What is the Darfur Genocide?

By Sammy Olander

The “Darfur Genocide” refers to the long-lasting campaign of ethnic violence that has plagued the region of Darfur since 2001, making it the first genocide of the 21st century. Genocide is defined as, the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group”. Darfur, located in western Sudan, is the home to millions of indigenous Africans being targeted by the Sudanese government. 

Since 2003, the conflict has affected over 4 million Darfuri people, with a death toll of over 300,000. This systematic violence has continued for over 18 years and has been deemed as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC)

The roots of this violence predominantly stem from a Sudanese government response to protests by the African Maslit, Fur, and Zaghawa ethnic groups. In February of2003, these ethnic groups formed the Suan Liberation Army and the Justice Equality Movement to protest the deep-rooted marginalization of Darfur and its indigenous population. In response, the Sudanese government organized a military and political alliance with an Arab militant guerilla force known as the Janjaweed.

The Sudanese government mobilized the Janjaweed to attack civilian populations from the Masalit, Fur, and Zaghawa. These attacks include mass slaughters, destruction of food and resources, burning of civilian towns, and looting of properties. The attacks have led to at least 1.2 million people being displaced, with many seeking refuge across the border in Chad. Additionally, the attacks have driven over three million Darfuri citizens into camps, leaving them susceptible to further Janjaweed violence. 

Sexual assault has also been used as a weapon of war in Darfur with tens of thousands of Darfuri women falling victim to gender-based violence such as rape, physical abuse, torture, and female genital mutilation. 

Former Sudanese President al-Bashir and the Sudanese government played a substantial role in this genocide by continuously overseeing and engaging in the violence. Eventually, the world took notice of these atrocities, and the United States Security Council referred the conflict to the International Criminal Court in March of 2005. The ICC later indicted al-Bashir and four other leaders from his regime for genocide in 2009, which caused al-Bashir to violently retaliate by killing and starving his own people throughout Sudan. Despite this, al-Bashir stayed in power until 2019 when he stepped down due to pressure from mass protests by the Sudanese people. 

Unfortunately, the transitional government has done little to help the Darfuri people, as al-Bashir has been replaced by a military general with alarmingly similar methods of violence. Many of al-Bashir’s allies have remained in control and continue to encourage and carry out the violence against the Darfuri people. Following the overthrow of al-Bashir, there were negotiations held in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, where the ruling military government and Sudanese protesters reached an agreement. Despite nationwide calls for a civilian-led government, the military gained full control over Sudan, leaving the Darfur region exposed and vulnerable to continued genocide. 

Despite the persisting cries for help from the Darfuri people, most of the world continues to turn a blind eye to the obscenities in Darfur today. Although the Darfur Genocide received massive public attention in the early stages of the violence, the story has since faded from the news headlines and has been ignored by many world leaders. The complacency of the international community is one of the strongest contributing factors to the continued violence in Darfur as they continue to suffer in silence.

The Darfur Genocide is far from resolved. There have been multiple massacres and examples of continued violence in recent months, including a massacre in West Darfur in January of 2021 that resulted in the deaths of 250 people, including 3 humanitarian workers. Although the new government has made attempts to end the violence and attain peace, they have been largely unsuccessful. Even the Sudanese peace agreement, signed in October of 2020, has proven to be ineffective in enacting any sort of meaningful change. The threats of violence and displacement in Darfur continue to persist, leaving Darfur in desperate need of international aid and support.