The Conflict in Darfur

27/11/2014 13:32

The Darfur conflict in Sudan presents one of the major human rights violations faced today. This conflict which started in 2003 is mainly between the Sudanese military group known as the Jinjaweed (a Sudanese militia) and rebel groups in Sudan namely: the Sudanese Liberation Army/Movement (SLA), and the Justice and Equality movement. While there is no clear-cut distinction as to whether this is an ethnic conflict or a religious conflict, it is primarily viewed as a tribal conflict. The main tribes under attack are the non-Arab tribes of Masalt, Fur, and Zaghwa, by the Afro Arab tribes in Darfur.

The actual root causes of this conflict are ambiguous. Some claim that problems such as drought and overpopulation that had plagued Darfur for decades, triggered this conflict, while others blame global warming, economic, and political issues, but one would require a nuanced approach to understand why this conflict actually started. There had been a series of minor small-scale conflicts going on in Darfur prior to 2003, but the initial stages of this conflict might have been instigated by the immigration of the Baggara nomad Arabs south onto the land of other Sudanese communities in Darfur. As a result of diminished natural resources, and lack of water, the Baggara nomads moved south in search for water and favourable grazing lands for their livestock. This led to a conflict and struggle over land between the Baggara Arabs and non-Arabs who lived in the southern part of Sudan.

Instead of intervening and containing the situation before it got out of hand, the Sudanese government ignored the initial stages of this conflict. Therefore, what could have only been remembered as tribal conflicts between the natives of Darfur escalated into a full blown military confrontation in February 2003. After the Darfur Liberation Front initiated the first military attack against one of the army garrisons in the mountains. The SLA, which was originally known as the Darfur Liberation Front (DLF), has accused the Sudanese government of favoring the Arabs over the non-Arabs, and even though the Sudanese government denies any involvement in this conflict, it is rumored to be the sole financial and military donor of the Jinjaweed.

The conflict furthered on mainly as a struggle between the Arabs and non-Arabs over the acquisition of land, control and access to meager natural resources. The conflict wouldn’t be, as we know it today, if the government hadn’t orchestrated a plan to skillfully involve and support the works of the Jinjaweed. The Jinjaweed carried out gruesome activities, and committed crimes that have led to gross violations of human rights. Even though the government might try to downplay their role in this conflict, other crimes such as detaining witnesses, tampering with evidence on mass gravesites, censorship of the media cannot be ignored.

As of September 2006, the UN estimated the number of deaths committed by the Jinjaweed in Darfur to be approximately 250,000, while over a million other people have been forced to flee their homes, and live in refugee camps.

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