Background

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Map of Darfur

After five years, 200,000 deaths and the displacement of more than two million people, the atrocities in Darfur, Sudan seem to be without an end.

Tensions first arose in Darfur during the 1980s over land and water scarcity. The region was separated into two groups: sedentary farmers and pastoral nomads.

The troubles eventually morphed into a conflict between militias representing the predominately Arab pastoral nomads, and a force defending the primarily black sedentary farmers. Though the conflict was officially ended in the 1990s by the Sudanese government, officials only disarmed non-Arab forces and left the militias to attack the non-Arab farmers.

Fed up, the farming community formed two rebel groups, the Sudanese Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

These rebel groups launched a series of attacks against the Sudanese government in 2003, an act that led to the formation of the Janjaweed, an Arab militia supported by the government.

In an effort to subdue the rebel groups, the Sudanese government has continued to support the Janjaweed’s violence against non-Arab civilians including the burning of villages, mass murder, systematic rape, and bombing.

Now, five years into the crisis, 4.5 million people have been affected. As internally displaced persons (IDP) camps reach capacity, humanitarian organizations in the area have come under attack.

The government of Sudan and two rebel groups signed a provisional ceasefire in 2004. The African Union provided a small force to monitor that agreement. The AU forces lack the needed equipment, numbers and experience and have not been able to protect civilians and aid workers in the wake of increased violence.

The attacks on humanitarian aid have led to a UN announcement stating growing malnutrition rates in Darfur have reached the World Health Organization’s “Emergency Threshold.”

Peace talks, which opened up in Libya in 2007, have proven unsuccessful due to the absence of key figures in the anti-government coalition. The lack of unity amongst rebel groups will also contribute to more suffering until efforts are made towards unifying the disparate forces.
"Students Taking Action Now, Darfur

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