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The Darfur Conflict began in Darfurmarker, Sudanmarker, in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Darfur took up arms, accusing the government of oppressing black Africans in favor of Arabs. There are various estimates on the number of human casualties. One side was composed mainly of the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed, a Sudanese militia group recruited mostly from the Afro-Arab Abbala tribes of the northern Rizeigat region in Sudan. These tribes are mainly camel-herding nomads. The other side was made up of rebel groups, notably the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, recruited primarily from the non-Arab muslim Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit ethnic groups. The Sudanese government, while publicly denying that it supports the Janjaweed, is accused of providing financial assistance to the militia, and of participating in joint attacks targeting civilians.

The Sudanese government has been accused of tampering with evidence, such as attempting to cover up mass graves. They also arrested and harassed journalists, thus limiting the extent of press coverage of the situation in Darfur.

While the United States government has described the conflict as genocide, the UN has not recognized the conflict as such.. On 31 January 2005, the UN released a 176-page report saying that while there were mass murders and rapes of Darfurian civilians, they could not label the atrocities as "genocide" because "genocidal intent appears to be missing". Many activists, however, refer to the crisis in Darfur as genocide, including the Save Darfur Coalition, the Aegis Trust and the Genocide Intervention Network. These organizations point to statements by former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, referring to the conflict as genocide. Other activist organizations, such as Amnesty International, while calling for international intervention, avoid the use of the term genocide.

In May 2006 the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, led by Minni Minnawi, signed a peace agreement with the Sudanese government. The other faction of the SLM, led by Abdul Wahid al Nur, the founding leader of SLM, refrained from signing the agreement.

On 31 August 2006, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 1706 which called for a new 26,000-troop UN peacekeeping force called UNAMID to supplant or supplement a poorly funded and ill-equipped 7,000-troop African Union Mission in Sudan peacekeeping force. Sudan strongly objected to the resolution and said that it would see the UN forces in the region as foreign invaders. The following day, the Sudanese military launched a major offensive in the region.

In March 2007 the UN mission accused Sudan's government of orchestrating and taking part in "gross violations" in Darfur and called for urgent international action to protect civilians there.

On 14 July 2008, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) filed ten charges of war crimes against Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, charges that included three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity, and two of murder. The ICC's prosecutors have claimed that al-Bashir "masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part" three tribal groups in Darfur because of their ethnicity. On 4 March, 2009 the ICC issued an arrest warrant for president al-Bashir, without the genocide charges, claiming they lacked sufficient evidence.

In February 2009, Darfur's UNAMID tried to persuade the rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudanese government to sign a peace agreement.

List of abbreviations used in this article

AU: African Union

DLF: Darfur Liberation Front

ICC: International Criminal Court

IDP: Internally Displaced Person

JEM: Justice and Equality Movement

SLA: Sudan Liberation Army

SLM: Sudan Liberation Movement

SPLA: Sudan People's Liberation Army

UN: United Nations

UNAMID: United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur

UNSC: United Nations Security Council

International response

International attention to the Darfur conflict largely began with reports by the advocacy organizations Amnesty International in July 2003 and the International Crisis Group in December 2003. However, widespread media coverage did not start until the outgoing United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, called Darfur the "world's greatest humanitarian crisis" in March 2004. Organizations such as STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, later under the umbrella of Genocide Intervention Network, and the Save Darfur Coalition emerged and became particularly active in the areas of engaging the United States Congress and President on the issue and pushing for divestment nationwide, initially launched by Adam Sterling under the auspice of the Sudan Divestment Task Force. Particularly strong advocates have additionally included: New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof, Sudan Scholar Eric Reeves, Enough Project founder John Prendergast, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Samantha Power, photographers Ryan Spencer Reed, former Marine Brian Steidle, actress Mia Farrow and her son Ronan Farrow, Olympian Joey Cheek, actress Angelina Jolie, actor George Clooney, actor Jonah Hill, Save Darfur Coalition's David Rubenstein, humanitarian Tomo Kriznar from Slovenia, and all of those involved with the Genocide Intervention Network. A movement advocating for humanitarian intervention has emerged in several countries.

United Nations

UN Security Council chamber

The report to the UN Human Rights Council said the situation in Darfur is "characterized by gross and systematic violations of human rights and grave breaches of international law". It called for the UN Security Council to take "urgent" action to protect Darfur's civilians, including the deployment of a joint UN/African Union force and the freezing of funds and assets owned by officials complicit in the attacks.

The head of the UN investigating team, the Nobel Peace laureate Jody Williams, described the international response to the crisis as "pathetic".

The United Statesmarker, Britainmarker and the European Union have repeatedly condemned the atrocities but have failed to carry out effective actions to stop the war. The US referred to the killings as genocide in 2004, while in 2006, Tony Blair said the situation was "completely unacceptable" and called for "urgent action".

Attempts to negotiate ceasefires and peace deals have been sporadic and slow. New Mexico's governor Bill Richardson met with President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoummarker in January 2007. Richardson and al-Bashir agreed to a 60-day ceasefire. However, within the week Sudanese planes were again bombing regions in Darfur.

Some 7,000 African Union troops are operating in Darfur but their limited resources and mandate has made it impossible for them to protect civilians. The force's 150 translators are on strike because they have not been paid since November.

Jan Pronk, who was the head of the UN mission in Sudan until he was unceremoniously kicked out of the country by the Khartoum government, said Sudan had realized it could "get away with anything". In 2007, Mr. Pronk wrote on his blog that the Sudanese authorities had continued to "disregard Security Council resolutions, to break international agreements, to violate human rights and to feed and allow attacks on their own citizens. They could do all this without having to fear consequences. On the contrary, the Council and its members and the rest of the international community have been taken for a ride."

The Human Rights Council team faced similar problems. President Bashir promised UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, that Sudan would co-operate fully with the inquiry, including granting access to Darfur. But despite more than a dozen attempts by the UN team to apply for visas, Khartoum refused to allow them into the country. Instead they travelled to eastern Chad where more than 230,000 Darfuri refugees have fled. The conflict has followed the refugees over the border, with Chadian Arabs - backed by Sudanese Janjaweed militia - attacking the refugees in Chad.

In early 2007, a High Level Mission on the situation of human rights in Darfur was set up to look into reports of ongoing violations and to try to work with the Government of the Sudan to put a stop to the atrocities. The Mission was led by Nobel Prize Winner Jody Williams and included a number of diplomats and human rights practitioners. The Mission travelled to Ethiopiamarker and Chad but it was never admitted into Sudanese territory itself because the Government refused to issue visas to the Mission. In its report of March 2007, the High Level Mission noted the Sudanese government's abject failure to protect Darfur civilians.

International Criminal Court

In March 2005, the Security Council formally referred the situation in Darfur to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, taking into account the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1564 of 2004, but without mentioning any specific crimes. Two permanent members of the Security Council, the United States and Chinamarker, abstained from the vote on the referral resolution.

In April 2007, the Judges of the ICC issued arrest warrants against the former Minister of State for the Interior, Ahmed Haroun, and a Militia Janjaweed leader, Ali Kushayb, for crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Sudan Government said that the ICC had no jurisdiction to try Sudanese citizens and that it would not hand the two men over to authorities in the Hague.

On 14 July 2008, The Prosecutor filed ten charges of war crimes against Sudan's incumbent President Omar al-Bashir, three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. The Prosecutor has claimed that Mr. al-Bashir "masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part" three tribal groups in Darfur because of their ethnicity. The Prosecutor is expected within months to ask a panel of ICC judges to issue an arrest warrant for al-Bashir. Leaders from three Darfur tribes are suing ICC prosecutor Luis-Moreno Ocampo for libel, defamation, and igniting hatred and tribalism.

After an arrest warrant was issued for the Sudanese president in March 2009, the Prosecutor appealed to have the genocide charges added. However, the Pre-Trial Chamber found that there was no reasonable ground to support the contention that he had a specific intent to commit genocide (dolus specialis), which is an intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a protected group. The definition adopted by the Pre-Trial Chamber, though unreasonably high as it seems on the face of it, is the definition of the Genocide Convention, the Rome Statute, and some ICTY cases. This definition has recently been reaffirmed and discussed by the International Court of Justice in the Genocide case at some length (Bosnia v. Serbia) and the Pre-Trial Chamber cited the ICJ judgment with approval.

Mr. al-Bashir is now the first incumbent head of state charged with crimes in the Rome Statute. Bashir has rejected the charges and said, "Whoever has visited Darfur, met officials and discovered their ethnicities and tribes ... will know that all of these things are lies."

It is suspected that al-Bashir would not face trial in The Haguemarker any time soon, as Sudan rejects the ICC's jurisdiction. Payam Akhavan, a professor of international law at McGill Universitymarker in Montrealmarker and a former war crimes prosecutor, says although he may not go to trial, "He will effectively be in prison within the Sudan itself...Al-Bashir now is not going to be able to leave the Sudan without facing arrest." The Prosecutor has publicly warned that authorities could arrest the President if he enters international airspace. The Sudanese government has announced the Presidential plane will be accompanied by jet fighters. However, the Arab League has announced its solidarity with al-Bashir. Since the warrant, he has visited Qatarmarker and Egyptmarker. Both countries have refused to arrest him. The African Union also condemned the arrest warrant.

Some analysts think that the ICC indictment is counterproductive and harms the peace process. Only days after the ICC indictment, Darfur rebels who were in a peace process with the Sudanese government declared there is no need to engage in a peace agreement because the ICC recognized the Sudanese president as a criminal. Previous ICC indictments, such as the arrest warrants of the LRA leadership in the ongoing war at northern Uganda, were also accused of harming peace processes by criminalizing one side of a war. Some believe that the arrest warrant against al-Bashir will hinder the efforts to establish peace in Darfur, and will undermine any effort to boost stability in Sudan.

Criticism of international response

Gérard Prunier, a scholar specializing in African conflicts, argued that the world's most powerful countries have largely limited themselves in expressing concerns and demand for the United Nations to take action in solving the genocide in Darfur. The UN, lacking both the funding and military support of the wealthy countries, has left the African Union to deploy a token force (AMIS) without a mandate to protect civilians. In the lack of foreign political will to address the political and economic structures that underlie the conflict, the international community has defined the Darfur conflict in humanitarian assistance terms and debated the label of "genocide."

On 16 October 2006, Minority Rights Group (MRG) published a critical report, challenging that the UN and the great powers could have prevented the deepening crisis in Darfur and that few lessons appear to have been drawn from their ineptitude during the Rwandan Genocide. MRG's executive director, Mark Lattimer, stated that: "this level of crisis, the killings, rape and displacement could have been foreseen and avoided ... Darfur would just not be in this situation had the UN systems got its act together after Rwanda: their action was too little too late." On 20 October, 120 genocide survivors of The Holocaust, and the Cambodian and Rwandan Genocides, backed by six aid agencies, submitted an open letter to the European Union, calling on them to do more to end the atrocities in Darfur, with a UN peacekeeping force as "the only viable option." Aegis Trust director, James Smith, stated that while "the African Union has worked very well in Darfur and done what it could, the rest of the world hasn't supported those efforts the way it should have done with sufficient funds and sufficient equipment."

Human Rights First claimed that over 90% of the light weapons currently being imported by Sudan and used in the conflict are from China; however, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)'s "Arms Transfers Data for 2007", in 2003–2007, Sudan received 87 per cent of its major conventional weapons from Russiamarker and 8 per cent from China. Human rights advocates and opponents of the Sudanese government portray China's role in providing weapons and aircraft as a cynical attempt to obtain oil just as colonial powers once supplied African chieftains with the military means to maintain control as they extracted natural resources. According to China's critics, China has offered Sudan support threatening to use its veto on the U.N. Security Council to protect Khartoum from sanctions and has been able to water down every resolution on Darfur in order to protect its interests in Sudan. Accusations of the supply of weapons from China, violating the UN arms embargo, continue to arise.

The U.S.-funded Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, which investigates attacks in southern Sudan concluded that "as the Government of Sudan sought to clear the way for oil exploration and to create a cordon sanitaire around the oil fields, vast tracts of the Western Upper Nile Region in southern Sudan became the focus of extensive military operations." However, experts say the Darfur region is unlikely to hold significant oil reserves. Sarah Wykes, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, an NGO that campaigns for better natural resource governance, says: "Sudan has purchased about $100m in arms from China and has used these weapons against civilians in Darfur."

In March 2007, threats of boycotting the Olympic games came from French presidential candidate François Bayrou, in an effort to stop China's support to the Sudanese government in the war. There were also calls for boycotts from actor and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow, Genocide Intervention Network Representative Ronan Farrow, author and Sudan scholar Eric Reeves and the Washington Post editorial board. Sudan divestment efforts have also concentrated on PetroChina, the national petroleum company with extensive investments in Sudan.

On the opposite side of the issue, publicity given to the Darfur conflict has been criticized in some segments of the Arab media as exaggerated. For example, there have been statements such as: the "lobby to save Darfur ... is just the Israel lobby nicknamed", and by raising the issue of Darfur, the Israeli lobby is trying "to divert attention from Israel's crimes, or the catastrophe of the war in Iraq", and that Western attention to the Darfur crisis is "a cover for what is really being planned and carried out by the Western forces of hegemony and control in our Arab world." Others also argue that "there is no ethnic cleansing being perpetrated" in Darfur, only "great instability" and "clashes between the Sudanese government, rebel movements and the Janjaweed."

Eight people including U.S. Representatives James McGovern, John Lewis, Donna Edwards, Lynn Woolsey and Keith Ellison were arrested for civil disobedience in April 2009 when they spoke at the Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C. to raise awareness of genocide.

In May 2009 the Mandate Darfur was canceled because the "Sudanese government is obstructing the safe passage of Darfurian delegates from Sudan." The Mandate was a conference that would have brought together 300 representatives from different regions of the civil society of Darfur. The conference was planned to be held in Addis Ababa in early May.

One Canadian legal scholar, Omar Ha-Redeye, demonstrated that the crisis in Darfur had significant complicity by the U.N Security Council, the same party that referred the case to the ICC. His position was that foreign government and NGO intervention had an escalating effect on the conflict, and could potentially make it worse, based on previous experiences in Uganda and Congomarker.

The UN military commander, General Martin Luther Agwai, has declared that the genocide in Darfur is over. He claims there are still small incidents such as, "Banditry, localised issues, people trying to resolve issues over water and land at a local level. But real war as such, I think we are over that." Agwai said these comments a week before he was scheduled to leave Darfur.

On Sept. 10, 2009, a number of Darfur activists came forward in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, saying that reported figures had been deliberately inflated, including evidence used by the ICC. They recanted their previous numbers and made the disclosure in the interest of peace and reconciliation, and in hopes that the ICC would withdraw their warrant. However, SLM representatives dispute the claim and legitimacy of these activists.

Mortality figures

Sudanese authorities claim a death toll of roughly 19,500 civilians while certain non-governmental organizations, such as the Coalition for International Justice, controversially claim that over 400,000 people have been killed.

In September 2004, the World Health Organization estimated there had been 50,000 deaths in Darfur since the beginning of the conflict, an 18-month period, mostly due to starvation. An updated estimate the following month put the number of deaths for the 6-month period from March to October 2004 due to starvation and disease at 70,000; These figures were criticized, because they only considered short periods and did not include deaths from violence. A more recent British Parliamentary Report has estimated that over 300,000 people have died, and others have estimated even more.

In March 2005, the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland estimated that 10,000 were dying each month excluding deaths due to ethnic violence. An estimated 2 million people had at that time been displaced from their homes, mostly seeking refuge in camps in Darfur's major towns. Two hundred thousand had fled to neighboring Chad. Reports of violent deaths compiled by the UN indicate between 6,000 and 7,000 fatalities from 2004 to 2007.

In May 2005, the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) of the School of Public Health of the Université catholique de Louvainmarker in Brusselsmarker, Belgiummarker published an analysis of mortality in Darfur. Their estimate stated that from September 2003 to January 2005, between 98,000 and 181,000 persons had died in Darfur, including from 63,000 to 146,000 excess deaths.

On 28 April 2006, Dr. Eric Reeves argued that "extant data, in aggregate, strongly suggest that total excess mortality in Darfur, over the course of more than three years of deadly conflict, now significantly exceeds 450,000," but this has not been independently verified.

The UN disclosed on 22 April 2008 that it might have underestimated the Darfur death toll by nearly 50%.

Recently, the award-winning journalist, Afshin Rattansi, interviewed two women who returned from Darfur who claimed that they saw no evidence of genocide in Darfur. Collette Valentine, a TV producer visiting from the United Kingdom, and Ali Gunn, a British media consultant, attended the first “International Conference on the Challenge Facing Women in Darfur” in Al-Fasher in the north. Valentine said articles about Darfur in the international press make her feel as if she visited a completely different region, a completely different country.

In July of 2009, the Christian Science Monitor published an op-ed stating that many of the published mortality rates have been misleading because they include a large number of people who have died of disease and malnutrition, as well as those who have died from direct violence. Therefore, when activist groups make statements indicating that "four hundred thousand people have been killed," they are misleading the public.

Spreading of violence

Violence in Darfur spread over the border to Chad and the Central African Republicmarker. In Chad, notably, the Janjaweed were accused of incursions and attackers.

Rape in Darfur

Darfur villages destroyed as of 2 August 2004

A 19 October 2004 UN News Centre article titled "UNICEF adviser says rape in Darfur, Sudan continues with impunity" reported:

Armed militias in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region are continuing to rape women and girls with impunity, an expert from the United Nations children’s agency said today on her return from a mission to the region. Pamela Shifman, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) adviser on violence and sexual exploitation, said she heard dozens of harrowing accounts of sexual assaults – including numerous reports of gang rapes – when she visited internally displaced persons (IDPs) at one camp and another settlement in North Darfur last week. “Rape is used as a weapon to terrorize individual women and girls, and also to terrorize their families and to terrorize entire communities,” she said in an interview with the UN News Service. "No woman or girl is safe."

In that article Pamela Shifman also reported:

Ms. Shifman said every woman or girl she spoke to had either endured sexual assault herself, or knew of someone who had been attacked, particularly when they left the relative safety of their IDP camp or settlement to find firewood.

See also


  3. Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the United Nations Secretary-General (PDF), United Nations, 25 January 2005
  4. Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the United Nations Secretary-General, International Commission of Inquiry, 18 September 2004
  5. Sudan's mass killings not genocide: UN report , CBC News, 1 February 2005
  6. [1]
  7. Prunier, pp. 124-148
  8. [2]
  9. [3]
  10. [4]
  11. [5]
  12. Security Council Refers Situation in Darfur, Sudan, to Prosecutor of International Criminal Court, UN Press Release SC/8351, 31 March 2005
  13. Statement by Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, to the United Nations Security Council pursuant to UNSCR 1593 (2005), International Criminal Court, 5 June 2008
  14. Staff. Sudan defiant on Darfur suspects BBC, 27 February 2007
  16. "UN could have averted Darfur crisis – MRG", Independent Online, 16 October 2006
  17. "Darfur call by genocide survivors", BBC, 20 October 2006
  18. "SIPRI Arms Transfers Data for 2007", SIPRI, 2008
  19. Call for Olympic boycott stirs up pre-poll France, Reuters. Retrieved on 2007-03-22.
  20. The 'Genocide Olympics' , The Wall Street Journal, 2007-03-28. Retrieved on 2007-03-28.
  21. On Darfur, China and the 2008 Olympic Games, Sudan Tribune, 2007-02-11. Retrieved on 2007-03-28.
  22. China and Darfur: The Genocide Olympics?, The Washington Post, 2006-12-14
  23. [6]Retrieved on 2007-03-28.
  24. Response to Berkshire Hathaway's statement on its holdings in PetroChina Company Limited , Sudan Divestment Task Force, 2007-02-23. Retrieved on 2007-03-28.
  25. "Since The Victims Are Arabs and Muslims" by Jihad Al-Khazen, Al-Hayat (English edition), 13 April 2007.
  26. editorial in the newspaper Al-Gomhouriya (Egypt), 20 April 2007
  27. Sudanese journalist Babker 'Issa, editor of the daily newspaper Al-Raya, Al-Raya (Qatar), 20 April 2007.
  28. [7]
  29. [8]
  30. [9] Darfur groups 'padded' death tolls
  32. How many have died in Darfur? By Russell Smith (BBC) 16 February 2005
  33. Darfur death toll may be 300,000, say UK lawmakers (Reuters), 30 March 2005
  34. UN's Darfur death estimate soars (BBC) 14 March 2005
  35. Alex de Waal,Deaths in Darfur: Keeping Ourselves Honest
  36. 26 May 2005, Darfur: Counting the Deaths: Mortality Estimates from Multiple Survey Data
  37. Quantifying Genocide in Darfur Dr. Eric Reeves, 28 April 2006
  38. The Genocide in Darfur is not what it seems Dr. Marc Gustafson, 19 August 2009
  39. "UNICEF adviser says rape in Darfur, Sudan continues with impunity". 19 October 2004. UN News Centre.

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