Intergroup Conflicts and Customary Mediation: Experiences from Sudan
Adam Azzain Mohamed
Recently scholars around the globe have given attention to conflict prevention, management and resolution. A considerable body of literature has been added to our academic libraries mostly by scholars from the Western societies. Conflicts in the developing areas by contrast are only minimally researched. For quite some time the assumption seems to have been made that the Western techniques of conflict prevention, management and resolution will also apply to Third World nations. Recently, however, some scholars in the developing countries began to think otherwise. Cultural diversities do not only shape our perception of conflicts but also determine techniques to be employed in handling them. The study of conflicts in the Sudan has significance for scholars in Africa, the Middle East and, indeed, around the globe. Sudan reflects the cultural heritage of Africa and the Middle East. Sudan has known a central authority that brought all its territory under effective control only since the beginning of the colonial era in 1898. Before that time local communities were largely left to administer themselves, inventing their own mechanisms for handling conflicts. Customary mediation is such an important mechanism which appears to have been effective up-to-now among tradition-bound communities. Over the course of time, and because of societal normal processes of change, government-sponsored mediations have been introduced, incorporating to a large extent indigenous practices. Lately, however, government intervention appears to be doing more harm than good, leading to the exacerbation of intergroup conflicts and the inadequacy of customary mediation to solve them. The article explores both phenomena, pinpointing what went wrong. It also argues that customary mediation, as a Sudanese practice, may have relevance for scholars in Sudan, Africa, the Middle East and indeed around the globe.