Darfur Explained

Darfur Explained

The video below attempts to have the situation in Darfur explained and in many respects events there reflect the unbalanced nature of Sudan after its independence and the effective unification of its diverse ethnic groups in 1956. Essentially, North Sudan is inhabited by Muslim Arabs, whilst the south and east is inhabited by black African Christians. The Arab Muslims saw themselves as slave masters and looked down on black Africans as slaves. The Darfur area was already suffering from desertification leading to diminishing arable land on which to scratch out a living, and the indigenous ethnic groups there (the Fur, the Zaghawa and the Masalit) found themselves being increasingly sidelined and encroached upon by Muslim Arabs led by the Janjaweed; Arab tribesmen who operated as bandits in the area who would made raids in attempts to steal non-Arab land and cattle. (The word Janjaweed itself actually means "a man with a gun on a horse.")

In February 2003 the tensions erupted into armed conflict when the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) together with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) took up arms against the government in an attempt to repel Muslim Arabs and seek recognition of the area as an equal and valued partner within Sudan, if not an independent state. The government responded by bombarding the area in support of Janjaweed militias who turned from banditry activity to become a well-equipped and organised fighting force that has been accused of war crimes against the sedentary population of the area burning down entire villages and carrying out many acts of violence against them. Today it is estimated that around 25,000 Janjaweed are still active in Darfur; a number swelled by the bounty allegedly offered by the Sudanese government to horse owning local Arabs as an incentive to join up. The extent of the atrocities are covered up to some extent with state censorship of Sudan's media and President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan often making it impossible for journalists to report from the area.

Darfur Map

The Sudanese government and the JEM signed a ceasefire agreement in February 2010, with the Justice and Equality Movement hoping to achieve at least semi-autonomy, if not independence, and even the possibility of a Darfuri Vice-President for Sudan was discussed. Despite these negotiations, and the arrival of UN peacekeepers, conflict continued. For example in 2014 3,300 villages were destroyed in attacks on civilians according to the UN Panel of Experts and there is evidence that government forces (or at least those aligned with them) were behind most attacks which numbered more than 400,000 during the first ten months of that year.

Then in September 2016, the Sudanese government reportedly launched chemical weapon attacks on civilian populations in Darfur, killing at least 250 people. There were ongoing challenges through subsequent years with Sudanese government forces attacking communities in the Jebel Marra area in 2018 then in April 2019 there should have been a gane-changer in that Sudan's president, President Omar al-Bashir, was ousted from power and in August of that year a new Draft Constitution was declared that required a peace agreement be made in Darfur and other regions of armed conflict in Sudan within the first six months of the 39-month transition period to democratic civilian government overseen by a newly-established Sovereignty Council.

Conflict in Darfur

However on 16 October 2021 the military seized power again and interim President Al-Burhan dissolved the Sovereignty Council, and established himself as the current de facto head of state of Sudan and the Commander-In-Chief of the Sudanese Armed Force. The conflict in Darfur remains ongoing and has become known as the first genocide of the 21st century. The conflict in Darfur is estimated to have taken the lives of between 80,000 and 500,000 people with nearly five million out of the area's population of 9.241 million (2017) affected by the troubles. The background to the conflict in Darfur is explained in greater detail in the video below which pre-dates the downfall of al-Bashir however gives a concise explanation of the situation there.

Darfur Explained: Volunteer in Sudan

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Darfur Explained: History of Sudan

History Sudan

An overview of the history of Sudan from ancient, Ottoman and colonial times to the present day leading to the seeding of the reasons for the conflict in Darfur.

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Darfur Explained: Child Sponsor Sudan

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Darfur Explained: Sudan Country Profile

African Country Profiles: Sudan

In another of our African country profiles, find out all about Sudan in a series of information articles, latest daily news, videos, and images together with volunteering and child sponsorship opportunities.

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