Dafur is a semi-arid western province of Sudan – Africa’s largest country. Dafur alone is the size of France. Though Sudan is an Arab-dominated country Dafur’s population is mostly black African. For years there have been tensions between the mostly African farmers and the mostly Arab headers, who have competed for land. There was a long-running war in the south of Sudan that ended in 2005. The arid and impoverished afur region of Sudan has been suffering civil war since 2003 and was described as follows in May 2005
“The world’s worst humanitiarian crisis has been unfolding in Sudan’s Western region of Dafur, More then 2 million people are estimated to have fled their homes and at least 180,000 are thought to have died during the crisis. Sudan’s government and the pro-government Arab militias (the Janjaweed) are accused of war crimes against the region’s black population, although the United Nations has stopped short of terming it a genocide.
The start of the conflict
The conflict began in the Darfur region early in 2003. Rebel groups began attacking government targets, claiming that the region was being neglected by central government in Khartoum. These groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Jsutice and Equality Movement (JEM), say that the govrnment is oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs
The response of the Sudanese government
The governments admits to mobilsing ‘self-defence militias’ following the attacks by the black rebel groups
Denies links to Janjaweed Arab militia groups
Refugees attacked from the air by government airplanes
Janjaweed rode into villages on horseback and camels – slaghtering men, raping women and stealing whatever they could find.
Women were captured as sex slaves
Stong international pressures and the threat of sanctions led to the government to disarm the militia
Thousands of police deployed to protect the local people
The impact on civilians
2 million people have left their homes – Most have gone to refugee camps in the main towns
Destroyed villages and many thousands have been killed
There is a lack of food, water and medicine
Janjaweed patrol the outisde of the camps – killing men and raping women
Many thousands at risk of starvation and disease
1 million children threatened by malnutrition
Sudanese security forces have tried to force peope back home – this led to violence and international condemnation
A drought and a big reduciton in the number of active farmers has led to a poor harvest and heavy dependence on food aid
200,000 people have sought refuge in Chad
What is being done to help?
Many aid agenices are currently working Darfur – unable to access all parts of Darfur
The government has been accused of blocking access to some areas by demanding visa and imposing other bureaucratic obstacles
Ceasefire was agreed in April 2004 but has not held
The African Union (AU), a group of African coutnries has organised peace talks and some progress has been made – ban military flights and allowing in humanitarian aid
2006 peace deal – led to 7,000 blue helmetted African Union troops were deployed to keep the peace
The situation in 2007/08
At the end of 2007 it was agreed a new peace keeping force should be sent to Darfur
Comprise 26,000 troops and 6,000 police under the command of a Nigerian general.
Expectations were high but successful outcomes were likely to be slow – difficult to get troops to the area as there are few roads, no airport and little water – only 8,000 troops by August 2008
Major problem: only two rebel factions signed the peace agreement – estimated 13 factions in Darfur
Lack of trust in the Sudanese government to not put obstacles in place
In the summer of 2008 it was estimated that in 5 years of conflict 300,000 had died, more than 2 million homeless and about 1,000 people a month are displaced by the conflict.
The Sudanese government believes that the ‘West’ has greatly exaggerated the impacts of the conflict
An arrest warrant has been issued against Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir for allege war crimes during the conflict in Darfur.