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Parties in the Darfur Conflict

Distribution of Tribes/Ethnic Groups in Darfur

Approximately 80 tribes live in this region, with about 27 of these classified as Arabs, and the rest non-Arabs.  Some of the tribes that consider themselves Arabic include: Rizzeyqat, Beni Halba, Ta’aisha, Habbaniya, Ziyaddiya, Fulbe, Ja’aliyin, Misseriya, Djawama, Beni Helba, Meidob Habania, Beni Hussein, Ateefat, Humur, Khuzam, Khawabeer, Beni Jarrar, Batahin, Mahameed, Ma’aliyah among others.

Tribes considered non-Arabs include the Fur, Masalit, Zaghawa, Bideyat, Tama, Mima, Berti, Bargo, Kanein, Birgid, Dajo, Tunjur, Berti, Kuraan, Erenga, Kanein, Barno, Mararit, Fellata, Jebel, Sambat, Hadahid, Gimir among others. The major tribes in Darfur are the Zaghawa, Fur and Masalit.

The predominantly nomadic (Arab) tribes occupied the larger part of Northern Darfur and the predominantly sedentary group (Non-Arab), mainly composed of peasant farmers, occupied the western and southern regions of Darfur. These communities were identified as cattle keepers, Baqqara, versus those who never kept cattle, non-Baqqara. Cattle ownership was a symbol of economic status, and one could move from being a Baqqara to a non-Baqqara, and vice versa, depending on the cattle one had.

Describing people by the color of their skin was common, although it only took on racist overtones later. Communities who categorized themselves as Arabs tended to have lighter complexions while the non-Arabs were described as black (Zurug). More research needs to be done to understand when in Darfur's history the use of skin color began to take on racial undertones, and what caused this racial dynamic, considering the many years of migration and intermarriage among communities in the region