Beginning province, with the main ethnic groups being the

            Beginning in February of 2003, the war in Darfur started
when two rebel groups known as the Sudan Liberation Movement and Justice and
Equality Movement attacked the Sudanese government. It has since been described
by the United Nations as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” leading to
the death and displacement of an estimated two million people. Located in
Western Sudan and annexed to Egyptian Sudan in 1875, Darfur consists of a mixed
Arab and African population and has exhibited patterns of unstable economic
development in recent years. Causes of conflict in the region have mainly been
attributed to existing apartheid and an ongoing religious civil war between
Arabs and non-Arabs, as well as land disputes, water access, and the presence
of rebel groups. As this conflict continues to exist due to Sudan’s weak
governmental structure and domestic issues, along with failed international
efforts for peace, it is therefore important to examine: to what extent does
the current political and social state of Sudan exacerbate conflict in Darfur
or allow for future reconciliations? To investigate this research question, I
will focus on research within the fields of IB Global Politics and IB History. Due
to the prominent role of the Sudanese government, a mixture of political
instability and social insecurity has only worsened the situation, and the lack
of an effective international response has only allowed the status of the
conflict in Darfur to remain bleak.

History
and Geography of the Area

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            Sudan is Africa’s largest country, with neighboring
countries including Libya, Chad, and the Central African Republic. Darfur lies
in the Western region of Sudan, and is approximately the size of Spain. In
Arabic, Darfur means “Land of the Fur.” Arabs compose a majority of the
population in the province, with the main ethnic groups being the Fur, Zaghawa,
Masalit, Tunjur, Daju, Nubian, and Beja peoples. Despite the large number of
ethnicities in Sudan, “A long
history of internal migration, mixing, and intermarriage in Darfur have created
remarkable ethnic fluidity… For instance, in the Darfur context, for the most
part the term “Arab” is used as an occupational rather than an ethnic
label, for the majority of the Arabic speaking groups are pastoralists” (Sikainga
1). Darfur is home to around six million people. However, refugees have flocked
to bordering countries of the Central African Republic and Chad for safety.

When
examining the conflict in Darfur, it is important to examine its previous
political and social history. From 1899 to 1955, Sudan was under
British-Egyptian rule; it was only until 1956 that Sudan became an elected
state. 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 the
region has been long-lasting. In 1983, the president of the time, President
Numeiri, introduced Sharia Islamic law. 

Background and Causes of the Conflict

The
conflict in Darfur is considered the “first genocide of the twenty-first
century” and one of the worst crimes against humanity in the modern world. In
2003, it was labeled as a humanitarian emergency zone, with mass killings of
men, women, and children. The situation is often compared to the Rwandan
genocide in 1994. To begin with, Darfur was a country that was politically
marginalized, with recurring food shortages due to lack of rainfall. The many
ethnic groups of Sudan often fought over land rights (“hakurat”). Starting in
the 1980s, Arab supremacist movements started to rise, creating tensions
between the non-Arab populations in Darfur. The interesting thing is that the
conflict did not arise over religion, as most people in Darfur are Muslims, and
there are no visible differences between the two sides.

Many
account the causes of the conflict to a combination of political,
environmental, and economic factors. Environmental degradation has shrunk the
amount of resources, resulting in tense communal conflicts. Temperatures vary
greatly throughout the region, and a high dependency on crop farming as the
main part of the economy creates great instability. In addition, the land
tenure system further increases tensions between communities. Under the system,
each group is given a piece of property (a Dar) allocated to the whole
community, which is then split up by the local chief. According to Ohio State
University’s Mershon Center and Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and
Ethnicity, “Belonging to a Dar
became an integral part of the person’s identity.” The differences between
pastoralists and sedentaries also became a cause for the conflict. The majority
of Darfurians lived as pastoral nomads, known for call herding and owning
camels, locally known as abbala1. Due to a drought
during the 1980s, land available for grazing diminished, leading to
disagreements between farmers and pastoralists. Often times, these conflicts
could be resolved through tribal conferences, where local chiefs and customs
were able to mediate peace agreements. However, the disintegration of this
system of native rule as well as corrupt Sudanese rulers who manipulated these
systems led to the lack of an effective conflict resolution system in times of
regional disputes.

      The
Janjaweed was a militia group that had gained advantage over the other militia
factions in Sudan. A major contributor to the violence that formed the
humanitarian crisis, it was noted that Janjaweed attacks often corresponded
with attacks from the government of Sudan. According to a United Nations
Inter-Agency report2 on the humanitarian needs
assessment mission of Sudan, “The 23 Fur villages in the Shattaya
Administrative Unit have been completely depopulated, looted and burnt to the
ground” due to Janjaweed fighters.

Timeline of the Conflict

In
2002, the war in Darfur started when two rebel groups, known as the Justice and
Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), started
attacking the government of Sudan. In response, the Sudanese government enacted
a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against non-Arabs. The war is largely centered
between Arab and non-Arab groups, with the Sudanese government recruiting
Janjaweed militia groups among indigenous Arab populations and rebel groups
recruiting non-Arab Muslims and various other ethnic groups.

Most
cite that the “War in Darfur” officially started in 2003, when there was a
rebel strike against the airport in the capital of North Darfur, Fasher.
Subsequently, rebel groups executed successful raids throughout the desert. In
response, 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, the
Sudanese government. During this time, villages of the Fur, Zaghawa, and
Masalit 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 the
fact that mass killing and rape of black Africans in Darfur, along with the
systematic destruction of their villages, began in early 2003, no outside
troops entered Darfur until August 2004” (Totten 183). However, even then, the
number of troops who did enter was not significant enough to have a positive
effect in ending the conflict.

There
were also conflicts that developed between pastoralists and sedentaries. While
pastoralism was the main means of living for the majority of the population, a
prominent cattle-herding group that inhabited the region was known as the Baqqara:
“The nomads were not part of the
hakura system. Hence, the nomads had to rely on customary rights to migrate and
pasture their animals in areas dominated by farmers. As the nomads moved
between the northern and the southern part of the region, specific arrangements
for animal routes were made by their leaders and those of the farming
communities, and these arrangements were sanctioned by the government.” In
addition, “Mu`mar Gaddafi of Libya had an ambitious project in the region,
which involved the creation of what he called an “Arab Belt” across
Sahelian 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 pastoralists
in Darfur to create an “Islamic Legion.” Sudanese members of the legion were
also part of the Madhist sect, involved in rebel activities against the Nimeiri
regime.

1 http://origins.osu.edu/article/worlds-worst-humanitarian-crisis-understanding-darfur-conflict

2 http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/opinion/20040529KRIS.pdf