by Dan Perri
Darfur, located in western Sudan, is in a state of chaos with an exact number of casualties that remains unknown due to the obstacles the Sudanese government has placed on journalists and the United Nations alike. The estimated death toll is between 200,000 and 400, 000 people.
Darfur has been plagued by a number of disasters; famine, racial and religious inequality, a considerable distance between social classes, underdevelopment and low national morale. All these issues, immediate or long term, have lead to the instability of Sudan and the current civil war that rages on there.
The direct cause of the conflict is commonly attributed to the to the Darfur Liberation Front (DLF) claiming responsibility for an attack on the headquarters of Jebel Marra District and a series of other rebel attacks against the government in February 2003. After the success of the rebel campaign, particularly the al- Fashir raid, the government had been humiliated losing a majority of battles from February into the middle months of 2003. As a result, the government used a new tactic placing the Janjaweed, a group of nomadic Arab cattle herders, on the ground to fight the rebels. This new tactic created more danger for the non Arab population in Darfur and by 2004 the Janjaweed had turned the tide of the rebellion. In these months, thousands of non Arabs were killed and millions more pushed out of their homes. As refugees poured out of Darfur they were pursued into the neighboring country of Chad causing a clash between the Chadian military and the Janjaweed.
In April 2004, the Sudanese government and rebels had agreed on a ceasefire yet fighting still continues amongst groups that did not participate in the agreement such as the Janjaweed. The Janjaweed campaign has since grown out of control and many argue that their pursuit of ethnic cleansing should be considered ?genocide? in the eyes of the United Nations. As a result of the constant attacks on the border of Chad and Sudan, there are growing hostilities between the two governments.
There was a brief moment of peace in 2006 after the May Agreement which called for the Junjaweed to be disarmed and the rebel forces to be incorporated into the army; yet like the ceasefire in 2003, not all the Sudanese factions agreed to the compromise. The fighting was renewed in August 2006 and the Sudanese government, regardless of threats from both the U.N. and the U.S., had done little to stop the fighting. The fighting continued while the U.N. and the U.S. made several efforts to compromise and stop the fighting, such as sending in a U.N. peace keeping force; all the compromises were rejected. In January 2007, a ceasefire was called for 60 days to allow time to find a resolution. The groups still continue to attempt a compromise but after past dealings with the Sudanese government, many remain skeptic of results.
While the leaders Junjaweed have been charged with war crimes against humanity, there is also a growing concern that the war might be to far out of control. Oxfam, an international peace keeping group, announced on June 7th 2007 that it would be pulling out of Darfur completely due to the lack of response by Sudanese authorities to curb the situation. Global issues have also contributed to the complexity of the situation in Darfur such as foreign investments. An example would be the Chinese governments close economic relationship with Sudan and how they conflict with the United Nation?s embargos on the country.