Beginning in February of 2003, the war in Darfur startedwhen two rebel groups known as the Sudan Liberation Movement and Justice andEquality Movement attacked the Sudanese government. It has since been describedby the United Nations as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” leading tothe death and displacement of an estimated two million people. Located inWestern Sudan and annexed to Egyptian Sudan in 1875, Darfur consists of a mixedArab and African population and has exhibited patterns of unstable economicdevelopment in recent years. Causes of conflict in the region have mainly beenattributed to existing apartheid and an ongoing religious civil war betweenArabs and non-Arabs, as well as land disputes, water access, and the presenceof rebel groups. As this conflict continues to exist due to Sudan’s weakgovernmental structure and domestic issues, along with failed internationalefforts for peace, it is therefore important to examine: to what extent doesthe current political and social state of Sudan exacerbate conflict in Darfuror allow for future reconciliations? To investigate this research question, Iwill focus on research within the fields of IB Global Politics and IB History. Dueto the prominent role of the Sudanese government, a mixture of politicalinstability and social insecurity has only worsened the situation, and the lackof an effective international response has only allowed the status of theconflict in Darfur to remain bleak.
Historyand Geography of the Area Sudan is Africa’s largest country, with neighboringcountries including Libya, Chad, and the Central African Republic. Darfur liesin the Western region of Sudan, and is approximately the size of Spain. InArabic, Darfur means “Land of the Fur.” Arabs compose a majority of thepopulation in the province, with the main ethnic groups being the Fur, Zaghawa,Masalit, Tunjur, Daju, Nubian, and Beja peoples. Despite the large number ofethnicities in Sudan, “A longhistory of internal migration, mixing, and intermarriage in Darfur have createdremarkable ethnic fluidity… For instance, in the Darfur context, for the mostpart the term “Arab” is used as an occupational rather than an ethniclabel, for the majority of the Arabic speaking groups are pastoralists” (Sikainga1).
Darfur is home to around six million people. However, refugees have flockedto bordering countries of the Central African Republic and Chad for safety. Whenexamining the conflict in Darfur, it is important to examine its previouspolitical and social history. From 1899 to 1955, Sudan was underBritish-Egyptian rule; it was only until 1956 that Sudan became an electedstate. After a series of civil wars, usually between the North and the South,first beginning in 1962, along with a series of military coups, violence in theregion has been long-lasting. In 1983, the president of the time, PresidentNumeiri, introduced Sharia Islamic law.
Background and Causes of the ConflictTheconflict in Darfur is considered the “first genocide of the twenty-firstcentury” and one of the worst crimes against humanity in the modern world. In2003, it was labeled as a humanitarian emergency zone, with mass killings ofmen, women, and children. The situation is often compared to the Rwandangenocide in 1994. To begin with, Darfur was a country that was politicallymarginalized, with recurring food shortages due to lack of rainfall. The manyethnic groups of Sudan often fought over land rights (“hakurat”). Starting inthe 1980s, Arab supremacist movements started to rise, creating tensionsbetween the non-Arab populations in Darfur. The interesting thing is that theconflict did not arise over religion, as most people in Darfur are Muslims, andthere are no visible differences between the two sides. Manyaccount the causes of the conflict to a combination of political,environmental, and economic factors.
Environmental degradation has shrunk theamount of resources, resulting in tense communal conflicts. Temperatures varygreatly throughout the region, and a high dependency on crop farming as themain part of the economy creates great instability. In addition, the landtenure system further increases tensions between communities.
Under the system,each group is given a piece of property (a Dar) allocated to the wholecommunity, which is then split up by the local chief. According to Ohio StateUniversity’s Mershon Center and Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race andEthnicity, “Belonging to a Darbecame an integral part of the person’s identity.” The differences betweenpastoralists and sedentaries also became a cause for the conflict. The majorityof Darfurians lived as pastoral nomads, known for call herding and owningcamels, locally known as abbala1. Due to a droughtduring the 1980s, land available for grazing diminished, leading todisagreements between farmers and pastoralists. Often times, these conflictscould be resolved through tribal conferences, where local chiefs and customswere able to mediate peace agreements. However, the disintegration of thissystem of native rule as well as corrupt Sudanese rulers who manipulated thesesystems led to the lack of an effective conflict resolution system in times ofregional disputes.
TheJanjaweed was a militia group that had gained advantage over the other militiafactions in Sudan. A major contributor to the violence that formed thehumanitarian crisis, it was noted that Janjaweed attacks often correspondedwith attacks from the government of Sudan. According to a United NationsInter-Agency report2 on the humanitarian needsassessment mission of Sudan, “The 23 Fur villages in the ShattayaAdministrative Unit have been completely depopulated, looted and burnt to theground” due to Janjaweed fighters.Timeline of the ConflictIn2002, the war in Darfur started when two rebel groups, known as the Justice andEquality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), startedattacking the government of Sudan.
In response, the Sudanese government enacteda campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against non-Arabs. The war is largely centeredbetween Arab and non-Arab groups, with the Sudanese government recruitingJanjaweed militia groups among indigenous Arab populations and rebel groupsrecruiting non-Arab Muslims and various other ethnic groups.Mostcite that the “War in Darfur” officially started in 2003, when there was arebel strike against the airport in the capital of North Darfur, Fasher.Subsequently, rebel groups executed successful raids throughout the desert. Inresponse, the Sudanese government acted as a “counter-insurgency on the cheap”,according to Alex de Waal, the executive director of the World Peace Foundation,mainly through the use of an air force and the Janjaweed, an Arab militia, theSudanese government. During this time, villages of the Fur, Zaghawa, andMasalit peoples were bombed and there were mass accounts of killings and rapes.However,no action has been taken to stop or prevent further destruction: “Despite thefact that mass killing and rape of black Africans in Darfur, along with thesystematic destruction of their villages, began in early 2003, no outsidetroops entered Darfur until August 2004” (Totten 183). However, even then, thenumber of troops who did enter was not significant enough to have a positiveeffect in ending the conflict.
Therewere also conflicts that developed between pastoralists and sedentaries. Whilepastoralism was the main means of living for the majority of the population, aprominent cattle-herding group that inhabited the region was known as the Baqqara:”The nomads were not part of thehakura system. Hence, the nomads had to rely on customary rights to migrate andpasture their animals in areas dominated by farmers. As the nomads movedbetween the northern and the southern part of the region, specific arrangementsfor animal routes were made by their leaders and those of the farmingcommunities, and these arrangements were sanctioned by the government.
” Inaddition, “Mu`mar Gaddafi of Libya had an ambitious project in the region,which involved the creation of what he called an “Arab Belt” acrossSahelian Africa. His goal was to ensure Libya’s hegemony in the region.”Gaddafi hoped to recruit and train Arab groups on Sahel as well as pastoralistsin Darfur to create an “Islamic Legion.” Sudanese members of the legion werealso part of the Madhist sect, involved in rebel activities against the Nimeiriregime. 1 http://origins.osu.edu/article/worlds-worst-humanitarian-crisis-understanding-darfur-conflict2 http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/opinion/20040529KRIS.pdf