SEARCH THE COLLECTION:
Darfur
SUMMARY/OVERVIEW

There has been armed conflict among the people of Sudan for decades. In the last five years, violence has escalated in the western province of Darfur (Figure 18). The sources of this turmoil are complex and deep, but the immediate catalyst was the rebellion by many in the province who felt marginalized and ignored by the national government in Khartoum. The rebels, drawn largely although not exclusively from the Fur and Zaghawa tribes, formed military units and attacked government facilities. In response, the government authorized local militias to attack, providing air power, weapons and unconditional support. Many of the rebels come from tribes of African ancestry and the militias are comprised of those of Arabic origin, but centuries of racial, tribal and religious mixing render these labels inaccurate (Figure 17).

These government backed militias, collectively known as the Janjaweed, widened their assault well past the rebel groups and targeted civilians, destroying entire villages (Figure 20) . These attacks were notable for their brutality, totality and sexual nature, creating widespread displacement and a refugee population of at least two million people. As brutal as these attacks themselves are, the aftermath is proving to be equally horrific as the government restricts access to humanitarian aid, and life in the refugee camps (Figure 21) is a breeding ground for disease and unrest. With the complete destruction of village life, there are no homes left for many of these refugees if they were able to return. Despite a number of cease fire agreements, the violence and its aftermath continue with the advantage shifting between the Janjaweed and the rebel forces.

As the world learned of the ongoing horrors of Darfur, there have been claims of genocide and ethnic cleansing leveled at the Sudanese government, placing the combatants in racial and ethnic groups not necessarily recognized by the participants themselves. The government claims they are merely putting down an insurgency and draws comparisons with US actions in Iraq quelling sectarian violence. Regardless of the label, the human tragedy is evident and the world wants to help. Humanitarian efforts exist on individual, non-governmental, and national levels. The African Union has placed peace keeping forces there, but these 7000 soldiers are vastly outmatched by the enormity of the task before them. The United Nations passed a resolution in September 2006 that would allow 20,000 peacekeeping troops to enter Sudan with the permission of its government. At present Sudan's President Bashir has refused to permit their entrance and has been backed in this resistance by China's support in the UN Security Council.

Initially empowered by the government, the Janjaweed seems to now be beyond Khartoum's control. They rely on the unwillingness of the international community, most notably the United States, to resort to armed intervention. Cease fire agreements falter upon lapsed promises of disarming the Janjaweed and unfettered access to humanitarian aid. The original rebel groups themselves are not united in terms of goals regarding national unity, the role of religion in government or alliances with other nations. They have mounted a successful military resurgence, creating the National Resurgence Front, and achieved two victories against government forces in October. Neighboring countries, such as Chad and the Central African Republic (Figure 22), have been brought into conflict because it serves as an access point to Darfur as well as the site of refugee camps.

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center (http://maps.bpl.org)