Darfur: Between two wars

Twenty years of conflict in Sudan, from Darfur to Khartoum and back.

Rebel soldiers, Abu Gamra, Sudan
Rebel soldiers in Abu Gamra, Darfur. April 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]
Rebel soldiers in Abu Gamra, Darfur. April 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

In 2003, the Darfur war began. In 2023, a new conflict has engulfed the streets of Sudan's capital, Khartoum, while violence escalates in the restive western region. Where does this leave Darfur? Jérôme Tubiana, who has reported from the region numerous times since 2004, returned in March and early April 2023, just before the new conflict began.

I. Twenty years of war

It is 2023 and Darfur has officially been in conflict for 20 years.

But since January, speculation about tensions within the fragmented military apparatus in the Sudanese capital had funnelled attention away from this grim anniversary and towards worries about the immediate future. Then, on April 15, the fighting began - first in Khartoum, then the rest of the country. Now Darfur is embroiled in another conflict - or the extension and escalation of an old one.

There had been tensions between Arab and non-Arab communities in Darfur for decades. But in 2003, full-scale war broke out across the region. Some say the conflict started in February that year, when unknown rebels attacked government buildings in a village in the Jebel Marra mountains and announced themselves as the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA); others contend it was in April, when they went on to attack North Darfur’s capital el-Fasher and destroyed government aircraft at the airport. The attacks humiliated the government in Khartoum, which responded with mass violence against Darfur’s non-Arab communities.

Since Sudan’s independence in 1956, the ruling elite in Khartoum had neglected the huge country’s peripheries, including Darfur in the west. Both Darfuri Arab and non-Arab communities were underrepresented within successive regimes - whether military or civilian, leftist or Islamist. Rather, Khartoum’s elites - benefitting from the blurred boundaries between the state and private business - continued dragging wealth (including mineral and agriculture resources) from the peripheries without providing their people with services and development in return.

Tukumare village, Sudan, in 2011
Tukumare village in North Darfur, shortly after it was destroyed in 2011 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

The rebels’ aim was to overthrow the Islamist military government which had been in power since 1989, and end Darfur’s marginalisation. But then-President Omar al-Bashir’s largely pro-Arab government depicted the rebels as “racists” and recruited Arab militias, soon nicknamed the “Janjaweed”, to fight them. At least 400,000 people were killed, and three million displaced by the joint efforts of the army and the militias.

Yet, the rebels survived, and the conflict endured. In 2013, Khartoum decided to form an enhanced paramilitary body among Darfur Arabs, named the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) under Mohamed Hamdan Daglo "Hemedti", then a junior leader among Darfur’s Arab militias. By 2019, he, allied with a few army generals, including Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, had become powerful enough to get rid of al-Bashir and share power – Burhan becoming president and Hemedti vice president.

After four years of constant power-sharing renegotiations, the two men are now fighting each other. This is not just a war for power between two generals, but rather one between the two heirs of the not-yet-defunct regime: the legitimate and illegitimate sons of one father, at the head of two fundamentally different forces. On one side, an army long headed by officers hailing from Sudan’s ethnic and political centre (the northern Nile Valley); on the other a paramilitary corps that is the latest avatar of Darfur’s Arab militias, and the main by-product of 20 years of a remote war.

With Hemedti, who rose amid that remote war, now front and centre in what is happening in the capital, where does this leave his region? And as conflict spreads across Sudan, is Darfur on the margins, or is it at the heart of this new war?

An inscription on a wall in a burned house in Darfur in 2004
Sudanese government forces inscribed the Arabic words “Amsa bas” ("clear it all”) on the wall of a burned house in Am Boru village, North Darfur, in 2004 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]
Sudanese government forces inscribed the Arabic words “Amsa bas” (“clear it all”) on the wall of a burned house in Am Boru village, North Darfur, in 2004 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

II. Remembering the early years: Am Boru, North Darfur

On a day in early April 2023 in Am Boru, you could hear people chatting, children playing, donkeys braying and cars revving their engines as they drove along sandy tracks - the noises of a normal Sudanese village. But when I first visited, in 2004, you could only hear the wind.

It was my first time in Darfur, and Am Boru, the capital of the Dar Tuer area at the edge of the Sahara in North Darfur, was one of the first in a long series of razed villages I saw.

Six months earlier, Am Boru had been burned by the Sudanese army and its auxiliary Janjaweed militias, as part of the enormous counterinsurgency campaign they launched in 2003 against Darfur rebel movements. The village was targeted because it was a main settlement of the Zaghawa community, one of the non-Arab ethnic groups whose members were systematically accused of being rebels, even though there were only a handful of fighters back then.

The destruction of the village was symbolic; on a blackened wall of the king’s house, an officer had traced the words in Arabic: amsa bas (“clear it all”) – an order he gave his troops to pillage and destroy.

There are still the remains of burned houses today, but new ones have been built.

A village chief in Sudan
Melik Jaffar, 66, is king of the village of Am Boru. April 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

In 2004, most of the population had fled, the majority walking more than 100km (62 miles) through the desert to Ouré Cassoni refugee camp, just across the border with Chad. Only a few old people and women were still sheltering in makeshift homes in the village that was occupied by the army.

“We were like under a junta,” says Jaffar Ali Mohamedein, who initially fled the village, but soon returned. “Everything was under control of the military, and they didn’t respect us,” he recalls when we meet again in Am Boru 20 years later. In 2004 he was a customs collector, and now, aged 66, is the melik (king) of the area, one of the oldest Zaghawa kingdoms, itself a vassal of the Darfur sultanate, founded in the 17th century.

Jaffar remembers how he returned to the village only six days after the attack, when his father Ali, then the 97-year-old melik, ordered him to stay: “Even if our village is destroyed, at least one of the king’s sons should be there, so that people can’t say we ran away,” he told his son.

Jaffar came to town and told the army officers: “If you threaten us, we’ll join the refugee camps in Chad, too.” The army, then afraid of being attacked by the rebels surrounding Am Boru, wanted the few remaining inhabitants to remain as hostages. Jaffar felt caught in the crossfire. When, in early 2004, his brother Abderrahman, acting king on behalf of their elderly father, had tried to bring food aid to the displaced families hiding in the hills around the town, he had been accused by the rebels of siding with the government, and was assassinated. Then in 2005, as Jaffar similarly tried to bring food to the civilians still living in the bush, he was accused of supporting the rebels and summoned by a court martial, before whom he risked facing the death penalty. He defended himself, telling the court’s officers: “You don’t know our people’s suffering. If you target their families, the rebels will attack you.” By a majority ruling, he was found not guilty.

In 2006, old Melik Ali died, and Jaffar was chosen to replace him. However, there would be no coronation ceremony. The tradition would have demanded the beating of seven nahas (copper drums) symbolising the king’s powers, but they were damaged when Melik Ali’s house burned, and one of them was stolen by the soldiers.

The six drums Jaffar managed to retrieve are now carefully kept in a locked container, alongside other royal symbols, including swords - also damaged during the attack - that had been given to earlier kings by successive Ottoman and British colonisers of Sudan. Years later, there has still been no coronation. “I’ve been doing the king’s job for 17 years, there’s no reason to do the ceremony any more,” Jaffar says.

A village chief in Sudan with copper drums that symbolise power
Melik Jaffar with some of the nahas (copper drums) that were damaged during the 2004 destruction of Am Boru. April 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

As the years passed, Am Boru’s inhabitants gradually returned home, even when it was risky.

Abdelmoneim, a nephew of Jaffar’s whom I had met in 2007 in Ouré Cassoni refugee camp, says there are now 350 families who came back from Chad. They began returning in 2018 because food aid in the camp had dramatically decreased. Many did not rebuild their destroyed houses and only returned to farm during the rainy season, while remaining in the camp the rest of the year. More came after the 2019 revolution that toppled Omar al-Bashir, the man whose decisions led to the destruction of their village. And even more returned after the peace agreement signed in October 2020 in Juba, South Sudan, between the then-transitional government and some, largely Zaghawa, Darfur rebel groups.

The rebels, who were mostly based in Libya, gradually moved back to Sudan as well. Some settled near Am Boru, in a camp bordered on one side by large trenches they had dug, and on the other by rocky hills once considered sacred. There, people from Am Boru used to place offerings in a small cave until a local teacher, who had undertaken Islamic studies in Al-Azhar in Cairo and joined the Muslim Brotherhood - the originally Egyptian movement whose Sudanese branch would bring al-Bashir to power - led his students in burning down the site in 1968 because he saw it as idolatrous.

“I was among the students, the first to light a match,” Jaffar says, retrospectively surprised by his own zealous role in the attack against his own culture. During the 1960s, Am Boru became a stronghold of the Brotherhood, and one of the first constituencies they won in an election in 1965. Yet it was not rewarded by the al-Bashir regime when it took power 24 years later; Darfuri Brotherhood members gradually realised that their “brothers” from Sudan’s centre were more loyal to their communities than to any ideology, or that “the blood was thicker than the religion”, as was often said.

A woman and her child at a health centre in Sudan
A woman shows a prescription for free medicine at the health centre in Zamzam IDP camp. March 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]
A woman shows a prescription for free medicine at the health centre in Zamzam IDP camp. March 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

III. Twenty years in camps

Twenty years after my first of many visits to North Darfur, I returned to Am Boru during an assessment for an international NGO. Humanitarian organisations launched a huge intervention in Darfur in 2004, before 13 of them were kicked out by al-Bashir in 2009 in response to an International Criminal Court arrest warrant delivered against him. Those NGOs were the biggest ones, providing about half of Darfur’s relief. They were never really replaced and, for those that stayed, humanitarian access kept shrinking.

After al-Bashir’s fall in 2019, doors reopened. Needs were still obvious; there were still three million Internally Displaced People (IDPs). Zamzam camp, half an hour from el-Fasher, shelters between 120,000 and 485,000 people, depending on who counts. Based on which estimate is considered best, it could well be the largest displacement camp in Darfur, in Sudan or Africa. When the count is made also matters since many of the camp's residents regularly return to farm the lands they were expelled from decades ago, but which they do not want to lose.

Displaced persons camp near Tina, North Darfur
A camp for displaced people, near Tina, North Darfur, in April 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

Such returns are not without dangers, Jamal Abdelkarim, the chief of the camp, explains: “What makes us leave the camp to farm is the shortage of food aid. Else no one would go to plant among the Janjaweed.”

Between mid-2021 and early 2022, the IDPs estimated that 35 non-Arab villages south of Zamzam camp were attacked by armed Arabs, bringing 83,000 “newly displaced” – or rather repeatedly displaced, over and over again, for the past 20 years – people to the camp.

A new health centre opened in October, providing free consultations and medicines to about 30,000 patients, or 250 per working day. Among common pathologies are malnutrition, urinary infections due to unclean water, skin diseases due to lack of water, and seasonal respiratory infections that local doctors relate to climate change.

The health centre is called Tukumare, which is also the name of the camp’s section wherein it lies, and of a village where many of the displaced once lived before it was burned to the ground in 2010. I visited it five months after its destruction, embedded in a convoy of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).

The blue helmets were from Rwanda, where, a decade before the Darfur war, a genocide against the Tutsi community there killed at least 800,000 people. As we drove across an area with no sign of life around us, their commander told me: “We’re all Tutsis, we understand very well what’s happening in Darfur.”

Rwandan peacekeepers in Darfur, Sudan in 2011
On their way back to their base, peacekeepers from Rwanda looked on at the flames engulfing a non-Arab village in North Darfur, in 2011 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

UNAMID eventually left in 2020. The UN had said it hoped to end that costly and inefficient mission for years. After al-Bashir was removed, the transition looked like an opportune moment to do so. The new government’s military and civilian components agreed on one thing at least – that national pride would thrive better without foreign troops on the ground.

But in Darfur, people had other concerns: in places such as West Darfur, which had been relatively quiet for a decade, violence by armed Arabs against non-Arab civilians increased, and even resumed, during the transition. The IDPs say it looked like nothing had changed since 2003, and even the change in Khartoum had no effect. Darfur seemed as neglected by the capital’s civilian politicians as it had been by the former regime.

A flag flies at a rebel checkpoint in Sudan
Sudan’s independence flag, now a rebel symbol, flies at a rebel checkpoint in North Darfur. April 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]
Sudan’s independence flag, now a rebel symbol, flies at a rebel checkpoint in North Darfur. April 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

IV. Where it really started: Abu Gamra

The Juba peace agreement, signed in 2020 by Sudan's government and rebels from Darfur and other regions, was an attempt to address Darfur's persistent feeling of marginalisation, and merge the issue of peace in Sudan’s peripheries with the hoped democratic transition at the centre. As for security in Darfur, the idea was to replace the blue helmets with joint government and rebel forces. So far, it has only been slowly and partially implemented - the first 2,000-strong batch of rebels only graduated from an el-Fasher training camp last July. Yet the idea of protecting civilians was a strong motivation for the rebels to return from Libya, where they were hosted by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who had offered them support while they helped bolster his troops as they fought the internationally recognised government in Tripoli.

“Our motivation to return was to implement peace and provide security to our communities,” SLA rebel commander Al-Saddiq al-Tom told me in early April in his village of Abu Gamra. The rebels peacefully took control of the same areas they had first “liberated” 20 years ago before they were driven back by the army and Janjaweed. In large swaths of North Darfur’s rural areas, government forces are absent or invisible, except for a few who appear to agree to work with the rebels to secure the area, even outside of the formal implementation of the agreement.

In Abu Gamra, 100km (62 miles) southwest of Am Boru, I met representatives of three rebel movements, the army’s military intelligence unit, and the police, all working together to man the town’s checkpoint. We sat together in a small straw hut; nearby, like on many checkpoints and official buildings across North Darfur, the official Sudanese flag had been replaced by the old blue-yellow-green flag of 1956, the year of independence, which also became that of the rebel movements.

Rebel soldiers, Abu Gamra, Sudan
Rebel soldiers in Abu Gamra, in April 2023, with Sudan’s independence flag flying in the distance [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

The rebels naturally returned to Abu Gamra, they say, for “emotional” reasons – not only because many are from the area and have relatives here, but also because it is where they believe the conflict was born.

Officially, the war in Darfur began in 2003. Yet, rebels generally consider the real birth to have been two years earlier, in Abu Gamra. As researcher Alex de Waal and journalist Julie Flint, among the first to chronicle the rebellion, explain: “Although it is difficult to identify a single date for the beginning of the rebellion … the most precise is 21 July 2001, when an expanded Fur and Zaghawa group met in Abu Gamra and swore a solemn oath on the Quran to work together to foil Arab supremacist policies in Darfur.”

The men sitting in the straw hut all joined the rebellion at that time, in Abu Gamra. Al-Saddiq recalls that in 2001, Arab attackers had killed 74 Zaghawa in nearby Bir Tuwel. Zaghawa youths then started to gather in a maskar al-shabi (“popular camp”, or self-defence group).

“I was only 17 then, still at school in Abu Gamra,” Al-Saddiq recalls. They were also joined by fighters from the Fur tribe, already mobilised by a lawyer known as Abdelwahid al-Nur, the future chairman of the SLA. The group then formed was only known as the Darfur Liberation Front, but they had already agreed that, rather than protracting an endless cycle of vengeance against armed Arabs, they should target the government, whom they accused of supporting Arab attackers. In August 2001, they successfully attacked Abu Gamra’s police station. Besides Abdelwahid, one of the early leaders was Abdallah Abbakar, a Zaghawa who then became the SLA chief of staff. In January 2004, he was killed by a government helicopter “here, a few metres west of the school”, Al-Saddiq points out.

Am Boru village, Sudan
The ruins of Am Boru village, which was destroyed in 2004. April 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

Abu Gamra remained one of the longest rebel-held areas in Darfur, although not protected by mountains, like most other rebel areas. Instead, it lies in a meander of the huge Wadi Seyra, a rainy season watercourse whose annual floods are said to isolate the area for months. But in 2013, the government - after years during which its old Janjaweed militias were befriending the rebels through secret non-aggression deals - decided to form the RSF. The rebels felt more pressure. In 2015, understanding that the army and the RSF were planning to dislodge them from Abu Gamra, they decided by themselves to leave for Libya, “so the civilians stayed and could say there was no rebel here”, Al-Saddiq says.

“We didn’t go to Libya to support Libyan forces, we were forced to go there,” Al-Saddiq explains. After signing the Juba agreement, the rebels returned from Libya gradually and cautiously, he adds, “because we are now experienced: along Sudan’s history, more than 46 peace deals have been signed, which were never implemented”. Yet they kept returning even when clouds gathered: in October 2021, the transitional civilian government was toppled by a military coup, which some rebels supported, others not. Then tensions resurfaced between the army and RSF.

Twenty years ago, Al-Saddiq remembers, “We were dreaming of democracy, peace, education, a political system like that of developed countries. Now we just hope the bloodshed to stop.” But things remain fragile, nationally as well as locally. Because of its floods, Wadi Seyra is also a strategic water resource for both Arab and Zaghawa nomadic herders. It is why the Darfur conflict began here, with livestock raiding between tribes, and why the place still looks like a front line: South of here, Arab nomads have occupied land and are reluctant to see the Zaghawa returning.

The mosque in Ghreir, Sudan
Ghreir’s mosque, reportedly built by the RSF. March 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]
Ghreir’s mosque, reportedly built by the RSF. March 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

V. The rise of Arab militias (and some rebels): Ghreir

If there is one area where Darfur’s Arabs and non-Arabs have long lived together, and still have an interest in doing so, it is Ghreir.

Isolated in the middle of Zaghawa territory, the brick village is an old Arab settlement and a crucial stage post for nomadic camel herders. It is also the small but undisputed capital of Hemedti’s Mahariya tribe. He attended primary school here in the late 1970s, before dropping out in the third grade, aged about eight or nine, to become a trader.

In 2003, like all Arab camel nomads, Ghreir’s inhabitants were among the first recruited by the Janjaweed. Even more joined when, in July 2003, in retaliation for government violence in the area, the rebels attacked the village, displacing the Arabs to the government area further south. Since that year, the Mahariya camels have been prevented from migrating north to their usual pastures, which grow in the desert after the rainy season. A few Mahariya, however, did not join the Janjaweed but the rebels.

Hills near Am Boru, Sudan
A rebel soldier in front of the once-sacred cave in Am Boru's hills. April 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

In Ghreir’s hospital, I met Omar, a slightly younger kinsman of Hemedti, and former rebel, who is now one of the tribe’s notables. Why his trajectory differed from the majority is, according to him, due to education. When the war began, he had the chance to be one of the few Mahariya to study at university in Khartoum, where he was in touch with students from all of Darfur’s tribes, many of whom became rebel members or sympathisers.

“The students’ vision is based on a different perspective from that of those uneducated,” Omar told me, explaining that in 2003, there were very few Arabs in rebel groups. It was mostly students who understood that the government was instrumentalising their communities to kill their non-Arab neighbours.

When I ask him about his strongest memory of the war, he replies: “I don’t know if it’s a good or bad memory, but one day, in 2006, I was staying in Jebel Marra [rebel area] in the house of my friend [SLA commander] Mustafa Roko. I wanted to shop, his wife told me she’ll do it for me, but I refused and went out. Then children gathered and threw stones at me, calling me Janjaweed. Everyone with lighter skin, they would call him Janjaweed. Roko’s wife rescued me.”

After 2006, feeling they were being manipulated by the government and tired of being called Janjaweed, more members of Arab tribes joined the rebels, agreeing with their stance that all Darfur’s tribes were equally marginalised. Omar and two other Mahariya students-turned-rebels lobbied Hemedti to support them, in a small electronics shop he had opened in Khartoum. For six months, Hemedti then declared himself a rebel but faced intense pressure from older tribesmen, who brought him back to the government fold.

Women pray at a graveyard in Sudan
Arab women pray in the graveyard of an old Arab settlement near Kutum, North Darfur. April 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

For many Mahariya, how Hemedti then began his rise remains an enigma. It seems he managed to meet al-Bashir and earn his trust. When, in 2013, he was chosen to lead the newly formed RSF, he recruited massively from within his own tribe. Omar says he repeatedly refused to join, preferring to keep his “history clean”.

During the same period, as the rebels gradually lost territory, the Arabs returned to Ghreir and rebuilt the village, with RSF support – the paramilitary force reportedly built the mosque and Quranic school, a boarding school and a kindergarten, water tanks, and some parts of the hospital where we sit – although it now looks as neglected as any infrastructure in Darfur. The nomads also began resuming their migrations north, and their peaceful relations with the Zaghawa. “We reached a point where conflict is useless to both,” Omar says.

His rebel history is his main asset in reconciling his tribe with their non-Arab neighbours. He admits the future is uncertain: “The government strengthened the RSF to the point they became even stronger than the army and are ready to swallow it, which is why there is now competition between al-Burhan and Hemedti.”

An old man adds: “Each of the two generals wants to rule, and each is afraid of the other."

Rebel soldiers in Darfur, Sudan
Rebel soldiers in Ammaray, North Darfur. March 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]
Rebel soldiers in Ammaray, North Darfur. March 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

VI. The present: New conflict in Khartoum; more violence in Darfur

Two weeks after I had heard those words, on April 15, 2023, the army and the RSF began to fight in Khartoum and across Sudan. For three years, people in Darfur had predicted the next war would be fought, for the first time, in the capital, and hoped it would spare Darfur. Only the first proved true.

In West Darfur, the periodic deadly clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs, including members of various armed forces, resumed on March 23 with the murder of a non-Arab trader followed by the vengeful stoning of two alleged Arab culprits. It escalated after April 15 and culminated in June in the state capital, el-Geneina, itself. Differing accounts suggest that war killed between 1,100 and 5,000 people, possibly more than in all the rest of the country. Among the deaths were figures of the local Masalit (non-Arab) tribe, including lawyers who had dared going to court for past killings, as well as the West Darfur governor Khamis Abbakar, murdered after having spoken of a genocide against his own community and calling for an international intervention.

I had last met Khamis in 2021: after a decade in exile, he had signed the Juba peace agreement, and had just been appointed governor. He was now back in Sudan because “the rebels want to protect their families”, shortly after an Arab attack had already chased 100,000 IDPs from the first war, from their old Kirinding IDP camp to el-Geneina. He told me that already in the late 1990s, he had tried to organise self-defence groups to face similar attacks, before being jailed by the government for five years. Once released, he joined the newly formed SLA in 2003 and became its first vice president.

The governor was reportedly killed while he was trying to escape to neighbouring Chad. For many Masalit, his death was the sign that staying in their West Darfur homeland was not an option any more, and 150,000 were displaced to neighbouring Chad. In West Darfur, the war between Sudan’s military and paramilitary had only allowed an older, nastier violence to resume, with civilians targeted based on their ethnicity, like 20 years before. Elsewhere in Darfur, many civilians were also killed and injured, but most appear victims of crossfire and indiscriminate shelling and bombings.

A doctor treats a child in Sudan
A medic treats a young patient at a health centre in Zamzam IDP camp. March 2023 [Jérôme Tubiana/Al Jazeera]

In el-Fasher and other main towns, there were fierce clashes between al-Burhan's and Hemedti’s forces. The latter tried to make up for their lack of aircraft by taking control of airports and destroying government planes, as the rebels did in el-Fasher exactly 20 years before.

Of el-Fasher’s four hospitals, three had to close, and some were looted. One remained accessible and was turned into a crowded surgical ward, where doctors from all hospitals were able to take care of more than 600 injured people.

Even with fighting concentrated in Khartoum, Darfur appears to still make up the largest share of the national count – more than 1,000 deaths and 11,000 injured by June 17 - all figures which are widely believed to be underestimated and appear not to fully include Darfur.

Yet, as always, the situation remains fluid. With little hope in international efforts to broker a ceasefire, local players across Darfur decided to take matters into their own hands. Traditional leaders, revolutionary activists and rebels - more or less connected and influential depending on the area - tried to obtain truces. They had some success in towns like el-Fasher. In others, the fatigue of 20 years of war may not yet be enough to extinguish the fire.

Source: Al Jazeera