The conflict in Darfur, Sudan began in 2003. It has been a difficult and long-lasting conflict with many different actors involved. The origins of the conflict date back to 1885, when Africa was partitioned by European powers. Part of what is now known as Darfur was ruled by Egypt but offered no access to the Nile River which led to significant resentment among the population there.
In 1916 a group called the Young Turks overthrew Sultan Abdul Hamid II and established a new regime that wanted Ottoman power spread across all provinces under its control including those in Darfur. When World War I broke out they seized this opportunity to annex more territory from their enemies, including parts of what is now Chad and Niger, into an empire centered
Since 2003, the Darfur region in Sudan has been leveled with conflicts that have resulted in thousands of deaths, displacements, and indictment of Omar al-Bashir, the then president of Sudan, by the International Criminal Court for multiple crimes, including genocide.
United Nations has termed Darfur’s conflicts as the worst humanitarian conflict in the world’s history. The armed conflict in the Darfur region began in 2003 when rebel movements the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) started fighting against the government for alleged oppressions of the non-Arab population in Darfur’s regions. The government responded to the attacks by initiating ethical cleansing campaigns against non-Arab speaking in Darfur’s area. The conflicts in Darfur were so severe that their severity has been compared to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
Darfur’s tragic events have attracted unprecedented attention from both the international community and media houses in years. Unfortunately, the coverage of Darfur’s conflicts in media coverage perpetuates conflicting stories of Arabs killing African Muslims and depicts pictures of refugees living in squalid environments. Though it should be noted that this is only a media misconception given that most Sudanese are African, there are no racial divides at all.
Furthermore, much of the coverage is the typical presentation of the African continent’s stereotype as a place afflicted with instability and civil war. Nonetheless, media coverage of the Darfur crisis follows a familiar pattern of sensationalizing Darfur’s story rather than providing a subtle analysis of the same cradle. Behind the Darfur crisis lies a complex history of entrenched environmental crisis, social inequalities, the militarization of marginal societies, conflicting notions of nationalism and identity, and chronic issues in lousy governance that have caused calamity in Sudan since independence.
Several explanations have been leveled up to explain the basis of Darfur’s conflicts. One reason involves environmental degradation that has resulted in land disputes and competition over shrinking resources, including patterns of land ownership and water points. Following the droughts in the 1980s, multiple conflicts over shrinking resources led to numerous clashes between farmers and pastoralists; for the most part, traditional mechanisms deployed for solving the same had been effective.
However, abolishing the conventional administration system during the colonial era has to date presented challenges in conflict resolutions. Conceivably, competition over shrinking resources and changes in the environment is core to Darfur’s conflict. However, the ongoing conflict in Darfur was founded on ethical manipulation and marginalization by ruling elites in Sudan. The post-colonial governments in Sudan were dominated by elites that were Arab speaking. Apart from the fact that economic developments were concentrated in these regions, the elites tried forging national alliances founded on Islam and Arabism.
For a while, these policies invoked a series of staunch opposition by non-Muslim and non-Arabs speaking groups in Darfur’s marginalized regions. Since the 1950s, ethical and region-based rebel movement groups emerged, especially from the Southern areas of Darfur, where civil war had raged for years to advocate for the region’s demands for greater autonomy and economic development.
The movement remained relatively small though a feeling of deprivation progressively persisted among the people of Darfur. At the same time, another conflict in the Darfur region existed between the Khartoum-based Islamic national government and the rebel groups in Darfur. For a long time, inter-communal and ethical conflicts ranged for a while, shaping a hateful relationship with the government of Khartoum. Apart from internal tensions, Darfur had also been afflicted by wars and instability that plagued the neighboring countries Libya and Chad.
The conflict in Darfur is a complex issue with many contributing factors and it will take more than one person to end the violence. What can you do? Educate yourself on how this crisis started, what’s happening now, and what steps are being taken by organizations like UNICEF to help those who are affected. You may not be able to change these events but knowing about them makes us all better-informed citizens of the world. Knowledge and understanding go hand in hand when trying to solve such an immense problem as Darfur.