Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

The Internationalization of the Communal Conflict in Darfur and Its Regional and Domestic Ramifications: 2001-2007

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

The Internationalization of the Communal Conflict in Darfur and Its Regional and Domestic Ramifications: 2001-2007

Article excerpt

THIS ARTICLE ADDRESSES THE COMMUNAL conflict in the Darfur region of Western Sudan focusing mainly on the genesis of the conflict, its process and the different attempts made at its reconciliation. Furthermore, the essay discusses primarily the internationalization process of the conflict and how in a short period of time it has attracted the attention of the United Nations, Western powers and human rights groups; and why the Western powers, in particular, called for international intervention. In addition, the paper examines the regional and domestic impact of the internationalization of the conflict mainly focusing on Sudan's straining relationship with neighboring countries such as Chad and the Central African Republic as well as discerning the impact of the internationalization process on the negotiating position of the Darfur rebellion movements.


Geography and Climate

Darfur (Arabic meaning "home of the fur") is a region of far western Sudan, bordering the Central African Republic, Libya and Chad. It is divided into three federal states within Sudan: Gharb Darfur (West Darfur), Janub Darfur (South Darfur) and Shamal Darfur (North Daffur). (1)

Darfur covers an area of some 493,180 square kilometers (196,555 square miles) about three-quarters the size of Texas. (2) It is largely an arid plateau with the Marrah Mountains (Jebel Marra), a range of volcanic peaks rising up to 3,000 meters (10,000 ft), in the center of the region. The region's main towns are Al Fashir, Nyala and Geneina.


Based on the last population census conducted in 1993, the population of Darfur is estimated to be 6 million. (3) The population of Darfur is divided into two major ethnic groups: the African and the Arab. The African group comprises the fur (after whom the region is named), speaking a Nilo-Saharan language as well as Zaghawa, Masalit, Midob, Al-Barti, Al-Falata, and Al-Tama. The Arab group includes Al-Taisha, Al-Habania, Bani Helba, Al-Rizigat, Al-Misseria and Al-Malia. (4)

One hundred percent of the residents of Darfur are Sunni Muslims. The an-Najati Sufi order is widespread among the residents of Darfur. (5) The tribes in the region who are of "African origin" are considered to be more zealous in their practice of Islam than the other, "non-African" tribes. The residents of Darfur can be divided into two linguistic groups. About 50 percent of the tribes speak Arabic as their mother tongue. The other 50 percent speak regional dialects (Beigo, Daju, Fongoro, Fulbe, Fur, Kujarge, Masalit, Tama, Zaghawa), but at the same time use Arabic as a second language. (6)

Economic Characteristics

There are two types of natural resources in Darfur. The first includes the surface resources, which is to say the agricultural crops and animals and the vast pasturelands that extend throughout the lowlands of the area. (7) The other main resources are buried underground, specifically oil, iron, uranium and copper.

Drought and desertification which swept the region during the last three decades, has had a devastating impact on the region's economy. (8) As a result several tribes professed losses both in grazing and farming that is much needed for survival.


In our attempt to scrutinize the nature and the underlying causes of the Darfur crisis, we have to point to the fact that conflicts and feuds in Darfur are not a new phenomenon. A variety of factors namely geographical, natural, social, economic, security and political have helped to shape the region. Below we shall examine these factors in greater detail.

Conflict between Farmers and Nomads over Resources

During the last three decades, the Darfur region was exposed to waves of drought and desertification which has had a devastating impact on the local environment. …

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