The War in Darfur is a military conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Unlike the Second Sudanese Civil War, the current lines of conflict are seen to be ethnic and tribal, rather than religious. One side of the armed conflict is composed mainly of the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed, a militia group recruited mostly from the Arab Abbala tribes of the northern Rizeigat, camel-herding nomads. The other side comprises a variety of rebel groups, notably the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement, recruited primarily from the land-tilling non-Arab Fur, Zaghawa, and Massaleit ethnic groups. The Sudanese government, while publicly denying that it supports the Janjaweed, has provided money and assistance to the militia and has participated in joint attacks targeting the tribes from which the rebels draw support. The conflict began in February 2003.
The combination of decades of drought, desertification, and overpopulation are among the causes of the Darfur conflict, because the Baggara nomads searching for water have to take their livestock further south, to land mainly occupied by Black African farming communities.
There are many casualty estimates most concurring on a range within the hundreds of thousands of people. The United Nations estimates that the conflict has left as many as 500,000 dead from violence and disease. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that 100,000 have died each year because of government attacks. Most non-governmental organizations use 200,000 to more than 400,000; the latter is a figure from the Coalition for International Justice. Sudan's government claims that over 9,000 people have been killed. As many as 2.5 million are thought to have been displaced as of October 2006. (see Mortality Figures section, below).
The Sudanese government has been accused of suppressing information by jailing and killing witnesses since 2004 and tampered with evidence such as mass graves to eliminate their forensic value. In addition, by obstructing and arresting journalists, the Sudanese government has been able to obscure much of what has gone on. The United States government has described it as genocide, although the UN has stated it is not genocide (see List of declarations of genocide in Darfur). In March 2007 the UN mission accused Sudan's government of orchestrating and taking part in "gross violations" in Darfur and called for urgent international action to protect civilians there. After fighting stopped in July and August, on 31 August 2006, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 1706 which called for a new 20,600-troop UN peacekeeping force called UNAMID to supplant or supplement a poorly funded and ill-equipped 7,000-troop African Union Mission in Sudan peacekeeping force. Sudan strongly objected to the resolution and said that it would see the UN forces in the region as foreign invaders. The next day, the Sudanese military launched a major offensive in the region.
On 14 July 2008, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC), filed ten charges of war crimes against Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. The ICC's prosecutors have claimed that al-Bashir "masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part" three tribal groups in Darfur because of their ethnicity. The ICC's prosecutor for Darfur, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is expected within months to ask a panel of ICC judges to issue an arrest warrant for al-Bashir. The ICC prosecutor's indictment has drawn widespread international criticism.
|List of abbreviations used in this article|
AU: African Union
DLF: Darfur Liberation Front
ICC: International Criminal Court
IDP: Internally Displaced Person
JEM: Justice and Equality Movement
NRF: National Redemption Front
SLA: Sudan Liberation Army
SLM: Sudan Liberation Movement
SPLA: Sudan People's Liberation Army
UN: United Nations
UNAMID: United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur
UNSC: United Nations Security Council
A meta-analysis of rainfall and other economic and population data, however, finds no correlation between rainfall patterns in Darfur and ethnic conflict there.
A point of particular confusion has been the characterization of the conflict as one between 'Arab' and 'African' populations, a dichotomy that one historian describes as "both true and false". It is important to distinguish the Sudanese Arab from other Arabs of the Middle East. Sudanese Arabs are descended primarily from the ancient Nubians. In terms of racial origin, it is not clear what specific racial or ethnic group the Nubians originated from. Over a period of centuries, Arab immigration into the Sudan, intermarriage among Nubians and Arabs, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language, Arabised the Nubians into the Sudanese Arab of today. In appearance, the Nubians look similar to the Ethiopians and Eritreans; at one point, they shared a common history with the latter.
In the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century, the Keira dynasty of the Fur people of the Marrah Mountains established a sultanate with Islam as the state religion. The sultanate was conquered by the Turco-Egyptian force expanding south along the Nile, which was in turn defeated by the Muhammad Ahmad, the self-proclaimed Mahdi. The Mahdist state collapsed under the onslaught of the British force led by Herbert Kitchener, who established an Anglo-Egyptian co-dominium to rule Sudan. The British allowed Darfur de jure autonomy until 1916 when they invaded and incorporated the region into Sudan. Within Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, the bulk of resources were devoted toward Khartoum and Blue Nile Province, leaving the rest of the country relatively undeveloped.
The inhabitants of the Nile Valley, which had received the bulk of British investment, continued the pattern of economic and political marginalization after independence was achieved in 1956. In the 1968 elections, factionalism within the ruling Umma Party led candidates, notably Sadiq al-Mahdi, to try to split off portions of the Darfuri electorate either by blaming the region's underdevelopment on the Arabs, in the case of appeals to the stationary peoples, or by appealing to the Baggara semi-nomads to support their fellow Nile Arabs. This Arab-African dichotomy was exacerbated after Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi became focused on establishing an Arab belt across the Sahel and promulgated an ideology of Arab supremacy. As a result of a sequence of interactions between Sudan, Libya and Chad from the late 1950s through the 1980s, including the creation of the Libyan-supported Islamic Legion, Sudanese President Gaafar Nimeiry established Darfur as a rear base for the rebel force led by Hissène Habré, which was attempting to overthrow the Chadian government and was also anti-Gaddafi.
In 1983 and 1984, the rains failed and the region was plunged into a famine. The famine killed an estimated 95,000 people out of a population of 3.1 million. Nimeiry was overthrown on 5 April 1985, and Sadiq al-Mahdi came out of exile, making a deal with Gaddafi, which al-Mahdi did not honor, to turn over Darfur to Libya if he was supplied with the funds to win the upcoming elections.
In early 2003, two local rebel groups — the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) — accused the government of oppressing non-Arabs. The SLM, which is much larger than the JEM, is generally associated with the Fur and Masalit, as well as the Wagi clan of the Zaghawa, while the JEM is associated with the Kobe clan of Zaghawa. Later that year, leaders of both groups, the Sudanese Government and representatives of the International diplomatic community were brought together in Geneva by the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue to look at ways of addressing the humanitarian crisis. In 2004, the JEM joined the Eastern Front, a group set up in 2004 as an alliance between two eastern tribal rebel groups, the Rashaida tribe's Free Lions and the Beja Congress. The JEM has also been accused of being controlled by Hassan al-Turabi.
On 20 January 2006, SLM declared a merger with the Justice and Equality Movement to form the Alliance of Revolutionary Forces of West Sudan. However, in May of that year, the SLM and JEM were again negotiating as separate entities.
On 18 September 2004, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1564, which called for a Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to assess the Sudanese conflict. On 31 January 2005, the UN released a 176-Page report saying that while there were mass murders and rapes, they could not label it as genocide because "genocidal intent appears to be missing". Many activists, however, refer to the crisis in Darfur as a genocide, including the Save Darfur Coalition and the Genocide Intervention Network. These organizations point to statements by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, referring to the conflict as a genocide. Other activists organizations, such as Amnesty International, while calling for international intervention, avoid the use of the term genocide.
In May 2006 Minni Minnawi's faction of the main rebel group, the Sudanese Liberation Movement, agreed to a draft peace agreement with the Sudanese government. The other faction of the SLM, led by Abdel Wahid Mohammed Ahmed El-Nur, the founding leader of SLM, refrained from signing the agreement. On 5 May, the agreement, drafted in Abuja, Nigeria, was signed by Minnawi's faction and the Sudanese government.
The on-going conflict in Darfur, Sudan, which started in 2003, was declared a "genocide" by United States Secretary of State Colin Powell on 9 September 2004 in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Since that time however, no other permanent member of the United Nations Security Council has followed suit. In fact, in January 2005, an International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1564 of 2004, issued a report to the Secretary-General stating that "the Government of the Sudan has not pursued a policy of genocide." Nevertheless, the Commission cautioned that "The conclusion that no genocidal policy has been pursued and implemented in Darfur by the Government authorities, directly or through the militias under their control, should not be taken in any way as detracting from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated in that region. International offences such as the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide."
To address the dire human rights and humanitarian emergency in Darfur, the United Nations has taken several steps, but all of these have been frustrated by the Government of Sudan with the support of a number of other governments, including Egypt and Algeria.
In January 2005, the UN Secretary-General's International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur issued a well documented report that indicated that there was by then already some 1.6 million internally displaced persons as a result of the ongoing violence, more than 200,000 refugees from Darfur into neighbouring Chad, and that Government forces and allied militia had committed widespread and consistent war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, torture, mass rape, summary executions and arbitrary detention. The Commission found that technically there was not a genocide in the legal sense of the term but that massive violations of human rights and humanitarian law were continuing. The Commission also found that the Janjaweed militia operated alongside or with ground or air logistical support from the Government's armed forces.
In early 2007, a High Level Mission on the situation of human rights in Darfur was set up to look into reports of ongoing violations and to try to work with the Government of the Sudan to put a stop to the atrocities. The Mission was led by Nobel Prize Winner Jody Williams and included a number of diplomats and human rights practitioners. The Mission travelled to Ethiopia and Chad but it was never admitted into Sudanese territory itself because the Government refused to issue visas to the Mission. As a result, the High Level Mission could only collect information and in its report of March 2007, it underlined the Government's responsibility to protect civilians in Darfur, noting with regret the Government's abject failure to fulfill this responsibility.
Around the same time, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed seven UN human rights special rapporteurs to form a group of experts on Darfur. This group was composed of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, the Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Coordinator of the group of experts was Lyal Sunga. In June 2007, the group of experts issued a report that compiled pre-existing recommendations that had been already issued by UN human rights bodies in order to get the Government to implement them. On 11 December 2007, the group of experts issued its final 106-page report to the Human Rights Council which details the status of the Government's implementation of the recommendations the group had brought together and which concluded that the Government's implementation of human rights recommendations has been largely inadequate.
Attacks in January 2008 and February 2008 by Sudanese forces on Darfur villagers are described in a U.N. report, from 20 March 2008, as "violations of international humanitarian and human rights law."
In March 2005, the Security Council formally referred the situation in Darfur to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, taking into account the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1564 of 2004, but without mentioning any specific crimes. Two permanent members of the Security Council, the United States and China, abstained from the vote on the referral resolution. As of his fourth report to the Security Council, the Prosecutor has found "reasonable grounds to believe that the individuals identified [in the UN Security Council Resolution 1593] have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes," but did not find sufficient evidence to prosecute for genocide.
In April 2007, the Judges of the ICC issued arrest warrants against the former Minister of State for the Interior, Ahmad Harun, and a Militia Janjaweed leader, Ali Kushayb, for crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Sudan Government says that the ICC had no jurisdiction to try Sudanese citizens and that it will not hand the two men over to its custody.
On 14 July 2008, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC), filed ten charges of war crimes against Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. The ICC's prosecutors have claimed that al-Bashir "masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part" three tribal groups in Darfur because of their ethnicity. The ICC's prosecutor for Darfur, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is expected within months to ask a panel of ICC judges to issue an arrest warrant for al-Bashir. Leaders from three Darfur tribes are suing ICC prosecutor Luis-Moreno Ocampo for libel, defamation, and igniting hatred and tribalism.
The evidence was submitted to 3 judges who will decide whether to issue an arrest warrant in the coming months. 300,000 people have died and 5 million people were forced from their homes, and still under attack from government-backed janjaweed militia. If formally charged, al-Bashir would become the first sitting head of state charged with genocide. Bashir has rejected the charges and said, "Whoever has visited Darfur, met officials and discovered their ethnicities and tribes ... will know that all of these things are lies.
It is suspected that al-Bashir would not face trial in The Hague any time soon, as Sudan rejects the ICC's jurisdiction. Payam Akhavan, a professor of international law at McGill University in Montreal and a former war crimes prosecutor, says although he may not go to trial, "He will effectively be in prison within the Sudan itself...Al-Bashir now is not going to be able to leave the Sudan without facing arrest. Nevertheless, since the indictment, Bashir made his first trip to Turkey.
Some analysts think that the ICC indictment is counterproductive. It is believed that the decision will hinder the efforts to establish peace in Darfur, and will undermine any effort to boost stability in Sudan. Some think that the ICC is guilty of exaggeration and hypocrisy with the indictment because of how those responsible for the crises in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been prosecuted.
Most Arab and African governments have condemned the indictments, which some see as politically motivated. Some see the indictment as an attempt to blackmail Sudan and interfere in its internal affairs. Others expressed resentment towards what they call double standards on Sudan. It has been suggested that the ICC should have dealt all of the world's conflicts, such as Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. The Sudanese Government alleged that colonial powers are seeking to dominate their country. Some have interpreted the indictment as an attempt to overthrow the Sudanese Government. The African Union demanded the ICC to suspend the indictment against the Sudanese President. China expressed "serious concern" over the indictment. A foreign ministry spokesman urged the parties concerned to avoid complicating the situation in Sudan.
Gérard Prunier, a scholar specializing in African conflicts, argues that the world's most powerful countries have largely limited their response to expressions of concern and demands that the United Nations take action. The UN, lacking both the funding and military support of the wealthy countries, has left the African Union to deploy a token force (AMIS) without a mandate to protect civilians. In the lack of foreign political will to address the political and economic structures that underlie the conflict, the international community has defined the Darfur conflict in humanitarian assistance terms and debated the "genocide" label.
On 16 October 2006, Minority Rights Group (MRG) published a critical report, challenging that the UN and the great powers could have prevented the deepening crisis in Darfur and that few lessons appear to have been drawn from their ineptitude during the Rwandan Genocide. MRG's executive director, Mark Lattimer, stated that: "this level of crisis, the killings, rape and displacement could have been foreseen and avoided ... Darfur would just not be in this situation had the UN systems got its act together after Rwanda: their action was too little too late. On 20 October, 120 genocide survivors of the Holocaust, the Cambodian and Rwandan Genocides, backed by six aid agencies, submitted an open letter to the European Union, calling on them to do more to end the atrocities in Darfur, with a UN peacekeeping force as "the only viable option." Aegis Trust director, James Smith, stated that while "the African Union has worked very well in Darfur and done what it could, the rest of the world hasn't supported those efforts the way it should have done with sufficient funds and sufficient equipment.
"Human Rights First" claimed that over 90% of the light weapons currently being imported by Sudan and used in the conflict are from China; however, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)'s "Arms Transfers Data for 2007", in 2003-2007, Sudan received 87 per cent of its major conventional weapons from Russia and 8 per cent from China. Human rights advocates and opponents of the Sudanese government portray China's role in providing weapons and aircraft as a cynical attempt to obtain oil and gas just as colonial powers once supplied African chieftains with the military means to maintain control as they extracted natural resources. According to China's critics, China has offered Sudan support threatening to use its veto on the U.N. Security Council to protect Khartoum from sanctions and has been able to water down every resolution on Darfur in order to protect its interests in Sudan. Accusations of the supply of weapons from China in breach of a UN embargo continue to arise.
There has been further evidence of the Sudanese government's murder of civilians to actually facilitate the extraction of oil. The U.S.-funded Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, which investigates attacks in southern Sudan concluded that "as the Government of Sudan sought to clear the way for oil exploration and to create a cordon sanitaire around the oil fields, vast tracts of the Western Upper Nile Region in southern Sudan became the focus of extensive military operations." Sarah Wykes, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, an NGO that campaigns for better natural resource governance, says: "Sudan has purchased about $100m in arms from China and has used these weapons against civilians in Darfur."
Calls for sustained pressure and possible boycotts of the Olympics have come from French presidential candidate François Bayrou, actor and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow, Genocide Intervention Network Representative Ronan Farrow, author and Sudan scholar Eric Reeves and The Washington Post editorial board. Sudan divestment efforts have also concentrated on PetroChina, the national petroleum company with extensive investments in Sudan.
On the opposite side of the issue, publicity given to the Darfur conflict has been criticized in some segments of the Arab media as exaggerated. Statements to this effect take the view that "the (Israeli) lobby prevents any in-depth discussion and diverts the attention from the crimes committed every day in Palestine and Iraq. and that Western attention to the Darfur crisis is "a cover for what is really being planned and carried out by the Western forces of hegemony and control in our Arab world." While "in New York, ... there are thousands of nude posters screaming 'genocide' and '400,000 people dead," in reality only "200,000 have been killed." Furthermore, "what has been done" in Darfur is "not genocide," simply "war crimes." Another complaint made is that "there is no ethnic cleansing being perpetrated" in Darfur, only "great instability" and "clashes between the Sudanese government, rebel movements and the Janjaweed.
Accurate numbers of dead have been difficult to estimate, partly because the Sudanese government places formidable obstacles in front of journalists attempting to cover the conflict. In September 2004, the World Health Organization estimated there had been 50,000 deaths in Darfur since the beginning of the conflict, an 18-month period, mostly due to starvation. An updated estimate the following month put the number of deaths for the 6-month period from March to October 2004 due to starvation and disease at 70,000; These figures were criticized, because they only considered short periods and did not include violent deaths. A more recent British Parliamentary Report has estimated that over 300,000 people have died, and others have estimated even more.
In March 2005, the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland estimated that 10,000 were dying each month excluding deaths due to ethnic violence. An estimated 2 million people had at that time been displaced from their homes, mostly seeking refuge in camps in Darfur's major towns. Two hundred thousand had fled to neighboring Chad.
In an April 2005 report, the Coalition for International Justice estimated that 400,000 people in Darfur had died since the conflict began.
In May 2005, the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) of the School of Public Health of the Université catholique de Louvain in Brussels, Belgium published an analysis of mortality in Darfur. Their estimate stated that from September 2003 to January 2005, between 98,000 and 181,000 persons had died in Darfur, including from 63,000 to 146,000 excess deaths.
On 28 April 2006, Dr. Eric Reeves argued that "extant data, in aggregate, strongly suggest that total excess mortality in Darfur, over the course of more than three years of deadly conflict, now significantly exceeds 450,000," but this has not been independently verified.
A 21 September 2006 article by the official UN News Service stated that "UN officials estimate over 400,000 people have lost their lives and some 2 million more have been driven from their homes. However, the UN disclosed on 22 April 2008 that it might have underestimated the Darfur death toll by nearly 50 percent.
In November 2006, the United States Government Accountability Office convened a group of experts to evaluate the different mortality figures for Darfur. These experts expressed the highest level of confidence in the estimates by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED)."
Armed militias in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region are continuing to rape women and girls with impunity, an expert from the United Nations children’s agency said today on her return from a mission to the region. Pamela Shifman, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) adviser on violence and sexual exploitation, said she heard dozens of harrowing accounts of sexual assaults – including numerous reports of gang-rapes – when she visited internally displaced persons (IDPs) at one camp and another settlement in North Darfur last week. “Rape is used as a weapon to terrorize individual women and girls, and also to terrorize their families and to terrorize entire communities,” she said in an interview with the UN News Service. “No woman or girl is safe.”
In that article Pamela Shifman also reported:
Ms. Shifman said every woman or girl she spoke to had either endured sexual assault herself, or knew of someone who had been attacked, particularly when they left the relative safety of their IDP camp or settlement to find firewood.
YouTube Genocide in Darfur: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3IW5ma454A
Ten Years of War in Darfur - Press Statement Patrick Ventrell Acting Deputy Spokesperson , Office of the Spokesperson
Feb 26, 2013; WASHINGTON -- The following information was released by the U.S. Department of State: Press Statement Patrick Ventrell Acting...