conflict in sudan… ‘almost’ genocide?

The conflict in the western region of Darfur has been labelled by many NGOs as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Humanitarian agencies have all but been run out of the region, Janjaweed militia have freely used rape as a tool of war, and hundreds of thousands of citizens have been displaced. Chad has borne the brunt of the majority of refugees. Yet Sudan neighbours some nine African states, and the historical impact of this conflict will no doubt be impressive.

Darfur has faced many years of tension over land and grazing rights between the mostly nomadic Arabs, and farmers from the Fur, Massaleet and Zagawa communities. Tension between citizens and the government grew in intensity, with some groups claiming years of neglect and discrimination by the Sudanese Government.

In mid-2003, the struggle for land and power in the western region of Darfur intensified, with government-supported Arab Janjaweed militia undertaking a policy of ethnic cleansing towards the civilian population of African tribes. Many claim the Islamic Arab community is seeking to remove all black tribespeople from the region- a kind of ‘purification’ of the land. The attacks by the government forces and allied militias led to the deaths of over 200,000 Darfurians and the displacement of over 2 million.

There are two main rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), although both groups have split, some along ethnic lines. More than a dozen rebel groups are now believed to exist. Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir rejects claims the conflict is being fought along ethnic lines.

The US and some human rights groups say that genocide is taking place – though a UN investigation team sent to Sudan said that while war crimes had been committed, there had been no intent to commit genocide.

The language of the 1948 U.N. Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide speaks of acts “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” Though both U.N. and U.S. officials have explicitly made the comparison between Darfur in 2004 and Rwanda in 1994,  few are willing to say what the language of the Genocide Convention all too clearly specifies.

From my understanding, the Convention was established in order to set aside a definitive set of criteria used in a bid to recognise genocide and to prevent it. Is it a numbers game?  Is it a matter of militia groups failing to adequately articulate their motivations? To label the conflict genocide obliges the UN to step in and intervene,  and this will no doubt have severe rammifications internationally, particularly among UN member states.

For a detailed background into the Darfur conflict:


Problems in the South

While the continuing horrors of Darfur, in western Sudan, attract more of the world’s attention, the South is also unstable. The Abyei region in the north-south fault line has been plagued by ongoing conflict which threatens to further threaten the peace process and destabilise the state (and its economy). Abyei is at the nub of the problems that have strained relations between north and south since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in 2005. After a failed US-led mediation effort, Abyei has become a rallying cry for war. What’s at stake? Pastureland, oil wells, and the continuation of a three-year-old peace deal that ended the 20-year civil war that killed more than 2 million Sudanese.

Many foreign government agencies and charities have switched their focus to Darfur, yet the southern region is vital. If the conflict here gets out of hand, the entire peace accord that has kept an edgy calm between north and south for the past three years could dissolve in a bloodbath. The UN mission in Sudan is feeble, and holds a weak mandate. For the UN, tackling southern Sudan still seems a challenge too far.


~ by k-rock and l-jive on June 11, 2008.

One Response to “conflict in sudan… ‘almost’ genocide?”

  1. Hi from Vice magazine,
    I thought that you might be interested in “Inisde Sudan”, which is featured in VBS.TV (our online channel) and you can watch all the episodes here:

    Feel free to share any of our content in your blog or elsewhere.
    We’d be happy to hear back from you anytime,

    Danai Vardali
    Publishing, TV, marketing, online, events
    77 Leonard Street
    London, EC2A 4QS, UK

    phone: +44 (0) 20 7749 7810
    fax: +44 (0) 20 7729 6884

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