The Darfur Genocide is considered to be a significant example of genocide and crimes against humanity in the 21st century, similar to others from the 20th century, such as: Armenian Genocide, Holodomor, Nanking Massacre, Holocaust, Cambodian Genocide, and the Rwanda Genocide. A genocide is defined as a mass killing of a certain group of people based on their religion, ethnicity or cultural background. A crime against humanity is considered to be when a group of people are subjected to humiliation, suffering and death on a mass scale by another group. The Darfur Genocide is occurring in the country of Sudan and is currently ongoing with it first starting in 2003. This makes it the first major genocide of the 21st century. The country of Sudan is located in eastern Africa near other countries, such as: Chad, Egypt and Ethiopia. Approximately 6 million people live in Sudan. Darfur is the name of a region in western Sudan. The genocide and crimes against humanity that occurred in the country are considered to be the result and actions of an ethic clash that occurred during the larger War in Darfur that began in 2003 and continues still today. In 2015 it was estimated that as many as 400,000 people have been killed as part of the genocide.
LEAD UP TO THE DARFUR GENOCIDE
Sudan was a colony of the British Empire during the Age of Imperialism and Scramble for Africa, but gained its independence in 1956. Since then the country has struggled with continuous fighting and civil war between the different ethnic groups. As such, when the War in Darfur began in 2003 the country had already long been engaged in warfare. Essentially, the War in Darfur began in February of 2003 when two rebel groups attacked the Sudan government because they believed the government was suppressing the non-Arab citizens on the country. The two rebel groups were the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) which both emerged in the early 2000s. The Sudan government responded to the attack by carrying out what some consider to be a campaign of ethnic cleansing. In general, ethnic cleansing is best defined as a method of forcibly removing an ethnicity or group of ethnicities from a particular region through several different means, including: forced migration, intimidation, and genocide. This ethnic cleansing campaign and other atrocities carried out throughout the area marked the major events of the Darfur Genocide during the overall War in Darfur.
MAJOR EVENTS OF THE DARFUR GENOCIDE
In an attempt to respond to the attacks by the rebel groups, the Sudan government organized its own assault against non-Arab villagers throughout Darfur. Arab tribesmen referred to as ‘Janjaweed’ who were supplied by the government responded to the attacks by the rebels and soon gained the advantage. However, at the same time, the Janjaweed also carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against non-Arab villages in an attempt to force them off of their land and out of the region. The Janjaweed along with other government troops forced the non-Arab villagers from their homes and communities by military force and systematic burnings. In fact, the word ‘Janjaweed’ loosely translates to ‘devil on horseback’. For example, the government forces would first attack a village on horseback (or by camel) and then burn down the buildings. Any of the non-Arab people who remained would be killed. As well, early reports talked about the horrendous rape and assault of women and girls by the Janjaweed. This situation led to a mass migration of people out of Darfur and into neighboring countries. For example, to date over 3 million people have been displaced (forced from their homes and villages) due to the conflict. Estimates range, but approximately 300,000 people are forced to migrate each year.
The neighboring countries of Chad and Egypt have seen massive increases in arriving refugees from Sudan. Due to the displacement people were forced to migrate under extreme conditions and faced further clashes with government supporters and the Janjaweed. As a result, some estimates put the total number of deaths at 400,000. The Sudan government claims these totals are exaggerated and that the true number is much closer to 100,000.
Throughout the mid to late 2000s, the governments of North America and Europe, along with support of the United Nations tried to pressure the Sudan government to stop the conflict and ethnic cleansing campaign. In 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) began investigating claims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. To date the ICC has brought charges against 12 individuals from Sudan for their role in the War in Darfur and the Darfur Genocide. For example, the current President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, was charged in 2009 for five counts of crimes against humanity and 2 counts of war crimes. A warrant was issued by the ICC for his arrest under the charges but to date the Sudan government has refused to cooperate stating that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Sudan government.
Despite efforts by some countries and international organizations to intervene in the conflict, it has proved difficult due to Sudan’s powerful allies. Both China and Russia have close ties to the country and the Sudan government. Both countries help supply the Sudan military and provide assistance to the Sudan leadership. Due to their involvement on the United Nations Security Council, it has proven difficult to pass measures to stop the conflict. Both countries benefit from Sudan’s oil industry and have interest in maintaining a close relationship to ensure a secure connection to the resource. Meanwhile, the war and genocide in Darfur continue.