Darfur Genocide

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A Darfur village that has been sacked by the Janjaweed.
The report demonstrates beyond all doubt that the last two years have been little short of Hell on Earth for our fellow human beings in Darfur.
~ Then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, referring to a 2005 report detailing the Darfur Genocide.

The Darfur Genocide is the systematic killing and ethnic cleansing of ethnic Darfuri people which has occurred during the ongoing conflict in Western Sudan. It has become known as the first genocide of the 21st century. 

The genocide has been principally carried out by the Janjaweed ("Devils on Horseback"), a militia that is comprised of various Sudanese Arab tribes, the core of whom are from the Abbala (camel herder) background with significant recruitment from the Baggara (cattle herder) people. They are trained, funded and supplied by the Sudanese government. Official Sudanese Army forces are also involved, as are a special operations unit known as the Rapid Support Forces.

It has been compared to the Rwandan Genocide due to the manner in which it has been carried out (by a government-sponsored militia force) as well as the level of violence involved.


The genocide, which is being carried out against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes, has led the International Criminal Court (ICC) to indict several people (most notably former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who became the first sitting president to be indicted by the ICC) for crimes against humanity, rape, forced transfer and torture. According to Eric Reeves, more than one million children have been "killed, raped, wounded, displaced, traumatized, or endured the loss of parents and families".

The crisis and ongoing conflict in Sudan's Western Darfur Region have developed from several separate events. The first is a civil war that occurred between the Khartoum national governments and two rebel groups in Darfur: the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army. The rebel groups were initially formed in February 2003 due to Darfur's "political and economic marginalization by Khartoum". In April 2003, when the rebel groups attacked the military airfield and kidnapped an air force general, the government launched a counterattack. It led to a response from the Khartoum government where they armed militia forces to eliminate the rebellion. This resulted in mass violence against the citizens in Darfur.

A second factor is a civil war that has occurred between the Christians, the animist Black southerners, and the Arab dominated government since Sudan's independence from the United Kingdom in 1956. The violence that took place for about 11 years left more than a million people displaced by the hostilities: fleeing to other places around Sudan or across the border to Chad.

The ethnic conflict in Darfur has been persistent, with Arab racism at its roots. Darfur is home to six million people and several dozen tribes. Darfur is split into two: "those who claim Black 'African' descent and primarily practice sedentary agriculture, and those who claim 'Arab' descent and are mostly semi nomadic livestock herders".

In 2004, then United States Secretary of State Colin Powell told the state committee on foreign affairs that a genocide had been carried out in Darfur, that the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed were responsible, and that the genocide may still be ongoing. Powell stated that having reviewed the evidence which had been compiled by the State Department and having compared it to information which was freely available throughout the international community he came to the conclusion that genocide had been carried out in Darfur."

In 2013 the United Nations (UN) estimated that up to 300,000 people had been killed during the genocide, in response the Sudanese government claimed that the number of deaths was "grossly inflated". By 2015, it was estimated that the death toll stood between 100,000 and 400,000.

The citizens in Darfur who have fled the genocide in Sudan - and continue to flee today - settle in one of the 13 refugee camps in Eastern Chad. About 360,000 Darfuri's suffer in those camps: "The 10+ years they have lived in the camps have been marked by tight resources, threats from inside and outside the camps, and more, but life is getting even harder for the refugees."

UNHCR proposed to the UN Secretary-General to "take responsibility for the protection and voluntary return of IDPs to their villages of origin in West Darfur in partnership with other agencies…". The UN approved of their proposal to govern and create a protective environment in camps, host communities and settlements for the displaced people to a within Darfur.

There have been funding shortfalls which impacted the increase in the refugees and internally displaced persons. The environment and lack of exceptional living conditions is not able to accommodate the refugee community.

As of 2018, a group of refugees that have been in Chad since 2003–2004 are returning to North Darfur. They are the first of thousands who are expected to return voluntarily to Darfur in the coming months. The refugees are provided with transport and packages which include three months of food rations, provided by the World Food Programme (WFP). As the peace and security situation is maintained in Darfur, more refugees will want to return to Sudan.

The violence continued into 2016 where the government allegedly used chemical weapons against the local population in Darfur. This led to millions being displaced due to the hostile environment. Over 3 million lives are heavily impacted by the conflict.


The BBC first reported on the issue of ethnic cleansing in November 2003, and earlier that year in March. An administrator from the United States Agency for International Development giving testimony to congress mentioned ethnic cleansing and the "population clearance" which was occurring in Darfur.

In April 2004, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released Darfur Destroyed: Ethnic Cleansing by Government and Militia Forces in Western Sudan, a 77-page report compiled by HRW following 25 days spent in the region. The executive director of the African branch of HRW, Peter Takirambudde, stated "There can be no doubt about the Sudanese government's culpability in crimes against humanity in Darfur". The HRW report also documents Janjaweed killings of Muslim religious leaders, desecration of the Koran and the destruction of mosques. This is somewhat ironic considering that the Janjaweed has been confirmed to be made up mostly of Muslims itself.

The use of rape as a tool of genocide has been noted. This crime has been carried out by both Sudanese government forces and the Janjaweed. The actions of the Janjaweed have been described as genocidal rape, with not just women, but children as well. There were also reports of infants being bludgeoned to death, and the sexual mutilation of victims being commonplace.

With the ongoing conflict, it has not been possible for interviewers and activists to conduct population-based surveys in Darfur. However, the rapes reported have mostly occurred in non-Arab villages by the Janjaweed with the assistance of the Sudanese military.

The settings in which these attacks occurred:

  1. The Janjaweed forces surrounded the village and then attacked girls and women who left the village to gather firewood or water.
  2. The Janjaweed forces either went house to house, killing the boys and men while raping the girls and women, or rounded up everyone, bringing them to a central location, where the forces then killed the boys and men then raped the girls and women.
  3. The Janjaweed forces went to nearby villages or towns, internally displaced person (IDP) camps, or across the border into Chad to rape women and children.

According to Tara Gingerich and Jennifer Leaning, the rape attacks were often carried out in front of others "including husbands, fathers, mothers, and children of the victims, who were forced to watch and were prevented from intervening". This genocidal rape has been committed upon a wide age range, that includes women of 70 years or older, girls under 10, and visibly pregnant women.

The missing women and girls have possibly been released, but may have heretofore been unable to reunite with their families. In a statement to the UN, former secretary general Kofi Annan said "In Darfur, we see whole populations displaced, and their homes destroyed, while rape is used as a deliberate strategy."

People involved