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Tijani Seisi: The master of disaster in Darfur.

By Anne Bartlett January 31, 2012 -- Tijani Seisi is a man with an extremely dubious past and an even more dubious future where Darfur is concerned. Not content with creating chaos and polarized ethnic relations in Darfur during the 1980's, he now seems to be presiding over a re-run of these problems as he takes the helm of the Darfur Regional Authority in 2012. Unable to learn from his own mistakes, he is now moving, full steam ahead, in the same chaotic direction once again -- this time with the NCP, the international community and the head of the UNAMID peacekeeping mission Ibrahim Gambari, following closely behind. The big question here is why the international community and UNAMID, with all their intelligence gathering capabilities, are so blind to the lessons of history? The other pertinent question is why a "son" of Darfur could do so much damage to his own people? As I will show, the answer lies in an examination of his past, his desperate attempts to shed his Darfur identity and the tenuous relationship he has built with the people he purports to serve. All of these problems were first illustrated in an encounter I had with Seisi at the beginning of 2003. At that time, Seisi was based in west London working as a director of a refugee consortium when inflows of people from Darfur started to reach their height. One might have assumed that as a former Governor of Darfur, he would have welcomed his kinsmen who were fleeing the violence in the region with open arms. One might also have assumed that he would have used the resources of the refugee center with equity and responsibility to help those who were traumatized by the violence. In fact, the reverse was true. Seisi spent his time making speeches that denied anything was happening in Darfur. Moreover, he and his wife, made every effort possible to deny any help to those who had been affected. When I asked him why he was behaving in this manner, his response was that all those who opposed the Sudanese government in Darfur were "terrorists". It is then, a rather a strange turn of events that the man who thought that all Darfuris were "terrorists," is now claiming to save those very same people and to restore the Darfur region to stability. For any normal person, this behavior would indeed be inexplicable, but for Tigani Seisi it is simply business as usual. Born into the elite in Darfur, having little in common with those around him, he has always had his eye on Khartoum rather than Darfur itself. Yet in order for him to pursue these ambitions, he has had to shed his Darfuri skin and pretend to be something else instead. As a result, he has assiduously cut his relationships in Darfur, thereby denying his Darfuri identity and his links to the region. Instead of focusing on Darfur, he has cozied up to the elites in Khartoum acquiring all the political credentials and connections he needed to succeed in this world. However, despite these efforts, his lack of innate political ability has always shone through. Starting with his unmitigated disaster as Governor of Darfur under the patronage of the Umma Party in the 1980's, he has failed to cultivate any genuine following among Darfuris in the region or in diaspora. Reduced to creating an NCP sponsored movement - the oddly titled "Liberation and Justice Movement"- he had anything but liberation or justice in mind. Instead, his goal appears to be a familiar strategy of "confuse and conquer" where Darfur is concerned -- a strategy he has had a lot of practice with and knows exactly how to get right. Today as he returns as a stooge of the NCP, he presides as "master of disaster" over Darfur. Given this position as a consolation prize for his loss of the vice-President position to Al-Haj Adam, Seisi is now trying to prove himself a worthy candidate for Bashir and his cronies. His "worthiness" is predicated on the complete cultural and demographic re-engineering of Darfur. It is also predicated on the re-tribalization of the region and yet another attempt by the NCP to carve Darfur into smaller and smaller pieces. The demographic and cultural manipulation of Darfur has been ongoing for some while and Seisi is, of course, the perfect choice to recreate the region in Khartoum's image. For example, in many parts of Darfur, the culture of the local area has been erased with a new retitling strategy. For example, Fugu Fukka (Fur) also known as Jebel Amhar (meaning red mountain), was changed to El-Waha (Arabic for oasis). Nyga Duolo (Fur, meaning valley), was changed to Naaga dalow (Arabic, meaning a female unloaded camel). Dogei (Fur, meaning worn out plough), was changed to Um Al Gura (Arabic, meaning mother of all villages) -- a reference to Medina in Saudi Arabia. This process has also been accompanied by the re-contouring of the landscape so that in many locations, the land is almost unrecognizable to the local people. Following on from previous election irregularities and attempts to redraw boundaries in Darfur we are also seeing new attempts to divide the population along "tribal" lines. Not content with carving the region into three, Seisi has now presided over the addition of two more states. Today the Fur people have been herded like sheep into central Darfur; the Massaliit to west Darfur; the Rezeigat to east Darfur, the Habbania to south Darfur and so on. Each area has its own governor with an ethnic affiliation to match. All of this is suspiciously reminiscent of British policies following the annexation of Darfur in 1916, where imperial control put leaders who were friendly to the British, in charge of their "tribes" in specific locations. All we need now is a "closed district ordinance", and the pattern of desperation, underdevelopment and violence is set to repeat itself all over again. This situation may be lost on the international community, but it is not lost on the local people. Sick of attempts to create more tribal tension, a rapidly deteriorating security situation, dwindling food supplies and an almost complete lack of humanitarian aid, the people took to the streets in Nyala this week, setting fire to the police station and the municipal building which houses NCP officials. Their demands to rid the country of the NCP are likely to fall on deaf ears for now, but are unlikely to end, because like so many other authoritarian regimes that have come to a sticky end recently, the people have legitimate grievances that cannot be denied. Seisi, who prefers to sit on his hands while chaos reigns down around him is in the position he is historically most comfortable with: a master of disaster who presides over chaos and confusion while serving his own interests and those of his handlers in Khartoum. However, while he has denied his connection to the people of Darfur and has studiously avoided engaging the real issues, the question still remains about how long he will be able to divert the people from realizing that their strength lies in unity with each other. My guess is, not long. Seisi's second chaotic tenure is therefore likely to be short lived and on the day he is ousted, he may very well find himself beating a hasty retreat from the region -- this time, with any luck, for good. Dr. Anne Bartlett is Professor of Sociology and International Studies at the University of San Francisco. She is also Director of the Darfur Reconciliation and Development Organization (www.drdoafrica.org). She may be reached at albartlett@usfca.edu

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Publication:Sudan Tribune (Sudan)
Geographic Code:6SUDA
Date:Feb 1, 2012
Words:1287
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