Darfur Liberation Front
Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM)
Sudan Liberation Army (SLA)
Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)
Rebel divisions and a string of broken ceasefires have scuppered years of international mediation and several rounds of peace talks. Banditry has also spread. Conflict has raged in vast arid region for almost a decade since mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms against the Arab government in Khartoum in 2003, accusing it of political and economic marginalisation.
Violence overall had ebbed since the massacres reported in the early days of the uprising. But the clashes in early 2013 were some of the worst in the area for months. A surge in violence in Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region has killed more than 100 people and forced 100,000 to flee, the United Nations said on 16 January 2013, sharply increasing its estimates after weeks of clashes. Fighters caught up in a dispute over control of a gold mine had set fire to around three dozen villages in the north of the region.
On April 27, 2013 rebels attacked a city in the neighboring state of North Kordofan Saturday, bringing their fight closer to the capital. A spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, said the attack on Um Rawaba is part of the group's plan to overthrow the Sudanese government. Um Rawaba is North Kordofan's second-largest city. The state has largely been free from the rebel activity taking place in Darfur to its west and South Kordofan to the south. JEM is part of an alliance with rebels from the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states bordering South Sudan. It was one of two main rebel groups that launched an uprising against the government of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2003.
Human rights groups described the situation in Darfur as a genocide. The United Nations said up to 300,000 people died over six years of fighting between rebel groups and government forces. Sudan put the death toll much lower, at 10,000. The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, whom it accused of masterminding a campaign of rape, murder and other crimes against Darfur civilians. Bashir rejected the court's authority and has repeatedly traveled abroad in defiance of the arrest warrant.
UN-African Union mission's political chief, Rodolphe Adada, angered some Western diplomats in April 2009 when he said the situation in Darfur had settled down into "a low-intensity conflict." In August 2009 the outgoing commander of international peacekeepers in Sudan's troubled Darfur region said the area was no longer in a state of war. Speaking to reporters on 26 august 2009, Martin Luther Agwai said Darfur still has security issues, but he said the phase of full-scale war in the region has passed. Agwai said most of Darfur's rebel groups have fragmented, and are not strong enough to do any fighting.
In March 2009 President Barack Obama named a retired US Air Force Major General J. Scott Gration as his special envoy to Sudan. An Africa expert and a Swahili speaker - Gartion accompanied Mr Obama on a trip to Africa in 2006 and was an adviser during his presidential campaign. On 16 June 2009 Gration said the Sudanese government was no longer engaged in a "coordinated" campaign of mass murder in Darfur. "What we see is the remnants of genocide," Gration told reporters. "The level of violence that we're seeing right now is primarily between rebel groups, the Sudanese government and . . . some violence between Chad and Sudan." On 30 July 2009 Gen. Gration (USAF, retd.), told senators that the "genocide" label was no longer accurate or helpful. "There's significant difference between what happened in 2004 and 2003, which we characterized as a genocide, and what is happening today," General Gration said in testimony.
Regional resentment of Khartoum was not limited to the south, but was present to varying degrees in other areas of Sudan, especially the western state of Darfur. Although the ethnically diverse people of Darfur were predominantly Muslim, more than 40 percent were not Arabs and generally felt more affinity with related groups in neighboring Chad than with Khartoum. The civil strife in Chad during the 1980s inevitably spilled over into western Darfur, exacerbating historical tensions between the nonArab Fur and Zaghawa ethnic groups. The perception among many Fur that Khartoum encouraged and even armed militia among their enemies inspired guerrilla attacks on central government facilities and forces in Darfur. The general sense of antagonism toward Khartoum was reinforced by the drought and the near-famine conditions that have afflicted Darfur since 1984. Khartoum failed to cope with the social and economic consequences of the environmental disaster, a situation that increased alienation from the central government. By the early 1990s, much of Darfur was in a state of anarchy.
Darfur region is located in the western part of the Sudan. It is bordered by Libya in the North, Chad in the West and the Central African Republic in the South West. Kordofan and Bahr El-Gazal regions border the eastern and the southern parts of Darfur respectively. The estimated population of Darfur is around 4 million, approximately 60% of whom are subsistence farmers.
The major ethnic group is the Fur, hence the name Darfur [Dar = abode, darfur = abode of the Fur]. The rest are either nomadic or semi-nomadic herders. The majority of farmers live close to subsistence level. There are some small traders and local merchants, but their economic impact is insignificant.
The Fur, largely peasant farmers, occupy the central belt of the region, including the Jebel Marra massif. Also in this central zone are the non-Arab Masalit, Berti, Bargu, Bergid, Tama and Tunjur peoples, who are all sedentary farmers. The northernmost zone is Dar Zaghawa, part of the Libyan Sahara, and inhabited by camel nomads: principally the Zaghawa and Bedeyat, who are non-Arab in origin, and the Arab Mahariya, Irayqat, Mahamid and Beni Hussein. Cattle rather than camels are herded by the Arab nomads of the eastern and southern zone of Darfur, who comprise the Rezeigat, Habbaniya, Beni Halba, Taaisha and Maaliyya.
Historically, North Darfur and parts of West and South Darfur have suffered recurrent droughts. Crop yields have remained low and unpredictable due to erratic rainfall, pest infestation and the lack of agricultural inputs. The livestock has also dwindled due to pasture and water scarcity. The local labor force has continued to migrate in search of employment leaving behind children, women and the elderly. A combination of these factors over several years has systematically eroded the coping capacities of communities.
The government of Sudan maintains that conflict in this region of Darfour is primarily a tribal one, centred around the competition for land between pastoralists and crop farmers in the area. However, leaders of the Four tribe insist that the depopulation of villages and consequent changes in land ownership are part of a government strategy to change the whole demography of the region of Darfur.
Fighting between two main opposition groups -- the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) -- against the Government of Sudan (GOS) military, and GOS-supported militia groups collectively known as Janjaweed intensified in the three states of Darfur, the western region of Sudan, during late 2003. Insecurity has steadily increased since the Darfur-based opposition SLM/A attacked GOS military forces at El Fasher, North Darfur, on April 24 and 25, 2003. The humanitarian emergency in Darfur is a direct result of violence toward the Fur, Zaghawa, and Massalit civilian groups by GOS forces and the Janjaweed. Conflict-affected populations describe recurrent and systematic attacks against towns and villages, burning of buildings and crops, arbitrary killings, gang rape, and looting. The GOS has used aerial bombardments to terrorize civilians who the GOS claims are harboring SLM/A or JEM forces.
The main cause of this conflict is the Darfurians widespread feeling of being consistently socio-economically marginalized and the sense of being left out of the peace negotiations particularly in the context of self-determination and power sharing.
Over five dozen people from the Fur tribe were arrested and detained during July and August 2002, from the towns of Zalingei, Tour, and Nyartati and Golou in Jebel Mara province. None of the 66 people had been formally charged, but the Government stated that those arrested were suspected of working to form an opposition group calling themselves the 'Darfur Liberation Front'. Darfur had experienced a marked increase in levels of tribal conflict, with at least 65 people, all from the African tribes, confirmed killed in attacks by Arab militia since May 2002. Hundreds of houses had also been destroyed and thousands of livestock lost.
By early 2003 exiled Sudanese rights activists claimed that the conflict in Western Sudan's Darfur region was developing from ethnic cleansing into genocide. The Khartoum government allegedly supports Arab militias in their massacre of Fur and other indigenous people termed "slaves". Khartoum however claims its neutrality and says it is fighting "banditry" in Darfur.
The United Nations estimated that up to 600,000 people had been displaced by the conflict since February 2003. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes since fighting broke out in April 2003 between the rebel Justice and Equality Movement, and government forces. The situation of women and children is particularly desperate.
There are two main rebel groups:
- The Sudanese Liberation Army is backed by Eritrea. Until 2003, the group was known as the Darfur Liberation Front. Rebels in Darfour emerged in February 2003 under the name of Darfur Liberation Front. The Darfur Liberation Army announced no connection with the southern rebels, but it called in the middle of March 2003 for "an understanding " with the opposition forces which fight the Islamist government in Khartoum. In March 2003 the Darfour Liberation Front announced it had downed a helicopter that was carrying an official in the province. On 14 March 2003 Darfur Liberation Front announced that the movement will be called the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLM/SLA). The Darfur Liberation Front was a secessionist organisation calling for the secession of the area of Darfur from Sudan. The SLA, led by Mini Arkoi Minawi, says it wants to "create a united, democratic Sudan."
- The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) appears to have received support from Chad, and some captured rebels were found to have Chadian identification and arms. It is said to be backed by a Sudanese opposition leader, Hassan al-Turabi. Turabi, the former speaker of Sudan's parliament and the ideologist of its Islamist revolution, was removed from office in May 2000 and inprisoned by Sudan's military. During the late 1970s he had worked with Sadiq al-Mahdi, the leader of the Mahdist political party and grandson of The Mahdi.
The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) continued to mount attacks in Darfur in April 2003. In response, the Government of Sudan [GOS] stepped up its military presence in Darfur, and according to some reports, had begun attacking local villages in an effort to stamp out the insurgency. Sudan's border area with Chad was declared a military zone by the GOS following a meeting between Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir and Chadian President Idriss Deby. On 25 April 2003, the SLM/A reported that it had seized the airport and Al-Fasher, the capital of Northern Darfur state, and destroyed GOS helicopters and equipment. The GOS refuted this claim, stating that Al-Fashar remained under government control. The authorities in the capital of Southern Darfur, Nyala, imposed a curfew on the city following the clashes in Al-Fashar.
The SLM/A issued statements that it does not seek independence, but demands greater political autonomy and a more equitable share of resources from the central Sudanese authorities. The GOS disputes the SLM/A's claims to be a political organization, labeling the rebels "bandits and armed gangs."
The Sudan Liberation Army began battling an Arab militia called Janjawid [Janjaweed, meaning "a man with a horse and a gun"] as well as government troops in the Darfur region of western Sudan. The Janjawid have been pushing local farming communities off their land in a bid to have access to the resources. Critics accuse the Sudanese government of manipulating traditional ethnic tensions and pursuing a policy of "Arabisation" in Darfur, in order to maintain a support base there. The government has denied backing the Arab militia and said it wants to bring them under control. The Sudanese government strongly denies backing the militias. It says it has urged all tribes in Darfur to "defend" themselves against rebels in the region.
Reports indicate more than 600,000 civilians have been internally displaced, 75,000 refugees began fleeing to Chad in April 2003, and as many as 3,000 unarmed civilians have been killed in the region's spiralling conflict. Many more have been prevented from planting or harvesting crops. Humanitarian access continues to be inhibited by ongoing insecurity and the Government of Sudan's denial of travel permits to humanitarian workers.
In November 2003 The United Nations called for nearly 23-million dollars to help people suffering in this little-known war in western Sudan.
In December 2003 nearly 10,000 new Sudanese refugees fled into Chad from the strife-torn Darfur region of the Sudan. There were reports of killings, rape and the burning and looting of entire villages. The peace talks on Darfur resumed 10 December 2003 in Abeche, eastern Chad. A UN World Food Programme (WFP) assessment mission to south Darfur found that 46 of the 62 villages had been completely burned, while the other 16 had been looted. The newest refugees, who brought the number to have fled across the Chadian-Sudanese border over the previous seven months to 75,000, alleged that there has been aerial bombardment of villages and "ethnic cleansing" by pro-government Arab militias.
The government has denied all humanitarian agencies access, so UNICEF and other UN agencies are complaining to the government about this. UNICEF fears that the acute malnutrition among children less than five-years-old will increase dramatically due to a lack of food, due to displacement, due to lack of access from humanitarian agencies, and also, already very poor sanitary conditions and access to safe water.
The authorities might be embarrassed that fierce fighting is going on in this remote corner of Sudan at a time when a peace deal ending 25 years of civil war is almost concluded. Hostilities in Darfur between indigenous opposition groups and the Sudanese Armed Forces and its allied militias have caused non-governmental organizations and the UN to curtail needed humanitarian assistance programs.
This is an invisible emergency that does not get a lot of attention around the world, but it is something of extreme concern. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees/ UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is concerned about security along Chad's eastern border with Sudan, and planned to begin relocating the Sudanese refugees from that area to sites deeper inside Chad.
On 09 April 2004 the Sudanese government and two rebel movements in Darfur agreed to a 45-day ceasefire to allow humanitarian assistance to reach several hundred thousand people affected by the fighting. Chadian government mediators persuaded the Sudanese government and representatives of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) to agree to the truce. The deal included an agreement to release prisoners of war and other detainees arrested as a result of the 14-month-old conflict, to stop laying mines and committing acts of sabotage and had pledged allow the free movement of people and goods.
On 17 May 2004 the leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement, Abdel Wahed Mohammad Ahmad Nour, said his group would expand its fighting into the central Sudanese area of Kordofan, the capital, Khartoum, and areas in the east, if the group was not represented at the long-running Sudanese peace talks currently taking place in Kenya.
Although the US-brokered agreement nominally provided for a cease-fire and humanitarian access to Darfur, attacks by the Janjaweed militiamen -- who have been accused of ethnic-cleansing tactics against black African villagers -- continued and refugees still flowed across the border into Chad. As many as a million people had been made homeless in the western Sudanese region.
On May 25th 2004 the United Nations Security Council responded to widespread human rights violations and a deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Darfur region by condemning attacks on civilians and calling on the Khartoum government to prevent the Janjaweed from carrying out strikes on the black African population. The resolution expressed concern at reports of large-scale violations of human rights and international humanitarian law such as "indiscriminate attacks on civilians, sexual violence, forced displacement and acts of violence, especially those with an ethnic dimension" and demanded that the perpetrators be held accountable. While the Council welcomed the humanitarian ceasefire agreement signed in April in Chad, it reiterated its call for the Government of Sudan to respect its commitments and ensure that the Janjaweed are neutralized and disarmed. Earlier in May, Sudan was re-elected as a member of the UN Commission on Human Rights, prompting a walk out by the American envoy in protest of the Khartoum-government's backing of atrocities in Darfur.
The government of Sudan and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army signed a power-sharing agreement in Naivasha, Kenya on May 26 2004 in a step to end Africa's longest civil war. The accord consisted of three key protocols on wealth-sharing in the contested regions of Abyei, the Nuba mountains and southern Blue Nile, critical to a comprehensive peace agreement. Technical committees would work to implement the protocols and resolve details of a comprehensive ceasefire agreement.While progress was made between the government and insurgency groups, the United Nations continued to appeal for humanitarian assistance in Darfur, warning that thousands of people in the province and refugees in neighboring Chad would die without urgent aid. The UN made an emergency appeal for $236 million at a major donors conference in Geneva on June 3rd. A week later, the Security Council unanimously approved Secretary General Kofi Annan's proposal to send a UN advance team to Sudan with a three month mission of assessing peacekeeping needs in the south of the country. Amid rising international scrutiny and pressure from foreign governments, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir ordered the disarmament of all fighters in the Darfur region, including those allegedly backed by the Sudanese government, the Janjaweed. Skepticism as to whether his order would be followed remained.
On June 24th the US Congress approved a humanitarian aid package for Sudan's western Darfur region as an amendement to a defense spending bill. The measure included $70 million for the US Agency for International Development's disaster and famine programs in Darfur, and $14 million to assist refugees in Chad. A few days later, on June 29th US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Sudan to urge Khartoum authorities to reign in Arab militiamen accused of human rights abuses in the Darfur region. He met with President Omar el-Bashir and visited displaced people in Darfur, threatening unspecified UN Security Council action unless the government brought an end to militia violence. The United Nations has described the 15-month Darfur conflict as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and UN relief groups estimate that up to 2 million people are in need of food, while a million more have been forced to flee their homes. The US government claims that the casualties of fighting between the Janjaweed and black Africans range from 10,000 to 30,000 people thus far. The Islamist Khartoum government denies links to the Janjaweed, but continues to block aid workers, journalists, and independent human rights monitors from entering Darfur to assess the situation, in violation of earlier agreements.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan visited the troubled region on July 1st with the hope of finding ways to end the humanitarian crisis. His three-day visit to Sudan and Chad gave him the opportunity to meet and talk to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees. A day later several villages in rebel-held areas of southern Darfur state were bombed, according to relief workers. Initial reports suggest that the villages of Marla, Labado and Mujiriyah, all controlled by the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement Army (SLM/A) were attacked. At the end of Annan's visit to Sudan on July 3rd the Sudanese government formally committed to the immediate disarmament of Janjaweed militas and other outlaws operating in Darfur in a joint communiqué with the United Nations. Khartoum also promised to ease restrictions on humanitarian aid workers in the region, an action that encouraged the World Food Program to increase its food shipments to Darfur in hopes of reaching almost one million people displaced by fighting.
The Sudanese government and two rebel groups operating out of the Darfur region opened talks on July 15th in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. Two days later, the rebel groups pulled out of the African Union-mediated peace efforts, saying they would not return until the Sudanese government fulfilled conditions set for the talks. In the meantime the World Health Organization started a cholera immunization program in Darfur province to prevent an outbreak of the potentially fatal disease. In light of the continuing humanitarian emergency and the civil war's stalemate, on July 23rd the US Congress declared the mass killing of civilians in Darfur to be genocide. In a non-binding resolution, lawmakers urged President Bush to do the same. Thus far the Bush administration has declined to label the situation in Darfur a genocide. The 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide would require that such a classification of genocide justify an intervention by all signatories. The Pentagon made it clear that there are no US plans to intervene in the conflict militarily.
African Union military observers in Darfur reported that Sudanese militias have burned civilians alive. The AU's peace and security council announced in a meeting in Addis Ababa on July 27th that it is actively considering expanding the military observer mission into a multinational peacekeeping force with particular emphasis on disarming the Janjaweed if the Sudanese government does not do so. This would be the AU's first military intervention in a member state. The AU will also expand its ceasefire-observer mission, which originally would be protected by a small force of 300 troops, to a much larger contingent with the specific job of disarming the militiamen. The United Kingdom raised the possibility of sending troops to Darfur, but US Secretary of State Colin Powell insisted it was premature to speak of military intervention. Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail warned that Sudanese solders would repel any advance by foreign troops in Darfur. Khartoum went on to summon UK and German diplomats to protest EU-sponsored sanctions on the Darfur conflict.
The UN Security Council was also to discuss possible sanctions against Sudan. On July 27th, the United States circulated the latest version of a resolution that sets deadlines for the Sudanese government to stop the Janjaweed's campaign of terror and promises unspecified sanctions as a consequence of noncompliance. EU foreign ministers supported the resolution, but veto powers Russia and China argued that the Sudanese government should have more time to comply with the earlier joint communique to crack down on the militiamen and allow aid to reach starving Darfuris. Pakistan and Algeria were said to also oppose immediate sanctions, but US diplomats said they were confident that a majority of UN Security Council members will back the draft. There has been resistance to a Council vote on the issue. The Arab League told the Security Council to "avoid precipitate action" and give Sudan more time to honor its pledges. African leaders seek an "African solution" to Darfur at a special summit in Ghana on July 29th called by the AU Chairman, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria. The AU requested British and Dutch assistance in airlifting 300 African troops to Sudan.
In mid-July 2004, Human Rights Watch obtained copies of Sudanese government documents that described an official policy of support for the Janjaweed militia. Thus far, aid agencies had estimated the death toll at 50,000 and warned that it might eventually run into hundreds of thousands. More than a million people had fled their homes.
On November 19 Sudan's government and southern rebels signed a pledge to commit themselves to ending Sudan's 21-year civil war. The pledge was signed in front of the 15 Security Council members in Nairobi, remarkable for the fact that it is the first time in 14 years and only the fourth time ever that the Security Council has met outside of its New York home. While the two groups have made similar, failed pledges in the past, the presence of the Security Council members may give this pledge added credibility. Officials also hoped that the agreement could be later applied to the situation in Darfur. However, human rights groups such as Oxfam and Amnesty International expressed skepticism with the agreement, claiming it to be little more than empty words and promises. While the Security Council promised that it would consider taking appropriate measures should either side fail to follow through on its commitments, both China and Russia have said that they are opposed to any penalties.
A Declaration of Principles for the Resolution of the Sudanese Conflict in Darfur was signed in July 2005. The agreement of the Government of Sudan, Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice Equality Movement to the Declaration's 17 points provided a framework for negotiations on wealth and power sharing as part of the Darfur political settlement. The agreement was also designed to create security conditions that would permit the return of the internally displaced persons as well as those who sought refuge in Chad. The African Union played a pivotal role in successfully mediating the talks. The United States' observer team, headed by retired Ambassador John Yates, supported the efforts to achieve these Principles. The Principles serve as a basis for further good faith political dialogue between the parties. The crisis in Darfur and implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement are interrelated issues.
Taken together, the Declaration of Principles and the 9 July 2005 installation of the Presidency of the Government of National Unity constituted significant progress toward the goal of achieving peace throughout Sudan. The interim government was established by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed on 9 January 2005 in Nairobi. It was designed to last 6 years before concluding with a referendum on Southern independence. As part of the power sharing structure, leaders of the rebel group, Sudan People's Liberation Movement Army John Garang was sworn in as the vice-President with Omar al-Bashir retaining the Presidency. The once bitter enemies signed the interim constitution as well as selected members for the new parliament. As a sign of goodwill, Garang's SPLM/A released more that 150 prisoners or war days before the implementation of the government.
However, reports of non-political violence continued in the south, including widespread banditry, lawlessness, and rape. On July 26 armed engagements between rebel and government forces threatened to ruin the cease-fire and end the reprieve of relative peace. Each side blamed the other for initiating the fighting which culminated with helicopter raids on southern villages.
Another tragic setback for peace came on July 31 when the helicopter carrying vice-president Garang back to Sudan from peace talks in Uganda crashed in bad weather. The death of the influential leader from the south and crucial architect of the peace process set off riots across the country. In the capital of Khartoum, tens of thousands of protesters began looting and fire-fights broke out between the crowds and the Sudanese police force. Large scale unrest also flared up in Juba, one of the largest cities in the south. Salva Kiir Mayardit, who had served as Garang's deputy for the SPLM/A, was named his successor for both the SPLM/A and the vice-presidency pleaded for calm and an end to the riots. On August 2, Jan Pronk, head of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) attempted to dispel the rumors that the helicopter had been shot down or sabotaged as the riots continued. After 3 days of rioting which was responsible for at least 130 deaths, order was finally restored to the capital before Garang's funeral in the city of Juba.
It was feared that the death of Garang would undermine the new government and prevent further negotiations with the remaining rebel groups. However, amidst these concerns and the continuing degradation of the nation's security and economic condition, new hope came on August 24, 2005. After pushing back the date to September 15, 2005, the two largest rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLM) agreed to continue peace talks with the Sudanese government in Abuja, Nigeria. The African Union continued its commitment to mediate the talks and pledged to increase the force of its peacekeeping troops to 7,000 by the end of September.
As talks began in Abuja, violence continued in Darfur, including looting, pillaging, and attacks on humanitarian convoys as well as violations of the cease-fire between rebel and government forces. While the negotiations failed to gain any ground, another event seemed poised to destroy the cease-fire and throw the warring factions back into armed conflict. Claiming retaliation for a raid by the SPLM/A on August 25, 2005 which killed six and stole 2,000 camels, the nomadic tribesman attacked a rebel stronghold in Jebel Marra, Darfur on Sept. 20, resulting in the death or 30 tribesmen and 10-15 rebels. In the wake of this incident, tribesman began mobilizing in preparation for more combat. On September 21, SPLM/A rebels overtook the government fortified town of Shareya, northeast of Nyala in South Darfur. The violence drove out humanitarian agencies working in Shareya and nearby Mohajuria, leaving behind nearly 77,000 people who had been receiving assistance. These actions were predicted to provoke government reprisals.
As of September 23, 2005 the situation in Sudan remained dire. Since the eruption of violence in the Darfur region in February of 2003, the ongoing battle between the rebel forces and government backed Janjaweed has driven an estimated 2 million natives from their home with some 200,000 fleeing into neighboring chad. The fighting as well as the killing of civilians and the miserable conditions of refugees has been responsible for 180,000 deaths. That number is an approximation since the circumstances do not allow for a more accurate death toll, and the true number could very well be much higher than that. Despite the best efforts of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), the African Unions Mission in Sudan (AMIS), and the humanitarian NGOs, supplies remained scarce and security insufficient to guarantee a safe return home for the survivors. The signing and implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement created the interim government integrated with the rebel group SPLM/A, ending, on paper, the country's 21 year civil war. The new national unity government in conjuncture with the ongoing peace talks with the remaining rebel groups provides the potential for peace and stability in the region. However, the fragility of Sudan's cease-fire remains painfully apparent in the wake of continued engagements drawn along ethnic and political lines. There also seems to be increasing division and dissent in the ranks of the rebel militias, leading to further chaos and violence preventing the peace process. The longer the country remains embattled, the further these conditions will degrade, creating conditions for even more suffering.
As of October 2005, the African Union, with the support of the United Nations had a contingent of approximately 6,000 AU soldiers to monitor a ceasefire. At that time it was estimated that there were 1.8 million people in camps in Darfur, with another 200,000 refugees in Chad. Despite the ceasefire and AU force, it is widely reported that the security situation deteriorated significantly. Not only were refugees and AU members attacked and victimized, but aid and humanitarian workers were also attacked, raped and looted. As a result international aid and its workers had virtually ground to a halt. Most of the attacks were carried out by the Janjaweed militia. Because of this worsened condition, as of the end of November 2005, the UN had temporarily withdrawn all non-essential staff from West Darfur.
While the SLM and Janjaweed are primarily to blame for many of the attacks and raids, the Sudanese government has done virtually nothing to help the AU force that was assigned to enforce the ceasefire. Furthermore, Khartoum has failed to carry out its ceasefire obligation to disarm or control the Janjaweed.
As of the beginning of February 2006, the UN Security Council asked Kofi Annan, to "initiate contingency planning" and to produce various options in consultation with the AU, for UN peacekeeping operations. Around the same time, which helped spur on the UN Security Council intitative, was the fact that 70,000 people fled the town of Mershing, after militiamen attacked. Talk of NATO reinforcements had also been expressed that time.
After many delays and missed deadlines, the slow negotiations between the Sudanese government and the largest rebel movement active in Sudan's Darfur region, the Sudan Liberatioin Movement, struck a deal in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on May 5th, 2006. Despite the optimistic deal, two other significant rebel groups refused to sign it. While not all the parties agreed, the agreement affords a political breach which made it possible for the UN to send stronger, better-armed peacekeeping forces into Darfur, to support and replace the existing AU forces. Additionally the agreement called for the disarming of the Janjaweed.
As of the end of July 2006, the Khartoum government has been slow to approve and grant permission to let UN officials and troops into Darfur, Sudan. The prospects of UN peacekeeping forces remains grim, unless the Sudanese government relinquishes their obstinate stance.
In August 2006, the Sudanese government rejected a UN resolution authorizing a peacekeeping force in Darfur on the grounds that it would be a violation of Sudanese sovereignty. The plan would enlarge the current force from 7,000 to 20,000. On September 3, Khartoum asked the African Union force to leave the country when at the end of its mandate.
At a 22 September 2006 emergency international meeting on the Darfur conflict, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that “time is running out.” She called upon those in attendance to continue to press Sudan to accept a larger peacekeeping force. In 6 October 2006, Sudan sent a letter to the Security Council declaring its view that any contribution to a peacekeeping force would be considered “a hostile act.” The United States ambassador to the UN, John R. Bolton, said the letter demanded “a strong response.”
On 22 October 2006, UN envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk was expelled from Sudan. Khartoum claimed that Pronk was asked to leave because he had violated his neutrality on the situation. At issue was a blog Pronk maintained time in Sudan. The government considered the blog to be propaganda because it contained an entry claiming that the Sudanese army was suffering from low morale due to defeats in Darfur. After consultations in New York between Kofi Annan, Pronk, and Sudan’s UN ambassador, the UN announced that he would keep his position.
The Darfur crisis threatened to become a regional conflict on 7 November 2006 when Chad accused Sudan of “exporting the genocide.” In the week prior to this announcement, 200 people were killed attacks on villages just inside the Chadian border. Chad declared a state of emergency on the 13th and was backed by a UN warning against the incursion.
On the 17th, Sudan said it would welcome a hybrid UN-AU force as long as the UN was not in command. Specifically, the Sudan said it would accept “all financial, material, logistic, or technical assistance from the UN in order to strengthen the AU mission in Darfur.” On the same day, Chad proposed an anti-Sudan alliance with the Central African Republic (CAR). The CAR and Chad have accused Sudan of backing rebels fighting against the CAR government.
Hopes of a deal between the UN, AU, and Darfur were put in jeopardy on 18 November when the AU accused Sudan of launching a new ground and air offensive in Darfur. Although details were few, the AU said that there had been heavy casualties. On 30 November the AU voted to extend the peacekeepers’ mandate for another six months after January.
The United States, on 14 December, proposed a no-fly zone over Darfur to prevent attacks against civilians. The State Department proposed other UN-sanctioned options including a naval blockade, or air strikes. Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council agreed to send a team of experts to Darfur to investigate allegations of abuse.
On January 11, 2007, talks between Jan Eliasson and President Omar el-Bashir, Sudan's President, have shown commitment to the resolution to put UN peacekeepers in Darfur, to aid in quelling the violence that has again erupted in Sudan. Jan Eliasson is the United Nations Secretary-General's special envoy to Darfur. The May 5th Darfur Peace Agreement, allows the UN to send peacekeepers to support the existing AU forces in Sudan. The first phase of the provision was initiated on Jan 11, 2007. This phase called for equipment and supplies to be delivered to the African Mission in Sudan (AMIS). More supplies and equipment are to be delivered in the following weeks. In addition, the first phase includes military advisors, police officers, and civilian staff from the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). The second stage of the process calls for staff workers and more equipment, including helicopter gunships. The third phase covers the deployment of some 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers to support or replace the under-staffed AU missions, creating a hybrid, UN-AU peacekeeping force.
As of January 12, 2007, the fighting in Darfur has claimed the lives of over 200,000 people, and forced some 2.5 million people from their homes, many seeking refuge in neighboring Chad. As of January 12, 2007 the government of Sudan as continually rejected a UN presence in the country. They have allowed, as per the Darfur Peace Agreement, UN peacekeeping troops into the country. However, these troops were only admitted as long as they were under AU command, and in support positions. These troops are mainly placed in technical support positions. Independent UN peacekeeping missions have been expressly forbidden.
The violence in Sudan has continued to increase, and as even turned on Humanitarian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), killing aid workers, and disrupting humanitarian aid. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the 13 NGOs in Sudan have reported that as of July 2006, 12 relief workers have been killed. This is more than those workers killed in the last two years, combined. In addition, armed bands have attacked numerous NGO sites, and United Nations compounds. The violence toward aid workers has greatly reduced the scope of aid operations all across the region, compromising food, water, and medical services all across Darfur.
As of February 16, 2007, the violence in Darfur has continued to escalate. Rebel groups and government backed troops continue to battle all around Darfur, and its surrounding areas in complete disregard for the Darfur Peace Agreement signed last year, May 5, 2006. The violence has even included a bombing of two villages in Northern Darfur, by Sudanese military aircraft. The Sudanese government claims that the attack was made as a defensive move in response to rebel activities.
The Darfur Peace agreement made on 5 May, 2006 was an accord signed between the Sudanese government, and Sudan Liberation Movement, the largest rebel faction in Darfur. However, two other significant rebel factions refused to sign the accord, citing that it was not adequate in its power sharing agreements. The Darfur conflict began in 2003, when rebels took up arms in protest of Sudan's Islamic Regime, and it's neglect of Black African Darfur. The rebels charge the Islamic regime for decades of oppression, and economic marginalization. The rebels also want greater autonomy in the region. The Sudanese government responded to the rebels with a harsh military crackdown by the military, and the Arab Janjaweed militia, who are accused of committing atrocities against unarmed non-Arab civilians.
The rebel groups have since fragmented into many different groups, making it increasingly difficult to quell the increasing violence in the area. UN-AU coalition troops are finding it difficult to account for the violence in Darfur. They are trying to separate out the politically motivated actions by rebel groups, from violence done by bandits.
In addition, the violence has begun to spread into neighboring countries, spilling into the bordering regions of Chad and the Central African Republic. Eritrea, Chad and the Central African Republic are suspected of supporting different groups of rebels in the Darfur conflict, and have since accused each other of escalating the violence, and destabilizing the peace process through supporting their respective rebel groups.
On May 29, 2007, a UN officer was killed and a UN convoy was hijacked, robbing the passengers and stealing three vehicles. This upsurge of violence in the Darfur region has brought condemnation from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, especially against violence towards humanitarian workers and personnel working for the stability of the region. The UN officer killed was Lieutenant-Colonel Ehab Nazih, a staff officer from Egypt. The violence in Darfur has grown to levels, where Peacekeeping forces are being attacked, and are under constant threat.
As of May 31, 2007 no significant Peacekeeping force has arrived in Sudan. The previously agreed peace agreement makes provision for an African Union led, multi-national peacekeeping force to assist in the peace process. However, the Sudanese government has so far refused the entry of such a force. It is seen as very important that this force be led by the AU, and the United Nations would only have a support and be subordinate to the AU. The Force Commander will be African, and the peacekeeping force will have a predominately African Character. The Sudanese government fears the intervention of multi-national troops for what the Government sees as a wholly Sudanese issue. There are two options for the size of the military component for the peacekeeping forces. One offers 19,555 troops, while the other provides for 17,605 troops. The police force would stand at 3,772 officers.
On July 19, 2007 President George W. Bush said that he had considered taking unilateral military action to halt the mass killing running rampant in Darfur. The United States has officially called the killing in Darfur a genocide, however, it is facing difficulty in rallying international cooperation to halt a genocide. Other countries have not categorized the conflict as a genocide. However, President Bush instead opted for a multinational response, of which he admits "is a slow and tedious process to hold the [Sudanese] regime accountable." The United States as since placed economic sanctions on Sudanese leaders and companies to put pressure for change, and enforce consequences of the rampant violence.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|