Conflict between the Awlad Zeid and Zaghawa in Sudan

Since the early 1980s, conflicts over land and water between Awlad Zeid and Zaghawa pastoralists have become more violent due to a variety of reasons including increased drought frequency and severity. In 2001, clashes between the two groups over the use of the Bir Taweel wells left more than 70 people dead.

Conceptual Model

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksMore frequent/intense extreme weather events lead to decreased water availability.Freshwater becomes scarce as an essential resource.Land scarcity hampers agricultural production.State elites strategically use resource scarcity for political advantage/power.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to distributive conflicts between societal groups.Use of resource, livelihood, and health pressures for political advantage/power increases tensions between groups.An increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.More Frequent / Intense Extreme Weather EventsAn increase in the scarcity of clean water and/or an increased variability in water supply.Increased Water ScarcityReduced, availability of/ access to land.Increased Land ScarcityReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural ResourcesUse of resource, livelihood, and health pressures for political advantage/power.PoliticisationNon-violent or violent tensions and conflicts between different societal groups.Grievances between Societal Groups

Conflict history

The Awlad Zeid and Zaghawa have repeatedly clashed over water and land since the early 1980s. By the mid-1990s, relations between the two communities further deteriorated as ethnic divides were exploited by the Sudanese government as part of counter-insurgency strategies in Darfur. The tensions between the two groups escalated in May 2001, leaving more than 70 people dead in a dispute over the Bir Taweel wells in northern Darfur (UCDP, 2015). The implication of the Sudanese government in this event as a weapon supplier to the Awlad Zeid added to Zaghawa grievances and precipitated the formation of the rebel movement SLM/A (Sudan Liberation Movement/Army) (Brosché and Rothbart, 2013).

Water and grazing land have become an increasingly scarce resource in Sudan due to a variety of reasons such as increased drought frequency and severity, caused by climate change and an increased demand for cattle due to high population growth (Bromwich, 2008). This situation has led to frequent clashes between the Awlad Zeid and the Zaghawa since the 1980s. In 2001, the Zaghawa created four self-defence camps in response to continuous threats of violence from Awlad Zeid. The tensions between the groups climaxed in May 2001 when the Awlad Zeid staged an attack on the Zaghawa at the Bir Taweel wells (UCDP, 2015).

The implication of the Sudanese government has further fuelled local conflict along ethnic lines by favouring groups with an “Arab” identity, such as the Awlad Zeid, over those with an “African” identity, such as the Zaghawa. In its need for allies against nascent rebel movements such as the SLM/A, the central government in Khartoum armed Arab militias and encouraged them to loot and destroy villages of African communities suspected to support the rebels. The conflict between the Awlad Zeid and Zaghawa has to be seen in this context of counter-insurgency strategies by the Sudanese government (UCDP 2015; Brosché, 2012; Bradbury et al., 2006).

Conflict resolution

After the violent incident in 2001, the Sudanese Army was deployed in the area to stop the fighting and keep the Zaghawa from the wells. In the same year, a peace conference was organized by the Government of Sudan to resolve the conflict. It failed to improve the situation and the Zaghawa perceived the conference as biased. As the government was unable to successfully address grievances between the two groups, many Zaghawa joined the SLA (Sudan Liberation Army), while many Awlad Zeid joined Arab Janjaweed militias, which would become notorious for their exactions during the Darfur civil war (Bradbury at al., 2006; UCDP, 2015).

Actors

Actor
Participation
Functional group
Geographical scale
Zaghawa community
Zaghawa community
Participation
Functional group
Civil Society
Geographical scale
Internal grassroots
Government of Sudan
Government of Sudan
Participation
Functional group
Public
Geographical scale
Internal national
Conflict Party
Conflict Resolution Facilitator

Resilience and Peace Building

2

Dialogue

In 2001, the Sudanese government organized a peace conference to resolve the conflict. However, it failed to improve the situation.