March 7, 2009

The Darfur Conflict: Crimes Against Humanity in Sudan Pt. 1 of 3 The Roots of the Conflict

I have taken the following from the Crimes of War Project website. Please click the link to read the entire description. I hope this helps you understand further the humanitarian crisis that exist in Darfur. These people have ENDURED the unthinkable for two decades.


The Darfur Conflict: Crimes Against Humanity in Sudan
April 9, 2004

The Roots of the Conflict

Sudan's westernmost province bordering on Libya and Chad, Darfur is very large (almost 400,000 square kilometers) and quite populous in comparison with other regions of the Sudan (with around eight million people). Geographically, the province is centered on the Jebel Mara volcanic massif. The amount of rainfall determines the character of the population in broad bands going from north to south: camel herders in the northern arid zone, settled peasants in the center, cattle nomads in the south bordering on the Bahr-el-Ghazal Province. The black African Fur tribe makes up over half of the population, hence the name of the province Dar (home) of the Fur, and the rest is divided between over fifteen different ethnic/linguistic groups. All the inhabitants are Sunni Muslims.

The region was home to the independent Sultanate of Kayra between the mid-17th century and 1916 when it was finally annexed to the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. This long tradition of independence from the center of power in the distant Nile Valley has been a continuing source of alienation between Darfur and the rest of Sudan 's Muslim North. At independence in 1956 the province soon became a bastion of the Mahdist religious movement and a stronghold of its political wing the Umma Party. Twice in the history of the Sudan (in 1968 and in 1986) it was a solid bloc of Umma voters in Darfur that gave the Umma Party and its leader Sadiq al-Mahdi victory at the polls.

There are two other aspects of Darfurian politics that played a key role in the development of the present conflict. First, the inhabitants of the province, whether settled “African” peasants or “Arab” nomadic tribes (these words have to be put between inverted commas since there are no “pure” Arabs in Darfur but only people of mixed ethnic origins whose mother tongue is Arabic), have consistently identified with the Muslim north of Sudan in the conflict with the Christian and animist south that has persisted on and off since 1955. Members of the various Darfur ethnic groups, mostly from the “African” tribes, made up a very large proportion (between 40 and 60%) of the northern troops fighting against the southern rebellions between 1955 and 1972 and then again between 1983 and the present. Thus Islam proved to be a stronger identity factor than racial/cultural origins.

At the same time, the political gap in Darfur between those who identified themselves as “Arabs” and those who identified themselves as “Africans” widened from the mid-1960s onwards. The 1980s saw repeated ethnic clashes that were precariously terminated by a locally brokered peace agreement in 1989, the same year in which the National Islamic Front (NIF) radical Muslim organization took power in a military coup. There was thus a contradiction between the national political positioning of the African tribes, which were aligned with the Nile Valley Arabs in their struggle to retain control of the country against the southern challenge, and their provincial positioning where they fought the local representatives of those same Arabs.

In 1991 Daud Bolad, a Muslim Brother activist of Fur ethnic origin who had initially supported the new NIF regime, tried to organize a revolt against his former friends after he realized that as a black African he was not the social equal of the Arabs, even within the supposedly egalitarian ethos of the radical Islamic movement. Daud Bolad was defeated and killed but his attempted uprising marked a turning point in many people's consciousness in Darfur.

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