The Darfur conflict : beyond ethnic hatred explanations

Gross de Almeida, Daniela (2008-03)

Thesis (MA (Political Science. International Studies))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


Sudan is a country that has been affected by a history of multiple destructive civil wars. Conflicts that, in a global perspective, have proven to be as devastating as interstate wars, or on occasion even more destructive, in terms of the numbers of casualties, refugee figures and the effects on a country’s society. The conflict in Darfur, in the western region of Sudan, is a civil war that illustrates one of the direst scenarios. In around five years of warfare, more than 200,000 people have died in the conflict, and around two million Darfurians were displaced, creating what the UN calls the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” The civil war was initiated by the attacks of two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, against government installations. Although presenting insurgency characteristics, the civil war in Darfur has been commonly labelled as a “tribal” conflict of “Africans” versus “Arabs”. An explanation that seems to fail to clarify the complex circumstances belying the situation. As seen in this study, although identity factors played their role as a cause of the conflict, the ‘ethnic hatred’ justification of war doesn’t seem to be sufficient to explain the present situation. Darfur appears to be a clear example that there is no single factor that can explain such a war. In the case of Darfur, various factors seem to have interplayed in creating the necessary conditions for the eruption of violence. This study focused on two of these factors – the environmental hazards that have been affecting the region, and the government’s use of the Janjaweed militia in its counterinsurgency movement. Both, and in different ways, seem to have contributed to dividing the Darfurian society between two poles, thus worsening the circumstances in the region and helping generate the high levels of violence that characterise the Darfur conflict. Most important, in analysing the conflict of Darfur with a point of view that goes beyond the “ethnic hatred” explanation, it seems possible to identify issues, such as land ownership, that are in vital need of being addressed in order to achieve peace in 4 the region. As seen in this thesis, it seems that it is only through a broad understanding of the complex causes of the conflict that peace negotiations might have any hope of success. While those continue to be ignored, any peace agreements or prospects of finding a solution to the conflict will be unrealistic.

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