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 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 non-Arab population in Darfur’s regions, the government responded to the attacks by initiating ethical cleansing campaigns against non-Arab speaking in the Darfur’s region. The conflicts in Darfur were so severe that its severity has been compared to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
In years, Darfur’s tragic events have attracted unprecedented attention from both international community and media houses. 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 actually African, there are no racial divides at all. Furthermore, much of the coverage is the typical presentation of the stereotype depicted in the Africa continent as a place that is afflicted with instability and civil war. Nonetheless, media coverage of Darfur crisis follows a common pattern of sensationalizing Darfur story rather than provide a subtle analysis of the cradle of the same. Behind Darfur crisis lies a complex history of the entrenched environmental crisis, social inequalities, militarization of marginal societies, conflicting notions of nationalism and identity and chronic issues in bad governance that has caused calamity in Sudan as a country since independence.
A number of explanations have been leveled up to explain the basis of Darfur’s conflicts. One explanation 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 multiple clashes between farmers and pastoralists, for the most part, traditional mechanisms that were deployed for solving the same had been effective. However, abolishment of the traditional system of administration during 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, though 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 that were founded on Islam and Arabism.
For a while, these policies invoked a series of tenacious opposition by non-Muslim and non-Arabs speaking groups in Darfur’s marginalized regions. Since 1950s ethical and region based rebel movement groups emerged, especially from the Southern regions in 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 through a feeling of deprivation progressively persisted among the people of Darfur. At the same time, another conflict in 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 conflicts and instability that plagued the neighboring countries Libya and Chad.