The Darfur Genocide is one of the worst human rights abuses of modern time. Over 90 diverse tribes and sub-clans populate the region of Darfur which is located in western Sudan. With a pre-conflict population of 6 million people, tensions within the region leading to the Darfur Genocide were produced by multiple interconnected factors including ethnic conflict, economic instability and political opportunism.
The level of violence and destruction at the height of the Darfur genocide was staggering. In 2005, the Coalition for International Justice interviewed 1,136 Darfur refugees located in 19 camps in neighboring Chad. A staggering 61 percent of the respondents noted that they had witnessed the killing of one of their family members.
Top 10 Darfur Genocide Facts:
- In 1989, then-General Omar al-Bashir seized control of Sudan through a military coup. The country was in the middle of a 21-year civil war between the North and South regions when the leader came to power and tensions continued to build. Conflicts began to increase within the ethnically diverse Darfur and weapons started flowing into the area due to a struggle for political control.
- The conflict escalated in 2003 when two non-Arab rebel groups within Darfur, the Sudan Liberian Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, accused the government of neglecting the region and took up arms against it. The Sudanese government, led by al-Bashir, quickly responded with a counter-insurgency campaign against the rebels and began backing a brutal Arab militia known as the Janjaweed. Civilians within the country were the ones to ultimately pay the price for the escalating violence and began receiving a barrage of attacks from the government, pro-government troops and rebel groups.
- The dispute is generally racial and not religious in nature. Muslim Arab Sudanese (the Janjaweed militia group) systematically targeted, displaced, and murdered Muslim black Sudanese individuals within the Darfur region. The victims are generally from non-Arab tribal groups.
- According to the United Human Rights Council, over 400 villages were completely destroyed through the conflict, forcing mass amounts of civilians to be displaced from their homes. The Janjaweed would set out to destroy the houses and buildings within the community, shooting the men and gang-raping the women and children. Families would be separated and killed. Those who escaped the brutal onslaught would then be faced with an arduous journey to find refuge.
- Many citizens fled the violence and relocated to refugee camps within the area and neighboring Chad. According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, approximately two million individuals are still displaced due to the violence, with the majority having left their homes between 2003 and 2005 — the height of the conflict.
- Malnutrition, starvation and disease were serious concerns. Residents have been able to receive limited humanitarian assistance during the conflict due to the Sudanese government hindering aid efforts within the region and violence against humanitarian programs already in place. According to UNICEF, attacks on humanitarian vehicles, convoys, and compounds are common, impacting the availability of vital aid services. Approximately 25 to 30 international relief organizations have left the area due to security concerns or have been expelled by the government, as reported by The Washington Post.
- In June 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched investigations into the human rights violations occurring in Darfur. According to the United Human Rights Council, the government refused to cooperate with the investigations and denied any connection with the Janjaweed militia group.
- On March 4, 2009, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir became the first-ever sitting president of a country to be indicted by the ICC for directing a campaign of mass killing, and rape against civilians in Darfur. His accusations according to the BBC include crimes of humanity including murder, extermination, rape and torture, as well as war crimes including attacks on civilians in Darfur, and pillaging towns and villages.
- The United Nations estimates that as many as 300,000 individuals have been killed since the start of the Darfur conflict in 2003. The majority of these casualties are from civilian men, women and children who lived within communities throughout the area.
- While the conflict has eased, it is by no means over. According to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, levels of violence have increased since the start of 2013. Approximately 400,000 individuals were displaced from their homes during the first half of 2014 alone as the Darfur crisis persists.
– Lauren Lewis