Darfur is located in western Sudan. The region is bordered by Libya to the north, Chad to the West, and Central African Republic to the Southwest. Darfur’s land area is 114,000 square miles with varied climates ranging from desert and semi arid in the north to rich savanna lands in the south.
Ongoing desertification, deforestation and lack of development by the central governments have resulted in an impoverished population.
Darfur is home to 6.5 million people from many different ethnic groups including Fur, Masseleit, Zaghawa, Berti, Rizeigat, Ta’isha, Bani Halba, Habbaniyar.
Pastoralists constitute about thirty percent of the population. Herders, primarily Arab Muslims, have come into increasing conflict with farmers, primarily black Muslims.
For centuries, Darfur was an independent sultanate with political and economic relationships that focused largely on Egypt and Turkey. The region was annexed to Sudan in 1916. Since then Darfur has remained undeveloped. After Sudan’s independence from Britain in 1956, Darfur became politically and economically marginalized.
Darfur has suffered over twenty-four ethnic conflicts during the last two decades. Causes include: the central government’s role in the region’s marginalization, land disputes, drought, water scarcity, natural migration, and ethnic rivalries.
The current conflict in Darfur erupted in 2003 when two loosely allied rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), attacked government military installations to protest the central government’s marginalization of the region. In response, the federal government recruited and financed a large number of Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, to subdue the uprising. The result was a scorched-earth campaign that decimated thousands of villages, force three million people from their land, and caused the death of at least 400,000 cilivians
In July 2004, the U.S. Congress unanimously passed a resolution declaring the situation in Darfur “genocide.” That September, both Secretary of State Powell and President Bush also used the term genocide when referring to Darfur.
On January 25, 2005, the U.N. Commission of Inquiry concluded that Sudanese government forces and the Janjaweed “conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur.”
However, the Commission held that it did not have sufficient evidence of government “intent” to commit genocide.
Only about half of those forcibly displaced forced are receiving aid. The camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) continue to be targets of attacks and forced relocation. People who venture outside the camps risk rape and murder. Many children, particularly those under 5 years of age, are at risk of malnutrition.
While the international community has debated action against the Khartoum government, the situation in Darfur has deteriorated. Aid organizations cite worsening security, a threat of famine, and mounting civilian casualties.
In September 2006, the UN passed a resolution to send 26,000 international peacekeepers to Darfur. The UN took command of the peacekeeping operation from the African Union on 31 December 2007. As of mid-2008, only 9,000 troops have been deployed and are struggling with inadequate logistical support. The conflict has also brought instability to eastern Chad, and the Central African Republic.