Sudan-Darfur (2003 – first combat deaths)

Tasneem Jamal Africa

Updated: June 2015

Conflict at a Glance

Who (are the main combatants): The Government of Sudan, led by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, and supported by official Sudanese forces and the Janjaweed militias in Darfur, against three (mostly) separate insurgencies in Darfur region, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. Rebel armed groups include multiple factions of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan People’s Liberation Army – North (SPLA-N), many of which operate under the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) alliance. The SRF has also joined with the National Consensus Forces (NCF), an alliance of opposition parties with the goal of removing al-Bashir and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) from power.

What (started the conflict): The conflict is multilayered. In Darfur, President al-Bashir and Sudanese forces have been involved in what many are calling genocide against particular non-Arab rebel tribes since 2003. Al-Bashir was the first sitting head of state indicted by the International Criminal Court, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In parts of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, armed rebel groups fight for regime change or for more autonomy for their region or tribe. Since South Sudan’s secession in 2011, violence has displaced or severely affected more than 900,000 people in the South Kordofan region. Additional clashes occur sporadically between tribes and ethnic groups, often over resources and land.

When (has fighting occurred): The conflict in Darfur began in 2003, when non-Arabs rebelled against Sudan’s Arab-led government. The UN and human rights groups estimate that around 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict in the last decade. However, the region has experienced violence for decades, traditionally between nomadic herdsmen and sedentary farmers. Shortly after South Sudan seceded in July 2011, rebels in the southern states began to fight official Sudanese forces. A number of rebel groups that sided with South Sudan during the civil war remained in Sudan after secession.

Where (is the conflict taking place): The conflict in Sudan is occurring on at least three fronts. In Darfur, rebels continue to fight Sudanese forces in an attempt to overthrow President al-Bashir. Tribal clashes are also common. In Blue Nile and South Kordofan, rebel groups fight for regime change, and some engage in ethnic killings. The capital of Khartoum, which has not seen much violence in the last decade, experienced heavy protesting and police brutality in September 2013 after President al-Bashir cut fuel subsidies. Many civilians and opposition groups in Khartoum are frustrated with the current regime, citing chronic financial mismanagement.

Summary
Type of Conflict
Parties to the Conflict
Status of the Fighting
Number of Deaths
Political Developments
Background
Arms Sources
Economic Factors

Summary

2015 Conflict persisted in Sudan, with a particular increase in ethnic and tribal violence in East Darfur. Despite this increase, there was a decline in military and pro-government militia activity toward the end of the year. Elections were held in April; incumbent President al-Bashir retained his position, with 95 per cent of the vote. The Sudanese government attempted peace talks with opposition groups, offering a ceasefire and amnesty to rebels in exchange for their participation in the National Dialogue initiative. The October summit for the National Dialogue was widely boycotted by political opposition and rebel groups. The AU sponsored peace talks in Addis Ababa in November, and the National Dialogue and ceasefire were both extended into 2016. 

2014: The year was particularly violent, with 990 incidents and 3,892 deaths. By December 430,000 people in Darfur and more than 100,000 in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states had been displaced by conflict. The government-backed Rapid Support Force (RSF), deployed in South Kordofan and Darfur, were condemned internationally for human rights violations. In November the government ordered the closure of UNAMID’s human rights office. On April 6 the government of Sudan launched the National Dialogue Committee (NDC). The seventh round of talks between the government and rebel groups, facilitated by the African Union High-level Implementation Panel, ended on December 8 with no tangible results. Sudan Call, a joint declaration signed by opposition groups in December, urged an end to hostilities and a transition to democracy.  

2013 Tribal clashes and community violence increased, while fighting continued between rebels and security forces in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. New violence broke out in North Kordofan, in a major thrust by southern rebel forces. Over 1,300 people were killed, mostly in incidents of ethnic fighting. Both UNAMID (the African Union/UN Hybrid operation in Darfur) and UNISFA (UN Interim Security Force for Abyei) mandates were extended—to August and May 2014, respectively. Rebel groups and political opposition parties strengthened ties, signing the “New Dawn” charter in January. Relations with South Sudan began well, when the two Presidents agreed on a demilitarized buffer zone and border corridors opened in April. However, both governments repeatedly accused the other of supporting rebels in its territories. In May, al-Bashir threatened to permanently shut down oil pipelines within 60 days, but did not follow through. In September, heavy protests and rioting broke out in Khartoum after al-Bashir cut fuel subsidies, causing pump prices to nearly double overnight. When police forcibly dispersed protests after several days, as many as 200 civilians were killed, according to human rights groups. More than 800 were arrested; many were detained for weeks without charges.

2012 The conflict in Darfur raged on; 1,637 people died in clashes between government forces, rebel groups, militias and ethnic groups. Five UNAMID peacekeepers were killed by militia groups. High levels of civil unrest led to violent crackdowns by police that resulted in student deaths. UN and humanitarian access was severely restricted. The government continued to refuse to comply with arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court. Child soldiers were used by all parties to the conflict. The refugee situation remained dire. There is little evidence that the Doha Peace Document contributed to a meaningful decrease in violence.

2011 Overall, the year saw a significant decrease in violent clashes between government forces and rebel groups. UN-AU joint special representative in Darfur Ibrahim Gambari reported that attacks in Darfur had decreased by 70 per cent that year. According to Human Rights Watch, much of Darfur remained off limits to AU-UN forces and aid organizations. In July, UNAMID extended its mandate for another 12 months. Also in July, the Sudanese government and the Liberty and Justice Movement (LJM) agreed to adopt the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur as well as a separate protocol on LJM’s political participation and the integration of its forces into the national army. Key rebel factions (including the SLM/A) refused to sign the agreement, leading analysts to discount the possibility that the agreement would lead to comprehensive and sustainable peace. In December, Khalili Ibrahim, leader of the rebel group Justice and Equality Movement, was killed.

2010 As peace talks continued, government assaults against dissident rebel groups and fighting among rebel factions persisted. The UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported more than 2,300 fatalities, the highest since 2008. Peace talks between the government and rebel groups Justice and Equality Movement and umbrella organization Liberation and Justice Movement began in Doha. The SLA-Abdel Wahid did not participate, nor did the SLA-Minni Faction. The SLA–Minni Faction, the only rebel group to sign the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement, formally denounced the peace process and withdrew from the Agreement. Khartoum announced internal peace processes with tribal leaders, civil society groups and other local actors. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit were reelected in Sudan’s first multiparty elections in 24 years, although the elections were heavily criticized by international observers. In July, the International Criminal Court issued a second arrest warrant for al-Bashir that included charges of genocide. Chad and Sudan announced an end to hostilities and established a joint border force of 3,000 troops.

2009 Fighting decreased. After a skirmish at the end of January between government troops and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) over the strategic town of Muhajiriya, the government and JEM signed an Agreement of Good Will and Confidence Building for the Settlement of the Problem in Darfur. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. In response, al-Bashir expelled 13 international and three local aid agencies, accusing them of being ICC spies. A number of splinter rebel groups amalgamated with JEM and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A). The UN military commander in the region, General Martin Agwai, declared that the war in Darfur was effectively over and that ongoing violence was only banditry and clashes over resources. His comments drew anger and criticism from observers.

2008 Despite the arrival of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) on January 1, the situation in Darfur was unchanged. The Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) between the government of Sudan and increasingly fragmented rebel groups remained stalled. In July, an International Criminal Court prosecutor applied for an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It was widely feared that al-Bashir’s indictment would lead to a backlash by the Sudanese government, threatening the DPA, UNAMID personnel, humanitarian workers and civilians within Sudan. Although Khartoum publicly affirmed its commitment to peace, it continued to bomb Darfur, failed to disarm the janjaweed militia and obstructed the work of UNAMID. Coordinated attacks by government forces and rebels, as well as more random acts of violence against civilians and humanitarian workers, continued.

2007 Unproductive attempts were made to unite the growing number of armed factions that oppose the government. Key factions of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) boycotted the talks. The international community criticized Khartoum for supporting and participating in the violence against civilians in Darfur, impeding the deployment of peacekeeping efforts and violating the arms embargo established by the UN. On July 31 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1769, which mandated a joint UN-AU force of 26,000 troops and police to be sent to Darfur. The new force, known as UNAMID, was to replace AU forces by January 1, 2008. The janjaweed militia reduced outright attacks on civilians, instead denying them basic necessities such as water. Increased instability forced many humanitarian organizations to withdraw. Tribal fighting over land and other scarce resources contributed significantly to hostilities.

2006 Despite the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) in May, between 1,000 and 1,500 people, mostly civilians, were killed in ongoing violence. A new rebel faction, the National Redemption Front (NRF), took control of the Northern Darfur region. The government in Khartoum finally allowed a light UN force into Darfur to provide logistical assistance to the faltering AU mission. But Khartoum did not agree to more troops and continued to accuse the UN of “neo-colonial” motives. Tensions along the border with Chad continued as rebel factions recruited children from refugee camps in Chad. Escalating violence fuelled fears that a failure to resolve the Darfur conflict could destabilize the entire region.

2005 Several rounds of negotiations between rebel groups and the Sudan government failed to achieve significant progress. Rebel infighting escalated, further hampering negotiations. Violence escalated sharply in September after a period of diminished violence.

2004 Despite a November ceasefire and a bolstered African Union force, fighting between rebels and government forces and government bombings of civilian villages continued. More violent attacks on internally displaced persons (IDP) camps resulted in the withdrawal of humanitarian agencies. The government announced plans for separate peace talks with a new rebel group that emerged at the end of the year.

2003 Attacks on Sudanese government installations and military forces by two new armed groups began a year of intense fighting in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Janjaweed militias, armed by the Sudanese government and reportedly supported by elements of the Sudanese military, attacked rebel groups and civilian populations believed to be sympathetic to them, killing several thousand civilians and forcing the displacement of hundreds of thousands. A September ceasefire agreement between the government and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army failed to end hostilities and collapsed in December.

Type of Conflict

State control

Failed state

Parties to the Conflict

1. Government of Sudan: A power-sharing agreement followed the signing of the January 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended a 22-year North-South civil war and established an interim Government of National Unity. Omar Hassan al-Bashir of the National Congress Party was President. Salva Kiir Mayardit of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) became First Vice-President of Sudan and President of the autonomous Government of Southern Sudan, established in October 2005. Al-Bashir and Kiir were both re-elected in April 2010. In 2011, the CPA-mandated referendum was conducted to determine whether Southern Sudan would become independent. On February 7, 2011 the results of the referendum were announced, with Southern Sudan voting overwhelmingly in favour of separation. The Republic of South Sudan was officially declared an independent state on July 9, 2011. In 2012, Sudan continued to operate under the CPA’s interim national constitution, but all references to South Sudan were removed. The country took few concrete steps in drafting a new constitution and opposition groups accused the government of conducting the process in secret.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity and war crimes. A second warrant was issued by the ICC in July 2010 for his role in what has been deemed genocide. The government of Sudan has deployed the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) to engage rebels. Sources estimate that as many as 40,000 troops are deployed in the Darfur area.

Allied with

2. The Janjaweed and various militias: The government of Sudan has allied itself with various tribes and militias. The janjaweed, the largest of these groups, are traditional Khartoum allies of Arab descent, mainly from the Darfur region. It is alleged that these fighters have been armed, trained and financed by the government. The janjaweed have been accused of committing numerous atrocities against civilian populations in Darfur.

3. Rapid Support Force (RSF): Formed in 2013, this paramilitary group is under the command of the National Intelligence and Security Services. It reportedly has 5,000-6,000 members who are recruited from ethnic groups in Darfur and undergo training in Khartoum. In 2014 RSF was accused of violence toward civilians, destroying and burning villages, and other crimes.

Versus

4. National Consensus Forces (NCF): The NCF was established as a coalition of opposition parties to stand against the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the April 2010 elections. In July 2012, several NCF members, along with at least six other opposition parties, signed the Democratic Alternative Charter (DAC), committing themselves to remove the NCP and establish a civil and democratic state, using all “political, popular and peaceful means.” NCF members include the National Umma Party (NUP), the Popular Congress Party (PCP) and the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP). The coalition is currently chaired by Farouk Abu Eissa. In January 2013, the NCF joined the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a rebel alliance umbrella group, in signing the “New Dawn” charter. The document outlined the means to achieve the collective goal of overthrowing the current regime and also emphasized the importance of freedom of expression and religion, elimination of ethnic discrimination, the rule of law, an independent judicial system, a peaceful transfer of power and federal democracy.

Various Rebel Groups: Currently, there are essentially four distinct rebel groups operating in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. However, there are many divisions and splinter factions within these groups, as well as larger alliances and umbrella groups. In 2009, according to reports, factions that had splintered from rebel groups amalgamated, most under the umbrellas of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A). In 2010, many splinter factions joined together under the umbrella of the Liberation Justice Movement (LJM). In 2011, a further alliance of armed groups, the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), was formed.

5. Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) alliance: The groups that did not sign the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) – the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) factions led by Minni Minawi and Abdul Wahid (MM and AW) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) – formed an alliance with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army North (SPLA-N) to create the SRF in November 2011. SRF is active mainly in the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan and Blue Nile State. SRF’s Darfurian members are also active in Darfur and near the South Darfur-South Sudan border. In July 2012, SRF said that it supported urban protests against the government. In January 2013, it joined s with NCF via the “New Dawn” charter.

6. Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army – North (SPLM/A-N): Initially, the SPLM/A-N was the northern wing of the southern rebellion during the 1983-2005 civil war in Sudan. The SPLM/A is now the ruling military and political group in the independent state of South Sudan under the leadership of President Salva Kiir. However, SPLA-N was left on the north side of the border after Sudan and South Sudan separated and quickly took up arms in the name of regime change in Sudan. President al-Bashir has frequently accused Kiir of supporting the SPLA-N rebellion in Sudan, but the group insists that it operates independently. In November 2011, SPLM/A-N formed an alliance with the SRF, which is currently led by SPLM/A-N commander Malik Agar.

7. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM): JEM was formed in Darfur in 2003 by Khalil Ibrahim to work for national reform and regime change. By the end of 2007, JEM was the largest threat to the Sudanese military forces in Darfur. Since 2007, the group has worked actively to recruit Arab fighters in Darfur, including janjaweed militiamen. In mid-2010, JEM was estimated to have more than 5,000 heavily-armed fighters. The government of Sudan has accused JEM of ties with the Chadian government, although the group was expelled from Chad in February 2010. While initially part of peace talks surrounding the DDPD, JEM withdrew in May 2010 and has not engaged in serious peace talks since. In November 2011, JEM joined with SLA-MM, SLA-AW, and SPLM-N to form the SRF. When JEM leader and founder Khalil Ibrahim was killed by Sudanese Armed Forced in December 2011, his brother Jibril assumed the leadership, causing tension within the movement. Although groups have splintered from the movement, JEM remains the strongest military force in Darfur.

8a) The National Movement for Reform and Development: This JEM-splinter group emerged in December 2004. JEM claims that it is controlled by the Sudanese government.

8b) Democratic JEM (DJEM): This group left JEM in April 2006, in response to JEM domination by the Kobe tribal group.

8c) JEM-Corrective Leadership (JEM-CL): This faction, led by Zakaria Musa, emerged in January 2012, after the death of Khalil Ibrahimn. It has signed the Doha Document.

8d) JEM-Bashar: Former JEM commander Mohamed Bashar Ahmed formed this splinter faction in September 2012, following disputes with JEM leader Jibril Ibrahim. The group announced a cessation of hostilities in October 2012 and a ceasefire in February 2013. On April 6, 2013, JEM-Bashar formally adopted the Doha Document. On April 19, JEM-Bashar commander Saleh Mohammed Jerbo, who had been indicted by the International Criminal Court, was killed in clashes with JEM in North Darfur. In May, JEM-Bashar’s leader was killed when his convoy was attacked by armed JEM fighters. Bashar was en route from the Chadian capital to Khartoum to implement the DDPD. JEM and JEM-Bashar have clashed repeatedly.

9. The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A): The SLM/A was formed in 2001 by a tribal alliance, but was divided from the beginning. Since Doha in 2006, the movement has split into more than a dozen factions, mostly along tribal lines.

9 a) SLA-Abdel Wahid (SLA-AW): Led by Abdel Wahid (the original chairman of the SLA), the SLA-AW is largely made up of members from the Fur ethnic group, which constitutes roughly 30 per cent of Darfur’s population. The group is also supported by hundreds of thousands of people living in IDP camps. SLA-AW controls much of the central Jebel Marra mountain area. They have refused to enter peace negotiations with the government of Sudan until Khartoum-backed violence ends. The SLA-AW was not party to the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) and has abstained from the Doha Peace Process. In November 2011, SLA-AW joined the SRF alliance. (Further splinters from SLA-AW include SLA-Juba, SLA-Mainstream, SLA- Khamis Abaker and SLA-Historical Leadership/Command, some of which have joined other umbrella groups.)

9 b) SLA–Minni Minnawi (SLA-MM): Led by Minni Arkou Minnawi, this faction is comprised mainly of members of the Zaghawa ethnic group. SLA-MM first focused on fighting the Janjaweed militia in Darfur. It was the only rebel group to sign the 2006 DPA, but has since declared it invalid. SLA-MM refused to participate in the Doha Peace Process, resulting in renewed hostilities with the SAF. In December 2010, SLA-MM splintered into four smaller commands; some joined SRF in November 2011.

9 c) SLA-Unity: SLA-Unity emerged at the conclusion of the Abuja talks in 2006 as a loose, multiethnic coalition of commanders, mainly from Northern Darfur. The faction grew out of dissatisfaction with the AW and MM SLA factions. It has since stressed the importance of good relations with tribal leaders and local people. SLA-Unity has close ties with JEM; both were accused of the September 2009 attack on an AU base. In 2009, SLA-Unity reportedly lost commanders and fighters to JEM, but soon regained most of them.

10. The Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM): Formed in February 2010, LJM is an umbrella group that formed to negotiate in the Doha Peace Process. Led by Tijani Sese, LJM has 2,000 lightly armed fighters. LJM and JEM are the only groups to engage in negotiations with the government of Sudan (SLA-AW and SLA–MM boycotted the talks). LJM consists of two coalitions: the Sudan Liberation Revolutionary Forces (SLRF) and the Addis Ababa Group. Original SLRF members were United Revolutionary Resistance Front (URFF), SLA-Field Leadership, SLA-Unity (no longer a member), SLA-Juba, SLA–Khamis Abaker and SLA Mainstream. The Addis Ababa Group includes dissidents from the United Resistance Front, SLA-AW, SLA-Unity and SLA-Juba. URFF has reportedly received small arms from SLA–MM in return for fighting with SLA–MM and Darfur-based Chadian armed opposition groups against JEM. In 2011, the Sudanese government and the LJM agreed to adopt the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), as well as a separate protocol on LJM’s political participation and the integration of its forces into the national army. LJM remains one of the main partners in peacemaking efforts with the international community.

Additional Actors

11. Tribal Factions: Various ethnic tribes are consistently involved in fighting, although alliances do not always form along clear ethnic lines. For example, reports suggest that Gimir fighters have fought alongside both Sudanese government troops and JEM rebels. Infighting among the Gimir reportedly resulted in 100 deaths in December 2008. In 2013 tribal conflict in Darfur over land and resources intensified. In May 2013 in the disputed Abyei region, the Dinka chief was killed by the Arab Misseriya militia. The nomadic cattle-herding Misseriya have historically been loyal to Khartoum, fighting alongside Sudanese forces in Darfur. The Misseriya are also entrenched in conflict with the pro-South Sudan Dinka Ngok farmers.

12. The African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID): UNAMID took over from AMIS (African Union Mission in Sudan) in January 2008. By early 2015, the mission included 19,555 military personnel, 3,772 police and 19 police units with as many as 140 officers each. UNAMID and the government of Sudan have had a shaky relationship. One week into UNAMID’s mandate one of its convoys was attacked by Sudanese forces. The government later called it a “mutual mistake.” NGOs have reported that Sudan has been chronically slow (often taking months) in allowing equipment through customs, providing flight clearance, offering promised security escorts and approving the list of countries offering to contribute troops. UNAMID troops from Nepal and Thailand waited nearly a year before deployment in late 2008. UNAMID has suffered 215 fatalities. On August 27, 2014, the UNAMID peacekeeping mandate was extended to the end of June 2015.

13. United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA): Implemented on June 17, 2011 to support the demilitarization of Abyei, as negotiated in the 2005 CPA, UNISFA is authorized to use force to protect civilians and humanitarian aid workers in the border regions. By April 2015 UNISFA had suffered 17 fatalities. In May 2013 the authorized number of peacekeeping troops was increased to 5,326; on March 31, 2015, it had 3,947 troops, 119 military observers, and 24 police personnel. In October 2014 UNISFA’s mandate was extended to February 28, 2015.

14. African Union High-level Implementation Panel for Sudan and South Sudan (AUHIP): AUHIP’s mandate was to facilitate negotiations surrounding South Sudan’s secession from Sudan in July 2011. Its responsibilities were later expanded to include the whole Horn of Africa. Most recently, the AU extended the mandate to December 2015.

Status of the Fighting

2015 ACLED reported an increase in ethnic and communal violence, with 39 occurrences in October and November. In May clashes between Rizeigat and Ma’aliya tribes in East Darfur killed 30 and injured more than 70, prompting the government to deploy 1,800 troops and police to the area early July.

In April Rapid Support Forces (RSF) had a significant victory over the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in South Darfur. The following RSF summer campaign focused increasingly on the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions. Military and pro-government militia activity peaked in January as the RSF ‘cleansed’ villages in North Darfur. The Sudanese Air Force carried out bombing raids in South Darfur and South Kordofan. However, according to ACLED these military and government militia groups were 83 per cent less active in November than in January.

Violence escalated in Sudanese universities; it is estimated that more than 200 Darfuri students had been assaulted as of July (Sudan Tribune).  Violence against Darfuri students centred on Khartoum and Omdurman.

2014: According to ACLED Sudan was one of the three most violent states in Africa, with 990 armed conflict events. Conflict was concentrated in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Darfur suffered 77 per cent of the events, and 68 per cent of fatalities. Vulnerable civilians, particularly IDPs, were persistently targeted by militias. The government-backed Rapid Support Force (RSF), deployed in South Kordofan and Darfur, was condemned by the UN and human rights groups for human rights violations, burning villages, looting, and other crimes. ACLED attributed 270 civilian deaths to RSF violence; Small Arms Survey attributed the displacement of at least 122,500 people to them.

In April the government increased attacks on rebel-held areas in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, where conflict between government forces and the SPLA-N is ongoing. Human Rights Watch reported that bombing ravaged schools, religious sites, health centres, and water sources. On October 31 Sudan Armed Forces entered the town of Tabit in north Darfur. Over two days, the forces committed abuses, including beatings and rape. On December 11 the Sudanese Minister of Defence revived the “decisive summer campaign” against rebel forces. International Crisis Group reported increased cross-border movements of armed groups between Sudan and South Sudan. The Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) agreed on by the two states was not effective. More than 300 people were killed in August in clashes over land and cattle between Rezeigat and Ma’aliya tribes in East Darfur.

2013 Sudan saw a higher number of tribal clashes in the Darfur region. Fighting over a gold mine in North Darfur killed more than 510 people, wounded 865, destroyed 68 villages, and displaced at least 100,000 in January and February. In May, 64 people were killed in clashes over land producing gum Arabic, one of Sudan’s most important agricultural exports. An additional 400+ people were killed in clashes between June and August.

In January and February, fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), the Sudan Liberation Movement-Juba/Unity (SLM-JU) and armed forces left at least 70 dead in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. In February, thousands fled clashes between armed forces and Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) fighters in South Darfur; more than 65 were killed in fighting in May and July. In April in a major thrust north toward the capital, SRF rebels briefly occupied a town in North Kordofan. In April and May, Justice and Equality Movement-Bashar (JEM-Bashar) commander Saleh Jerbo and leader Mohamed Bashar were killed in separate clashes with mainstream JEM fighters after each had signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD). The Sudan Liberation Army faction led by Minni Minnawi (SLA-MM) took heavy losses during fighting with Sudanese armed forces in East Darfur in May. On May 4, Abyei’s Dinka Ngok chief was killed by armed Misseriya tribesmen while travelling with a UNISFA convoy. Multiple attacks on UN troops and bases over the summer killed at least 10 peacekeepers and injured 19. Attacks against the military continued in Darfur and the southern states in November and December, led by various SRF coalition members (including SLM-AW).

Widespread protests began in June after President al-Bashir announced new austerity measures. In September, prices at gas pumps nearly doubled overnight after fuel subsidies were cut completely, sparking major protests in Khartoum. During a week of violent and nonviolent demonstrations, police responded aggressively; at least 24 people were killed in the first two days. The government also initiated a 24-hour media and internet blackout. By the end of September more than 700 people had been arrested in relation to the protests and as many as 200 had been killed, according to human rights groups, although official government sources maintained that only 87 people died.

2012 Government forces, government-aligned militias, rebel groups and ethnic groups were embroiled in conflict. In 2012, attacks by unidentified militia groups increased. The Sudanese Air Force conducted aerial bombings throughout the year. One clash between the SAF and SRF in September killed nearly 100 people; subsequent investigations by UNAMID resulted in the ambush and killing of a South African peacekeeper by a militia group. In October, four more UNAMID peacekeepers were killed by unidentified militia groups. In November, attacks and counterattacks between the government Popular Defense Force and the SLA claimed dozens of lives. Aid workers and UNAMID personnel were victims of kidnappings motivated by both money and politics. The SPLM-N accused the SAF of abducting its civilian members; these claims could not be verified by human rights groups. During an anti-government protest on July 31, police killed 13 high school demonstrators while approximately 70 people were injured.

2011 Overall, the year saw a significant decrease in violent clashes between government forces and rebel groups. UN-AU joint special representative in Darfur, Ibrahim Gambari, announced on September 14 that attacks in Darfur had decreased by 70 per cent. According to Human Rights Watch, early 2011 saw a surge in government-led attacks that killed and injured scores of civilians, destroyed property and displaced more than 70,000 people, largely from ethnic Zaghawa and Fur communities with perceived links to rebel groups. In January, JEM and SLM/A clashed with government forces on two occasions, with 21 killed in the first clash and a helicopter gunship shot down by rebel forces in the second. In February, UNAMID increased patrols and instituted a quick reaction force to improve civilian protection after the number of clashes rose. In each of June, August and November at least one UNAMID peacekeeper was killed. In December, Justice and Equality Movement leader Khalili Ibrahim was killed.

2010 There was an upsurge of government assaults against dissident rebel groups, even while peace talks continued, as well as fighting among rebel factions. The government launched assaults in the Jebel Marra region, a SLA-Abdel Wahid (SLA-AW) stronghold, displacing thousands. The Sudan Liberation Army accused the government of bombing rebel-controlled areas in January, February and September. Sudan Armed Forces denied these claims. In May, government forces seized the Jebel Moon stronghold, leading JEM to suspend peace talks. Fighting between government troops and rebels increased in May and June. Continuing government offensives pushed rebel groups to boycott the peace process and renew hostilities. And the SLA-Minni Faction (SLA-MM) declared the 2006 peace agreement void. Tensions increased between supporters and opposition to the Doha Peace Process.

2009 This year began with bombings in January and a skirmish over the strategic town of Muhajiriya between the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and government troops, causing thousands to seek refuge in UNAMID camps. In December, rebels attacked UNAMID. Despite these skirmishes, the UN military commander in the region, General Martin Agwai, declared that the war in Darfur was effectively over and that only banditry and clashes over resources continued. His comments drew anger and criticism from observers and Western campaigners, who insisted that Khartoum could restart violence at any time. According to reports, a number of factions from the major rebel groups were reuniting, joined by Arab groups previously associated with the government.

2008 The conflict in Darfur became increasingly complicated, with fighting between and within government forces, militias, rebels, civilians and tribes. More humanitarian workers were targeted. Government airstrikes continued in Darfur despite international condemnation. One offensive killed 200 people in February. The UN accused the government of indiscriminate attacks and intentionally destroying villages. The UN reported 21 airstrikes in July. In May, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels attacked the capital Khartoum, killing an estimated 465 people. Humanitarian organizations, increasingly targets, began to limit and even stop their work. In the first nine months, 170 humanitarian workers were abducted. The UN removed nonessential staff from the region. In August, police raided an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Kalma in a reported search for guns, killing between 50 and 122 people and injuring as many as 200. The new African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) performed half its mandate and only half of its 13,000 personnel were armed soldiers. An estimated 300,000 people were displaced in 2008 and an estimated 4 million people were in need of some sort of aid.

2007 The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called for an investigation into the involvement of Sudanese security forces in attacks on villages in Southern Darfur that killed more than 100 people between January and May. The United Nations called for an end to air raids by Sudanese forces. Violence continued to escalate and the number of relief workers in Darfur declined by 16 per cent. In April 10 African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) troops were killed. The janjaweed militia reduced attacks on civilians, but intimidation and cutting off access to necessary supplies, including water, continued. Dozens of former janjaweed reportedly switched sides and joined rebel groups after the government failed to deliver on promises of land, cattle and money. Widespread militarization continued in refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. Tribal clashes over access to scarce resources, including land and water, added to the violence. More than 4.2 million people were affected by the fighting.

2006 Violence continued to escalate at an unprecedented rate. July saw the highest number of fatalities since the conflict began in 2003. The Darfur Peace Agreement was signed in Abuja, Nigeria, in May. But the government and rebel factions continued to clash. The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) split into numerous factions, which began to attack each other and to commit atrocities against civilians. Rebels continued to recruit child soldiers in refugee camps. The government deployed more janjaweed militia forces. Sudanese rebels claimed that militia groups from Chad, aligned with Khartoum, were carrying out attacks against civilians. The African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) remained underfunded and ill-equipped. But Khartoum refused to allow United Nations peacekeeping forces into the Darfur region, accusing the UN of a “neo-colonialist” agenda. At year’s end, Khartoum approved a UN light intelligence force. Attacks on AU personnel and humanitarian aid workers increased significantly.

2005 The janjaweed militia were responsible for most ongoing attacks on villages and, for the first time, attacks on refugee camps. Clashes occurred between rebels and the janjaweed militia and between rival factions of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Although violence declined earlier in the year, in September it escalated as rebel clashes with government forces increased. Janjaweed militants also attacked villages in Chad and clashed with the Chadian army, killing dozens.

2004 A ceasefire agreement was violated by all parties. Rebels and government forces clashed and government forces bombed civilian villages. Internally displaced persons (IDP) camps were attacked, forcing the withdrawal of humanitarian agencies. Sudanese army and police reportedly forced displaced people out of camps, contravening international law and Sudan’s agreements with the United Nations.

2003 In response to February attacks by the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) on government forces in Western Darfur, janjaweed militia fighters, armed and supported by Sudanese military forces retaliated. Despite several ceasefire agreements between the government and the SLM/A, fighting continued. Later in the year, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) emerged, conducting small-scale military operations against government institutions and forces in Darfur. Most clashes were raid-like operations, conducted primarily with small arms and light weapons. However, janjaweed raids on villages suspected of being sympathetic to the rebels were coupled with air-bombing campaigns, allegedly undertaken by the Sudanese military. Thousands, mostly civilians, were killed. Additionally, the destruction of thousands of villages displaced more than half a million people. Most news reports portrayed the Arab janjaweed militias as the primary aggressors against the largely non-Arab populations and rebel groups in Darfur; many analysts labeled the conflict genocide, a claim hotly contested by Sudanese officials.

Number of Dead and Displaced 

Total: The total number of conflict-related fatalities since 2003 is estimated to be between 200,000 and 400,000. The UN estimate—the most widely accepted figure—places the death toll at 300,000 from the combined effects of conflict. This figure has been recognized as a valid high-end estimate by the WHO Collaboration Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), which sets the low-end estimate at 150,000. Amnesty International has reported more than 90,000 killed in combat and another 200,000 dead from malnutrition, disease and other conflict-related causes. Between 2.3 and 2.7 million people have fled their homes or been displaced. The government of Sudan reports that an estimated 10,000 have been killed. Obtaining reliable fatality figures is difficult because of the dearth of independent observers in the Darfur region.

2015 According to ACLED, 3,201 people were killed: 2,345 as a direct result of armed conflict and 614 in violence against civilians (ACLED, Real time Complete All Africa File, results filtered for Sudan, 2015).

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP):  The UNHCR reported 356,191 refugees and 11,448 asylum seekers residing in Sudan as of June 2015 (UNHCR). An additional 640,919 refugees and 40,409 asylum seekers reportedly originated from Sudan; figures might have included citizens of South Sudan. Estimates of IDP vary: the UNHCR estimates around 2.3 million displaced as of June 2015, while the UN OCHA estimates around 3.1 million displaced people as of December 2015 (UN OCHA).

2014: ACLED reported 3,892 deaths.

Refugees and IDPs: In July 2014 there were 670,332 refugees and 33,235 asylum seekers originating from Sudan according to UNHCR; figures may include citizens of South Sudan. UNOCHA reported 2.9 million internally displaced people (2.4 million in Darfur). Between January and July 430,000 people in Darfur and more than 100,000 people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states were displaced by conflict, according to the U.S. Department of State.

2013 According to the International Crisis Group, approximately 1,316 people were killed and at least 108 were wounded during 2013. This is substantially higher than ICG’s estimate of 426 deaths in 2012, but lower than the U.S. State Department’s figure of 1,637. Among the dead were at least 245 security officers, including 11 UN peacekeepers, more than 119 militants and at least 952 civilians. According to a Sudanese lawmaker, the death toll during the gold mine tribal clashes exceeded 500, with nearly 900 injured in January and February.

Refugees and Displacement: The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that as of mid-2013, there were 632,014 Sudanese refugees (there is difficulty getting separate statistics for Sudan and South Sudan, so this figure may include some South Sudanese). Between 300,000 and 350,000 South Sudanese still live in Sudan. As of August 2012 there were 289,000 registered refugees from Darfur in Chad and 2,000 registered refugees from Darfur in the Central African Republic. Refugees suffer abuse by security forces, rebels and militias. Women and girls are at special risk of sexual violence.

In May 2013, at least 300,000 people in Darfur had been newly displaced since the beginning of the year. By the end of the year, more than 500,000 people were newly displaced by conflict. Since South Sudan’s secession in 2011, violence has displaced or severely affected more than 900,000 people in the South Kordofan region. As of December 2013, there were over 1.8 million internally displaced people in Sudan.

2012 According to the U.S. State Department, the Darfur conflict killed an estimated 1,637 persons in 2012, substantially up from 2011. Figures are difficult to verify; reports from International Crisis Group account for approximately 426 deaths, including those of four international peacekeepers.

2011 According to International Crisis Group, 80 Sudan Armed Forces and rebel fighters were killed this year. An estimated 939 conflict-related deaths occurred.

2010 According to a report released by the United Nations Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2,300 were killed as a result of the conflict. In May alone, 597 people were killed after the Justice and Equality Movement’s withdrawal from peace talks.

2009 An estimated 100 people were killed in the conflict.

2008 More than 1,000 people were killed by the Darfur conflict in 2008. In Khartoum, an additional 465 people, including 57 civilians, were killed after an attempted coup by Darfur rebels.

2007 An estimated 1,200 to 2,000 people were killed this year. Civilian fatalities decreased by 70 per cent in the first half of 2007 compared with the same period in the previous year.

2006 Fatalities reached 2003 levels, with an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 dead. July was the deadliest month for humanitarian aid workers, with eight reported killed. The AU peacekeeping mission suffered numerous fatalities when rebel forces attacked convoys and targeted personnel. In October, according to the United Nations, government-supported forces attacked 45 villages in the Darfur region within a few days, reportedly killing hundreds of civilians.

2005 More than 1,000 people were reported killed.

2004 At least 350 people were killed by fighting in 2004. Because of the limited presence of independent observers in Darfur, the actual figure could be considerably higher.

2003 An estimated 5,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed by fighting in Darfur in 2003. Some analysts indicated that the death toll might have been much higher.

Political Developments

2015 On January 4 Sudan’s National Assembly approved 18 amendments to the 2005 interim constitution, including the expansion of the role of intelligence services and the incorporation of the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. The UN Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN Mission to Abyei and called for the resumption of the Abyei Joint Oversight Commission; Sudan and South Sudan resumed talks on March 30.

Campaigning for presidential and legislative elections began February 24. The opposition promised to boycott elections, with the Democratic Unionist Party the only mainstream opposition party to participate. Incumbent President Bashir garnered 95 per cent of the vote (BBC). The elections were endorsed by the Arab League, AU, and IGAD but criticized by the EU and Sudan Troika members (the United States, United Kingdom, and Norway). Bashir’s inauguration was held on June 3; his new government comprised primarily military and security officials, excluding many key figures from the Islamic Movement. 

On August 20 President Bashir offered rebel groups amnesty and a two-month ceasefire in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur to participate in the Opposition National Dialogue conference. In September opposition party Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) announced its willingness to participate, but rejected current arrangements. The conference, held October 10 in Khartoum, was boycotted by several major opposition groups. In late November the African Union sponsored negotiations in Addis Ababa between rebel groups and the government. On December 31 the government announced an extension of the National Dialogue and ceasefire until February 10 and January 31 respectively (Sudan Tribune).

2014: Talks between the government and opposition forces did not advance peace efforts substantially. On April 6 the government of Sudan established the National Dialogue Committee (NDC) and granted political groups the right to hold rallies, with prior authorization. In August the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) and the National Uma Party (NUP) signed the Paris Declaration, pledging a two-month unilateral ceasefire, efforts to end war, and dialogue for a transitional government and democracy. The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) rejected the declaration. The Agreement on National Dialogue and Constitutional Processes, signed by the Paris Declaration signatories and the NDC on September 4, indicated that the signatories had to create a framework agreement prior to the national dialogue process. The SRF and members of the opposition rejected President al-Bashir’s chairmanship of the process. SRF wanted talks on conflict areas and security arrangements before beginning the constitutional process. The seventh round of AUHIP-led talks between the government and rebel groups began on November 12 in Addis Ababa and ended on December 8 with no tangible results. In December political and armed opposition groups signed a joint declaration, Sudan Call, urging an end to hostilities and transition to democracy.

In November the UN Secretary-General and UN Security Council demanded a new investigation into allegations of mass rape in Tabit. The government did not comply and later ordered the closure of UNAMID’s human rights office. In December the ICC suspended its investigation into Darfur war crimes, citing limited resources.

2013 Relations with South Sudan improved somewhat; in March, President al-Bashir and President Kiir agreed on a demilitarized border zone and a method to share oil revenues. In April, South Sudan restarted oil production after a 14-month shutdown. Al-Bashir visited South Sudan in April for the first time since secession and established a Joint Security Committee to fight insurgencies. However, Kiir and al-Bashir repeatedly accused each other of supporting rebels in each other’s country and threatened to shut down oil pipelines and production. In late October, the Ngok Dinka tribe in the disputed Abyei region held an unofficial referendum and voted to join South Sudan, but neither country officially recognized the vote. In November, the UN extended the Abyei peacekeeping mission to May 2014. In the midst of a serious outbreak of violence in South Sudan in mid-December, the Sudanese government expressed concern over the impact of the fighting on oil production.

In January, the National Consensus Forces (NCF) joined with the rebel Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) in signing the “New Dawn” charter, which stated their aim to topple the al-Bashir government. However, some political leaders called for regime reform rather than overthrow. In February, the government signed a ceasefire agreement with a Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) representative from Darfur and in March Vice-President Taha invited rebels to help draft a new Sudanese constitution. Government talks with SPLM-N began in late April, but quickly broke down. Also in April, JEM-Bashar signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, but leader Bashar was killed a month later by mainstream JEM fighters. In November, the government announced a new offensive against SRF and launched military operations against JEM and SPLM-N. Al-Bashir promised to “eradicate rebel groups” by 2015.

In January, Sudan lost UN voting rights after it failed to pay fees. In March, President al-Bashir announced that he would not run for president in the 2015 elections. In June, the NCF launched a 100-day protest campaign to unseat al-Bashir and the ruling NCP; a government crackdown on media and students followed, but opposition leaders continued to call for al-Bashir’s resignation. In July, al-Bashir attended an African Union health summit in Nigeria and human rights groups demanded that he be taken into custody according to ICC warrants; Nigeria refused. In early December, al-Bashir shuffled his cabinet and replaced two vice-presidents. New appointees had mainly army and security backgrounds and were from al-Bashir’s Ja’ali tribe.

2012 The government reduced access by UN and humanitarian organizations to most areas of Darfur. A state of emergency, which allows governors to detain people indefinitely without judicial review, persisted in the state of North Darfur. The government continued to refuse to comply with International Criminal Court arrest warrants for President Bashir; former minister for humanitarian affairs and current governor of South Kordofan, Ahmad Muhammad Haroun; and former senior Janjaweed commander Ali Muhammad Abd al-Rahman. In March the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Defence Minister Abd Al-Rahim Hussein on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Little was done to act on the justice and reconciliation provisions of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and enormous security challenges remained. There was scant evidence that the Special Court to try perpetrators of gross human rights violations was functioning. Qatar promised to help fund recovery and development. In October the government reached a peace agreement with a splinter group of JEM rebels, resulting in an immediate ceasefire. Most of the parties to the conflict, including the SAF and Public Defence Forces, have allegedly used child soldiers. In September, JEM signed an agreement with UNICEF to ban the use of child soldiers, but its recruitment activities were unchanged. The SLA-Historical Leadership moved to end its recruitment and use of child soldiers. In November, it recommended 120 former child soldiers to the Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission.

2011 According to Human Rights Watch, much of Darfur remained off limits to AU-UN forces and aid organizations. In February, South Darfur governor Abdel Hamid Kasha expelled French aid group Médecins du Monde, accusing them of supporting the rebel group, SLM/A. Médecins du Monde was one of the last aid groups working in the central Jabel Marra region, a rebel stronghold and the scene of recent clashes. In July, UNAMID extended its mandate for another 12 months. Also in July, the Sudanese government and the Liberty and Justice Movement agreed to adopt the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur as well as a separate protocol on LJM’s political participation and the integration of its forces into the national army. Key rebel factions (including the SLM/A) refused to sign the agreement, leading analysts to conclude that there is little hope that the agreement will lead to any sort of comprehensive and sustainable peace for Darfur.

2010 The year saw presidential elections, normalizing of relations with Chad and the resumption of peace talks between Khartoum and Darfur rebel groups. In Sudan’s first multiparty elections in 24 years, President Omar al-Bashir was reelected with 68 per cent of the vote and South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit was reelected with 93 per cent of the vote. Although the elections were heavily criticized by international observers, the results were accepted. In February, Chad and Sudan announced an end to hostilities and renewed cooperation, as well as the establishment of a joint border force of 3,000 troops. Peace talks between rebel groups Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) began in Doha to replace the 2006 peace deal and end the eight-year conflict. JEM pulled out of the peace process in May, citing continuing government attacks, but returned to negotiations in October. The SLA-Abdel Wahid (SLA-AW) did not participate in the peace talks, nor did the SLA-Minni Faction (SLA-MM). The only rebel group to sign the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement, SLA-MM formally denounced the peace process and pulled out of the Agreement. Khartoum announced internal peace processes with tribal leaders, civil society groups and other local actors. In July, the International Criminal Court issued a second arrest warrant for al-Bashir, which included charges of genocide.

2009 In March, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir expelled 13 international and three local NGOs, accusing them of spying for the International Criminal Court. The NGOs employed approximately 6,000 people, most Sudanese, and were responsible for the distribution of one-third of the World Food Programme’s aid and 50 per cent of humanitarian aid efforts. Al-Bashir vowed to replace the NGOs with local organizations, which he called the Sudanization of humanitarian relief. In July, the UN Security Council extended the mission in Darfur by a year, despite UNAMID’s inability to effectively protect civilians. The Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) called the upcoming 2010 elections a façade meant to hide the atrocities in Darfur and warned election officials entering their territory that they risked attack. In July, a number of rebel groups came together in Cairo to sign an accord endorsing a transitional government.

2008 On July 14, a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) presented evidence against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on 10 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and requested a warrant for his arrest. As in the cases of Ahmad Muhammad Harun and Ali Kishayb, the Sudanese government dismissed the charges, but adopted several measures to improve its image and demonstrate its commitment to peace: a program for dialogue known as the Sudan People’s Initiative in October; engaging in an Arab League peace plan led by Qatar; promising increased commitment to UNAMID deployment and accountability; and declaring an unconditional ceasefire for Darfur in November. But rebel groups largely boycotted these measures, calling for militia disarmament as a first step before ceasefire and movement of the existing Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). Khartoum’s measures were criticized by some as “fully reversible.” Nonetheless, African and Arab states, nd even many of al-Bashir’s political opponents in Sudan, asked the ICC to delay its proceedings, fearing that Bashir’s indictment would lead to a breakdown of the DPA (with its provision for 2009 elections), as well as a backlash against UNAMID, humanitarian efforts and even civilian populations within Sudan. Meanwhile, a last-minute vote in the UN Security Council extended UNAMID’s mandate through July 31, 2009.

2007 In February, a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) presented evidence against Ahmad Muhammad Harun (the Sudanese state minister for humanitarian affairs) and Ali Kishayb (janjaweed leader) for war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out against civilian populations in West Darfur between 2003 and 2004. The government of Sudan rejected the authority of the ICC. The UN human rights mission also accused the government of orchestrating and taking part in war crimes in Darfur and urged the international community to provide immediate action to protect civilians in the region. On July 31, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to pass resolution 1769, mandating a joint UN-AU force 26,000 troops and police to Darfur. The resolution included provisions allowing the use of force to protect civilians. The newly formed UNAMID was set to take over from the African Union Mission in Sudan on January 1, 2008, despite a lack of logistical support and cooperation by the government of Sudan. Several attempts were made to assist the rebels in forming a common position in preparation for further peace talks between the government and non-signatory rebel groups that refused to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement. Although five rebel groups met in Ndjamena, the capital of Chad, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and six factions of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) boycotted the talks, limiting progress. Tensions among Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic continued and many feared that the large refugee populations fleeing Darfur would contribute to further insecurity in the region. International calls for sanctions against Sudan over Darfur grew louder.

2006 In May, internationally mediated peace talks resulted in the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) by the faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) led by Minni Minnawi. However, a rival SPLM/A faction led by Abdelwahid Muhamed El Nur, as well as the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), refused to sign, contending that inadequate concessions had been granted to the peoples of Darfur. The agreement granted the fourth-highest-ranking position in government to a person from Darfur and had a provision to disarm the janjaweed militia. Despite this agreement, atrocities continued and the janjaweed was not disarmed. At the end of 2006, the DPA appeared to be largely ignored by both sides. Further splintering of factions of the SLM/A resulted in violence. Khartoum repeatedly affirmed that it would not allow a UN peacekeeping force in the Darfur region, despite the inadequacy of the AU mission. But in December 2006, Khartoum agreed to allow the UN to provide a Light Intelligence Force of mainly logistics personnel to reinforce the AU mission. Tensions along the Chad and Central African Republic borders continued to fuel fears that conflict in Darfur could destabilize the entire region.

2005 Negotiations between the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel groups and the Sudan government made little progress. Negotiations between rebel factions began in an effort to establish a unified position. A UN Security Council investigation found that war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed in Darfur and recommended that 51 people, including government officials, rebel and militia leaders, be tried at the International Criminal Court.

2004 Two weak UN resolutions called on the parties involved in the conflict in Darfur to cease hostilities and uphold humanitarian law. A UN panel was appointed to investigate claims of genocide in Darfur. The African Union force was strengthened. Peace talks culminated in the signing of a November agreement. But violence persisted and a new party to the conflict emerged during the year.

2003 Despite the government’s early dismissal of the rebels as common criminals and outlaws, officials began ceasefire negotiations with the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), mediated by Chadian government officials and leading to a September agreement. Violence continued in Darfur and the ceasefire dissolved in December. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) refused peace talks with the government over concerns that the Chadian mediators favoured the Sudanese government. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which has been fighting the Sudanese military for more than 20 years, voiced support for the rebels in Darfur, but there was no confirmed link between the SPLA and the SLM/A or JEM.

Background

The Darfur region of western Sudan has experienced conflict for decades. Clashes have traditionally been between nomadic herdsmen, primarily of Arab descent, and sedentary, primarily indigenous, farmers. Disputes have usually been over access to land and water resources and were, in the past, resolved locally through traditional means.

When the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) rebellion began in Southern Sudan in the 1980s, the Sudanese government provided the Arab population in Darfur with arms and employed them as militias.

The intensification and continuation of the Southern rebellion, which was fought along ethnic lines (the Northern Sudanese of Arab descent versus the largely black African population of Southern Sudan), along with Khartoum’s involvement in Darfur, transformed the Darfur region’s traditional, low-intensity resource conflicts into the high-intensity, ethnically driven armed violence of 2003.

Although the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed in May 2006, its provisions were largely ignored. All factions continued to commit atrocities against the civilian population.

In the late 1980s Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi supported the armed group Islamic Legion, which fought an unsuccessful battle against the government of Chad. The first janjaweed Arab militias were among those fighting with the Gaddafi-supported forces. When the conflict ended, the janjaweed returned to their home region of Darfur armed.
In 2010, various rebel factions agreed to enter negotiations with the Khartoum government to end the eight-year conflict.

During the civil war between north and south, rebel groups in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states sided with Southern Sudan. Following secession in July 2011, some groups were left on the north side of the border. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) began fighting the Sudan Armed Forces around this time, and later joined the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) alliance, which aims to remove President al-Bashir from power.

In 2011, the Sudanese government and the Liberty and Justice Movement agreed to adopt the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur as well as a separate protocol on LJM’s political participation and the integration of its forces into the national army. Key rebel factions still refuse to sign the agreement (including the SLM/A), leading analysts to conclude that there is little hope that the agreement will lead to any sort of comprehensive and sustainable peace for Darfur.

In 2014 President al-Bashir launched a National Dialogue initiative aimed at uniting all Sudanese regardless of political and ideological differences to discuss key issues regarding Sudanese identity, economy, government, and freedoms. The initiative struggled in 2015 to engage the opposition.

Arms Sources

The janjaweed and other Arab militias were allegedly given small arms by the Sudanese government, first to fight against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), and later to attack non-Arab populations in Darfur. Government officials claimed that Darfur rebel groups received arms and training from the SPLA. International Crisis Group reported in 2014 that Juba supplied the SPLM-N with cars, fuel, and ammunition, allegedly to be shared with rebels in Darfur. There have also been reports of Darfur rebel bases in South Sudan’s Unity, Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal states. The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) received vast quantities of weapons from Chad, Eritrea and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The government of Eritrea has been cited for providing arms, logistical support, military training and political support to JEM and the SLM/A. Eritrea reportedly provided training for both in camps near the Sudan border.

Early in January 2015 SPLA-N reported seizing large quantities of weapons during battles, including a T-55 main battle tank, a ZU-23-2 cannon and other light weapons. The group reportedly captured a new T-72 battle tank, six DShKM-pattern machine guns, and other arms and ammunition.

According to the UN Comtrade database, at least 34 countries exported small arms, light weapons and ammunition valued at almost $70-million (U.S.) to Sudan between 1992 and 2005. Ninety-six per cent of the reported transfers were from China and Iran. Because the reports did not include illegal trading, the actual volume was likely much higher. Although the Darfur region has been under a UN arms embargo since 2005, published trade figures from 2005 demonstrated that China sold $24-million and Russia sold $21-million worth of military supplies to Sudan that year. In a 2006 UN report China was cited as a major arms supplier to the Darfur conflict.

In 2007 the UN accused the Sudanese government of flying arms and heavy military equipment into Darfur in violation of the arms embargo. Amnesty International released photographs of the Russian-made military transport planes, painted white to disguise them as UN or AU aircraft, in defiance of the Geneva Convention. In 2009 the Small Arms Survey estimated that there were 2.7 million small arms and light weapons in Sudan, more than two-thirds of which were outside of state-controlled stockpiles. Analysts have long identified arms proliferation among non-state actors as a critical factor in the outbreak and escalation of armed violence in the region.

In August 2013 a Russian newspaper confirmed that Russia was still selling military helicopters to Sudan. In 2012 Russia supplied 12 Mi-24 attack helicopters and six Mi-8 utility helicopters with new VK-2500 engines, although Russia reported the transfer of only four helicopters to the UN Register of Conventional Arms. A contract was signed in 2013 for 12 Mi-24s and 12 Mi-8s, with an option on six more of each type.

In June 2013 Sudan abstained from voting on the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty and has neither signed nor ratified it.

In December 2013 images collected by the Satellite Sentinel Project revealed that Sudan had been building up its military capabilities, particularly in aircraft. Earlier in the year, the Sudanese air force received its first shipment of supersonic Sukhoi Su-24 ground attack aircraft at the Wadi Sayyidna air base. The government also signed contracts for Russian Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters.

In 2013 Sudan received arms from Belarus, China, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine; and in 2014 from China and Russia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Its defence budget in 2013 was $1.89-billion (U.S.).

According to Reuters, in 2015 Sudan emerged as a key entry point for Iranian weapons into Africa, allowing Sudan to benefit from Iranian weapons technologies (Reuters). A report by the Small Arms Survey reported the frequent diversion of weapons and ammunition from UN and AU peacekeeping operations (Small Arms Survey).    

Economic Factors     

Both the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) have cited the lack of economic development in the Darfur region as a source of dissatisfaction. The largely pastoral Arab populations and the mainly sedentary non-Arab populations in Darfur have historically clashed over land and water resources. According to the 2014 United Nations Human Development Report Sudan ranked 166 out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index, up from 169 in the 2011 report.

When South Sudan seceded in July 2011 it took with it nearly three-quarters of Sudan’s oil production, but still relies on Sudan’s ports to export the oil. Sudan experienced a huge loss of foreign currency. After a 14-month shutdown, oil production resumed on April 7, 2013. In May President al-Bashir threatened to shut down oil pipelines if South Sudan supported rebels in Darfur, South Kordofan or Blue Nile states. Al-Bashir renewed his threat in June, accusing South Sudan of supporting rebels, but withdrew it in early September after talks with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.

According to International Monetary Fund (IMF) projections, Sudan’s total external debt in 2014 hit $46.5 -billion and was expected to increase to $48.1-billion in 2015. The United States and the United Kingdom promised to forgive their portions of Sudan’s debt, but have not yet done so. The Sudanese currency fell to a record low in July 2013; the value of the Sudanese pound has dropped by more than half since South Sudan’s independence. By December 2013 inflation was at 41.9 per cent, but fell to 35.7 per cent in March 2014. More than half of the Sudanese population is less than 15 years old, and the unemployment rate sits at about 20 per cent. According to UN estimates, approximately 46 per cent of the 34 million people in Sudan are living below the poverty line.

In June 2013 President al-Bashir announced new austerity measures, including the gradual reduction and removal of fuel subsidies, and increases in taxes and customs duty. Fuel subsidies were cut completely in September, causing prices at the pump to nearly double overnight and sparking major protests.

Before South Sudan’s secession, China invested approximately $20-billion in Sudan. In July 2013 China granted Sudan a $700-million loan to build a new airport in Khartoum. In January 2014 Sudan received a $1.5-billion loan, secured by China National Petroleum Corp.

map: CIA Factbook

Click to Share