilities have been built21.
For Mandama, Comité de Developpement du Groupement Daba
became the major instrument through which external development
funding could be obtained. Its force is in the functional connection
between traditional ancestral structures with the structures of
the state and the society. The board of the Committee is almost
entirely filled with close relations of the present chief Mandama,
who are at the same time M.T’s and R.D’s cousins or descendants.
The most important of them are placed in the central bodies of
the state; R., for example, who is R.D’s son, has a position of power
at the office of the president of the republic.
Cf. R. Vorbrich, The clay pot and the iron pot. The tribal society confronted
with the nation and the global society, “Hemispheres. Studies on Cultures and
Societies” (2009), vol. 24, pp. 143-154.

Land and the environment versus customary and statute laws


The inhabitants of Zagalam lack such connections. The place
was founded by settlers, who in the mid-20th century left the
neighbouring mountains for the valley below. My studies conducted in 2004 and 2011 indicate that Zakalam elites think their village is underprivileged when it comes to access to land and to
development funding (infrastructural projects). These are controlled by the administration of the region (arrondissement) of
Guider and are intercepted by the inhabitants of the much bigger
Mandama (with a population of between 1,300 and 1,500). Zakalam people complain of being treated like a periphery of Mandama. It is true that – many years ago (in the 1970s) – an inhabitant of Zakalam was nominated chief by the local administration,
but the nomination was defective in substance. It came from Babale – the head of the Mayo Ouolo district – a very powerful,
Fulbe feudal lord and a crony of the then president of Cameroon
Ahmadou Ahidjo22. Now, thirty years after president Ahidjo stepped down (or in fact was deposed), a nomination like this is no
sufficient legitimacy of the chief’s powers and neither does it result in the establishment of a chiefdom. Under the 1977 decree,
village chief (lowest rank) nomination is within the powers of the
prefect. Therefore, the Chief of Zakalam may not be considered
an equal of the chiefs of the neighbouring villages. This affects
the status of the whole settlement and its development opportunities.
In these circumstances, Zakalam elites sought to obtain the
status of a third-class chiefdom. Their efforts were through referring to tradition, namely by exploring the memories of the oldest
Babale was president A. Ahidjo’s (a Fulbe by birth) most trusted collaborator.
He enjoyed the official status of “spiritual father,” but was also rumoured to be
the president’s “personal wizard.” A token of close relations between the two
men is the fact that A. Ahidjo built his private residence in the provincial town
of Mayo Oulo.


Ryszard Vorbrich

villagers in order to provide arguments in favour of making Zakalam an administrative entity. Minutes of the meeting (written
in poor French) and the appended map are precious documents;
they illustrate how important oral tradition is for post-tribal communities in their efforts to document the founding myth of the
local community in the process of building their identity vis-à-vis
the national identity. They also demonstrate how the founding
myth of a local community can be used to boost its legal status
and the legitimacy of the local structures of power. The founding
myth of a local community is used as a tool in building the status
of the group by making it an entity capable of effective competition for land and external resources. The minutes are quoted below – in their original form, which better reflects the spirit of the
In addition to legal measures, there are initiatives designed to
re-design the social organisation of the inhabitants of Zakalam.
Like in some of the neighbouring villages, a civil society structure has been established – based not on blood bonds, but on discretionary ties. It is GIC: Des Agro-eleveurs «KASSAF» de Djagalam
(Zagalam, Zakalam)23. The association’s statutory objective is to
raise the “farming and pastoral awareness” of the local community. The organisation is also a tool in making development resources of the outside world available to the community.
In this way, i.e., by referring to tradition (the founding myths
of the community expressed by the elders) as well as to elements
of “modernity” (GIC-type associations which are organisations
of discretionary nature), the inhabitants of Zakalam have formed
GIC associations in Cameroon are duly registered and operate under Loi
No. 92/006 of 14 August 1992 on groups of joint initiatives (groupe d’initiative
commune – GIC). This is key legislation for the formation of civil society institutions.
Its Article 4 requires such associations to be open and not to discriminate against
anybody on grounds of their tribal identity, religion, gender or ideology.

Land and the environment versus customary and statute laws



Ryszard Vorbrich

a new social dimension, which can be denoted as post-tribal society.
By this term should be understood such a type of society in
which the cultural characteristics, world vision, and structural
elements typical of a tribal society, including the small scale of
social systems, collectivism, and the resultant concept of a human
being as subordinate to the community, the predominance of blood ties over voluntary ties and the related principles of loyalty,
which in turn are connected with the domination of the ethnocentric attitude, etc., are, in a selective and modified manner,
intertwined with institutions and principles imported from western
cultural spheres: the relatively large scale of social systems, the
idea of the nation as an integrated community, social organization
based on the domination of random ties, parliamentarianism,

Abé C., Espace public et recompositions de la pratique au Cameroun, Polis/
RCSS/CSSR, v. 13 (2006), Nos. 1–2, p. 29-56.
Garine I., Kirdi, in: G. Balandier, J. Maquet (éds.), Dictionnaire des civilisations africaines, Paris 1968, p. 232-235.

Cf. R. Vorbrich, Post-tribal society in Africa: The concept of community and
the modernization of tradition (seen from a Polish perspective), in: K. Trzciński
(ed.), The state and development in Africa and other regions: past and present.
Studies and essays in honour of Professor Jan J. Milewski, Warszawa: Oficyna
Wydawnicza ASPRA-JR 2007, pp. 197-206.
The concept of post-tribal society more broadly I discuss in: Plemienna
i postplemienna Afryka. Koncepcje i postaci wspólnoty w dawnej i współczesnej
Afryce [The Tribal and Post-tribal Africa. Conceptions and figure of the community
in old and contemporary Africa], Poznań: Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM 2012,
p. 434.

Land and the environment versus customary and statute laws


Lestringant J., Les pays Guider Au Cameroun. Essai d’histoire regionale,
Versailles 1964.
Lewis I. M., Tribal society, in: D. Sills (ed.), International encyclopaedia
of the social sciences, v. 18, Cambridge 1964, p. 245-261.
Masson G., La misse en valeur des territoires du Cameroun places sous le
mandate Français, Paris 1928.
Melone S., La parente et la terre dans strategie du developpment, Paris,
Pierrete H, Esquise phonographique d,un parler Daba. La Mazagway,
Yaoundé 1978.
Podlewski A., La dynamique des proncipales populations du Nord Cameroun, entre Bénoue et Lac Tchad, Yaoundé, 1964.
Southall A. W., The illusion of Tribe, in: R.R. Grinker, S. Lubkemann,
Steiner C. (eds.), Perspectives on Africa. A Reader in Culture, History, and Representation, Chichester 2010, p. 83–95.
Teyssier A., Hamadou O., Seighnobos C. (eds.), Expériences de médiation
foncière dans le Nord-Cameroun, FAO Corporate Document Repository [
Vorbrich R., Ethnic and settlement processes in a refuge territory and forms
of social and political organization, “Hemispheres. Studies on Cultures and Societies” (1988), vol. 5, p. 165-192.
Vorbrich R., Daba – górale północnego Kamerunu. Afrykańska gospodarka tradycyjna pod presją historii i warunków ekologicznych [Daba
– Impact of History and Ecology on the African Tropical Economy], PTL. Prace Etnologiczne t. 13, Wrocław: PTL 1989.
Vorbrich R., Wódz jako funkcjonariusz. Despotyzm zdecentralizowany
w społeczeństwie postplemiennym Kamerunu [The chief as functionary. Decentralized despotism in the post-tribal society in Cameroon], „Lud” (2004), v. 88, p. 219-236.
Vorbrich R., Post-tribal society in Africa: The concept of community and
the modernization of tradition (seen from a Polish perspective), in:
The state and development in Africa and other regions: past and
present. Studies and essays in honour of Professor Jan J. Milewski,


Ryszard Vorbrich

K. Trzciński (ed.), Warszawa: Oficyna Wydawnicza ASPRA-JR
2007, pp. 197-206.
Vorbrich R., The clay pot and the iron pot. The tribal society confronted
with the nation and the global society, “Hemispheres. Studies on
Cultures and Societies” (2009), vol. 24, p. 143-154.
Vorbrich R., Plemienna i postplemienna Afryka. Koncepcje i postaci wspólnoty w dawnej i współczesnej Afryce [The Tribal and Post-tribal
Africa. Conceptions and figure of the community in old and contemporary Africa], Poznań: Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM 2012.

Terre et de l’environnement versus les lois coutumières
et de loi de l’État.
Les pressions environnementales et politiques
sur le Daba du nord du Cameroun
Mandara massif au Nord-Cameroun est un exemple de la dynamique
des processus culturels associés aux différentes méthodes de planification de l’utilisation des terres. Les phénomènes typiques de la région
sont examinées dans cette étude comme un exemple Daba groupe ethnique vivant dans le bord sud-est du Massif Mandara dans le sud du
Je souligne l’importance des conditions naturelles (l’environnement)
et la pression de facteurs politiques pour les formes d’organisation sociale et les façons d’organiser l’espace. Je décris comment la vieille –
tribale – formes d’organisation sociale sont confrontés avec les exigences
d’une loi de l’État moderne. Pour des exemples précis, je montre comment les paysans forment les structures de la société civile d’être en
mesure de fonctionner efficacement dans la société moderne, contribuant à la formation du type de société «post-tribale».


Au cours des dernières décennies les deux paradigmes étroitement liés – altruiste et de modernisation ont déterminé l’orientation de la politique de développement. Le premier d’entre eux
se donnait pour but (moral !) d’agir pour le bien des autres, le
deuxième visait au progrès technique et à la croissance économique. On retrouve leurs manifestations encore chez les décideurs

Katarzyna Meissner – Université Adam Mickiewicz à Poznan, L’Institut
d’ethnologie et d’anthropologie culturelle
Cet article traite des résultats préliminaires du projet «Le milieu rural de
l’Afrique en quête des projets de développement. L’étude anthropologique des
courtiers locaux du développement au Mali et au Burkina Faso». Le projet a été
financé par le Centre National de la Science (la décision numéro DEC-2012/07/N/
HS3/00866). Dans le cadre du projet nous avons mené la première des trois
étapes des recherches de terrain parmi le peuple Kurumba qui occupe le nordouest du Burkina Faso.


Katarzyna Meissner

et les opérateurs de développement qui se focalisent à obtenir des
effets souhaités de leurs actions de développement.
Actuellement les projets de développement ciblent, à part le
transfert de nouvelles technologies et de connaissances spéciales,
la mise en œuvre de nouvelles structures et modèles d’organisation
sociale à l’exemple de l’Ouest. On évite de formuler les sociétés
en développement en termes de «primitives» et «retardées» et on
les a remplacés par la devise «de l’égalité» et «du partenariat».
Néanmoins on observe chez les opérateurs la tendance à se référer aux « représentations», comme le dirait Edward Saïd (2008),
aux images difformes des collectivités locales qui remontent à
l’époque coloniale.
Dans la littérature on peut retrouver les descriptions de ces
représentations, des modèles élaborés de communautés locales
qui ont influencé le caractère de la politique locale (à comparer
Olivier de Sardan 1993; 1995). Les décideurs et les opérateurs de
développement perçoivent les bénéficiaires comme des communautés compatibles qui fonctionnent selon le principe de consensus et de bien public. En conséquence, cela conduit à ne pas prendre
en considération ni les différences classiques ni les antagonismes
entre les femmes et les hommes, entre les anciens et les jeunes et
même, ce qui est pire, à ne pas remarquer les tensions parmi les
membres des structures formelles ou informelles telles que : groupes
de parenté, de voisins, relations patron-client (sous formes de
dyades, de triades et de réseau des courtiers). À l’inverse, on prend
les membres de la collectivité rurale pour des individus qui prennent
des décisions indépendamment de l’opinion des autres. En réalité, les niveaux de décision, surtout dans le domaine d’introduire
de nouvelles solutions économiques (par exemple : la création
des caisses de crédit ou des sociétés agricoles et d’élevage), sont
très liées – les décisions dépendent aussi bien des opinions individuelles (par exemple : du chef de famille) que des opinions

Les objectifs non cachées – les objectifs cachées


collectives (des membres du clan). Les décideurs se référent dans
leur argumentation aussi à la spécifique culturelle des collectivités locales (coutumes, croyances, préjugés) en tant que facteur
qui traduit le retard et l’aversion par rapport aux innovations de
développement. Cependant, contrairement à l’opinion universelle,
la logique symbolique et religieuse des collectivités rurales coexiste
avec la logique technologique et économique. Néanmoins elle ne
s’inscrit pas dans la définition de «la rationalité» du monde occidental. Les bénéficiaires interceptent d’habitude dans cette situation des solutions selon «le principe de sélectivité» et ils les adaptent
aux contextes culturels locaux2.
Il manque de place dans cet article pour critiquer les paradigmes
invoqués et pour traiter des conséquences auxquelles ils mènent.
Nous visons à signaler que ces méta-narrations ont masqué partiellement le fait que l’activité de développement est le débouché
où les liens et les services sont à vendre (sous forme de projets,
de slogans, de devises). Cette activité est simultanément une arène
où les différents acteurs locaux de société rivalisent des influences
et du prestige qui résulte de leur participation à l’entreprise de

L’état néo-patrimonial constitue l’exemple d’une telle adaptation parce
qu’il unit les formes traditionnelles du pouvoir avec les formes modernes. Comme
l’élément traditionnel on a la structure de maîtrise où le pouvoir considère l’état
pour sa propriété et il fonde son administration sur le maintien des clients. Le
maîtrise du pouvoir par le courtier de la bureaucratie «moderne», mise en œuvre
sur le territoire africain pendant la période coloniale, constitue l’élément adapté.


Katarzyna Meissner

Le marché des biens et du service c’est-à-dire le projet
de développement d’après les bénéficiaires
Dans les années 90 du XXe siècle, la réorientation de la politique
de développement et la transition des macro-projets3 aux projets
réalisés à plus petite échelle démontre la subjectivité croissante
de locales structures socio-progressives (par exemple: comités,
associations et groupes ruraux) et leur influence réelle sur les
objectifs et les directions des entreprises de développement. Les
bénéficiaires, vus jusqu’à présent comme des sujets passifs de
l’activité de développement, ont gagné le statut des partenaires
actifs et de plus en plus conscients de la coopération. Le projet
a abouti donc au changement de la forme des relations entre le
donateur et les bénéficiaires et il est devenu aussi une occasion
pour la confrontation continue des attentes et pour la hiérarchie
des besoins des bénéficiaires.
Jean Pierre Oliver de Sardan (1993), anthropologue du développement, en analysant les micro-projets réalisés sur les territoires
ruraux en Afrique, a conclu que les objectifs de développement
des donateurs formulées «sur le papier» diffèrent des objectifs
auxquelles visent les bénéficiaires «sur le terrain». Cette divergence
est justifiable et inévitable parce qu’elle résulte de la confrontation
des intérêts matériels et symboliques de deux parties impliquées
dans le projet. Une telle idée a été soutenue par Norman Long
(2001), créateur de la perspective centrée sur l’acteur (actor oriented
Cette transition résulte des conséquences négatives de la mise en œuvre
dans les années 80 des programmes d’adaptations structurales qui ont provoqué
la croissance du chômage, la diminution du niveau réel des salaires, l’accès pire
à l’éducation et au service médical et aussi la détérioration de l’état de
environnement. Par conséquent l’intérêt pour aide de développement (aide
fatigue) a diminue de la part des pays du Nord riche ((Médard 2007, 11).

Les objectifs non cachées – les objectifs cachées


perspective). Il a traité le projet comme un type spécifique des
interactions sociales où les deux catégories des sujets se confrontent
face à face. Selon lui, d’un côté il y a les opérateurs du développement dits «développeurs» qui représentent l’aisance et qui
possèdent une vision relativement cohérente de la politique de
développement. De l’autre côté il y a les bénéficiaires dits «développés» qui viennent d’habitude du monde de l’indigence. Les
premiers d’entre eux se donnent pour but de transmettre le savoir,
le plus souvent sous forme de cours ou de formation. Les deuxièmes
– préfèrent les biens résultant des entreprises de développement
(Vorbrich 2013, 17). Richard Vorbrich (2010, 154), anthropologue
culturel, remarque que le terme «projet» est pour les bénéficiaires
comme une clef qui ouvre la porte au monde des biens et qui facilite à puiser dans les possibilités jusqu’à présent inconnues.
Une telle conceptualisation du projet s’appuie sur la confrontation pertinente des objectifs des scénarios des projets de développement où le rôle essentielle jouent les courtiers du développement4. D’une part les courtiers sont entre les donateurs et les
institutions de développement devant lesquelles ils représentent
la communauté et ils expriment les besoins de cette communau4
Le phénomène de courtier dans le contexte des entreprises de développement
a été entamé dans les années 60 et 70 du XXe siècle (Boissevain 1974; Thoden
van Velzen 1973). Pourtant la notion de «courtier du développement» et celle
«d’agent du développement» sont introduits dans le langage anthropologie à
partir des années 90 et on les traite comme synonymes (Bierschenk, Olivier de
Sardan 1993; Neubert 1996). La conceptualisation de courtier au niveau des
sociétés locales est liée avec la multiplication des transferts d’aide dans le dernier
quart de siècle. Cela a provoqué, entre la fin du XXe et le début du XXIe siècle
donc au moment où le projet du développement constitue une forme typique
de la réalisation de politique de développement, l’apparition et la cristallisation
du sujet local opérant sur l’arène locale qui est le courtier à se procurer des
ressources extérieures pour l’espace sociale avec laquelle il s’identifie. Il représente
(en théorie en tout cas) la société locale et exprime ses besoins auprès des structures
de soutien et de financement (Bierschenk, Olivier de Sardan 1993).


Katarzyna Meissner

té. D’autre part, ils sont entre le reste des membres de communauté et les bénéficiaires auxquels ils donnent la possibilité de
distribuer les biens découlant de la coopération de développement.
En fonctionnant à la jointure du monde global et local, les courtiers
sont responsables de créer une image des bénéficiaires que les
institutions de développement attendent. Dans ce contexte la tâche
des courtiers consiste à formuler la hiérarchie de besoins des bénéficiaires d’une telle manière qu’ils s’harmonisent avec les solutions proposées par les bienfaiteurs et qu’ ils opèrent le transfert
des biens5. Selon Thomas Bierschenk (1991: 4), sociologue du
développement, la distribution d’aide ne s’appuie pas sur l’existence de l’infrastructure qui facilite aux animateurs du projet
l’arrivée sur place mais justement sur le fonctionnement des courtiers-acteurs actifs qui créent une sorte «d’entrées» et «de sorties»
pour les entreprises locales de développement réalisées sous forme
des projets6.

Grâce à l’engagement à le courtier ils ont l’accès à «la rente du développement».
C’est de cette façon que l’on détermine les différentes types de paiement, les
pots-de vin où les champs de détournement qui découlaient de l’activité d’aide
et qui étaient interceptés par les courtiers (Bierschenk, Olivier de Sardan 1993).
Jeremy Boissevain (1974, 147) a déchiffré l’une des stratégies les plus
anciennes de s’entremettre dans l’interception des biens. Il a déterminé le courtier
du développement en tant qu’ «un entrepreneur» professionnel qui manipulait
les personnes et les informations afin d’atteindre ses propres profits. Selon
Boissevain, la base d’ opération des courtiers est la création et le maintient des
contacts étendus avec les personnes qui contrôlent la redistribution des biens
découlant d’opérations de développement. Dans ce contexte Boissevain distingue
«les patrons» (patrons) qui contrôlent «le premier degré» des ressources tels que
la terre, le travail ou l’argent et «les courtiers» (brokers) ayants «les ressources
de deuxième degré», à savoir les contacts avec ceux qui contrôlent les ressources
de premier degré.

Les objectifs non cachées – les objectifs cachées


Notre informateur principal que l’on appelera ici Aziz7 était
l’un de ces courtiers et il fonctionnait dans la région de Sahel au
nord-ouest de Burkina Faso. Il a commencé sa vie adulte comme
courtier entre la filiale burkinabé de la Croix Rouge et les compatriotes. Pendant presque 30 ans de coopération il a noué des
contacts, des connaissances et des amitiés à la portée supra-locale,
supra-régionale et internationale. Aziz pouvait se venter d’une
très bonne connaissance du français, du baccalauréat et d’avoir
terminé les cours : ethnographique, de musée et archéologique.
Il était l’exemple de cette classe de courtiers qui a accentué les
besoins de communauté dans des contextes convenables en fonctionnant entre le monde local et global.
En l’occurrence ce contexte constituait notre arrivée à Nenglélé
afin de reconnaître le potentiel de développement et d’analyser
les projets de développement8 menés jusqu’au présent. En connaissant notre intérêt anthropologique de recherche, Aziz s’est présenté en tant qu’une personne avec l’expérience dans la réalisation
d’entreprises internationales de développement9 et aussi en tant
En raison de protéger les informateurs nous avons chiffré leurs prénoms.
Les informations relevées pourraient leur nuire. De plus nous avons inventé la
dénomination fictive Nenglélé pour la communauté où nous avons mené les
recherches. En outre nous évitons exprès de donner les noms propres des groupes
locales, des comités, des institutions de développement mais aussi des organisations
étrangères non gouvernementales (surtout celles de Pologne) dont l’activité on
examine. Il est à craindre que les informations présentées peuvent parvenir à
eux ce qui pourrait provoquer la rupture de coopération et de contacts sur le
C’était la version officielle et très générale du projet que nous avons présentée
aux pouvoirs administratifs (préfet) après notre arrivée à Nenglélé. Le préfet
nous a garanti la possibilité de mener les recherches et il nous a promis d’aider
à chercher le guide et l’informateur convenable en même temps. C’est ainsi que
nous avons rencontré Aziz.
À titre d’exemple, en 2010 il a coopéré avec les membres d’une société
africaine pendant la création de la bibliothèque et du centre culturelle pour les


Katarzyna Meissner

qu’un activiste local agissant pour le développement de la communauté locale10. Il nous a rassuré de mettre à notre disposition
ses contacts, son temps et sa voiture pour qu’on puisse obtenir
des informations. Quand on l’a informé de ne pas pouvoir louer
ni chauffeur ni voiture, il a constaté d’avoir compris notre situation
et de ne pas s’attendre au payement11. Il a remarqué que «l’argent
se finit un jour et ce sont de bonnes relations qui restent et qui
apporteront des profits dans l’avenir». Aziz savait que le plus il
faisait pour nous plus nous serions dépendant de lui, nous lui
récompenserions et même on deviendrait «son anthropologue»
(Rabinow 2010, 79) – en l’occurrence on deviendrait son partenaire dans le projet de développement12. Il a ajouté qu’il possédait
une longue expérience dans la collaboration avec les anthropologiques (avec ceux de Pologne aussi) et qu’il avait avec eux non
seulement des relations professionnelles mais aussi amicales.
Selon lui «on ne demande pas d’argent des amis étrangers (…) il

enfants et pour les jeunes. De 2007 il est engagé à le courtier dans les projets
d’aide et de développement réalisés par les organisations non gouvernementales
et missionnaires de Pologne. Le bâtiment de l’école et le puits sont le fruit de
cette collaboration. Dans les années les plus proche on planifie un autre
investissement, à savoir la réparation du barrage interrompu sur la rivière et la
restauration du réservoir d’eau.
En 2002 il a initié la formation d’association dans le dessin de soutenir
l’alphabétisation des adultes (l’enseignement de compter, de lire et d’écrire dans
la langue choisie). Pendant douze ans de son fonctionnement l’association a crée
32 endroits éducatifs et a rassemble 956 apprenants.
Il a demandé le remboursement des coûts de fonctionnement de sa voiture
et d’essence consommé pendant nos voyages.
Après deux semaines de coopération sur le sujet de projets du développement
Aziz nous a suggéré de trouver une organisation non gouvernementale en Pologne
pour réaliser le projet à Nenglélé parce que les habitants possédaient l’expérience
et ils étaient volontiers à coopérer. Ils leur manquait uniquement le soutien
financier. Il a ajouté encore que ses amis polonais avaient déjà entrepris telles

Les objectifs non cachées – les objectifs cachées


faut les bien recevoir parce qu’ils pourront faire quelque chose
pour lui dans l’avenir»13.
L’engagement d’Aziz dans la réalisation des entreprises de développement était pour lui non seulement une activité qui lui
faisait honneur (il avait d’ailleurs l’habitude de le souligner en
disant «Ça me fait honneur») mais aussi une occasion pour réaliser ses buts, pour obtenir des profits provenant de la redistribution
des ressources interceptées et pour créer le système néo-patrimonial local14. La sentence «si tu a quelque chose dans la main, partage-toi avec les autres» illustre très bien ce système. Elle reflète
aussi le principe fondamental de fonctionnement dans le projet
qui repose sur une chaîne spécifique de rendre mutuellement les
services et d’échanger les dons et sur la gentillesse entre le courtier (le patron) et ses proches collaborateurs (les clients). En agissant selon leur propres «modèles de rationalité» (Long 2001), les
courtiers les utilisent ainsi pour réaliser leur buts cachés dans le
cadre des projets de développement. C’est pourquoi le système
patron-client n’est pas perçu comme un phénomène «impudique»
mais – comme l’indique Nicolas van de Wall (2005, 51)– il résulte
de la spécificité culturelle de la forme principale d’organisation
sociale en Afrique, à savoir le tribu et le clan. Pour cette raison la
portée des systèmes entre Aziz et ses clients dépassait les personnes
engagées dans la réalisation des projets de développement en
embrassant les membres du clan de courtier largement compris.
L’utilisation de catégorie de «bonnes relations» ou «d’amitié» joue en rôle
important dans les entreprises de développement. John Durston, anthropologue
social, il constate que l’amitié au niveau des projets de développement est
uniquement instrumentale. On peut la comparer à la relation patron-client donc
elle ne sert qu’ à la réalisation de profits financiers et/ou symboliques (Durston
Jean Françis Bayard (1989) et Jean François Médard (1991) ont utilisé
la notion de «clientélisme de développement» pour déterminer cette pratique.


Katarzyna Meissner

Les avantages de la parenté ou de l’apparentement avec Aziz avait
une étendue extrêmement large : des prêts accordés une seule
fois pour monter un petit commerce15, par le financement de l’éducation de proches parents16 à la réception des enfants «au service»
ou pour la formation17. Parfois la possibilité de faire connaissance
avec le partenaire étranger d’Aziz était déjà une sorte de profit
parce qu’elle constituait aussi une occasion pour le transfert des
Edmund Leach (1982), anthropologue social, a suggéré de
voir la stabilité du système patron-client d’une perspective différente, à savoir la capacité à contracter une dette. Quand ce système
s’anime, les deux parties se transmettent les dons – au sens matériel ou à un autre. Pendant le reste de périodes il y a uniquement
le sentiment de l’engagement non-payé – chez le client il a la forme
Aziz a prêté de l’argent deux fois à son neveu pour ouvrir un petit magasin
alimentaire. Le neveu a géré mal son petit commerce et par conséquent il a fait
faillite. Il était incapable de rendre de l’argent emprunté donc il a travaillé pour
s’acquitter de ses dettes. Il était un bras second au camping local géré par Aziz
et aussi son serviteur (il faisait le ménage et lavait sa voiture). Il jouait le rôle
de «garçon de course» et il colportait une rumeur. Son comportement était souvent
l’objet de plaisanteries et de moqueries de la part de son oncle. Parmi quatre
femmes d’Aziz deux d’entre elles ont reçu le soutient financier pour ouvrir un
petit commerce (la production et la vente des beignets)
La troisième femme d’Aziz a reçu le soutien financier pour terminer l’école
des infirmières et puis grâce aux contacts de son mari elle a trouvé le travail
dans le chef-lieu de district. La quatrième femme a commencé l’éducation dans
la même ville grâce au soutien financier.
Aziz entretenait la fille de son ami. Elle a aidé sa femme dans les taches
domestiques. En revanche Aziz payait pour l’éducation et l’alimentation de cette
Dans cette situation Aziz proposait souvent de petits tours dans la région
pendant lesquels nous avons rendu la visite à ses amis. Pendant le trajet Aziz
racontait des histoires sur leur situation matérielle difficile et sur leur problèmes
de santé. Il soulignait en même temps son petit soutien financier à l’occasion de
chaque rencontre avec eux et il nous suggérait d’une manière assez explicite de
faire la même chose. Le refus de notre part serait une grande maladresse.

Les objectifs non cachées – les objectifs cachées


d’endettement moral tandis que chez le patron (le courtier) c’est
la conscience d’avoir «une créance». La capacité à créditer les
engagements matériels et surtout morales détermine la position
du curtier – elle accroît son prestige et fait de lui un contractant
désiré dans les entreprises prochaines de développement. Dans
ce contexte, l’utilisation de la stratégie du patronage augmente
non seulement les profits financiers mais avant tout elle renforce
la position sur l’arène locale. Par la suite Aziz, grâce aux plusieurs
systèmes patron-client avec les locaux et grâce aux contacts et à
l’amitié avec les européens – il était perçu par les cohabitants
comme une personne importante et puissante19. Son surnom
«blanc-noir» le prouve le mieux. Ce jeu des mots «blanc-noir»
déterminait la façon d’être d’Aziz. «Blanc-noir» celest une personne
qui veut se communiquer avec ses compatriotes en langue européenne, qui fait la connaissance avec de nouveaux venus de l’Ouest,
qui s’habille selon le modèle occidental et qui possède «les choses
modernes» – le synonyme de la richesse20 (par exemple : voiture,
ordinateur, téléphone, maison en pierre taillée). «Blanc-noir» est
perçu en tant qu’une personne développée – a joungana-téme – ce
que en langue koromfé signifie «quelqu’un qui était enfermé et
qui est sorti de cet enfermement». Cela se laisse voir dans l’acceptation des changements progressifs comme par exemple les coutumes et dans le cas d’Aziz elle concerne la déclaration à soutenir

Pendant nos conversations avec les habitants ils parlaient d’Aziz comme
suit : «Il est important», «Il est membre de plusieurs associations», «C’est une
personne qui sait mobiliser et qui fait comprendre» , «Il est écouté par les autres».
Parmi les personnes interrogées, apparaissent deux catégories de richesse.
La première, c’est la richesse traditionnelle, qui se manifeste par la présence
d’un grand nombre de «choses anciennes» (akan kone), tels que : du mil, du
bétail et de l’or. Deuxièmement, la richesse modernes liés à l’acquisition de
«nouvelles choses» (akan felen), provenant du monde extérieur qu’ils peuvent
acheter pour de l’argent.


Katarzyna Meissner

l’interdiction de l’excision qui est officiellement interdite au Burkina Faso21.

Un projet – plusieurs objectifs
Le désaccord entre les objectifs du projet exprimées «sur le
papier» avec celles auxquelles visent les bénéficiaires «sur le terrain», nous l’avons observé à Nenglélé pendant la surveillance
des préparatifs à la revitalisation du musée régional. Cette entreprise constituait l’introduction au projet du développement du
tourisme local (le projet était prévu pour 3 ans) – l’exposition
promouvant les valeurs culturelles et archéologiques de la région22
allait être fondé dans le siège rénové du musée. Aziz était l’auteur
de cette entreprise et avec un ami volontaire de France, ils ont
reçu la promesse de la financer du côté de Ministère de la Culture
au Burkina Faso. Le critère indispensable à remplir par les bénéficiaires était de former le conseil d’administration «compétent,
dynamique et responsable» comme le ministère le souhaitait. La
direction actuelle et le reste du personnel fonctionnait invariablement depuis 10 ans (!) et ils n’ont rien fait pour le développement du musée ce qui a provoqué finalement sa destruction. Toutefois il y avait encore un problème dans cette situation parce que
le président de l’administration ne voulait pas démissionner.
Le fait que Aziz était pour l’interdiction de l’excision a forcé la deuxième
d’Aziz à exciser leur fille en cachette. Elles ont quitté la maison d’Aziz pour
quelques semaines. Après cette période la femme d’Aziz est revenue mais leur
fille était morte et ils l’ont enterré la même nuit. Malgré son attitude d’adversaire
de l’excision, Aziz n’a pas divulgué cette nouvelle. Finalement ils ont annoncé
qu’elle était morte à cause d’une maladie gastrique non identifiée.
Les stations archéologiques présentant l’art rupestre et le traditionalisme
culturel relativement maintenu chez le peuple Kurumba.

Les objectifs non cachées – les objectifs cachées


Aziz était mécontent d’un tel déroulement des événements et
il cherchait une solution efficace. En profitant de sa haute position
à Nenglélé, il a commencé à s’allier avec les participants stratégiques du projet : le mer et le chef. Jusqu’au présent ils n’étaient
pas engagés directement dans le travail du musée mais avec l’apparition de nouvelles possibilités ils jouaient le rôle des parties
prenantes. Le mer, en raison de son poste, tenait à la gestion efficace du projet parce que le Ministère de la Culture de Burkina
Faso allait verser l’argent promis sur le compte du bureau de la
commune. De plus, conformément aux nouvelles exigences du
ministère, le représentant du pouvoir local devrait siéger dans le
conseil d’administration du musée. Ce représentant aurait l’impact
sur le travail du musée mais également l’accès réel aux sources
de financement. D’après les nouvelles directives il y avait aussi la
place pour le chef qui jouerait le rôle d’honneur du gardien de la
tradition. Grâce à cette fonction, il légitimerait sa position et il
aurait la possibilité de contrôler le travail de la direction d’autant
plus que dans ses structures il y aurait des représentants de l’administration nationale à laquelle il n’avait pas de confiance. Pendant les négociations auxquelles nous avons participé, Aziz racontait des histoires sur les incorrections commises par le président,
entre outres ses visites régulières dans le débit de boissons. Néanmoins il était beaucoup plus difficile d’obtenir les informations
sur Aziz et ses motifs de l’engagement au changement de la direction surtout qu’il rejetait ouvertement le poste du président23.
Pourquoi tenait-il tellement à la réalisation du projet? Il s’est avéré, après quelques semaines de notre observation que derrière le
scénario de la revitalisation du musée se cachait la possibilité
Comme il a constaté tout seul, cela lui a donné une plus grande aisance
d’exprimer l’opinion et a éloigné de lui les soupçons d’avoir opéré pour son
intérêt personnel.


Katarzyna Meissner

d’accumuler les mesures financières. Dans la version officielle du
projet proclamée aux habitants, la question du prime pour le coordinateur local surveillant la revitalisation du musée n’a pas été
mentionné. Cette fonction a été confié bien évidemment à Aziz.
Pendant les rencontres avec le mer et le chef, Aziz soulignait
la mauvaise réputation du président précédent auprès des certains
milieux diplomatiques24 et ses lacunes en compétences linguistiques (manque du français courant lu et écrit) ce qui rendait plus
difficile la collaboration avec les partenaires étrangers25. Il soulignait également la disparition tantôt des cotisations26 de caisse
du musée et tantôt des meubles du siège muséal (5 chaises, 3 bancs
et une table). Tout ceci était fort désavantageux pour le mer parce
que la caisse s’est située dans le mairie et l’équipement avait été
offert par le ministre de la culture il y a quelques années27. Après
Il ne s’agit pas ici d’une simple connaissance de la langue des opérateurs,
mais plutôt de la capacité à se servir de la rhétorique et de l’axiologie du discours
de développement, par exemple par accentuer la situation des groupes marginalisés
Dans les années 1998-1999 le président a travaillé comme aide-cuisinier
à l’ambassade d’Allemagne à Ouagadougou. En profitant de cette situation, il
a demandé de financer le projet de la construction de deux maisons pour les
enseignants travaillant à Nenglélé. Il a reçu une donation de 700000 francs CFA
(environ 10670 euros). Pour cette somme on pouvait construire à l’époque deux
maisons en pierre taillée. Quand la délégation de l’ambassade est venue afin de
le vérifier, au lieu de maisons de pierre taillé il y avait des maisons en brique de
boue et avec le toit de tôle dont le coût de construction a été estimé à 70000
francs CFA (1067 euros). Le cuisinier et l’argent ont disparu. Après un an et
demie le président est revenu à Nenglélé et il habite jusqu’au présent dans une
des maisons pour les enseignants. Depuis lors toutes les demandes de soutien
financier adressées à l’ambassade d’Allemagne ont été rejetées parce que sur le
document il y avait la signature du président.
Il a contacté le trésorier du musée et l’a prévenu des conséquences découlant
de la fraude des cotisations. Malgré sa signature sur les chèques, le trésorier
a constaté que le président les avait retirés.
Quand on lui a posé la question sur la disparition des meubles, le président
a répondu : «les termites les ont mangés».

Les objectifs non cachées – les objectifs cachées


deux mois de négociations le président a finalement renoncé et
le nouveau conseil d’administration a été convoquée. Le préfet
est entré en fonction du président, le mer est devenu son adjoint,
le rôle du membre d’honneur a été confié au chef et Aziz a gardé
le poste de conservateur et de guide28.

La situation présentée ci-dessus constitue l’un des plusieurs
exemples de divergence entre les objectifs non-cachées («sur le
papier») et les objectifs cachées («sur le terrain»). Ce sont les échos
des paradigmes : altruiste et de modernisation qui résonnent encore et sont à l’origine de cet état de choses. Pour cette raison les
décideurs et les coordinateurs des projets de développement
prennent toujours des positions extrêmes. D’un coté ils romantisent
les revendications «éloignées» transmises par le courtier, de l’autre
– ils maintiennent la tendance à essencialiser le développement
et de le considérer comme une entreprise monolithique dirigée
d’en haut. Par conséquent, l’utilisation de ces deux modèles de la
politique se tourne contre les objectifs visées et contre les effets
des projets de développement. Norman Long qu’on a cité déjà,
a suggéré de voir le projet sous une autre optique – celle des bénéficiaires et non pas de donateurs. Ainsi on remarquera la contextualité locale de la pensée et de l’interprétation les processus de
développement. D’habitude les objectifs des décideurs et des
opérateurs du développement sont abstraites et nos recherches
le confirment. Comme l’exemple du président précédent le montre,
il ne visait ni à la promotion de la région ni au développement du
À part eux, les quatorze membres encore ont siégé dans le conseil


Katarzyna Meissner

tourisme mais uniquement au transfert des fonds promis par le
ministère. En l’occurrence l’accès aux biens découlant de l’activité de développement était l’objectif cachée des bénéficiaires29.
Pour arriver à ce fin ils profitaient des scénarios proposées par
donateurs tels que la formation de nouveaux cadres dirigeants.
Néanmoins ce n’était qu’une solution temporaire puisqu’on la
suspendait au moment de terminer le projet. Pendant les élections
de nouveau conseil d’administration, les bénéficiaires ont constaté plusieurs fois qu’ «on peut le changer toujours» et que l’essentiel
était d’obtenir de l’argent. Malheureusement cette divergence
dans les objectifs des scénarios du projet entraîne la précarité ou
l’échec. En général, avec la fin du projet et la disparition des animateurs, les scénarios sont oubliés et il reste aux bénéficiaires
d’ attendre aux rôles prochains à jouer.

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Bierschenk, T. 1991. Les projects et les politiques de développement
sont-ils des préoccupations légitimes de l’anthropologie?. Bulletin de l’APAD. 1. 12-14.
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Ryszard Vorbrich traite de cette conceptualisation des projets de
développement plus largement (2013).

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Neubert, D. 1996. The role of local brokers in the development system.
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socio-anthropologie du changement social. Paris-Marseille: Karthala.
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Wydawnictwo Marek Derewiecki.
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and weakness of the big man paradigm. Man 8. 592-614.
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plemienne w zderzeniu ze społeczeństwem narodowym i globalnym. Przypadek Kamerunu. Lud 94. 143-158.
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Katarzyna Meissner
Public targets – hidden targets
The discrepancy between transcripts
in the local field of development cooperation

The article presents the preliminary results of ethnographic field
research that I conducted among the Kurumba living in the north-western Burkina Faso. It will answer the question of how agents of development – a special group of beneficiaries of development projects –
carry hidden transcripts for maximizing the benefits sources (both
material, financial and symbolic) following from development cooperation. During a two-month stay in the municipality that for the publication purposes I called Nenglélé I watched the practice of a particular
development agent, whom for the purposes of this article I called Aziz.


The Central African Republic is the country, in which the only
advocates are fruit, captains are fish and gendarmes are birds
(Central African saying)1

1. Introduction
The Central African Republic has been considered a fragile
state for many years. The Fund for Peace prepares every year a
ranking of failed states on the basis of 12 criteria: demographic
pressures; massive movements of refugees or internal displaced
persons; vengeance-seeking group grievance; chronic and sustained human flight; uneven economic development; poverty, sharp
or severe economic decline; legitimacy of the state; progressive
deterioration of public services; violation of human rights and
rule of law; security apparatus; rise of factionalized elites and
intervention of external actors. In the case of the Central African
Cited after: R. Wieczorek OFM Cap., Listy z Serca Afryki, Kraków 2002,
p. 52. Avocado is in French avocat, the same as advocate. Capitaine is a popular
name of fish, which occur in the Central African Republic and Cameroon, and
weigh dozens of kilograms. Tisserin gendarme is a name of an African bird,
known in English under the name of village weaver.


Konrad Czernichowski

Republic the situation of movements of refugees (9.8 points with
10.0 meaning the state totally failed), security apparatus (9.7),
the shortage of public services (9.5), intervention of external actors (9.4), uneven social and economic development (9.2) and
emerging factions (9.1) look the worst. According to Fr. Jerzy
Kiebała OFM Cap., who was a missionary there, students of the
university in Bangui are mostly sons and daughters of ministers
and those who have money. The number of students coming from
the bush is marginal2.
In 2013 the country was classified on the nineth position out
of 178 states3, which puts it on a high state of alert. It went down
from the eighth place in 20084. However, the ranking did not take
into consideration the chaos emerged after Michel Djotodia’s coup
d’état in March 2013 and his resignation in January 2014. The
state will probably go up in this ranking.
It is even worse in the ranking of simplicity of doing business.
According to the World Bank’s report “Doing Business 2014. Understanding Regulations for Small and Medium-Size Enterprises”,
the Central African Republic holds the last but one position5. In
2009 it was classified on the 180th place, that is eight places higher6. The aim of this article is to determine the actual reasons of
the armed conflict.

The interview of the Movement “Maitri” with Fr. Jerzy Kiebała OFM Cap.
made on 1.05.2007 in Wrocław.
The Failed State Index 2013, in: (accessed: 18.02.2014).
K. Czernichowski, Bezpośrednie inwestycje zagraniczne w Afryce, „Afryka”
(2009), No. 29-30, pp. 143-147.
Doing Business 2014. Understanding Regulations for Small and Medium-Size
Enterprises, World Bank, Washington 2013, p. 3.
K. Czernichowski, Bezpośrednie…, op. cit., pp. 143-147.

Reasons of the conflict in the Central African Republic (2012-2014)


2. Coups d’état in the Central African Republic
The state has been experiencing numerous coups d’état, terror,
killings, riots, violations of human rights since its independence
in 1960. The most bloody dictator was Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa (1921-1966). In 1966 he overturned David Dacko (19302003), whose uncle he was (therefore some people saw in this
coup nothing else but a familiar dispute). The political reason
was the establishment of political relations with China by Dacko
(which Bokassa did not like), as well as corruption within the
government7. His coronation as emperor cost a lot of the state’s
income8. He ruled the country authoritatively till 1979, when
Dacko was restored to power with the help of the Frenchmen.
In 1981 another coup d’état took place with General André
Kolingba as the new leader. His rule could be characterized by
nepotism. He introduced friends and members of his ethnie Yakoma to the head of strategic institutions. At the end of his presidency people with such roots were chairmen of 80 per cent of
public companies9.
In 1993 the first and the only to this day democratic elections
were held. Ange-Félix Patassé was chosen the President10. His rule
was however less democratic11.

R. Kapuściński, Gdyby cała Afryka…, Agora, Warszawa 2011, p. 253.
R. Oliver, A. Atmore, Dzieje Afryki po 1800 roku, Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza
2007, p. 354.
The Central African Crisis: From Predation to Stabilisation. Africa Report
No°219, 17.06.2014, International Crisis Group, p. 1.
M. Tul, Przewrót w Republice Środkowoafrykańskiej, „Raport Afryka. Polish
Centre for African Studies” (2013), April – June, p. 26.
The Central…, op. cit., p. 1.


Konrad Czernichowski

In 2003 another coup d’état was lead by François Bozizé, the
former army chief and Patassé’s collaborator12. Nevertheless, he
did not contribute to the establishment of peace and security. He
sought help in maintaining his power overseas. As a result the
Mirage aircraft from France made raids on the North of the Central African Republic. Bozizé’s advisor was a businessman Didier
Pereira, who lived in South Africa for 20 years. He mediated in
the talks of the President of the Central African Republic with the
President of South Africa (Jacob Zuma) about the supply of weapons. It was not realized because of legal obstacles on the side
of South Africa13. The President of Chad, Idriss Déby, also gave
his support to Bozizé by sending a contingent of soldiers14.
In December 2012 rebel groups, mainly from Chad and the
Sudan, under the common name “Seleka” (the word means in
the language of Sango “covenant”15, it can also come from the
French “séléction” – “choice” or “selected”16, because Sango has
many loanwords from French17), initiated the uprising against

R. Wieczorek OFM Cap., Pęknięte Serce Afryki, Kraków: Wydawnictwo
Serafin 2006, p. 23.
M. Koziński, Obecność wojsk RPA w Republice Środkowoafrykańskiej, „Raport
Afryka. Polish Centre for African Studies” (2013), April – June, pp. 20-21.
L. Lombard, Is the Central African Republic on the Verge of Genocide?, in: (5.12.2013 r.; accessed: 21.08.2014).
P. Bouckaert, ‘We Live and Die Here Like Animals’, in: http://www.
central_african_republic_muslim_christian_violence (13.11.2013 r.; accessed:
R. Wieczorek OFM Cap., W RCA nie chodzi o religię, in: http://www.stacja7.
pl/article/2468/W+RCA+nie+chodzi+o+religi%C4%99 (7.02.2014 r.; accessed:
R. Modelski OFM Cap., Koktajl misyjny, Kraków – Poznań: Sorus 2010,
p. 13.

Reasons of the conflict in the Central African Republic (2012-2014)


Bozizé18. South Africa reinforced its troops to 200 soldiers19. In
March 2013 Seleka mastered the capital Bangui and the rebels’
head Michel Djotodia took power. French media published that
his security adviser was a former French army officer. Djotodia’s
rule, which lasted less than one year, was characterized by looting
and chaos. The new President usurper increased extraordinary
expenses. During the unrest, the ministers of his government spent
public money on expensive trips to Europe, India, Qatar, South
Africa and Senegal20. François Bozizé fled abroad. Unlike previous coups d’état, this one was strongly condemned by the international community21. The African Union sent MISCA troops (the
African-led International Support Mission to the Central African
Republic, French: Mission internationale de soutien à la Centrafrique sous conduite africaine), which replaced MICOPAX22 (the Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in Central African Republic,
French: Mission de consolidation de la paix en Centrafrique). MICOPAX had been coordinated by ECCAS (Economic Community
of Central African States) and had consisted of Chadian, Gabonese, Equatorial Guinean, Cameroonian and Congolese (from
Congo-Brazzaville) soldiers. France supported MISCA with two

M. Tul, op. cit., p. 25.
M. Koziński, op. cit., p. 21.
The Central…, op. cit., pp. 3-6.
Compare: M. Tul, op. cit., p. 25.
R. Marchal, Central African Republic: Back to War Again?, in: http:// (12.09.2013 r.; accessed:


Konrad Czernichowski

thousand soldiers23 within the operation “Sangaris”24. Only in
December 2013 one thousand people were killed. As for 1 August
2014, 927 thousand people had to flee25.
During peace talks in N’Djamena in January 2014 Michel Djotodia resigned. He is now in Benin, where he was granted asylum.
As reported by the International Crisis Group in 2014, he lives in
a comfortable environment – he has a farm, is building a house
on the outskirts of Cotonou and is protected by Beninese soldiers26.
Catherine Samba-Panza, a lawyer, a former mayor of Bangui27
and an activist for women28, was meanwhile elected the interim
head of state. It is the third woman in the presidency (though
temporary – elected for one year) in the African history, after
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf from Liberia and Joyce Banda from Malawi.
Her task is to stabilize the situation in the country, so that free
presidential elections can be held.

A. Jaulmes, La France envoie 400 soldats supplémentaires en Centrafrique,
G00377-la-france-envoie-des-renforts-en-centrafrique.php (14.02.2014 r.;
accessed: 30.08.2014).
Opération Sangaris, in:
centrafrique/operation-sangaris/operation-sangaris (10.12.2013 r.; accessed:
CAR: When refugees become more than statistics, in: http://www.unocha.
(7.08.2014 r.; accessed: 22.08.2014).
The Central…, op. cit., s. 4.
I. Cywa, Komentarz: Konflikt w Republice Środkowoafrykańskiej: Krwawe
„Serce Afryki”, in: re p u b l i c e - % C 5 % 9 B ro d kowo a f r y k a % C 5 % 8 4 sk i ej % 3 a - k r w awe %E2%80%9Eserce-afryki%E2%80%9D-/ (accessed: 22.02.2014).
G. Warner, War in Africa: Faith or Economics?, Radio “Interfaith Voices”,

Reasons of the conflict in the Central African Republic (2012-2014)


3. Arguments in favour of the religious nature
of the current conflict
The conflict in the Central African Republic is sometimes called a religious war between Christians and Muslims. One can
encounter, among others, the following sentences in the world
The killings of at least 30 people Wednesday by Muslim rebels who stormed a Catholic church in the Central African Republic marked the latest
escalation of religious violence gripping the conflict-torn nation29.
A cycle of violence in the Central African Republic is quickly degenerating into a religious conflict between Christians and Muslims, amid a
deteriorating humanitarian crisis, church leaders and U.N. officials
Thursday’s violence is thought to have begun when Christian militias,
loyal to the CAR’s ousted President Francois Bozize, launched multiple
attacks from the north – sparking retaliatory attacks from mainly Muslim armed fighters loyal to the new leadership31.

Seleka consists mainly of people confessing Islam who performed brutal killing of civilians. On 8 February 2014 Father Benedykt
Pączka (former director of the Capuchin Mission Secretariat in
Poland, and now a missionary in the Central African Republic)
G. Taylor, M. Somers, Fears of religious war rise in Central African Republic
after attack on Catholic church, in: “The Washington Times”, http://www. (28.05.2014; accessed: 20.08.2014).
F. Nzwili, Religious conflict rips through Central African Republic, in: http:// (21.11.2013; accessed: 20.08.2014).
‘Hundreds dead’ in Central African Republic violence, in:
com/news/world-africa-25273681 (6.12.2013; accessed: 21.08.2014).


Konrad Czernichowski

visited the village Nzakoun. His attention was drawn to the fact
that, when people heard the sound of an engine, fled into the
bush. In the same village, he found houses with traces of blood,
scattered clothing, bullet shells. Four days earlier there had been
a massacre here. 22 people, including 9 children, had been murdered. Trying to pay attention of the world’s media to this tragedy, he reports:
Bodies of dead people remained until Wednesday, when Seleka left the
village. People came and… they could not believe what they saw. Then
we go further – people who show us round present us the burned houses.
There are 25 of them, with all their belongings. They buried their goods
in these houses: motorbikes, bicycles, money and all that, which was of
any value. A couple of motorbikes, bicycles, pots, beds, which had not
burnt, remained. 14 motorbikes and 5 bikes had been destroyed by fire32.

Seleka encountered resistance of Anti-Balaka, which had been
established during François Bozizé’s rule to protect against robberies33. It was, however, less well armed and less well organized
than Seleka34. According to some sources, “Balaka” means in Sango language “machete”35, and other sources give the meaning
“anti-balles AK”, from “blendé anti-balles d’automat Kalachnikow
47” – “resistant to Kalashnikov bullets”36. Anti-Balaka consists
mainly of Christians (therefore some media call it Christian militia) who are willing to admit their faith and declare their actions
A. Ścibik, B. Pączka OFM Cap., Serce Afryki krwawi, in: http://www.opoka. (accessed: 18.02.2014).
Human Rights Watch, World Report 2014, New York 2014, p. 90.
The Central…, op. cit., p. 9.
I. Käihkö, M. Utas, op. cit., p. 70; ‘Hundreds…, op. cit.; D. Smith, Christian
threats force Muslim convoy to turn back in CAR exodus, in: http://www.theguardian.
(14.02.2014; accessed: 22.02.2014); or G. Warner, op. cit.
R. Wieczorek OFM Cap., op. cit.

Reasons of the conflict in the Central African Republic (2012-2014)


in the name of Christianity37. Anti-Balaka had committed crimes
against Muslim civilians, particularly in the region of Bosangoa
in central-western part of the country38. According to “The Guardian”, Anti-Balaka had killed all the Muslims except an eleven-year
old girl in one village (though it may be surprising that the journalist did not mention the name of the village)39.
Many civilian Muslims were forced to flee the war-torn country.
Journalists reached some of them. They feel religiously discriminated. Gana El Hadji Chetima, a trader from Bossemtélé, said:
We are hated by the Christians from Central African Republic. They do
not want Muslims at home and consider that Muslims are not Central

Another Muslim woman lamented: It is no longer a country for
The appointment of Mahamat Kamoun as the Prime Minister,
the first ever Muslim to the office, may also reflect the religious
nature of the conflict42. This is to ease the tensions between followers of the two religions.

4. Counterarguments
Monsignor Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, is
strongly protesting against talking about Anti-Balaka as a Christian
I. Käihkö, M. Utas, op. cit., p. 70.
World…, op. cit., p. 90.
D. Smith, op. cit.
Le Journal Afrique, TV5, 11.03.2014.
G. Warner, op. cit.
T. Scheen, Ringen um Einfluss, in:
html (12.08.2014; accessed: 23.08.2014).



Konrad Czernichowski

militia since attacking people opposes to Christian morality. Anti-Balaka causes suffering of not only Muslims. Archbishop Nzapalainga appeals to call this formation a self-defense or a military militia, but not a Christian militia43. Anti-Balaka’s connotations
with Christianity result only from the fact that it was created
against Seleka and that it is mostly formed by Christians, who
make up 50 per cent of population (35 per cent are followers of
traditional religions and 15 percent – Muslims)44. Some Anti-Balaka’s members are soldiers of the former President François Bozizé45, which further explains their brutality.
Seleka’s connotations with Islam concern the fact that it is
formed by the gangs coming from Sudan and Chad, where Islam
dominates46. These groups are very diverse. In August 2014 there
were even bloody clashes between the two factions of Seleka,
aiming at taking control over barriers at the Bambari exit in the
centre of the country47.
Alicja Toton, who was a volunteer as a doctor in Bagandou in
the south west of the Central African Republic in the years 20092010, did not encounter any signs of hostility between Christians
and Muslims. If there were some tensions, they resulted from
jealousy. The Muslims were generally better off financially since
Prelate denounces use of term ‘Christian militia’ in Central African conflict,
(11.02.2014; accessed: 22.02.2014).
Africa. Central African Republic, in:
publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ct.html (18.02.2014; accessed:
I. Cywa, op. cit.
M. Cariou, C. Africa’s Nzapalainga, much more than an archbishop, in: http://
html (14.10.2013; accessed: 1.09.2014).
Centrafrique: violents combats entre factions de la Seleka à Bambari, in: (26.08.2014; accessed: 30.08.2014).

Reasons of the conflict in the Central African Republic (2012-2014)


they most often engaged in trade. Alicja Toton mentions a Muslim
employed in the Catholic hospital where she worked. Every day
before work he accompanied with the respectful attitude the staff
who prayed. Both Christians and Muslims were treated in this
hospital. The change of religion was socially acceptable48.
Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga and Imam Omar Layama
Kobin, president of the Muslim community in the Central African
Republic, travel currently across the country and call for peace.
They have also written a common article for “Le Monde”, in which
they argue that the conflict in their country is not a war between
Christians and Muslims, but the consequence of an acute humanitarian crisis caused by long periods of political and military
instability49. This unstable situation, which lasted for decades,
contributed to the progressive wallowing of the country in the
socio-economic crisis50.

5. Economic background of the conflict
Central African Republic depends largely on foreign aid. NGOs
financed mainly by foreign donors have taken over the majority
of social services51. The average life expectancy of women is

E-mail from A. Toton, 23.02.2014.
D. Nzapalainga, O.K. Layama, En Centrafrique, « le pire pourrait être encore
à venir », in: (26.12.2013; accessed:
Compare: Rozmowa z ojcem Jerzym Steligą OFM Cap., „My a Trzeci Świat”
(2009), No. 5, p. 3.
The Central…, op. cit., p. 1.


Konrad Czernichowski

51 years52, and of men – 48 years53. Continuous wars, rebellions
and unrest destabilized the economy, eg. among many large and
medium-sized enterprises in the district of Bimbo, adjacent to
Bangui, now only one remains. The country that produced such
products as milk and yogurt now imports them from abroad54.
The weakness of the government, corruption, taking by multinational corporations profit from the unstable political situation
enable the occurrence of the so-called “natural resources curse”
in the Central African Republic, meaning an adverse effect on the
development of resource-based economies and, in extreme cases,
the petrification of one-party rule and enforcement of corrupt
regimes in order to maintain favorable conditions for the exploitation of minerals55. It concerns the countries, in which at least
8 per cent of GDP is generated by the extractive industry and
40 per cent of export revenues are commodities56. These indicators
are almost exactly the same in the case of the Central African
Republic: 7 per cent and 39.8 per cent, respectively. It should be
noted that these are the official figures that do not take into account estimates that 30 per cent of diamonds are smuggled abro52
Life expectancy at birth, female (years), in:
indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.FE.IN (accessed: 21.08.2014).
Life expectancy at birth, male (years), in:
indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.MA.IN (accessed: 21.08.2014).
The Central…, op. cit., p. 8.
Compare: A. Polus, Polityczne aspekty klątwy surowcowej. Hipoteza? Teoria?
Nowy paradygmat w studiach afrykanistycznych, in: B. Ndiaye, P. Letko (eds.),
Afryka w stosunkach międzynarodowych. Historia, stan obecny, perspektywy,
Olsztyn: Institute of History and International Relations, University of Warmia
and Mazury in Olsztyn 2010, p. 191. Hypothesis of natural resource curse was
tested by: K. Czernichowski, D. Kopiński, A. Polus, Klątwa surowcowa w Afryce?
Przypadek Zambii i Botswany, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo CeDeWu 2012.
A. Polus, Relacje pomiędzy rządami a NGOs w afrykańskich państwach
surowcowych, Wrocław: Oficyna Wydawnicza ATUT – Wrocławskie Wydawnictwo
Oświatowe 2013, p. 43.

Reasons of the conflict in the Central African Republic (2012-2014)


ad. These unregistered diamonds are proportionally more valuable
because it is more profitable to smuggle larger and therefore more
expensive diamonds57. However, even assuming the same proportions, we would obtain a share of diamonds in total exports
39,8% · 100%
~ 56,9%
100% – 30%
One of the premises of the economic nature of the conflict is
that just before the attack, President François Bozizé had granted
a Cameroonian company a license to prospect for diamonds and
gold in the Dzanga-Sangha protected area, which caused protests
by the Worldwide Fund for Nature. In addition, he signed contracts
with other little-known companies. After Michel Djotodia’s takeover of power about twenty companies asked the ministry of mining a concession for the exploration of mineral deposits or oil.
The new government has been promising to revise, and possibly
re-negotiate, the existing contracts, but he did not. The transparency of relationship between the state and business has not increased, either. On the one hand, the miners in the rich in diamonds
west joined Anti-Balaka in response to the unrest caused by Seleka in order to take control of the mines. On the other hand, diamond dealers in the east of the country joined the ranks of Seleka in retaliation for looting organized by François Bozizé58.
Alarmed by the fact of diamond smuggling and financing Seleka by the diamond industry, the Kimberley Process disabled the
Central African Republic from the system of official trade in dia57
K. Matthysen, I. Clarkson, Gold and diamonds in the Central African Republic.
The country’s mining sector, and related social, economic and environmental issues,
Antwerp: International Peace Information Service 2013, pp. 6-7.
The Central…, op. cit., pp. 4-10.


Konrad Czernichowski

monds in 201359. The history of this institution dates back to 2000,
when just in Kimberley (the world centre of diamond mining) in
South Africa the authorities and manufacturers from Botswana,
Namibia and South Africa met. Two years later, the Kimberley
Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was adopted. It stated that
each load of diamonds had to have a certificate of origin. In case
of its absence, it would be presumed that they are from a country,
which had not acceded to the international regulations, and therefore they would not be allowed on the world market due to the
risk of having been mined in the state covered by an armed conflict.
In just eight years (from 1999 to 2007) the share of “blood diamonds” in international trade fell from 4 per cent to less than
1 per cent60. At present, 80 countries participate in the Kimberley
Process61, not counting the suspended from 23 May 2013 Central
African Republic62, from which – thanks to this decision – smuggling was reduced, though not completely63.
The effects of the coup d’état in the Central African Republic
in 2013 did not affect only the macroscale, but directly all citizens.
As never before, the country experienced a wave of looting. Public buildings were being looted, the infrastructure of mobile telephony was being destroyed. Private or belonging to non-govIbidem, p. 11.
K. Czernichowski, Potencjał surowcowy Afryki a polityka koncernów
międzynarodowych, in: K. Jędrzejczyk-Kuliniak, L. Kwieciński, B. Michalski,
E. Stadtmüller (eds.), Regionalizacja w stosunkach międzynarodowych. Aspekty
polityczno-gospodarcze, Toruń: Wydawnictwo Adam Marszałek 2008,
pp. 244-245.
KP Participants and Observers, in:
en/kp-participants-and-observers (accessed: 27.08.2014).
Administrative Decision on ensuring that diamonds from the Central African
Republic are not introduced into the legitimate trade, in: http://www. (accessed:
The Central…, op. cit., p. 11.


Reasons of the conflict in the Central African Republic (2012-2014)


ernmental organizations (or even the UN) cars were being stolen
on a massive scale. Then they were being sold in neighbouring
countries or recoated in PK5 – a commercial district of Bangui.
Seleka’s leaders were also organizing kidnapping of businessmen
for ransom64.
The economic consequences of Seleka’s rule were dramatic.
In 2013 the Gross National Income per capita was 320 USD65. In
this period smuggling of arms, diamonds and timber was reported. Cultivation of cotton, coffee and tobacco, which was developed
in the colonial times, fell. Only in 2013 tax revenues decreased
by half. Three-quarters of budget expenditures was at the same
time spent on safety. As a result, at the end of that year the treasury
became insolvent against civil servants. A deepening of the economic crisis may be expected as Muslims, who controlled a large
part of the trade, flee the country66.

Administrative Decision on ensuring that diamonds from the Central African Republic are not introduced into the legitimate trade, http:// (27.08.2014).
Africa. Central African Republic, (18.02.2014;
Bouckaert P., ‘We Live and Die Here Like Animals’,

Ibidem, pp. 8-9.
GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$), in: http://data.worldbank.
org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD (accessed: 21.08.2014).
The Central…, op. cit., pp. 1-6.


Konrad Czernichowski

(13.11.2013; 30.08.2014).
CAR: When refugees become more than statistics, w: http://www.unocha.
org/top-stories/all-stories/car-when-refugees-become-more-statistics (7.08.2014; 22.08.2014).
Cariou M., C. Africa’s Nzapalainga, much more than an archbishop, w:­
more-archbishop-212426266.html (14.10.2013; 1.09.2014).
Centrafrique: violents combats entre factions de la Seleka à Bambari, w:
(26.08.2014; 30.08.2014).
Cywa I., Komentarz: Konflikt w Republice Środkowoafrykańskiej: Krwawe
„Serce Afryki”, w: ar z%3a-konflikt-w-republice-%C5%9Brodkowoafr yka%C5%84skiej%3a-kr wawe-%E2%80%9Eserce-afr yki%E2%80%9D-/ ( 22.02.2014).
Czernichowski K., Bezpośrednie inwestycje zagraniczne w Afryce, „Afryka”
(2009), nr 29-30.
Czernichowski K., Kopiński D., Polus A., Klątwa surowcowa w Afryce?
Przypadek Zambii i Botswany, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo CeDeWu
Czernichowski K., Potencjał surowcowy Afryki a polityka koncernów międzynarodowych, in: K. Jędrzejczyk-Kuliniak, L. Kwieciński, B. Michalski, E. Stadtmüller (eds.), Regionalizacja w stosunkach międzynarodowych. Aspekt y polit yczno-gospodarcze, Toruń:
Wydawnictwo Adam Marszałek 2008.
Doing Business 2014. Understanding Regulations for Small and Medium-Size Enterprises, World Bank, Washington 2013.
GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$), w: http://data.worldbank.
org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD ( 21.08.2014).
Human Rights Watch, World Report 2014, New York 2014.
‘Hundreds dead’ in Central African Republic violence, w:
com/news/world-africa-25273681 (6.12.2013; 21.08.2014).

Reasons of the conflict in the Central African Republic (2012-2014)


Jaulmes A., La France envoie 400 soldats supplémentaires en Centrafrique,
w: (14.02.2014; 30.08.2014).
Käihkö I., Utas M., The Crisis in CAR: Navigating Myths and Interests,
„Africa Spectrum” (2014), nr 1.
Kapuściński R., Gdyby cała Afryka…, Warszawa: Agora 2011.
Koziński M., Obecność wojsk RPA w Republice Środkowoafrykańskiej, „Raport Afryka. Polskie Centrum Studiów Afrykanistycznych”
(2013), kwiecień – czerwiec 2013.
KP Participants and Observers,
kp-participants-and-observers (27.08.2014).
Life expectancy at birth, female (years), (21.08.2014).
Life expectancy at birth, male (years), ( 21.08.2014).
Lombard L., Is the Central African Republic on the Verge of Genocide?, (5.12.2013; 21.08.2014).
Marchal R., Central African Republic: Back to War Again?,
(12.09.2013; 30.08.2014).
Matthysen K., Clarkson I., Gold and diamonds in the Central African Republic. The country’s mining sector, and related social, economic
and environmental issues, Antwerp: International Peace Information Service 2013.
Modelski R., OFM Cap., Koktajl misyjny, Kraków – Poznań: Sorus 2010.
Nzapalainga D., Layama O.K., En Centrafrique, « le pire pourrait être
encore à venir », ticle/2013/12/26/en-centrafrique-le-pire-pourrait-etre-encore-avenir_4340283_3232.html (26.12.2013; 22.02.2014).
Nzwili F., Religious conflict rips through Central African Republic, w: (21.11.2013; 20.08.2014).


Konrad Czernichowski

Oliver R., Atmore A., Dzieje Afryki po 1800 roku, Warszawa: Wydaw­
nictwo Książka i Wiedza 2007.
Opération Sangaris, (10.12.2013;
Polus A., Polityczne aspekty klątwy surowcowej. Hipoteza? Teoria? Nowy
paradygmat w studiach afrykanistycznych, in: B. Ndiaye, P. Letko
(eds.), Afryka w stosunkach międzynarodowych. Historia, stan
obecny, perspektywy, Olsztyn: Instytut Historii i Stosunków Międzynarodowych Uniwersytetu Warmińsko-Mazurskiego w Olsztynie 2010.
Polus A., Relacje pomiędzy rządami a NGOs w afrykańskich państwach
surowcowych, Wrocław: Oficyna Wydawnicza ATUT – Wrocławskie Wydawnictwo Oświatowe 2013.
Prelate denounces use of term ‘Christian militia’ in Central African conflict, (11.02.2014; 22.02.2014).
Rozmowa z ojcem Jerzym Steligą OFM Cap., w: „My a Trzeci Świat” 2009,
nr 5.
Scheen T., Ringen um Einfluss, (12.08.2014; 23.08.2014).
Ścibik A., Pączka B., OFM Cap., Serce Afryki krwawi, (18.02.2014).
Smith D., Christian threats force Muslim convoy to turn back in CAR exodus, (14.02.2014;
Taylor G., Somers M., Fears of religious war rise in Central African Republic after attack on Catholic church, “The Washington Times”,
(28.05.2014; 20.08.2014).
The Central African Crisis: From Predation to Stabilisation. Africa Report
No°219, 17.06.2014, International Crisis Group.

Reasons of the conflict in the Central African Republic (2012-2014)


The Failed State Index 2013, (18.02.2014).
Tul M., Przewrót w Republice Środkowoafrykańskiej, w: „Raport Afryka.
Polskie Centrum Studiów Afrykanistycznych” (2013), kwiecień
– czerwiec 2013.
TV5, Le Journal Afrique, 11.03.2014
Warner G., War in Africa: Faith or Economics?, Radio “Interfaith Voices”,
Wieczorek R., OFM Cap., Listy z Serca Afryki,, Kraków: Głos Ojca Pio
Wieczorek R., OFM Cap., Pęknięte Serce Afryki, Kraków: Wydawnictwo
Serafin 2006.
Wieczorek R., OFM Cap., W RCA nie chodzi o religię, http://www.stacja7.
(7.02.2014; 24.02.2014).

Arrière-plan du conflit en République Centrafricaine
La République Centrafricaine vit dans une situation difficile depuis
son indépendance en 1960. Beaucoup de médias pensent que le conflit
actuel a un fond religieux. L’article indique que c’est une simplification.
Bien sûr que la religion joue un rôle dans la situation politique, sociale
et économique du pays mais elle n’est pas la cause du conflit actuel. Les
musulmans et les chrétiens vivent ensemble en paix pendant de nombreuses années, parfois même dans les mariages.
Les principales raisons des combats, spécialement celui qui a été
inauguré par les Séléka à la fin de 2012, sont la faiblesse et la corruption
des gouvernements successifs. Ils n’ont pas réussi à éliminer des coups
d’état, à arrêter la violence qui conduit à prendre le contrôle des ressources naturelles, comme les diamants ou l’or. Ils n’ont pas su combattre
la contrebande grandissante non plus. Au lieu de tout cela, ils ont au


Konrad Czernichowski

contraire essayé de faire des profits illicites des exploitation du pays.
Face à cela, le Président par intérim Catherine Samba-Panza a une tâche
difficile pour préparer les élections démocratiques car les combats se
poursuivent même si certains partisans de Séléka ont été désarmés.



The term ‘ethnic’ and ‘Ethnicity’ is a relatively new word. The
anthropologists started to use it in the early 1950s. It doesn’t directly translate into Arabic, but is derived from the Greek word
ethnos, meaning “people”.( Hassan, I. S. 2001, p. 167) It was first
used in science to describe ethnic groups dating back one hundred
years ago (Mukhtar, A. 2007, p. 9).
The concept of ethnicity was meant to explain social phenomena and processes that occurred on the surface and borders of
many human societies, often becoming global issues. An example
of that can be the situation of Armenians or Kurdish people that
has had influence all over the world, developing or not, or the
issue of racism in US, the country with one of the greatest diversity of ethnic groups in the world” (Hassan, I. S. 2001, p. 186).
Ethnic aspects of social, political, economic, cultural, multi-cultural and historical processes overlap and intertwine, becoming
Dr Ali Elmirghani Ahmed – Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan


Ali Elmirghani Ahmed

the key issues affecting the coexistence between groups and nations
or the process of building and conforming their identity.
Some view an ethnic group as a group of people sharing the
same characteristics and culture or occupying a certain geographical area, which brings them a sense of solidarity. They are
aware of the distinction and recognize other groups also acting
accordingly Mukhtar, A. 2007, p. 10) The other indicators of an
ethnic group can be the control over money and goods that a tribe or a culture possesses. They restrict other group’s access to
them though they may share the same area. It can lead to acts of
violence or migration in response to the behavior of other groups
(Mahdi M. A. 2002, p. 74).
The above mentioned ways of defining ethnicity are now considered historical. Today we attribute them to tribal or village
activity more than an ethnic one which is more the general idea.
A good example of this relation is the tribes and ethnic groups of
Sudan. The ethnic groups tend to struggle with each other in order to find their own place in a social, economic, political or cultural space while trying to achieve their own individual goals (Al
Bashir, T. I. 2008.46)
The ethnic associations are stronger than social associations
since the latter depends on human relations and the first on biological and genetic bonds Mahdi M. A. 2002, p. 68). The genetically connected groups are more likely to survive than those who
are just socially bound since the biological bond is much stronger,
but in result the merge in groups is held very tightly by one strong
person determined by the birth. And this is precisely what happened in Africa (Mekawy, B. El Din 2007, p. 60).
Ethnic groups often justify their historical and administrative
demands with their level of education, efficiency and experience,
just as they claim to possess the land acquired before the political
transformations that created the new reality (Deng, F., 1999, p. 9).

Ethnic and linguistic diversity in the Sudan


Language is the basic tool of expression for humans along with
other means, a repository of ideas and opinions. The language of
the people has clearly defined the way of thinking about things.
Due to the historical development of Sudan, it is multilingual,
with each tribe having their individual language. Even Arabic
tribes branched into different dialects, with different words to
describe the same things. For example the tribes from Kordofan
and Darfur are Arab and they use the same language, but in completely different dialects. The Dinka tribes from the south of Sudan
who speak the Dinka language also branched into several dialects
(Mukhtar, A. 2007, p. 11).
Sudan is a country of people coexisting on the land of many
languages used for communication and socialization, with classical Arabic functioning as the official language of the state in
coexistence with other Sudanese dialects present and historical.
The total population of Sudan measured in 2004 was about
thirty-four million people, 68% rural, 29% living in cities, and
3% being Arab nomads. The proportion of the Muslims is nearly
80%, concentrated mostly in the North of Sudan, in the South
18% of the people are Muslim, 17% are Christians and the remaining 65% are pagans or atheists (Mekawy, B. El Din 2007, p. 56).
Sudan’s population is greatly diverted ethnically, including
hundreds of different groups, languages, religions and cultures.
Among many other classifications there is a general division of
the local population into three main groups consisting Sudanese
society: the Arabs, Nubians, and the Negroes, though we based
our work on another classification, mentioned later in the text.
In Sudan there are nearly six hundred tribes speaking more
than a hundred different local languages40% of them are Arabs,
60% are native Africans, with 30% of the population being Negroes, 12% of the tribes are from West Africa, 12% Nubians and
Beja and 3% being Nubians from the North. Muslims constitute


Ali Elmirghani Ahmed

two thirds of the population, the rest are Christians and followers
of other religions. About 51% of the population speaks Arabic;
the other 49% are other languages and dialects (Hassan, I. S. 2001,
p. 218).
Before coming of the Arabs, the Sudanese societies were dispersed into many single states, split between different ethnicities,
tribes and local religions. In Northern Sudan lived the Nubians
with Christian faith (. It was multilingual and a multicultural
kingdom. In Central Sudan lived the Beja tribes with their own
language and culture. In the South there were Negro tribes with
many different physical features and individual languages and
the same can be said about the West of Sudan. In fact, such ethnic
and linguistic diversity is no exception; it is often a natural state
of many countries (Denq F. 1995, p. 8).
The combined factors of geographical position and history
were shaping the personality and identity of Sudan cultures with
their ethnic and racial diversity and affiliation to Arab or native
African communities (Mekawy, B. El Din 2007, p. 60).
Many scholars and researchers have tried to interpret the Sudanese communities, which are characterized by diversity and
pluralism on ethnic and linguistic levels. Their research at some
point had to deal with the Sudanese cultural heritage which we
know through archaeology, regarding the formation of communities and their languages (Mekawy, B. El Din 2007, p. 123). This
is a historical introduction to studies of the population that lived
within the borders of Sudan, and the factors that led to such diversity. In this framework, the study of ancient societies is based
on the material culture of traditional communities to determine
the conditions of the emergence of such linguistic and ethnic diversity. Sudan is one of the most culturally differentiated countries,
founded on varied environment that is reflected in the multiplicity of beliefs, languages and customs (Al Amin, Y. M. 2002, p. 14).

Ethnic and linguistic diversity in the Sudan


The focus in such research extended not only on ethno biology
and geography, but also on archaeology, with it’s over a hundred
years of tradition. The cooperation gave good results and reached
its top during the campaign to save the monuments of Nubia at
the beginning of the first half of the twentieth century (Al Mobarak, H. 1998, p. 183) Over forty foreign missions conducted exploration and survey on many archeological sites in the northern
parts of Sudan. The cooperation of national and foreign missions
led to the enrichment of academic studies, especially those related to identity and communication between the people from the
beginning of Sudanese civilization (Alhardlo, A. 2004, p. 71).
There were several theories attempting to explain the past of
Sudanese cultures, most of them dependent on the ancient history. Many Sudanese archaeologists have helped to enrich those
ideas [Ali Osman Muhammad Salih, prof. Ahmed Muhammad
Ali Hakim (Hakim, A. M. 1990, p. 40).. and improve their quality
in explaining and understanding the overall look of the Sudanese civilization with its ethnic and linguistic multiplicity and diversity all these factors were making the task of understanding
Sudan more difficult especially when we consider the fact that
cultural residue of the times past is now analyzed outside of its
time frame and thus is a subject of interpretation. The language
and ethnicity were developing in a form of interconnected circles
affected also by the geographical position and number of civilizations and the bigger and stronger the civilization was, the greater the reach of their culture (Arkell, A. J. 196, p. 29).
Halima Alhazji said that Sudanese ancestors still have great
influence on the present and future (Alhazji, H. 1985, p. 14) and
Professor Awan Sharif Qasim points out that the language and
dialects are like a tape with all the events that have passed down
during Sudan’s history being printed on it (Qasim A. S. 2002,
p. 49)


Ali Elmirghani Ahmed

This view is shared by Yusuf Hassan Madani. In his studies of
boats in Sudan, he analyzed them as a pattern in the history of
material culture that lasted throughout many periods of history.
He concluded that the names for parts of the boats have been
affected by a number of external factors, yet at the same time they
remained indigenously rooted. Prof. Ali Osman Mohammed Saleh
(Salih, A. O. M. 1990, p. 65) in his interpretation of Sudanese
culture as being the result of Nubian migration says that this is
the effect of clash between Nubian culture and local cultures where the elements of dynastic monarchy encountered local languages
and religions. The result was the Sudanese culture, still containing
customs and traditions of Nubia, various native Sudanese communities and also the Arabic language, names for places and some
characteristic features of economic and social developments (Hassan, Y. F. 1989, p. 72).
The study of the history at the beginning of Sudanese civilization through linguistic and historical analysis of the ancient communities with their multiple stages of cultural development and
comparing the results with modern linguistic and ethnic features
of Sudan will help to understand the country (Mahdi M. A. 2002,
p. 94).

Ethnic and geographical map of Sudan
Many breeds of humanity have lived in Sudan since ancient
times, varying and intertwining with each other resulting in the
complicated ethnic map of modern Sudan. This is perhaps the
source of the difficulty of telling one population group from another just by focusing on their language or ethnicity or apart from
their cultural and social foundations (Dufa Allah, S. B. 1999, p. 36)
The geographical and other factors independent from human

Ethnic and linguistic diversity in the Sudan


influence are also an element of this differentiation, separating
people and providing constantly changing environment through
the ages (Barbour, K. M. 1961, p. 81).
Mohammed Awad says that due to the multiplicity of regions
and different nations in Sudan and its position in Africa, the cruel designation of national borders is somewhat irrelevant. If we
take into account the changes Sudan went through since the ancient times and changes in people, as well as the easy pathway
for migrations known as the old Sudanese belt, it becomes obvious that the boundaries of the research don’t lay along the lines of
political borders (Awad, M. 1951, p. 10) The African continent is
a region of many migrations since the ancient times and until
now. Many studies show that in the Upper Neolithic, the people
living there are called Bushmen, inhabited the dry and exposed
parts of the continent from the desert through Ethiopia, East Africa and even until the southern parts of the continent (Al Bashir,
T. I. 2008, p. 97).
At the end of Upper Paleolithic, a new ethnic group emerged
in the northern parts of the Africa. They showed resemblance to
Caucasians, and the researchers have named this new ethnic group Hamitic. During the Mesolithic age (Arkell, A. J. 1975, p. 39)
a new Negro group appeared showing different features, they
inhabited the middle Nile Valley and other places in Africa. The
researchers called them the Khartoum civilization (Adams, Y. W.
1977, p. 47).
The discoverer of this culture Arkell said that the features of
this Negro ethnic group are similar to the properties of people
living in the south of the Sudan at this moment. Arkell made a comparison between cemeteries and discovered that some of the traditions are still similar, for example people in Khartoum civilization removed the two upper teeth from the jaw while people in
south of Sudan now remove the two teeth from the lower jaw.


Ali Elmirghani Ahmed

There are also many physical anthropologists that study the graves of Khartoum civilizations while comparing the burial methods
of old with the contemporary find that there are many similarities.
But still we know no reason for those people to migrate from
central to the south of Sudan (Harvey, C. P. D. 1982, p. 97).
Roland Oliver and say that the mastering of agriculture and
animal husbandry was the reason for the four main ethnic groups
in Africa, they are Pigmies, Hamitic, Caucasoid and Negroes, but
still we don’t possess enough knowledge to say which group exactly originated the contemporary societies in Africa, or from where they migrated from or if they did at all (Oliver, R .J. 1965, p. 67).
Mohammed Awad says that the Negro strain inhabited the
south of Sudan while the Caucasian lived in the north, and also
that the Negroes came earlier. They had access to the Nile valley
while the other ethnic groups were detached. After settling up,
the ethnic groups started developing cultural characteristics distinguishing one from another, and the development wasn’t equal in every group, as some were developing faster. While some of
the more advanced groups begun to domesticate animals and
started using agriculture, other ones were still at the point of gathering food and using primitive stone tools to survive (Awad, M.
1951, p. 51).
Despite the diversity of the cultures and ethnic groups in the
history of Sudan, many researchers think that they all are descendants of only two groups – The Bushmen and Pigmies. After that,
the Negro groups came to the continent and dominated many
parts of the Africa, especially the southwestern (Mukhtar, A. 2007,
p. 39).
The last to appear were the Caucasian group, consisting of two
branches – The Hamitic and Semitic, and they both successively
mixed with Negro group. During the history of Sudan we find
many examples of exchanging ethnic and cultural features and

Ethnic and linguistic diversity in the Sudan


mutual impact between indigenous groups and foreign ones adding to the richness of the ethnological map of Sudan. Atta el-Batthani analyzed the transformations that occurred in the North
and Central Nile Valley, parts of Kordofan and Darfur. In the Eastern
part, the ethnic groups speak Arabic and come from native Arab
tribes mixed with other tribes, including non-Arabic ethnic groups
coming from the North. For example, The Nuba from the Hamitic
group, Beja from the same group and other local Negro groups.
Most of the groups in west Darfur are Negro and parts of them
are Hamitic, while the rest of the ethnic groups are Negro. Ethnic
groups in central Sudan come from three types of the Negro group: Sudanese, Nile-Hamitic and Nilotic. Such division has its limitations, but it gives a general picture of ethnicity in a large part
of Sudan. Any research dealing with this framework must necessarily consider other cultural, linguistic, economic and social factors. Until now only the UNESCO statement on race, cited after
Achilles Montag (Fagan, M.B.1978, p. 81) says that the national
and religious groups in their geographical, linguistic and cultural
layers do not necessarily correspond to any genetically divergent
groups, or at least there is no evidence of that. The author used
the term Ethnic dynasty to refer to the human group characterized
by ties of ethnicity and connection to any specific group. The term
‘ethnic’ is now used to describe interactions between specific groups, not to address the specificity of any group by itself.
The ethnic composition of Sudan is very diverse nowadays,
but it varied all the time during its long history and the names for
stages in cultural history of Sudan are derived from the names of
the ethnic group’s dominant at a time (Myers, O. H. 1948, p. 47).
At the time of the pharaohs in Egypt, the name used for Sudan
was “Saito”, meaning ‘the arc’ or ‘the bow’ because Sudanese people were renowned for their skill in using the bow. Greeks, Romans
and part of Arab tribes have used the name ‘Ramat Al-Hadag’


Ali Elmirghani Ahmed

meaning “archer” for similar reasons. During many Egyptian Dynasties the name “Tuthmosis” was in use, meaning “people with
black skin” or “Asmar” meaning “brown skin”. This name was used
describe many different tribes south of Aswan. During the peak
of the ancient Sudanese culture, the people there were described
with the name “Kush”. It was once the name of a single ethnic
group who grew in importance and dominated large parts of Sudan and other tribes. Kush was a strong civilization and remains
of it are still found throughout all of Sudan, especially in the North,
examples being 182 pyramids being left by and also more than
25 temples (Roman, W. L. 1979, p. 51).
The reference to black skin of the people was for a long time
the name of Sudan, until it became the name for the country
Ethiopia “the black country”. It was even mentioned by Arabs in
the XVII century.
The cultures present in Sudan during different eras since the
Paleolithic concentrated along the Nile Valley and other parts,
sometimes remote from the river. The cultural characteristics focused around manufacturing stone tools. Some of the cultural
marks reflect contact with people from neighboring regions, evolved during the Stone Age, when some kind of stability occurred
for the first time (settlements) and some tools other from stone
and bone arms. A good example here is the famous Khartoum
pottery (Arkell, 1975, p23) adorned with lines and other shapes,
which became the formula borrowed and repeated in many areas
of Central and Northern Sudan.

Adams, Y. W. 1977. Nubia Corridor to Africa. London: Allen Lane.
Alhardlo, A. 2004. “Sudanese state” Sudanese Studies Center 27.

Ethnic and linguistic diversity in the Sudan


Alhazji, H. 1985. “Sudan and literary movement” University of Beirut
Al Amin, Y. M. 2002. “Sudanese Identity transformation”. New Age 7.
Arkell, A. J. 1961. The History of the Sudan. From earliest times to 1821.
Arkell, A. J. 1975. The Prehistory of the Nile Valley. London.
Awad, M. 1951. Northern Sudan (population and tribes). Press Committee of authoring, translation and publishing. Cairo.
Barbour, K. M. 1961. The Republic of Sudan. A Regional Geography. London.
Al Bashir, T. I. 2008. Ethnic and religious minorities and their role in the
national co-existence in Ethiopia from 1930 to 2007 AD – Ph.D.
International University of Africa – African Research Center –
Department of Political Science. Khartoum.
Deng, F., 1999, Conflict Visions: Conflict of identities in Sudan, translated by Hassan Awad, Center for Strategic Studies, Cairo,
1st edition, s. 8.
Denq F. 1995. Problematic identities in Sudan: the foundations of national
integration, translated by Muhammad Ali Jadyn, Sudanese Studies Center.
Dufu Allah, S. B. 1999. Sudanese history of civilizations since ancient times
and even the Kingdom of Napata. Khartoum.
Fagan, M.B.1978. In the Beginning. Boston.
Gisma, K.H. 2000. Cultural Resources Management. PHD. Khartoum.
Hakim, A. M. 1990. Identity of Sudanese Culture. Historical perspective.
Khartoum University Press. Khartoum.
Harvey, C. P. D. 1982. “The Archaeology at Southern Sudan Environmental Context”. In: Mack. J. Sheco. P. Cultural History in the
Southern Sudan. Archaeology Linguistics and Ethnohistory: London.
Hassan, I. S. 2001 Sudanese insights: articles in the knowledge, culture
and society. Center for Strategic Studies – Currency Printing Co.
Ltd., Khartoum.
Hassan, Y. F. 1989. Studies in the history of Sudan and Africa and the Arab
countries vol. II. Khartoum University Press. Khartoum.


Ali Elmirghani Ahmed

Mahdi M. A. 2002. Ethnic pluralism : conflict management and settlement
strategies. International Center for Political Studies. Jordan.
Mekawy, B. El Din 2007. Ethnic conflicts in Africa : Causes and consequences of solution strategies. Higher Centre for African Studies
vol. 2. Sudan Printing Press, Ltd. Khartoum.
Al Mobarak, H. 1998. Studies on the history of Sudan, Africa and Arab
countries. Khartoum.
Mukhtar, A. 2007. Conflict identities and determinants of unity in Sudan
– Center for Strategic Studies. Khartoum.
Myers, O. H. 1948. The Consolidation and protection of Ancient of the
Sudan. S.N.R. Vol. XXIX. Part 11.
Oliver, R., J. 1965. “A brief history of Africa”. African Studies Series 3.
Roman, W. L. 1979. „Modern Material Culture Studies”. In: Schiffer, M. B.
(ed) Advances of Archaeological Method and Theory. Vol. 2. Academic Press New York: London
Salih, A. O. M. 1990. Sudanese culture, studies and articles. Khartoum
University Press. Khartoum.
Qasim A. S. 2002. Dictionary of Sudanese dialects. Sudanese Home for


Geography and environment of the Sudan ecozone
Vast, predominantly plain territories located between the Sahara desert and equatorial forests spreading from the Atlantic
Ocean up to the Red Sea are defined as the region or the zone of
Sudan. This name stems from the medieval Arab geographers
who called those territories stretching to the south of Sahara and
inhabited by the black people bilad as-Sudan. In their indigenous
language this meant „land of the black people”1. The first, non-Arabic piece of work on this topic was the research paper written
by William Cooley, The Negroland of the Arabs, published for the
first time in 1841. The author made an attempt to reconstruct the
historical map of the region by listing its ethnic groups, cities and
Maciej Ząbek – University of Warsaw (Poland), Institute of Ethnology
and Cultural Anthropology
The following Arab geographers may be chronologically listed at this point:
al-Jaqubi (891), al-Masudi (956), Ibn Hawqal (977), al-Bakri (1094), Idrisi
(1166), Ibn Said (1274), Ibn Battuta (1377), Ibn Khaldun (1406), Maqrizi (1442)
and Leo Africanus (1526).


Maciej Ząbek

countries, trying to define the borders of the area2. In 1924, the
next researcher of this region, Melville Herskovits managed to
work out a more detailed outline assuming that Sudan was divided into East and West with a borderline crossing Lake Chad.
Having been heavily criticized by Michael Horowitz, he finally
took into consideration Sudan’s detailed diversification in terms
of language, law, religion, politics and economy and divided it
into Eastern, Western and Central Sudan3.
According to this division, Central Sudan, from Herskovits point of view, was to embrace the areas spreading from Central Niger to the Wadai plateau. In the end, however, Triminghan thesis
was taken as granted which stated that Central Sudan stretched
to the Darfur Plateau4. In other words, it embraced the region of
the so called Chad Basin, from the Niger River in the West to the
Marrah Mountains (Jebel Marra) in the East, locked in the North
by the mountain massifs of Air, Tibesti and Ennedi, and in the
South locked by the Benue River, highlands of the Northern Cameroon and the rivers of the Southern Chad. Due to cultural and
political factors it is usually divided into the Western part embracing the areas spreading from Chad Lake to the Niger River (i.e.
the regions of the present Southern Niger and Northern Nigeria)
and the Eastern part (i.e. the present Northern Cameroon, Chad
and Central African Republic excluding the forested areas).

From: Yusuf Fadl Hasan and Paul Doornbos (ed.), The Central Bilad alSudan. Tradition and Adaptation, Khartoum: El Tamaddon P. Press 1977, p. 2.
Michael M. Horowitz, A Reconsideration of the „Eastern Sudan“,„Cathiers
d’Etudes Africaines” (1967), pp: 381-398; Melville Herskovits, A Preliminary
Consideration of the Culture Areas of Africa, „American Anthropologist” 26 (1924),
p. 50-63; idem: The Human Factor in Changing Africa, New York 1962.
J. S. Trimingham, A History of Islam in West Africa, London/Glasgow 1962,
pp. 34 I 105.

Historical importance of Arab muslim communities…


The whole ecozone of Sudan also referred to by Horowitz as
the „cattle area” is characterized by dry tropical climate with only
one rainy season during summer, diversified in terms of rainfall
depending on the latitude and the elevation above the sea level
of a given region. The ecozone vegetation consists of open grassland or trees and bushes generally defined as savannah, sporadically crossed by mountain massifs. Travelling from the north to
the south, dependent on the average annual rainfall one may
encounter various types of the savannah ranging from half-desert
dry Sahel savannah also called the thorny one, through the grass-shrub-like, park-like and forest-like savannah. The present landscape of the Sudan zone was heavily affected by transformations
resulting from the pastoral and farming activity of people connected, among others, with deforestation, overgrazing of the grass
areas and land cultivation. Climate crises including irregular,
multiannual droughts or locusts along with strategies of adapting
people to the environment are typical of this region. They embrace methods of using various food sources including migratory
animals farming, extensive cultivation methods based on rainfall,
being more intensive in places with artificial irrigation, and declining activities of hunting and gathering.
Generally speaking, Sudan zone has always enjoyed relatively
favourable conditions for the development of farming and lack
of natural barriers has for many centuries fostered long-lasting
migrations there. It also encouraged the dissemination of practices connected with iron smelting and blacksmithing, craftsmanship and crops along with the inflow of other pastoral people both
from the East (the Arabs) and the West (the Fulbe) searching for
safety and new lands offering better water resources and fodder
for animals. The above-mentioned peoples considerably affected
the history and culture of this region. The wide-ranging trade
developing there along with cultural ties between various regions


Maciej Ząbek

and ethnic groups led to the formation of new cities and creation
of statehood. In this region of the world since the Middle Ages it
has usually meant the expansion of Islam and the Arab culture
which widened horizons of the locals and enabled them to establish relations with other regions of the world. Although the importance of Central Sudan is often undermined, it plays a leading
role as a connector between Western and Eastern Sudan. Therefore, its significance deserves our special attention and has become the leading topic of this article.

Forms of statehood in central Bilad as-Sudan.
Slave hunters and refugial people
Kanem was the oldest state in Central Sudan – it was formed
around the ninth century AD5, around Chad Lake. The second
oldest state was Kanem’s successor – Bornu. Small states with
strong urban centres like Kano, Zaria, Katsina and Gobir emerged
in the fourteenth and fifteenth century to the West, on the territories of the Hausa people spreading to the country of Songhai
upon the Niger River. In the nineteenth century they were finally
conquered by Osman dan Fodio, who led the Fulbe tribes having
arrived from the West. They established there a powerful Sokoto
Sultanate and its dependent emirates (lamibe) in Adamawa Plateau.
Around the sixteenth century other state organisations were
also formed there: in the Benue River Valley – Juku and Nupe,
between the territories of Hausa and Songhai – Kebbi and to the
East of Chad Lake – Baguirmi, and farther to the East – the Wadai
and Darfur Sultanates. Origins of the centralised political structure

From this period comes the oldest record from the Arabic sources.

Historical importance of Arab muslim communities…


in Darfur date back to the state of Dajo from the thirteenth century and its successor from the fifteenth century in the form of
Tunjur state (probably formed out of “Arabized” Nubians), dethroned by the Kayra clan emanating from the local Fur folk who
named this land and ruled it until 1874.
Wadai, initially dependent on Darfur, was established in the
sixteenth century probably by the Tunjur people led by Abd al-Karim. This state in the reign of Sabun in the second half of the
eighteenth century became the key power of Central Sudan. Arab
tribes flowing to Central Sudan from the east, known as Baggara
or Shuwa, have never been regarded as the creators of the local
statehood. Nevertheless, they exerted a significant impact on it,
for example, by taking part in the process of Islamisation. Similarly, The Fulbe nomadic shepherds played an important role in
the nineteenth century in the western part of Central Sudan, on
the territories of the Hausa people.
All these Sudanese states, non-coherent in terms of ethnicity
had a lot in common as far as culture and structure are concerned.
Their rulers’ primary concern was not only to increase the number
of territories subject to them but also to deepen the process of
Islamisation, bring the Arab judges, Muslim lawyers and other
scholars as well as tradesmen and craftsmen.
Those states existed mainly thanks to profits derived from the
control over trans-Saharan trade and trade exchange with the
main hubs at the Mediterranean Sea. Its major export industry
included ivory, pelt and other Sudanese goods such as honey,
ostrich feathers and slaves, workers and soldiers in exchange for
weapon, horses, camels, textiles and other consumables. Admittedly, intensity of trade there was lower than in West Africa or
Sudan close to Nile (mainly due to the lack of gold), yet the significance of the route via Bilma, Kawar and Zawila or the so called
Forty Days Road (Darb al-Arba’in) from Kutum in Darfur to Egypt


Maciej Ząbek

was of vital importance6. At the same time, those states benefited
hugely from trade in salt extracted from the Saharan mines and
transported farther into the savannah zone devoid in this mineral. They also organised regular expeditions to the south aimed at
capturing slaves. Far-reaching trade also developed between East
and West and it was predominantly based on copper extracted in
Darfur and delivered to Kano and Bornu in exchange for Hausa
textiles and Kola nuts cultivated in woodland areas of West Africa7.
Thanks to trade relations with the Arab-Berber North along
with traders, spiritual leaders and migratory pastoralist tribes
coming from there Islam gained on popularity and started to play
a significant role in the process of integrating the state apparatus
through strengthening dynasties and the power elites. However,
it was not powerful enough to eliminate local tribes whose existence was only consolidated by this religion treating them as extension of the family structures, which as a result weakened local
state systems. It should be, however, stressed that not all the people in Sudan were zealous Muslims and Islam often had there its
specific, syncretic and local aspect as local people who belonged
to it did not always give up their beliefs and traditional practices.
All the time political and power games were waged between particular tribes and nomads against the city dwellers and farmers
settled there. Horses and camels owned by nomads often ensured
them military advantage over farmers and enabled fast seizure
of control over trade routes. They might have been the founders
of the states like Kanem formed probably by the pastoral Barber
R. Karpiński, Sudan Centralny do końca XVI w., in: M. Tymowski (ed.),
Historia Afryki od początku XIX w., Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków: Zakład Narodowy
im. Ossolińskich 1996, p. 498 ff.
Ibid., p. 856.

Historical importance of Arab muslim communities…


or Nilo-Saharan Zaghawa8 tribes that conquered the agricultural
Kanuri tribes (Kanembu). It was similar to the case of the Baguirmi
led by the dynasty of the nomadic Tubu people. Yet, shepherds
had never completely dominated farmers or city dwellers either
politically or economically. On the contrary, numerical advantage
of the settled people and steady sedentarisation processes of a nomadic population always had the opposite effect. Interaction and
collaboration of pastoral and farming economy were the prevailing trends. In case of antagonisms farmers had to quit their principles and either accept the dominance of nomads or look for
shelter because the military advantage of the latter group was
obvious. In the states of Hausa they found shelters behind powerful safety barricades of local cities constituting real refugia, the
so called birane which embraced not only buildings but also agricultural land9. In case of people like Sara, Banda, Manza and
other living outside the boundaries of the existing states there
was no other way than exile to the lands relatively hardly accessible to nomads.
Farmers and non-Muslim people from this zone were almost
regularly terrorised by the Arab slave hunters deriving from the
so called jallaba10 merchants and by migratory Baggara shepherds.
Wars with the use of underhand tactics were there waged for
centuries. Territories in the southern part of Sudan zone were
directly called „the state of slaves” (Dar Fertit) where real hunts
The name Zaghawa is not clear enough. In a wider context it is used to
define all nomads between Nile and Lake Chad. In a narrower context, the name
is used only to the nomad ethnos classified to the language group Teda, living
on the contemporary borderline between the Republic of Sudan and Chad; Ibid.,
p. 493 ff.
Ibid., p. 531.
The name stems from their favourite outfit, djellaba, being also the male
national outfit of Sudanese Arabs.


Maciej Ząbek

were organised for the Nigritic tribes. Initially, they concentrated
on the territories of the Eastern Sudan beyond the River Bahr
al-Ghazal but following the flights of the locals (including the
Banda people) they moved farther to the West, to the territories
of the present southern Chad and the Central African Republic.
At the end of the nineteenth century two famous Djellaba traders:
al- Rahma Mansur az-Zubeir and Rabih Fadlallah az-Zubeir11 distinguished themselves in this peculiar entrepreneurship. Moreover, Rabih Fadlallah az-Zubeir founded a specific quasi – state on
the border of the present Central African Republic and Chad based
on fortified camps known as zeriba which served as base camps
for the slave hunters. Annually they sent from those territories
circa six thousand slaves12 through the state of Baguirmi and Wadai (in Egyptian Sudan slave trade was prohibited under the European influence) to Ottoman Libya.
Representatives of the Nigritic tribes who wanted to avoid death
or slavery had the possibility, having negotiated it with the invaders, to pay tribute to the Sultans of Wadai or Darfur but if they
opposed they had to leave their existing whereabouts. It was
a common strategy used in pre-colonial Africa. Low population
density, lack of formal land property and unregulated issues of
settlement and boundaries facilitated the decisions on migration.
Refugees flew away to the mountainous or swamp regions, relatively hardly accessible to nomads, like e.g. Mont Mela (Jebel Mela)
in the eastern part of the present Central African Republic. Steep
slopes of the mountains, caves and mazes of tunnels constituted
a natural area for refugees. Similar shelters were also found in
the Jos Plateau in the Mandara Massif in the present Cameroon
See: J. Vansina, Kupcy z nad Nilu, in: P. Curtin, S. Faierman, L. Thompson,
J. Vansina, Historia Afryki. Narody i cywilizacje, Gdańsk: Marabut 2003, p. 528 ff.
D. D. Cordel, Des “Réfugiés” dans l’Afrique précoloniale, „Politique Africaine”
(2002), No. 85, pp. 16-29.

Historical importance of Arab muslim communities…


and Abou Telfan in Chad. People like Kirdi or Hajerai seeking
shelter in those places have been referred to as refugial until today.
They created a specific culture characterised by fortified villages and habitations situated at the slopes of the mountains and
the so called „emergency agriculture” caused by a repeated series
of famine. Famine resulted both from a dense population on the
refugial territories, recurring locust plagues and the tactic of the
„burnt soil” used by the invaders who detected the presence of
men by noticing the fields of millet, which encouraged to theft or
destruction. Thus, a new strategy became popular13. Millet was
replaced by cassava which was not only more productive but also
hardly discernible among other plants as it was not grown on
separate fields.

Migrations of Sudanese Arabs and their importance
in the contemporary Chad
Arabs in Central Sudan nowadays referred to as Chad Arabs
belong to the groups of Sudanese Arabs formed between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries as a distinctive ethnos in the
Eastern Nilotic Sudan. Their ancestors flew from Arabia to Egypt
and later on migrated along Nile to Nubia and Kordofan, from
where they spread farther to the West, i.e. to the territories of
Darfur and the present Chad up to the state of Bornu in the contemporary Nigeria. Immigration also headed for Central Sudan
through Trans-Saharan routes, directly from Northern Africa but
irrelevant in terms of numbers. Nevertheless, it is to be remembered that this way arrived merchants and various holy men (fakih or marabouts), legal experts and religious leaders whose si13



Maciej Ząbek

gnificance in the process of spreading Islam, Arabic writing and
general knowledge about the world proved to be invaluable.
In Eastern Sudan indigenous Arabs from Arabia by mixing with
the locals through marriages and adopting many local communities to their tribes not only led to their Islamisation and Arabisation but they themselves underwent the process of Africaniation,
namely Sudanisation. As a result of those adaptation processes
Arabs nowadays do not greatly differ from the indigenous Sudanese either by the colour of their skin or by culture which underwent extensive convergence. Among them, however, there are
two groups to be recognised: Arabs, the so called Ja’alin-Danagla
stemming, to a greater extent, from the Arabised Nubian agricultural communities and Juhayna-Fezara who in majority were the
descendants of the pastoral tribes from Arabia. Both groups are
divided into many more tribes forming unstructured confederations14. The first group was formed by the above-mentioned Tunjur people who for some time took control over Darfur and who
are considered to have been the founders of the Wadai state. The
second group embraced all the remaining tribes of Arab nomads
dealing mainly with camel farming, a typical activity of the Arab
Bedouins. Many of those groups, when travelling to the centre of
Sudan, were forced to change camel for cattle farming which was
better accustomed to a bit more humid climate in the southern
part of the Sudan zone. This way was formed a more Africanised
than the previous ones subgroup of Juhaynaah Arabs called Baggara (Arabic baggar: a cow) specialising in cattle farming which
became the fundamental basis of their economy. Apart from cattle farming they also dabbled in goat and sheep breeding, slave

For further information see: M. Ząbek, Arabowie z Dar Hamid. Społeczność
w sytuacji zagrożenia ekologicznego, Warszawa: Dialog 1998.

Historical importance of Arab muslim communities…


trading or elephant and giraffe hunting, in which they were regarded as specialists15.
Baggara Arabs, beside the Fulbe people, with time became the
largest group of nomads and shepherds in the Sudan zone. Their
tribes settled on the territories along the River White Nile in Eastern
Sudan through the territories of the South Kordofan and Darfur,
Central Chad, Northern Cameroon up to the state of Bornu (present north-east Nigeria) constituting the so called belt of Baggarah Arabs or Szuwa as they are called in the western part.
Nowadays, many Baggara groups, mainly because of losing
their herds as a result of wars or overgrazing, deal with farming
or trading and craft in the cities. Majority of them still pursue,
however, the semi-nomadic type of economy based on migratory
life stock grazing only during the rainy season whereas in the dry
season (i.e. main part of the year) they carry on sedentary lifestyle in the villages. Their kinship system is based on the patrilineal lineage (khaszimbet) and flexible tribal communities system
(qabila). Many of them possess two houses – permanent one in
a village close to the water sources and another in a nomadic
camp. Men often have more than one wife. One of them usually
lives in a pastoral camp whereas others live in the village. They
are responsible for almost all tasks connected with house-keeping
and family including constructing movable shelters called „mate
houses” (bet berish), milking cows and sale of milk, butter and
cheese. Men take care of cattle herds and deal with millet, melons
and cassava growing.
Baggara people are famous for their zealous religiousness and
conscientious observance of Islam practices: praying, alms giving
or going on regular pilgrimages to Mecca. They also formed the
For further information see: I. Cunnison, Giraffe hunting among Humr
Tribe, „Sudan Notes and Records” vol. 39 (1996), p. 49-60.


Maciej Ząbek

most numerous group of Arabs in the Egyptian Sudan who supported the uprising of Mohammed Ahmed who declared himself
Mahmid. Until present times Baggara people have boasted that
Mahmid’s successor – Khaliph (Khalifa) Abdullahi ibn Mohammed,
who organised and led the uprising along with the Cultural Revolution in the spirit of Orthodox Islam, stemmed from their tribes.
In colonial times attempts were made to ascribe particular
Baggara tribes to certain units of territorial administration, which
however proved futile both in French Equatorial Africa and Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Nowadays, in the independent Chad they constitute the worthwhile minority enjoying prestigious reputation
but without great political influence. Their language, though not
popular among non-Arab ethnic groups belongs, beside French,
to the official languages in Chad. The reason for this state of affairs is more connected with the religious function of their language and Baggara people’s importance in the economy and dissemination of Islam than their role in politics. In Chad, they belong
to one of the most entrepreneurial groups. They handle almost
entire wholesale trade and lion’s part of the retail one. All the
services like taxis and hotels are managed by them. They usually
run Koranic schools and mosques by exerting significant influence on the Islamisation progress in this country. Their political
strategy in Chad seems to be based on keeping distance and maintaining equilibrium towards all other ethnic groups.

Historical importance of Arab muslim communities…


The role of Sudanese route16
in the pilgrimage traffic to Mecca
Open, mainly plain areas of the Sudan zone without natural
obstacles played, as above mentioned, the key role in the cultural
exchange between West and East Africa through migration of
pastoral tribes and far-reaching trade. Pilgrimage traffic of Islam
believers to Mecca, who travelled via the so called Sudanese route,
exerted a great effect on that trade. The pilgrimages left a powerful impression on the inhabitants of the countries they went through and served as a way to get together with the “others”, to
develop economic and political relations and cultural encounter
between the folks of that region. They also boosted the migration
of tribes (especially Fulbe-Mboror, Hausa, Bornu and Wadai)
eastwards from the West, which in East Sudan was reflected in
a considerable diaspora of those immigrants’ ancestors called
Fellata. That general name meant “strangers” or “foreigners” coming from the west of Africa and perceived by the Sudanese Arabs
also as the ancestors of the early pilgrims to Mecca who decided
not to come back to their countries of origin.
Walking pilgrimages or caravans of camels and donkeys started probably in the first centuries of Islam popularisation in this
region (unfortunately there is no historical evidence on this topic)
and lasted continuously until the 1960-s of the twentieth century
when they became slowly superseded by air transport. PilgrimaRoute, or the „Sudanese Road” (Arab. ‘tariq Sudan) to the holy places of
Islam, had its starting point in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri and through Abeche,
El-Geneina, El Obeid, Sennar led to Sawakin upon the Red Sea, from which
people by means of ships reached Jidda and Mecca in Arabia; ‘Umar al-Naqar,
The Historical Background to “the Sudan Road”, in: Yusuf Fadl Hasan (ed.), Sudan
in Africa, University of Khartoum 2006, p. 106.


Maciej Ząbek

ges were organised both by individuals and rulers of certain states. Their intensity depended on the possibilities to ensure the
safety along the route against natural disasters and human threats by the Sudanese states.
It should be remembered that an attractive alternative, especially in case of majority of states located westwards from Wadai
was offered by trans-Saharan routes and trails along the Mediterranean Sea to Egypt, and farther to Arabia. Eastwards from
this state the “Sudanese route” to Sawakin upon the Red Sea was
better known and more frequently used although since the collapse of the Nubian Christian states located upon Nile its significance has declined. Only after the formation of the so called “Black
Sultanate” of the Funj people in Sennar, the Muslims started to
use it. Obviously, Darfur inhabitants started to do it at the earliest,
followed by their western neighbours from Wadai and all the others
who could not endure to pass through the desert17.
Popularity of trans-Saharan routes in the West of Africa was
highly dependent upon the safety situation in Sahara and the
states of the North Africa. Yet, from the territories spread farthest
to the West, especially the early Empires of Ghana, Mala and Songhai, until the sixteenth century, the road through Sahara was
much more often chosen than its shorter, but not so popular or
even unknown counterpart in the form of „Sudanese route”. It
resulted from no willingness on the part of pilgrimages to become
the pioneers and discoverers to risk the adventures in Sudan. In
fact Sahara was a challenge but it was better known and once
crossed it offered the route leading through the populated areas
under Muslim Law and comfortable places to rest in the Osman
caravanserais. Besides, though states between Lake Chad and Nile
were, at least since the tenth century, under the influence of Islam,

Ibid., p. 101.

Historical importance of Arab muslim communities…


there were no religious centres founded until the sixteenth century. In the very Nile Sudan, as already pointed out, a serious
problem was posed to the Muslim pilgrimages by the Nubian Christianity which hindered Muslims the access to the Red Sea or to
Egypt and the same reaching Mecca. Thus, pilgrims from West
Sudan as a rule set off in caravans from the City of Walata do the
Moroccan Fez or from Timbuktu through Taghaza (famous for its
salt mines and the crucial parking space for caravans) to Libyan
oasis of Ghadames and farther along the coast to Egypt and Mecca18. The most well-known pilgrim of those times, the ruler Mali-Mansa Musa, travelled to Mecca via this very route in 1324.
Pilgrimages from West Africa flourished at the most in times
of the Songhai Empire. From the city of Gao people embarked on
a journey via route through the Air and Fezzan Mountains to Egypt
following the example of the ruler of Songhai Askii Mohammed
Great, who paved this way in 1515. He looked after the pilgrims
and showed them great kindness. At his order pilgrims returning
home were solemnly welcomed at the gates to the city of Gao and
were given presents in exchange for their blessing19.
Songhai people and other western Sudanese discovered “Sudanese Road” only after the Moroccan conquest in 1590 and the
collapse of the Songhai Empire. Chaos which prevailed along with
the increasing hostility from Tuareg tribes made them accept new
conditions. For fear of capturing and slave trade they chose the
city of Djenne as a new starting point for their pilgrimages. It was
situated farther to the South and replaced Timbuktu and Gao.
From that time pilgrimages headed for the South along Niger in
the direction of the territories of the Hausa people where in the
city of Maiduguri the “Sudanese Road” (‘tariq Sudan’) started

‘Umar al-Naqar, ibid., p. 99.
Ibid., p. 99.


Maciej Ząbek

passing through the cities of Abeche and El-Obejd to the Red Sea
and afterwards to Mecca. Knowledge about it was spread thanks
to the earlier migration of Fulbe-Mbororo shepherds and Baggarah Arabs. In this way, Central and Eastern Sudan, not affected
by the Moroccan assault and free from the Tuaregs’ aggression
became the beneficiary of the Muslim pilgrimages’ practices and
trade resulting therefrom.
It should be noted, however, that this route did not straight
away gain on popularity among all the western Sudanese people.
The power of tradition often made people from the Hausa city of
Katsina return to the North heading for the Air Plateau to Fezzan
and Egypt. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century it was still
an unsafe road and few people from those regions of Sudan decided to embark on a pilgrimage. Pilgrims left their homes unsure about coming back. Fewer caravans were organised due to the
general crisis in the trans-Saharan trade resulting from declining
price of gold in the basin of the Mediterranean Sea. There were
no clear timetables of pilgrimages as it used to be in the past.
Local Muslim lawyers and scholars (ulama) even announced that
Muslims no longer had to make the pilgrimages and made statements (fatawa) offering other practices replacing them20.
Only the creation of the Fulbe Sokoto Caliphate after 1804,
preceded by the formation of other powerful Muslim states like:
Bornu, Baguirmi, Wadai and Funj and the prohibition on attacking
“people travelling to the House of God” by Osman Dan Fodio, laid
the grounds for the formation of the homogenous Islamic structure spreading from Niger to Nile at the end of the seventeenth
century. It protected the whole region by improving the conditions
of pilgrims and popularizing this path among Muslims in the entire belt of Sudan. Organised governments ruling in the zone of

Ibid., p. 100.

Historical importance of Arab muslim communities…


Sudan along with parallels in religion, law and customs among
them let the pilgrims travel around without being bothered by
More frequent pilgrimages on this route were accompanied by
the development of trade in copper from Darfur, blacksmith goods,
Hausa textiles, and Cola nuts from the forest zone and also on
a smaller scale in dates, cereals, cattle and local cotton textiles.
Other goods including Indian textile products, Cowrie shells, spices and sandalwood reached the Sudanese route through Suakin
upon the Red Sea. It was possible, however, thanks to the formation of, in a certain sense, informal economic community of all
those Sudanese states and ensuring all the Muslims including
both pilgrimages and long distance traders the minimum of safety under the Islamic Sharia Law. This way, they were given the
opportunity to use the unified fare systems (states along the route
collected the sort of a duty, most often paid in kind), to issue
guarantees or borrow money without usury, by means of which
that kind of trade had developed.
Nevertheless, certain parts of that route still remained dangerous, like, for example, the route from Darfur through Kurdufan
which became safe only after being conquered by the Sultan Mohammad Tairab from Darfur in 1785. Similarly dangerous was
the route from Nile to the Red Sea crossing the territories of hostile tribes of Beja. Pilgrims, after reaching Nile, often chose the
longer but safer passage through Egypt or even via Christian
Ethiopia to Gonder and Massawa instead of going directly to Sawakin and Jedda21.
Legends about Mahdi who was to appear in the East inspired
the Islam believers from the West Sudan to embark on pilgrimages. The Mahdist uprising which was expected to cause the great

J. L. Burckhardt, Travels in Nubia, London 1819, pp. 405-407.


Maciej Ząbek

Hijra did not lead to it and even considerably weakened the pilgrimage traffic as numerous would-be pilgrims were concerned
about their lives and possessions22. Only the annihilation of the
uprising by the British revived this movement.
In the colonial times both extreme parts of the „Sudanese Road”
(in Nigeria and Sudan) were under the British control and only
its middle part (crossing Cameroon and Chad) was in the hands
of France. The British, after the Mahdist uprising, started to control caravans on this route and issue special passports to pilgrims
which had to be presented in control points. Still, this movement
in the territories controlled by them was carried out undisturbed,
contrary to the French colonies. The French, in an attempt to prevent the development of pro-Islamic ideas, formed numerous
bureaucratic obstacles (ranging from non-issuing travel documents
through the requirement to possess a defined amount of money,
to accusations of illegal trade) to the free movement of persons
and goods on this route. Still, they were unable to inhibit the
process of illegal migration to the English-Egyptian Sudan which
also due to economic reasons (the requirement of compulsory
work binding on the French territories) was higher than ever before23.
Further changes on the Sudanese Road began slowly to take
place in the twentieth century. Since 1911 one could safely and
relatively comfortably travel by railway from the city of El Obeid
to Port Sudan – a new port situated upon the Red Sea. What was
interesting, more often people who travelled via “Sudanese Road”
were ruled by reasons other than the religious ones.
In 1920 transport by cars was introduced on the entire “Sudanese Road” to further develop in the 1940-s and later on. Unfor22

‘Umar al-Naqar, op. cit., p. 104.
Ibid., p. 105.

Historical importance of Arab muslim communities…


tunately, the long-lasting war in Chad, which broke out shortly
after gaining independence by that country, along with the present
rebellion in Darfur halted that sort of pilgrimages. Besides, lack
of asphalt roads hindered the development of bus transport which
though more frequent from the 1960-s was gradually superseded
by aircraft.
Finally, I can only express the hope that after annihilation of
local conflicts in the region a modern asphalt highway will be
created from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea and consequently
the bus transport together with traditional pilgrimage and trade
traffic on the route to Mecca will be restored. This process may
be accelerated as many sections of this road have already been
generated. All the countries of the Sudan zone could greatly benefit therefrom.

The importance of Central Sudan in the past as a vast border
region meant the role of a bridge in the trade and cultural exchange not only between the North and Sub-Saharan Africa but also
between Eastern and Western Sudan. It also came down to bringing together distant cultures, traditions, languages and religions.
First of all, lack of natural barriers enabled mass migrations
of pastoral tribes of Arab origin from the eastern part and of Fulbe origin from the western part of Bilad as-Sudan which to a certain extent were interlocked but not mixed together. Migrations
of the Fulbe people predominantly concentrated in southern,
lower latitudes of this zone focusing on exploitation of both park-like and forest-like savannah regions, whereas Arabs reached
mainly higher and drier latitudes of this zone. Besides, the Fulbe
dominated to a high extent the western part of Central Sudan


Maciej Ząbek

(territories of present Nigeria and North Cameroon) while Arabs
took over its eastern part (mainly the territories of the Middle
Chad and Southern Darfur). Both groups of those exceptionally
entrepreneurial people played a significant role in creating the
statehood in this region, diversification of economy and Islamisation of the whole area.
Sudan zone served as an arena of rivalry between particular
groups but also as a room for dialogue and cooperation. Migratory character of this zone fostered general development mainly
in terms of the material civilization development through enrichment of particular groups including Arab traders. It also allowed
for the flow of ideas and dissemination of the Islamic legal system
(Sharia), Arabic alphabet and consolidation along with further
dispersal of Arab-Muslim culture in the heart of the African continent. It was possible thanks to the formation of the great coalition of the Muslim states where pilgrims and traders were protected and subject to a similar law. It allowed for the creation of
the longest route in the entire continent of both pilgrimage traffic
and trade character in the form of the so called „Sudanese Road”
which was in use from at least seventeenth century almost incessantly until the present times. It should be stressed that the importance of this “Sudanese Road” in Africa may only be compared
to the role of “Silk Road” in Asia.
All these factors together enabled the zone of the early bilad
as-Sudan to gain a considerable cultural, social and spiritual homogeneity thanks to the domination of Islam and Arab culture.
Nowadays, this region serves as an influential centre aiming to
propagate and preserve this culture in the entire Sub-Saharan
Simultaneously, it should be noted that though many local
African people (i.e. Nigritic ones) underwent to a large extent the
process of assimilation and acculturation in a more civilised and

Historical importance of Arab muslim communities…


Map 1. Range of occurrence of Baggara Arabs (Szuwa)

advanced, from universalistic perspective, Arab-Muslim civilisation, until now some of those people have managed to preserve
their own identity and autonomy. Refugial populations serve as
a perfect example. It illustrates vitality of African culture which
has prevailed in this region despite the domination and agency
of Arabs and the Fulbe people.

Burckhardt J. L., Travels in Nubia, London 1819.
Cordel D. D., Des “Réfugiés” dans l’Afrique précoloniale, “Politique Africaine”, No. 85.
Cunnison I., Giraffe hunting among Humr Tribe, “Sudan Notes and Records”, vol. 39, p. 49-60; Baggara Arabs, Oxford 1966.


Maciej Ząbek

Horowitz M. M., A Reconsideration of the „Eastern Sudan“, “Cathiers
d’Etudes Africaines” 1967.
Herskovits M., A Preliminary Consideration of the Culture Areas of Africa,
“American Anthropologist”, 26, 1924.
Karpiński R., Sudan Centralny do końca XVI w., in: M. Tymowski (ed.),
Historia Afryki od początku XIX w., Zakłada Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków 1996.
Trimingham J. S., A History of Islam in West Africa, London/Glasgow,
Vansina J., Kupcy z nad Nilu, w: P. Curtin, S. Faierman, L. Thompson, J.
Vansina, Historia Afryki. Narody i cywilizacje, Marabut, Gdańsk
‘Umar al-Naqar, The Historical Background to “the Sudan Road”, in: Yusuf Fadl Hasan (ed.), Sudan in Africa, University of Khartoum
Yusuf Fadl H. and Doornbos Paul (ed.), The Central Bilad al-Sudan. Tradition and Adaptation, El Tamaddon P. Press, Khartoum 1977.
Ząbek M., Arabowie z Dar Hamid. Społeczność w sytuacji zagrożenia ekologicznego, Dialog, Warszawa 1998.

L’importance historique des communautés arabes musulmanes
dans la zone du Soudan central
Le but de l’article est de montrer l’importance du Soudan central, en
tant qu’espace de grande frontière et de passerelle facilitant l’échange
commercial et culturel non seulement entre l’Afrique du Nord et l’Afrique
subsaharienne, mais aussi entre l’Est et l’Ouest de Bilad as-Soudan. L’article souligne le rôle des États musulmans précoloniaux dans cette région, des migrations de peuples pastoraux, de la domination de l’Islam
et de la culture arabe, ainsi que de la création simultanée dans la région
de multiples refuges territoriaux pour les peuples non-musulmans voulant préserver leur identité et leur spécificité.


Functioning and Organization
of dahaba Occupational Group in Sudan

Gold deposits laying in regions located between Middle Nile
and the Red Sea were, since past times, attracting the attention
of people trying to exploit them by different means. Information
regarding this topic in written sources, as well as material remains related to gold exploitation have sparked interest of travellers,
researchers and scholars. Thanks to that, gold mining in Nubian
Desert1 (since ancient to modern times) became a subject of numerous studies between many domains of science. The Egyptologists have been analysing related ancient Egyptian text resources (Vercoutter 1959; Gundlach 1977), while archaeologists
conducted surface research (Bloss 1937; Newbold 1948), as well
as site excavations (Castiglioni, Castiglioni and Vercoutter 1998;
Piotr Maliński – Institute of Political Science and European Studies,
University of Szczecin (Poland).
The word nub in Ancient Egyptian language meant gold, while Nubia was
perceived as a legendary “land of gold” (Klemm, Klemm and Murr 2002, 215).



Piotr Maliński

Sadr 1997). A precious sources for the historians were works of
medieval Arabic literature – authors of those manuscripts devoted
much effort to describe Nubian gold (Lewicki 1967). A significant
value as a source has also one of the relations of XIX-century European travellers (Linant de Bellefonds 1868). There are also
numerous materials about search for this precious metal and its
exploitation in later times – geological reports (Llewellyn 1903;
Dunn 1911; Grabham 1929), mining companies reports, as well
as broad fragments in scientific monographies (Whiteman 1971,
Though the history of gold exploitation in Nubian Desert has
been thus quite well described, its status today remains poorly
investigated. An occurrence of recent years, however, dubbed by
media as “Sudanese gold rush”2 indisputably deserves scientific
research – because of its scale, character and caused consequences. Especially interesting, for an ethnologist, is a phenomenon
of searching for gold nuggets with the use of metal detectors. It
represents a spectacular example of sudden civilization change,
to which northern Sudanese tribe communities are exposed. An
adaptation of the newest, technologically advanced inventions of
Western world and their utilization in traditional economic activity (which for Sudanese is gold mining) has caused a number of
cultural implications. Its social repercussion was founding a new,
specialized occupational group. This article describes basic aspects
of its organisation and functioning.
The article is based mainly on outcomes of ethnological field
research, performed in February 2011 in north-western regions
of Nubian Desert. The remaining data presented was gathered
during earlier research expeditions of the author in northern Sudan. In the years 2005-2008, he approached a traditional methods
2 accessed 29.08.2012.

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector…


Plate 1. Ruins of the workers’ settlement in abandoned Umm Nabari gold
mine in the Nubian Desert (photo P. Maliński).

of gold mining in Middle Nile Valley and Bayuda Desert. In 2009,
he performed a reconnaissance research in Wadi Gabgaba region
of the Nubian Desert (visiting abandoned mines and mining villages, as well as other relicts of architecture related to exploitation
of gold), while two years later he visited one of gold mining centers in Northern Kordofan (Soderi area). Observations and interviews undertaken in aforementioned localizations delivered
diverse field research materials, allowing for obtaining review
profile of the gold exploitation phenomenon.


Piotr Maliński

Traditional methods
of gold exploitation in Middle Nile Valley
Before metal detectors became widely available in Sudan, gold
was exploited using traditional methods. It is worth to mention
two of them, used on eastern outskirts of Nubian Desert, as they
were not extensively presented in research studies. Literature
sources mentioning those methods are scarce, short and too general – while methods regarding gold mining in other regions of
Sudan are the topic of several publications (Dunn 1921; Bell 1937).
A method functioning at least since VII century on Middle Nile
was rinsing the particles of gold from river sediments (Yusuf Fadl
Hassan 1967, 53). This manner, though simple, was very arduous
and time-consuming. The starting material originated most frequently from Nile, it was acquired particularly after annual overflow, accumulating fluvial sediment (sand and loam) in certain
places of the riverbed. Mineral sediments from periodic watercourses (wadi) crossing the desert, were also exploited. In both cases the rinsing took place by Nile. A basic tool used to this work
was a flat pan (recently being made of tinware) with a diameter
of several dozen centimetres. A few or more handfuls of material
were placed inside and then the pan was submersed in water.
While the edges of the vessel were at the level of the surface of
water, the vessel was set in characteristic circular motion. Because of this, lighter fractions of sediment were mixing with water,
forming a suspension gradually overflowing over the edges back
to the river. In result, the pan was filled with clear water, and at
its bottom remained a concentrate of heaviest minerals. From
them, gold flakes and particles were being picked with the use of
bird feather or metal needle. An experienced and industrious
prospector was able to gather from 1 to 1,5 grams of gold in a week.

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector…


Plate 2. Women and children of the Manasir tribe during gold panning
on the riverbank of Nile, near Hagar el-Beida village in 2005 (photo P. Maliński).

In the end of recent century, in some farming communities (e.g.
Manasir), gold panning was considered the most important economic activity, second only to agriculture (Abdelrahim Mohammed
Salih 1999, 49). During periods when working on the fields was
not required, whole families of farmers were panning the gold.
A popular phenomenon was groups of women and children in
squatting position by the river and leaning over the pans. Men
were performing heavier tasks, bringing materials from desert
wadi on pack animals. A gold exploitation method described above has lost popularity in recent years – mainly because of its low
A much more effective method of obtaining gold is mining,
which is popular in northern Sudan among numerous groups of


Piotr Maliński

amateurs (not professionally educated, but using traditional knowledge and experience). In this way outcrops of semi-transparent,
white quartzite (marwa3) are exploited. They appear often in riverside and desert terrain, however gold is found only in few of
them4. If the gold was found, the rock was extracted by an open-pit
method, and then mined along the vein down the base. This way,
the irregular shafts and adits are created, with depth between few
to several dozen meters. To separate the quartzite, the simplest
tools are used, such as hammers, mallets and wedges. Chipped
blocks of quartzite weighing even several kilograms are loaded to
plastic containers (jerikan), which the miners pull up to the surface
using ropes. Material is then mechanically broken up in two stages: manual and automatic. First, the blocks are placed on a large
harder rock base and crushed with a hammer. To limit the chipping,
the rock base is surrounded by circular cover – a coiled, looped
rope, additionally tied with rags. Its purpose is to protect the wor­
ker from being hurt by splinters, as well as to limit the loss of resources during breaking down the rock. The effect of this stage is
a coarse quartzite aggregate. The dimensions of the chunks are
usually several centimetres wide. The second stage of treatment
is taking place in a simple construction impact crusher. Most commonly used model consists of a rotor placed at horizontal axis, to
which several rows of swinging hammers (made of bulky steel
rail) are fixed. The rotor is placed in a cylindrical cover (sometimes
a fragment of empty tin barrel of diesel oil) to which the quartzite
is poured. The axis of a rotor is powered (through a transmission
belt) by stationary diesel engine with over a dozen kW of power5.
The device crumbles quartzite to a fine powder. This loose mateArabic word marwa means also “marble” (Ca’fer Efendi 1987, 72).
Reddish quartzite is considered the most “rich”.
Due to the fact that the engine is cooled by a liquid, it is often accompanied
by a 250 litre barrel of water. The coolant is used in a closed circuit (after aspi3

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector…


rial is then packed to sacks (shawwaal), used commonly in local
agriculture and transport. The sacks are transported by cars from
the mines to the riverbank of Nile, where powdered quartzite is
being rinsed in traditional way (panned). In the case of remote
mines distant from the river, instead of transporting sacks with
quartzite, a more ergonomic solution is transporting water for
rinsing. The water is brought by a water-cart, where basins dug in
ground of several square meters surface are being filled with it.
The basins’ bottom is sloped stepwise to the depth of ca. 1.5 meters.
In the most shallow edge of the basin there is a worker with a pan.
The process of rinsing quartzite powder proceeds almost the same
as panning the fluvial sediment. In its final step, however, the particles of gold are not hand-picked (which would be very difficult
due to their microscopic size), but instead mercury is used. Several cubic centimetres of mercury poured on the bottom of the pan
and mixed with concentrate of heaviest minerals, binds even the
smallest particles of gold. Droplets of mercury are then quickly
poured on a textile (often a fragment of worker’s shirt) and squeezed.
Inside the textile gold particles remain, partially polluted with
mercury, which binds with gold and forms an amalgam. When
a prospector gathers a larger quantity, he heats it with a gas burner – the remains of mercury evaporate leaving pure gold, which
melts together forming an irregular ingot. The quartzite powder
sedimenting slowly in the deepest side of basin is exploited from
time to time and – after drying – it is being panned again. This
effects in certain amount of gold, though much lesser than during
first panning.
A gold mining method described above is based on organized
team work, in which only men participate. To work, certain quration and passing through the cooling system the water returns to the


Piotr Maliński

Plate 3. An impact crusher grinding the quartzite in Soderi, Northern Kordofan (photo P. Maliński).

alifications are needed, and each workplace benefits the occupational specialization. The endeavour requires also initial financial
assets, which will allow to buy the necessary equipment (the crusher being the most expensive) and ensure its maintenance and
transport. The owners of the mines are rich Sudanese, who can
afford the beginning of exploitation. If the exploitation begins to
bring income, the owner usually takes one third, while two thirds
are split between miners and other workers. The amount of earnings is dependent on many factors: the content of gold in quartzite rock, conditions of mining and transport, number of miners
and efficiency of their work. It is therefore difficult to calculate
typical earnings of a gold mine worker, though it surely exceeds

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector…


Plate 4. Men of the Rubatab tribe near the mining pits in Wadi al-Lakhla
in Bayuda Desert (photo P. Maliński).

(several times) analogical earnings of a gold prospector panning
the gold from fluvial sediments.

Functioning and organization of dahaba
Besides the aforementioned two methods of obtaining gold,
a few years ago one more emerged in Sudan. It completely differs
from the previous ones, because its purpose is to search for and
exploit gold nuggets – as opposed to gold particles or dust. Localizing the nuggets requires special electronic equipment – the
metal detectors. Mass import of metal detectors to Sudan, which


Piotr Maliński

began between first and second decade of current century, caused
quick adaptation and spread of the method. Currently, it is used
on majority of gold-bearing regions of Sudan – especially on Nubian Desert6.
The first stage of searching is to localize the outcrops of quartzite, called kola. Preferred outcrops are those on elevations and
their slopes. Along with the surrounding rock they are subject to
denudation, including processes of weathering and erosion7. As
the result, both landform and structure of the ground change.
Pieces of rock, falling down and flushing by atmospheric precipitation, accumulate along with sand brought by the wind at the
base of a slope, creating mounds and alluvia. Thus, the forces of
nature work much the same way that gold miners do – separating
chunks of quartzite from the deposit, breaking them up and rinsing. This phenomenon is utilized by the gold nugget prospectors
(dahaba). They search through slopes below outcrops with metal
detectors, paying special attention to the ways the water flows
(darb al-mooya). Prospection of these areas is not conducted by
some specified method or plan, instead it has more chaotic character, partly intuitive, partly random. Dahaba themselves asked
about this replied with amusement that they search the area by
taminjeri method. The word is an Arabic title of the popular cartoon “Tom and Jerry”8. The plot of majority of its episodes consists of attempts to catch the mouse by the cat, which mostly take
The area called Nubian Desert by western geographers, is perceived by
some Sudanese as two distinct deserts. While the land between Middle Nile and
Wadi Gabgaba is called by them Sahra Nubiyya (“Nubian Desert”), the region
between Wadi Gabgaba and the coast of Red Sea is referred to as Sahra Shargiyya
(“Eastern Desert”).
Caused by atmospheric precipitation, wind, the Sun and the force of
8 accessed 01.09.2012.

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector…


the form of chaotic pursuit. In a similar, not planned method the
dahaba pursue the gold nuggets. The method changes in a moment
of discovery of the first nugget. After its extraction – with a shovel
(kooreek) or pickaxe (abu raaseen) – the surrounding area is thoroughly checked, especially area above (the quartzite outcrop)
and below (where the water flows). Among dahaba there is widespread conviction that gold nuggets do not occur alone, so attempts are undertaken to find more of them. If the findings are
successful, an area between places of all successful findings is
even more thoroughly searched. Next, when the prospectors conclude that the area has been completely scanned by the use of
metal detectors, they bring in the machinery. It is often an agricultural tractor (traktur) with a rear plough9 (mounted on three-point linkage and operated hydraulically). Construction machines can also be used: bulldozers and tracked excavators, as well
as loaders. Excavations consist of removing a several dozen centimetres10 layer of ground on the whole area where gold nuggets
were previously found. In most cases, the area does not exceed
several hectares. The ground is then again searched using metal
detectors. Due to removing the superficial layer of the ground,
the range of the equipment is increased (exactly by the thickness
of the removed layer), thus enabling the detection of gold nuggets
deposited deeper. The search in the mentioned area are more
systematized because of the marks left by vehicles. The marks are
parallel strips, approximately as wide as the length of the ploughshare. The worker using a detector checks consecutive strips. After

It resembles a bit the rear plough with a horizontal cutting edge, used in
Europe for clearing the snow.
The thickness of the overburden being stripped depends on the machine
used. A tractor with a rear plough gathers a layer of ground ca. 15-30 centimetres
thick (depending also on type of ground).


Piotr Maliński

Plate 5. A dahaba working in Wadi Adeela in Nubian Desert. In the background, an encampment (kheema) of three teams of gold prospectors (photo P. Maliński).

inspecting all of them and extraction of the gold nuggets (if any
were found), the area is considered exploited.
A basic organization unit in an occupational group described
above is an encampment called kheema11. A structure of typical
kheema is presented in Diagram 1. An encampment is formed by
a few (2-4) teams. The teams work independently, though they
are not self-sufficient because they use a common machinery for
excavations. Every team has their own metal detector, a car, a tent,
and a gas cooker. The tents pitched near each other form a camp,


Literally “tent” (Tamis and Persson 2011, 123).

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector…


near which cars are parked. Every day12, the teams set off to work
(to different places, often distant from each other by a few kilometres away), and get back to the encampment for a meal and
night. After complete exploitation of gold nuggets from the area
the teams break camp and pack the equipment in the cars, which
then move to another area. If gold is found in the new localization,
the camp is set up again. If, however, no gold is found, people and
cars move on to the next areas – until success.
A typical team consists of four people: three prospectors (dahaba) and a driver. In a team there are three main activities: working with the detector, mining with hand tools and cooking. The
prospectors change their activities daily, so in three days one
prospector is alternately: a metal detector worker, a digger and
a cooker. The driver’s duties are related to transport and delivering
the supplies – encompassing driving, service and repair of the car.
A manner of searching for gold described above needs to be
supplemented with some data regarding used metal detectors
(jihaaz) and their service. Generally, they are portable devices,
using a phenomenon of electromagnetic induction to localize
metallic objects. First serial model of metal detector has been
produced in Great Britain in 1942 for military purposes (demining). It is worth mentioning that its prototype has been designed
and constructed by two Polish researchers: Józef Kosacki and
Andrzej Garboś (Modelski 1986, 221). In the second half of the
recent century, metal detectors were used for many other applications, e.g. in industry, construction, archaeology, and also for
There is an exception – the hottest season of a year, when the prospecting
is performed at night. It is necessary not only for the comfort of the people, but
also for the conditions of working with metal detectors. Some types of the detectors do not tolerate high temperature. Especially the coils of the detectors
are vulnerable – being heated by sun causes interferences in electronic circuitry
and loss of its sensitivity.


Piotr Maliński

Diagram 1. Structure of the organization of staff and work assets in an encampment (kheema) consisting of three teams (drawn by P. Maliński).

treasure hunting. Over the course of time, many varieties of these
devices were developed, with different constructions relying on
different principles of operation. Among them appeared a type
of detector specially designed and constructed for gold prospecting. In the beginning of 2011 in Northern Sudan its most popular
model was Minelab GPX-4500, popularly called jeepee‘eks or jee-

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector…


pee‘es13. It is a detector operating by bi-level pulse induction with
application of SETA (Smart Electronic Timing Alignment)14 technology. It consists of a harness worn on chest along with battery
container (shanṭ a), on which an aluminium arm with a handle
and an armrest is hanged. On the higher end of the arm an electronic module is fixed (along with switches, knobs, and liquid
crystal display), whereas on the lower end – a coil15 (tabak). The
equipment includes also headphones (sammaa‘a). The detector’s
operator, after wearing the harness, hangs the arm on it, puts
headphones on, connects the elements of the detector with cables
and activates it. During prospecting, the operator walks slowly,
manipulating the arm of the detector, so that the coil moves from
side to side just over the ground. When the coil gets in the proximity of a metallic object, a signal is heard in the headphones.
Though it seems easy, the proper exploitation of the device is
rather complicated – the user’s manual of this detector has over
100 pages. Regulation of the device and its correct preparation
to work require knowledge of the English language, ability to set
electronic menu, as well as some knowledge of physics (encompassing principles of working of electric circuits and the phenomenon of propagation of electromagnetic waves in solids). Abilities
The second name is sometimes a cause of misunderstandings because of
its similarity to the name of satellite navigation devices GPS (Global Positioning
System). The GPS receivers, frequently used in Sudan by Western archaeologists,
are often perceived by the locals as a new, pocket size of metal detector, which
can show on the screen “a path to the treasure”. The misunderstandings of this
type are even easier, because a metal detector in Sudan is called colloquially
jihaaz, which means literally “an instrument” (Tamis and Persson 2011, 108)
and can be referred to a GPS receiver as well.
14 accessed 28.08.2012.
While the producer offers seven models of coils, adapted to different conditions of using the detector, the Sudanese prefer those with the highest range.


Piotr Maliński

of the most dahaba, however, are limited only to assemble the
detector and switch it on. During research, no person able to set
the parameters by using English menu has been found. None of
the persons using this particular model knew the function of a button on the handle – used to periodic balancing the influence of
the mineralization of the ground (during which the coil has to be
manipulated in a certain way). The Sudanese simply used the
button to check the battery life. After the button is pushed, there
is a short sound in the headphones signalling the beginning of
three second long tuning of the coil to the ground. By dahaba, it
was interpreted as a signal of proper energy level of the battery
(because when the battery was dead, there was obviously no
Interestingly, it was the lack of knowledge about basic operation of metal detectors among the dahaba that made conducting
ethnological research possible – which in turn provided data for
this article. Dahaba decided to allow an ethnologist into their
group on one condition – he will improve the sensitivity (hassaas)
of their metal detectors. It was not a difficult task16, it only required
reading the manual and changing the level of sensitivity of the
device in menu options. Effects of this change, empirically tested
by dahaba, improved the mutual relationships and allowed to
conduct field research among the group of gold nugget prospectors. During the research, use of types of detectors other than
described above was noted. Very popular are American White’s
Electronics detectors (models GMT GoldMaster and Spectra V3i)
and Teknetics T2 (colloquially called tiknis). Single specimens of
Garret ACE 250 detector (gareto) are also found, as well as Jeo16
The author has a many years long experience with use of different types
of metal detectors, gained in Poland both during archaeological research and
other excavations, unrelated to archaeology.

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector…


hunter Basic 3D (juhantyr). The last mentioned model deserves
special attention because of a rare construction – the detector
signals processed by computer software can be observed live in
a form of three-dimensional, coloured image displayed on screen.
The device also shows depth of the object and specifies its shape
and size. Among dahaba, the model arouses strong emotions,
though not because its feature to observe nuggets before digging
them up, but due to large number of “false positives” (perhaps as
an effect of inept handling). According to producer, the range of
the detector is 8 meters deep, so verifying the authenticity of these
signals requires much exhaustive (and often fruitless) physical
The dahaba estimated the number of metal detectors, being
used at Nubian Desert in the beginning of 2011, at around 30 000.

Plate 6. Metal detectors used by dahaba in 2011: Minelab GPX-4500, Garret
ACE 250 and Teknetics T2 (photo P. Maliński).


Piotr Maliński

According to them, only one third of the devices were acquired
legally (which is certified by a document attached to the detector,
confirming payment of duty for an imported product). The remaining detectors are supposed to be contraband and were smuggled to the Sudan from Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The popularity of smuggled devices is attributed to lower prices than legal
ones (which includes duty fee). Of course, government of Sudan
tries to stop distribution and using illegal detectors, so certain
preventive steps are taken. For example, the Nubian Desert is
being regularly scouted by patrols of uniformed services working
against contraband17 (mukaffaha). The patrols check the documents confirming legality (duty fee) of the detectors and confiscate illegal ones. The encampments of prospectors not having
such documents invented a tactic for avoiding loss of precious
equipment. First of all, in the encampment there is a small and
fast car referred to as boksi18 (most commonly Toyota Hilux with
rear wheel drive), ready for driving and equipped with water and
food supplies for a driver lasting for a few days. Also, people in
encampment as well as people working nearby attentively observe
their surroundings. When a suspicious car, such as characteristic19
Toyota Landcruiser (colloquially kruzer) used by patrols appears
on the horizon, the boksi driver instantly drives away taking all
the metal detectors from the encampment. If the devices are used
outside the camp, boksi travels through all working areas, gathers
the detectors and leaves as fast as possible. This way an inspection
performed by the patrol in the encampment is futile. Dahaba may
present to the inspectors a false story – for example that they are
Through the Nubian Desert passes a smuggling trail, connecting countries
of the Horn of Africa with the Middle East.
A name derived from English “box”, referring to pick-up version of the
They are usually painted in the colour of sand.

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector…


waiting for a worker who went to the city and took all detectors
(legal, of course) for maintenance. They can also claim that they
just camp on the desert (which is not forbidden in any way). The
inspection of teams working in mining areas is futile as well20, as
they do not have the detectors anymore. However, sometimes the
patrol pursues the fleeing boksi. In this case, the fugitive driver
tries to reach an earlier chosen place, called sharak – “a trap”
(Tamis and Persson 2011, 187). It is usually a ravine (khoor) with
a bottom covered by thick layer of loose sand. Boksi passes through
this obstacle thanks to its high speed and low weight (the car has
a lightweight construction and it is loaded only with a driver, detectors and some supplies). In contrast, a bigger and heavier kruzer is transporting the patrolmen, barrels with fuel and water,
weapons, ammunition and other equipment. As a result, it sinks
in the sand or passes through it very slowly, using reduction drive
and a differential lock. Anyway, at this time boksi is far away,
hidden beneath dunes or rocks21. After some time has passed, the
car goes back to the camp (the driver ensures that the patrol does
not wait at the encampment) and the dahaba can resume their
search with illegal detectors.
Despite this kind of difficulties with organization of the work
and the aforementioned problems with proper use of the equipment, many of the dahaba are successful in the search for gold.
The nuggets found with the use of the detectors are most often
classified by weight or shape. Every class has its name, common-

If the boksi does not make it to the team before the patrol, sometimes the
prospectors bury the detectors in the sand – to hide them and prevent
The driver of boksi tries not to leave traces of tires on the sand, by which
a patrol could find him. Therefore, he tries to avoid escaping through the sand,
driving on stony surface if possible.


Piotr Maliński

ly used by the dahaba. This classification along with nomenclature
is presented in Table 1.
Nugget mass [g]





“black fly”



“melon pip”



“ginger root”





baṭ aaṭ is





Table 1. Classification of the gold nuggets according to their weight

The contents are of approximate nature, and the names are
not used consequently. There is a clear tendency to overstate the
class of found nugget. It seems that this phenomenon is meant to
improve the prestige of the finder (and his team) among the dahaba. As an example, one of the examined teams has excavated
a gold nugget weighing almost 800 grams. It should be therefore
classified as baṭ aaṭ is, but all members of the team unanimously
called it (exaggerating) khaliyya22. It is worth mentioning that
the largest known khaliyya, excavated by dahaba in 2010, weighed
ca. 6 kg. This most valuable single find is popularly known and
widely commented in desert encampments. However, during the
interviews the prospectors stressed that there was a lot of cases
where more smaller nuggets were densely located in a small area
– probably originating from a single outcrop of quartzite. Accor22
A form of the found nugget could play a part in giving it this name. Its
perforated, openwork structure was more similar to the honeycomb, than to
a tuber of potato.

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector…


ding to gathered information, one team was reported to extract
more than 120 kg of gold over a few days.
The gold nuggets found by the team members are seen as a collective property – they are, in fact, an effect of hard work of the
whole team. During the research, all of the prospectors unanimously stated that the cases of usurping the gold nuggets practically do not happen. Everybody in the team is expected to be honest
and sincere. Some questioned prospectors stated, that if somebody hid the found gold, intending not to share it with other team
members, God would punish him by hiding gold nuggets from
him, also intending not to share the gold with a dishonest man.
A strong belief was noted that such curse could affect the whole
team or even a whole encampment – so the failure in searching
would be affecting all the people working with a fraud. To limit
the possibility of dishonest behaviours, dahaba most often work
in pairs, where the metal detector operator and the digger watch
each other’s actions. The prospectors preferring to work alone are
quickly dismissed from a team. Such solutions exist to guarantee
that all of the mined gold will be at disposal of the whole group.
However, in the end, acquired resources have to be divided between all the members of the team. The system of this division,
presented on Diagram 2, requires some explanation. From time
to time, all the nuggets gathered by the team are being transported to one of the cities located by Nile and sold. From the money
made, an amount is separated, called masarif or mez, reserved to
buy supplies for the whole team. Among the supplies are foodstuff,
gas for the gas cooker and several sets of batteries for the metal
detector. The remaining sum of money is then divided in two
stages. First, the money are split in three equal parts, respectively, for the prospectors, the metal detector and the car. These parts
are then divided even further. The money for prospectors are split
evenly among them. Considering that the typical team consists

Diagram 2. Distribution of profits in a dahaba team (drawn by P. Maliński).

Piotr Maliński

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector…


of three prospectors, every one of them gets a third part, being
a ninth part of the initial sum. The whole money reserved for the
metal detector is given to its owner23, in other words, the owner
gets one third of the initial sum. The money for a car are being
divided unevenly. Only a fourth is given to the driver (being a twelfth of total sum), the remaining three-fourth is given to the owner
of a car. With this money, he has to provide automotive supplies
– fuel, engine oil, gear oil, a set of filters of fuel, oil and air, as well
as parts needed for maintenance of a car. These expenses are
marked on the diagram as letter “X”. In the end, the owner of a car
gets one fourth of the total sum, reduced by “X”. As the scheme
presents, the largest part of the money goes to the owners of the
metal detector and the car. The amount of earnings is related to
amount of investment. The physical work, in contrast, provides
less money. A comparison of workers’ salaries shows the dependence of their value on physical fatigue. A driver (whose work is
considered as the lightest) gets less money than a gold prospector.
The rules of division described above seem to be clear, yet in
reality this system undergoes some modifications, which can significantly complicate it. Above all else, some prospectors can be
at the same time the owners of instruments of work – for example,
one of the prospectors can own the car or metal detector. In such
cases, salaries being an effect of work and profits being an effect
of ownership of instruments of work are added – with their sum
going to one person.
Much more complicated situations occur when an instrument
of work is attributed not to a single team, but to whole encampIf a detector is a common property of several persons – who contributed
their money to buy it – the sum of salary money is divided among them. If the
contributions were equal, the division is equal as well. In other cases, the division
of the salary takes into account the percentage of the contributions of the


Piotr Maliński

ment (a tractor or bulldozer). Such machine brings profits both
to its owner and its driver (who can also work as a prospector).
These money are being drained from the assets of individual teams
in a given encampment, taking into account the surface of auriferous terrain mined by a given team. In this matter, different,
individual and sometimes casual (and not always clear) rules of
profit partition are applied. Also, sometimes a team can find nuggets in place where a machine cannot reach (in higher parts of
rock rubbles) and then the team does not have to share its profits
with machine’s owner or driver.

At the source of popularity of the gold searching method mentioned here, there are few factors worth describing in detail. First,
the idea of search with a “treasure detector” seems to strongly
influence the imagination of its users – especially those of Arabic-Muslim culture. A motif of buried treasures – and their clever and
brave discoverers – is present in Arabic oral and written tradition
since many centuries. The metal detector has become a tool which
made possible a practical and effective realization of treasure hunting ethos. In this context, the ergonomics of the work with this
tool is especially significant. It does not require – like mining – the
long, arduous physical effort, to gather only a few particles of gold
in the end. Using a metal detector is no more exhausting than
usual, slow walk – by which one can (theoretically) find and possess
a “golden treasure” of a value exceeding a many month salary of
a gold mine worker. Also, a method of searching for gold nuggets
with a metal detector is technologically easier than the mining
method. First of all, it does not require hundreds of litres of water
(which is scarce in the desert) needed to rinse the quartzite dust.

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector…


Costs of exploitation are also lower, because a metal detector – in
contrast to impact crusher – does not need tens of litres of fuel,
motor oil, spare parts and periodic repairs. Cost of batteries is relatively low, and the construction of a detector does not wear out
(assuming proper use). The most important factor, making the
method so popular, is its effectiveness. Though it is hardly a rule,
it is not limited to single cases. In fact, the effectiveness of searching
for gold with metal detector is full of risk and uncertainty. However, bravely taking a risk is one of typical behaviour pattern in the
Arabic world, as well as certain fatalism – in form of surrendering
to divine judgements (including failures). Such attitudes seem to
predestine people of this culture to conduct the search for gold.
A social image of dahaba which has been popularized in Sudan
also plays an important role. For obvious reasons, cases of fortunate finders of gold nuggets are becoming popular thanks to their
promotion in mass media and presence in contemporary oral literature. They bring the attention of audience, and for many may be
an occupational motivation. In contrast, numerous examples of
futile, fruitless search are not so interesting, because they do not
affect the imagination of the Sudanese so strongly.
It is worth mentioning about consequences, which were caused
by the emergence of described occupational group in Sudan. Apart
from widely commented effects, by which the inflow of gold influenced state economy and finances, minor effects can be observed in the social and economical spheres. One of them is the
appearance of large number of young Sudanese, who quickly got
rich due to gold prospecting. Those people, thanks to quickly accumulated assets are able to successfully meet the social expectations, i.e. to marry and invest in enterprises meant to provide
support for their families. They become a new model of prestige,
clearly visible to their peers, who try to match it. On the other
hand, suddenly becoming rich is a situation overgrowing some


Piotr Maliński

young men. The wealth acquired in one day makes them instantly jump several levels up the social ladder, a position for which
they are not prepared. It may have fatal consequences – among
the dahaba there are young people that lost their fortune as fast
as they have gained it, additionally developing addictions. Especially alcoholism is spreading on a scale never seen before (in
northern Sudan). It seems that these phenomena inherently accompany every “gold rush”. However, among the gold prospectors
there are no assaults, pillage and robbery murders.
Amid another cultural consequences, which dahaba activity
causes, emerged a problem of endangering the cultural heritage
of Nubian Desert region. A vision of destruction, which a several
thousand crowd of detectorists can achieve, gives especially archaeologists sleepless nights, as the prospectors are operating in
regions, that are difficult to protect and conserve. It has to be
noted, however, that these people are searching for precious gold,
not “priceless” relics of the past. While the natural landscape is
thoroughly changed (marks after searching for gold are now a characteristic phenomenon in many desert areas), destruction of
cultural heritage are unlikely to be as common. The prospectors
themselves state that “dahaba digs only when he hears signal in
the headphones”. Such attitude seems to point that every archaeological sites not containing metallic artefacts are safe from
plundering. This does not, however, exclude a possibility of unintentional interference in various archaeological remains, during
the excavation with the use of heavy machinery. Indeed, the level
of danger or damaging the resources of archaeological heritage
needs to be verified by the reconnaissance research, which would
make the investigation of the state of known sites possible – and
perhaps an occasion to discover new, unknown ones. The last idea
can involve the dahaba themselves – using their field knowledge
of poorly explored areas of Nubian Desert.

Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector…


Abdelrahim Mohammed Salih 1999. The Manasir of Northern Sudan:
land and people. A riverain society and resource scarcity. Köln.
Bell, G. W. 1937. ‘Shaibun Gold’, Sudan Notes and Records 20, 125-137.
Bloss, J. F. E. 1937. ‘Relics of Ancient Gold Miners’, Sudan Notes and
Records 20, 313-315.
Ca‘fer Efendi 1987. Risāle-i Mi‘māriyye. Leiden-New York-København-Köln.
Castiglioni, A., Castiglioni, A. and Vercoutter, J. 1998. Das Goldland der
Pharaonen. Die Entdeckung von Berenice Pancrisia. Mainz.
Dunn, S. C. 1911. Notes on the mineral deposits of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.
Dunn, S. C. 1921. ‘Native Gold Washings in the Nuba Mountains Province’, Sudan Notes and Records 4, 138-145.
Gundlach, R. 1977. ‘Goldminen’, in W. Helck, W. Westendorf (eds), Lexikon der Ägyptologie. Vol. 2, Wiesbaden, 740-751.
Grabham, G. W. 1929. ‘Gold in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and Abyssinia’, Comptes rendus. International Geological Congress 2, 279-280.
Klemm, D. D., Klemm, R. and Murr, A. 2002. ‘Ancient Gold Mining in
the Eastern Desert of Egypt and the Nubian Desert of Sudan’, in
R. Friedman (ed.) Sudan and Nubia. Gifts of the Desert, London,
Lewicki, T. 1967. Średniowieczni pisarze arabscy o bogactwach mineralnych Afryki i ich eksploatacji (Mediaeval Arabic Writers on the
Mineral Resources of Africa and their Exploitation). WrocławWarszawa-Kraków.
Linant de Bellefonds, L. M. A. 1868. L’Etbaye. Pays habité par les Arabes
Bicharieh. Géographie, ethnologie, mines d’or. Paris.
Llewellyn, A. 1903. Report on mining concession in the Egyptian Sudan.
Place of issue not stated.
Modelski, T. 1986. The Polish Contribution to The Ultimate Allied Victory
in The Second World War. Worthing.
Newbold, D. 1948. ‘Deraheib Gold Mines’, Antiquity 22, 33-34.


Piotr Maliński

Sadr, K. 1997. ‘The Wadi Elei finds: Nubian desert gold mining in the
5th and 4th millenia B.C.?’, Cahiers de Recherches de l’Institut de
Papyrologie et d’Égyptologie de Lille 17, No. 2, 67-76.
Tamis, R. and Persson, J. (eds) 2011. Concise Dictionary. Sudanese Arabic – English, English – Sudanese Arabic. Khartoum.
Vercoutter, J. 1959. ‘The Gold of Kush’, Kush 7, 128-153.
Whiteman, A. J. 1971. The Geology of Sudan Republic. Oxford.
Yusuf Fadl Hassan 1967. The Arabs and the Sudan: from the seventh to the
early sixteenth century. Edinburgh.

À la recherche d’or avec le détecteur de métaux
sur le désert de Nubie.
Le fonctionnement et l’organisation
du groupe professionnel dahaba au Soudan
Le texte traite des résultats de recherches ethnologiques sur le terrain, ménées par l’auteur dans les années 2005-2011 au Soudan. Ces
recherches ont été consacrées aux méthodes traditionnelles et modernes
d’extraction d’or dans la région de la vallée du Nil moyen, désert de
Bayouda, désert de Nubie et du Kordofan septentrional. L’auteur présente avant tout le phénomène, appélé par les médias la «ruée vers l’or»
qui consiste à la recherche massive des pépites d’or avec les détecteurs
de métaux. La formation d’un nouveau groupe professionnel au Soudan,
à savoir dahaba était l’une des conséquences de ce phénomène. Dans ce
texte on décrit aussi bien le fonctionnement, les méthodes et l’organisation du travail que le système de répartitions des profits au sein du
groupe. L’auteur aborde également la question du danger potenciel du
patrimoine archéologique du désert de Nubie par des fouilles visant
l’exploration et l’extraction de pépites d’or.
Keywords: gold, metal detector, occupational group, Nubian Desert,


In July 2011, South Sudan became an independent nation, and
broke off from the North. This break up came as a violent experience for the people of the two nations. The dynamic changes
that followed the separation of the two Sudans affected the lives
of the people from the North and the South, as well as those con-

Katarzyna Grabska – PhD, is a social anthropologist. She is a senior
research fellow at the Global Migrations Centre, at the Graduate Institute
of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva and an
affiliate of CEDEJ Khartoum. She has been researching issues of transformations of social and gender relations in particular in the context of
war, displacement and return among South Sudanese in Egypt, Kenya,
South Sudan and Sudan. She has published widely on these topics, including her monograph entitled Gender, Identity and Home: Nuer repatriation to South Sudan (2014). Her most recent research focuses on
adolescent girls’ migration from Ethiopia and Eritrea to Sudan.
Peter Miller – is a Masters anthropology student at the University Paris VIII Vincennes – Saint-Denis. His current research project focuses on
marriage strategies and identity practices in Khartoum, part of a wider
project directed by the CEDEJ Khartoum.


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

sidered ‘Jenubeen’ (Southern or South Sudanese1) in the North
and those considered ‘Shageen’ (Northern) in the South. With
the political developments in the two nations and the introduction
of new citizenship laws, Southerners became foreigners in the
North, while Northerners lost their citizenship privileges in the
South2. The political changes had profound impact on the social,
political and economic reconfigurations, as well as identity claims
in the two nations. Despite the large population movements that
followed, with those considered Southern Sudanese moving to
South Sudan, and those considered Northerners going to Sudan,
and in the wake of the current civil conflict in South Sudan (on-going since 2013), there are increasing numbers of South Sudanese
who either remained or became displaced in the North. These
changes in the population composition as well as new political
and economic arrangements between Sudan and South Sudan
had a direct impact on the multidimensional transformations that
took place in the Sudans, and in Khartoum in particular3.
In what follows, we present the first reflections and impressions
of our two different on-going ethnographic fieldworks that were
carried out between 2015 and 2016, giving some insights into
a particular enclave of South Sudan in one of the neighbourhoods
in Khartoum, Amarat. The research is mainly ethnographic, during
which we have followed lives of different groups in several neighbourhoods in Khartoum to understand their everyday life, iden1
We use the term Southern Sudanese to denote those groups hailing from
the South of Sudan before the emergence of the independent South Sudan in
2011. South Sudanese is a term used to denote those coming from or identified
as affiliated with South Sudan. It should be noted that the Arabic translation is
the same, Jenubeen, for the two politically different terms. This is also significant
as it makes an interesting insight into the identity politics and practice in the
two Sudans.
Babiker 2015.
See Casciarri et al 2015.

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


tity politics and their everyday practices. The notes presented
below are based on in-depth interviews and life story interviews
carried out with residents of Amarat, as well as other South Sudanese residing currently in Khartoum. They are substantiated
by observation and participation in the everyday life in Amarat
as both researchers resided there between 3 months and 2,5 years
within the period of 2014-2016. We are both anthropologists who
have been working with South and Southern Sudanese. Katarzyna Grabska has researched among the Nuer of South Sudan in
Egypt, Kenya and South Sudan (see Grabska 2014), while Peter
Miller is currently finishing his Master 1 with a specific focus on
the Amarat neighbourhood, marriage practices and identity politics within in it.
We first introduce Amarat, a first-class wealthy neighbourhood
in Khartoum, underscoring its heterogeneous character and juxtaposing it as a metaphor of ‘Sudan’. The heterogeneous character of the neighbourhood is used as an analytical base to address
the questions of the categorisation and use of urban spaces. Next,
we situate the South Sudanese population in Amarat, stressing
certain particular impacts of the 2011 separation on their lives.
We then move on to describe their living arrangements, with a specific example of a ‘South Sudanese house’ in Amarat, which we
believe symbolises the heterogeneity of the neighbourhood, but
also a specific South Sudanese enclave within this residential
quarter. The house also serves as a metaphor for the predicament
of the current situation of South Sudanese in Sudan, as well as
the on-going civil conflict in the South. The discourses of the residents of the house form the base of our second analytical axe,
addressing the issue of identity transformations amongst urban


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

the “first class” neighbourhood of empty houses
Al-Amarat is a planned neighbourhood constructed in the 1960’s,
on what was the southern border of the colonial city of Khartoum4.
Due to the rapid sprawling expansion of the city, Al-Amarat is
now a central neighbourhood situated to the west of Khartoum
International Airport, bordered by two of the city’s highways,
Africa Street and Mohammed Nageeb Street. Categorised as a “first
class5” neighbourhood, Amarat was designed to accommodate
a developing Sudanese upper class mainly composed of civil servants, and to symbolise a modern way of living in the newly independent Sudanese capital with villas, gardens, paved roads,
and commercial streets6. Although this population is still very
present in the neighbourhood today, it’s significance is less and
less important due to the gradual commercialisation of Amarat,
with more and more residential buildings being turned into offices, company headquarters and commercial businesses.
Having been categorised as a “first class” neighbourhood, Amarat tends to be left out of analysis concerning marginalised popAlawad Sikainga, 1996.
Residential land classification in Khartoum started in 1906 with three
classes: first, second, and third. This classification envisaged regrouping populations by their income. In 1924 ‘Native Lodging Areas’ were added to, designed
to accommodate temporary urban workers. In 1947 the ‘Towns and Land Scheme
Act’ was introduced re-enforcing the division of housing in these three classes,
adding the criterion of plot-size, building materials and lease duration. The 1st
class encompasses the most wealthy population group, able to afford the largest
plots and modern construction materials. The plot size diminishes and the building materials become more basic as the classification descends. The current
classification system comprises 5 classes(Elhoweris 2006; Sauloup 2011).
Denis, 2006.

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


Location of Amarat

ulations in Khartoum, such as the South Sudanese population. In
fact, the “first class” definition tends to render an economically
and socially homogenous image of the neighbourhood of inhabitants with privileged status therefore camouflaging the diversity
that exists within. This official categorisation of the different
neighbourhoods of the city erases the diversity of the local situation. Others have noted that this type of official classification
and categorisation represents the imagined and socially constructed identity of an urban space, which in reality is far from homogenous7. Through our ethnographic observations in Amarat we
have discovered a socially heterogeneous quarter that when an-


cf Gillette 2014; Sauloup 2011.


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

alysed in its complexity can serve as a metaphor for post separation Khartoum and Sudan.
Amarat has been known as a neighbourhood where the expatriate community is concentrated, due to the number of embassies,
international organisations and think-tanks present, combined
with the Sudanese State’s desire to ensure that foreign nationals
live in first-class areas. However, presence of the expat community in Amarat has reduced over the past years, partly due to the
expulsion of several aid organisations, religious groups and individuals. The first wave of expulsions happened in 20098 as a manifestation of the Sudanese government’s response to Omar alBashir’s indictment by the International Criminal Court for war
crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Thirteen aid agencies working in Darfur were the principal targets of this expulsion,
many of who had offices and/or personnel living in Amarat. The
second wave came in 2012, after South Sudan’s independence,
and focused more on Catholic religious groups (considered sympathetic and collaborative with the South Sudanese population),
foreign individuals, and a smaller number of aid agencies9. It is
also worth noting that during the period of the Comprehensive
Peace Agreement (CPA), up until the period following the 2011
referendum on South Sudan’s independence, there was a mass
influx to Khartoum of personnel working for international organisations, many living and/or working in Amarat. After the independence of the South and with the more restrictive policies of
Sudan regulating the presence and work of international organisations, a number of UN agencies and international NGOS left
the country, some moving to the South.
8 (consulted 21/03/16).
9 (consulted 21/03/16 ).

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


In addition to these two major exoduses, the country is suffering from an economic crisis, crippling the nation due to a loss in
petrol revenues since South-Sudan’s independence and the economic sanctions imposed on the country since Omar al-Bashir’s
indictment by the International Criminal Court. These are some
of the reasons constantly used to explain the number of empty
houses and stalled construction sites in Amarat.
The wealthy Sudanese residents of Amarat, those whom are
generally associated with the neighbourhood, are typically the
owners of their villas, constructed by their own families since the
1960’s. They consider themselves, and are considered by some
others, as belonging to one of10 the top strata’s of Sudanese society, and are therefore bearers of high levels of economic, cultural and symbolic capital. Today’s residents tend to come from families with a significant social standing around the time of Sudan’s
independence, often working in previous governments as ministers or clerks; or for the State as doctors, engineers, professors,
among others. They are generally highly educated with master
or PhD degrees; the majority having frequented universities overseas, and therefore find themselves today in functions that ensure
a relatively high income.
Amongst this seemingly homogenous population one can already notice ethnic diversity, symbolic of the multi-ethnic composition of Sudan as a whole and the ‘melting-pot’ of Khartoum.
However, this ‘ethnic diversity’ amongst this ‘elite’ class reflects
a wider and highly contested issue in Sudan: the centralisation
and monopolisation of power. Almost all of Amarat’s wealthy resIt is important to underline that Amarat is home to one of the Sudanese
elites, who cohabite in their neighbourhood with an international elite. There
are many other elites, for example the religious elite (who tend to live in Omdurman), the less wealthy but intellectual elite, the elite connected to the government and civil service etc. See Babiker Mahmoud, 1984.


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

idents either come from groups originating in the Northern and
Central Nile-Valley parts of the country, or migrant communities
who established themselves economically through trade during
colonial times. The first category tends to include populations
that identifies themselves as Arab and/or Nubian11, and more
specifically those who claim to be Jaaliyin, Shaigiya and Danagla,
groups synonymous with the monopolisation of political, military
and trading power12. The second category can be characterised
by dwindling Christian populations. They consist of Copts originating either from Egypt or Sudan who make up the largest group,
and Roman-Catholic or Orthodox Christians originating from
Greece and other Eastern Mediterranean countries, whose migration is linked to the nineteenth century expansion of the Ottoman Empire13.
These Amarat residents express and maintain their domination
through their symbolic capital14. Their enormous villas with
well-tended gardens are guarded behind 3 metres walls – the style
of the villa is seen as a far cry from the typical Sudanese home,
the hosh, a single-story mud and dung construction. They tend
to employ several domestic workers, cooks, cleaners, drivers,
guards, and gardeners. Their capacity to do so is again a way to
affirm their symbolic status as privileged classes. Yet, once an
The use of ‘ethnic’ identities is of course problematic from an anthropological point of view as it is linked to concrete racial origins instituted during
the colonial time in Sudan.
Ryle, 2011, p. 35.
James, 2011, p. 47.
‘Symbolic capital’ references the concept coined by Pierre Bourdieu in his
famous work, La distinction.. Symbolic capital refers to the resources available
to an individual that grant them honour and prestige through the recognition
by others. In our specific case, the villas, walls, luxurious cars etc., are all means
by which certain Amarat residents can affirm their superior symbolic status
vis-à-vis to others (Bourdieu, 1979).

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


exclusive neighbourhood, the residents of Amarat are becoming
more and more economically diverse. Luxurious cars are accompanied by more common vehicles, a testament to the present heterogeneity of Amarat residents. However, as the price of cars is
high in Sudan (particularly new models which are often observed
in Amarat), the mere fact of owning one alludes to a certain economic status. The cars are kept immaculately clean, suggesting
that the cleanliness of the car might be a way of distinguishing
oneself from the general dusty environment of the street. The
cleanliness relates also to keeping the moral standing, being proper, adab and respected15. The way of life of wealthier Amarat residents, enclosed in their private space behind their walls topped
with barbed wire, and their habit to travel everywhere by car leads
us to another vital point in understanding Amarat: the dichotomy
of the use of space.
This dichotomy exposes that symbolic status of people: those
‘of the street’ who live more in the ‘public space’ and those who
can afford their ‘room of their own’, to paraphrase the words of
Virginia Wolf, in their private villas and behind the walls. Yet,
their lives are much more in the public sphere, as they often represent the government, international and business elites who
actively participate in the ‘public’ life. These residents are not
often observed socialising in the street. Those who occupy the
street – who work, socialise and live in this public space – represent
another fringe of the population: the marginalised. They also
represent the peripheral regions of Sudan that have suffered from
underdevelopment for years, the direct effect of the centralisation
of power and development16. They all share a history of a more
or less recent migration to Khartoum, often citing war, famine

Fabos, 2008.
City Limits, 2011.


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

and a lack of opportunities as their reasons to come to the capital.
They come from South Sudan (some having returned during the
period of peace, coming back when war broke out again), Darfur,
South Kordofan, Nuba mountains and other border areas. There
are also Ethiopian and Eritrean migrants and refugees who come
to look for luck, money, protection and a better life in Sudan. They
either work providing services to the wealthy resident families,
or as labourers, or selling goods and providing services on the
street to their peers and local residents for small gains. The two
groups interact on a daily basis, and complement each other in
their search for livelihoods and status. For example, those working on the street also offer services for the privileged classes of
Amarat, such as car washing, transport, shoe shining. They also
provide simple but necessary supplies such as cigarettes, street
food, and phone cards17.

The South Sudanese in Khartoum
Khartoum has been for a long time one of the major destinations
for the displaced and migrant populations from South Sudan18.
According to the recent UNHCR Rapid Assessment report (2014),
following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, approximately
250,000 individuals of South Sudanese origin are estimated to
have remained in Khartoum State. Of this population, 40,000 are
estimated to be living in camp like situations in sites called ‘open
areas’. The open areas were initially established as departure points
in October 2010, following an announcement by the South Sudan
See Sauloup 2011 and other literature on the street vendors in
Assal 2004, 2006, 2008; Abusharaff, 2009; Bureau, 2011; De Geoffroy,
2009; Lavergne, 1999; Shultz, 2010; Aziz, 2013.

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) and Commissioner for Voluntary and Humanitarian Work (CVHW) in Khartoum
that individuals wishing to return to South Sudan should congregate in specific sites for organized voluntary return movements.
Displaced South Sudanese have been returning to the South
with large numbers keeping multiple residences both in Khartoum
and in the South in order to minimize risks. Officially organised
returns were initially implemented by UNHCR, IOM and the Government of Sudan between October 2010 until the beginning of
2011, when returns ceased as resources were diverted to referendum preparations. Subsequently, a number of people remained
stranded in these areas, devoid of infrastructure and functioning
services. Since 2011, very few organized repatriations have taken
place. Further to the independence of South Sudan and consequent
changes in the legal status of individuals of South Sudanese origin
in Sudan, more and more people joined these sites.
Since the outbreak of the most recent civil conflict in South
Sudan in December 2013, more than 522,000 refugees have fled
their homes and scattered across four East African countries, including an estimated 150,000 in Sudan19. Only since February
2015, there has been a dramatic increase of over 10,000 South
Sudanese refugees in Sudan due to renewed fighting in Upper Nile
state20. Newly arrived displaced have joined existing communities
in both open and residential areas. Following the crisis in South
Sudan, the President of Sudan declared that the South Sudanese
in Sudan (including those fleeing the current conflict) enjoy the
same status as Sudanese citizens in the country in line with the
existing signed yet not applied Cooperation Agreement of 27 September 2012. As part of this agreement, Sudan and South Sudan

OCHA, 2015.
OCHA, 2015.


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

ratified a Framework Agreement on the status of nationals of the
other State and related matters, which establishes favourable principles for the treatment by each state of the nationals of the other
state. In particular, it provides for a Four Freedoms Agreement,
which should grant to nationals of each state the freedoms of residence, movement, economic activity, and the right to acquire and
dispose of property on the territory of the other state.
The majority of South Sudanese’s lives have been marked by
displacement and uncertainty21, and for those who live in Sudan
this uncertainty has increased since South Sudan’s independence.
No longer Sudanese citizens, and despite the Four Freedoms Agreement, they face many difficulties in being able to access education
and work. These issues will be discussed in greater detail within
the discourses of the residents of the ‘South Sudanese house’.

The ‘South Sudanese’ house in Amarat
South Sudanese in Amarat
Amarat would, in the first place, not be an obvious place of
residence for South Sudanese in Khartoum. Yet, against the odds,
and against the popular view of Amarat being a homogenous and
privileged area, there are different South Sudanese residents in
the neighbourhood. Their place of residence tends to be ‘hidden’
in one way or another from the public eye, long-term presence
and knowledge of the area brings to the light “what the eye refuses to see”22. Some live in abandoned villas, crumbling and
derelict, often cut off from the ethnographer’s eye and the street
by walls and fences. No longer used by those who used to be

Horst and Grabska, 2015; Grabska, 2014.
Kibreab, 1996.

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


privileged but suffered a sudden economic or political decline in
their status, they become a place of protracted temporal residence
for those who have been displaced. The use of waste materials to
board up holes in fences and walls alerts the inquisitive observer
to the presence of inhabitants in houses that are otherwise perceived as ‘empty’. Such ‘ghost’ houses, often empty for years and
lacking facilities, have been taken over by South Sudanese and
other marginalised communities who try to keep their presence
discreet, for fear of being evicted. Others live in construction sites,
allowed by the owner in return for guarding the construction materials from theft. These sites often do not have walls, instead
clothes and blankets are hung up on washing lines to give some
discretion. Children play amongst the concrete rubble and the
conditions are dire, lacking in running water or toilets. The sites
are furnished by what little the residents have, some stools, a bed
or two and for some a television, the satellite dish placed on the
outer wall of the construction site alluding to a presence within.
Others live in make shift tents hidden down small back-alleys
behind high-rise constructions (between Street 13 & 15 for example), using waste material to build their shelter. One close informer who worked as a guardian for a wealthy Amarat family
was given accommodation by his employers, a wooden shack
roughly 2x3 metres situated on the street in front of the house.
Yet, there are also better to do and well-established South Sudanese, who have well-established connections to Khartoum. Some
have studied here, or worked in the formal sector before separation, and have strong political connections. While, in Amarat the
living arrangements of South Sudanese are diverse, they all share
their status as foreigners, agnabi, vis-à-vis the Sudanese state.
Having established an overview of the social composition of
post separation Amarat as well as the living conditions of South
Sudanese in this quarter, we will now analyse one house in par-


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

ticular. We perceive the house as a metaphor for the different South
Sudanese enclaves that exist in Khartoum, but also the changing
history of the house over the years as a metaphor for the changed
status and thus experience of South Sudanese in the North.
The house
Located on street 37, in a prime location, opposite the Comboni
School that caters to many South Sudanese students, the house
is two stories high. Nowadays, the house resembles an abandoned
villa, but has a particular status due to its historical past. The
house used to be the Council of Southern States before 2011. Briefly, it became a South Sudanese Embassy after the separation.
However, when the embassy of South Sudan was opened in Riyad,
one of the new upscale and prestigious neighbourhoods of Khartoum, the house lost its prestige. The building remains the property of the South Sudanese government, yet it is no longer used
for official functions. Occasionally, South Sudanese chiefs who
live in the camps on the outskirts of the city meet there, as they
do not have other places for their gatherings. With time, it became
a run-down guesthouse hosting those who cannot afford accommodation and are referred by the South Sudan embassy. The referral seems to be a pivotal element in determining who can and
cannot live there and reflects a number of contemporary South
Sudanese dilemmas.
In the courtyard, there is a small garden where the residents
of the house relax, eat and meet visitors. On the left of the compound, there is a row of toilets and bathrooms, separated from
the house. Some are locked. There seem to be separate toilets for
women and men. In the house, there are several rooms. We are
told that some are shared and others are individual. Residents
also sleep outside on the balconies when it is too hot in the summer. In the dilapidated courtyard, and against the walls of the

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


South Sudanese house

house, there are old banners indicating the name of the South
Sudanese Consulate. Parts of the missing fence are replaced by
Chinese cartons. Electricity meters are located on the outside wall
of the house. We notice that they are all at zero.
Neighbours refer to the house as “the Dinka house”. The status
of the house as the “Dinka house” is significant, as it reflects the
underlying ethnic divisions in the current conflict in the South.
While there is a Nuer man working as a guard of the house, no
Nuer people live in the house. The fact that most of the residents
are referred by the embassy, and most of the Nuer people who
come to Khartoum do not approach the South Sudanese embassy23,
See field notes Grabska 2016; on general long-standing animosities between Dinka and Nuer people see Hutchinson 1996; Grabska 2014; Johnson


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

suggests that political divisions affect who has access to the house.
While the house has a specific status within the neighbourhood,
it is rather invisible for outsiders, within the area. It is well integrated in terms of architectural style, and similarly dilapidated
condition to the neighbouring houses. It remains, as South Sudanese within the neighbourhood, invisible in a visible space.
During one of our joint visits to the house, we talked to a group
of South Sudanese students who live there. Upon our arrival in
the morning, we first met an elderly gentleman who most likely
is from the Dinka Twic group. He was sceptical and refused to talk
to us24. We finally met ‘Mr. R’25, who is ‘in charge’ of the house.
He has been living there since 2011, and is therefore the longest
resident of the house. A man in his fifties, he speaks fluent Arabic,
and some English, but prefers to speak with us in English. This is
also part of his identity performance and how he positions himself
vis-à-vis others and us in the neighbourhood and the house. The
co-author of this article, Peter, knows him as he had befriended
him in the neighbourhood.
The residents and their predicaments
The house is inhabited by diverse groups and individuals, all
coming from South Sudan. Older men, single mothers, and young
university students, both men and women, and three families
with children. At the time of fieldwork, there were between 20
His disliking of our presence was later confirmed by another incident. On
his last day in Amarat, Peter wanted to say goodbye to the students. When he
arrived, the man was standing outside the house. He informed him that no
students were around and that he could not come in. When Peter sat around
the corner to have a coffee, he heard the students talking in the garden and even
saw them through the holes in the wall.
All names have been changed. All interviews cited in the article were
conducted by the authors between November 2015 and January 2016.

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


and 30 people living in the house. Below, we introduce some of
the residents, those whom we spoke to and who shared their predicaments with us. In what follows, we present the views of those
residents and their particular dilemmas that they are faced with
in the house and in Khartoum more generally.
‘Mr. R’: ‘the manager’ of the house. Peter met him first through
his other local contacts in Amarat. The man was introduced to
him as ‘Mr. R’. He wears a shirt, watch, and shined shoes. Older
men and men of social status in South Sudanese communities
would have their shoes shined often, in spite the fact that they
have little money to survive on. The shining of shoes might be
interpreted as a sign of ‘status’, similarly to the cleanness of cars,
on the dusty roads of Khartoum. ‘Mr. R’ came to Khartoum in 2001
and used to work in some sort of agricultural job. He has a wife
and several children, and they all moved up to Khartoum together. He proclaims that he is currently without work, yet, there must
be some type of income that him and his family survive on. Performing the customary Dinka marriage obligations, Mr. R announces that he paid 100 cows for his wife in the South. Bride
wealth remains a strong social obligation and functions as a social
insurance system in the South where families honour cattle exchanges that constitute an important social bonding and livelihood
strategy. His brother used to work for the government in the South,
before being “released” in unexplained circumstances. His wife
and their children are with Mr. R in Khartoum, under his responsibility. Mr. R declared that the children do not go to school, but
later we learn from the wife of his deceased brother that the children do go to school. Mr. R is generally known in the area, and
sometimes referred to as ‘Sultan’, which might be a sign of his
symbolic status, despite his economically impoverished status.
Most likely, he must have had some type of connection to the
previous Embassy to first move to the house.


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

The students: The four female students came from Equatoria
to study in Khartoum. The younger male students (aged between
25 and 30) all come from Warrap, Jongolei, Northern Bahr Ghazal
and Aweil. They speak good English, and have been in Khartoum
for one to two years. Some are on scholarships from the government, whilst others get by with money received from their parents.
We are told that they do not have to pay rent, but they have to buy
their own food and cover other expenses (electricity, water).
George: 34 years old from Warrap; first came to Khartoum in
1997, his brother was here for education. He did not even stay a year
when his father came to bring him back to the village: “Because
parents do not want their children to stay away. They think that
they will come up with bad behaviour”, he told us. This reflects also
the control of parents over their children, and keeping them close
to cieng (in Nuer/Dinka signifies home, village, community).He
came back in 2010, but he failed to access university; he then returned again in 2014 and has been in Khartoum since. As he did
not have any money, he finally gained access to the house through
someone he knows at the embassy and came to stay there. He is
studying first year chemistry at the Nileein University where some
classes are held in Arabic, and others in English. He tells us that the
students are struggling. When we came in the morning, he was the
one who translated from Arabic and Dinka into English for us. He
also connected us with Mr. R, who was around doing some business.
George is not married yet. His eldest brother and his sister are married. The brother just before him is not, meaning that that he does
not yet feel a pressure to marry. He also explained why he is ‘late’
in his education: “Because of the problems in our country, we had
to wait with education. So I am a bit behind”, he said.
Deng: 27 years old – came in 2014 from Aweil. He used to live
in a village and is married with one child. He came to Khartoum
alone to study. He told us that because of problems in the South

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


he had to stop education. “There are too many un-educated people in the South and not enough universities”, he explained. “We
(students) had to stay for 2 years doing nothing. We farmed a bit
and helped our parents in the village”. He came by plane to Khartoum and was very surprised when he arrived here: “There were
a lot of buildings, and it looked very different from the village”.
But settling in was also difficult. For some months with a group
of friends he was looking for a place to stay, but they could not
find anything. Finally he ended up in the house in Amarat. He is
currently attending his first year of University studying geology
and mining.
James: from Bahr Al Ghazal, 26 years old, not married, a student in an Arabic speaking university, also studying geology and
mining. “My main problem is that education is in Arabic. When
I came to Khartoum in 2015, I did not speak this language. We
are learning fast now. This is a problem not knowing the language.
You just sit there, in the class and you understand nothing.”
Dut and Paul are two other students living in the house. They
are all first year students, residing in Khartoum since a year.
The students whom we met in the house did not know each
other before they came to the house. In this way, they forged a small
community through their shared residence and experience as
foreign students in Khartoum. Upon arriving in Khartoum they
had nowhere to stay, and all ended up staying here. When asked
about what they think about living in Khartoum, or more specifically in Amarat, all respond in a similar way: “We didn’t choose
here, we’re here to study, we had nowhere to live so we came
here”, therefore lacking opinions on the particularity of the neighbourhood. This gives an impression of coincidental strangers
forming a community, with little experience of Khartoum outside
of the house.


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

Ayen: a mother of three children. She has been in Khartoum
for 12 years, therefore before independence. She wanted to return
to the South and her luggage was packed, but then there was no
transport. She finally came to the house 2 years ago, in 2014. She
moved here because her aunt told her about it. Her husband is
working occasionally, doing daily work, however he does not stay
with the family in the house.

Discussions in the house and among
South Sudanese in Khartoum:
being a foreigner and being Jenubeen
The discussions and predicaments of the residents of the South
Sudanese house accentuate the particular transformations that
took place in the identities of South Sudanese residents in Khartoum after the separation. Their identities as foreign migrants on
the one hand, and as Jenubeen on the other are constantly reconfigured and renegotiated in the context of changing legal status
of South Sudanese in Sudan, the political context in South Sudan
and the social and political relations between and among South
Sudanese in Khartoum. On the one hand, since separation, South
Sudanese became foreign migrants in Sudan. Below we show how
this new legal status affects their living conditions, access to education, to work and to health services in the city. On the other
hand, the South Sudanese house also reveals the dilemmas and
conflicts hidden within the homogenous Jenubeen identity and
the impact of the changing social norms and practices as a result
of migration.

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


From being a Sudanese to being a foreigner in Khartoum:
living conditions, education and work
Living conditions and choices: “No power to go anywhere else”
The group of displaced South Sudanese residents in the house
reflects dilemmas related to the current predicaments of the South
Sudanese in Khartoum. Access to housing for the displaced and
South Sudanese residents is a major problem. Due to high rents,
lack of access to previous housing, (as those who owned property before the separation mostly sold it before moving back to the
South), and lack of income, many South Sudanese are destitute.
Some reside in makeshift shelters in the ‘open areas’ in camp-like
conditions on the outskirts of Khartoum. The house seems to offer an option of accommodation for those who cannot afford to
rent their own place, but also have vital connections to the South
Sudanese embassy. When asked how he enjoys living in the house,
Mr. R says that he has no power to go anywhere else, so he stays
here, suggesting that if he could he would leave. He also reports
that the residents have no problems with the police or the Sudan
government, as the official status of the building belonging to the
South Sudanese government protects them.
Despite being in a privileged position in comparison with some
other South Sudanese and benefitting from free of charge accommodation provided by the South Sudanese embassy, some of the
residents of the house complain that the South Sudanese government is doing nothing to help with the upkeep of the house, which
is covered in cracks. Any repair works or items that are needed
depend on the inhabitants collecting money and carrying out the
repairs themselves, as they did in 2014, renovating a small part
of the house, but lacking the money to finish the job. They have
to pay money to the council themselves for services like the rubbish collection.


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

Access to higher education
All students in the house report that as foreign nationals in
Sudan the government demands that they pay higher tuition fees,
making education at all levels inaccessible for many. Furthermore,
to be able to sit for the Sudan Certificate (the national diploma
that allows one to enter into University) the government requires
foreign nationals to pay a higher fee in hard currency in order to
obtain an Index Number. One student (of Nuer origins, and not
a resident in the house) hoping to sit the Sudan certificate this
year explained to us how in 2015 the price requested to obtain
the index number was 65US$, raised to 150US$ for 2016. The
obligation to pay in hard foreign currency is seen as an extra barrier by the Southerners, particularly with the current economic
crisis and the falling value of the Sudanese pound. Quite simply
this demand makes it unaffordable for the majority of students
and therefore prevents them from having the opportunity to access
university education. The positionality of the house residents is
also in relation to other South Sudanese in Khartoum. Although
they do not seem to be ‘well-off’ here, the students must be of
a certain social-class/standing to be able to come to Khartoum
(by plane especially) and study. Some have scholarships from the
government for their fees; others rely on their parents (who also
must be in privileged positions in the South to be able to afford
paying the fees of their sons). This also illuminates the differentiated economic status of nazeheen – displaced – as the South
Sudanese are referred to by the Sudanese population.
Access to work: “There are no jobs for us in Khartoum”
“There are no jobs for us here in Khartoum”, said James. “You
do just day jobs, some small jobs, whatever you have.” Ayen looked
concerned. She said that she could do any job, cleaning, selling
tea, whatever,butin reality there are few jobs, especially for wom-

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


en. She has no income and in the house she can stay for free. The
other woman who was living in the house whose husband passed
away does not work. She was shy and covered her face with hertob (a Sudanese cover) and refused to talk to us.
All inhabitants of the house commented that gaining money
in Khartoum is a problem. As there is no work for men, they have
to ask parents to sell their cows in the South, and send them money. This is particularly difficult given the current civil conflict and
economic deprivation in the South. They all share resources in
the house, cooking together, and sharing the little they have to
These narratives exemplify the marginalised position of the
South Sudanese in Khartoum. Before the separation, Southerners
as citizens of Sudan were, at least in theory, able to access jobs in
the formal sector, as well as had access, to health and educational services. While the opportunities for work in formal sector were
quite restricted for Southerners, the presence of international
organisations and the possibilities of being employed by them
existed. After the separation, international organisations resolved
formal employment contracts with Southerners and they were
replaced to a larger extent by Sudanese citizens. Informally, however, some Southerners benefit from their previous employment
arrangements and continue to work as guards, drivers or office
staff. After the separation, the situation of the South Sudanese
residents in Sudan has changed. As they are no longer citizens
they do not have the right to work, confining them to the informal
sector and increasing their perceived insecurity in terms of accessing employment26.One young man reported that he was a driver in the South but his driving licence is not recognised in the
North, nor can he obtain a work permit leaving him no other

Babiker, 2015; Vezzadini, 2014.


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

choice than to find day-to-day informal work. In Amarat, one can
see South Sudanese, many of them young boys, working as
car-washers, daily labourers, tea-sellers, clothes-washers, street-sellers (cigarettes, sugar-cane, peanuts), and guardians. Many, however, are unemployed and looking for casual work, and the majority have no stable revenues and live from hand to mouth, day
to day. Students in the house, for example, navigate their precariousness by sharing the resources among themselves. Solidarity
and sharing are vital in their strategies to navigate their marginal status in Amarat. People thus survive on informality and the
social capital that they are able to generate, either as previous
residents in Khartoum or through links to powerful networks of
the South Sudanese government or North Sudanese citizens. This
informality allows them to navigate the institutionalised constraints
imposed on citizens of both nations after the separation.
Being Jenubeen: a social and political identity
The South Sudanese house also plays a role in cultivating a South
Sudanese identity, and sharing daily lives with those who come
from the same nation state, in the middle of a foreign city. Similarly as in refugee camps, the house serves as a metaphor of forming fictive kinship connections in exile27. The students all expressed
meeting each other here in Khartoum, forming their community
through this house. They are mostly all around the same age (27),
and are in Khartoum for the first time in their lives, suggesting
that their lives have been less marked by migration. George is the
exception, as the eldest (in his 30’s) and having come and gone
from Khartoum several times.


Grabska, 2014.

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


“We are Jenubeen”and social tensions among
the South Sudanese in Khartoum
We ask: “How do you like Amarat? How do you like Khartoum?
Is it different to live in Khartoum now as opposed to before the
separation?” but no one really replies to the question directly.
They all say: “… it is fine. Like other places in Khartoum.” This
response suggests that the residents of the house feel that they
do not have a control over their lives in terms of where they can
live. Yet, at the same time, the fact that they are not in war zones
in South Sudan underlies their privileged status vis-à-vis those
who stayed behind.
Ayen elaborates her response: “It is no different. It is the same.
Maybe now it is a bit more respect. Because before people would
abuse you on the street. Now they just do not pay attention to you.
All places in Khartoum are the same, there is no difference with
Other men commented that now it is different in the sense that
they feel that they are South Sudanese. “Jenubeen”, Ayen says
proudly, “I am Jenubeen”. And then she laughs. The sharing of
a space with other South Sudanese in the house allows her and
the others to reinforce their sense of being Jenubeen in the struggle with difficulties vis à vis the Sudanese state.
Questions around identity raise suspicions from some of the
respondents. One of the young students asks why we are interested in ‘tribes’ and ‘ethnic origin’. It seems that he feels that we
are trying to point out that there are only certain groups living in
the house, those groups who are supported by or are supporting
the Government in Juba. We explain that we are interested to
know how people identify themselves and how they talk about
themselves. The issue of ‘tribes’ and identification raises the interest of others. Deng, one of the other students, explains: “Before
tribes were identified by the language they spoke. Now, all people


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

in South Sudan talk about tribes. But the educated people know
that this creates problems. ”This comment is pertinent as the previous second civil war in the South (1983-2005), and the current
conflict in the South (since December 2013) have been both described as generated by the ‘educated’ elites (koor gaat duel gora)28.
The comment from the student might signal that those in the
house, the educated students, know about the dangers of using
‘tribalism’ and ethnic divisions in generating conflicts. Thus, they
want to distance themselves from the ‘others’, the ‘uneducated
ones’ (or those who use that language) and redirect the blame for
the current conflict in the South between the (Dinka dominated)
government and the (Nuer dominated) rebels.
George commented:
“Before, when the war was there, we were all one. Before the
independence of South Sudan, we did not pay attention to tribes.
But now, since the independence, people focus on tribes. They
talk about tribes, because there are problems between tribes in
the South. The conflict is because of this. But here in Khartoum
at the university, people do not talk about this. They came here
with a mission to complete their studies.”

Despite the ‘we are one discourse’, the access to the house exemplifies the current situation of, and social tensions between,
South Sudanese more generally in Khartoum. Mr. R seems to be
the guardian to the house; “If you want to come and live in the
house, you need to ask Mr. R for permission. And then after a while
you need to also agree with these other people (embassy)”. While
the status of Mr. R is difficult to decipher, he is obviously the
gatekeeper of the access to the house, giving him a somewhat
privileged position, despite his apparent desire to leave if possible.


Jok and Hutchinson 1999; Grabska, 2014.

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


There is one more resident of the house that stands out, seemingly having a different status. We were told by other local residents
that the old man in front of the ‘Dinka House’ is a Nuer, and that
the rest of the members of the house do not really like him. He
used to be a soldier, but works as a guard at the house, employed
by the South Sudanese embassy, and sleeping outside. One informant warned us against hanging around too much with the man
if we wanted to keep good relations with the others. We were also
informed that our access to the residents in the house has to be
approved by Mr. R. This vignette gives an inside to the conflicts
within the house as well as the politics of accessing the residents.
The only Nuer connected to the house does not benefit from the
same status inside the house as the others, sleeping outside and
living on the margins of the house. The practices and discourses
in the house reveal the differentiated power position of the that
reflects the current political conflict within South Sudan.
The discourse of ‘we were one’ permeates both the discussions
of South Sudanese displaced in Khartoum with reference to their
previous status in Sudan, when ‘Sudan was one’, as well as the
description of Southern Sudan as being ‘one’ before the separation.
This type of discourse tends to hide the underlying tensions, inequalities and conflicts that have been lurking under the surface
of ‘we were one’ both in Sudan and in the South before separation.
The history of the conflicts between the North and the South, and
the marginalisation of the Southern citizens goes far back in time,
and is exemplified in the first (1956-1972) and the second (19832005) civil wars between the North and the South. The marginalisation experienced from the North tended to unite the Southern groups. Yet, there were also bubbling conflicts between the
different groups that came to a head in 1991 with a split in the
Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). It was the second
civil war (1983-2005); the discovery of oil in the Western Upper


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

Nile region and the desire of the Khartoum government to control
it; and the subsequent nine years of inter- and intra-ethnic fighting (1991-2000) that took place among the Nuer (and Dinka);
that devastated the southern communities and resulted in a collapse of local social and livelihood systems. The impact of interand intra-ethnic violence which resulted from the John Garang-Riek
Machar split in 1991 marked a turning point for Nuer-Dinka relations and concepts of ethnicity and (gender) identity. The ethnicised violence followed across borders, and in 1996, fighting
took place between Dinka and Nuer in Kakuma refugee camp in
Kenya as well as in Khartoum29.
The deployment of the discourse “we are all one as ‘Jenubeen’”
and “we have no problem with these (Nuer or Dinka) people ”reveals the marginalised and insecure position of South Sudanese
in Khartoum as foreigners. As one of the Nuer informants commented:
“Here in Khartoum, we are no longer citizens. We are under the
government of another state, of Sudan. We cannot fight amongst
ourselves because this will endanger our stay here. We are guests
in this country (in Sudan). This is why when we see Dinka gathering on the street, we, the Nuer, we do not fight them. We just
avoid them, by crossing the street to the other side.”

Thus ‘we are one’ is deployed strategically to avoid further
marginalisation of the South Sudanese in Khartoum but also recognising the changed position of Southerners within Sudan. But
how would they position themselves in discussions and relations
among themselves within the House? Or in South Sudan? What
type of identities would be then evoked and mobilised in determining of ‘who we are’ and how ‘we are one’ would be then understood?

Grabska, 2014; Jok and Hutchinson, 1999.

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


Change in social relations as a result of migration:
“Marriage has been postponed”
Amongst the students in the house Deng is the only one who
is married. Bringing up the topic of marriage incites a lot of chat,
jokes and laughter among the residents. The bride price is a central theme. With the current situation in the South, and their
marginalised and impoverished situation in the North, young men
are unable to marry in official ways. The bride price for the Dinka
people is usually very high, with some 100 to 150 cows that the
family of the groom must pay to the family of the bride. While the
cow-based bride price has been changing over the years, with the
increasing urbanisation of the South, changing economies and
livelihood strategies, and the move of young people to urban areas in the North, the cows still constitute the main guarantee of
the marriage. Although part of the bride-wealth can be paid in
money, the meaning of cows for the Dinka (and for the Nuer)
people remains central in securing social bonds. In Khartoum,
away from their families and networks, as well as with lack of
access to cattle, and often to money, young men had to put their
marriage plans on hold. Cows have also become very expensive,
the most expensive ones costing around 150 USD (3000 Sudanese
Pounds). In Khartoum people pay with money, but they still need
to pay cows and goats in the village. Even in Juba, marriages are
The discourse, of “no cattle, no money, no marriage” seems to
reflect a certain delay in accessing full adulthood for the men. As
in Dinka custom, boys become fully men when they marry. This
is when they acquire a status of respectable men, and later fathers30.
The limited access to marriage because of the economic situation

Deng, 1972.


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

and the conflict in the South puts marriages on hold, or ‘on credit’. As one of the Nuer chiefs in Khartoum explained, “people are
still getting married, but only on an agreement. They cows will
be paid later at home. When we go back.”

Emerging reflections and conclusions
The ethnography presented here provides two different sets
of reflections. One relates to the use of space and in particular the
status of Amarat, as a neighborhood in wider Khartoum. While it
is a wealthy neighborhood, its residents exemplify the diversity
of nationalities, social status, and classes inhabiting Khartoum.
The deeper investigation of the seemingly homogenous ‘wealthy’
composition of Amarat uncovers its heterogeneous composition,
where some people are struggling to survive, yet not as much
as those in other neighborhoods. The residents of the house, for
that matter, show also the inequalities existing in the experiences of South Sudanese in Khartoum. They live rent free, with access
to running water and toilets, in a ‘villa lifestyle’, whereas
other compatriots live in camps or rakobas in the industrial sites
of Khartoum.
The second set of reflections concern the effects of the separation of South Sudan and the on-going civil conflict in the South
on the displaced South Sudanese in Khartoum. The civil conflict
in the South generates new and old displacements towards the
North. Yet, the experiences in Khartoum are now fundamentally
different due to the changed status of South Sudanese communities vis-à-vis the Sudan state. The change in the identities of
Jenubeen in Khartoum is two fold. One is related to the institutional changes at the national level, where Southerners have been
deprived the status of locals and became foreigners in Khartoum.

The South Sudan House in Amarat…


This has a direct effect on their migratory trajectories and experiences. First, southern Sudanese used to come for education to
Khartoum, yet, after the separation as foreigners, the cost of education has become very high, blocking access for many, as they
are now foreign nationals and asked to pay in hard currency. Yet,
as this fieldwork reveals, there continue to be some South Sudanese students who are able to carry out their studies, demonstrating the diversity of predicaments and migratory goals of South
Sudanese population in Khartoum. Second, the lives of the people
in the house also show the impossibility of accessing formal work
and very little possibilities for informal employment also and hence,
increasing their livelihood insecurity.
Two, the discourse of ‘we are one’ we are Jenubeen – exposes
the hidden social tensions and transformations in the identity
politics among the South Sudanese. The issues around access
to the house reveal social conflicts infusing the South Sudanese
in the South as well as in Khartoum. While the process of gaining
access to the house is hard to clarify, there is seemingly an
overrepresentation of Dinka residents with possible links to
the South Sudanese government. While adults are arguably out
of work, they find ways of surviving, with their privileged access
to free of charge accommodation. Students also come from privileged background to be able to afford university fees in Khartoum
(as expensive as 3,000 USD per semester), and have connections
to be accommodated in the house. This emphasises the social
inequalities that exist among the South Sudanese in Khartoum,
with many not being able to access even basic education. The
composition of the house and the relations in the house exemplify also inter-group conflicts that underlie the civil crisis in the
Lastly, the lives of the young residents in the house also reflect
the effects of the on-going civil war in the South. Faced with pro-


Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

tracted uncertainty31, the displaced South Sudanese in Khartoum
are forced to postpone their lives and transitions. With limited
and late access to education, as well as limited possibilities to
marry and thus access full adulthood, the conflict brings a disruption to their life projects. At the same time, displacement offers
a chance for some to continue education and to escape social
pressure to marry, and thus contribute to transforming some social relations32.

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Katarzyna Grabska, Peter Miller

La maison sudiste à Amarat:
les enclaves sud-soudanaises à Khartoum
Cet article présente nos premières réflexions et impressions inspirées
par nos deux terrains ethnographiques menés entre 2015 et 2016. Il
offre une perspective sur une enclave sudiste particulaire à Amarat, un
quartier à Khartoum. Il traite des questions plus vastes qui ont émergé
à la suite de la séparation des deux Soudans. En juillet 2011, le Sud-Soudan est devenu une nation indépendante, et s’est éloigné du Nord
du Soudan. La rupture était une expérience violente pour les personnes
des deux nations, et les changements dynamiques qui ont suivi la séparation des deux Soudans ont on eu des consequances pour la vie des
gens du nord et du sud, ainsi que ceux qui sont considérés comme «Jenubeen» (sud-soudanais) dans le nord et eux qui sont considérés comme «Shageen» (nord-soudanais) dans le Sud.
Avec les développements politiques dans les deux pays et l’introduction des nouvelles lois sur la citoyenneté, les ressortissants du sud deviennent des étrangers au Soudan de Nord, alors que les habitants du
Nord perdent leurs privilèges de citoyenneté au Sud Soudan. Ces changements politiques ont eu un impact profond sur les aspects sociaux,
politiques et économiques, sur les reconfigurations ainsi que les revendications d’identité dans les deux pays.


Les identités de genre
et les rapports de genre en transition?
Par un bel après-midi de mars 2007, j’étais assise dans un luak
(une étable), regardant la mère de Nyariek en train de broyer le
sorgho et de cuisiner le walwal (une bouillie de sorgho). Nyariek,
une jeune fille Nuer de 16 ans que j’avais rencontrée au camp de
réfugiés de Kakuma au Kénia, était retournée récemment au
Sud-Soudan. Quand je suis tombée sur elle à Ler, au Sud-Soudan,
elle m’avait demandé d’aller voir sa mère qu’elle n’avait pas vue
depuis son départ pour le Kénia en 2001. Après un voyage dans
un vieux mini-bus et une marche de trois heures à travers la savane
poussiéreuse, nous atteignîmes Maper, le berceau de Nyariek.
Dans le luak, j’ai écouté cette femme qui avait séjourné à Maper
pendant les conflits raconter des histoires de guerre et de déplacement:
Katarzyna Grabska - Gradueate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland


Katarzyna Grabska
«De quelle guerre voulez-vous que je parle?» me demanda-t-elle.
«Elles étaient toutes là; elles venaient comme le jiom (le vent).
Nous avons beaucoup souffert là-bas à cause du pétrole. D’abord
les Arabes sont venus et c’était le koor kume, la guerre du gouvernement. Puis les Kinka commencèrent à se battre avec les Nuers
et les gens ont dû s’enfuir d’un endroit à l’autre. Ensuite les Nuer
commencèrent à se battre entre eux. Ces conflits étaient différents
à cause des armes utilisées. Les mères restaient avec les enfants
dans la brousse. Beaucoup d’hommes furent tués et les autres
s’enfuirent. Des femmes ont été tuées et si vous aviez de la chance,
vous étiez prise comme femme par l’ennemi. Les maisons ont été
brulées, les vaches et les chèvres emmenées. Il y avait beaucoup
de souffrance et de fuites. [A cause de la guerre] nous sommes
devenus différents, les femmes et les hommes Nuer ne sont plus
les mêmes qu’avant.

Au Sud-Soudan, les identités de genre et les «rôles» de genre
prennent une place importante dans l'histoire des femmes et des
hommes qui ont été, ces dernières décennies, confrontés aux
guerres, à la violence communautaire, aux déplacements et à la
vie en exil. Cette présentation traite des identités et des actions
des femmes, des hommes, des jeunes gens et des personnes âgées
impliqués dans les conflits armés au Sud-Soudan (entre 1983 et
2005), et traite en particulier des Nuer, un groupe ethnique vivant
dans la région de l’ouest du haut Nil.
Quelles sont les implications des conflits armés pour les identités de genre et les rapports de pouvoir? Historiquement, les
guerres sont considérées comme des «symboles de la masculinité»,
à travers l’agression masculine, la brutalité et la violence. Cette
image a été perpétuée par le cinéma, la littérature, les chansons
et les récits (White 2007). White montre que le rôle protecteur
des hommes à l’égard des femmes y est accentué et le combat
considéré comme le test ultime de la masculinité. Les femmes et

Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises…


les filles sont injustement décrites comme des victimes, des pacificatrices et/ou comme les mères des nations chargées d'apporter
leur soutien aux combattants héroïques. La capacité d'action
(agency) des hommes domine les discours de guerre, tandis que
les femmes et les filles sont rendues silencieuses et invisibles (Denov et Gervais 2007). Ma recherche montre que ces interprétations
simplistes ne rendent pas compte des rôles complexes des femmes
et des hommes pendant les guerres ni des changements subséquents dans les rapports de genre, lesquels restent alors inexplicables et non théorisés.
Cet article souligne trois points : tout d’abord, les femmes et
les hommes sont touché(e)s par les conflits et pendant les guerres,
de manières différentes et contradictoires. Mes données établissent
que les guerres et les conflits offrent des opportunités d’empowerment (émancipation) non seulement pour les hommes, mais aussi pour certaines femmes, tandis que d'autres risquent de perdre
leur statut social. Autrement dit, les inégalités de genre peuvent
en partie être inversées. Le second point fait apparaître la multiplicité des identités de genre que les conflits engendrent: les
hommes ne sont pas seulement agressifs et violeurs, et les femmes
seulement des victimes passives. L’exemple des Nuer montre que
les femmes jouent un rôle important dans la militarisation des
identités masculines, bien que leur propre position s'en trouve
affaiblie. Le troisième point de cette communication traite de la
question des violences sexuelles commises contre les femmes
pendant les conflits. Comment et dans quelles circonstances les
violences ordinaires deviennent des violences ethnicisées qui se
jouent sur le corps des femmes. Ces questions sont importantes
pour faciliter les actions et politiques transformatives mises en
place après les conflits.
Dans un premier temps, j'expliquerai le contexte et la méthodologie de mon étude, en privilégiant les sources des conflits civils


Katarzyna Grabska

au Sud-Soudan. Je présenterai ensuite les conséquences générales
des conflits et de la guerre sur la société soudanaise, avant d’analyser les impacts de la militarisation et de la guerre sur les identités de genre. Enfin, je démontrerai comment les identités de
genre ont été transformées, revêtant des formes multiples et souvent contradictoires.

Méthodologie et contexte:
la seconde guerre civile au Sud-Soudan:
pétrole, armes, État et guerre des «gens instruits»
La guerre civile (1983-2005) au Sud-Soudan s’est caractérisée
par un conflit entre le gouvernement national de Khartoum et les
rebelles de l'APLS (Armée populaire de libération du Soudan)
ainsi que par 9 années de violences ethniques entre ces mêmes
groupes du Sud qui se sont battus pour prendre le contrôle du
Sud-Soudan. Cette présentation traite du patriarcat étatique et
militariste des rebelles sud-soudanais et, plus précisément, des
conflits communautaires entre les Nuer et les Dinka (les deux
principaux groupes ethniques au Sud-Soudan) et parmi les Nuer.
Si cette guerre civile a été le prolongement et le résultat du
conflit précédent1, les deux conflits se sont distingués par leur
échelle et leur caractère. La lutte pour le contrôle des ressources
naturelles (notamment le pétrole), l'usage de technologies modernes (les armes à feu au lieu des lances), le mépris par l'État
des droits humains et la violence entre les groupes ethniques du
Sud-Soudan à l’instigation des forces servant les intérêts de Khar1
Depuis l’indépendance du Soudan de la colonisation anglo-égyptienne
(1956), le pays a souffert de plusieurs conflits internes. Entre 1956 et 1972, la
première guerre civile s’est déroulée entre le gouvernement à Khartoum et les
rebelles sud-soudanais.

Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises…


toum, marquèrent une rupture par rapport aux précédents conflits
nord-sud. La violence intercommunautaire utilisa un nouveau
langage ethnicisé, absent de la lutte locale entre les Nuer et les
Dinka jusqu'à la scission de l'APLS en 1991.
Cette présentation s’appuie sur une recherche doctorale ethnographique menée entre mai 2006 et septembre 2007 dans les
camps de réfugiés au Kenya et auprès de rapatriés au Sud-Soudan
(dans la région des Nuer à Ler) (Grabska 2010). Pendant six mois,
j’ai vécu dans les camps de réfugiés à Kakuma où j’ai suivi la vie
des familles soudanaises et des individus qui avaient décidé de
rentrer au Sud-Soudan. Pendant presqu’un an, j’ai étudié sur place
le processus de leur intégration et de leur établissement. Il s’agissait d’observer les changements dans les rapports et les identités
de genre pendant la guerre, pendant les déplacements et après
le retour au Sud-Soudan. Cette recherche s’est fondée sur les histoires de vie des familles et des individus déplacés.
L'impact du conflit
L'agitation politique et civile qui ravagea le Sud-Soudan en
1983 fit plus de deux millions de victimes et provoqua l'un des
plus grands déplacements au monde, avec plus de cinq millions
de personnes déplacées au sein du pays et entre 500000 et 700000
personnes qui cherchèrent refuge dans les pays voisins (International Crisis Group 2002; UNMIS 2006)2. Les régions de l'ouest
du Nil Supérieur enregistrèrent les déplacements de population
les plus importants pendant les conflits des années 90 autour du
Au Kenia, plus que 70’000 réfugiés habitaient dans les camps de réfugiés
à Kakuma et vivaient à Nairobi; au Ouganda, il y avait plus que 212’000 réfugiés
sud-soudanais qui vivaient parmi la population locale; en Ethiopie, 96,000
vivaient dans les camps de réfugiés.; En Egypte, 30,000 habitaient dans les villes;
45,000 étaient déplacés en République Démocratique de Congo (RDC), 36,000
en République Central d’Afrique et plus que 200,000 au Tchad (ICG 2002).


Katarzyna Grabska

pétrole. Environ 70500 civils Nuer durent quitter la région rien
qu’entre juin 1998 et décembre 1999 (Hutchinson 2000: 7). Depuis
la signature de l'accord de paix entre le gouvernement de Khartoum et les rebelles soudanais (APLS) en janvier 2005, le retour
et le rapatriement des populations sont en cours. Selon les statistiques, environ 350000 personnes sont déjà rentrées au Soudan.
Un référendum prévu pour 2011 devrait déterminer l'avenir de
l'État soudanais : on saura alors si le Sud se séparera et créera son
propre État indépendant ou restera partie intégrante de l’État

Les femmes et les hommes:
La guerre et la violence
Ethnicisation du conflit entre les Dinka et les Nuer:
la violence sur le corps des femmes
La majorité des Nuer, femmes et hommes, parlent des graves
souffrances et des profonds traumatismes liés à la guerre. Les
souffrances ont été si grandes qu’aux enterrements, les femmes
ne versaient pas de larmes. « Nos larmes ont séché. Nous avons
trop pleuré pendant les guerres, nous avons perdu tant d’enfants,
nous avons vu tant de morts. Nous n’avons plus de larmes » expliqua une femme d’âge moyen à l’enterrement d’un dignitaire
de Ler. La violence, la mort, les pertes et le déplacement ont été
racontés par les réfugiés de Kakuma ou par ceux qui étaient restés
au Soudan dans des récits souvent suspendus : il y avait des mots
interrompus, des larmes et des silences prolongés. Beaucoup de
femmes ont évoqué les viols, la violence, la torture, la faim, la
fuite et la peur endurés pendant ces guerres. NyaDak, dans les 20
dernières années est restée à Ler pendant que sa mère était partie
se faire soigner à Kakuma. Elle relate son expérience:

Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises…


Vous n’étiez jamais sûre de ne pas être enlevée la nuit, ou vos
enfants ou votre nourriture. Ce pouvait être les Arabes ou les
Brigades, ou les soldats du SPLA. Si vous faisiez l’erreur de donner toute la nourriture à un groupe, les autres vous accusaient
d’être à l’ennemi et ils pouvaient soit faire de vous leur femme
[viol], soit vous tuer sur le champ.

Au milieu des conflits politisés et renforcés par l’avidité des
hommes, les femmes, les enfants et les aînés étaient tous exposés
à une violence inter et intra ethnique, venant de partout, souvent
de ceux-là mêmes qui étaient supposés être leurs protecteurs.
Quand elles racontent leurs histoires remplies de lutte, de mort
et de souffrance, ces femmes rient souvent, puisque le rire, comme
elles me l’ont dit, est la seule façon d’affronter la perte et la douleur immense. D’autres fois, interrogées sur la guerre et les voyages
lors des déplacements, elles deviennent silencieuses, ou jettent
quelques mots dédaigneux: «Qu’y a-t-il à dire? C’était la guerre, et
maintenant c’est fini». C’est pendant ces moments de silence, de
récits interrompus, de silencieux hochements de tête que je devais
trouver un sens et comprendre leurs expériences insupportables,
indescriptibles et douloureuses. Etudier la violence, sa nature
sexuée et ses conséquences douloureuses, devint pour moi l’étude
des non-dits, des soupirs et des silences (Jackson 2006).
Avant la deuxième guerre civile, les femmes Nuer et Dinka sont
perçues comme des biens communautaires; elles ont le pouvoir
de protéger les autres et le droit d’être protégées. Pendant les
conflits intracommunautaires précédents, les femmes ne participaient pas à la lutte, mais avaient le droit de protéger les combattants blessés. Elles sont perçues comme des protectrices et des
sauveuses qui accompagnent des frères, des pères et des maris
dans les combats locaux. Si leurs hommes étaient blessés, les
femmes couvraient leurs corps et les protégeaient de l'assaut de
l'ennemi. Si un combattant, même du côté ennemi, courait dans


Katarzyna Grabska

une maison, il était considéré comme ayant atteint un lieu sanctuarisé et ne pouvait pas être visé par le côté ennemi. Lorsque la
règle consistant à ne pas viser les femmes dans les inimitiés intercommunautaires fut abandonnée et que les femmes devinrent
les cibles de la violence ethnicisée, leurs capacités protectrices
furent supprimées.
Pendant le conflit entre le gouvernement de Khartoum et les
rebelles sud-soudanais, les femmes sud-soudanaises ont été souvent les cibles de la violence. Alors que l'État soudanais du nord
et ses milices arabes prenaient pour cibles femmes et enfants pendant la guerre, les combattants Nuer et Dinka, eux, ne visèrent et
ne tuèrent intentionnellement ni femmes, ni enfants, ni personnes
âgées jusqu'en 1991, date de la scission dans le mouvement sud-soudanais (selon les intérêts politiques et la vision de l’avenir du
Sud-Soudan). Tandis que John Garang, le Dinka et le dirigeant
de l’ALPS, voulait que le Sud reste intégré dans l’État soudanais
mais qu’il bénéficie d’une autonomie, Riek Machar, le commandant
Nuer, et ses camarades préféraient créer un État sud-soudanais
indépendant. La guerre sud-sud qui suivit fut souvent caractérisée
par l'abandon des codes de combat précédemment honorés par
les Nuer et les Dinka.
Les femmes et les enfants devinrent les premières victimes de
la guerre «des gens instruits»3 (Jok et Hutchinson 1999:131; Entretiens avec des personnes âgées). Les incendies de maisons et
de récoltes, précédemment interdits dans les conflits communautaires entre les Nuer et les Dinka, devinrent partie intégrante de
la tactique de guerre dans les conflits sud-sud. Le conflit sud-sud
La métaphore «la guerre des gens instruits» qui était utilisée par les personnes
âgées pour décrire les sources du conflit fait référence aux deux commandants
de l’ALPS, Dr. Garang et Dr. Machar qui ont terminé tous deux leurs études
doctorantes en étranger. Cette métaphore montre l’intérêt de certains groupes
politiques privilégiés au Sud-Soudan à continuer le conflit.

Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises…


(après 1991) et les violences intracommunautaires affaiblirent la
position sociale des femmes. Les changements dans les discours
ethniques et de genre ainsi que la nature des violences firent des
femmes les cibles prioritaires des violences ethniques. Le corps
des femmes devint l’espace de la politique nationale, ethnique et
clanique portée par les hommes.
L'anthropologue américaine Sharon Hutchinson, qui effectua
des recherches de terrain parmi les communautés Nuer pendant
les années 90, montre que la violence sud-sud des années 90 entraîna «une divergence et une militarisation rapide des identités
ethniques des Nuer et des Dinka» et «une reformulation de
la relation entre le genre et l'ethnicité dans les yeux de Nuer»
(2000: 7). Historiquement, l'ethnicité des Nuer est fondée sur le
concept performatif selon lequel les femmes peuvent acquérir
l'identité ethnique/communautaire de leur mari par le mariage
et le transfert de la dot (la dot est payée par la famille du mari).
Comme le disent les femmes et les hommes Nuer, «les filles et les
femmes appartiennent à tous, sauf au lit». Par conséquent, n'importe quelle fille ou femme Dinka peut devenir Nuer par le mariage
(de même que les enfants nés d’un père Nuer). La violence sud-sud
mena cependant au rejet de cette notion fluide d'ethnicité, selon
les termes d’ Hutchinson, «laquelle laissa la place à un concept
d’ethnicité plus «primordialiste» enraciné dans les métaphores
procréatrices du sang partagé» (2000: 8). Ceci a été confirmé par
les personnes qui ont participé à ma recherche: «maintenant, on
peut être seulement Nuer par le sang» (c’est-à-dire si on est né Nuer).
Les femmes et les enfants ne peuvent donc plus obtenir une identité ethnique différente par le mariage et le bétail. Les identités
ethniques des Nuer sont alors devenues plus rigides, le sang prenant le pas sur la dot. Dès lors que leur ethnicité fut perçue comme
fixe, les femmes et les enfants Dinka et Nuer devinrent des cibles
militaires et perdirent leur position privilégiée.


Katarzyna Grabska

Hutchinson suggère que ce virage «primodialiste» survenu dans
l'ethnicité des Nuer fut généré par les stratégies militaires du nord
qui cherchaient à ‹diviser et régner› (2000:13). Ce tournant s'inscrit aussi dans la tendance globale vers une utilisation toujours
plus répandue de la violence militarisée sur les femmes et les
enfants. Ce durcissement des identités est commun aux conflits
ethniques à travers le globe (Zarkov 2008; Giles and Hyndman
2004; El-Bushra 2000a, 2000b; Enloe 1983; Yuval Davis 1997;
Korac 1996). Les femmes ne sont plus privilégiées dans les conflits
intercommunautaires, elles deviennent au contraire des marqueuses de frontières dans les luttes d'identité ethno-nationalistes.
L'ethnicité semble être en partie créée, maintenue et socialisée
par le contrôle masculin des identités de genre, tandis que les
droits humains et la dignité des femmes sont pris en otage dans
les luttes de pouvoir masculines.
Le meurtre sans discernement de femmes et d'enfants, la destruction volontaire de propriétés par les Dinka et les groupes armés Nuer marquèrent un tournant dans le conflit sud-nord et dans
la lutte inter- et intracommunautaire. La milice des Nuer et les
forces de l'APLS brutalisèrent la population des Nuer Dok sur laquelle porte ma recherche. Elles enlevèrent, violèrent et tuèrent
des femmes et des enfants souvent devant les yeux de leurs maris,
de leurs frères et de leurs pères.
Majok, un jeune homme qui échappa à l’enrôlement forcé du
SPLA et resta pendant la guerre à Ler raconte:
Quand le Bridage [groupe dissident de Paulino Matip] arriva en
1998, je courus me cacher dans la brousse. Alors je vis un groupe
de sept, peut-être dix askari [soldats en arabe] amener une jeune
femme, ma voisine. Ils la violèrent, l’un après l’autre, tout en la
battant. J’étais dans la brousse et je vis tout cela en face de moi.
J’étais trop effrayé pour les arrêter. Quand ils eurent fini, ils la
laissèrent là, dans une mare de sang. Elle a survécu, mais elle

Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises…


a commencé à maigrir. Elle s’est plainte aux chefs, mais rien ne
s’est passé. Beaucoup de femmes et de filles ont été violées pendant
la guerre. La plupart d’entre elles ont été forcées par leur mari de
divorcer ou ont épousé des vieux que cela ne dérangeait pas qu’elles
soient keaagh, déjà utilisées.

Par de tels actes, les hommes de la milice détruisirent non
seulement l'identité ethnique ancrée dans le corps des femmes,
mais ils humilièrent aussi les hommes Nuer, devenus incapables
de protéger leurs femmes et leurs enfants. Le viol, comme dans
les autres conflits contemporains en ex-Yougoslavie, dans la région
des Grands Lacs, au Liberia et au Sierra Leone, n'a pas utilisé
seulement comme une arme pour exterminer d'autres groupes
(Jacobs, Jackobson et Marchbank 2000; Giles et Hyndman 2004;
Zarkov 2008). Il s'est agi aussi de soumettre et d’émasculer les
hommes rivaux, afin de miner leur moral et leur esprit de lutte.
Reconfiguration des féminités et du champ d'action
des femmes: femmes violées, porteuses de valises
et jeunes filles armées
Pendant mon séjour au camp de réfugiés de Kakuma et à Ler
au Sud-Soudan, les femmes et les hommes Nuer âgés ont commenté ces changements tactiques et la position sociale des femmes.
Joy, une veuve d’une bonne quarantaine d’années, explique ceci :
Dans le passé, nous, les femmes, comptions sur les hommes pour
nous protéger. Les hommes allaient combattre les Arabes, et les
femmes trouvaient un endroit sûr et restaient derrière à préparer
la nourriture et l’eau pour les soldats. Puis les choses ont changé.
Les Arabes ont commencé à enlever les femmes et les enfants, et
puis les Nuers et les Dinka se sont mis à se battre. C’était très dur
de voir ceux de notre propre peuple se combattre. En même temps,
vous ne pouviez vous échapper parce que vous apparteniez à ce


Katarzyna Grabska

Dans leurs récits, les femmes Nuer insistent sur l’expérience
genrée et physique des violences qu’elles subirent directement.
La nature genrée de la violence dans la guerre menée par le gouvernement contre l'APLS et, encore plus significativement, dans
le conflit sud-sud contribua au déplacement et à la reformulation
des identités de genre. La violence genrée que les femmes endurèrent était énorme : nombre d'entre elles subirent de nombreux
viols aux mains des soldats arabes, des troupes de l'APLS et d'autres
rebelles du sud. La position des femmes au sein la communauté
s'en trouva affaiblie, dans la mesure où elles étaient devenues
plus vulnérables que les hommes. De plus, étant moins mobiles
et moins à même de trouver un refuge, elles furent nombreuses
à rester piégées au Soudan. Les femmes purent moins migrer et
échapper aux effets brutaux des violences des hommes. La majorité des femmes restèrent dans leur village, elles furent enlevées
par les ennemis pour servir de « femmes » ou de domestiques aux
Néanmoins, la position et les rôles occupés par les femmes
pendant la guerre civile ont été plus variés et complexes que ce
qu’en a dit la littérature féministe dans sa représentation standard
des victimes de violence, soutenant que leur socialisation pousse
généralement les hommes à devenir agressifs et les femmes à se
soumettre (Turshen et Twarigaramariya 1998; Turshen 2001).
Toutefois, les femmes ne jouèrent pas seulement un rôle de victimes pendant les conflits. Elles participèrent directement à la
guerre en tant que combattantes, ou éducatrices nationalistes.
Loin d’être passives, elles prirent en charge la protection de leurs
familles et de leurs biens pendant que leurs maris, fils et frères
participaient au combat. Elles portèrent les blessés et les valises,
fournirent de la nourriture et assumèrent d'autres services domestiques. Selon les femmes et les hommes Nuer qui allèrent en
Éthiopie, l'APLS créa en 1986 un bataillon de femmes, le Ketiba

Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises…


Benet. Trois cent jeunes filles reçurent un entraînement dans des
camps éthiopiens aux côtés des recrues masculines (McCullum
et Okech 2008: 47; HSBA 2008: 2). Le bataillon livra un seul
combat. «Trop de femmes et de jeunes filles sont mortes et l'APLS
s'est rendu compte qu'il valait mieux les garder dans la caserne pour
nous aider, nous les hommes» commente un réfugié qui avait été
une jeune recrue. Quelques femmes Nuer réfugiées au Kenia ont
d'abord rejoint leur mari en Ethiopie où elles se sont entraînées
par la suite comme soldates. La grande majorité vivait autour de
la caserne militaire dans les camps d'entraînement et soutenait
les soldats en leur fournissant des services domestiques et sexuels.
Certains groupes de milice recrutèrent aussi des femmes. Sur la
base de la préinscription des combattantes faites dans le cadre du
projet de désarmement de la Mission de l'ONU au Soudan (UNMIS), il y eut environ 3600 femmes combattantes en 2005 (HSBA
2008: 5).
La militarisation de la société au Sud-Soudan s’est diffusée
dans les communautés et les ménages au-delà des rangs militaires
et dans les espaces féminins4. Des femmes et des enfants ont dit
posséder des fusils pour se défendre et se venger des ennemis. Il
est arrivé aussi que ces fusils soient utilisés dans des disputes
domestiques. De jeunes enfants ont porté des fusils plus grands
qu’eux pour se protéger et protéger leurs troupeaux. Des femmes
et des jeunes filles ont utilisé des armes comme moyens de protection, pour exercer leur pouvoir sur d'autres et pour affirmer
leur autonomie.

The Small Arms Survey estime qu’au Sud Soudan il y a entre 1.9 et 3.2
millions les petits armes (small arms). Deux tiers est dans les mains de personnes
civiles, 20 pourcents dans les mains du gouvernement à Khartoum, et le reste
est partagé par l’ALPS et les autres groupes milices (Small Arms 2007: 2).


Katarzyna Grabska

Certaines vantaient leur maîtrise du fusil et affirmaient préférer être armées plutôt que bien instruites: «c'est plus facile d’être
riche quand tu as un fusil. Tu peux juste tirer et tu obtiens ce que tu
veux». Cette déclaration d’une jeune femme de 18 ans révèle combien les femmes, loin d’être les victimes passives des conflits militaires, y participèrent activement en recourant à la violence. En
tant que membres de la famille, elles devaient être protégées,
mais elles se considéraient aussi comme chargées de la protection
des autres. Ainsi, la guerre amena beaucoup de femmes à une
plus grande confiance en soi. Malgré leurs expériences traumatisantes, les femmes devinrent des militantes et réclamèrent droit
et respect. Ces témoignages font aussi ressortir la militarisation
profonde des relations, que ce soit au sein de la communauté, à
l'intérieur du ménage ou sur le plan personnel. Cette militarisation
pénétra tous les segments de la société et se refléta même dans
les pratiques de dénomination : par exemple, NyaKlang signifie
«la fille à l'AK47 (le fusil le plus répandu parmi les rebelles et la
population civile pendant les conflits)». Ce nom était très courant
pendant la guerre.
Les femmes contribuèrent aussi activement à l'effort de guerre
par l’usage de la violence. Leur influence sur les hommes de la
famille à travers l'humiliation (voir Hutchinson 1996, 2000) fut
largement exercée pendant le conflit. Riek Machar reconnait que
les femmes Nuer pouvaient humilier les hommes par des chansons,
et ceci eut une nette influence sur le recrutement des soldats dans
l'APLS (Hutchinson 1996: 157). Les mères exercèrent une pression
considérable sur leurs fils pour qu'ils rejoignent l'armée. Pendant
mon séjour dans les régions de l'ouest du Nil Supérieur, j'ai souvent
entendu des femmes louer par des chansons et des histoires les
efforts de guerre héroïques de leurs fils, de leurs frères et de leur
mari. Mais lorsque les soldats commencèrent à mourir au combat
et que les fils ne rentrèrent pas, les femmes et les filles modifièrent

Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises…


leurs chansons et refusèrent la cour des soldats («je n'épouserai
pas un fantôme», Hutchinson 1996:159). Certaines de ces chansons incitaient d'autres femmes à la violence, notamment pendant
les conflits inter- et intracommunautaires entre les Dinka et les
Nuer. Jok (1998, 1999) et Hutchinson (2000) évoquent à propos
des violences intercommunautaires le rôle des femmes qui encourageaient les hommes à voler du bétail et à venger leurs morts.
Pendant la guerre, elles assumèrent des fonctions de leadership,
parfois même en tant que chefs de la communauté. Il s’agissait
de transmettre des messages et leurs propres inquiétudes aux
chefs suprêmes, à l'APLS et aux groupes de la contre-insurrection.
Alors que la violence intercommunautaire montait en flèche, les
femmes devinrent des pacificatrices.
Elles ont aussi utilisé leur corps pour négocier des compromis
avec leurs maris, leurs frères et les autres hommes. Par exemple,
en exil elles participèrent activement à des campagnes pro-paix
en utilisant leur corps et «rôles» reproductifs. Beaucoup de ces
initiatives virent le jour dans les camps de réfugiés au Kenya. Certaines femmes avertirent leurs maris qu’elles ne cuisineraient pas,
n’auraient pas de relations sexuelles avec eux ou «ne produiraient
pas d'enfants pour le Sud» si les hommes n’arrêtaient pas la lutte
(Itto 2006:2). D'autres utilisèrent la nudité pour déshonorer leurs
maris et les hommes de leur famille. En 2002, des femmes du
Sud-Soudan marchèrent nues et en groupe dans les rues de Nairobi pour protester contre la lutte intercommunautaire au Sud-Soudan (Itto 2006:2; HSBA 2008:2; McCallum et Okech 2008)5.
Plusieurs femmes de la diaspora s'associèrent malgré les divisions
ethniques pour exiger la paix. La Voix des Femmes Soudanaises
Cette marche eut des conséquences modestes. Quelques femmes ont été
invitées de participer au processus de paix qui se déroula plus vite grâce à leur


Katarzyna Grabska

pour la Paix, la Nouvelle Fédération des Femmes Soudanaises et
la Nouvelle Association des Femmes Soudanaises prirent une importance internationale, attirant l'attention sur le conflit oublié.
Quelques femmes pacificatrices furent finalement invitées dans
les négociations de paix de Machakos, mais leur rôle dans l'esquisse
de l'accord de paix fut mineur. Anne Itto, une ancienne ministre
aujourd'hui membre de l’Assemblée nationale du Sud-Soudan,
déplore que la version finale de l'accord de paix n'ait pas mentionné la souffrance et le rôle des femmes dans la guerre (2006:
2-4). Beaucoup de femmes Nuer à Kakuma et au Soudan exprimèrent leur mécontentement à cet égard: «Ce n'est pas notre paix,
c'est la paix des hommes, des soldats. Nous [les femmes] avons souffert de la guerre et les enfants morts n'ont pas été reconnus». La
question des droits des femmes et de l’égalité de genre n'a été
mentionnée que dans la constitution provisoire du Sud-Soudan.
De façon générale, le corps et la puissance reproductive des
femmes jouèrent un «rôle» pendant les conflits. L'accent fut pourtant mis sur un autre discours «des droits et des devoirs». Alors
que les hommes étaient supposés «protéger le front militaire», le
devoir premier des femmes était de «protéger le front reproductif».
Tout au long du conflit, les dirigeants de l'armée et des communautés ne cessèrent d'exhorter les femmes à continuer d’accoucher,
en guise de contribution à la lutte. A travers leur rôle «reproductif», elles fournissaient ainsi des enfants pour «les combats» de
libération du Sud-Soudan. Par conséquent, les femmes eurent
souvent de grandes familles, dont elles devaient s'occuper seules
pendant que les maris étaient dans des camps de réfugiés ou au
combat. L'interdiction d'avoir des relations sexuelles durant l'allaitement n'était pas respectée et les intervalles entre les grossesses
se réduisirent (Jok 1998; Hutchinson 2000). Puisque les hommes
étaient au combat, les femmes ont dû concevoir avec d’autres
hommes, des membres de leur famille ou des étrangers. Quand

Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises…


elles étaient enlevées par l'ennemi, elles étaient souvent prises
comme femmes par des commandants puissants et procréaient
en captivité.
Au Sud-Soudan, beaucoup de femmes restées au village évoquèrent des «mariages de protection et de convenance» avec des
commandants et des soldats locaux en l'absence de leurs propres
Nyajuc, une femme âgée qui resta à Ler pendant la guerre
Nous devions donner naissance à des enfants, nos maris étaient
dans la brousse, aussi qu’étions-nous supposées faire? Il valait
mieux aller dans les casernes, au moins vous y aviez un enfant et
parfois aussi de la nourriture, ou peut-être que l’homme vous
protégerait des autres rebelles.

Le mariage et les services sexuels ont souvent été utilisés par
les femmes et les filles dans les zones de conflits comme des moyens
de survie (Devon et Gervais 2007). Les femmes utilisaient leur
position genrée pour accéder à la sécurité et au bien-être. Au Sierra Leone, comme le montrent Utas (2005b), Devon et Gervais
(2007), les filles négociaient leur sécurité en se mariant avec des
commandants puissants, afin non seulement d'avoir accès à de la
nourriture, mais aussi de réduire le risque de violence sexuelle
par d'autres. Ceci témoigne de la capacité d'action (agency) et de
l'ingéniosité de ces femmes qui, en utilisant leur genre et leur
corps, cherchèrent la protection, le pouvoir, le statut et la survie.
La contribution reproductive des femmes à la lutte de libération
ne fut cependant pas reconnue dans le discours public au Sud-Soudan après la guerre. Pendant la campagne du Mouvement populaire de libération du Soudan à Ler, le représentant régional loua
le rôle joué par les femmes pendant la guerre, les remerciant pour
les services rendus aux soldats héroïques, notamment la cuisine
et le transport des blessés et des bagages. Leur contribution re-


Katarzyna Grabska

productive a été minimisée, voire négligée, bien qu'elle ait eu des
conséquences considérables sur leur santé et leur position dans
la société. «A cause de la guerre, les femmes n'ont plus d'enfants. Il
y avait trop d'enfants, trop de femmes prises par la force», commente
Theresa Nyangule, la représentante d'Union de Femmes à Ler.
«Tout d’abord, les hommes sont arrivés et ont fait de nous leurs femmes,
et maintenant les maris réapparaissent et demandent le divorce»,
explique une autre veuve qui avait été enlevée par une milice
Nuer. A travers la guerre et la violence, les hommes ont acquis
davantage de droits sur les capacités reproductives et le corps des
femmes. Ils ont obtenu par exemple le droit de réclamer des services sexuels et domestiques au nom de la responsabilité des femmes
de «protéger le front reproductif». Hutchinson souligne que «le
statut des femmes comme des agents indépendants aux yeux des
hommes a décliné dans le contexte de glorification militarisée du
pouvoir brut du fusil» (2000:12).
Masculinités militarisées et hommes devenus femmes
Je vivais avec AK-47
À mes côtés
Je dormais avec un œil ouvert
Je courais
Je m’échappais
Je faisais semblant d'être morte
Je me cachais
J'ai vu les miens mourir comme des mouches
Emmanuel Jal, "Forced to Sin", Nuer ‘Lost Boy’ chanteur de rap

Comme dans les autres lieux affectés par des conflits (Richards
2005; Vight 2006; Utas 2003; Samuelson 2007), la vie des hommes
Nuer était largement militarisée, que ce soit par la distribution
des fusils, le recrutement forcé, la violence ou la diffusion d'idéo-

Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises…


logies nationalistes. La militarisation était très répandue parmi
les communautés du Sud-Soudan. Presque tous les jeunes et les
hommes d'un certain âge que j'ai rencontrés au Kenya et plus tard
au Soudan ont été militairement entraînés à un moment ou un
autre de leur vie et ont participé à la lutte de libération. A la fin
des années 80, pour répondre au besoin en recrues, John Garang,
le dirigeant d'APLS, décida de former des jeunes cadres: entre
17000 et 40000 jeunes recrues (HRW 1994) furent entraînées
dans des camps militaires en Ethiopie, selon les estimations de
Human Rights Watch. Garang les qualifiait d'«Armée Rouge»,
d'«armée sans crainte» ou encore de«Pépinière du Soudan» : une
jeune génération à qui l’on a fait croire qu'elle était l'avenir d'un
Sud-Soudan indépendant (Eggers 2006:300).
Au Kénia, dans le camp de réfugiés de Kakuma, j’ai rencontré
Kuok, un jeune homme timide de 27 ans, à la voix douce; j’ai
suivi son installation après son retour à Ler, dans le Sud-Soudan.
Il avait rejoint l’Armée de Libération du Peuple Soudanais (SPLA)
quand il avait six ou sept ans. Ses parents étaient morts du kalazar (leishmaniose), laissant orphelins à un âge très jeune Kuok
et ses frères et sœurs. Rejoindre le SPLA fut une façon de gérer sa
Il y avait beaucoup d’enfants là où on recrutait. La plupart étaient
recrutés par les chefs. Les commandants du SPLA allaient dire
aux chefs qu’ils avaient besoin d’envoyer des garçons se former
en Ethiopie. Certains enfants choisissaient d’y aller parce qu’ils
étaient dans une situation difficile, soit qu’ils étaient orphelins,
soit que la situation de leur famille était difficile. D’autres furent
sélectionnés par leur famille ; des enfants souvent difficiles, perturbateurs, étaient envoyés se faire éduquer, l’éducation n’était
pas alors valorisée. Puis il y en eut d’autres qui furent forcés [par
les soldats du SPLA].


Katarzyna Grabska
Il y eut au moins 1500 garçons, certains petits ne savaient
même pas marcher. Nous avons tous marché ensemble, à travers
les fleuves et les déserts, et nous avons fini pas atteindre l’Ethiopie.

Selon les récits des jeunes hommes, les enfants étaient soit
enlevés de force par les soldats, soit envoyés par leurs parents
pour soutenir «la lutte de la libération» et échapper à la mort ou
à la famine. Pour quelques-uns, l'enrôlement militaire était devenu un devoir que les fils étaient supposés remplir. Leur importance
dans l'économie du ménage, leur rôle de protecteurs, ne serait-ce
que pour subvenir aux besoins de leurs parents âgés, renforçaient
encore leur volonté d'intégrer l'armée. Les autres hommes et les
autres garçons le faisaient volontiers: ils considéraient la guerre
comme une occasion d'accéder à l'éducation, et aussi de gagner
leur vie, d’améliorer leur position dans la communauté et de contrer
leur marginalisation sociale. Malgré les conditions accablantes
de la guerre, la violence, la famine et les impératifs politiques,
communautaires et familiaux, quelques garçons et hommes du
Sud-Soudan parvinrent à atteindre un certain degré de choix et
à infléchir en partie les circonstances, notamment dans la recherche
de l'éducation et d’un refuge pour être le plus autonome possible
vis-à-vis du gouvernement et de la famille.
J’ai rencontré Wanten pour la première fois en janvier 2007
lors de mon arrivée à Bentiu. Mince et relativement petit pour un
Nuer, son visage était beau, sans les marques ou les points qui
sont les signes de virilité traditionnels chez les Nuer. Il était toujours habillé élégamment : pantalon, chaussures pointues et cirées,
chemises repassée, ceinture de perles kéniane et un petit drapeau
du nouveau Soudan sur son col collier. Né en 1980 près de Rubkona, à l’ouest du Nuerland, il fut recruté de force en 1987 par le
SPLA qui vint demander à ses parents un fils pour «l’éducation en
Ethiopie». Avec d’autres enfants, il fut envoyé au camp de Fundi-

Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises…


go en Ethiopie où ils subirent une formation de neuf mois, tout
en vivant dans des casernes militaires.
Nous allions à l’école le matin avec nos AK47 près de nous
et l’après-midi nous étions entrainés. Cela dura neuf mois.
Ensuite, les plus grands ont été envoyés se battre. Les autres
attendaient leur tour dans le camp en s’entrainant tous les
jours. Nous étions tous armés.
Nous étions tous d’âge différent, Dinka ou Nuer. Il n’y avait
pas d’autres enfants alentour. Les conditions dans le camp
étaient mauvaises. Il n’y avait pas assez de nourriture, nous
étions souvent affamés, il n’y avait rien là-bas. Nous pensions
tous beaucoup à nos familles; elles nous manquaient terriblement. Elles ne savaient rien sur ce qui nous arrivait, elles
ignoraient où nous étions. Certains garçons devenaient fous,
ils commençaient à tirer autour d’eux; leur esprit devenait
fou parce qu’ils étaient traumatisés, leurs parents leur manquaient, ils mourraient de faim. Beaucoup d’entre eux moururent au camp, d’autres se tuèrent. Nous étions tous des
enfants avec des fusils. Tous, nous n’arrêtions pas de penser…
En tant que garçon ou comme homme, on n’est pas censé
partager ses pensées et ses sentiments avec les autres. Alors
nous ne parlions pas de la peur ni de la solitude. Nous gardions cela pour nous-mêmes. Ces pensées ne faisaient que
traverser notre esprit.
Dans les camps, nos commandants et nos entraîneurs étaient
tous Dinka ou Nuer, ils étaient tous Sud-Soudanais et ils
nous disaient: «Nous vous entrainons à combattre l’ennemi,
ainsi vous pourrez chasser l’ennemi de notre pays. Vous êtes
les futurs leaders du Soudan. Vous prendrez notre place
quand nous serons vieux et partirons». C’est ce que nous
entendions et c’est ce en quoi nous avons cru. Comme nous
étions des enfants, nous ne réfléchissions pas sur l’utilité


Katarzyna Grabska

des combats et nous faisions ce qu’on nous disait de faire.
Par moments j’avais peur, mais je devais surmonter mes
Je me suis battu pour la première fois à Pochalla. C’était la
première fois que je tirais sur l’ennemi. Au début, j’étais
effrayé et je tremblais tellement que je ne pouvais même
pas tirer. Après cinq minutes, j’ai surmonté ma peur et j’ai
commencé à tirer. Puis c’est devenu plus facile. On donnait
des drogues à certains garçons pour qu’ils puissent tuer sans
peur. Je n’en ai jamais pris parce que je connaissais leurs
effets secondaires. Après les combats, nous ne partagions
pas nos peurs et nos frustrations. On ne pouvait pas en parler. On devait être fort comme un garçon Nuer et comme
un homme. On ne pouvait pas montrer sa faiblesse.
Ces récits de Wanten et des autres jeunes hommes montrent
une autre transformation liée à la guerre dans les rapports de
genre: la voie pour devenir un homme. L'initiation des garçons
par la scarification (gaar) – commune parmi les Dinka et les Nuer
– fut progressivement remise en question et rejetée par la jeunesse
instruite et baptisée ainsi que par les architectes du projet de libération nationale du «Sud-Soudan». Les dirigeants de l'APLS
promurent la différenciation non-ethnique dans les rangs de l'armée (Hutchinson 1996:270-298) et interdirent la scarification.
Ce fut l'entraînement militaire qui devint la nouvelle initiation et
la voie pour devenir un homme. Le bataillon avait remplacé l'âge-série (ric). En 1987, Riek Machar, qui était alors commandant de
l'APLS dans la région ouest du Nil Supérieur, interdit par un décret
la scarification des Nuer. La vie dans les camps d'entraînement
est décrite comme une façon pour les enfants de devenir «des gens
responsables» (wic), capables de s'occuper d’eux-mêmes, ce qui
était pour les Nuer et les Dinka un signe de maturité (Evans-Pritchard 1951; Deng 1972; Hutchinson 1996).

Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises…


Un autre jeune homme à Kakuma me raconte:
Tant que vous étiez recruté comme soldat, vous deviez être un
soldat. J’étais capable de me battre et de tuer des gens. Cela signifiait que j’étais une personne responsable. Et par la façon dont
j’ai été formé, j’avais plus d’expérience qu’un enfant qui n’était
pas formé. Personne d’autre ne pouvait prendre soin de moi. Je
devins une personne responsable

Son récit et celui de Wanten montrent comment le fusil contribua à reconfigurer les concepts de virilité chez les Nuer. Dans le
passé, les combats à la lance entre les communautés étaient un
test de virilité pour les Nuer et les Dinka. Comme les autres armées,
l'APLS proclama l'idéal de l'hyper-virilité ou de l'hyper-masculinité dans son entraînement militaire afin d’encourager l'agressivité, l'intrépidité et la compétitivité parmi les recrues. Ces idées
sont clairement exprimées dans l'une des chansons pour la remise
des diplômes de l'APLS:
Même votre père, tirez-lui dessus!
Même votre mère, tirez-lui dessus!
Votre fusil est votre nourriture, votre fusil est votre femme.

Les nouvelles identités masculines de la jeunesse armée de
fusils ont contribué aux conflits intergénérationnels. Les aînés
eurent souvent le sentiment de n’être plus capables de contrôler
la jeunesse qui avait acquis une position puissante en accédant
aux fusils, à la violence et faisait preuve d'une indifférence extrême
face aux devoirs communautaires.
Les histoires des jeunes recrues montrent que les armes étaient
aussi synonymes d'intrépidité et offraient un éventail de possibilités, non seulement pour se libérer des communautés, mais aussi pour exercer un pouvoir sur d'autres en pillant leurs biens, en
violant leurs femmes et en prenant leurs filles sans payer de dot.
Cela produisit une communauté de jeunes hommes socialement
isolés, armés et sauvagement entraînés non seulement à tuer,


Katarzyna Grabska

mais aussi à torturer et à piller. Ce nouveau type de virilité pourrait être nommé hyper-virilité (ou hyper- masculinité). Cette expression indique un comportement stéréotypé «masculin» pou­ssé
à l'extrême et caractérisé en particulier par la force, l'agressivité
et la domination sur les femmes ainsi que sur les aînés (Connell
2005). Les armes sont devenues des moyens de survie, ce qui
continue à créer des problèmes majeurs pour le désarmement de
la milice locale et des groupes de civils au Sud-Soudan.
Les guerres eurent d'autres conséquences pour les hommes qui
avaient perdu leurs biens et dont les femmes et les enfants avaient
été enlevés, violés ou tués. Leur incapacité croissante à subvenir à
leurs besoins et à protéger leur famille, leur propriété et leur bétail,
comme l'explique Hutchinson, provoqua «une crise de la virilité/
masculinité» qui elle-même se traduisit par une augmentation de
la violence domestique et des abus sexuels contre les femmes
(2000:12). Les femmes et les hommes au Kenya et au Nuerland
déplorent souvent la perte du buom des hommes (la force, le pouvoir) qui protégeait la famille. Quelques femmes regrettent le fait
que les hommes ne sont «plus des hommes», ils sont devenus «femmes»
– «ils ne peuvent pas nous protéger. Ils ont été les premiers à s'enfuir
quand les rebelles sont arrivés. Quand mon mari a été battu par la
milice de Bul, il a pleuré comme un enfant et leur a dit immédiatement
où se trouvaient nos ressources alimentaires. Nous avons perdu toute
notre nourriture. Il (mon mari) est vraiment inutile». Tandis que
quelques femmes ont participé aux conflits ou bien ont accédé en
exil au travail rémunéré, leurs maris sont souvent restés à la maison.
Ils ont dû apprendre à maîtriser les tâches domestiques. «Maintenant, les hommes sont devenus femmes; regarde les! Ils font le ménage,
cuisinent pour les enfants, ils vont à l’hôpital, pendant que leurs femmes
gagnent l’argent!» me raconte un jeune homme réfugié à Kakuma.
Ces commentaires sont répandus parmi les femmes et les hommes
au Soudan.

Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises…


La propagation de la violence genrée contre les femmes, qui
apparut surtout après la scission de l'APLS en 1991, peut être en
partie considérée comme la conséquence de l'émasculation des
hommes. Je partage à cet égard la position de Henrietta Moore
concernant la frustration ou l'émasculation des identités de genre
particulières. Elle explique que «la frustration peut être comprise
comme l'incapacité de soutenir ou de prendre une position genrée
indépendante, ce qui engendre une crise, réelle ou imaginée, de
la représentation de soi et/ou de son évaluation sociale» (1994:
66). Dans le cas des Nuer, pour les jeunes garçons et les hommes,
cette frustration est liée à leur marginalisation, à leur appauvrissement en raison de la guerre et à l’absence de respect et de reconnaissance envers leur position de wutni nuäri (les vrai hommes
Nuer). Cela a pour effet leur émasculation. Comme les hommes
se sentent incapables d'assumer leur rôle de protecteurs et de
subvenir aux besoins de leur famille, ils recourent à la violence.
Ils la dirigent contre les autres femmes, mais aussi contre leur
propre femme. Par conséquent, la violence domestique a augmenté parmi les familles Nuer au Kenya et au Soudan. Cette violence s’est répandue dans les camps de réfugiés et après le retour.

Vers une complexité des identités de genre
Ma recherche montre que les conflits civils et les violences
genrées ont des impacts différents, complexes et multiples sur les
femmes et les hommes. Les femmes et les hommes Nuer jouèrent
des rôles décisifs dans le processus de militarisation de la société
et des identités de genre. Soulignons que les femmes et les hommes
ne sont pas des catégories homogènes et que les conflits et les
violences ont des effets différents non seulement selon le genre
mais aussi selon d’autres paramètres comme l’accès aux ressources,


Katarzyna Grabska

le statut social, l’âge et la classe. La guerre peut avoir à la fois des
effets d’empowerment (émancipation) et de disempowerment pour
les femmes et les hommes qui mettent en œuvre leur capacité
d’action (agency) pour résister, affronter, participer et survivre
en temps de guerre.
La question de l’origine des violences sexuelles contre les femmes
(et les hommes) pendant les conflits reste pertinente. Comment
les violences sexuelles contre les femmes (et les hommes) aperçoivent?, comment sont-elles construites par le système politique
dominant et de domination? Quel rôle jouent l’État, la société
civile, les institutions sociales, politiques et économiques dans les
transformations des violences et des inégalités de genre dans la
période post-conflit?
L’image des hommes combattants agressifs qui affermissent
leur pouvoir sur les femmes en temps de guerre et des femmes
victimes de violences sexuelles est simpliste. Cette recherche souligne que les rôles sont multiples, contradictoires et nécessitent
une exploration plus complexe des effets des conflits armés sur
les rapports de genre. Les identités de genre sont multiples et
hétérogènes. En raison de leur vulnérabilité physique et sexuelle,
les femmes et les filles font face à la violence et à l’insécurité différemment des hommes (Cockburn 2001; Moser and Clark 2001;
Giles and Hyndman 2004; Denov and Garvais 2007; Zarkov 2008).
Les rôles des femmes dans la guerre sont cependant plus fluides
et multidimensionnels, certaines d'entre elles étant activement
engagées comme auteurs et partisanes de cette violence. Cette
conclusion rejoint l'étude de Devon et Gervais sur des combattantes
au Sierra Leone, qui souligne que les femmes et les jeunes filles
dans les zones de conflit ne sont pas uniquement victimes de la
violence, mais occupent plutôt une myriade de positions comme
auteurs, actrices, porteuses, commandantes, esclaves domestiques
et sexuelles, espionnes et boucliers humains (2007: 886). Cepen-

Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises…


dant, il faut se garder de ne pas simplifier et homogénéiser les
féminités et les masculinités qui émergent après les conflits. C’est
important pour les processus de reconstruction dans la période

Cockburn, Cyntia (2001). The Gendered Dynamics of Armed Conflict and
Political Violence. In: Moser, C. and Clark, F. (Eds), Victims, perpetrators or Actors? Gender, Armed Conflict and Political Violence.
London: Zed Books.
Connell, Robert W. (2005). Masculinities. Second Edition. Berkeley and
Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Deng, Francis Madeng (1972). The Dinka of the Sudan. Waveland Press,
Inc.: Prospect Heights, IL.
Denov, Myriam and Christine Gervais (2007). Negotiating (In)Security:
Agency, resistance, and Resourcefulness among Girls Formerly Associated with Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front. „Journal of
Women in Culture and Society [Signs]”, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 885-910.
Eggers, Dave (2006). What is the What? San Francisco: McSweeney’s.
El-Bushra, Judy (2000a). Transforming Conflict: Some Thoughts on a Gendered Understanding of Conflict Processes. In: Jacobs, S., Jacobson,
R. and Marchbank, J. (eds.) , States of Conflict: Gender, Violence and
Resistance ZED Books: London, pp. 66-87.
El-Bushra, Judy (2000b). Gender and forced migration: editorial, „Forced
Migration Review”, v. 9.
Enloe, Cyntia (1983). Does Khaki Decome You? The Militarisation of Wo­men’s
Lives. Boston: South End Press.
Evans-Pritchard, Edward E. (1951). Kinship and Marriage among the Nuer.
Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Giles, Wenona and Hyndman, Jennifer. (2004). Sites of Violence: Gender
and Conflict Zones. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Katarzyna Grabska

Grabska, Katarzyna (2010). ‘In-flux’: (re)negotiating gender, identity and
‘home’ in post-war southern Sudan. Thèse doctorale, Brighton: University of Sussex.
HSBA (2008). No standing, few prospects: How peace is failing South Sudanese female combatants and WAAFG. „The Sudan Human Security
Baseline Assessment”, Brief no. 8, September.
Human Rights Watch (1994). Civilian Devastation: Abuses by All Parties in
the War in Southern Sudan. New York: Human Rights Watch.
Hutchinson, Sharon (2000). Nuer Ethnicity Militarized, „Anthropology
Today”, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 6-13.
Hutchinson, Sharon (1996). Nuer dilemmas: coping with money, war and
the State. Berkeley: University of California Press.
International Crisis Group, (2002). God, Oil and Country, Changing the
Logic of War in Sudan, Brussels: International Crisis Group Press.
Itto, Anne (2006). Guests at the table? The role of women in peace processes. London: Conciliation Resources.
Jackson, Michael (2006). The Politics of Storytelling: Violence, Transgression
and Intersubjectivity. Museum Tusculanum Press: University of Copenhagen.
Jok, Madut Jok and Hutchinson, Sharon. E. (1999). Sudan's prolonged
Second Civil War and the militarization of Nuer and Dinka ethnic
identities. „African Studies Review”, v. 42, pp. 125-145.
Jok, Madut Jok (1998). Militarization, gender and reproductive health in
South Sudan. New York: Edwin Mellen Press.
Jok, Madut Jok (1999). Militarism, gender and reproductive suffering: the
case of abortion in Western Dinka. „Africa” 69 (2): 194-212.
Korac, Maja (1996). Gender, nationalism, Ethnic-National Identity Crisis:
The case of the former Yugoslavia. In: Wenona Giles, Moussa, H. and
Van Esterik, P. (Eds.) Development and Diaspora: Gender and the
Refugee Experience. Dundas: Artemis Enterprises, pp. 87-99.
McCullum, Judith and Okech, Alfred (2008). Small Arms and Light Weapons Control and Community Security in Southern Sudan: The Links
between Gender Identity and Disarmament. In Regional Security,
Gender Identity, and CPA Implementation in Sudan. A joint publi-

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cation of Africa Peace Forum and Project Ploughshares: Kenya
and Canada. Ontario: Pandora Press.
Moore, Henrietta (1994). A Passion for Difference. Essays in Anthropology and Gender, London: Polity Press.
Moser, Carol and Clark, F. (2001). Victims, perpetrators or Actors? Gender, Armed Conflict and Political Violence, London: Zed Books.
Richards, Paul (ed.) (2005a). No Peace, No War: An Anthropology of Contemporary Armed Conflicts. Oxford: James Currey.
Samuelson, M. (2007). The disfigured body of the female guerilla: (De) militarization, sexual violence, and redomestication in Zoë Wicomb’s
David’s Story. „Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society”
32:4, pp. 833-856.
Small Arms Survey (2007) The Militarisation of Sudan: A preliminary
review of arms flows and holdings. Sudan Issue Brief: Human Security Baseline Assessment no. 5, April.
Turshen, Meredeth (2001). The Political Economy of Rape: An Analysis of
Systemic Rape and Sexual Abuse of Women during Armed Conflict in
Africa. In Moser, C. and Clark, F. (Eds.). Victims, perpetrators or
Actors? Gender, Armed Conflict and Political Violence London: Zed
Books, pp. 55-69.
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Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa. London: ZED Books.
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mourning their men, but some of us carried guns: a raced-gendered


Katarzyna Grabska

analysis of Fanon’s psychological perspectives on war. „Signs: Journal
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New Dehli: Zubaan.

Daughters of AK-47, violated women and luggage porters –
militarised masculinities and men who became women:
Gender relations and wars in South Sudan
Gender identities and relations have played an important aspect in
women and men’s experiences in South Sudan, who have been confronted with military struggle and civil wars. This article focuses on the
changes in gender relations among the Nuer of Western Upper Nile
during the second civil war in South Sudan (1983-2005). It is based on
ethnographic fieldwork carried out between 2002 and 2008 in Egypt,
Kenya and South Sudan. What are the implications of armed conflicts
for gender identities and power relations? Historically, wars have been
perceived as a « male » domain, where symbols of masculinity were
tested, This image has been perpetuated by films, literature, songs and
poetry for centuries (White 2007). During the wars, the portrayal of
men as protectors of women is often accentuated, through the combat
as a testing field of masculinity. Women and girls are unjustly described
as victims, pacifists and “mothers of the nation” in charge of supporting
the heroes. Men’s agency dominates war discourses while women and
girls are rendered silenced and invisible (Denov et Gervais 2007). This
article shows that such interpretations are simplistic and do not account
for the multiple and complex roles which women and men take on during
the wars, thereby changing the power relations.


1. Introduction
Migration related problems are striking Ethiopia heavily nowadays. The heated discourse on migration crisis in the local mass
media, mainstream international mass media and from the public day to day discussion is common. Neither is it strange to hear
of the phenomenon of exploitation and human rights abuses of
Tizazu Ayalew is currently a Lecturer at Madda Walabu University,
College of Social Science and Humanity in the Department of Civics and
Ethical Studies. He earned his Master’s Degree (MA) in International
Relations (IR) from Addis Ababa University, in July 2014: Contact
Dawit Getu is a PhD candidate in Social Anthropology at Addis Ababa
University. Email:
This article is a result of research entitled “International Irregular Migration:
Causes and its Impacts on Human Security of Migrants in Bale, Oromia, Ethiopia”,
which was conducted from October 2015 to February 2016, funded by Madda
Walabu University Research, Community Engagement and Technology Transfer
Vice President Office.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

Ethiopian migrants abroad. Xenophobic attacks in South Africa;
terrorists’ ruthless inhuman killings in Libya2; massive deportation
of Ethiopian irregular migrants (around 170,000 individuals)
from Saudi Arabia3; and hundreds of government sponsored returnees from Yemen uprooted by its recent violent conflict, and
from Libya by the threat of Islamic State (ISIS), are only a few
mentions of the chronic crisis Ethiopian migrants have dealt with.
Moreover, the problems related with “potential migrants”, “returnees” or “current migrants” all over the country have been a
crucial issue. There were an estimated 1.5 million irregular migrant
Ethiopians who left the country illegally between the years 2008
and 20144. Driven by fundamental factors such as poverty and
unemployment; an existing strong culture of migration or due to
the positive perception towards migration; and because of deception from illegal brokers5, massive numbers of Ethiopians, particularly the youth are exposed to irregular migration.
According to the recent study by the Regional Mixed Migration
Secretariat (RMMS), Ethiopians use three main channels for migration especially towards the Middle East. These are: through
“Public Migration” that occurs by the official facilitation of the
Ethiopian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA); through
See Mehari T. (2015) ‘Migration governance in Ethiopia: The need for a
comprehensive National Policy on Migration’. The Reporter-English Edition.
Retrieved October, 16, 2015, from
php/opinion/commentary/item/3481-migration-governance-in-ethiopia accessed
on October 15, 2015, 3:31:08 PM.
US Department of State, 2015.
Tesfaye Getnet (2015) ‘Illegal migration: For how long should it go on?’.
Retrieved on November 7, 2015, 1:02:13 PM fromhttp://www.capitalethiopia.
MoLSA & MoFA (2010) ‘Human Smuggling and Trafficking in Person in
Ethiopia, its causes and solution’. A report Ministry of Labor and Social Affair
and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, January 2010.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 219

“legally registered Private Employment Agencies (PEAs)”; and
finally through channels of “irregular migration using the services of illegal agents, which include illegal brokers, individual operators, or legally-registered companies that illegally provide
employment brokerage services to migrants”6. However, amongst
these channels, irregular or illegal ways of migration are the main
contributors for current Ethiopian migration-related problems.
For example, a United States Department of State report confirms
that, ‘the 200,000 regular labor migrants who travelled in 2012
represent just 30-40% of all Ethiopians migrating to the Gulf States
and Middle East, implying that the remaining 60-70% (between
300,000-350,000) are either trafficked or smuggled with the facilitation of illegal brokers7. Further, more than the regular migrants, it is irregular migrants that are “thought to be increasing
faster” and vulnerable to risks of human security crisis throughout
all phases of the migration process8.
Migration-related problems are common to all parts of Ethiopia. However, this study only takes into consideration selected
areas of the Bale Zonal administration. This is because, even if
this administrative area is one of the most vulnerable to migration
problems in the country, nothing has been done in the area of the
research world.
Only in 2015, as of May, there were a total of 489 migrants
leaving the Zone9. And out of 170,000 Ethiopian returnees from
Saudi Arabia from November 2013 up to March 2014, around
3932 were from Bale and out of these surprisingly 118 returned
back to different countries in the Middle East10. Worst of all, of
RMMS, (2014a:35); see also Fernandez,(2010:252).
United States Department of State, 2013, cited in RMMS, (2014a:35).
King, (2012:6).
Documents of Bale Zone Labor and Social affairs office.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

irregular migrants originating from Bale, an estimated between
30 up to 46 individuals11 are believed to have died in April 2015
in a Mediterranean Sea boat accident. What the driving factors
are which are contributing to the widespread prevalence of migration from the area, and the resulting vulnerability of human
security risks are among the issues needed to be investigated but
have not yet been investigated.
Hence, the study is designed with an overall objective of examining the specific contributing factors for cross border irregular migration and its threat against human security of migrants
from Bale. Moreover, finding out the causes of international irregular migration outflow, identifying the vulnerable groups of
society for irregular migration, and exploring human security
risks of irregular migrants, beginning from their initial journey
to their final arrival and thereafter in the hosting states, are the
key specific guiding objectives that are addressed by this paper.

2. Methodology
The study follows a qualitative approach. Hence, data is obtained through qualitative tools to show readers the existing state
of affairs of irregular migration prevalence, causes and the impact
against migrants’ security in Bale, thereby creating a precise understanding.
People directly concerned, such as returnees, families of victims, community members who are familiar with the issue, local
government and non-government agents, participated as interviewees, key informants and focus group discussants all of whom
were accessed by a careful selection based on their close famili11

An interview with Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair officers.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 221

arity with the issue. Hence, from the Four Districts and one city
administration – Sinana, Gasara, Agarfa, Ginnir and Robe town,
7 key informants, 19 interviewees and 3 FGDs were carried out.
In addition, secondary sources of data which directly substantiated this study are reports, survey studies and documents of demographic figures on irregular migrants obtained from each of
the selected sample study areas.

3. Overview of Trends and the Current Situation
3.1. Current Extent of the Situation

Bale is one of the major places of origin for irregular migration,
amongst the known Zonal administrations both in the region or
in the country as a whole. It is amongst the frequently listed Zonal administrations of the Oromia region which are known for the
highest outflow of irregular migration such as Jimma, Eastern
Hararghe and Arsi, (RMMS, 2014:20). As the data taken from the
Zone Labor and Social Affairs Office revealed, there are an estimated more than 6456 migrants who left the Zone from 2011 to
2014/2015 (see table 1 below). This is not, however, the exact
number. Since the nature of irregular migration is unpredictable,
it is very difficult to trace everyone who leaves for this purpose.
Because every process of irregular migration takes place covertly,
it is not easy to track from the families and surrounding communities since mostly they are not willing to disclose information
concerning migrants12. Key informants from government stakeholders affirmed the difficulty in recording the number of irreg-

An interview with Ginir Town Labor and Social affair officer, on December
17, 2015, Ginir.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

ular migrants in each area of the Zone13. Hence, arguably the
total number of irregular migrants from Bale will be much greater than the above estimated figure.
Amongst the total 18 Woredas (Districts) and three town administrations of the Zone, irregular migration is prevalent in ten
Woredas: Sinna, Ginir, Agarfa, Gasera, Goro, Goba, Dinsho, Dallo Mana, Berberie, Gololcha; and in the three town administrations
(Robe, Goba and Ginir)14. These areas are most populous and
they are areas of agrarian settled life. The remaining Districts have
a relatively low record of irregular migration.
Driven by various factors as this study revealed, the zone is at
critical irregular migration prevalence. The Zonal Labor and Social Affairs officer and, officers in similar positions from all selected areas of the study confirmed15 that, though recently different
intervention mechanisms such as societal awareness creation,
creating job opportunities and establishing an anti-irregular task
force (a committee established to prevent irregular migration)
are continuously working to address the issue, still the problem
is not halted. However, the shocking risks such as massive deportation from Saudi Arabia, the death of more than thirty youth at
one time in the Mediterranean Sea (majority of whom are from
Robe town and surrounding villages), the beheading of thirty
Ethiopians by ISIS, and the current political instability in some
Arab states (Yemen and Syria), such grave kinds of violation against
Ethiopian migrants, created at least a general awareness among
the wider public regarding the time to time increasing risks of
Ibid; an interview with Agarfa District Labor and Social affair officer; an
interview with a Bale Zone Labor and Social affair officer.
The 2008 Bale Zone Labor and Social Affairs office plan to combat irregular
An interview with Bale Zone Labor and Social Affairs officer on November
11, 2015.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 223

irregular migration. Moreover, the dreadful risks related to the
above events have created something of a perception to fear greatly the risks of irregular migration, if not migration itself. At least
family and community pressure in making and facilitating the
opportunity for migration is steadily diminishing16.
Similarly, the efforts by the different levels of government agents
focusing on promoting awareness have created a relatively significant influence in controlling the situation compared to the previous years17. Thus, societal awareness creation campaigns through
community conversations by directly involving the communities
at grassroots institutions such as Idir, religious institutions and
schools are intensively continuing especially in migration hub
Woredas of the zone. In addition, creating job opportunities for
youth through micro enterprises is also another effort of the local
government’s involvement in tackling irregular migration.
Not only government stakeholders, recently a number of Local
and International NGOs such as Bale Integrated Rural Development Association (BIRDA), Community Development Association
(CDA), Swedish International Development Association (SIDA),
and Cooperazione International (COOPI) are engaged both directly and indirectly in the endeavor of anti-irregular migration
campaigns in the Zone. All of the above ongoing significant efforts
maintain feasible roles in the effort of fighting irregular migration
outflow in Bale.


An interview with Bale Zone head of Labor and Social Affair office.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

Table 1. Estimated number of irregular migrants outflow in each Woreda of
Bale, form 2011-2014/2015

Dallo Mana
Dawe Qechan
Dawe Serar
Ginir Town
Goba Town
Gura Damolle
Harena Bulluq
Laga Hida
Mada Walabu
Robe town
Grand total

F Total M F total
141 41 182 37 19 56
104 46 150
52 64 116 12
4 16
152 154 306 40 23 63
190 15 205 90 46 136
156 74 230
401 135 536
9 10
45 126 171 14 27 41
36 20
162 38 200
9 14
45 39
1 40
216 50 266
254 20 274 75
1 76



total M F total
291 73 0
63 11 0
7 2
0 0
0 0
3 1
832 79 5
3 0
5 0
3 0
0 0
126 11 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
217 40 7
1 0
344 112 0 112

2179 794 2973 329 141 470 2226 424 2650 348 15


*Not available
Source, adopted from Bale Zone Labour and Social Affairs Office, 2015.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 225
3.2. Trends in Irregular Migration outflow in Bale

The common mode of migration is through the facilitation of
illegal brokers and also through employment agents18. As a survey
study conducted in Robe town revealed, the Dellala (illegal brokers) are the major facilitators for female migration (BIRDA, 2014).
In addition, employment agents, members of families and those
who had migrated previously are also facilitating actors for irregular migration. Particularly, the brokers and the close relatives of
migrants who reside abroad are the key facilitators19.
Bale being a Muslim-dominant community, it is suggested that
the religious affiliation20 to the Middle East countries is considered
as a contributing factor for the prevalence of irregular migration
outflow. This factor is a similar case in other Muslim-majority
areas both in Oromia region and at national level. For example,
most frequently migration-prone areas like Jimma and East Hararghe Zones are Muslim majority. But in Christian-inhabited
areas, also migration is prevalent. There is no sufficient justification to claim Muslims dominate irregular migration21.
Related with Islamic tradition, the polygamy marriage practice
among the Islamic community supported by the Sharia law has
its own impact in creating “a biased treatment amongst family
members”22. The problem is not the polygamy tradition itself which
is well supported by the community as a principle of Islamic faith.
An interview with head of Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair Office.
An interview with Sinana District Head of Labor and Social Affair office.
BIRDA (Bale Integrated Rular Development Association) 9 2014). Base
line Survey of the women and children trafficking situation in Robe Woreda of
Bale Zone, BIRDA.
An in-depth interview with the head of Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair
office, on January 1, 2016.
An interview with family member of current migrants, February 27, 2016,


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

Rather, for example, a man may have more than two wives and
many children too. But he may not fairly manage the family which
is in fact against the Sharia law. There is an inclination for better
treatment of the newly married wives23 at the expense of the rest.
This biased practice creates a direct economic vulnerability as
well as a feeling of exclusion in the rest of the family24. In the end,
children become the most vulnerable in family groups for different socio-economic problems including irregular migration. Our
interviewee25 has been a victim of this problem and he told us
that he knew many peers who, driven by such factors, ended up
in irregular migration.
Migrants have experiences from a minimum two and three
years to more than 8 years stay in host states. Some migrants
re-migrate again and again at least more than two times. Especially those returnees who did not experience risks of exploitation
have the intention to re-migrate. Conversely, those who were
victims said that “I never wish migration even for my enemy”26.
Migration is just like “being an animal or a slave that undermines
our human dignity”27. This is what was repeatedly said by the
returnees from Middle East countries, who experienced a shocking exploitation either directly themselves or as eyewitnesses to
other Ethiopian victims of irregular migration. However, no matter how far they are victims and aware of the risks, still there are
also returnee migrants and potential migrants who want to move
An interview with a returnee, January 17, 2015, Robe.
Key informant interview with head of Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair
Office February 13, 2015, Robe.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 227

Irregular migration following routes on land and sea is the
common trend for migrant outflow from Bale. Hence from the
three major migratory routes (see, map 1). Irregular migrants
from Bale use the Northern or Mediterranean Sea route and Eastern route or Gulf of Aden route, just to exit illegally from Ethiopia.
Robe and other major towns like Ginir are places where the initial
process starts with the aid of local smugglers. Then, those potential migrants planning to make their destination Europe follow
the Mediterranean Sea route which lies from the Ethio-Sudan
border town of Metema and the transit states of Sudan and Libya.
This route is one of the most dangerous routes along which thousands of mixed irregular migrants perish every year or are extremely exploited by traffickers (see, IOM, 2014a; Altai Consulting, 2015). The exploitation and other vulnerabilities to risks
begin immediately after migrants cross the border town of Metema29. In different temporary arrival points in Sudan and Libya,
most frequent extreme exploitations include kidnapping for ransom and inhospitable transportation devices such as journeying
via overcrowded “patrol cars” and boats.
The second major route preferred by irregular migrants, followed by those who have the intention to make their destination
point in the Gulf States, is the so-called Eastern or Gulf of Aden
route. From Robe to Adama then Dire Dawa to Jigjiga, finally
using Somalia/ Bassaso and Yemen as transit countries, (Yemen
is in fact both destination and transit for Ethiopians) tens of thousands of irregular migrants from Ethiopia including from Bale
illegally enter the Gulf States for employment as laborers. In both
routes, migrants use land transportation including a journey on
foot, and boat voyages irrespective of the risks. Moreover, by us29


An interview with family members of victim migrants, February 27, 2016,


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

Map 1. Main Migratory Routes from Bale, Ethiopia

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 229

ing both legal and fraudulent travel documents, migrants also
enter other countries by air transportation. Fraudulent documents
such as pilgrimage and tourist visas30 are key means for irregular
migration by air. There are also a very few migrants from Bale,
who use the South African route.
Informants indicated that migrants from Bale pay a minimum
of 20,000-40,000 Ethiopian Birr (ETB) (1000–2000USD) up to
a maximum payment from 60,000-100,000 ETB (3000–5000USD)
in accordance with their different arrival points and means of
transportation. Sometimes up to 190,000 ETB (9500USD) is required for the Mediterranean Sea route31.
The migration pattern in Bale indicates that, those who have
better financial capabilities are more prone to migration in general than economically disadvantaged groups32. This attests that
the poor are not likely to migrate since they cannot afford the
financial costs for the whole migration process (Koser, 2005). If
not a hundred percent of the migrants and potential migrants
from Bale, then definitely the majority, are members of the community who are in relatively better economic positions. “How can
we call it because of poverty, while a person migrates leaving his
car”33, responded a local government official.
Destination countries for irregular migrants from Bale are not
only the Middle East or Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Arab
States such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and
An interview with the Head of the Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair office
on January 13, 2016.
An interview with close relative of victims migrants, February 27, 2016,
Key informant interview with the Head of the Bale Labor and Social Affairs
office, December 20, 2015. Robe.
An informant from Focus Group Discussion in Robe town; an interview
with Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair Office.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

the United Arab Emirates (UAE), rather, European states like Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, England, Norway, Holland and so
on, are also good destinations. Migrants from families of relatively better economic background with good social networks abroad
make their destinations Europe.
Another common trend in irregular migration outflow is that
young men are more prone to irregular migration than females.
Indeed, male migrants comprise the majority in migration outflow
as the estimated figures indicate (see, table 2 and 3). Similarly,
irregular migration to Europe following the Mediterranean Sea
route is mostly preferred by male migrants rather than females,
while the Eastern or the Gulf of Aden route is more evenly observed
by both sexes.
3.3. Profile of Irregular Migrants

Taking into account data of available demographic figures obtained in some of our sample study areas, in terms of gender, the
majority of irregular out-migrants from Bale are young males.
For example, out of the total 6456 estimated number of current
migrants from 2011 up to 2014/2015, around 5082 or 78.7% are
male, while the rest 21% or 1374 are female (see table 2). In a
similar vein, out of the total 3919 deported returnee migrants
from Saudi, around 3320 or 84.7% were male while the rest 15%
or 599 were female (see table 4). In terms of age, as our sample
data containing lists of migrants by demographic composition
shows, the majority of migrants were in their early 20s (20-25)
with few above 25 up to 30 and below 20 up to 15 years old.
Similarly, the data indicated that the majority of irregular migrants’
education status is grade 10 completed. And there are also a considerable number of out-migrants below grade 10 and primary

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 231

school level, and very few graduates from technical and vocational training institutions.
Generally, male youths who accomplished their secondary
school education are the most vulnerable social group in irregular migration outflow from Bale. Nonetheless, our key informants34
particularly from the Agarfa District government stakeholders,
explained that “in some areas of the District, it is the whole social
group which is prone to irregular migration, except the elderly.
Some elders and religious leaders are expressing their concern
saying ‘who is going to bury us, for whom are we going to preach’,
3.4. Causes of Irregular Migration Outflow from Bale

The root cause for irregular migration in general and particularly from Bale is very complex and has varied aspects. These
direct and indirect triggering factors are mainly interwoven from
economic, socio-cultural and administrative factors. Moreover,
as the data obtained from interview and focus group discussions
show, these fundamental causes have a very interrelated nature:
these are socio-economic factors, existence of various facilitating
actors, and finally factors related with administrative problems.
3.4.1. Socio-Economic Factors
Poverty and unemployment
At the national level, there is no other factor equivalent to
poverty which effected joblessness thereby contributing to the
influx of irregular migration outflow (See Jones et. al., 2014). The
current mounting labor migration of the youth is considered as
just an immediate strategy to move out of poverty and unemployKey informant interview with Agarfa Labor and Social Affair Officers,
December 20, 2015, Agarfa.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

ment. Almost all of our interviewees, particularly returnees and
potential migrants, expressed that it is because of the need for
better labor opportunities and livelihood that they decided to
leave their home country. Therefore, seeking better livelihood
and employment opportunities are key driving factors.
However, there is a different view by the informants on poverty and unemployment whether it is major or minor cause for
irregular migration outflow from Bale. On one side almost all our
informants particularly officials of each Woreda Labor and Social
Affairs Office (with the exception of stakeholders from Agarfa
Woreda), never want to accept poverty and unemployment as first
rank causes of youth migration. This group of informants claim
that Bale is a Zone rich in resources, with ample employment
opportunities compared to other areas in the region or in the country. Nowadays, the beneficiaries from the resources and job opportunities from the Zone are people who come from other areas
of the country such as “Debub”35 (Southern Nations, Nationalities
and Peoples Region [SNNPR]) and farmers from “Arsi”36, while
youths from Bale migrate. In addition, their basic reason in viewing poverty as a minor cause is, the expensive amount of money
spent by migrants for migration; from 3000USD to more than
5000USD is the approximate payment for migrants until their
arrival in the destination countries. They also mentioned migrants
with good living standard; a person having an automobile, and
who runs a good business37 leaves as a migrant. Mentioning such
kinds of premises, they conclude that poverty and unemployment
Key informant interview , Head of Bale Zone Labor and Social Affairs
office, February 13, 2016, Robe.
An interview with Agarfa District Labor and Social Affairs officers, on
December 18, 2015.
An interview with Robe town labor and social Affair Office December 3,
2015; interview with relative of the migrant.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 233

are secondary level causes of migration outflow from Bale; instead
they considered the society’s strong culture of migration or the
strong positive perception towards migration and poor work ethic of youth as significant viable factors for irregular migration
outflow from Bale38.
On the other side, returnee and potential migrant’s interviewees did not have any other direct answer for the question why they
migrated and the need to migrate; they replied only that it was
the need for better job opportunities with attractive salaries that
can bring significant change to their lives and the families. An
interviewee who was a close friend to many of the migrants who
died in April 19, 2015 in a boat accident, explained that “I and
my 14 peers who died in the Sea were unemployed after we completed grade 10. They stayed jobless for four years after grade 10
before their migration”. Moreover, an interviewee explained39 that:
In fact parents may be good economically, but they are not willing
to give money if their children ask them to run their own business,
they think it may be wasted by addiction or used for irrelevant purpose; but they are eager to give money if their children ask them for
migration purpose.

Sometimes the money utilized for migration is not necessarily
extra money, rather it is money saved purposely for migration
expenses while struggling with subsistence livelihood for years.
An interviewee from Agarfa District explained that:
I spent 18,000 ETB for migration, this is not because I have [enough]
money that I decide to leave; you know, I struggled for years to acKey informant interview with Gasera District Labor and Social Affairs
officers, November 17, 2015; key informant interview with head of Bale Zone
labor and social Affair Office, February 13, 2015, Robe.
An interview with close relative of victim migrant, February 27, 2016,


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

cumulate it, but unless I have additional support, I couldn’t do anything here with that amount of money.

The unemployment problem is also creating hopelessness on
the futurity of the primary and secondary school students as informants suggested40. Those school teenagers seeing their elders’
joblessness, including some unemployed university and college
graduates, are not sure about their future. What is the relevance
of learning if we do not have a job in the end? This is the question
they ask anticipating their future employment opportunities41.
Thus, they are forced to cease their education and instead prefer
migration to secure their future.
Unemployment related with shortage of land is also raised by
our informants from Gasera District. They implied that land shortage because of population increase as another enabling factor for
irregular migration of the youth42. The youth from rural areas, as
the informants claim, know better how to farm than anything
else43. However, nowadays, the existing rural farm lands are not
proportionate to the increasing number of population in the district. Thus, the youth’s access to farm land is becoming less. Therefore they are forced to choose migration to meet at least their
basic needs. However, land shortage as a cause for irregular migration cannot be generalized to all the rest areas of Bale. Government stakeholders in the other areas strongly ascertain that
there is no land deficiency in their respective areas.
Depth interview with Bale Integrated Rural Development Association
(BIRDA) manager; two key informants from Agarfa District Labor and Social
Affairs stakeholders; one key informant from Bale Zone Labor and Social Affairs
An interview with Agarfa Labor and Social Affair Officers, Agarfa, December
20, 2015.
An interview with Gassera district Labor and Social Affair officials.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 235 Existing positive perception towards migration (culture of migration)
Some literature in the area of irregular migration studies (see
RMMS, 2014a; RMMS 2014b) termed the society’s strong positive
perception towards migration as a “culture of migration”. Given
the prevalence, it is not unusual to find at least one or more current migrant or returnee from the local neighborhood. Out of a
dozen migrants, there is no doubt that a few of them significantly changed their own and family’s lives. By whatever condition it
has been obtained, money and materials sent back by migrants
from abroad to parents in Ethiopia creates a sort of positive perception on other families and the community at large towards
migration44. It is usual to encourage the youths to migrate; parents,
peers, and even community members, openly tell the youth to go
abroad and make money like other successful fellows. The success
stories of a few individuals45, is just like an adventure that everybody aspires to accomplish at whatever cost. The existing positive
perception towards migration makes migration a thing of everyone’s aspiration regardless of the risks. One of our key informants46
explains below how migration is a culture among the community.
Migration as a culture is peculiar here in Dega (wet) areas of our
Zone, like Sinana, Gasera, Agarfa, Dinsho than the Qola (hot) areas;…
in these areas people say somebody went abroad and stayed for four
years then bought a car; another went abroad and built villa for his
family; someone went abroad and bought a town land; but we seat
here while we can bring big money.

Key informant interview, Head of Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair Office.
Focus Group Discussion with Maksegno Gebeya Iddir committees.
Interview with Key informant, Head of Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair
officials, January 13, 2016, Robe.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

Migration from Bale is something of an economic coping up
strategy and if not exaggerated society uses it to get rid of poverty. There is a greater link between migration and generating income
in order to invest in a family’s basic socio-economic needs. Thus,
migration is a cultured instrument in society regardless of both
the domestic labor opportunities and the risks of irregular migration.
3.4.2. Existence of Various Facilitating Actors
for Irregular Migration
Illegal brokers
Along with other interrelated triggering factors of irregular
migration, the Dellala, (brokers) crucially served as an intermediary for the outflow of irregular migrants. The illegal brokers,
what literature conventionally calls smugglers and traffickers, are
an illicit instrument whereby migrants are recruited, transported
and then enter into borders of other countries illegally having
experienced the inevitable risks of exploitation. Ranged from those
brokers who directly facilitate the situation living inside the community, to those brokers who live in major towns having a well-established network both in and outside the country, are the primary actors thereby pursuing their illicit business of migrant
smuggling and trafficking.
The collaboration between migrants, the community and the
illegal brokers complicates and aggravates the issue47. Different
reasons are suggested: migrants and the community willingly
collaborate with brokers because they are at least the means for
them to reach the intended destination48 whatever the risks in47
An interview with Head of Bale Zone Labor and Social Affairs Office,
February 13, 2016.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 237

volved. If they are not willing, migrants and the community will
not disclose information particular to brokers, because they no
guarantee against direct threats, even to their life49. The latter
reason seems more sound, because the brokers are not such regular individuals that anyone can easily disclose their illicit business,
they have a big link even with corrupt government officials50 in
addition to their economic power built on both legal and illicit
One of our key informants51 from local government stakeholders explained that:
You can say the whole community here is a broker, they never want
to disclose brokers even though they know who recruits migrants;
brokers are there starting from the smallest Kebele, but who send
some body’s children is kept secret; the brokers may threaten them,
by saying if you disclose us, your children cannot go abroad, and if
they go they will be threatened; at the same time, the community
complain us by saying, the illegal brokers are inside you chaining up
to the federal government, and despite we disclose them (brokers),
they are set free for unknown reasons sooner.

This complicated nature of illegal brokers still remains a curse
in aggravating the problems related with irregular migration. As
of the writing time of this study, there are not any sufficient prosecution cases initiated against illegal brokers in any areas of Bale
except one case from Goba town52. As the head of Bale Zone Labor
and Social Affairs Office confirmed to us, only one individual suspected of migrant smuggling crime has been arrested and proseKey informant interview with Robe town Labor and Social Affairs office,
December 3, 2015.
Key informant interview with Head of Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair
Office, January 13, 2016.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

cuted. But, he was released from prison paying a 15,000 ETB
(750USD) guarantee. The informant53 added that currently, two
other cases of prosecution are initiated against suspected traffickers.
Local illegal brokers also participate in trafficking exploitation
as one interviewee explains:54
There are notorious brokers in Metema, who have the task of identifying potential migrants for ransom; during the death of my friends
in the Sea, we were able to identify that there were Ethiopian brokers
speaking local language.

Another interviewee55 from Gasera Woreda, who was a victim
of extreme exploitation in Yemen, explained that he and another
six Ethiopians were transported by local brokers, on a land journey via the Gulf of Aden route, facing torture by smugglers demanding ransom. In general, the illegal brokers aggravate irregular migration outflow in smuggling migrants, and by extension,
through trafficking exploitation both here in Bale and at different
Pressures from families, peers and social networks
Family members and peers have direct facilitator roles in the
migration process by persuading potential migrants by telling
success stories of previous migrants. Parents even directly conduct
deals with brokers and make payments for the purpose of their
offspring’s migration. Using network patterns one member of the
community or the family migrates, then another follows the path.

An interview with close family of victim migrants, February 27, 2016,

An interview with Returnee migrant from Suadi Arabia, March 3, 2016,

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 239

Family and friends from abroad also facilitate the process of
migration. Propagating information56 regarding employment
chances, financial provision for traveling costs and fulfilling all
necessary conditions, are all ways the migrant’s relatives abroad
facilitate for potential migrants. An interviewee57 from Robe town
who is a returnee from Saudi Arabia responded that, seeing his
peers who had migrated before, he decided to migrate; and the
travel cost around 70,000 ETB (3500USD) had been covered by
his brother from abroad. In a similar story one interviewee58 from
Gasera, stated that he moved to Saudi Arabia leaving his job (government employed) for nothing but to be alike with his peers.
There is also direct and indirect impact of social networks in
creating pressure from the homeland potential migrants. Inevitably, the remittances sent from migrants abroad either in the
form of cash or in kind such as electronic devices and fashion
clothing to members of families59, are also influential factors to
the nearby neighborhood and community youths in initiating
them for migration.
There is a considerable number of current migrants from the
Bale Zone, including labor migrants and irregular migrants, both
in Middle East and Western States. Thus, particularly, those groups
of Ethiopian immigrants who are relatively stable have the capacity to take family members or at least to facilitate conditions. This
has been confirmed by data obtained from returnee informants
Key informant interview with Head of Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair
Office, February 13, 2016, Robe.
An interview with returnee migrant from Saudi Arabia, January 26, 2015,
An interview with returnee migrant from Saudi Arabia, March 2, 2016,
Key informant interview with Head of Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair
Office, February 13, 2016, Robe.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

who had at least one or more close relatives abroad before their
migration, which had direct influence on their decision to migrate.
Social Media
Nowadays, in addition to the mainstream communication media channels, new internet-based social media such as Facebook,
YouTube, Twitter, Viber, WhatsUp and so on are vibrantly simplifying the way we exchange information (see Edosomwan et al.,
2011). Hence, these social media are also good facilitating actors
for the current irregular migration crisis.
Social media, supported by the new technology, results from
the easy accessibility of smart mobile phones for youth both of
urban and rural areas. By using Facebook, which is the most popular social media, the youth, quickly and easily communicate with
their peers abroad at a very cheap cost. Very impressive images
posted on personal timelines of Facebook accounts are quickly
observable by viewers everywhere. Even children sometimes
convince their parents, making them view the attractive images
sent via Facebook and Viber. Then the parents, who are not totally familiar with social media, are likely to be easily deceived to
send their children to match them with those migrants who sent
their impressive images. The community challenges government
stakeholders during their awareness creation campaign by saying
“why do you tell us not to send our children abroad when we see
those who already left are in a comfortable situation; I became
eager to send my child when he showed me his friend’s photo at
ease on Facebook”. This was a response from one woman during
the Agarfa District awareness creation campaign against irregular
migration as the stakeholders themselves informed us.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 241

3.4.3. Administrative Factors
Stakeholders of government agencies directly responsible for
issues of irregular migration both at local and national level are
still criticized and accused of providing insufficient and weak legal and practical measures against human trafficking and smuggling crimes. Even though the government recently attempted to
fill the legal framework gap by introducing a comprehensive anti-trafficking and smuggling proclamation, its enforcement and
prosecution of smugglers and traffickers, and protection of victims,
no sufficient measures have been undertaken to date (United States
Department of State, 2015). Similarly, preventing and countering
illegal border crossing remains weak.
Government stakeholders were even very late in providing the
intended measure in preventing the crime of irregular migration
and their existing measures are inadequate compared with the
grave crisis that irregular migration continues to bring. Particular
to Bale, an organized anti-irregular migration intervention was
introduced only since 201360, after the problem became severe.
Despite its late intervention measures, nowadays as our observation and the data obtained from our informants show61, the Zone
is in good progress in its endeavors in the anti-irregular migration
Comparing Ethiopia’s emigrant management system with other states, returnee interviewees explained that, migrants from
some Asian countries such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka and India
have good protection from their governments via their embassies.
Further, they stated that, unlike Ethiopia, it is rare to see irregular
migrants from these states. Treatment even by employers, includ60
An interview with Sinana District Labor and Social Affair Officers, December
27, 2015.
Key informant interview, Head of Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair Office,
February 13, 2016, Robe.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

ing payment, are different between Ethiopians and them. There
is no doubt that their legitimate existence is the primary factor,
in addition to racial biases (See, Naami, 2014) for better treatment
of Asian laborers than Black Africans including Ethiopians. Hence,
the Ethiopian government’s and its embassies poor emigrant governance system is also accountable for the existing irregular migration crisis.
Different from direct responsibility of government stakeholders in addressing the issues of irregular migration, returnees and
potential migrates criticize the local bad governance as another
determining factor. Interviewees both from members of the community62 and returnees63 strongly complain about the lack of good
governance, such as the absence of quick responses to public questions, high tax overloads on small-scale businesses64, lengthy bureaucratic services and very poor infrastructural delivery. One
interviewee in Robe town explained that:
A friend of mine, who died in the Sea, was an amateur sport trainer
with his own football team; but he was unable to get a soccer field;
his application to use the town’s football stadium was rejected by the
authorities; his final decision was to cease the sport and move abroad.

The interviewees also complain about the local stakeholders’
weaknesses in creating jobs and youth entertainment corners.
“Here in Robe, there are not any relevant entertainment places,
we are wasting time at chat/khat rooms”, the interviewee65 explained.
A focus group discussion with Maksegno gebeya Iddir committee who are
directly working against women and children trafficking in collaboration with
international NGOs.
An interview with returnees from Agarfa, and Robe town, from December
20, 2015 – January 1, 2016.
An interview with a returnee, December 20, 2015.
An interview with a potential migrant, February 27, 2016, Robe.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 243

Another key factor associated with administrative issues is the
poor infrastructural accessibility of the Zone. Though it is not
unique to Bale, social provision, especially electricity, water, and
telecommunication, are hardly accessible. Particularly, work opportunities in urban areas including small towns of the Zone are
unthinkable without such a list of infrastructural accesses. Electricity and water service are in dire condition in the Zone, which
directly affects the existing labor opportunities. This results in
youth prefering migration irrespective of the risk. As our key informants from Zonal and District Labor and Social Affairs told us,
out of the total deported returnees from Saudi, around 118 migrated back, some of whom were leaving their small scale enterprises established by the help of the government. The key reason,
for returnees to give up their small scale business was the terrible
condition of electricity66. As a Gasera Woreda government stakeholder clarified, returnees who have been organized by the government in small scale enterprises totally gave up their works and
were dispersed because of lack of electric power. There are similar cases also in different Woredas of the Zone67.
3.5. Impacts of Irregular Migration Against Migrants’
Human Security in Bale

Recently, more than anything else, threats against human security of irregular migrants during transit points exposing them
to illicit traffickers and smugglers, or a deliberate exploitation by
employers, becomes a serious security issue occupying the concern
of stockholders. Though migrants, whether in legal or in irregular
Key informant interview with Gasera Labor and Social Affair Officers,
November 17, 2015.
Key informant interview with the Head of Bale Zone Labor and Social
Affair Office, February 13, 2016, Robe.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

status, are vulnerable to insecurity, those more affected by human
security risks are the irregular ones by virtue of their status
(Mawadza, 2008:1).
Driven principally by the root factors found by the study as
mentioned in the above section, Bale could be one of the areas in
Ethiopia which are in a state of, so to say, an explosion of irregular migration outflow occurrences. Hence, vulnerability to the
inevitable human security risks directly endangering the survival, livelihood and dignity of the migrants themselves, are the
consequences of irregular cross border migration. The following
section seeks to show the negative impact of irregular migration
against human security of migrants, more specifically against their
personal security of the migrants in particular reference to Bale.
3.5.1. Death through Murder and Accident
Irregular migrants are highly vulnerable including risks of death
during their dangerous journey through illegal and life-threatening desert routes, and transportation channels such as suffocating
containers and boat voyages. And also migrants sometimes are
deliberately murdered by employers and smugglers. Some migrants
also attempt to go on foot, exposing themselves to extreme vulnerability to inhospitable lands or deserts where food and water
are hardly accessible at least for survival, and at the same time
vulnerable to gangs and aggressive wild animals. As one returnee interviewee68 told us, luckily he was able to arrive in Yemen
after a 15 day journey on foot via Somalia en route to Gulf countries.
It was a shocking accident, still in recent memory, in which
approximately 30-46 youths from Bale died at the same time in
An interview with a returnee from Saudi Arabia, November 20, 2015,

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 245

the Mediterranean Sea on April 19, 201569 in a boat capsize accident; the majority were from Robe town70. While they were planning to reach Europe, anticipating better employment and living
standard opportunities, unfortunately they ended up in stories to
be told for others to learn from them. From those deceased youth,
around 14 were schoolmates who attended Mada Walabu primary school71. Worst of all, two brothers were among the dead, while
a previous occasion one of the two brothers survived luckily listening the advice of their father who told them not go in one
Regarding the exact number of the death toll, there are contrasting figures. While interviewees from victim families and closest friends estimate up to 46 individuals in total from Bale (30 from
Robe town, 8 from Dello Mana, 4 from Goba, 2 from Sinana and
2 from Agarfa), key informants also provided their own figures.
According to government stakeholders from Robe town, 17 individuals are believed to have died from Robe town. And for the key
informant from Zonal labor and social affairs bureau, the death
toll is estimated from 28-30, only in Robe. In fact, the majority of
the death toll in the April 19, 2015 shipwreck, is believed to be in
Bale, out of the total Ethiopian irregular migrants’ death. During
the accident Ethiopian irregular migrants up to 65 individuals
(7 from Addis Ababa, 18 from Arsi, 12 individuals of unknown
background, and including the above figures from Bale73), were
estimated to have died in the Mediterranean Sea.
An interview with close migrant friends, February 27, 2016, Robe.
An interview with close friends of migrant victims, February 27, 2016,


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

In total an estimated 73 deaths have been recorded, between
2013-2014/2015, because of irregular migration risks from Bale.
These are, however, only a few known to the public and to local
authorities. Besides this, deliberate killings by smugglers74 and
employers are common cases. For example, during mass deportation of Ethiopian migrants from Saudi, a deported interviewee
told us that “my friend was killed by an alleged Saudi security
person who beat him brutally in front of me”. Another returnee75
also told us, “in only one day around 38 Ethiopians were killed”
by the security polices and the shabab (youth in Arabic) in a town
called Manfouha where the deportation was undertaken.
Similarly, an interview with another two returnee women ascertains that they were eye witnesses where Ethiopian migrants
employed as domestic workers were deliberately killed by their
employers. One of them died when thrown from a building, in
response to her frequent requests for her legitimate work payment
which had been delayed for years. The case of the other girl is
complicated76; forced sexual relations (abuse) by her male employer was exposed to the wife, the end result was a murder through
poisoning by the housewife.
Cases of either killing or harsh physical assaults against laborers by their employers are common when they ask payments, and
in another case when migrants want to leave. One returnee77 explains a story she knows below:
For further information regarding deliberate torture including killings,
of Ethiopian migrants in Yemen by organized Smugglers, see Human Rights
Watch (2014) ‘Yemen’s Torture Camps: Abuse of Migrants by Human Traffickers
in a Climate of Impunity’.
An interview with a returnee, December 20, 2015, Agarfa.
An interview with a female returnee at Ginir, December 18, 2015, Ginir
An interview with female returnee from Saudi, February 16, 2016, Robe.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 247

In one occasion, relatives to my employers with their teenage
came to home; at that occasion the teenage asked me a question
are you an Ethiopia? Yes! I replied; then just as an ordinary thing
he told me that by saying we had also an Ethiopian domestic worker, but one day when she was in the way to leave, my father has
killed her crashing by automobile.
Similarly, another returnee interviewee at Ginir District explained that he was able to escape from his employer who directly threatened to kill him by hitting him with his car just because
of the worker’s decision to leave for other labor opportunity. Although he sustained minor physical injuries, he was able to escape
from the murder threat.
Table 2: some recorded figures of death on the following selected Woredas
of Bale Zone resulting from irregular migration only from 2013–2015


Number of Death




Dello Mena















Robe town







Source: researchers, based on figures obtained from the 2015/2016 plan of
Bale Zone Anti-irregular migration committee (task force): Bale Zone Labor
and Social Affair Office, and from interviews.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

3.5.2. Sexual Exploitation
For Ethiopian women domestic workers, including those from
Bale, unfortunately one of their common exploitations is sexual
abuse and the resultant grave risks. Our interviews from with
returnees told us that they know at least one or more cases of
sexual exploitation against Ethiopian women domestic workers.
The most shocking story was a case of exploitation which took
place during the Saudi deportation measure. An informant, from
Agarfa District, he was an eye witness where “six shabaab (youths)
violently raped one Ethiopian migrant” during the violent deportation measures against Ethiopian irregular migrants. A similar
story was the case of an Ethiopian domestic worker who was killed
by her woman employer when her forced sexual relation with the
husband revealed to the wife78. What we understand here is, the
worst various forms of sexual abuses against the migrant domestic workers are not an end in themself; rather, they are followed
by serious other risks such as death, health risks, pregnancy, and
being handed over to security agents for deportation purposes.
An interviewee told to us that one Ethiopian woman domestic
worker has not only undergone an unwanted pregnancy, but also
she was forced to leave her newlborn child there, while she retuned
back to home79. If there is a very common exploitation story against
Ethiopian house maids in Gulf States, it is cases of rape. What
makes it complicated is it will not end up only in sexual abuse,
rather worse risks will follow including murder as mentioned
above. Multiple exploitations like rape, denial of salary, forced
labor, deportation and so on all are what they faces.

An interview with a female returnee migrant from Qatar at Ginir on
December 18, 2015.
An interview with a female returnee migrant from Kuwait at Robe on.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 249

3.5.3. Labor Exploitation and Forced Servitude
Labor exploitation is another severe human security threat
against irregular migrants. Obviously, most migrants are unskilled
labor workers in areas of cleaning, construction, shepherding,
household maids, caretakers and so on. Forced labor and long
work hours are among the common types of labor exploitation
against Ethiopian irregular migrants80 in Middle East countries.
Hence, for labor workers, especially Ethiopian women employed
as household maids, one of their extreme vulnerability is being
forced to work for long hours, more than 18-20 hours per day.
Our interviewees from among the returnees repeatedly told us
that, “our employers considered us just as an animal like a donkey”.
This is how the victims of irregular migration express the ways of
their labor exploitation.
Making the Ethiopian women employees work for relatives of
employers, with whom migrants did not have an agreement, is
another way by which migrants are exploited. One woman returnee explained that “I used to work for the relatives of my employers without my willingness; I was employed, firstly as a domestic servant to one house hold; later on, the housewife ordered
me to work for her sister, then I did not have any choice, just to
work for both households”81.
Unfortunately, Ethiopian labor workers, particularly in the
Middle East Arab countries, are considered as nothing more than
the property of their employers. Except for a few lucky migrant
workers, such is the story of many innocent Ethiopian migrant
workers who have been always forced to do whatever their employers wished.


An interview with returnee at Robe, December, 27 2015.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

3.5.4. Financial Exploitation
Sadly, for some migrant workers, the exploitation they face
did not end up in one of or two of the forms of exploitation commonly known. Rather a multiple and interrelated form of exploitation by various actors such as smugglers, employers and security
person are experienced by irregular migrant labor workers. For
instance, the exploitation by forced labor may not be the single
abuse migrants faced, rather it is always coupled with financial
exploitation since migrant workers are not sometimes paid appropriately even to the agreed payment, let alone the extra time
the migrants work either for their employers or for employers
relatives without their willingness.
Filled by hope, the money they expend for transportation and
all other costs related to migration purposes, might be borrowed,
or provided by families and closes relatives, to be paid back one
day in the future after migrants accumulate money working abroad.
Hence, nowadays a minimum 80,000 ETB (4000 USD) to a maximum of more than 100,000 Birr (5000 USD) is expected for expenses of all costs related to irregular migration. Surprisingly,
sometimes this expense is covered by families selling their properties including land, houses, and domestic animals82. This sometimes causes family quarrels particularly between husband and
wife over the financial expense to be covered for their son or
daughter supposed to migrate. This story was experienced in Robe
town when a family member disagreed to send their son. The
father was against the idea of his son’s migration. Conversely, the
mother decided to send her son at the cost of her marriage. Finally, the family broke up, properties were divided and the son moved

Key informant interview, Head of Bale Labor and Social Affair Office,
February 13, 2016, Robe.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 251

abroad, the expense covered by his mother selling her half of the
property obtained from divorce83.
The most common financial exploitation is concerning salary
payment. Salaries may be totally denied or cut from the normal
agreed payment. In addition salaries may not be regularly paid
monthly. These all are what informants either personally faced
or observed from other Ethiopian migrant workers. For example,
an interview with one returnee revealed that she was paid below
the agreed salary and sometimes totally unpaid. Financial exploitation mostly leads to other more extreme vulnerability, differently from other abuses, such as forced labor and minor physical assault. Because the very purpose migrants go abroad as
laborers is to make money and to pursue better livelihood. It is
not only the danger of financial exploitation that migrant workers
never tolerate, rather it makes them completely hopeless and results in other extreme vulnerability such as psychological disorder,
suicide, or revenge against their employers. Worse, the final payment from an employer is sometimes simply murder. An interviewee84 expressed her witness as one Ethiopian migrant worker
was killed by their employers in response to her frequent request
for the salary she worked for for years.
3.5.5. Physical Assault
Assault ranging from minor injuries to extreme physical assault
such as physical paralysis and disabilities85 are among the common
risks that victims of irregular migration experience. Such risks to
the physical security of migrants mostly occur either because of
Key informant interview, Robe town Labor and Social Affair, December
3, 2015, Robe.
An interview with returnee, February 18, 2015, Ginir.
Key informant interview, Head of Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair Office,
February 13, 2016, Robe.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

uncomfortable working environment or because of deliberate
attack by employers, smugglers and security persons.
For example, an interviewee from the Ginir Woreda told to us
that he was injured seriously in the leg when his employer intentionally hit him with his automobile86. Luckily, he was able to save
his life, escaping from hit by the ruthless measure of his employer. Another interviewee from Robe town87 was a witness of serious
physical injuries inflicted on one Ethiopian woman domestic worker; when the migrant worker was at work wearing uncomfortable
shoes, accidentally fell down on the floor and her back was totally broken and she found herself in a state of paralysis, unable to
move by herself. Worse, their employers were unsympathetic to
her suffering, instead cruelly shouting over her that the problem
happened because of her own failure, and forcing her to do the
usual domestic work. The interviewee further told to us that she
saw another woman Ethiopian domestic worker who had been
deliberately burned by hot water thrown over her by her em­ployer.
Further, an interviewee from among the returnees described
the worst story he observed in one smuggling camp in Yemen; “in
that torturing house, individuals who lost their eyes, their leg or
hand are common to see; torturing through hanging over, through
beating, burning out over bodies until the ransom sends to them
from migrant families” are the extreme threats to migrants’ personal security from smugglers, the interviewee explained.
3.5.6. Psychological Assault and Mental Disorder
Returnees interviewed by us, who visited the temporary prison centers located in some Ethiopia Emphasis of Middle East State,
An interview with returnee migrant from Saudi, at Ginnir District on
December, 18, 2015.
An interview with women returnee from Kuwait, at Robe town, February,
14, 2016.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 253

confirmed that there was there a crowd of Ethiopian irregular
migrants, some of whom were crying, appearing in dire physical
condition, in degraded spirits and generally in a state of mental
and psychological illness88. These migrants in these temporary
prison centers are those arrested by security policies, found in the
streets without visa or employment papers. Worse, they are victims
of multiple exploitations such as salary denials, sexual abuses,
extreme physical and psychological assault and so on.
Racial assaults, making them to eat left over foods, denial of
contacts with their families and even with other Ethiopian migrants
and so on, are direct forms of psychological-threat exploitation
against migrant domestic workers. Just “they considered us like
a dog” one returnee responded89. Aside from the direct victims,
it could not be difficult to guess how such a kind of inhuman
cruelty will also create psychological illness indirectly on those
who see or hear it. A returnee who was exposed to the sight of a
murdered Ethiopian migrant worker by their employers told us
as they suffer from it still now90.
3.5.7. Deportation, Xenophobic Attack and Vulnerability to
Risks of Political Instability
Very recently, massive, grave violations against irregular migrants of Ethiopia is becoming something of a recurrent phenomenon. Especially the Saudi massive deportation measures from
November 2013 up to March 2014 followed by domestic political
An interview with a female returnee from United Arab Emirates, at Robe
Town on; An interview with a female returnee from Qatar at Ginir District on
December 18, 2015; an interview with a female returnee from Kuwait at Robe
Town on February 20, 2016.
An interview with one male returnee from Saudi Arabia, at Robe Town
on February 7, 2016.
Anonymous interview with a returnee, December 18, 2015, Ginir.


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

instabilities resulted in risks in countries like Yemen and Libya of
complicated direct injuries on migrants themselves. For example,
during the massive deportation from Saudi, a number of Ethiopians were killed or physically abused. In addition, properties
accumulated for years were totally lost. Most of our interviews
with returnees amongst the 3919 (see the table below) deported
migrants from Saudi confirmed that, except for a few properties
they held in hand, they lost their properties because of the violent
deportation measures91. A similar case was also experienced due
to domestic political instability in Yemen. Two recent returnees
from Yemen told to us that, although they had returned by the
help of the government, almost all their properties accumulated
for years, estimated in money up to 5000USD was left there92. A
similar story was also told to us by one returnee from Saudi Arabia93.
Discrimination based on race and xenophobic-oriented threats
are also sometimes experienced by Ethiopian irregular migrants.
The Saudi Arabia deportation measure itself has also a tendency
to xenophobia against non-nationals and citizens, as we understood from our interviewees. Participants during the violent deportation action were not only official security police, rather the
“shabaab” were also good actors in the ruthless physical assault,
rape, and robbery against the Ethiopian irregular migrants. For
example, as our interviewee explained in his own words “the so
called shabaab coming in group they shout against us by saying

Anonymous interview with returnees from November 1, 2015 up to March
3, 2016.
Key informant interview, Head of Bale Zone Labor and Social affairs,
February 13, 2015, Robe.
An interview with a returnee form Saudi, February 16, 2016, Robe.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 255

leave our country, they will kill you in minutes if they caught
Arbitrary arrest and deportation is a frequent measure against
Ethiopian irregular migrants. If a migrant is found to be of irregular status in the streets of Middle East States, their immediate
fate is just detention, then after that deportation to their home
countries95 (see RMMS, 2014a:58). Sometimes irregular migrants
also deliberately reveal themselves to security personnel, taking
deportation as an advantage to escape from severe exploitation
they faced by employers. One returnee96 from United Arab Emirates told to us she retuned back by this mechanism.
Table 3. Deported migrants from Saudi Arabia and those who re-migrated
(November 2013 and March 2014) Source: adopted from Bale Zone Labour
and Social Affairs Offices.

Dallo manna
Ginir Town
Goba Town





An interview with a returnee, December 11, 2015, Agarfa.
An interview with a returnee, December 18, 2015, Ginir.
An interview with a female returnee from United Arab Emirates, December
20, 2015, Ginir.



Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

Harena Bulluq
Lega Hida
Mada Walabu
Robe Town







* Not available

3.5.8. Kidnapping for Ransom
Such kinds of exploitation cases against irregular migrants
commonly occur during transit. Yemen, as the main transit country from the Horn of Africa including Ethiopia, is the place where
serious exploitation in the form of kidnapping for ransom is rampant. At Haradh, “the smuggling town” in Yemen, where the majority of Horn African migrants pass through, an extreme exploitation including kidnapping for ransom and torture against migrants
is operated on a daily bases (Human Right Watch, 2014). A returnee from Saudi Arabia told us the story of his own kidnapping
in Yemen97:
A group of gangs detained us while we were on the way to Saudi
Arabia; then violently they separated the twelve Ethiopians from the
Somali migrants for their believe that we are better than the Somalis
for the ransom they needed; for a while, we remained their hostage;
fortunately, the forceful retaliation we undertook against the gangs
saved us from their torture and related abuses.

An interview with a returnee from Saudi Arabia at Agarfa, on December
18, 2015.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 257

Another returnee from Saudi Arabia also explained the serious
repeated trafficking risks he personally faced at different transit
points in Somalia and Yemen:
we were seven when the journey began; after three day stay in a
broker house in Dire Dawa, journey on foot began via Somalia; then
the broker intentionally missed from us; we stayed for a week missing the direction where to go; finally we got another broker who
transported us to Yemen and transferred us to other brokers, then to
the next brokers for each payment rises in double; I personally paid
20,000ETB for three brokers in sum, until my final arrival in Saudi.

Ethiopian irregular migrants also face kidnapping exploitation
by smugglers in Sudan and Libya. These countries, being the major transit countries for Ethiopian irregular migrants making Europe their final destination, are also the place where ransoms are
demanded as a form of financial exploitation and related personal security threats such as torture and grave physical assaults are
undertaken against migrants. One interviewee from Robe town
explained the kidnapping story of his two closest friends, (one of
them in Sudan and the other in Libya) who experienced serious
torture until the ransom was sent from their families98.
The head of Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair Office, officers
in similar positions from Robe town and Gasera Woreda, told us
that they know cases of kidnapping in their respective areas. For
example, “a father from Robe town paid 4000 USD, as a ransom
for his son”, the head of the Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair
Office, explained. A key informant further told us:99
parents heard the news of their son’s kidnapping; at the moment
there was no money in their hand for ransom that immediately deAn interview with families of victim migrants on ,January 27, 2016, Robe.
In-depth interview with the head of the Bale Zone Labor and Social Affair
Office, January 13, 2015.



Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

manded by smugglers; then the only option was to sell their urban
land where their home is built; however, this solution created dispute
between the husband and wife, the former being against selling the
land; finally the parents sold half of the land and sent the ransom;
unfortunately, their son was not alive.

3.5.9. Forced Confinement
For Ethiopian domestic workers in the Middle East countries,
another aspect of their exploitation is forced confinement and
related inhumane treatment basically in two ways100: one is using
the sponsorship (kafala)101 system as an instrument of control,
including of the personal life of migrant workers such as sanctions
on their movement and restriction of contact even with parents
at home. The second is prohibiting migrant workers from escape,
from fleeing exploitation at the hands of employers.
An interviewee102, a returnee from Qatar, explained that:
it is only for three months beginning from the employment date that
we have the right to change employers or to leave as we like; and
employers also treat us properly in these months; but after three
months stay, you cannot move from their home until you finish the
two years contract, and then after the employment agency also do
not take responsibility whatever the employers exploit you.

A returnee103 explained her story of confinement: “I was not
allowed to go out of the compound; they confiscated my mobile
phone; they sometimes allowed me to have contact with my parents only through their telephone, but they closely listen to what
An interview with returnee migrant, March 2, 2016, Gasera District; an
interview with returnee migrant, February 18, Ginir.
The Kafala or the sponsorship system is the only means through which
migrant workers will obtain entry visa and residence permit in Middle East Arab
countries (See, Naami, 2014).
An interview with female returnee, December 18, 2015, Ginir.
An interview with returnee migrant, February 16, 2015, Robe.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 259

I am talking”. Another returnee told us that she knows one Ethiopian woman domestic worker who was not paid her wage properly. When she asked to leave, they replied, ‘you cannot go unless
you finish our contract since we have sponsored you to come here’.”
Finally she retuned back after giving two years unpaid service. In
addition, confiscation of passport, visa and all other documents104
as well as other personal properties like mobile phones, immediately after their arrival, and thereafter inhumanely treating them,
are the forms of exploitation related to forced confinement.

Bale is found to be one of the major areas in Ethiopia where
migration in irregular ways is critically prevalent and migrants
are encountering the inevitable and increasing risks of exploitation
and insecurity. An estimated more than 6456 current migrants
in irregular status have been recorded between 2013 and 2014/15.
However, as it is known, it is difficult to know the exact number
of irregular out-migrants, not simply because of stakeholders’
poor migrant management system, rather inter alia, by virtue of
migrants’ irregular status and its volatility. Particular to the Bale
Zone, pertinent to the very recent local authorities’ (it has only
been since 2013 that local stakeholders began to address the issue)
intervention in their attempt to record migrant outflow and yet
the weak intervention measure in addressing the issue, implies
the possibility of the existence of a much greater number of irregular migrants.
Irregular migration is believed to be more prevalent in ten
Woredas of the Zone such as Sinana, Agarfa, Gasera, Ginir, Goro,



Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

Delo Mana, Goba, Gololcha, Dinsho, Berbrie and three town administrative areas namely Robe, Ginir and Goba towns. The rest
of the areas of the Zone have relatively low records. This disparity is probably linked with the culture of migration. These irregular migrations outflow prone areas have a greater culture of
migration influenced by existing potential social network links,
in addition to population pressure.
The existing profile of irregular migrants indicates that young
males are more exposed than their female counterparts. In terms
of educational profile, most out-migrants are dominantly grade
10 or secondary school complete, with significant numbers of
dropouts at primary school level as well. In sum, irregular migration outflow from Bale is dominated by male youths aged in early 20s who are secondary school graduates.
The dynamics of migration outflow cannot be determined because of the anecdotal nature of the available data. However,
considering the growing concern among government stakeholders and non-government agents and their involvement in practically addressing the problem, more importantly taking in to account
the general public opinion, the extent of irregular migration outflow is seemingly decreasing. Informed by the recent unprecedented human security crises like the massive deportation from
Saudi and the worst Mediterranean Sea boat accident, stakeholders are significantly working on anti-irregular migration efforts
focusing on awareness creation and job creation, which has its
own possible impact in tackling the problem. The shocking incidents against the very personal security of migrants has created
a rough understanding on the part of the general public regarding
the existing and increasing severe risks of irregular migration.
Therefore, without forgetting the prevalence of migration outflows
in considerable numbers, irrespective of the risks, the communities’ strong perception towards migration is seemingly improving.

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 261

In Bale, the key modes of migration are through the facilitation
of illegal brokers and by individual operators supported by the
family, community and social networks. Hence, irregular migrants
assisted by illegal brokers, employment agents, and family members mainly from abroad, enter the borders of other countries via
the two major migratory routes: the Mediterranean Sea route to
Europe and the Gulf of Aden route to the Middle East.
From a minimum of 1000USD-3000USD to a maximum of
3500USD-9500USD expenses are required for migration in accordance with the different arrival points. The more financially
capable, the more prone to irregular migration since the cost itself
is a determinant factor in the migration decision, in addition to
other factors.
Bale as a Muslim dominant community, religious affiliation to
the Middle East Arab countries is suggested as another trend in
migration. But this doesn’t seem convincing basically for two reasons; first, the Middle East Arab countries are not the only destinations of irregular migrants from Bale, rather Western European countries are good destinations too. Second, in areas where
non-Muslims live in a considerable number, there is an equal
participation in irregular migration towards Arab states regardless
of religious affiliation.
The fundamental causes for the existing prevalence of migration by irregular channels is not more or less outside what are
commonly noted as general triggering factors. The socio-economic push-pull factors such as poverty and unemployment or under-employment; labor opportunities with better wages abroad;
strong positive perception towards migration or culture of migration; existence of various actors in facilitating irregular migration,
like illegal brokers, peer and family pressures, social networks,
social medias; and finally administrative failures related with lack
of good governance and poor infrastructural deliveries and so on


Tizazu Ayalew Teka, Dawit Getu Kebede

are all the dynamic root triggering and accelerating factors of the
irregular migration outflow from Bale. Some of these factors provoke contesting claims. For instance, with respect to poverty and
unemployment as causes of migration, though the strongest claim
attests the mounting irregular migration as a key strategy to move
out of poverty and joblessness, still claims are there viewing the
culture of migration and poor work ethics as primary factors.
Whatever the claims, all these core factors are very interrelated
contributing causes and one cannot separate a certain factor exclusively from the rest; instead, all are so mutually interrelated
that their cumulative impact is causing the current crisis.
The more visible negative impacts that irregular migration has
continued to bring are threats to the human security of migrants
themselves. Extreme personal insecurity directly endangering
their survival, livelihood and dignity are the common vulnerability risks irregular migrants face, aggravated by their irregular
status. Risks including trafficking exploitation in transit points as
well as in destination countries by traffickers, smugglers, employers, security agents in security check-points and so on are inevitable abuses victims always face. To be more specific, what irregular migrants from Ethiopia including from Bale experienced
revolving around extreme personal insecurities are death through
murder and accidents; sexual abuse including common rape, financial exploitation, forced labor and enslavement; physical and
psychological assault; kidnapping for ransom; forced confinement;
deportation; xenophobic attack; vulnerability to risks of political
instability in hosting or transit states. In fact, these lists are only
the key extreme risks, passing over the more tolerable ones.
In the broader perspective, there is no doubt that irregular
migration continues to bring a threat not only to the security of
migrants, but to states’ sovereignty and the international community as well. In general, dealing with the issue from a human

Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration... 263

security perspective gives ample understanding of the intertwined
nature of international irregular migration.

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Changes in the anthropological structure of the Sudan Zone population
Land and the environment versus customary and statute laws
Environmental and political pressures on the Daba
of northern Cameroon
Les objectifs non cachées – les objectifs cachées. L’incompatibilité
des scénarios sur le champ local de la collaboration de développement
Reasons of the conflict in the Central African Republic (2012-2014)
Ethnic and linguistic diversity in the Sudan
Historical importance of Arab Muslim communities
in the Central Sudan Zone
Searching for Nubian Desert Gold with a Metal Detector
The South Sudan House in Amarat: South Sudanese
enclaves in Khartoum
Jeunes filles armées, femmes violées, porteuses de valises;
masculinités militarisées et hommes devenus femmes:
les guerres au Sud Soudan
Causes and Human Security Threats of Irregular Migration
Outflow from Bale, Southeastern Ethiopia

ISBN 978-83-8127-003-8



Cisło, Waldemar (ed.), Różański, Jarosław (ed.) i Ząbek, Maciej (ed.), “Collectanea Sudanica vol.1,” Cyfrowa Etnografia, Dostęp 4 grudnia 2022,

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