The New York Times released a powerful article the other day on the changing role of militarized youth in the camps for displaced Darfuris.
Since the days of colonialism, politics in Darfur has been very closed. A few tribal elders are allowed to enter into a three-tiered political structure of tribal administration, which youth and women are largely barred from. These leaders are often co-opted and bribed by the Government of Sudan to maintain power and control over the region.
When communities of Darfuris are displaced by violence, they more or less reform in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. However, their tribal leaders or sheikhs many times use the connections they have with the Government of Sudan to flee to different, safer areas, abandoning their tribes. In this new power vacuum, the youth have stepped in to take their place.
This politicizes the youth, who watch the international scene and are largely against any form of negotiation with the Government of Sudan.
This also militarizes the youth, who are not only providing security for their camps, but have become more and more closely tied to the rebel movements. Rebel movements get many of their willing recruits from the youth in the camps to the point where the rebellion itself is seen as a youth rebellion. In fact, many youth see themselves as the political wing of the armed groups.
This complicates negotiations greatly as the rebel movements want to be responsive to what their "constituents", the IDP youths, want to see or don’t want to see. In this case, the IDPs don’t want peace talks with the Government of Sudan.
These youths are not to be disregarded as a powerful force currently in the camps, and an even more powerful force on the front lines of peace as well as the front lines of war in the days to come.