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El-Malam, Darfur, Sudan

Ruins of market in El-Malam.


Peacebuilding Breakthrough in Darfur


History of El-Malam Conflict in Darfur

El-Malam, part of the South Darfur state, is located in the heart of Darfur at a strategic crossroads between El Fashur, Nyala, and the Marrah Mountains. The population consists of the following tribes: Fur, Bin Mansur, Birguid, Borno, Makhuria and Dajo. From El-Malam to the west, southwest, northwest, north and northeast are areas of the Fur. The Borno and Birguid live south and southeast of El-Malam, and to the east are the Fur and Bin Mansur. All the groups residing in El-Malam and the surrounding countryside are sedentary people who practice farming, herding, and trading.


When the Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003 with rebel groups taking up arms, many Bin Mansur tribe members were recruited as Janjaweed and popular defense forces.  By the spring of 2004, several thousand people of El-Malam, mostly from the non-Arab population, had been killed, with as many as 2800 families driven from their homes to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps around city of Nyala, causing a major humanitarian crisis in the region. Three Fur villages and one Bin Mansur village in the El-Malam administrative district were completely depopulated, looted, and burned to the ground.



On November 6, 2011, the village of El-Malam in Darfur experienced a breakthrough on its journey toward reconciliation and sustainable peace. On that day all current residents – male and female, Fur and Bin Mansur – as well as many displaced former citizens joined together in dialogue to set aside their differences, encourage the displaced to return, and begin rebuilding after eight years of war. Their first step was to create a joint working committee to establish the goals and plans.


The gathering in El-Malam was the culmination of several weeks of peacebuilding meetings between representatives of the Fur and Bin Mansur which were led by Makki Ibrahim Makki, Sudan Project Manager for the Institute for Sustainable Peace, and Lukman Ahmed, chief correspondent for the BBC Arabic channel in Washington, D.C. Makki attended his first ISP Transformational Leadership Workshop in 2008, served as a peer leader in the 2009 workshop, and began working as the full time Sudan Projects Manager in August 2009.


Makki and Lukman started in Nyala by conferring independently with leaders from each tribe to explore their interest in working toward reconciliation and to identify barriers to resuming peaceful coexistence going forward. Next they brought together leaders of both tribes for two extensive, joint meetings to ease tensions between the groups. The success of those gatherings led to meetings in El-Malam with key leaders including the region’s mayor, state-level legislative representatives of El-Malam, and the leaders of civil administration of the region, including the governor of South Darfur.


The participants created a Working Group of 24 members with representation from both tribes. The Working Group includes the mayor of the region, local leaders, the region’s representative to the legislative assembly of South Darfur, and the leader of the rebel group who recently signed a peace agreement. The Working Group was tasked with: (1) continuing the reconciliation process and (2) assessing the reconstruction and development needs that will be vital to the peacebuilding effort.


The Needs

The Working Group has met several times since Lukman and Makki departed. After assessing the post-war situation in El-Malam, the Working Group identified three broad areas to address – reconciliation, reformation, and reconstruction. The reconciliation discussions in the fall of 2011 are just the start of a much longer process that must continue in order to sustain a lasting peace in the region. The Working Group asked The Institute to assist with peace training. In addition, in order for the citizens of El-Malam to rebuild their society, they must repair, and in some cases reconstruct, their devastated agricultural and economic infrastructure. They have prepared a detailed report identifying priority projects.


The Difference – Why This Will Work

This leap forward did not occur by chance, nor did it happen overnight. The seeds of success in El-Malam were planted when Makki attended his first Transformational Leadership Workshop put in 2008. Through the ISP Makki learned the conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills he used to bring the once-warring factions together for their common benefit.

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