The Darfur Crisis and the regional and international response to it

Seminar Paper, 2007
17 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents


1 Darfur Crisis and its Origins
1.1 Essential Background
1.2 Historical Roots
1.2.1 Darfur – a Region for Proxy Wars
1.3 Current Conflict
1.3.1 Patterns of Violence
1.3.2 Actual Situation
1.3.3 The IDP Camps
1.3.4 Sexual Violence
1.4 Conflict Explained

2 International Response
2.1 The Genocide Discussion
2.2 International Players
2.2.1 The AU
2.2.2 The UN
2.2.3 Other Actors


Sources Used


The conflict in Darfur has been repeatedly described as one of the worst humanitarian crises the world is facing nowadays. With hundreds of thousands killed and millions more displaced it is still ongoing. In this paper I would like to look at the conflict situation from two perspectives.

Firstly, in the first segment of my work, I will try to describe the conflict and its roots as well as explain its origins. For a better understanding I divided this chapter into several sub-chapters dealing with: the background to Darfur; historical roots of the conflict and most importantly with the current conflict focusing on patterns of violence, the actual situation, the IDP camps and sexual violence.

In the second half of my paper I tried to look at the conflict from a different perspective, from a perspective of international actors, above all the Western democratic countries in the sub-chapter about the question of genocide and the UN and the AU in the two following sub-chapters.

For this paper I used a number of sources, both books and journals or newspaper articles. However, Prunier’s book “Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide” proved to be the most useful one, since it still is one of the few books dealing precisely with this subject that is available.

1 Darfur Crisis and its Origins

1.1 Essential Background

Darfur is an approximately 150,000 square miles big region in the western part of Sudan, the largest country on the continent. The whole region consists of three provinces – Northern Darfur (capital in Al Fasher), Western Darfur (Geneina) and Southern Darfur (Nyala). Darfur is a vast, relatively isolated and dry area. These geographical and climatic conditions bear, obviously, importance for the people living there. One of the consequences of these conditions is that a region the size of France is only inhabited by some 6 million people.

The population of Darfur is extremely varied and diverse, it’s an ethnic mosaic comprised of around 90 tribes or nations. The most important tribes being the Fur (hence also the name Darfur), Zaghawa and Massalit. Some of these tribes are rather sedentary (mostly the so-called “African” [1] tribes) and some rather nomadic (mostly the so-called “Arab” tribes). The vast majority of the regional populace professes the Muslim faith.

1.2 Historical Roots

For several centuries Darfur had been an independent entity before it was annexed to Sudan in 1916. Ever since then it was perceived by rulers in Khartoum, the British-Egyptian colonial administration as well as most foreign observers as a remote region with little or no significance for its lack of resources or strategic importance. It has always been treated accordingly. For example the colonial administrative authorities purposefully limited local education and heavily underinvested into the region in comparison to the investments the north and especially the Khartoum region received.

The independence of Sudan in 1956 brought very little change. The continuous perception of Darfur as a backwards periphery is well documented by Prunier’s statement: “In late 1979 the Regional Government Act was enacted in an effort at making provincial governments closer to the needs of the local populations. To symbolize this new regionalizing approach, all the provincial governors had to be local people – all except in Darfur...” [2] The centre’s neglect was strongly perceived by both the “Arab” as well as “African” population in Darfur. However, the central Arab government often played on pan-Arab nationalist notes, purposefully playing the “Arab” population against the “African” one.

These tensions were further increased because of the changing environmental situation and diminishing rainfalls. Droughts and spreading desert often forced the nomadic population to look for other pastures, often thus encroaching upon the sedentary “African” peasants. The famine of 1984 can be perceived as a tipping point in this regard. Approximately 95,000 [3] people died in the famine, which was totally underestimated by the central government. As a consequence of the famine the mutual and largely artificial (and by the government supported) perception of “Arabs” and “Africans” increased dramatically, each group blaming the other for the disaster, which affected heavily members of both groups.


[1] Throughout this paper I use inverted commas when describing the “African” or “Arab” populations of Darfur, since they are very similar and often hard to distinguish and when such a distinction is made it is often artificial. For more on this see 1.4 .

[2] Prunier, 2005, 47-48

[3] Prunier, 2005, 56

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The Darfur Crisis and the regional and international response to it
Charles University in Prague
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Darfur, Crisis
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Martin Weiser (Author), 2007, The Darfur Crisis and the regional and international response to it, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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