Rizeigat tribe

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A Rizighat warrior.jpg
Rizeigat warrior
EthnicityBaggara Arab
LocationDarfur (Sudan)
LanguageSudanese Arabic
ReligionSunni Islam

The Rizeigat, or Rizigat, or Rezeigat (Standard Arabic Rizayqat) are a Muslim and Arabic tribe of the nomadic Bedouin Baggara (Standard Arabic Baqqara) people in Sudan's Darfur region. The Rizeigat belong to the greater Baggara Arabs fraternity of Darfur and Kordofan and speak Chadic Arabic. Numbering over one million, the Baggara are the second largest group in Western Sudan, extending into Eastern Chad. They are primarily nomadic cattle herders and their journeys are dependent upon the seasons of the year. They are a branch of the Juhayna group. They are divided into the Abbala (camel-herding) Rizeigat, who live in northern Darfur and Chad, and the Baggara who inhabit south-east Darfur. In turn they are divided into several large clans, notably the Mahamid, Mahariya and Nawaiba. The Mahamid, led by Sheikh Musa Hilal, have been deeply implicated in the Darfur conflict.[citation needed]

The Rizeigat are the largest and most powerful of the Arab people in Darfur. Most live in southeast Darfur. The Rizeigat are composed of three main divisions which are each further subdivided. The Northern Rizeigat herd camels and the Southern Rizeigat herd cattle.[1]

The ecological differences between the north and south of Sudan allowed for two different types of nomadism to evolve: camel herders in the north and cattle herders in the south. The people who made up the precursors to the Janjaweed mainly come from the Baggara (cattle herders) who speak Arabic and are Muslim. They live in the west of Sudan, mainly south of Jebel Marra and both north and south of Kordofan. A subsection of the Baggara, the Northern Rizaygat, are one of the largest groups who make up the Janjaweed.[2]

The Rizeigat backed the Sudanese government during the conflict with the SPLA and in Darfur. They formed frontline units as well as Murahleen, mounted raiders that attacked southern villages to loot valuables and slaves. [3] During the Second Sudanese Civil War thousands of Dinka women and children were abducted and subsequently enslaved by members of the Messiria and Rizeigat tribes. An unknown number of children from the Nuba tribe were similarly abducted and enslaved.[4]

In the recent Darfur conflict the Baggara Rizeigat joined the government troops under Janjaweed militias to exterminate rebels. Their leader, Musa Hilal, has become the most prominent Janjaweed leader in Sudan. Historically, the tribe supported and participated in recent southern conflicts. That is why the tribe was not allowed to be part of the southern peace process.

Northern Rizeigat[edit]

The Northern Rizeigat are Arab nomads who herd camels. They are the largest and most powerful of the Arab people in Darfur[citation needed]. Most live in north-east Darfur. Like most nomads, their identity and livelihoods are linked through their animals. They are pastoralists from whom the Janjaweed were almost exclusively recruited. The term Janjaweed tends to be synonymous with the ‘Northern Rizeigat’.[5] Baggara of Sudan: Culture and Environment

Rizeigat of northern Darfur – the Abbala Rizeigat - bordered from north by Libya; on the eastern side, bordered by Ziyadia, Berti, and Meidoub; on the western side, bordered by Fur and Katinga tribes (Adam 2012).[5]


Camels are at the center of status and identity. Ownership of camels is directly related to the power of the tribe and defines the nomads relationships to land, resources, and farmers. Owning camels has produced systems that allowed for a symbiotic relationship between the nomads and settled farmers. However, certain pressures have negatively affected this livelihood. These range from population growth and increases in farming (including associated economic and commercial agriculture) to climate change and restrictive legislation. This challenged their lifestyle and led to feeding competition between the nomads and farmers, which shepherds in inevitable conflict.[6]


Power is closely linked to education and it fuels how they understand themselves, their status, and attaining power. The nomads are aware of their lack of education and therefore influence. This leads to a desire for education which pressures them to convert to a sedentary lifestyle with the idea of making education more accessible.[6]

Southern Rizeigat[edit]

They live in the South of Darfur and herd cattle. This group was known as the murahaliin.[7]

Rizeigat of southern Darfur - the Baggara Rizeigat - bordered from south by Bahr El Arab – at about 26 km (~ 16 miles) south of Bahr El Arab; on the eastern side, bordered by Dar Hamar and Missiriyya; on the north bordered by Al Bigo, Dajo and Birgid (Al Hassan 1995), and on the west, bordered by Habbaniya tribe.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cockett, R., 2010, Sudan: Darfur and the Failure of an African State, Yale UP.
  2. ^ Thelwall, R., 2011, Darfur Land & People Part 2, Calgary: University of Calgary.
  3. ^ ""Sudan: Breaking the Abyei Deadlock"" (PDF). (456 KiB), International Crisis Group, 12 October 2007, p. 2
  4. ^ United States Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Sudan, 4 June 2008". Online. UNHCR Refworld, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/484f9a3ec.html [accessed 24 June 2008]
  5. ^ a b c Adam, Biraima M. 2012. Baggara of Sudan: Culture and Environment, Amazon online Books. Baggara of Sudan: Culture and Environment
  6. ^ a b Young, Osman, Abusin, Asher, and Egemi, 2009, Livelihoods, Power, and Choice -- The Vulnerability of the Northern Rizaygat, Darfur, Sudan, Feinstein International Center.
  7. ^ Flint, J., 2009, Beyond ‘Janjaweed ’: Understanding the Militias of Darfur, Switzerland: Small Arms Survey.