“How can a citizen of a free country not pay attention? How can anyone, anywhere not feel outraged? How can a person, whether religious or secular, not be moved by compassion? And above all, how can anyone who remembers remain silent?”— Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, on the conflict in Sudan
Over 400 thousand residents have been killed and two million displaced in what the U.N. refers to as “The world’s worst humanitarian crisis”. Darfur, a large Sudanese region lying on the border of Chad and spanning across the Sahara and Sahel, is currently caught amidst a deadly genocide often called the Land Cruiser War. The alleged root cause changes depending on the party in question. General consensus accuse the Arab’s for persecuting non-Arabs, while according to the Sudanese government, it’s simply tribal tension compounded by recent droughts. Some local citizens claim oil reserves are an important factor, though in reality, it is a combination of these reasons.
Most point to the rebellion of 2003 as the beginning of the bloodbath, though disputes between sedentary and pastoralists have been present for hundreds of years. The balance between these two lifestyles were often balanced on a razorblade. Pastoral paths were hotly debated against sedentary land, and the government would often play these arguments to their advantage. The sporadic rainfalls and warming climate of the Darfur region has lead to droughts which have choked the pastoralists and sedentary farmers into those areas with resources. Inevitably, violence ensued. This situation, added on top of traditional tribal conflicts, set the stage for a massacre.
In 2003, rebel groups such as the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) or Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) protested against the marginalization of Darfur. This is when facts become faded. Some sources claim that these rebellions were composed of non-Arabs rebutting Sudan’s racial discrimination. Others claim that it was concerning the region’s underdevelopment, and racial motives were established either as an excuse or a means of simplifying matters. It should be noted, though, that in Sudan the line between the Arabs and blacks are skewed, and refer more to occupation than to genetics.
As an attempt to suppress the rebellion, the Janjaweed (meaning “mounted gunman”) were formed. Sudan denies connection to the militia, but it is well agreed upon that Janjaweed is controlled by the government (at least until the coup d’état on April 11, 2019).
Janjaweed is the media’s goto buzzword, like the Nazi’s during WWII, and bears the blame for almost all the conflict’s atrocities. It is through this organization’s hand by which villages have been pillaged, raped, and slaughtered.
Ceasefire was declared on April 11, 2004, but thoroughly ignored by both sides. By the year of 2007, nearly two million were displaced. Many of them took refuge in camps across the Chad-Sudan border. At this point, the world had turned their eyes to the war, and the United Nations (UN) decided to join forces with the African Union (AU), to form the United Nations – African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
It was likely because of this joint force that president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir (usually referred to as Bashir), was charged with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the July of 2008 . However, when the warrant for Bashir’s arrest was issued on March 4, 2009, genocide was dropped from the charges. However, Bashir remained president for another ten years before being overthrown in 2019. Nevertheless, stories of cruelty and war hardly ever ends by a coup, and as of now (January 5, 2019) Sudan is governed by a Transitional Military Council.
To delve deeper into Darfur’s depravity I would greatly recommend a Vice documentary that focuses less on the overall war, and more on the local communities and how they have been affected. It is important to remember that this article is only one take on the War in Darfur. In order to understand the complications, it must be put into the context of southern secession and violence in Abyei and Blue Nile State as well as the influence from Libya and Chad. I hope that this article inspires to research more, and get involved with foreign aid.