Jump to content


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

LeaderMultiple leaders, including Musa Hilal and Hemedti
Dates of operation1987–present[1][2]
Active regions Sudan
SizeUnknown (less than 25,000 est.)
OpponentsNCP (The Islamic brotherhood party in Sudan)

The Janjaweed (Arabic: جَنْجَويد, romanizedJanjawīd; also transliterated Janjawid[5]) are an Arab nomad militia group from the Sahel region[6] that operates in Sudan, particularly in Darfur, and eastern Chad.[7] They have also been speculated to be active in Yemen.[8] According to the United Nations definition, Janjaweed membership consists of Arab nomad tribes from the Sahel, the core of whom are Abbala Arabs, traditionally employed in camel herding, with significant recruitment from the Baggara.

Janjaweed nomads were initially at odds with Darfur's sedentary population due to competition over natural grazing grounds and farmland, a conflict exacerbated by dwindling rainfall and drought. The Janjaweed were a major player in the Darfur conflict between 2003 and 2020, in opposition to the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement rebels.[9][10] In 2013, the Rapid Support Forces grew out of the Janjaweed.[11]



The origin of the word Janjaweed is unclear. It may derive from the Arabic words jinn (Arabic: جِنّ, lit.'hidden, demon or insane') and ʾajāwīd (Arabic: أَجاويد, lit.'horses, horsemen'), and thus has been translated into English by some sources as "devils on horseback".[12] Other sources suggest it may derive from the Persian word jangavi (Persian: جنگجوی, lit.'warriors'),[13] or a portmanteau of three words: جَن (jan) from English "gun"; jinn; and ʾajāwīd.[14]



In Darfur, a western state in Sudan, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi supported the creation of the Tajammu al-Arabi (Arab Gathering) militia, which was described by Gérard Prunier as "a militantly racist and pan-Arabist organization which stressed the 'Arab' character of the province".[15]: 45  The Arab Gathering shared members and a source of support with the Islamic Legion, and the distinction between the two is often ambiguous.[citation needed]

The nearly continuous cross-border raids contributed to a separate ethnic conflict within Darfur that killed about 9,000 people between 1985 and 1988.[15]: 61–65  The Janjaweed leadership has some background in Gaddafi's mercenary forces.[16][17]

The Janjaweed first appeared in 1988 after Chadian president Hissène Habré, backed by France and the United States, defeated the Libyan army. Gaddafi's Chadian protégé, Acheikh Ibn-Oumar, retreated with his partisan forces to Darfur, where they were hosted by Sheikh Musa Hilal, the newly elevated chief of the Rizeigat Arab tribes of north Darfur.[citation needed] Hilal's tribesmen had earlier smuggled Libyan weapons to Ibn-Oumar's forces.[citation needed] A French-Chadian incursion destroyed Ibn-Oumar's camp, but his weapons remained with his Mahamid hosts.[citation needed]

Throughout the 1990s, the Janjaweed were Arab partisans who pursued a local agenda of controlling land, and were tolerated by the Sudan Government. The majority of Darfur’s Arabs, the Baggara, became involved in the war over grazing territory.[18][page needed] In 1999–2000, faced with threats of insurgency in Western and Northern Darfur, Khartoum’s security armed the Janjaweed forces.[citation needed]

Janjaweed are omnipresent. They are seen in marketplaces and within walking distance of refugee camps.

As the insurgency escalated in February 2003, spearheaded by the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, the Sudanese government responded by using the Janjaweed as its main counter-insurgency force. Janjaweed forces were ordered to attack and recover the rebel-held areas of Darfur, conducting a campaign against rebels in Darfur. In 2004, the U.S. State Department and others named leading Janjaweed commanders, including Musa Hilal, as genocide suspects. By early 2006, many Janjaweed had been absorbed into the Sudan Armed Forces including the Popular Defense Forces and Border Guards. Meanwhile, the Janjaweed expanded to include some Arab tribes in eastern Darfur who were not historically associated with the original Janjaweed. A political base was also reestablished in Chad as part of the United Front for Democratic Change (FUC) coalition.[3][19]

By October 2007, only the United States government had declared the Janjaweed killings in Darfur to be genocide, since they had killed an estimated 200,000–400,000 civilians over the previous three years.[20][21] The UN Security Council called for the Janjaweed to be disarmed.[citation needed] On 14 July 2008, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court filed genocide charges against Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, accusing him of masterminding attempts to wipe out African tribes in Darfur with a campaign of murder, rape and deportation.[22]

In 2013, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) were formed from the Janjaweed to fight against rebel groups in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile.[11]

Armed Janjaweed walk freely through the marketplace in Geneina

2023 rebellion


In 2023, international diplomats insisted that the RSF merge into the Sudanese Army as part of the Sudanese transition to democracy.[23] By April 2023, power struggles developed between Sudan's de facto national leader, army commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the leader of the RSF, Hemedti. On 15 April 2023, clashes between RSF and army forces erupted across the country.[23][24] By the second day of the conflict, 78 people had been reported killed. Among the dead were three World Food Programme (WFP) workers, triggering the organization to suspend its work in Sudan, where it had been a principal force in alleviating hunger. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres demanded immediate justice for the killings and called for an end to the conflict.[23][24][needs update]

Diplomats from the African Union and Saudi Arabia mediated a three-hour humanitarian ceasefire to permit the evacuation of the injured. Despite this, the battles continued, as both sides claimed to have seized control of key sites in and around the capital city.[23][24][needs update]


  1. ^ "On the run from Sudan's Arab militias - again". BBC News. 2 May 2023. Retrieved 25 March 2024.
  2. ^ "Sudan's Janjaweed Militia". PBS. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  3. ^ a b Dahir, Abdinoor Hasan. "Soldiers of Fortune: The Evolving Role of Sudanese Militias in Libya" (PDF). /researchcentre.trtworld.com. TRT WORLD research centre. Retrieved 22 September 2023. In 2006, the Janjaweed militia was absorbed into the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Border Guards. Khartoum appointed Musa Hilal, the commander of the militia, as the head of the Border Guards.
  4. ^ Etefa, Tsega (18 June 2019). ""Explainer: tracing the history of Sudan's Janjaweed militia"". theconversation.com. The Conversation Media Group Ltd. Retrieved 22 September 2023.
  5. ^ "Sudan". CIA World Factbook. Archived from the original on 14 July 2021.
  6. ^ "Janjaweed". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 27 April 2023. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  7. ^ "UN Warns Chad Violence Could Replicate Rwanda Genocide". Christian Today. Archived from the original on 19 April 2023. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  8. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. (28 December 2018). "On the Front Line of the Saudi War in Yemen: Child Soldiers From Darfur". New York Times. Archived from the original on 18 April 2023.
  9. ^ Nabati, Mikael (August 2004). "The U.N. Responds to the Crisis in Darfur: Security Council Resolution 1556". American Society of International Law. Archived from the original on 13 March 2007.
  10. ^ "Sudan signs peace deal with rebel groups from Darfur". Al Jazeera. 31 August 2020. Archived from the original on 24 September 2020.
  11. ^ a b "Who are Sudan's RSF and their commander Hemeti?". Al Jazeera English. 6 June 2019. Archived from the original on 7 June 2019. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Darfur Genocide". World Without Genocide. Archived from the original on 6 March 2023. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  13. ^ McDonell, Nick (11 November 2008). "The Activist". Harper's Magazine. ISSN 0017-789X. Archived from the original on 4 April 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  14. ^ Murad, Mahmoud (17 July 2007). "Arabs and Africans". Al-Ahram. Archived from the original on 17 July 2007. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  15. ^ a b Prunier, Gérard (2011). Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide. Cornell University Press. ISBN 9780801461941. OL 17215144M.
  16. ^ de Waal, Alex (5 August 2004). "Counter-Insurgency on the Cheap". London Review of Books. 26 (15).
  17. ^ "Terrorism and Violence in the Sudan: The Islamist Manipulation of Darfur". Jamestown. Archived from the original on 3 July 2018. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  18. ^ Jok, Jok Madut (2001). War and Slavery in Sudan (The Ethnography of Political Violence). University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 9780812217629. OL 8004494M.
  19. ^ Suleiman, Mahmoud A. (17 September 2018). "Sudanese have become prey of mercenaries and Janjawid militias". sudantribune.com. Sudan Tribune. Retrieved 22 September 2023. The Janjaweed established their presence on the Sudanese political scene very quickly. They are associated with the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), fighting alongside them in the Sudanese states of the Blue Nile and South Kordofan, as well as in the Darfur region.
  20. ^ "Sudan Genocide Declaration Stirs World". PBS. 15 September 2004. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  21. ^ Kessler, Glenn; Lynch, Colum (10 September 2004). "U.S. Calls Killings In Sudan Genocide". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 17 July 2006.
  22. ^ Corder, Mike (14 July 2008). "Sudan president charged with genocide in Darfur". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 18 July 2008.
  23. ^ a b c d El-Bawab, Nadine (15 April 2023). "Clashes erupt in Sudan between army, paramilitary group over government transition". ABC News. Archived from the original on 16 April 2023.
  24. ^ a b c "Fighting continues in Sudan despite humanitarian pause". France24. 16 April 2023. Archived from the original on 20 April 2023.