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Darfur: A Brief History of Conflict, 2003-2006

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Darfur: A Brief History of Conflict, 2003-2006

Posted by Mollie Zapata on January 3, 2012

Darfur: A Brief History of Conflict, 2003-2006

Editor’s Note: This post is a brief history, intended to provide a contextual background for understanding the complex issues that the Enough Project works on. It is part of the series Enough 101.

Acronyms to Know:

SLA/M – Sudan Liberation Army/Movement

JEM – Justice and Equality Movement

NCP – Sudanese Government National Congress Party

SLA-MM – Sudan Liberation Army, Minni Minnawi

DPA – Darfur Peace Agreement (2006)

DDPD – Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (2011)

Darfur is a region in western Sudan the size of California and West Virginia combined.   

The Darfur conflict has claimed about 300,000 lives and displaced close to 3 million people since it erupted in February 2003. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.

In February 2003, two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement, or SLA/M, and the Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, launched a full scale rebellion against the Sudanese government for reasons of ongoing economic marginalization and insecurity.

Those involved in the rebellion were predominantly from the sedentary tribes of the region, including the Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit, and all were Muslim.

The Sudanese government responded by enlisting the help of some of the nomadic tribes in Darfur to put down the rebellion. The government promised these tribes land and money in exchange for cooperation. With financial, military, and political support from the Sudanese government’s leading National Congress Party, or NCP, the nomadic groups formed militias known as the Janjaweed.

On September 9, 2004, United States Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Darfur conflict was “genocide” and called it the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century. It was the first time the United States ever declared a situation a genocide while it was still occurring.

In March 2005, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1593, which referred the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court, or ICC. In March 2009, the ICC issued an arrest warrant to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide in Darfur. It was the first time the ICC issued an arrest warrant for a sitting head of state.

The rebel groups in Darfur have splintered multiple times, leaving an unwieldy number of actors with varying needs. In May 2006, the Government of Sudan signed the Darfur Peace Agreement, or DPA, with just one of the rebel factions—the SLA-Minni Minnawi, or SLA-MM. Given the lack of representation of the various groups, the DPA was, not surprisingly, ineffective in securing peace in Darfur.

Next week’s Enough 101 will focus on the period from December 2010 to the present, including the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, or the DDPD.