Turning to the facts, one thing we can say for sure is that there is no ethnic conflict in Darfur between ‘Arabs’ and ‘Africans’. According to Alex de Waal, author of Famine That Kills, about Darfur, it is a crude oversimplification to speak of the Janjaweed militia as ‘Arab’. ‘The people of the region are essentially African,’ he says. ‘They are all black, and you cannot tell one group from another simply by looking at them.’ Sometimes the so-called ‘Arabs’ are darker than the ‘Africans’. Intermarriage over the centuries has meant that the ethnic groups are indistinguishable from each other.

The people of Darfur are all Muslim. Some speak a version of Arabic, although Arabs to the north of the Sahara, in Tunis or Cairo, would view it as a quaint dialect. The term ‘African’ is a new coinage when applied to Darfur: it did not exist 20 years ago. This whole vocabulary of ethnicity is the result of years of conflict, with one group associating itself with new, irredentist strains of Arabism, while the other sought foreign sympathy through the most ubiquitous label of victimhood known on the planet — ‘African’. Confusingly, the ‘Arabs’ in Darfur are often less Islamist than the non-Arab ‘Africans’. ~ Daniel Wolf, The Spectator