Darfur: Map


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The three states composing Darfur within Sudan
Darfur ( dār fūr, lit. "realm of the Fur") is a region in Sudanmarker. An independent sultanate for several hundred years, it was incorporated into Sudan by Anglo-Egyptian forces. The region is divided into three federal states: West Darfurmarker, South Darfurmarker, and North Darfurmarker which are coordinated by a Transitional Darfur Regional Authority. Because of the War in Darfur, the region has been in a state of humanitarian emergency since 2003.


Darfur covers an area of some —approximately the size of Francemarker. It is largely an arid plateau with the Marrah Mountains (Jebel Marra), a range of volcanic peaks rising up to of topographic prominence, in the center of the region. The region's main towns are Al Fashirmarker, Nyalamarker, and Geneinamarker.

There are four main features of the physical geography. The whole eastern half of Darfur is covered with plains and low hills of sandy soils, known as goz, and sandstone hills. In many places the goz is waterless and can only be inhabited where there are water reservoirs or deep boreholes. While dry, goz may also support rich pasture and arable land. To the north the goz is overtaken by the desert sands of the Sahara. A second feature are the wadis, which range from seasonal watercourses that flood only occasionally during the wet season to large wadis that flood for most of the rains and flow from western Darfur hundreds of miles west to Lake Chadmarker. Many wadis have pans of alluvium with rich soil that are also difficult to cultivate. Western Darfur is dominated by the third feature, basement rock, sometimes covered with a thin layer of sandy soil. Basement rock is too infertile to be farmed, but provides sporadic forest cover that can be grazed by animals. The fourth and final feature are the Marrah Mountains, volcanic plugs created by a massif, that rise up to a peak at Deriba cratermarker where there is a small area of temperate climate, high rainfall and permanent springs of water.

Remote sensing has detected the imprint of a vast underground lake under Darfur. The potential water deposits are estimated at . The lake, during epochs when the region was more humid, would have contained about 607 cubic miles of water. It may have dried up thousands of years ago.


Darfur is conjectured to have been part of the Proto-Afro-Asiatic Urheimat in distant prehistoric times (c. 10,000 BC), though there are numerous other theories that exclude Darfur.

Most of the region is a semi-arid plain and thus insufficient for supporting a large and complex civilization. While the Marrah Mountains offer plentiful water, the Daju people created the first known Darfurian civilization based in the mountains, though they left no records beside a list of kings. The Tunjur displaced the Daju in the fourteenth century and introduced Islam. The Tunjur sultans intermarried with the Fur and sultan M. Solaiman (reigned c.1596 to c.1637) is considered the founder of the Keira dynasty. Darfur became a great power of the Sahel under the Keira dynasty, expanding its borders as far east as the Atbarah Rivermarker and attracting immigrants from Bornu and Bagirmi. During the mid-18th century the country was wracked by conflict between rival factions, and external war with Sennar and Wadai. In 1875, the weakened kingdom was destroyed by the Egyptian ruler set up in Khartoum, largely through the machinations of Sebehr Rahma, a businessman who was competing with the dar over access to slaves and ivory in Bahr el Ghazalmarker to the south of Dar fur.

The Darfurian were restive under Egyptian rule, but were no more predisposed to accept the rule of the self proclaimed Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad, when his Emir of Darfur from the Arabs of Southern Darfur from Rizeigat tribe led by Sheikh Madibbo defeated the British forces (that had just invaded Egypt in 1882) in Darfur in 1882 led by Slatin Pasha. When Ahmad's successor, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, himself an Arab of Southern Darfur from Ta’isha tribe , demanded that the pastoralist tribes provide soldiers, several tribes rose up in revolt. Following the overthrow of Abdallahi at Omdurmanmarker in 1899 by the Anglo-Egyptian forces, the new Anglo-Egyptian government recognized Ali Dinar as the sultan of Darfur and largely left the dar to its own affairs except for a nominal annual tribute. During World War I, the British, being concerned that the sultanate might fall under the influence of Ottoman Empire, invaded and incorporated Darfur into the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in 1916. Under colonial rule, financial and administrative resources were directed to the tribes of central Sudan near Khartoum to the detriment of the outlying regions such as Darfur.

This pattern of skewed development continued following national independence in 1956. To this was added an element of political instability caused by the proxy wars between Sudan, Libyamarker and Chadmarker. The influence of an ideology of Arab supremacy propagated by Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi that began to be acted upon by Darfurians, including those identified as "Arab" and "African". A famine in the mid-1980s disrupted many societal structures and led to the first significant fighting amongst Darfuris. A low level conflict continued for the next 15 years, with the government coopting and arming "Arab" militias against its enemies. The fighting reached a peak in 2003 with the beginning of the Darfur conflict, in which the resistance coalesced into a roughly cohesive rebel movement. The conflict soon came to be regarded as one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. The insurgency and counter insurgency has led to 300,000 deaths, though the numbers are disputed by the Khartum government. Over 2.5 million people have been displaced since the beginning of the conflict. Many of these refugees have gone into camps where emergency aid has created conditions that, although extremely basic, are better than in the villages, which offer no protection against the various militias that operate in the region.


The region is divided into three federal states: West Darfurmarker, South Darfurmarker, and North Darfurmarker. The Darfur Agreement established a Transitional Darfur Regional Authority (TDRA) as an interim authority for the region. The agreement states that a referendum on autonomy for Darfur should be held no later than 2011. Minni Minnawi is the current Chairperson of the TDRA.

See also

Notes and references

 Information on the crisis in Darfur
  1. Sudan's Geography, GlobalDreamers.org
  2. Darfur : A complex ethnic reality with a long history - International Herald Tribune
  3. Congressional Reps Give Update on Troubled Darfur Region of Sudan - PBS News, 2005-02-17
  4. Quick guide: Darfur - BBC News, 2006-09-06
  5. Africa Ultra-Prominences, PeakList.org
  6. "Underground lake may bring Darfur peace: scientist" by Tanzina Vega, Reuters, July 18, 2007
  7. Ancient Darfur lake 'is dried up', BBC, July 20, 2007
  8. Sudan Tribune

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