The province of Darfur lies in the western part of Sudan, Eastern Africa. Sudan is Africa’s largest country. The country is inhabited by citizens of Arabic origin in the north and blacks in the south including the Darfur region (Prunier, pp. 8-24). The province of Darfur borders Chad, Libya and the Central African Republic. History shows that Darfur existed as a sultanate (Tunjur) in the 14th century and developed to the level of autonomous keira dynasty which was ended by the Egyptian conquerors and British colonialists in the 19th century. In 1916, Darfur was absorbed into the neighboring Sudan to form one colony for the British during the 19th century territorial expansions the struggle and partition of Africa. Although the Britons allowed Darfur semi autonomous status, the region remained underdeveloped during the colonial and into the post colonial time (Prunier, pp. 8-24). The Darfur inhabitants are mainly farmers and pastrolists. The non-Arabs being mainly farmers while Arabs are nomadic pastrolists.Darfur means the ‘land of fur’, so named after the non-Arab blacks who controlled the sultanate. The fur occupy less than a quarter of the Darfur population besides the over thirty other non-Arab ethnic groups. All these inhabitants of Darfur maintain their own native languages but speak a common language, Arabic. The Arabs in Darfur are mostly descendants of the trans Saharan immigrants of the 14th– 18th century. As noted above, central Darfur is occupied by non-Arab blacks. Southern Darfur is occupied by the cattle-herding Baggara Arabs while the north is occupied by the camel-herding Abbala Arabs (Prunier, pp. 8-24). The pastoralist groups, especially the abbala Arabs have been chronically excluded from land ownership leading to increased strain on natural resources. These have worsened by recurrent droughts and encroaching desertification. Drought from the mid-1970s to early 1980s led to massive migration from northern Darfur and Chad into the central farming belt (Prunier, pp. 8-24).
The genesis and evolution of the Darfur crisis
Although several conflicts have been recorded in Darfur since Sudanese independence from British rule, the first war in Darfur occurred in 1987 when a Chadian Arab militia (janjaweed) armed by muamar gaddafi’s Libya in his attempt to control Chad, was driven into Darfur by Chadian and French forces(Johnson, p. 139). The militia was associated with the pastoralist nomadic Arabs and engaged in intense battle with the non-Arabic Darfurians. However this insurgence was quelled by the government forces, but later the militia got government funding and armament.
In 1991, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), an army formed by the south sudan people to protest the government harassment of the non arab south, began an onslaught in Darfur but were defeated by the government forces and the Arab militia (Flint et al, P25). The Arabs of Darfur had remained loyal to the central government hoping to benefit but the government had perpetually ignored Darfur in its development agenda (Johnson, p. 139).There were a couple of pockets of rebellion in the 1990s fueled by feuds over natural resources among the Darfurians. The security agents were blamed for encouraging animosity among the Darfur residents through divide-and-rule tactics, watering down efforts by local leaders at peaceful coexistence. All in all, Darfur did not experience full-blown war in the in the 1990s. Chadian president agreed with the Sudanese president not to allow any sanctuary to rebels from the other country. There was lack of strong opposition from the SPLA since the 1991 insurgence and this lend to the decade long absence of war in Darfur in spite of the obvious tension which looked like It would erupt any day.. In addition, many Darfurians remained loyal to the central Islamic government. A bloodier clash occurred in 1999 but the government once again intervened and quelled the clash (Flint et al p30).