[Last Revised: May 11, 2023]

  A. HISTORY: From Power to Neglect.  [minor revision: May 2019] 
       - Basic Factors Involved. [minor revision: November 2017]

  B. CURRENT STATUS.    [Latest revision: May 11, 2023;   {Major revision: January 2011]}
       - Summary within Darfur, Sudan, and Internationally.
       - ICC Prosecutor's Call to Indict President Bashir and Resulting Charges.
       - July 9, 2011: Creation of the Republic of South Sudan.

  C. ANALYSIS.    [minor revision: August 2009]
  D. STRATEGIES TO END THE C  ONFLICT.    [minor revision: May 2018]

NOTE: While the Darfur conflict ignited in 2003 (with precedents going back much further), the following recent major upheavals should be noted, and are expanded in Current Status :

Preamble: This article is based on the assumption that the clearer our perception of reality, the better our chance of success, where success here means an end to the atrocities in Darfur and ultimately a just-peace deal for the whole region.  Most news stories, especially the earlier ones, had a basic three line script to explain how the violence started, and it went something like this:

The violence in Darfur, Sudan, started in the spring of 2003 when rebels attacked a government air base.  In response the government unleashed the Janjaweed militia, who attacked villages in Darfur, looting and burning them, killing the men, and raping the women.  This has resulted in over 200,000 deaths and over 2 million people fleeing to refugee camps.

The information was basically correct; but if that is all that one heard, fairly simple solutions might be envisioned.  However most careful analysts feel that the underlying causes of the violence are varied and complicated, including: battles over land and other resources; long-ago political decisions; ethnic divisions; Islamist power struggles; environmental factors, stratagems in the just-ended civil war and regional instability.  To be clear, action is desperately needed and there are many appropriate actions to be taken.  To skip the following analysis, which can do no more than peel back one layer of a multi-layered dynamic, you can go straight to the list of actions.


A. HISTORY: From Power to Neglect   [Minor update: May 2019]

Long before the colonial period had drawn the various lines across Africa, the Darfur area had its own sultanate (Tunjur), which at its height, rivaled any in the region.  It was on the trading route that went from it through the desert up to the Nile, which in its latter days, carried the much valued slave and ivory trade collected by the southern Darfur region. 

A few things should be noted regarding this era (see original map of Sudan, at side: until 2011 Sudan was the largest country in Africa and 10th largest in the world).  First, Darfur consists of between 40 to 90 ethnic groups or tribes, they are all Muslim (generally Sunni) and Arabic is now the common language.  There has always been a nomadic movement, generally Arabs, that went North-South depending on the season.  In some ways Darfur resembles a chessboard -- some of the squares are allocated to the pastoralists (held a form of land title) who are generally African but can be Arab -- and the remaining squares are the pasture land through which that the nomads travel.  Between these two groups over time was both reciprocity and conflict. For instance the camel driving nomads might stop at some farmer's land where the farmer would kill a bull in honor of the event; the nomads would return the favour by leaving a couple of camels; as well the camels would fertilize the field and carry the farmer's grain to the markets.  At other times one tribe might accuse another of stealing 300 cattle, which would either be resolved through local dispute mechanisms or erupt into local conflict. As we shall see these local dynamics were later politicized.

Separately, during the early 19th century, the Turco-Egyptian invasion established the main part of Sudan, and at the end of the 19th century, the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium period embedded into the power base of Khartoum, three (riverine) Arab tribes, whose controlling political power extends to this day. Interestingly, the Khartoum elite eventually cut much of the slave & ivory trade from Darfur by intercepting it further south.  It was only in 1916 that Darfur was formally annexed by the British, fearful that it might otherwise fall under Turkish power during WWI.  In 1956, Sudan gained independence.

As noted by the above map with Sudan's capital, Khartoum, strategically located on the Nile where it splits into its two main tributaries, one can see in the geography a reflection of the politics: the natural political flow of the Nile, contrasted with a neglect for its periphery - Darfur (as well as Sudan's south, east and north-west). This neglect of Darfur by the government of Sudan (GoS) has included meager educational, medical facilities and infrastructure, as well as neglect to situations of dire famine such as 1984.  It was largely due to such ongoing neglect that rebel movements started to coalesce.  However before getting more directly to Darfur, this neglect did include the South, which in 2011 via a referendum, chose to become its own country (The Republic of South Sudan), resulting in the following current map of Sudan {except Darfur still only shows 3 states; see further below for all 5 states} ).



First, it is easy to get the Darfur conflict and the North-South war confused.  But the North-South war preceded the open Darfur conflict by almost a couple of decades, resulted in 2 million dead and 4 million people displaced and was really the continuation of an earlier war (1955-1972).  Note that it started a year before Sudan's independence - its roots go back to the British period where they kept North and South separate, seeing the South (mostly animist but also Christian) as a barrier to the spread of Islam.  The South had more in common with its neighbours, Kenya, Uganda, etc. 

Most relevant here is that during the preceding couple of years of negotiations that led to its settlement in 2005 (Comprehensive Peace Agreement, CPA), the Darfur conflict erupted. One reason for its eruption was the recognition that once again Darfur was to be neglected because the CPA did not include Darfur in the deal (even though it was originally part of John Garang's overall vision of Sudan, which elevated all minorty groups.  John Garang rose from obscurity in South Sudan , was well-educated, joinng the South's rebels, and with the CPA,  was set to become First Vice-President of Sudan.  His broad appeal {though could be unbending and foes suffered} made him the only viable alternative to Bashir during Sudan's history.  But he died in a helicopter crash in in May 2005, seemingly accidental but suspicious circumstances never conclusively resolved). 

Secondly, because the war had been so intractable, there was a diplomatic reluctance to focus on Darfur, which was felt might derail the CPA.  Thus in the first 18 months of the conflict, when it could have been more easily dealt with, the counter-insurgency tactics in  Darfur (primarily the Janjaweed) were given free reign with horrendous consequences (and as an aside to show the mottled nature of things, GoS's General Suleiman actually suggested addressing the rebel's grievances, for which he was sacked).

On July 5, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan was born.  While it held promise for the people of South Sudan it has been utterly squandered with, oversimplified, President Kiir (and his Dinka tribe) and Vice-President Machar (and his Nuer tribe) continuously involved in what amounts to a civil war.  What could have been a prosperous nation, given its oil reserves, has become one of the most destitute countries in the world, resulting in a horrendous conditions for civilians, including famine, the death of tens of thousands, and the displacement of millions.


THE ENVIRONMENTAL & LAND FACTOR.   [Updated August, 2007]

As noted above, there was a certain seasonal dynamic in Darfur.  But over time desertification has engulfed more of northern Darfur (and climate change theory predicts that this will intensify in such sub-Saharan regions).  This has squeezed the chessboard and eventually the farmers started to put up fences, largely cutting off the normal nomadic pattern.  It should be noted that part of this increasingly tense and conflictual situation was also due to the way land was historically granted -- basically the farmers held a form of title, and some of the nomadic herders held no title.

I agree with a May 7, 2007 article in Time magazine, that climate change is more of a factor than originally thought and is definitely a "threat multiplier" in such zones, although I think the argument was over-extended and slightly deceptive in its suggestion that the roots of the conflict "may have more to do with ecology then ethnicity."  It is a multi-faceted, multi-layered cocktail - take away the desertification and  water shortage and you still have more than enough factors to create genocidal tendencies.

As a recent case in point, on July 18, 2007, it was announced that a huge underground lake had been discovered in northern Darfur (see BBC article; it was later countered by the notion that it could be dried up, although it still suggested there is enough water around that can be drilled, BBC 2nd article)  This would be wonderful news for the Darfuri people if a just-peace deal can be achieved.  But environmental issues are not a crimes-against-humanity initiator (people and policies are); thus water can wonderfully reduce normal tensions and elevate the grinding level of living so close to drought and starvation (although even that will partly depend on who controls it), but reducing environmental pressures will not eliminate genocidal or ethnic-cleansing motivated dynamics.  One should note in the first article that it "has long been known there was water in the area but the government had not paid for it to be exploited."



The basic meaning of Janjaweed is "devils on horseback."  But historically it has taken on two distinct meanings. Originally as part of that seasonal dynamic in Darfur, there would crop up from time to time small groups of what we might call bandits -- they were sometimes called Janjaweed, and would be a pejorative term used by nomads and farmers alike.

Quite distinct from that usage, though based on its basic meaning, there arose the politicized version.  Sometimes referred to as "counterinsurgency on the cheap" (de Waal), these would be deliberate efforts by the government (always denied) to recruit and arm such Arab groups, reinforced by fighters from other nations such as Libya & Chad, as well as deliberately freed prisoners (even the best known Janjaweed leader, Musa Hilal, was freed from prison so he could help orchestrate the Janjaweed) to implement counter insurgency tactics, which generally involved terrorizing the civilian base from which the rebel group arose. Numbers range around 12,000 - 30,000.

Although the government has denied involvement, clear evidence points otherwise, whether consistent victim reports of government planes hitting villages just before the Janjaweed attacked, eyewitness accounts of Janjaweed and military figures mingling during or after raids, or even Janjaweed wearing uniforms.

But one must also recognize that due to the rogue element from which they derive, and given the lawless nature of Darfur now, some elements also carry out such actions as tribal revenge, simply want more booty, etc., under the guise of the counter-insurgency.  For instance, in Feb. 26, 2007 the Janjaweed attacked the village Amar Jadeed.  The village contains Arab Terjem tribal members, and were attacked by Arab Reizegat, two groups who used to get along.  As a final point, in the latter half of 2007, a growing number of Arab tribes under this rubric have recognized that the government does not have their interests at heart, and have switched to the rebel side, as expanded below.

[2015Mar28 update]: Two main points: (a) The flux of tribal dynamics has continued.  For instance,  the clash of two major Arab tribes (Rizeigat and Ma'alia) for the last two years has resulted in the deaths of 150 people and displacement of over 50,000.  An attempt at reconciliation recently broke down (Feb 28. Sudan Tribune).  As well, Musa Hilal, who noted above, was a willing leader for the Janjaweed support for Sudan's atrocities, later criticized the government and even tried to assert control over an area of North Darfur  (2014Mar19: Radio Dabanga), though now is reportedly back assisting the government.

 (b) The RSF (Rapid Support Force) is now that name under which the same tactics and players carry out the government's atrocities.  The switch in name occurred primarily when a set of Janjaweed, fighting in South Kordofan returned, and under President Bashir's direction moved into Darfur (Sudan Tribune 2014Mar01).

[2019May19]: Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, nicknamed Hemeti, is now the head of the RSF.  He had been under Musa Hilal who led the Janjaweed since the 2003-4 crisis erupted. However as noted in the Current Status details, Hilal fell in-and-out of favour with President Bashir, particularly when he tried to control North Darfur and also the gold mining.  Hilal and his formidable troops were attacked by Hemeti and a combination of his militia and Sudanese troops, Hilal and his top leaders were thrown into jail.



Sudan, originally Africa's largest country and the 10th largest in the world before  South Sudan gained independence in 2011, straddled the "Arab world" to the north and the "black African world" to the south. As noted, Khartoum is ruled by three Arab clans.  The Darfur conflict is often seen as an Arab-African one, reinforced by its use of the Arab Janjaweed pitted against the African Darfurian.  All are Muslim.

But it is much more complicated.  First, Darfur is 60% African.  Some of the remaining 40% Arab are neglected as badly by the government (Note that in August, 2007, a new 'rebel' group formed, consisting of non-Janjaweed Arabs, who wanted to make sure they were represented at any peace talks and who advocate good relations between Arabs and non-Arabs, WP article).  But one of the basic issues is that the people have been intermarrying for decades if not centuries.  While subtle ethnic distinctions can still be made, the identification of someone as African or more specifically Arab, is more often a political statement. 

To appreciate how this politicization came about, one needs to know that in the late 1970's the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had a vision of a pan-Arab state straddling the desert.  He planted seeds of Arab supremacism (and later arms) in Darfur and felt Sudan was on his side (the GoS appreciated the various military and monetary gifts over the years, but appears to never seriously intended to cede sovereignty, heavily Arabic and Islamist as it was).  Gaddafi also used Darfur as a base for Chad, another of his conquest goals.   The result was yet another form of polarization of the people, and of being used as a doormat for other people's agenda.

Sudan played its role in the weakening of the Darfur area by subdividing it into three provinces (and a further two provinces in 2012; see map) and doing away with traditional lines of authority - divide and conquer was a tool commonly used by the GoS.  And finally, I agree with Alex deWaal that the issue of land title must be addressed for long-term stability.  Basically the 'hakura' system was established in the 18th century, with roots back further, which in essence ended up giving most tribes some form of land entitlement, except for the northern Arab camel-owning nomadic tribes.  Most of the Janjaweed arise from this group, with the government using the existing tensions to manipulate the nomadic tribes (primarily the northern Rizeigat), to become their proxy fighters. 


THE REBELS.  [Updated November, 2017]

There were two original rebel groups.  The first was the Justice and Equity Movement (JEM) - they are highly organized and effective communicators, although they had few boots on the ground.  They arose from dissatisfaction with the unfair and perhaps un-Islamist ways that the GoS treated the periphery.  Their central figure was Dr. Kahlil Ibrahim (lived outside Sudan for years, then came back, but was killed in 2012; his less charismatic brother, Djibril then assumed the chair, resulting in growing discontent).  The JEM roots go back to 1993, when a group formed and started to strategize about how best to govern Sudan.  In 2000, out of the growing group came The Black Book, which chronicled in detail the failures of the GoS to address Darfur's marginalization. But by then the group realized reform was impossible and was forming a rebel group.  They call for an Islamic state, although have indicated that sharia law would only apply to Muslims.

The other main original rebel group is the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA).  Unlike JEM, they had little central ideological glue and were poorly organized - their main cohesion was their complete dissatisfaction with the GoS treatment, and felt that after all the failed attempts over the years to rectify the problem, the only solution was armed conflict.  Militarily they were the far stronger group, having largely planned the two initial attacks in early 2003, which awoke the GoS and produced its counter-insurgency tactics.  Finally they are for a secular government.

Three years later the SLA split - one of whom signed the Darfur Peace Agreement of May 2006 (Mini Minawi, though many of his forces have backed out) - and later regrouped under the National Redemption Front, but which may still contain up to a dozen factions of uncertain loyalty, as well as the more recent and more significant umbrella group, SLA/Unity, which includes the highly respected humanitarian coordinator, Suleiman Jamous.  JEM also recently spilt into two. 

There have been many reports of rebel armed violations on civilians, which will also need to be addressed.

[Nov. 2017 Update:  Over the past 14 years things have so dramatically changed, here is a synopsis of the major changes.  Prior to 2003 any armed resistance was largely uncoordinated and thus not taken seriously by GoS (though the GoS had been attacking the region for years before).  But on April 25, 2003 the rebels attacked the Al Fasher airport, destroying 5 planes, 2 helicopters and killing 100.  No rebel unit in Sudan (eg, SPLM) had ever done such destruction.  This unleashed the GoS backlash.  But the rebels grew in strength and numbers and noted above also fractured, etc.  Their height was the 2008 raid on Khartoum's outskirts.  But events turned against them.  Sudan and Chad made an agreement to stop meddling in each other's internal affairs.  This restricted one source of arms and support for the rebels.  The fall of Libya was the other source that then dried up.  Since then the rebel movements have never been a serious threat.  As well, Sudan's army originally had poor morale and little allegiance.  But now it has had money put into it and it has better effect, although Bashir still uses proxies (Janjaweed, now RSF).  See Current Status, below, for more detailed developments].



Several groups have called the killings in Darfur, genocide, including former US Secretary of State Collin Powell, and the US Congress, as have many other groups and reports. 

Genocide is formally defined in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/p_genoci.htm) and is not without debate.  Regarding Darfur, not all make the claim of genocide.  For instance, the UN investigated Darfur and concluded in 2005 that the situation was not technically genocide, partly on the basis that it did not find the government of Sudan as a whole reflected genocidal "intent", although it stated that individuals within the government did; and it was clear to state that the crimes were no less "heinous than genocide."

There is not space here to enter the general debate other than to say that ethnic cleansing and genocide share much overlap (not the least of which both are horrific and are crimes against humanity), and genocide, commonly used, carries greater weight and is more likely to be used in such situations where some see ambiguity and when world attention is sought.  There is no doubt that whatever one calls the dynamics, the GoS has used it before, for example in the Nuba Mountains which provides an even clearer picture of genocidal intent:


In addition, AfricaAction has a download PDF in which they assert that genocide is the correct term for the atrocities in Darfur (Link: Darfur As Genocide PDF).

Finally, see Current Status, below, for the ongoing case before the International Criminal Court (ICC) whereby its chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has brought charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against Sudan's President Bashir.


9/11 AND THE WAR ON TERRORISM FACTOR.  [Updated 2017Nov]

While there was a period of time when Osama bin Laden resided in Sudan (1991 - 1996), President al Bashir eventually forced him to move to Afghanistan. After 9/11, The US administration started to use the GoS for terrorism intelligence.  Thus while some analysts suggest that the US has been reluctant to back up their claims of genocide with strong action because the situation is so complex (and they are pre-occupied in Iraq), others suggest that one reason for the lack of heavy pressure is because they value the possible intelligence information more than the lives of the Darfur victims.

[Update Nov./2017]: See Oct 12/17 section to see the U.S.  lifted significant sanctions on Sudan.  One of the five main reasons was the belief that Sudan had been cooperating in giving intelligence information to the U.S. on terrorist movement.  Throughout the entire period the above tension existed.


OIL AND THE CHINA FACTOR.  [Updated 2016June]

China buys most of Sudan's oil (and also supplies arms to Sudan, along with Russia), which comes from S. Sudan.  It accounts for about 5 percent of China's oil imports.  As a UN Security Council member they have blocked numerous resolutions against Sudan.  However there were signs of a shift in China's position, as activists moved to link this protectionist stance toward Sudan with China's 2008 Summer Olympics - preparing to label them the 'Genocide Olympics.' if China did not exert pressure on the GoS to stop their atrocities against civilians and negotiate with the rebels.  With this event now passed, the chief leverages will be: (a) pragmatically reinforcing that a secure oil supply is best obtained from a country not on the brink of imploding; and (b) in reinforcing a more rather than less noble stance toward world affairs and thus its global self-image.

[Update 2016June:  Looking back, the activist pressure of the "Genocide Olympics" label resulted in one of the very few positive steps in the entire history of the Darfur crisis - the entrance of the hybrid AU-UN peacekeeping force.  It was allowed only because at the UN Security Council level, China abstained rather than vetoed the action, which had been its stance, and this is generally attributed to its need to be seen taking a positive role leading up to the Olympics.  Even so, this step of allowing peacekeepers, while positive, has ever since been tragically compromised by Sudan's interference.

Regarding the oil, it should also be noted that when South Sudan formed its own country, it complicated the oil situation. South Sudan had most of the oil, but it could only get to port via the pipeline through Sudan.  For over a year a feud regarding oil policy between the two countries stopped the flow  entirely.  Sudan still has oil (130,000 bpd) and  China just signed an agreement such that it now controls 75% of oil investment [Sudan Tribune, Aug 3/16] ].



Is there oil in Darfur?  A map of oil concessions shows that Block 6, controlled by China, extends into S. Darfur.  An article in the L.A. Times indicated that while the hunt is on, no oil has been found yet, while an article in FinancialSense indicates that Sudan says they have found oil in Darfur.  Given that oil was found on the S. Kordofan province border, it seems likely that it extends into Darfur.  Oil in N. Darfur seem less certain (although my Darfuri contacts say there is), and Block 12 in N. Darfur has been picked up by Arab interests and reportedly has Chinese expertise ready to explore it.  It is too speculative right now to do more than raise the issue and acknowledge that ink is spent on denying oil; on theories, conspiratorial or not, about the collusion of the US, the CIA and oil companies; and on China's race to secure as much oil (and other resources) as possible on the African continent (they are actively trying to lure Chad's oil).  To what extent there are hidden hands behind the scenes is beyond the scope of this article, except to say that any US collusion (and thus desire for regime change) would have to be squared with the general US trump card mentioned above - terrorist intelligence.  And regardless, it remains an open question whether the search for oil in Darfur intensifies the conflict (that is, Sudan wants to grab it from Darfur; though the DPA indicates oil-sharing would ensue) or whether it might ease the tensions, since any oil company, whether Chinese, US or Canadian, can work in conflict regions, but much prefers secure terrain.   See Current Status regarding rebels attacks on oil fields.



B. CURRENT STATUS  (Major revision: January 2011)

Latest News:

Note: I have been on an extended leave for over a year, and while I followed the situation in Darfur, this site was not updated. The following section is my attempt to sketch a synopsis of recent events, given the significance of current upheavals.It will be periodically updated for the next week or so.

April 28, 2023: Synopsis of Recent Upheavals [Draft; Links will be given soon]

For anyone following the events of the past year or so in Sudan, it should have been clear that the relationship between the defacto head of the military side of the Council, General al-Burhan (head of Sudan's military) and the "Vice President", Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemeti)was unlikely to last - each had ambitions to be the singular head (and according to NYT??, the military had long-despised the RSF and the favoritism given to them by former President Al Bashir [Reeves. Apr 6 Vivaldi]. And thus despite attempts to find a compromise {URl, it simply was an unlikely endeavour. As of this writing, it is simply unknown who will prevail.

General al Burhan controls the air space (and has the backing of Egypt in supplying some fighter jets [URL), but apart from some reasonably well-trained troops, the bulk of the troops, come from various peripheries and thus have dubious loyalty [URL]. But he is a trained military leader. He also has the backing of the residual elements of former President Al Bashir's regime. Hemeti controls over 100,000 troops of much greater loyalty, many of whom are battle-hardened from the years of being loaned for the Yemeni war. As well, the RSF has significant backing from the UAE{Reeves, Apr. 29].

But Hemeti is more a thug than a military strategist [URL], and appears much more adept at PR and changing his facade [Reeves, apr 28]. though he controls significant gold mining. While the conflict started in Khartoum, it quickly spread throughout most of Sudan {URL of EL Geneina in RD]. As of this past week, most embassies have removed their staff from Khartoum {URL]. One of the big fears is the regional spill-over effect. Thus there is a group of outside countries trying to find a way to resolve the conflict [Economist URL]...  Also deWaal & FA; . [Dabanga, Jul. 25]. 

. . . [gap of my extended leave] . . .

July 25, 2022: Military's Intransigence Made Clear After Its Handling of Prime Minister Hamdok, Who Resigns

There is a new political alliance, the Alliance of Forces for Radical Change (AFRC). They feel the coup is at its weakest, yet does not want to include the Forces for Freedom and Change due to its power-sharing with the government, which is felt causes "the destruction of national resources ....... [Dabanga, Jul. 25]. 

The US has confirmed John Godfrey as the new ambassador to Sudan, someone with significant credentials. This can be influential, although according to the article, it appears that while it may invigorate a transition to civilian rule, the emphasis from the US side remains as it always has been - an underlying primary concern and focus on security issues related to terrorism, something that plays into the hands of the Sudan military heads of the government [Al-Monitor, Jul. 26].

Jan. 17, 2022: Military's Intransigence Made Clear After Its Handling of Prime Minister Hamdok, Who Resigns

The overall state of political dynamics in Sudan is perhaps best summarized by the UNITAMS talks (The UN Integrated Transitional Assistance Mission in Sudan).  While still ongoing, one of the main points by most active resistance committees is for "adherence to a pure civilian rule and [the need for] the complete exclusion of the military from political practice" [Dabanga, Jan. 17, emphasis mine].  That is, as noted previously, it was hard to imagine the military freely giving up power.  Having seized complete power by arresting Prime Minister Hamdok, then releasing him, then seeing him resign {Jan. 2022} due to the futility of his position as a signal that a peaceful transition to civilian rule would proceed,  everyone's fears are being reinforced - the military intends to stay in control.  It is not impossible that the current civilian protests may yet force the military (and "deep state" or all others with vested interests in the status quo, largely put in place over time by Bashir, but with fickle loyalty to him) to cede some power, but it is hard to imagine.

The ousting of President Bashir originally seemed like a step to eventual civilian rule; now it is clear the military was simply willing to sacrifice him to remain in power, while looking like they would move to civilian rule after a transitional period.  One cannot rule out "people power" still eventually winning the day, but if possible, the cost will be tragically high - as the two above emphasized lines indicate, the lines are now clearly drawn.

Dec. 05, 2021: Military Relents?: The Status 32 Months After the Removal of former President Bashir; One Month after Military Coup [updated Jan./22]

A quick sum: it has been 32 months since Bashir's ouster, and one month since the military take-over of the Transitional government.  In brief, with the 2019 ouster of Bashir, the country came under the control of the of power-sharing agreement between Bashir's leaders (the Transitional Military Council {TMC} headed by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (although VP Hemeti/Hemedti played a central role), and the "people's" Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), headed by Prime Minister Hamdok.

Hamdok was free to make several decisions, which brought Sudan closer back into the international community, including being taken off the U.S. terrorist blacklist.  His attempts and hopes that this could elevate the economy largely failed (not the least of which it shows his limited ability to dig out entrenched self-interests, with most power brokers remaining in place or shifting to equally bad power brokers).

Oct., 2021: Military 'coup': Nonetheless, for reasons we can't delve into now (though noting that on Sept.21 the military said it thwarted a coup attempt by plotters linked to the old Bashir regime), the military arrested Hamdok one month ago and took sole control of Sudan (Hamdok was always on a short leash), which led to Sudanese protests, resulting in many confrontations with the TMC and military. There was a massive civilian portest which was violently put down, with several deaths and many arrests. With the Oct. 2021 military take-over, al-Burhan and the TMC took charge (with Hemedti) and Hamdok was jailed, though later released. 

On Nov.21 Hamdok was reinstated as Prime Minister which included the release of all political prisoners during the protest period.  His original backing groups - the FFC and the Sudanese People's Association  (SPA) do not recognize this agreement and want the protests to continue [Al Jazeera;  Reuters];.  Thus it is unclear what will happen next.

Given this is more specifically a website devoted to Darfur, let me simply say that in the big picture, not much has changed regarding Darfur - people remain displaced, unrest and lower-level yet still repugnant killings continue; the villages originally emptied and later filled with foreigners remain as such; UNAMID, feckless as it was yet still better than nothing, is now entirely gone.

Brief summary status:

Armed Power:As previously noted, the original armed opposition groups (SLM, JEM, etc.) have all either split and/or had their strength reduced due to the chaos of Libya and the changing fortunes within Chad.  The only exception is that SLM/AW found some gold in Jebel Mara which has helped it maintain some strength.  The regular military has become better outfitted.  And the Janjaweed under Musa Hilal has largely been replaced by his underling, Hemedti, who as head of the RSF, is now one of the most powerful people in Sudan, with his partnership with al-Burhan.

Economic Status: The move to the transitional government did not pay the big international dividends that was hoped for.  Even as an economist, Prime Minister Hamdok could not reign in the economic free-fall.  The world's attention on COVID did not help.

UNAMID: UNAMID has been totally disbanded in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2559.  Its mandate ended Dec. 31, 2020 and it withdrew gradually over the following 6 months, leaving some assets for local authorities. The UN created the Integrated Transition Assistance Mission (UNITAMS) to help mediate tribal conflicts and other challenges.  Many Darfuris feel the UN efforts have hence gone from tragically weak to utter abandonment [Dabanga, Dec. 30, 2020].  Since then, its sites (and even some World Food Program supplies) have been looted by the military and other armed groups, leaving a sense of impotnece regarding the local government's abillity to maintain order [Dabanga, Jan 12, 2022].

{Residual note: President Bashir is back on trial [the trial for his 1989 coup, started in July; July Trial, BBC. and has now resumed.}

Jan. 26, 2020:  Reflections on First 100 Days After Transition- ??

This section will be filled out properly next week, but I wanted briefly to mention a few notes.  Firstly, regarding peace, a Peace Agreement has been reached between the government and SPLM-N [Sudan Signs Peace Deal with Rebel Group [NYT Jan 24].  As well just before, Darfur peace aspects made clear that while such negotiations could make progress, that "justice and reconciliation" would remain elusive at this stage [Radio Dabanga, Jan. 21].  Of note, SLM/AW is rebuilding due to finding and now mining some gold deposit in Jebel Mara [Sudan Tribune [Jan 19/19].

Secondly regarding the economy, Hamdok has not been able to stop the slide of the pound [Sudan Tribune, Jan 21].  It was economic woes that set off the overthrow of Bashir.  Stay tuned for a more in-depth analysis, but in essence Prime Minister Hamdok seems to be trying hard to bring about change but after so many decades of decay, it remains a question whether he can bring enough change before the people sour on him.

December 14, 2019: Al-Bashir is convicted of corruption and sentenced to two years in a correctional facility.  Notion of extraditing him to the Hague are deemed not "necessary"[AlJazeera].

Aug. 18 - Nov. 10, 2019:  Reflections on First 12 Weeks After Transition- ??

On Aug. 18, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) appointed their five civilian members to the Sovereignty Council [Civilian Members Appointed, Reuters, Aug. 18], followed by the military. That has included selecting a new Prime Minister.

New Prime Minister: Aug. 21: Abdalla Hamdok was selected as Prime Minister (Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan remains as head of the Council). 

Economic Priority:  Hamdok is a respected economist & thus it seems clear the priority is on getting the economy functioning again [Who is Hamdok? Al Jazeera, Aug 21].  He is seeking re-engagement with the world.  This includes the U.S., where he is lobbying to have Sudan removed from the terrorism watch list,  He met with a U.S. representative while at the UN in New York.  While they had valuable discussions on a variety of topics, it remains up to the State Dept to remove Sudan from the list, which remains contingent on "becoming a civilian government and responding to US counter-terrorism concerns." [Sudan Tribune, Sap. 26];

Peace Priority: Another aspect is bringing peace to the region.  Hamdok has stated he would be willing to reduce the military budget from its current 80% to 20% of the overall budget. He reversed Al Bashir's desire to rid the UN peacekeepers, having gotten a commitment for them to stay another year [Al Arabiya, Nov. 1].  He has also made progress on a rapprochement with the rebel groups, in particular SPLM-N and, separately, the SRF [Dabanga, Oct. 18].

But he also recently returned from his first visit to Darfur, which highlighted how gnarly it will be to achieve his message of "freedom, peace and justice" - the chant during the Khartoum unrest that toppled Bashir [Reuters, Nov. 6].  The people in camps still do not feel free to return to their homes, given many are beaten or killed whether by the RSF (which is headed by Hemeti of the Military of Council) or by foreigners inhabiting their land.  Hamdok did not have any concrete proposals for any of the long-standing grievances, and while he had his own security, the RSF were also lurking.

As it stands, Hamdok is allowing Sudan to feel its way very slowly between the worst scenario of Bashir's structure continuing as before and some form of best scenario where the military gives its ultimate authority over to a competent civilian leadership focused on all Sudan.  There is some room for Sudan's outlook to improve, especially if outside nations lend support, but eventually it will hit the ceiling of the military control.Corrupt leaders do not freely give up power..

July 05 - Aug. 17, 2019:  MAJOR: Power-Sharing Agreement Reached - Will It Work?

On August 17, 2019, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) {also called  the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC)} signed the agreement originally reached on July 5.[Dabanga, July 5] [Sudan Tribune July 5].  It establishes a Sovereign Council of 5 TMC plus 5 AFC members plus one civilian jointed agreed to by both the TMC and AFC.  For the first 21 months, the President would come from the TMC, followed by the AFC.  There would be a legislative body, with the AFC supposedly getting two thirds of the seats.  As well, an independent investigation will be made into the violence of June 3.

Reaction to the agreement caused thousands to celebrate on the streets.  But many have voiced concerns.  The obvious one is that the military maintains its structure for now and control for the first 21 months.  As well, the Darfur SRF (Sudan Revolution Front) consisting of SLA/AW, SLA/MM and JEM - the main opposition units who have fought Bashir since 2003 - have called for negotiations, given their concerns have been excluded.  [Dabanga, July 6].  As well, calls to have those indicted by the ICC be sent to the Hague, have been ignored.  In the end, it seems the AFC has felt enough bloodshed has occurred to get their partial demands, and they have indicated that if the TMC cracks down or violates other aspects, they will be  back on the streets.  As mentioned earlier, apart from a partial blind spot to the whole picture of Sudan and true justice, it is a gamble: that the TMC will not be able to satisfy enough of the earlier protest participants (basically providing basic economic stability), that should a call to the streets be needed, that the AFC will get the needed overwhelming response.  The TMC is full of ruthless people who have committed horrible atrocities.  It remains difficult to see justice ever being served as it stands, and also hard to imagine them changing stripes (that is, finding Sudan incrementally getting more fair and just and truly democratic).  I would love to be wrong.

[July 12: The June3 massacre of innocent civilians was not filmed since no journalists were around.  But the BBC has done extensive work to piece together 300 phone videos from the Sudanese in the midst of the chaos, and have come up with a compelling account of how things unfolded.  Of particular note, it is clear the military melted away and the police and specifically the RSF were the culprits doing the killing, with strong evidence it was from direct orders from above, and likely Hemeti himself; BBC video assemblage, July 12].

July 19: The TMC and FFC have now signed the initial political agreement []. The RSF have withdrawn from many parts of Khartoum [Sudan Tribune, July 19], though they did not withdraw from the TMC headquarters nor the army headquarters.  While this eases tensions somewhat, they could be redeployed if needed.  Some civilians went to the main rally street and renamed it "Freedom Square."

Aug. 06: The veil has slightly come off the behind-the-scene dynamics.  The Foreign Policy magazine indicates therre is substantial evidence that well over a year ago, Salah Gish, then head of the infamous security branch (NISS), started to plot the overthrow of President Baashir.b

June 15, 2019:  Power Struggle Unresolved; Taking Stock of Issues

June 15: For now the general strike has ended and people are slowly going back to work, although many barricades are erected at night to prevent RSF movement. As well, hospitals have reopened in a limited way due to the attacks on them by the RSF on June 3. The RSF also attacked schools and health centers, and allegedly have recruited and/or abused some children, as well as violently harassed thousands of women and girls. The government admitted only that "some mistakes were made."  The strike has ended for now to allow Ethiopia to try to get power-sharing talks resumed. [All this from New Humanitarian, IRIN, June 14].

Outside Khartoum, [Amnesty International, June 11] has reported the RSF continue to act with impunity in Darfur.  In the six months preceding March 2019, 45 villages in the Jebel Mara area had been destroyed.  But the most disturbing issue is that, noted before, the UN plans to pull its remaining peacekeepers out.  The RSF has occupied the sites already vacated (in violation of its terms) and plans to occupy all remaining ones. As Amnesty indicates it is "bewildering" to think of this last protection being removed, leaving civilians open to the scorched-earth policies of the RSF.

June 18: With the internet shut down in the capital it has taken time for the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) to regroup.  But according to [Twitter, June 18] they have fallen back on other means of communications and have scheduled several protests again.  Most common are night meetings in smaller groups, keeping the protest and communications alive.  Also during the last few days, former President Bashir has appeared as his trial approaches [].

UNAMID Withdrawal: Harvard prof. Eric Reeves has compiled an analysis of violence in Darfur between 2017 - 2019 in order to show the basic abandonment that would result for the Darfuri people if UNAMID withdrew, basically leaving them at the mercy of the RSF   [Reeves, June 19].  On June 28 UNAMID extended its mandate until the end of October [Dabanga, June 28]; there have been calls for a total rethink of the UNAMID strategy of total withdrawal [IRIN, July 1];

June 03 - 09,  2019: Security Forces Clash with Protestors; Start of Final Power Struggle?

June 3: The security forces have clashed with the protestors, killing at least 13 people [Reuters, June 3].  It is unknown if this is the start of a major initiative to clear the area.  The civilian response has been to call for mass civil disobedience.  Since late May when talks broke off, the stances on both sides have become entrenched and hardened.  In particular the TMC, who are backed by those wanting this to end (Saudi Arabia and the UAE), as well as personally being those who have had the power all these years (along with its corruption and atrocities) it is hard to see anything other than an eventual attempt by the TMC to quell any further civilian protests at any cost. Last week al Burhan went to Egypt and then the UAE; Hemeti went to Saudi Arabia to confirm continued support for the fight in Yemen [Guardian, June 3].  One can only presume in exchange he got substantial backing from Saudi Arabia to suppress the protests.

June 6: The number of protestors killed has been revised to at least 100, after 40 bodies were pulled from the Nile (the TMC puts the figure at 61).  The AU has suspended Sudan due to the killing of  the protestors. Sudan has cut off internet access in Khartoum.  Russia has called the protestors "extremists" who must be quelled.  Yasir Arman, deputy chief of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), and even though banned from Sudan, and who had recently come to Khartoum to - self-proclaimed - help with negotiations, was seized by the authorities; his whereabouts are currently unknown [all this from Al Jazeera, June 6].

In addition there have been protests in Omdurman, Khartoum North, Eastern Sudan, and Central, West and South Darfur [Radio Dabanga, June 6].  Eric Reeves posted an extremely disturbing eye-witness account, that included rape, tents burned with the people inside, over 100 people thrown into the river, and a estimate of well over 500 dead - as Reeves says, all tactics typical of the RSF [Twitter, June 6].

Digging deeper, the International Crisis Group [ICG, June 7] indicated that the two sides supposedly came quite close to a deal, but some in the Military Council backed off.  The situation now leaves the military fractured - Bashir had largely dismantled the mid and lower ranks (keeping those complicit with him; this was echoed by one of my contacts who, unconfirmed, said many lower ranking military are now in prison as they could pose a threat to the new-old regime).  This leaves security in the hands of the some top military officers, the RSF under Hemeti (Hemedti) {and the NISS security services}  The 1st two are being backed by & influenced by the Saudis, and the UAE & to some extent, Egypt.

On the civilian side is a consortium called the "Forces of the Declaration for Freedom and Change", comprising traditional parties, active rebel movements (JEM, SLA-MM, but not SLA/AW) as well as a coalition of professional trade unions known as the Sudanese Professionals Association.of the SPA (professional associations), the unions, etc. There is an interesting argument that the extremely long transition process compared to other Sudanese eruptions has allowed for time to make a broader consensus among the various opposition groups [Middle East Eye, Apr/19].

That said, the RSF has now arrested Yasir Armas (SPLM-N), and a few other leaders of the citizen consortium.

June 9: The general strike has started - the streets, shops & airport are empty.  The SPA said security forces have arrested and intimidated activists, bankers, doctors, air traffic workers and other professionals in recent days.  An example is a police officer who complained the the RSF had taken over policing - he was shot in front of his family;  the head of police resigned over it and then un-resigned when brought before Hemedti [Twitter, Eric Reeves, June 9].  Separately, the WHO has said 784 people have been wounded since June 3.[CBC June 9]. 

April 28 to May 23, 2019: Coalition and Military Ready to Present New Transitional Authority

April 28: The broad opposition coalition ("Freedom and Change Forces", DFCF or CFC, and headed by the professional associations of doctors, lawyers, etc., on the streets, SPA) and the military (Transitional Military Council or TMC) have now drawn up a transitional road map, details and analysis to follow. [Sudan Tribune, Apr. 28/19].

May 10: Firstly, a note of caution, given this site is focused on Darfur.  The SPA (the leadership of professional groups) arose almost exclusively from the Khartoum area.  As such, one must carefully watch the extent to which they try to include voices of the marginalized, both geographically like Darfur or Nuba mountains, or regarding women.  One of the balances right now is that the people on the street have a significant component of people who have fled the atrocities in the marginalized areas and fled to these urban areas.  In addition a large caravan from Darfur has now joined the Khartoum protests as well as people from several other areas.

One must also keep a careful eye on the current Vice President, since it is Hemeti, the person in charge of the RSP  (Janjaweed reborn) and thus someone who changes stripes as political winds blow.  It is hard to imagine a vibrant Sudan with someone like that in any position of power [see Foreign Policy May 14:The Man Who Terrorized Darfur Is Leading Sudan's Supposed Transition]. Many of the military leadership, such as Auf, also have blood on their hands.  Their place is in the courtroom and then prison.

As it stands now the military is not prepared to transition to civilian rule.  This remains a key demand of the SPA - they want a typical structure of civilian rule with the military underneath and reporting to the government.  The SPA says it will not become a political party, which leaves a vacuum since credible parties atrophied under Bashir.  Talking with my Darfuri contacts, no one sees a strong candidate with an encompassing vision for Sudan.  Worse, Saudi Arabia has pledged $3 billion to help Sudan (remember Hemeti and his RSF forces, and others, have helped fight for the Saudis in Yemen) thus outside players  are taking sides [Reuters, May 9]. To be clear, the RSF is separate from the army  and therein lies yet another fault line - the RSF is almost as powerful as the army - resolving that could bring its own crisis.  Plus, earlier it was revealed that Russia had assisted Sudan to repress the growing unrest [CNN Apr 25].

On the positive side it must be noted the central role that women  have played [The women who helped bring down Sudan's president, VOX: Apr 11].  That said, they have since been largely sidelined along with many of the periphery such as Darfur voices.

Other international actors such as the U.S,. UK and EU have made small statements supporting civilian rule but have not otherwise exerted much pressure to this point, a key demand of groups such as The Enough Project.  This leaves the SPA saying they will remain nonviolent but are prepared to increase activism to blockades, general strikes and so on.  But everyone I know is uncertain of their ability to hold fast and not be outmaneuvered given their political inexperience.

Finally, to give a more on-the-ground sense of the uncertainty, one of my contacts said they can't be sure Bashir is even in prison.  Requests to have someone physically go in and see him behind bars have been refused.  That said we have CNN's second-hand reports from prison guards [CNN, Apr 17].

May 23: There have been clashes with the military resulting in the death of civilians.  The problem with this waiting game is that power is in the hand of the military, so they may hope they can simply wait it out or make concessions that appeal to enough people to siphon off the protest size.  The SPA must maintain the initiative and the apparent plans for a general strike are the types of action needed to keep the pressure mounting [Twitter May 23].  As well, the TMC is backed by Saudi Arabia (and the UAE) who does not want people-power blossoming.


April 11, 2019:  *****  PRESIDENT BASHIR IS OVERTHROWN BY A COUP  *****


With the pressure building for months, and intensified on April 6, as protestors stayed at the palace entrance, the military finally removed President Bashir from power [Sudan Tribune Apr. 11/19] [BBC Apr. 11]. He was initially replaced by General Ahmed Ibn Auf but the people rejected him and he was replaced by Lieutenant General Abdelfatth al Burhan.  That said, the protestors, led by the opposition coalition, the Freedom and Change Forces (CFC), were clear that the regime was still basically intact and demanded its complete dissolution and replacement by a civilian government.  The military's Transitional Council (TMC) did remove some other figures such as Gosh, the head of the secret intelligence service (NISS), but again the regime structure remained basically intact.  The standoff has continued, but the coalition has grown - at times, according to my sources, there were up to 4 million people in the streets.  On average there can be one million, coming from at least seven provinces. Such figures can be difficult to estimate - I only provide them to show the order of magnitude - we are not talking mere thousands.

This is stunning (although none of my Darfuri contacts are smiling much yet, given the overall regime remains in place)! The CFC clearly is being led by determined yet seemingly reasonable people.  Nonviolence has prevailed and their strength has grown.  That said, it will get down to whether the CFC and the military can agree to a proper transition.

February 27, 2019: President Bashir's Desperation and Clampdown Grows

On Feb. 21, President Bashir imposed a nation-wide State of Emergency, dissolved the federal and all state governments, and replaced state governors with military generals. More and more military has poured into some of the cities.  This has not stopped the wide-spread protests, which continue to be violently suppressed.  But neither has it caused significant military defections, which is one of the main hopes to bring Bashir's rule to an end.

February 2, 2019: Protests Flare-up Again - Will it be the Tipping Point?

Protests: On December 19 the GoS implemented price hikes on food, sparking leaderless protests, which have since escalated to calls for the removal of President Bashir [Washington Post Jan.6/19].  While there have been protests before, none have had the breadth and scope as this time [This Is the Uprising Sudan's Genocidal Dictator Always Feared Foreign Policy, Jan 9/19],   Bashir still controls the military and NISS (national intelligence service). The best synopsis  [EqualJustice] highlights three unusual factors: (a) the length of the protests which shows no signs of abating; (b) the scale and breadth, that while previous protests have failed, such as 2013, this one has people from many walks of life, a loose coalition headed by the Sudanese Professionals Association (amusing note: the NISS chief dismissed the immature organization, saying they couldn't even form 2 events at the same time - they ended up organizing 50 events on Jan. 24); and (c) their ability to overcome Bashir's tactics of division - at one point when some Darfuri students were jailed, people everywhere responded with "We are all Darfur!". 

Stay tuned - things are changing daily. That said, what hasn't changed is the reticence of the world community to support the cause.  They need to press Sudan to allow its citizens to freely choose.  This involves Sudan refraining from violence, and allowing freedom of assembly and free political association, all of which is the antithesis of its current approach and thus why the world needs to find and apply leverage.  That said, it does raise the question of a successor.  The army has backed popular uprisings in 1964 and 1985 but there has been nothing of note yet.  Without some orderly transition, and apart from Bashir snuffing out the protests, chaos is a distinct and devastating possibility [Reuters, Jan 15/19].

UNAMID:As expected, UNAMID has continued its withdrawal.  As "feckless" as it was (to use a favorite term of Eric Reeves) it nonetheless was better to have it than not. The UNSC Resolution 2429 (Jul. 13/2018) provides to cut the troop strength in half, closing most sites except around Jebel Mara (its HQ would be Golo).  It recommends closing UNAMID on 30 June 2020 with total withdrawal of its troops by December 2020.  The Resolution's wording acknowledges most of the problems highlighted in this article, yetreally simply exhorts Sudan to address them.  There is a faint tie-in between withdrawal rate and better conditions but I take little comfort in it, given the UN's ability to heed the wrong evaluative voices.

Overall, it is clear that the "conflict is over" voice has won out,  leaving the casual observer to believe that continued reports of rapes (which are weapons of war), skirmishes, and so on, are simply the inevitable conditions of residual banditry, small tribal disputes and clashes, etc., when government control remains weak. Contrary to that, this article believes that government meddling remains strong and is responsible for jailing & torturing journalists (even Phil Cox & Daoud Hari), students, rapes, forced displacements (e.g. 40,000, Ain Siro and nearby), and so on List of GoS Crimes 2017-18 [Darfur Union UK].

August 18, 2018: Sudan Removes Presidential Limits / EU and Borders / London and Trade;

On August 9, the National Congress Party (NCP), passed a resolution authorizing al-Bashir to run for a third term [Sudan's Missed Opportunity for Historic Peaceful Transfer of Power; ConsitutionNet]. This contravenes its Constitution, a familiar story in the African context.

Oil tests taking place from South Sudan [Radio Tamazuj, Aug. 17].

One analysis of the EU and its changed relations with north African countries (The Khartoum Process, started in 2014) indicates that tightening these borders does little to stem the flow of people - they simply seek more desperate routes.  Khartoum used to be a chief staging area for such migrations but Sudan has clamped down on them (as well as using the notorious RSF to patrol the Libyan border) [How Far Will EU Go to Seal Its Borders, Summer, 2018, Dissent].  As well a London forum on  [UK-Sudan trade and investment forum; Guardian, Dec 11/17] was earlier criticized for rewarding Sudan when no substantive human rights improvements have occurred.  Poor governance continues to plague Sudan - it allocates 76% of the national budget to defence, police and security expenditure with just 8% earmarked for agriculture, manufacturing, health and education services combined.

June 18, 2018: Considerations on {Further} UNAMID Reduction;

UNAMID is considering a further withdrawal of peacekeepers (a one-third reduction has already occurred). A forum on the current state of UNAMID [Chatham House Forum, Jun 18/18] indicated that (in no particular order):

May 28, 2018: Sudanese Fuel Shortage a Major Crisis; Heavy Conflict in Jebel Marra;

The economic squeeze continues for the Sudanese.  Fuel has now become so scarce that it threatens to shut down much agriculture and entire peripheries [Dabanga: May 8].  The government forces have continued to suppress dissent    As noted in Feb., it has still not caused a major, popular eruption of protest.  A deal with Saudi Arabia to supply fuel may occur - Sudan has supported them in their fight with Yemen, resulting in over 400 Sudanese soldiers killed [Dabanga, Apr10].

The GoS has continued, via the RSF, to attack the rebel stronghold in Jebel Marra including East Jebel Marra, resulting in many burned villages and tens of thousands of civilians fleeing [Dabanga, May 25].  The SLM leader, Abdel Wahid, has now included in his pre-conditions for peace negotiations, the removal of foreigners from the villages and adequate compensation [Dabanga, Apr.11].  The notorious Janjaweed leader, Musa Hilal, who was captured by the GoS after he stopped supporting the GoS and refused to disarm, has been put on a secret trial, which, interestingly, the Darfur Bar Association has denounced as completely unjust [Dabanga, May 21].

February 02, 2018: Sudanese Protest against Living Conditions; Yet another round of Peace Talks;

For several weeks many Sudanese have protested the increasing costs of food, fuel, etc., and poorer living conditions., which government forces have continued to suppress, including the jailing of several activists and even opposition members [Sudan Tribune Jan. 31] and suppression media reports and jailing of journalists [Radio Dabanga Feb. 2].  It seems similar to the early days of of 2013 where widespread protests led both to the hope for change and also to a brutal response; in 2013 the latter won and the  crackdown snuffed out the dissent.

On the broader scene peace talks are about to begin between the government and the rebel forces of the "Two Areas" (Blue Nile and South Kordofan) and Darfur [Sudan Tribune Jan. 30].  This has the backing of the U.S., Norway and the U.K.  In addition UNAMID is being given land for a temporary station in Jebel Marra in order to protect civilians and stabilize Darfur, all part of its new June mandate that will draw down its size [Sudan Tribune Jan. 30].

Of note in the above, is that again we have "peace talks" while at the same time we have a government that doesn't hesitate a brutal crackdown of its citizens.  As Harvard Prof. Eric Reeves notes, the RSF, now officially part of the government forces, brutally act with impunity to any threats or demonstrations or according to their own whims [Reeves blog, based on Radio Dabanga reports].

As noted last month the US lifted sanctions on Sudan. Human Rights Watch had earlier issued key benchmarks that should have been used to evaluate whether progress has been made. These benchmarks need to be used before any of the remaining sanctions are considered for dropping [HRW May 3/17]:
  1. Respect for the right to life, including ending attacks on civilians and indiscriminate bombing;
  2. Steps toward accountability for the gravest crimes;
  3. Unimpeded humanitarian access to conflict-affected areas;
  4. Releasing arbitrarily held detainees;
  5. Ending excessive force against peaceful protesters;
  6. Greater respect for freedoms of assembly, association, and expression;
  7. Allowing human rights monitoring and cooperation with international institutions;
  8. Carrying out essential reforms to the National Security Act and other key legislation.

  [Previous omission: I realized I never noted the shift in 2015 where Sudan replaced support from Iran with support from Saudi Arabia [ICG June 22/17]  The ICG report indicates that it was primarily a Saudi-led initiative.  That new support included sending troops to fight in Yemen.  It was, among other things, one of the sore points of Musa Hilal.]

January 01, 2018: Infamous Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal captured, shifting North Darfur power;  Disarmament in Disarray;

On November 26, 2017 Musa Hilal was arrested [APF, Dec. 2].  This is both stunning and predictable.  As noted in these updates, Hilal was increasingly critical of Bashir, feeling he should be given more prominent positions.  As time passed, Hilal (head of the Mahamid clan of the {Arab} Rezeigat tribe) controlled the Border Guards, while a rival - Hamadan Hemetti, formerly under Hilal, and also head of the Amhar clan of the Rezeigat tribe - was appointed head of the RSF,   Hilal created the Sudanese Awakening Revolutionary Council (SARC).  Both groups were hard to control by Bashir and thus under the guise of the Disarmament Process Bashir had the RSF attack and capture Hilal.  Hilal's clan has vowed revenge.  It is stunning to see Hilal (& his sons) arrested as it could be explosive.  But it is also predictable since Bashir saw the increasing threat to himself and by arresting Hilal by another clan head, he could be hoping that they will turn on and weaken each ohter, leaving Bashir in a more secure position [see Max Security analysis].  But is is quite a gamble.

Also stunning has been the shifting alliances - Hilal had been in contact with Darfur's rebel groups (their Janjaweed foe since 2003) and SLM-Minni Minawi even issued a statement on Nov. 28 calling for Hilal's release.  WHile the Darfur rebel groups have all been quite weakened, it seems things are in flux with unclear trajectories.

Separately Belgium ended up in hot water for bringing in Sudan authorities to identify and deport some Sudanese, with torture alleged.  This is a continuation of the EU tension of wanting to address the immigration crisis and compromising its previous support for Darfur. [Belgium teamed up with Sudan on deportations. Then, allegedly, there was torture [WashingtonPost]]

November 06, 2017: U.S. Lifts Sanctions, Signals Peace Without Justice; + Summary of New Factors;

On Oct. 12, U.S.President Trump completely lifted the sanctions provisionally lifted by Obama. The argument against lifting sanctions is given by Human Rights Watch, who  list 8 benchmarks  [Too Early to Lift Sanctions, HRW, May/17].  The argument for lifting the sanctions, as evaluated by the International Crisis Group, June 2017, is nuanced, quite aware of Sudan's history and current situation, as noted in June, below.  It is clearly a calculated risk and one that ICG feels retains enough leverage (sanctions such as being on the U.S. terrorist list, remain in place) and ability to retract if slippage occurs.  Here are the basic areas of concern and where I disagree with their calculus:

Thus in the end I see this too much as negotiation-out-of-desperation - nothing else has worked so why not try this?  My response is that while negotiation does require some risk and trust of the other party, in this case the risk is far too great and the trust-level, as mentioned before, hovers around zero.

Other factors during this period:

a. Disarmament: The government has embarked on a disarmament campaign for the past year.  While in general this is a sound step in ending a conflict, it completely depends on timing and issues of power.  It is hard to view this campaign as anything else than another means by which Bashir will disarm adversaries while maintaining his arms strength.  This is clear in that he is using the notorious RSF (formerly Janjaweed) to carry out the disarmament

b. Cholera outbreak: Sudan refused to acknowledge that a major cholera outbreak occurred.Yet another complete failure of governance - to look after even the most basic aspects of life.

c. Go back to villages: We have seen this push before, to get those in the IDP camps to return to their villages, and the consequences for those who do venture back are still dangerous: Returning villagers wounded and missing, Dabanga, Oct. 28.  Returning to their home villages must not occur before peace and security is assured.

d. Economic Development: This is a desired goal for Darfur, but only when issues of peace, security and justice are resolved.  Otherwise one can achieve economic progress with the foreigners in the occupied villages - economic numbers can hide the obscenity of the actual dynamics.

June 25, 2017: The World Shifts; Darfur Even More Uncertain

In the last few months we have had US elections, Brexit, and heightened concerns about Syrian and other refugees entering the EU. Darfur news again got drowned  out, with two exceptions:

Appallingly this reinforces the steps needed for "grand notion" voiced below (Sept. 24/16; and really part of the Black Book of 2000) that the dynamics are a slow but successful continuation of the notion that the government of Sudan wants to rid Darfur of its non-Arab population.  In July US President Trump will have the chance to rescind the lifted sanctions or at least not make them permanent.  Given that security / terrorism issues have always prevailed, this seems highly unlikely.

January 19, 2017: Will Darfur Disappear?

The overall concern is that President Bashir is intent on getting the world to forget Darfur or at least to say there is no need for concern anymore because the war is over.  This is no trifling matter.  He now has many in the UN Security Council on his side.  Yet noted below any sense of "progress" is either a facade or is Bashir using the Syria-EU refugee crisis as a platform to make him look "on side" with efforts to curb the refugee crisis.  That has involved using his ruthless RSF forces (formerly the Janjaweed) to patrol the Libyan border, and to provide intelligence information of terrorist activities.  That can sound helpful but with complete control on media coverage it is hard to verify.  As well, there are ongoing reports of terrorist camps and movements in Sudan itself.

The overall concern is that President Bashir is intent on getting the world to forget Darfur or at least to say there is no need for concern anymore because the war is over.  This is no trifling matter.  He now has many in the UN ready to move on from Darfur.  Here have been his basic steps:

September 24, 2016: Where are Things heading?

In brief, the recent peace talks related to Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile , started in  August, have failed for now, though the US Envoy, Donald Booth has indicated that he will push for the parties to reach an agreement [Sudan Tribune, Aug. 31].  Earlier  he had visited Sudan and Darfur.  One of his main concerns was the ongoing violence (in particular Jebel Marra) and deteriorating conditions in the IDP camps [Sudan Tribune, July 27/16].  After his visit several people who he had talked with, were imprisoned, indicating the oppressive control by the government remains fully engaged [Sudan Tribune, Aug. 13].  Even artist and education activists called on an inclusive nature to the peace process, recognizing the root causes are not just political but also cultural in nature [Sudan Tribune, Aug. 10].  Two of the main rebels groups, JEM and SLA-MM have rejected the current peace talks, while SLA-AW (not part of the peace talks) has vowed to continue fighting until Bashir is overthrown [Sudan tribune, Sep.12].

The U.S. has officially welcomed Sudan's anti-terrorism cooperation (related primarily to helping secure the border with Libya and also preventing the movement of ISIS, though some of my contacts say that terrorist bases remain in Sudan).  But they rule out the lifting of sanctions, given both the continuing conflicts within Sudan and also problematic nature of Bashir's indictment by the ICC [Sudan Tribune Sep. 21]]

Other Dynamics of note [draft - details not filled in]:

 - Highly flawed Darfur referendum resulted in overwhelming support to reject a unified Darfur; President Bashir then dissolved the Darfur Regonal Authority, which was establishes several years ago to address the concerns of Darfur, even though it was largely a facade.

 - The grand question: Are all the dynamics a slow but successful  continuation of the notion that the government of Sudan wants to rid Darfur of its non-Arab population?

 - Jebel Mara, the once-unbreachable mountainous safety zone for the Fur, has been attacked constantly in an attempt to dislodge the rebels there, primarily the SLA-AW.  Thousands of civilians have fled he area;
 - Gold is now a major source of income; Musa Hilal, a longtime Janjaweed leader controls a large part of it;
 - Foreigners continue to take over Darfur villages or occupy the "model" villages created for example, by money from Qatar;

President Bashir had said in October 2015 that he wanted to "eliminate all rebel fighters during the next dry season".  As noted previously, the GoS has found opeings into this almost impenetrable area and has made inroads in controlling some areas [Jan.4/16: Africa Journalism, including OCHA map of areas of control of both sides].  As noted above, while he created carnage in many areas he was unable to completely subdue the rebels.

South Sudan continues to disintegrate, displacing 2.4 million people since Dec, 2013 [UN Report].   - Machar was sacked as VP of South Sudan, Aug/16.  Both he and President Kiir have been accused of siphoning millions of dollars, in essence, both making a fortune from the war they perpetuate.  This was uncovered in a two year investigation by the Enough  Project [War Crimes Shouldn't Pay: Stopping the Looting and Destruction of South Sudan].

 October 02, 2015: SRF Ready for six-month Ceasefire:
The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) announced that is ready to sign a six-month cessation to hostilities with the government, as long as it is not arranged solely by the government. [Radio Dabanga, Sept. 30]. The government had previously stated its willingness to start a two-month ceasefire in the regions of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.  

Human Rights Watch just released a detailed account of the terrible attacks over the past year by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), summarizing what this site has stated since 2014 and the appearance of the RSF, basically a new form of the ruthless Janjaweed dynamics [see Men With No Mercy, HRW Sept/15].  Earlier in April, the International Crisis Group wrote a detailed report about the deteriorating conditions in Darfur and provided a number of recommendations [see The Chaos in Darfur, ICG, April/15].  They indicated the need for both a nation-wide focus as well as the need at the same time for a local focus on the location-specific conflicts.

June 30, 2015: UN Peacekeeping Force in Darfur Renewed; President Bashir evades ICC in South Africa:
The UN Security Council unanimously voted to continue UNAMID for another year.  While any exit strategy remains tied to a peace agreement, their are sharp divisions over the nature of such an agreement.  Sudan insisted it remain tied to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DPDD; see various further references below), while the U.S. and U.K.wanted to tie an exit strategy to a new, comprehensive peace strategy, as had been advocated by many organization as the only way to truly achieve peace [Sudan Tribune, June 30].

The implications of South Africa allowing Sudan's President Bashir to escape the ICC court continue, with South Africa now considering whether to withdraw from the ICC [BBC, June 25].  Earlier in the month President Bashir had been in South Africa when a warrant for his arrest was made by a human rights group in South Africa.  But Bashir was allowed to escape before the warrant could be carried out by the South African courts [Guardian, June 14].

Also of note, twelve medical students left Sudan with the intent to join ISIS.  Nine of them were detained in Turkey from entering into Syria.  This follows a march report where nine medical students of Sudanese origin had entered into Syria to work in hospitals under ISIS control [Sudan Tribune, June 28]

June 20, 2015: Calling on UN to Maintain Peacekeeping Force in Darfur:
Given the continuing level of  atrocities indicated below, it seems unconscionable to suggest pulling the UN peacekeeping troops (UNAMID) from Darfur.  And while it seem unremarkable that President Bashir would  formally ask for an exit strategy it has been quite alarming to see variations being given attention within the UN and among various countries.  According to the UN Refugee Agency there are well over two million long-term displaced in Sudan [http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e483b76.html], and about 4.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance.  And more repugnant is the trend that has already been noted, whereby displaced people, should they try to return home, often find their homes now occupied by foreigners, almost always Arabs.  But the trend is being expanded and formalized - now there are huge areas that are formally being protected for the foreigners by the RSF militia (Janjaweed) [June 19: Radio Dabanga].

To take action (by June 24 when the UN Security council meets) go to http://untilall.org/uwaa-131.htm.

April 25, 2015: What Hope Among the Chaos?:
Election results aren't known yet (although the outcome will likely see a new term for President Bashir). Regardless, three interesting reports indicate some broad-brush steps that could be taken to put Sudan on better footing should the will exist, or that inject some new proposals for sanctions to assist with the direction. The International Crisis Group urges the Sudanese government to disarm the militiamen, provide incentives to them and bring others to justice, and support communal dialogue and traditional reconciliation mechanisms. They call on the authorities and the armed movements to reach a ceasefire, "synchronized with a similar one in the Two Areas [South Kordofan and the Blue Nile], including provisions for unfettered humanitarian access in both", and to develop proposals to address the "concerns of all Darfur communities on issues such as security, land ownership, services and development". The UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council should "agree on a Sudan strategy and then properly support it with political backing and appropriate resources".ICG: 2015April: Chaos in Darfur ].

The second report [Enough: report] includes among other things suggests trying to create sanctions against the gold mining (now a substantial source of income for Sudan, after it lost much of its oil revenues.

The third article is from The Economist which outlines the continuing tension in the U.S. administration - those who want to pressure Sudan to resolve the ongoing atrocities in Darfur and also Nuba mountain area, versus those who have valued Sudan's terrorist information, and who see a small but welcome shift lately in helping regionally with such issues.

March 28, 2015: Empty Elections, Empty Villages (or Worse):
Overall:  Sudan will go to the polls in mid-April.  It is a foregone conclusion that President Bashir will be re-elected.  This means that the horrid conditions in Darfur, as well as the deplorable state of South Kordofan and the Nuba mountains will remain.

Up to six million people are at humanitarian risk in Darfur.  As mentioned last month the levels of death and displacement approach the most gruesome levels of the 2003-2006 outbreak of violence.  Villages remain empty or even worse, are being filled by outside Arabs.  One contact recently returned from Darfur has indicated that some of these outsiders have extremist tendencies.

A new set of strategies, relying partly on Sudan's feverish mining of gold, is being developed, as noted in the link below.

   Latest Potential Pressure Points for Sudan


January 25, 2015: More Violence, Government Threats:
Overall: President Bashir has yet again stated that he will soon crush the rebels (Dabanga, Jan. 19).  Partly he may be feeling emboldened since  the ICC Shelved the Darfur War Crime Inquiries; BBC, Nov 12) .  Others believe this new initiative is due to what they have called "crushing defeats" of government & militia forces in South Kordofan / Nuba mountains.  The appalling result is that it has unleashed another wave of death and displacements (over 30,000 displaced in January; 400,000 in 2014) and descriptions of wholesale "cleansing of areas" such as the area north of East Jebel Mara.  Government forces  have taken Fanga, a key hub for E. Jebel Mara (Radio Dabanga, Jan 2, 2015)  and a rebel stronghold since the Darfur crisis in 2003.  The government forces then proceeded with a 'scorched-earth' policy  in E. Jebel Mara.

The UN intends to reduce further the troop level (UNAMID) in Sudan (it had already previously reduced level by 4,000 from a high of 20,00). These anticipated reductions come at a time of drastically increased violence [NYT. Dec 25/14 {requires registration}].  While UNAMID has been rightly criticised for its highly ineffective ability to intervene in conflicts or even report on many conflicts, local citizens fear that its complete removal could have dire consequences.

South Sudan: The International Crisis Groups has released a report or the merging of  the conflict in Sudan and South Sudan.  See ICG Report Jan, 2015.

November 28, 2014: Darfur, South Sudan and Nuba Mountain Area Worsen and Neglected:
Overall: President Bashir has announced he will run again in next year's election (in April 2015; he was endorsed by the ruling party on Oct. 25). Over the past few years he has greatly consolidated his control over rivals. And more importantly he has increased his suppression of any dissent. One of the more cogent reasons for him to run again is his fear of the ICC indictment against him. As soon as he steps down, he will be at the whims of whoever takes over. Bashir has not groomed anyone as his successor, making any other alternative highly unpredictable.

In January President Bashir initiated a National Dialogue, seen at the time as yet another attempt to look conciliatory while bombings and attacks remain unabated n Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile, as well as suspected feeding into the South Sudan conflict.  However lately it could have interesting glimmers (to be expanded shortly).

In January President Bashir initiated a National Dialogue, seen at the time as yet another attempt to look conciliatory while bombings and attacks remain unabated n Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile, as well as suspected feeding into the South Sudan conflict.  However lately it could have interesting glimmers (to be expanded shortly).

Darfur: Its overall  trajectory remains the same - no hope for resolution. Sudanese force and militias (the RSF, noted below) continue their violence on the one side.  Rebel forces continue to attack, but to little advantage.  Inter-tribal conflicts continue; UNAMID remains feckless.

On October 31 Sudanese forces entered the town of Tabit, reportedly beating the men and then raping 200 women, many of them girls.  The UN peacekeeping force (UNAMID) was 30 miles away.  They sent a team to investigate three days later but soon after arriving and reportedly getting a little corroborating evidence, the Sudanese forces kept them out for a week.  When UNAMID came back they could not get anyone to confirm the atrocity.  Their eventual report denied any rape had taken place. Given other corroborating testimony, this has shed light not only on this incident but has confirmed the suspicions of many about UNAMID's compromised reporting in general.  Apart from creating a furor at the UN, it has now frayed relations with Sudan who has verbally asked UNAMID for an exit path.

In August the Sudan-wide SRF umbrella rebel group combined with the National Umma  Party to create the Paris Declaration (text).  The text provides a basis for unifying Sudan based on, using broad brush strokes, peaceful resolution to internal conflicts, democratic change and citizen equality.  It is also a challenge to the government, suggesting that a rejection of its goals would mean a national uprising.  Bashir rejected it outright, and Thabo Mbeki from South Africa has been given coordinating role over the National Dialogue in an attempt to salvage it via Addis Ababa negotiations.  More detail later.

South Sudan: Sudan has also made international attention as the conflict between the government of South Sudan (under President Salva Kiir) and the break-away faction of Riek Machar (with hazy connections to Sudan) intensifies. An International Crisis Group report [Oct.29] indicates a looming military offensive, and provides a series of recommendations to re-engage in a solution. Earlier U.S. and IGAD-brokered ceasefire agreements have failed to stop the hostilities. It has turned the region to one of the most desperate on the earth, with 1000,000's of people who have fled their homes, resulting in deplorable IDP camp conditions, mass dislocation, disease and starvation (due to the conflict much of this year's crops were not planted, indicating a long-term food problem). Up to 4 million are at risk of severe malnutrition. President Kiir also announced the delay of elections scheduled for 2015, to 2017. May 28, 2014: Darfur, South Sudan and Nuba Mountain Area All Spiral Downward:
Sudan has made international attention as the conflict between the government of South Sudan (under President Salva Kiir) and the break-away faction of Riek Machar intensifies. Recently the U.S. brokered a ceasefire agreement, but it hasn't stopped hostilities. It has turned the region to one of the most desperate on the earth, with 1000,000's of people who have fled their homes, resulting in deplorable IDP camp conditions, mass dislocation, disease and starvation (due to the conflict much of this year's crops were not planted, indicating a long-term food problem). President Kiir also announced the delay of elections scheduled for 2015, to 2017.

In Darfur, both the rhetoric and actions of the government to fight the rebel units has intensified, which as noted last month, means a continuation of the attacks on civilian areas by the proxy militia (the RSF), as well as continued indiscriminate bombings.  Suppression of both journalists and disruption of Darfurian students (via arrests, torture, shutting down schools and exams, forcing unwarranted payments, etc.) intensifies a widespread pattern of intimidation and oppression.  Darfuris who have fled to eastern Chad find themselves on the brink of starvation, forced to eat grass.  One of the newer sources of conflict over the last year or so has been the mining of gold in North Darfur as Sudan tries to diversify its economic base.  It has resulted in many tribal clashes, with the government unable or unwilling to assert any proper functioning in the area.  Overall I cannot find any of my Darfurian contacts who are even remotely optimistic about the future.

In Sudan's capital, Khartoum, Darfur has been a significant topic recently.  Sahdiq al Mahdi of the National Umma Party (NUP) was arrested on May 17 for criticizing the RSF in Darfur and their abuse against civilians.  The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) ordered three paramilitary RSF brigades to be deployed around Khartoum, seemingly concerned about a possible coup attempt.  Whatever the reason, these troops tend not to sit around and play cards - they cause mayhem among the population (when stationed in N. Kordofan, they were sent to Darfur because of the trouble they inflicted among the residents).  Finally, even SAF reformists have indicated they want the NISS to disband the RSF [Radio Dabanga, May21].  An editorial in London-based al-Quds al-Arabi summed it well: "A weak president, a divided ruling party, fragmented opposition and people left to be the victim of a merciless security."

The Nuba region continues to be extremely difficult to get solid information about. What does come out is a continued pattern of displacement and civilian targets. A recent report cited that the government had bombed the only hospital in the entire region, a likely war crime. Even Eastern Sudan has seen renewed unrest, with a campaign to remove the governor.

Stay tuned for an update to the Strategies Section. It is important to raise up well-grounded strategies that could help shift the current state to better outcomes, even if currently major stakeholders cannot or will not currently rally around such a framing and strategies.

March 23, 2014: Violence and Displacement Continue to Grow:
This past year has continued an upsurge in violence in Darfur - almost 500,000 displaced [Amnesty International], and 200,000 in 2014 [HRW].  Part of the cause has been the creation of a new, very disturbing force in recent months called the Rapid Response Force (RRF) or Rapid Support Force (RSF).  It arose from President Bashir's declaration last fall to mount a final campaign to crush all rebel forces (Darfur, Blue Nile & S. Kordofan), as noted in the Dec.30 summary below.  At that time it appeared to be bluster or distraction due to the economic chaos, plus the thought of an ineffective military ever making major inroads.  Unfortunately the GoS relied on its habitual practice of creating militias (many from Darfur).  While their stated objective was to fight in the south, by mid-February they ended up in Darfur.

Here is a sample of the appalling result of the RSF in Darfur:

Thus, in four days, 12 villages and one camp were attacked, plus a separate bombing run (at the end of Feb. in S. Darfur 35 villages were burned to the ground).  The ominous parallels to the most genocidal-like period of 2003-2005 are chilling - in some ways only different by degree.  The stated objective by President Bashir is the same - to defeat the rebels; the method is the same - ally with militias who are given free reign; even the denial is as blatant - the RSF commander, Major General Abbas Abdel Aziz, says the troops "work to protect the citizens and their properties from the rebel forces" [AFP, Mar/14]. 

However, one must not gloss over the differences; here are some:

None of this is of consequence to the people being torn apart by these renewed attacks, though similarity is not sameness and from an advocacy standpoint one must keep clear the actual dynamics.  I hope shortly to have a major revision to the Strategies section, which is out-of-date.  In the meantime, the alarm bell must be raised - the repugnant dynamics are back.

December 30, 2013: Year-end Synopsis of all regions:
Sudan: The growing protests mentioned in the previous note, peaked by mid-fall without sufficient numbers to force change, given its suppression and blatant mischaracterization by state-owned media.  But the underlying political discontent remains, along with social and economic discontent such as overcrowded hospitals, and increasing inflation (now 42.6%).  Most unsettling would be the implications if South Sudan's internal conflict (though some of the strife has been assisted by the North) shuts down the oil again, which is North Sudan's chief source of income.  It should also be noted that the tension in the eastern part of Sudan has not been relieved by the 2006 accord. Rather, the United Popular Front (UPF), a coalition of eastern Sudanese factions, officially joined the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) in late October.  And finally, the southern part (S. Kordofan and Nuba region) remains in an appalling state for the people of the region.

Darfur:  There has been little if any substantive progress in Darfur.  It has been another year of GoS, militia, rebel and inter-tribal conflicts, resulting in deteriorating situations for civilians in IDP and refugees camps, and those still in villages.  Despite GoS claims to initiate major military offensives against rebels, the pan-Sudan rebel coalition (SRF) continues to make gains on the ground, although insufficient thus far to make any major breakthroughs.  In addition while the peace process (implementation of the DDPD) has official positive scripts (getting ready to build new model villages for displaced people to return to, backed by money from Qatar), the reality appears more of a papering over of the lack of addressing any core issues that might lead to a true stabilization and hope for the citizens of Darfur.

Abyei: This oil-rich region between North and South Sudan was promised its own referendum on whether it would join the North or South as part of the CPA of 2006.  But it never came about.  Its main internal conflict centers around the two groups: The Ngok Dinka (permanent residents, whose allegiance over the wars of the last 40 years lies with the South) and the Misseriya (pastoralists who for decades have brought their livestock to Abyei for about 6 months each year, and whose allegiance lies with the North, having been proxy fighters for Khartoum against the South).  A key sticking point was that the Dinka felt that only permanent residents should vote (reinforcing a recurring theme mentioned in this article that a proper form of land-tenure and/or other mechanism needs to be found for traditional pastoralists).  Out of frustration the Dinka held an informal referendum, voting overwhelmingly to join the South, a move rejected internationally and by the AU, who nonetheless have not sufficiently stepped-up to provide a satisfactory alternative.  This precarious tension must be resolved Abyei synopsis [IRIN].

South Sudan: Internal violence erupted in South Sudan in mid-December.  A casual glance might portray it as two tribal factions - President Kir and the Dinka tribe versus the former vice-president Riek Machar and the Nuer tribe - who, previously united in the multi-decade war against the North, are now fighting each other.  While those fault lines can't be ignored, part of that emphasis comes from Kiir himself, showing that the dynamics are much more complicated (in essence, political at heart but raising ethnic tensions): both growing political and general dissatisfaction with Kiir's leadership; Kiir's determination to stay in power, with an eye on the 2015 elections; the dyanmics and make-up of the military (SPLM); the original meddling of the North; the original power brokers' (e.g., U.S. et al) blind eye to the corruption before and after South Sudan became a nation;.  For details see articles in Al Jazeera and The Economist.  Germane now are efforts to stabilize the conflict via a cease-fire, and deal with the terrible casualites (several thousand) and civilian displacement (up to 250,000). (See IRIN). Also troubling is the growing role of the Ugandan military in the conflict.

October 06, 2013: Sudan protests erupt again;
On September 27, Sudan removed the subsidies on fuel, instantly creating a large economic burden on most Sudanese. This has created weeks of growing protests. While there have been at least two previous waves of protests, this one cut through economic strata. Some feel it may finally be Sudan's Arab Spring, although some are less certain and others see many "Springs" failing for now.

Meanwhile in Darfur, UNAMID remains basically feckless - $1 billion per year, almost 20,000 troops and still it is often unable to prevent rape of women gathering firewood. See: In Darfur the Limits of Peacekeeping (Reuters)

July 31, 2013: Darfur Rebels Strike again; Oil Shutdown Imminent, and more
Darfur rebels have struck again into Northern Kordofan (at al-Rachad, close to the state capital El-Obeid).  These attacks, which are beyond Darfur and closer to Khartoum, have resulted in President Bashir accusing South Sudan of backing them (denied by S. Sudan)and thus ordering the closing of the oil pipeline.  Both couontries desperately need the oil revenue, although South Sudan is almost wholly dependent on its revenue.

Within Darfur, the situation remains desperate, with no relief from the upsurge in violence over the past two years.  Reliable information remans elusive as the government restricts access to key areas, whether the Jebel Marra area in Darfur (or the Nuba mountains).  In early July seven UN peacekeepers were killed in an ambush in South Darfur by an "unnamed group", which some link to Ali Kushayb, wanted by the ICC and recently wounded by a lone gunman.  On a potenitally hopeful note, two tribes (North Darfur's Abbala and Beni Hussein) signed a formal Reconciliation Agreement, aimed at ending months of hostilities that left about 500 dead and 100,000 displaced.  Previous agreements have not lasted long

July 09, 2013: South Sudan's Second Anniversary
It has been two years since South Sudan separated and formed its own country.  Independence has shown little progress for the new country  It has outstanding disputes with Sudan over the contested border areas such as Abyei and has had little oil income (which meant little income) over much of the past year due to a dispute over the oil revenue sharing with Sudan, which resulted in the pipeline being shutdown.  South Sudan has taken in thousand of refugees from the dispute in Sudan's bordering states and has also suffered from its own internal disputes.  All of this has resulted in terrible health and educational issues for its citizens and continued poor infastructure for the new country S. Sudan on its Second Anniversary (IRIN).

April, 2013:
The very latest event has been the push by the SRF (Sudan Revolutionary Front) into North Kordofan, an area relatively free from the conflict previously.  Apart from expanding the conflict, it also brings it closer to Khartoum.  The SRF, consisting of a coalition of some of the stronger rebel groups (SLA/AW, JEM, and SPLM/N), has formally advocated regime change for over a year now.  They believe negotiation with Bashir is pointless, partly because he has a long istory of making agreements and brekaing them as it suits him, and partly because his entire time as president has never been for the good of all Sudan, ignoring the peripheries or inflicting "divide and conquer" techniques or "counter insurgency on the cheap."  They have drawn up the "New Dawn Charter" which they feel forms the basis for an inclusive all-Sudan politics.

The recent Donor Conference in Doha for Darfur and the DDPD (peace and reconstruction document) had $3.7 billion pledged, which included $2.6 billion from Sudan itself, even as it was daily bombing its citizens.  Again, until trust is established and security on the ground occurs, there is little hope for a positive outcome.  Recent conflicts primarily in Central and North Darfur, but also the South and the East (where a peacekeeper was recently killed), have displaced 150,000 citizens (see IRIN Summary).  An example of these multi-layered conflicts is between the Salamat and Al Taaysha tribes, where the latter reportedly has the backing of the Abu Tira (Central Reserve Forces)as directed by Ali Kushayb, indicted by the ICC. Radio Dabanga, Apr.16

The conflict within the southern area of Sudan (South Kordofan and Nuba moutain area, and Blue Nile) continues its appalling course, reminiscent of the genocidal dyanmics of the Nuba area in the 1990's (Opnion piece on Nuba & Blue Nile, Sudan Tribune May2/13). 

February, 2013: Appalling - Tenth Anniversary !
This period marks the start of the tenth anniversary of the Darfur crisis.  If one thinks of a powder keg, then the keg was filled over the preceding decades, through general neglect (of education, hospitals, infastructure), specific neglect such as the famine of 1984-85, and targeted campaigns against the Masalit, Fur and Zaghawa tribes, as well as other issues mentioned in this web chronicle.  The fuse might be considered lit on February 26, 2003 when the rebels stormed the Golu garrison, as that was the first public signal that the discontent against the government was now quite organized.  The powder keg finally exploded on April 25, when the rebel forces overran the El Fasher airport, destroying some aircraft and capturing the Air Force commander.  It was at that point that President Bashir unleashed the Janjaweed in conjunction with government ground and air forces, resulting in the familiar and repugnant images of Darfur engulfed in flames.

The "tenth anniversary" designation has started to push again for world leaders to affect positive change.  All of my Darfuri contacts are pessimistic about the near-term future of Darfur.  The diplomatic efforts will likely hover around the DDPD peace document.  If it ignores the concerns outlined below, about trust and security, it will at best fail and at worst perpetuate and entrench existing issues. Note how recently at least 100,000 people have been displaced due to hostilities in North Darfur areas of Al-Sref Beni Hussein and Saraf Omra.  Most analysts recognize a Sudan-wide solution is needed, and while many rebels call for regime change, it is difficult to see how a relacement would be better, apart from all the planets lining up at the right time, also noted previously.  I hope to provide a more comprehensive analysis later.

December 20, 2012:
Within Sudan: Significant events have ocurred recently:

  1. The most recent was the foiling of the alleged "coup plot" including the arrest of high-profile Salah Gosh (former intelligence chief).  The best analysis at this point indicates that some hard-core Islamists (the NCP Reform Group consists of war veterans and a youth section) have long been dissatisfied by government corruption and a loss of its sense of anchoring on Islamic values, which a recent conference did not address, and President Bashir pre-emptively moved to jail some of those in that undercurrent. Ahram/AFP, Nov. 25/12; and TIME, background, Nov. 24/12.  While many suggest that nonetheless President Bashir's time may soon come to an end, he has quite a survival ability.  If he is deposed, Sudan rids itself of the devastating effect of a leader with a genocidal-like reflex to all periphery-region issues, and to his legacy of corruption.  Unknown is what would replace it - the latest coalescence would have likely been a strict ideological version of Islam, and given the likes of Nafie ali Nafie, Ali Osman Taha, and one of Bahir's favoured successors, General Bakri Hassan Salih, they could be as ruthless - it is an unknown element;
  2. The UN elected Sudan onto its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).;  This is particularily galling given that ECOSOC is responsible for regulating various human rights bodies and for overseeing UN committees on women's (and some children's) rights.  Thus rather than having its own abysmal record examined in these areas, it will be in a position to try to manipulate the council and such decisions as which human rights NGOs can paritcipate in the Human Rights Council, thereby filtering out the level of outrage that should be directed toward Sudan's atrocities.
  3. The oil was to be flowing again from South to north Sudan, but lingering disputes have put that on hold. Both countries desperately need the money, so this delay, unless it is some final postering, bodes poorly for all.

These three issues are all in addition to the existing atrocities that continue to be committed against the Nuba people, where most news and humanitarian access is cut off. It is highly distrssing that so little international attention has been paid to this situation.

Within Darfur:  Darfur continues on its double script mentioned several months ago, whereby the official stance speaks with hope of imminent return of IDPs, of education, jobs and security (and speaks of insecurity primarily as something in the past, with only some banditry and localized tribal tension), while the other script (coming from the camps, and most of the those in towns and villages) still deals with bombings, especially around Jebel Marra, insecurity (arbitray arrests, deaths, as well as ongoing rape; and on Dec. 3, the death of four Darfuri university students that has re-ignited #SudanRevolts), and now even a yellow fever outbreak [See Eric Reeve's latest epic catalog of discrepancies between UNAMID / AU docile reports and the actual accounts, as well as US silence apart from a singular clear-eyed response from Dane Smith (Sudan Tribune, Eric Reeves, Oct11/12)].  While there continue to be unverifiable reports of IDPs voluntarily returning to either their home or some villages, there was a recent report that a group that did return has since found itself attacked and are considering fleeing to Chad for safety (Dabanga, Dec. 9/12).  Perhaps most ominous of all have been reports of an alleged poisonous type of bombing by a Sukhoi fiughter jet rather than the usual Antonov planes (Radio Dabanga Oct 4/12, East Jebel Mara).

July 25, 2012:
Within Sudan: Starting in June a new round of {a hoped-for, Arab-Spring-like} protests has occured, starting primarily with university sudents in Khartoum, keeping Sudan-watchers checking out the latest Twitter updates (#SudanRevolts). The protests have a much broader base this time, in part due to the spiralling costs of essential items, largely a result of the oil pipeline shutdown. While the economic pain may not be sufficient yet for widespread unrest, if they can't resolve the economy, overthrow will loom larger (many around Khartoum have done well due to the oil and have thus supported the status quo thus far). One recent report indicates support is waning . . . for now: CSM, July 20. But it also means people are being tried and death sentences could result. The government continues try to suppress dissent, even last week at U. of Khartoum students. Journalists have been particularily targeted over the entire period.

In other parts of Sudan, the atrocities and subsequent humanitarian crisis in the Nuba mountains area continues, as well as the Blue Nile state. South Sudan celebrated its first anniversary on July 9 with a very mottled first year. There has been very little advance in terms of good governance, and thus basic improvements in people's lives such as better living conditions, education and so on. Around $4-billion of oil revenues has been stolen from corrupt officials (Globe&&Mail, June 5) with less then $100-million recovered thus far. As well, the governement has not been able to rein in various feuding factions. Despite this, the overall sentiment remains that independence was a necessary step and people are willing to give their leaders more time.

Within Darfur: The conflicting versions of trends, noted earlier, continue. In mid-July Tijane Sese, in relation to a follow-up Darfur Conference, reiterated the priorities and opportunities for security and development (SVD July 18) even while the conference was criticized by IDPs and rebels (Radio Dabanga July 13). On the ground little has changed , whether complaints about new settlers who have taken over farmers' lands (July 13 report), or continued bombimgs (July 15 report). It remains too early to tell what Sese may initiate and how successful it might be, but as long as Bashir is in power, progress will be hampered by a lack of trust.

April 03, 2012:
Within Darfur, the two conflicting versions of current trends are becoming more pronounced (For a brief description of the two sides, see: Analysis Section, Doha Agreement and Its Dividing Line: Trust.). On the one side, consisting primarily of the refugees, IDPs and the rebel groups, they paint a picture of deteriorating conditions in and around camps, of continued fighting (though on a lesser scale than 2004-2005 and 2009-2010), insecurity, threats, shootings, sexual harassment and rapes, and also voicing a more united voice with the creation of the SRF. The last point indicates a real hardening of positions since the SRF mandate is nothing less than regime change. On the government side, it talks of the fighting being finished, refugees voluntarily returning to their homes, of grand schemes under the DDPD that includes micro-credit loans, rebuilding civil society, schools, health clinics and so on.

My analysis inidcates that while there are many valuable items in the actual Doha Document, there is a key ingredient missing - trust. It is hard not to see that such a window is firmly closed. President Bashir has done virtually nothing to address that (such as removing the invited Arab foreigners now occupying the displaced lands, or disarming the Janjaweed, something perhaps impossible now) and instead carries on as though espousing the above development words will make it so. For sure he desperately wants the Darfur crisis out of the way since he is quite vulnerable economically in his home base, with rising household costs, and the ongoing oil crisis, below. In some ways a weathervane for Darfur may be the newly appointed head of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA), Tijane Sese. Years ago as governor he was relatively liked. Some still like him; some see him as a stooge for Bashir; some fear that while he might attempt honest change, he will be hamstrung by Khartoum at any key juncture. Only time will tell.

On the broader scene, tensions and military disputes continue along the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Perhaps most telling, as pondered by ICG, was the recent commentary on the attack on the oi-rich Heglig area of South Kordofan (Sudan Vision Daily, Mar. 28). The response came from the military itself, not a government spokesperson. This strengthens the argument put forth earlier about the tension within the GoS and how the army hardliners were more in charge, undercutting Bashir's authority. In both Sudan and South Sudan there are people who wanted the April 3 meeting between Presidents Bashir and Kiir cancelled (the meeting was to iron out some of the simmering disputes; the meeting was cancelled).

The N-S oil dispute continues (and thus no oil and no oil revenue for either country since January). An International Crisis Group report (ICG Report, Apr 4, 2012) indicates the shift of China's interest to the South while trying to maintain a delicate balancing act with the North and not interfering in the dispute (many had presumed it would exert significantly more pressure for its own interests). The report also highlights the open door policy of South Sudan for development, whether from the West (South Sudan's preference) or the East. How that is handled by Juba will determine whether it falls into the same neo-colonial dependencies and corruption or whether, even given the existing corruption, South Sudan can start properly rising out of it extremely poor poverty rating.

February 07, 2012:
On January 27, oil talks between Sudan and South Sudan collapsed, resulting days later, in South Sudan initiating the shut-down of the oil pipeline that takes its oil to the world market via the {North} Sudan pipeline. During the time of the CPA, there was a 50-50% split of oil revenues, but no agreement has been achieved since South Sudan independence. Both countries are almsot entirely dependent on oil revenue. The tension is mounting. More later.

On January 11, 2012, President Bashir added two new states in Darfur (East and Central) for a total of five states [UPI article]. He appointed new heads to all five states, although one has balked. This was all part of the Doha Peace negotiations (see Analysis Section, Doha Agreement and Its Dividing Line: Trust., below), and has formed the blueprint from which the GoS and other parties are claiming movement toward real peace (largely those genuinely favouring, as well as those intent on manipulating, negotiations), and from which other voices cite as substantially flawed and thus a roadblock to peace (generally those who find the GoS record of broken promises suggest that only the concrete action of dismantling the militias and other state-sponsored means of violence, or regime change itself, is required before negotiations will be of any value).

January 02, 2012:
On December 24, Kahlil Ibrahim, leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) died from wounds he received from fighting the Sudanese military in Kordofan, where he was fleeing toward South Sudan.  At this early stage it is hard to gauge the effect this will have on Darfur.  JEM will find a new leader and continue, but it is hard to imagine that it will not be weakened by this.  And to be clear Kahlil Ibrahim was no saint - he and some JEM fighters reportedly fought for Libya's Gaddafi during the Liyan rebellion.  But a weakened opposition to Bashir's plans for Darfur is troubling.

There are several groups wih overlapping agendas. Starting with the most marginalized - the Darfuris in IDP camps -they have been there for up to nine years now, and simply want to go home. Depending on the camp, conidiont vary from ust bearable tohorrible, those where most aid and mdeical helpis almost non-exisitent. WHile some camps have been more politicized than others, most share the view that they can't return home because the governemnt-backed militias have not been dismantled. Thye may generally be dormant now, but eh IDPs fear that hey can be brought back in force as needed. As mentioned in november, the rising prominence of the Abu Tira reinforces the feeling of insecurity. As well, more visiblly, the foriegners who have inhabited the home areas of the IDPs, remain. That said, some villager shave moved out of the camps, though I haven't seen any reports on the succes of such moves, in particular whther they were able to return and remain in their original land Not all village s have been resettled by outsiders.

November 29, 2011:
One of the most potentially significant events this past month was the formation of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF).  It brings together the rebel groups in western Sudan (Darfur: SLA/AW, SLA/MM, and JEM), eastern Sudan and the southern part of Sudan (SPLM/N).  Plus, unrest remains in the very northern part of Sudan.  If these three rebel forces truly unite, this could add substantial pressure and instability on an already fragile government.  As already noted in August, there could be a "creeping military coup" (Eric Reeves) taking place, as Islamic hardliners exert disatisfaction over Bashir's allowing South Sudan to secede.  The SRF have already visited the U.S. to advocate an all-Sudan approach that counters the typical GoS pattern of manipulating the peripheries (Radio Dabanga, Nov 23: SRF meet with members of US Congress).  Professor Eric Rreeves, an outspoken advocate, has indicated that substantial pressure can still be exerted in relation to Sudan's very sizable debt (that is, there is still much leverage possible if the U.S. should revise its Sudan policy).

Otherwise, much of last month's debilitating patterns continue.  One that wasn't mentioned is that it seems that Darfur's Abu Tira (Central Reserve Police) have become an increasingly used weapon of intimidation and violence.  Regarding ongoing violence in the new Republic of South Sudan, South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) rebels continued to attack towns in Unity State, and rebel leader George Athor vowed to continue attacks in Jonglei after negotiations with President Kiir failed.

October 29, 2011:
The GoS has closed the doors to further negotiations with Darfur's armed groups; the rebels are still free to sign the Doha Agreement but that is all (Radio Dabanga, Oct 23). Tijane Sese, the newly sworn-in head of the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority (TDRA) is trying to meet with various political leaders in Khartoum to smooth out relations.  But since his LJM rebel movement along with some minor ones were the only groups to sign the Doha Agreement, there remains a huge rift between him & the major rebel groups and many IDPs.  Meanwhile unrest continues, including aerial bombings from the GoS.  President Bashir continues to portray Darfur's conflict as having ended, with only a couple of intransigent power-seeking rebel groups that stand in the way of peace for Darfur.  While more will be said on this in the analysis section, it is largely a facade or distortion, sprinkled with an ocassional grain of truth.  This narrative has been sufficiently convincing that the Joint Special Representative of UNAMID, Ibrahim Gambari, and now all the major international envoys have supported it, calling on the rebel groups to cease hostilities and join the Doha agreement. 

The effects of Libya's downfall have yet to fully play out.  JEM's leader, Kakhil Ibrahim returned to Darfur, and there have been reports of some of Libya's unsecured military stockpiles.  But the overall question is, compared to Gaddafi's involvement in Darfur and Sudan over the years, how Libya will relate, officially and on the ground.

Within the larger Sudanese context, the recent split into two countries is showing ominous signs.  North Sudan's border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan verge on civil war (as well previously as Abyei - all of whom were denied the special consideration guarenteed in the CPA).  For example, Blue Nile's former governor Malik Aggar was dismissed.  Agar had been a leader for the Southern SPLA army previously and has now drawn considerable forces together to protect the people from Bashir's repeat of his ethnic cleansing in those states (as previously noted in S. Kordofan regarding the Nuba).

In October, Malawi refused to arrest Bashir, weakening the ICC and along with it, the hope of many ordinary Africans that the ICC might be a vehicle to bring its cruel despotic leaders to justice.  (IRIN, Oct 3/11). 

August 28, 2011:
It has now been over a month since South Sudan was created.  While last month's brief list of potential issues was formidable (see link below), a recent TIME report clarified some of those issues (TIME, Aug 8/11).  Most intriging was its suggestion that the GoS military invasion of Abyei could signal a split within Bashir's government, specifically that the military may be asserting itself over Bashir, angered by his mishandling of the country and its rifts.  But as is clear by the military interference in South Kordofan and the Nuba mountains, the military may accentuate Sudan's overall problems.  It is clear that atrocities have taken place and there are calls for an investigation of crimes against humanity.  As well, the Obama administration had been starting wheels in motion that could have eventually taken Sudan off its terrorist list, but that has been stalled since the Nuba area eruption.

Regarding Darfur, the Doha Peace Agreement negotiations have ended, thus far with only one rebel group joining (in addition to a few virtual no-name groups).  On August 21, Sudan's Abdel Rahim said that there was no war in Darfur (Radio Dabanga).  Painting such a nice-sounding facade should not be mistaken for the fluid dynamics that include continual conflicts between the GoS and the rebels, and more pathetically, the still-languishing state of the 2 million IDPS, and the impunity enjoyed by government-backed initiatives.

July 9, 2011: Republic of South Sudan is born!
For the South Sudanese this is a day to savour!  From a distance I can only ponder the depth of joy they must feel, given so many deaths, so much pain and cruelty and sacrifice.  For an analysis of the substantial obstacles that lie ahead (many of which are clearly evident now; see: Two countries; many challenges ) both for the South and the North, I hope for the sake of all that things will not quickly crumble.

June 4, 2011: Bashir seizes Abyei;  More Darfur SLM rebel groups unite;  Doha peace negotiations almost finished;  Kordofan election results 'credible'.   On May 20, the Abyei region, between N. & S. Sudan, was captured by the North's SAF (Sudanese Armed Forces).  This is a blatant violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  Abyei has been one of the biggest unresolved issues.  Its promised vote never took place; both N & S want its oil;  Bashir twice refused to accept outside decisions on the Abyei boundaries.  And local unresolved issues of land and residency have allowed for manipulation through the years;  After the seizure, tanks roamed the town; the Banton Bridge, linking Abyei to the South, was destroyed (Enough's Sentinel Project)  It is a powder keg that might still explode, although it is clear that to this point neither side wants all-out war.  On the encouraging side, South Sudan has stated it will not go to war over this provocation.  And China has reacted with calls for peace, a rare signal (Mar. 23, Xinhua News).  The U.S., along with China and othe players, need to present a united front for the removal of the troops and full implementaion of the CPA (NYT article; requires registration)  There is uncertainty whether this move by Bashir is primarily about strengthening his bargaining position before the final N-S negotiations, shoring up his support in the North,or whether he indeed intends to keep Abyei and perhaps even push southern troops out of Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains, and take the oilfields.  The capture follows a month-long North-imposed embargo on goods that is precipitating a humanitarian crisis.  As of June 3, Radio Dabanga has indicated the N & S have signed an agreement on a demilitarize N-S border, jointly patrolled.  It is unclear at this point how Abyei would be handled.

In Darfur, the SLM rebel group continues to unite.  The Doha peace process has included a civil society forum, which has advocated for rebel unity, and also for demands for justice, compensation, security and the ability to return to their own villages, rebuilt, and with foriegn settlers removed.  It remains unclear what ultimate role this group will have in the overall peace process which involves the GoS and primarily the rebel groups, LJM and JEM, both of whom have placed demands on negotiations that have not yet been satisfied.

South Kordofan held their election, which the Carter Center called 'credible.'  Of note, the new ly elected head of the state, Ahmed Haroun, is wanted by the ICC for his role in orchestrating the atrocities in Darfur.

May 01, 2011: Bashir unilaterally declares Darfur referendum;  Doha deal rejected by JEM; NIF divisions;  Bashir insists Abyei in N..   President Bashir declared a referendum on the regional status of Darfur by Jul 1, 2011.  As earlier noted the rebels were demanding a single state, not the current three; but this announcement was criticized as being unilateral and should not occur until a peace deal was in place.  It is largely seen as a dividing tactic by Bashir.  Even as a final peace draft was being sent to the rebel groups, bombings and attacks on Darfur from GoS planes and supported militias continued.  JEM has already rejected the Doha peace deal.  Within the government itself, a substantial rift has appeared, as former Advisor Gosh was sacked by Bashir, as Gosh and Nafie al Nafie publicly disagreed on an issue.  Nafie is more hard-line.  As well, tensions among mediators have been resolved with the UN-AU mediator Bassole leaving his post.  This leaves the AU High Level Panel's chair, former South African President Mbeki, whose recommendations (having many good points on paper), could be seen to align more closely to Bashir's appalling strategy of the "domestication" of the Darfur issue.  Many rebel groups do not trust Mbeki for his closer ties to Bashir.

The most troubling of Bashir's announcements, if not totally expected from anyone with a sense of Bashir, is that while he stated he will still respect the independence of South Sudan on July 9, he has now explicitly added that this recognition is contingent on the contentious, oil-rich region of Abyei remaining part of North Sudan (BBC Apr 28).  Originally Abyei was to have had its own referendum and decide for itself.  But the referendum never happened due to the issue of whether only permanent residents could vote (farmers, primarily Dinka Ngok and wanting to join the South), or also the nomadic tribes who bring their livestock South during the dry season (the Arab Misseriya, who want to join the North).  The South's draft constitution includes Abyei.

April 20, 2011: Darfur turmoil continues;  Kordofan election issues and attack;  The South warned not to become like former enemy.   Bombing and attacks on Darfur from GoS planes and supported militias continue at tragic levels (Dabanga: Gos attacks on east Jebel Mara; Various other reports on areas West, North & South as well).  Regarding mediation, the ongoing tension among mediators themselves, primarily Mbeki versus Bassole, becomes more visible (Sudan Tribune, Apr 14; This has existed for some time and thought I should raise it now, given that the more prominent concern of the former US Envoy Gration, is gone).  The US is clarifying the criteria for removing Sudan from its terrorism list and also the conditions for debt relief.  It is unclear at the moment, if this is simply a good move by the veteran diplomat, Princeton Lyman, to make clear the high-water mark of the ground rules, or whether this may be a precursor to a disasterously premature concession (Africa Review: US, Sudan & terrorism list).

In the neghbouring state of Kordofan, South Kordofan is set for elections, a year overdue.  As part of the center stage of the previous ongoing civil war, it finds itself with tensions high between the GoS and the SPLM.  The Carter Center is concerned about low registration (Carter Center report).  Satellite images have shown the results of an attack on El Faid, although the GoS denies their involvement (BBC Apr 19/11)

With about 100 days before South Sudan becomes the world's newest country, there are troubling signs within the area itself, as noted earlier with an army general, Athor, breaking away.  While there are many tribes there are two dominant ones - the Dinka, who hold most posts in the governemnt currently, and the Nuer; they have been historic rivals. [Background: In 1991 during the civil war there was a Dinka-Nuer tribal split in the rebel army when the Nuer rebel officer, Riek Machar, tried to topple the rebels' supreme commander, John Garang, a Dinka. The coup failed but it caused the killing among Southerners].  A smooth transition requires a true move towards full pariticpation of all people, regardless of origin. In essence, the government must must be deliberate in creating inclusive policies, which thus far it has only done the most minimal efforts (IRIN report).  Other reports have cautioned that the new country must not revert to the same oppressive tactics that it fought against with the North, yet appears to be slipping into them.

March 10, 2011: Bashir continues quest to subdue Darfur;  The South and Abyei show signs of strife;   Bashir suppresses any signs of protest.   Over 100,000 civilians have fled areas in Darfur in the past three months (Radio Dabanga), as government planes and militia have pummelled the Jebel Marra area, which has been a stonghold of the SLA/AW rebel group.  The Doha peace talks have frayed, most recently over the rebels demand that the three provinces of Darfur return to their original single state.  While the GoS initially toyed with a single overarching regional structure while maintaining the three states, their most recent proposal is to create an additional two states (total of 5) (Reuters article). Bashir continues his oppressive tactics on the civilian population needing aid (almost half the population of Darfur), as indicated last month.   His motivation appears to be two-fold: (a) if there will be strife in the Abyei area or further South, he needs to avoid a second front; (b) The U.S. has indicated that if the Darfur crisis is resolved, that full normalization of relationships will ensue. Bashir's recent "domestication" policy for Darfur could be his attempt to put the proper concepts - civil society, capacity building, etc. - as a facade for the devastation he has and continues to have on a large part of Darfuri society (particularily those outside the large cities).

Recent reports have shown that the South's post-referendum glow is fading.  In the South the break-away rebel leader Athor has continued to clash with Southern forces, reportedly leaving hundreds dead ( BBC article).  As well, recent clashes in the oil-rich Abyei region, while still localized, do not bode well (BBC report).  And lastly, several protests by students and others, influenced by the protests in Tunisia and Egypt, have been swiftly suppressed (Reuters).

February 7, 2011: The South Sudan vote is now official..   The results were over 98% in favour of secession.  President Bashir has formally congratulated them, says he will abide by the result and will work with the South to maintain good relations.  But as noted below, it all comes down to the transition, which, omitted below, also includes the South Kordofan and Nuba regions and ill-defined "Popular Consultations" (Nuba/Kordofan Regions and the CPA).  The U.S. has indicated that it will honor its commitment to start the process of more normalized relations with Sudan, particularily of note, its "ace card" of removing Sudan from its terrorist list if things remain peaceful for the next six months.

There are other economic and diplomatic triggers that depend on a peaceful resolution to the Darfur crisis.  President Bashir seems to want the Darfur tensions quelled, though mainly through crushing oppossition (defeating the rebels, supressing dissent, etc.) and through making conditions so intolerable for displaced people, that returning to villages just might seem the better of appalling options.  More on that later.

January 2011: The South Has Voted;  An Uneasy North;  Darfur Remains Captive.   Southern Sudan, overjoyed, finished voting on January 14 in what appears to have been a basically fair and peaceful process.  The North has verbally indicated it will respect the outcome, it realizes that the South will likely secede and has said it will work together to ensure a smooth transition.  But the transition contains most of the sticking points that couldn't be settled in the last few years - oil sharing (about $5 billion per year), debt sharing (about $32 billion - will the international community need to forgive it?), borders, water rights, and so on, so it remains an uncertain future.  As well, the Abyei region, between the North & South, had its referendum delayed and remains tense due to the unresolved issue of who can claim status - the Dinka tribe do not want to give the nomadic Misseriya tribe (favoured by President Bashir and previously used by him as proxy militia) voting or land rights.  While the day prior to the start of voting in the South, there was a clash between these two tribes, resulting in several deaths, they have since reached an interim agreement. But the underlying cause of the tensions remains unresolved.

Four months ago, no credible person would have been completely sure that the vote would actually take place.  Now on the horizon are the following milestones, followed by their implicatioons in the various regions:

  1. What happens when the vote results are announced, by mid-February; 
  2. What happens after July 9, 2011, when South Sudan becomes a new nation;  and
  3. What will happen (a few years hence) when people do a reality-check on whether their new nation resembles or more importantly is moving in the direction of their dreams, or whether it is falling into patterns of debilitating corruption, devastating power struggles, or abject neglect of the ordinary citizen.

South Sudan

North Sudan
Darfur December 2010: Preparing for the Unknown Future: January 9, 2011 will mark the start of a new but unknown phase for Sudan as the South votes whether to secede, which is all but inevitable.  During December we saw the U.S. appoint highly respected Dane Smith as a special envoy for Darfur, adding to the Sept. appointment of Princeton Lyman, who handles the N-S dynamics.  The actual Doha peace talks about Darfur, having floundered, have now been officially ended by President Bashir, whose team has withdrawn after his ultimatum to reach a deal by Dec. 31.  These talks had lately brought signals - whether posturing or serious - by both JEM & the SLA rebel groups considering some form of negotiation.  The only rebel group in formal negotiations remains insistent that Darfur must revert to a single province rather than the current three (which dilutes Darfur political power), something the government has refused to concede (there have since been reports of an agreement that keeps Darfur split into three, but has a singular layer placed over them).

On the ground, among a flurry of dynamics and hot spots (resulting in over 30,000 people fleeing the areas), the most significant movement has been the military reuniting or at least coordinated efforts of several of the rebel groups (JEM, SLA/AW and SLA/MM;  SLA/MM signed the original Darfur peace agreement [DPA] and thus Minawi was seen by many as a puppet of Bashir; this has now been reversed as the army has been attacking SLA/MM & hence Minawi's return to the fold) to attack the town Dar es Salaam, in an effort to retake it from the GoS.  Earlier attacks on SLA/MM formed the official death of the moribund DPA.  Also, President Bashir's recent crackdown on dissent - many journalists and activists were jailed - is now two months old at the end of December and no word on them yet.

Within the broader context of the N-S, the North attacked an area near the border in what many saw as an effort to provoke the South, but the South resisted and thus the path to the referendum remains intact.  Of significance is that China has been strengthening ties with the South - a practical move on China's part since the South will retain much of the oil, although it must still be piped through the North.  But the South is reportedly preparing for a pipeline through Kenya within the next few years, which would cut off most of the North's revenue.  Thus very rough-hewn, we have a best-case future for the North that could maintain its oil pipeline and revenue, and thus maintain an uneasy but relatively stable relationship with the South.  Or if the Kenyan pipeline proceeds and the North doesn't find significant other oil or revenue, we could see a North that becomes more isolated and vulnerable to extremism [see the following for more details and possible projections: Complex Shifts with China and Sudan  and  National Post article on Sudan, Oil and Islam].

November 2010: U.S. Decouples Strategy; GoS continues business-as-usual: On Nov.7, the US indicated that if President Bashir would uphold the results of both the N-S and the Abyei referendum, as judged by a follow-up six month period, that it would take Sudan off its terrorist list [Reuters article].  The U.S. is thus playing its "ace card" for the N-S peace; previously it had been linked to both the N-S peace AND to peace in Darfur.  This decoupling is a major shift, one which seems strategically practical but desperate.  Regardless it leaves the resolution of the Darfur crisis in a more precarious position - the U.S. still has incentives for Sudan to resolve this (a set of sanction, etc., which it recently extended for another year), but the "ace card" is no longer linked to Darfur.  One report indicated that Bashir didn't think much of this ace card, feeling that regardless of what Obama says, it will take the U.S. Congress to actually take Sudan off the terrorist list, which he felt was unlikely.

On the ground, the government bombed an area near the N-S border, resulting in many civilians feeing the area.  The reason they gave was to track down Darfur rebels, who they reported were illegally in the area.  Th rebels denied any such activity.  The government continues to bomb the Jebel Marra area of Darfur, trying to subdue the SLA rebel group.  Humanitarian access remains highly controlled.

The preparation for the South Sudan referendum is proceeding at a very mixed pace - registration has begun and turnout is strong in the South, weak in the North. Most substantive items remain unresolved (border demarcation, currency, Nile water rights, etc.)  Worst, the separate oil-rich Abyei region referendum, which straddles the N-S area has seen virtually no progress and will impossible to take place on schedule.

October 2010: Eleventh Hour Dynamics: With only two months to go before the January 9, 2011 referendum on whether the South will secede, and separately, whether the oil-rich Abyei region will stay in the North or join the South, it is best to list both official and unofficial actions:

Official: The 90-day registration period has not even started - materials have not been shipped.  This continues the pattern of the government, which has delayed almost every milestone in the CPA.  The GoS's habitual patterns of keeping the various periphery players off-balance through continual manipulation of various factions, of delaying deadlines, etc., has utterly failed to make unity attractive.  While both sides say they don't want war, both sides appear to be preparing at least a defensive military build-up (though much is unsubstantiated; one claim is that the real buildup of Gos troops is in Darfur, trying to eliminate the rebels before year-end [Sudan Tribune Nov. 02]). A telling sign was a recent report indicating that N. troops around Abyei have been moving their families away, and a presidential advisor telling Northern youth to prepare for war [Sudan Tribune Oct 18].  With over one million Southerners in the North, the government has not promised to protect their status. [more later].  This all makes clear the need for the international community's involvement to help ensure a fair referendum and that post-referendum structures and dynamics are in place that would reduce any local flare-ups turning into a full scale conflict.

Unofficial: One can connect the various dots or events in various ways.  Oversimplified, I find the closest framing is one in which President Bashir has a clear agenda to remove Darfur as an area of concern. Recently, it involved the January 2010 agreement with Chad, which cut off the main supplier for the JEM rebel group. Then in February they mounted a major air campaign against the other major rebel group, the SLA/AW, in their stronghold of the Jebel Marra mountains (it is muddier, with some intra-SLA conflict also involved), and in March a campaign against the JEM stronghold of Jebel Moun. They also created a new rebel umbrella group, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) - the only group willing to negotiate with the GoS - so that the GoS would not look like obstacle to a peace agreement but rather the other rebel groups themselves (it should be noted that this 'dot' is rather sweeping - while some see the LJM leader Tijane Sese as a stooge of the GoS, others feel his original integrity as a former Darfur Governor remains intact and that some of his positions bump up hard against the GoS positions). The GoS has announced the disbanding of one of the troublesome IDP camps, trying to pressure those in the camp to either move to the new camp being built or to return home (though since many homes are now settled by Arab outsiders, it is often to a new place, which usually means an inferior location and a loss of "home"). These actions are getting overlaid by a new script that talks about development and schools, and empowering civil society, etc. Those concepts are all part of an essential phase for the ultimate well-being of Darfur; it is simply that mixing it in now before the basic issues of peace and security are settled, seems an attempt to whitewash the true dynamics.

Finally, as a side-note, the Small Arms Survey group just produced a PDF file by Julie Flint "The Other War: Inter-Arab Conflict in Darfur, Working Paper 22" [see side bar of This Link] which is the first detailed picture of the Arab groups, both pro-government and not (and the reversal of sides and motivations), and a clearer picture of the conflicts and reasons. It should be noted that the majority of conflict deaths in 2010 were from these dynamics. It reinforces the complex, shifting dynamics sketched at the start of this web article.

September 2010: UN Meeting; US Unveils 4-stage strategy:  As the UN General Assembly gathered, a special meeting on Sudan was held on September 24, attended by Ban Ki-moon, Sudan's Northern VP Taha and Southern VP Kiir, US President Obama and many other high ranking delegates.  Obama spoke at it  All parties committed to a successful Jan. 9, 2011 referendum and respecting its outcome, among other things.

Previously on Sept. 14, the US outlined part of its "diplomatic surge", which also has included using veteran diplomat Princeton Lyman.  US Envoy Gration outlined the 4-stage process for any normalization of ties with Sudan:

  1. An immediate shift in the use of our licensing regulations with respect to the agricultural sector to enhance local food production in a chronically food insecure country and benefit the Sudanese people. The new licensing posture will be subject to regular review.
  2. If credible, peaceful on-time referenda occur and the results are respected, the United States will take steps to allow additional trade and investment in Sudan in certain prescribed non-oil sectors.
  3. If there is agreement on the key principles for post-referenda arrangements, the United States will support an exchange of ambassadors.
  4. And, finally, upon fulfillment of the CPA and resolution of the Darfur conflict, the United States will work with Congress to remove foreign assistance restrictions, lift economic sanctions and actively support international assistance and debt relief, consistent with U.S. law and internationally agreed processes.  [Sudan Tribune]

While the UN meeting is necessary paper, that is all it is - the question remains what will be backed up by action.  One simple example: the CPA stipulates that voter registration will start 90 days before the referendum.  It is now day 100, and the materials have just be ordered.  Countless foot-dragging and obstacles, many contentious, continue to make this a very high-stakes gamble by various parties.  Regarding the US 4-stage plan, it has been welcomed (or half-welcomed) in finally making clear what the US incentives are and how they fit together.  But criticism has also been leveled in that there is no public list of disincentives upon failure to meet the markers, and that the optics of the roll-out is bad diplomatic protocol. [Enough Project]

August 2010: Kalma Camp turns into growing issue:   The Kalma IDP (internally-displaced persons) camp is one of the world's largest, at about 100,000 people.  Because it contains people originally fleeing the 2003 atrocities overseen by the government, it has always contained many people sympathetic to one of the original rebel groups (the SLA rebel group of Abdel Wahid al Nur).  At the latest peace talks in Qatar, the only rebel group that attended was the recently-formed Liberation and Justice Movement, whom some view as government-leaning.  Civil society groups were also invited, and thus some Kalma leaders attended.  Upon return it produced a pro- versus anti-Qatar-peace-talks conflict, with several people killed.  Six people sought refuge at the UN's compound, where they remain. Sudan has demanded they be handed over to be charged with the violence; UNAMID refuses until the size people are ensured fair treatment.  Sudan has since cut off all aid to the camp. [IRIN: Thousands struggle as aid cut].  Sudan has further stated it will disband the camp and create a new one, and much earlier stated that all Darfur peace talks must be concluded by the end of this year.

Apart from the continued suffering of those in the camp, this incident shows how interrelated, convoluted and dysfunctional the dynamics in Darfur are.  There is no coherent, comprehensive, sustained international stance, the rebel groups remain fractured, the GoS continues to exploit any openings, in this case the wedge between elements of civil society and rebel sympathizers and groups, even as it talked peace while attacking the rebel groups (SLA in Jebel Marra; JEM in Jebel Moun).

July 12/10: ICC Adds Charge of Genocide to Bashir Indictment:   The ICC judges originally rejected the charge of genocide, but after the chief prosecutor submitted additional evidence, they have added that charge.  Thus far, in response, President Bashir has primarily made visible the impotence of the ICC by visiting Chad.  Chad signed onto the ICC and thus is obligated to hand Bashir over, but they refused to do so (after years of animosity, Chad and Sudan reversed their relationship, each for their vested interests, and this still holds).  On July 31 President Bashir made a second reaction - he indicated that Sudan will now monitor all UNAMID's (the UN's peacekeeping force) travel. [Reuter's article].

June/10: Changing focus to 2011 Referendum:  With Sudan's national elections finished, the focus has turned to the next phase of the CPA - the 2011 referendums.  The main one pertains to the South and whether it will remain in Sudan or secede (almost everyone feels it will secede); the other referendum is whether the oil-rich Abyei region that straddles the North-South area will belong to the North or the South.  On August 2, an Al Jazeera Article indicated that the Abyei referendum talks had stalled, which if left unresolved could reignite violence in the area.  Meanwhile Darfur continues to languish - peace talks in Qatar have moved incrementally, but have yet to include the major rebel parties.  Their attempt at including civil society caused violence in the massive Kalma IDP camp at the end of July, pitting groups that were and were not invited to the Qatar peace talks.

May/10: Post-election dynamics:  No one is sure what will happen between now and the 2011 referendum, when South Sudan will vote whether to stay in Sudan or secede, though it seems a near certainty that is will vote to secede. There is much pressure being exerted on international players to assist a smooth transition prior to, during and after the 2011 Referendum by the South.  The original vision contained within the CPA, as articulated by John Garang (the original South leader, who died shortly after its signing)included not simply workable arrangements between the North and South, but a template that the North could use for its other peripheries.  However the North did almost nothing to build trust and move toward implementation of any such Sudan-uniting vision. Quite the opposite - it has squandered any chance for a robust, diverse Sudan with its destructive implementation of its narrow-minded, power-focused agenda.  While not completely out of time, the following report summarizes the major issues facing Sudan, most of which were already to have been addressed (borders demarking North-South as well as the key oil Abyei region and other areas; sharing of oil and pipeline; and security; plus if the South secedes, there will be these areas: water [Nile]; nationality, debts and assets, currency; IRIN report, May 20/10).

From a conflictual view, the GoS bombed the SLA stronghold in Jebel Marra starting in Feb./10 (three months later, there still seems some murkiness to this), and now with the elections over, the GoS, which had a peace agreement with JEM, started bombing one of its strongholds in Jebel Moon, leading JEM to abandon the agreement.  Of greater significance is that Chad, who had heavily backed JEM until early this year when Chad signed an agreement with Sudan such that both would stop backing the other's rebels, went further and expelled the JEM leader (Kalhil Ibrahim) when he visited its capital.  The overall point is that Bashir seems intent on weakening the rebel resistance from Darfur before the 2011 referendum.  While there is a new rebel group on the scene - the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) - its role remains unclear.  Originally seen as insignificant and viewed with suspicion by many players, the recent tentative joining by a core of the previous SLA/Unity contingent might eventually lend it some credence.  That said, for the most part Darfur remains as mired as ever in disempowering dynamics.

April/10: Election dynamics: The national elections of April 11-13, 2010, took place and were extended due to logistical problems.  There was concern about widespread violence but it did not materialize, with exceptions such as S. Darfur and Unity State.  The Carter Center, one of the chief monitoring agencies, originally said that while the election failed to meet international standards that it was a major step in the whole Sudanese CPA dynamics. . However it recently gave a harsher statement that the election was "chaotic, non-transparent and vulnerable to electoral manipulation" (BBC May 11/10).  Sudan has reportedly admitted that a video showing actual ballot stuffing was real (Ballot Stuffing).  In the end, it seems that the international community will simply treat the election as a check-box that has been done as a step toward the post-2011 referendum period.  One need look no further than the UN which is sending two officials to attend Bashir's swearing-in ceremony, an act somewhat at odds with its guideline to avoid attending ceremonies of ICC-indicted people (UN to Attend Ceremony).

March/10: Pre-election dynamics: Will the national elections of April 11-13, 2010, be a crude step that might nonetheless hold and be built upon (DeWaal reviews a book analyzing transition from authoritarianism) or be a fašade for continued dictatorial power? More and more reports are seeming to conclude the latter (see ICG report ICG report, Rigged Elections, Mar 30/10; and HRW Report). Census and boundary rigging, government ballot printing, failure to lift and ensure free speech (some candidates were detained, at least one person had been killed, some news outlets were forced to close), Bashir's NCP party having overwhelming access to media and state resources, failure to address the concerns and lack of accessibility in Darfur, and so on, all point to a highly skewed environment.  Just prior to the election, the major opponents withdrew, citing many of the above problems.  Reports of intimidation by the South Sudan government were also reported.

Feb. 20/10: Rebel Deals Sudan has signed a temporary peace deal with one rebel group - JEM - who is now generally considered the strongest group (see Reuters report on peace deal).  Part of the deal includes cancelling the death sentences of JEM rebels caught during the 2008 raid into Khartoum outskirts (100 prisoners are also to be freed).  While one cannot discount the possible openings that this act may present it does need to be seen against a backdrop of countless agreements by the GoS that were later abandoned when it no longer suited them.  Why does it suit them now, when for months these talks stalled in Qatar?  It portrays President Bashir as trying to make conducive conditions for the April 2010 national elections, which must be seen in the larger backdrop of the recent rapprochement between Sudan and Chad where Chad will also be holding elections (both countries have supported proxy wars in the other's country; moves like this add to the appearance of legitimacy of the upcoming elections).  Whether this will advance the plight of the Darfuris will depend on how strongly JEM presses for its other concessions, such as compensation for Darfuris, humanitarian access and the broad topics of "power sharing" and "wealth sharing" (Reuters 2nd report).  And even so, given the over 2 million IDPs who mostly can't vote nor return home since many homes are occupied by Arab settlers, and given the other strong rebel group (SLA/AW) is not included it, let alone civil society, is hard to see that this has much to do with Dafurian well-being, and is primarily political expediency on both sides, particularly by President Bashir to lend {faux} credibility to the upcoming elections.  I would really like to be wrong.
[It should be noted that a second rebel deal was made by the Liberation and Justice Movement, a recently formed group that has little Darfur support].

CURRENT STATUS - Overall Summaries

It is best to distinguish the realm of international dynamics from the on-ground dynamics within Darfur and Sudan more generally.

Summary-Darfur:   Within Darfur little positive can be said.  The IDP camps, having existed for 15 years now, are cauldrons of lost hope, despair, roiling emotions, fear, and so on.  Some are slightly more secure due to UNAMID patrols.  Aid to them has become more problematic due to attacks from various groups.  The countryside is chaotic and basically lawless;  the GoS and its militia carry out aerial and land attacks at will, at times grotesquely similar to the early days, though not as intense or numerous.  Banditry is rampant, resulting in numerous aid hijackings and sometimes kidnapping, the latter now even including foreign personnel (not suggesting that such people are more important, only that the attackers are becoming bolder and shifting their demands).

The Rapid Support Forces (renamed from Janjaweed, and now part of the military) continue to attack civilians in an effort to dislodge the rebels.  In particular the Jebel Marra area has been targeted, since it is the last stronghold (of SLM/AW).  As of May/18 the rebels had only three stronghold remaining in that area.  The RSF also controls the Libyan border and the EU has provided significant funds to Sudan to keep migrants from continuing on to Europe.  Some of those funds partly support the RSF (Border Patrol from Hell [Apr/17 ReliefWeb]; Sudan's Feared Secret Polic Aid Europes [NYT: Apr22/18]).

Summary-Sudan:   Economically, 2018 is continuing last year's trend - the mishandling of the economy is becoming more pronounced and citizen unease continues to grow including protests.  Since losing its oil revenue, gold has gained prominence, including conflict and corruption.

President Bashir has been less involved in South Sudan as part of the desire to normalize relations with the U.S. who have now under President Trump, permanently removed some of the economic sanctions.  But until Sudan is taken off the terrorism list Sudan will be hampered in getting debt relief.  HRW and Enough advocate maintaining that card.  Enough goes further and has a list of sanctions and other actions to keep the pressure on Sudan to stop its targeting of civilians.  ICG has a complex set of steps that would include removing Sudan from the terrorism list, but only after verified steps have been taken.  It is not known where the Trump administration is leaning.

[Old summary of 2010]: Two levels can be distinguished.  At one level the CPA provides the framework through which much of Sudan's dynamics are measured.  The delayed timetables, yet eventual (and contentious) census, have all reduced the sense of legitimacy for the April, 2010 national elections.  The violence and crackdown in December, 2009 toward political parties and their expressions (HRW: Abuses Undermine Impending Elections), bodes ill for any sense of free campaigning environment, and should have been a trigger-point in Obama's new Sudan policy.  More troubling is the 2011 referendum on whether the South will remain in Sudan or secede.  Most chatter in the South, and now including a strong hint by the South's V.P. Salva Kiir, point to an independent South as the likely outcome.

On a second level, and one which some view as clear-eyed realistic while others deem as distorting in its presumption and lack of seeing alternatives in the growing slate of candidates for the Presidential election, one looks primarily at military buildup and the historic legacy of President Bashir to do whatever it takes to remain in power, presumably meaning retention of all or at least significant oil revenue.  From this perspective, it is clear that both sides have used much of the oil wealth to build up their military capabilities.  The chief prize is the oilfields in the middle.  The north has an ill-committed army but has almost total air control.  The South has a more highly armed and committed army.  The oil pipeline only flows through the North, although a Southern pipeline is planned.  It is hard not to read the desire of the North for total control of the oil region.  A wild-card in here is China.  China clearly needs the oil to keep coming; one would think it in China's best interest to maintain a stable region.  Yet there has been little overt evidence of this.  More later.

a. The U.S.: See above for 2018.

In October, 2009, the US finished it new policy review of Sudan.  It is to be a cornerstone for future relations, containing both {secret} incentives and disincentives to help move Sudan toward implementation of its peace agreements and peace in the region.  However, several potential trigger points have come and gone without any reaction.  In January 2010, a high-level committee did sit down to assess the situation but it apparently lacked some critical information.  Thus while one is ready to deem it yet another failed effort, it may - hope against hope - still yield results.  That said, time is so short now, with the national election in April of 2010.  It is largely presumed President Bashir will win (although one can't completely discount some bumps, with a robust slate of candidates from other parties).  Nonetheless it seems any other outcome is unlikely, and if so, then it becomes more difficult to leverage someone who has been elected, sham or not.  More later.
b. President Bashir has now visited 7 member states of the ICC plus 15 other countries.  But he had to leave South Africa abruptly after its court ruled against him.

[2010]: the ICC indictment has seen President Bashir scramble to find sufficient backing to have any possible ICC judgment suspended through the UN.   The U.S. has said it will block any such suspension (In late February, 2009 that has been revised and they would now consider deferral if the GoS replaces Bashir or enters into serious reform).   The ICC ruling occurred on March 4, 2009 and decided to proceed with the charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.  Prosecutor Ocampo is gathering more evidence to resubmit charges of genocide.

President Bashir reacted to the ruling by expelling 13 international humanitarian organization (plus 3 Sudanese ones).  These organizations accounted for about 40% of the aid.  Bashir announced that Sudan would make up the difference, incredulous as that was to most experts.  Bashir has since loosened some of the restrictions, though not to previous levels.  The inability to restore such services as assistance to rape and sexual violence victims, in itself should be a trigger point for Obama's new Sudan policy, above.

On March 18, 2009, the Obama administration selected a new Envoy for Sudan, General Scott Gration.  His more conciliatory approach ("carrots and no sticks") has gradually made most of the activist community wary of his efforts, though his efforts are still in progress.  With the Sudan policy review now completed (Oct/09) Gration seems to remain the main point-person, and creates tension with Rice, who prefers a tougher stance.

Inclusive peace negotiations have thus far failed to restart.   Prior to Gration's ongoing efforts, the most promising came from Qatar, who some view as trying to assert itself as a new peace mediator.   The GoS and the Darfur rebel movement JEM signed a "confidence-building" agreement in late February, 2009.  While one can never discount such ad hoc gestures, the self-serving nature of the agreement from both sides, leaves it suspect, and has remained boycotted by other groups (of the other 4 major rebel groups, some remain suspicious of its Arab background, and SLA/Al-Nur remain firm that no formal negotiations can take place until Sudan's government stops its attacks).  The latest set of talks are for mid-February 2010.  The GoS has indicated that all such negotiations must be completed by March/10.


Current Status Details:

[To be updated]

ICC Prosecutor's Call to Indict President Bashir and Resulting Charges:  On July 14, 2008, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, submitted to the judges 10 charges against Sudan's President Bashir, including charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  On March 4, 2009 the three ICC judges did charge President Bashir with crimes against humanity and war crimes; they did not feel the evidence submitted thus far for genocide was tight enough to win in court.  This is the first time that a sitting head of state has been considered for such charges from the ICC (Milosevic was under another court).  On April 27, 2007, the ICC already issued arrest warrants for two Sudanese - Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmed Haroun and Janjaweed leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman (Ali Kushayb), although nothing has happened to them, as Sudan said they are capable of prosecuting any war crimes suspects (they later elevated Haroun to his current post, which oversees aid to the very people on whom he is accused of orchestrating atrocities).  In November 2008, Ocampo also submitted charges against three rebel leaders for the killing of UN peacekeepers.   Their names have not been revealed.

This is the first international action, apart from some minor pressure exerted by China prior to its Olympics, that President Bashir has taken seriously..  He has threatened (and on March 4, 2009 followed through with) retaliatory action if the charges proceed.  See Analysis Section-ICC for the various views of how this action by the ICC can be seen as pitting peace against justice, and what I consider to be the most promising stance.

North-South Sudan Dynamics (ongoing draft)
The 2010 elections and more importantly the 2011 referendum, will play a major role in Darfur's future.
Note:ICG report that 2500 deaths, 350,000 displaced in S. Sudan in 2009. Many factors in tribal conflict. Interesting that while plausible that it shows the hand of NCP, they feel primarily the weakness of S. Sudan structures. http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=6182&l=1

Attempted Coup of May 10, 2008:  The Darfur rebel group JEM (Justice and Equality Movement) raced across the desert from Darfur in the night and struck from the North of Sudan's capital, Khartoum, making its way into the twin city of Omdurman.  While heavily fortified Khartoum was seemingly taken by surprise, the rebels came within kilometers of the center of Khartoum before being repulsed. JEM's leader Kahlil Ibrahim eventually escaped, indicating that, as they stated earlier, they would take Darfur's war to Khartoum, and that this attack was not the end.  The short-term repercussions are that (a) diplomatic ties were mutually cut between Sudan and Chad, after Sudan accused Chad of backing JEM (and in February 2008, Chad accused Sudan of backing the rebels that almost reached the palace in Chad's capital N'Djamena); (b) there was a reported purge among the military of suspected conspirators and sympathizers (many in the military are Darfurian, although generally mainly foot-soldiers); (c) Human Rights groups reported civilians being arrested or beaten on the basis of ethnicity (see Sudan Tribune article).  It should be noted that JEM had already taken the conflict outside Darfur into the neighbouring province of Kordofan, where in 2007 they had attacked an oilfield, briefly holding some hostages.

Overall Deaths:  Up until the end of 2007, there has been much less fighting compared to its height in 2004 & 2005, in no small part because up to 90% of the villages have been destroyed - there simply are not as many easy targets.  The number of overall deaths is conservatively estimated to be at least 200,000 with many suggesting it is closer to 400,000 or above [In August, 2007 there was criticism of the 400,000 figure - see NYT article.  Eric Reeves, who has provided the most extensive analysis, counters with a scathing critique of the methods used. In April 2007, the UN suggested a figure of perhaps 300,000.  I agree with a ForeignPolicy critique, that 200,000 is likely far too low, Sudan clearly obstructs any true attempt at accurate figures, and, regardless, either number is appalling].

By 2005 the proportion of deaths reversed, with more people dying indirectly due to disease, etc in the refugee and IDP camps.  Later, due to the humanitarian agencies, the camp death and disease rate lessened somewhat (though were still mottled with infiltration, rapes etc), but the agencies became increasingly at risk (hijackings and even deaths of workers), and were sometimes forced to pull-out.

By the end of 2007, reports indicated a major deterioration, as the camps were full, the GoS has tried to forcibly remove some people back to the land, and arms have flooded the camps.  More ominously, as 2008 began, some of the old dynamics had returned - heightened attacks by the GoS militia, with the resulting deaths, rapes and burning of villages.  See IDP camp status for likely deterioration due to the expulsion of international aid agencies on March 4, 2009.

As well, throughout this period the conflict spilled over the border into Chad & the Central African Republic, and other neighbouring countries.  And finally while the focus is primarily on the rural area, the urban areas are also affected: a local Darfurian told me that whenever he calls home (to one of Darfur's provincial capitals) he always hears of this or that person who has been killed, disappeared, etc.


Peace Agreements:

The {non-Darfur} Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed January 9, 2005 to end the North-South war, needs to be seen as one of the anchors of the overall hope for peace in Darfur (See Strategies, below, for a complete list of the broad dynamics that must be considered).   Most of its contentious issues were postponed and have raised their heads now. I will mention the two most troubling, since the failure of the CPA could plunge the country into civil war. (1) The Abyei region: It is the oil-rich land between the North and South. The CPA mandated an independent committee to decide its boundaries. They did, and while considered by many to be generous to the North, Bashir ignored broke his promise to abide by it. Since then growing tensions, including troop build-ups and actual clashes and some death have resulted. It remains a power keg; (2) The national census, necessary prior to the 2009 elections: In Darfur, the census has proceeded, even though widely protested on the basis that with over 2 million of the 6 million Darfuris in camps, and some of the land resettled by Arabs, it would be a farce, grossly distorting the real picture in favour of Bashir. In protest SLA/Unity has reportedly captured 13 census takers as spies.

The actual basic Darfur peace agreement dynamics have been as follows:

A. The Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA, May, 2006): It was breached soon after it went into effect.  The one rebel party who signed it, has been accused of aiding the counter-insurgency, and has reportedly had many of its fighters leave.  Its head, Mini Minawi, was appointed Special Assistant to Sudan's president.

B. The UN Security Council Resolution 1706, passed on August 31, 2006, authorized a UN peacekeeping force of 20,000 under the robust engagement of a Chapter VII mandate, to replace the inadequate African Union force of 7,000 operating under a "observer-only" mandate. While this was a remarkable vote in that China and Russia abstained rather than their customary vetoing any substantive act against Sudan, it still became quagmired due to Sudan's refusal to accept it (the resolution did not need Sudan's consent; it only "invited" it) which divided the international whether to proceed regardless.

It should be noted that while the initial GoS reaction was to cite fears of neocolonialism, which has played well for it own audience, it is an absurd claim, given that they have allowed over 10,000 UN peacekeeping troops in S. Sudan to help with the CPA (the North-South agreement).

C. The Three-Phase Plan: Subsequently there was much diplomatic pressure on the GoS to agree to a three-phase plan to allow more peacekeeping troops in under the guise of an AU-UN hybrid, 3-stage transition force.  Sudan initially balked, but later agreed to all three phases, and even allowed implementation of the first two {easier} phases.

D. Efforts to Unite Rebels: Starting in July, 2007, in a meeting in Libya, five of the {minor} rebel groups agreed to unite, in anticipation of renewed {start of the start of} peace negotiations, which took place in Tanzania in August and included most of the rebel factions.  There are continuing efforts to bring Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur (an originator of the SLA) to the negotiations, since while he has little troop presence, he is hugely popular, in what some see as a more realistic stance towards the GoS' often deferring and deflecting dynamics.  See below for recent timeline.  In December France allowed El-Nur to stay on condition that he attend upcoming peace negotiations. The JEM movement under Dr. Ibrahim, also boycotted most such efforts, although most seasoned analysts feel that artificial deadlines are harmful and the best prospect is exactly what is occurring - ongoing informal talks, such as have occurred in Juba.

On the ground, the rebels remain splintered - JEM has split into two; there are over a dozen groups, though one must recognize that some are created with few resources merely for personal stature and gain (the enough Project provided an extensive report, reinforcing my statements that there are only about 4 major rebel groups; see: {cite report}).  The SLA and JEM factions remain active militarily. JEM has been seemingly substantially re-armed, becoming active beyond Darfur's borders. They recently attacked an oil field in Kordofan province, shot down a GoS Antonov plane, and have attacked government positions, although it has been suggested that some of these efforts are in conjunction with one of the militarily strong SLA factions.  Of more interest is that some of the Arab groups are joining the rebels, feeling they have largely been betrayed or manipulated by the GoS.  As well, one of the strongest groups, the SLA/Unity, are actively trying to unite various groups.

Post-JEM attack: Finally, after the failed May 10, 2008 attack on Khartoum by JEM, it is clear that JEM is following its own agenda, and is one that will likely bring more hardship to the Darfuri people, barring some grand overwhelming strategy that might end the conflict. Some analysts see more of an agenda to jockey JEM into a position at the expense of the Darfurians (NYT article May 12, 2008).  Its "confidence-building" agreement with the government, signed in Feb. 2009 in Doha, is clearly self-serving for both sides - Bashir desperately needs to look like he has turned the page and is now serious about Darfur's peace; JEM use the negotiations to elevate its political stature as the primary rebel force with enough power to be of concern to Bashir; Its initial statements about being the only group that should represent Darfur, and once signed, the rest of Darfur would go along, can be seen as indications of its desire for political power, extending nationally.

SLA/el-Nur expressed sympathy with the JEM attack; the South's Vice-President Kiir of SPLM has spoken against the attack, advocating a united Sudan under the CPA; SLA/Unity has not currently given its position.

E. The UN Security Council Resolution 1769 (acronym UNAMID) was unanimously passed on July 31, 2007. It consolidated the efforts of 1706 and the UN-AU hybrid concept into a peacekeeping force of 26,000 (to be deployed likely by the spring of 2008).  On the positive side, China and Russia agreed to the motion, Sudan has accepted it thus far, it contains the necessary robust Chapter VII mandate, and has clear milestones, noted below.  On the negative side, its watered down nature glaringly excludes disarming the Janjaweed (present in previous motions), omitted a no-fly-zone protection (though this is a contentious issue with aid agencies who feel such restrictions would severely hamper their efforts), does not address border issues with Chad, and of most potential significance, has a timeline that invites classic GoS subverting and delaying tactics. Already there has been contention around its make-up (all-African or not) and perplexity about how the troop commitments will be filled.  It should also be noted that during this period, Sudan again began some aerial bombing in Darfur and more OMINOUSLY, has allowed thousands of Janjaweed to occupy land left by the Darfurians who fled their homes.

You can now observe the timeline and its status/slippage:

October 2007: possible start of Sudan-Darfur rebels peace talks;
   The talks took place in Libya but were unsuccessful, or more accurately premature, since the rebel factions have not agreed to a unified position.  The rebels had earlier met but all the major groups boycotted the Libya talks.  I think the best view of this is that it needs to be seen as one of many steps needed.  It appears that the parties have learned from the failure of the DPA, where artificial deadlines were set and thus failure ensued.  As long as genuine progress is being made - and there is much room and desire (as well as opportunity to delay and subvert things) - the dynamics should be allowed to reach their natural conclusion.  The biggest current step is for the major rebels groups, combined with Darfur civil society more generally, to agree on their demands.

Oct 31: UNAMID command centre to be operational in Darfur;
   Despite Sudan's foot-dragging, on Oct 31, the UN's first centre was reportedly operational in one provincial capital, El Fasher.  This is very encouraging, though it is premature to say how significant it will be.

Dec 31: Transfer of authority from AU to UNAMID; Start of troop deployment.
   On January 1, 2008, the existing AU troops replaced their green berets for the UN blue berets.  Not much else has changed yet.  Here is a sample of Bashir's obstructionist tactics that has slowed the efforts, to the point where questions are being raised about its viability:  he has prohibited almost all non-African troops, often using absurd claims; he has dragged out the whole process through making visas and Port access difficult; and through pathetic negotiations on land and water usage for troops (yes, as with any good manipulator, there will be a grain of legitimacy somewhere in the issue), restrictions on airstrip usage, prohibiting night flights, requiring advance notice of troop movement and even requiring communications be shut down when Sudan conducts its own military operations.

January, 2010: UNAMID is at about 75-80% capacity.

Much more stunning has been the reticence of the Western world (and Arab world as well) to provide the heavy lift capabilities needed and requested months ago. The most striking example has been the UN request for 24 helicopters - the Secretary General specifically asked every UN member . . and has yet to get even a single helicopter committed!!  (Revised: - Ethiopia is to deliver 5 helicopters in Feb/10, still a pitiful response).  It reinforces last year's synopsis that, apart from the world really not caring much or not having the institutional structures that can leverage the concern that exists, that Iraq has siphoned both resources and political will for Darfur. When that is layered atop some legitimate concerns about the logistics and ability to succeed, we end up with the tepid response that President Bashir relishes.


Refugee and IDP Camps: In the fall of 2006, many of the humanitarian NGOs issued a warning that they could not hold out much longer under current conditions that included  restricted access and threats to its workers.  Many areas outside the camps are inaccessible and thus there is no accurate way of knowing how many people are affected, though  between 2.5 and 4 million people (out of 6 million in Darfur) forms the usual bounds for numbers.

In June, 2007, Oxfam permanently withdrew from Darfur's largest refugee camp of 130,00 people, Gereida, citing inaction over requests for better security, following the death of an aid worker, violence against others, and continual hijacking of vehicles of various agencies.

With the March 4, 2009 expulsion of 13 international aid agencies (plus 3 local NGOs), about 40% of the aid capacity has been cut in Darfur (and also affects such conflict areas as Eastern Sudan).  Sudan's claim to be able to fill that gap is not seen as credible.  Much medical aid ceased and such problems as a meningitis outbreak that was under control via MSF, will now start to take its toll. By the beginning of April the camps will be running out of clean water, diarrhea will spread and children will die. And all that is before the food runs out. People will likely flee and overwhelm the camps in Chad or other areas, if they survive the trek.

It must be noted that rape as a weapon is still being used - women who venture outside the camps to get firewood are often attacked and raped by the Janjaweed.  Rape within some of the camps also occurs. In addition, by the end of 2007, it was reported that arms had been flooding into many camps, making them dangerous at any time.


International Criminal Court (ICC):  On Feb. 27, 2007, the ICC named its first two suspects for allegedly committing war crimes in Darfur.  Since then others have been named, culminating in the ICC issuing a warrant for President Bashir. See ICC Implications section below.


July 9, 2011: Creation of the Republic of South Sudan - Two Countries, Many Challenges
On Saturday July 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan became the world's newest (193rd) nation.  Before digging into an analysis it is fitting to stop long enough to recognize that for the South Sudanese this is an event to savour!  From a distance one can only ponder the depth of joy they must feel, given so many deaths, so much pain and cruelty and sacrifice over the last 50 years.

In many ways the tensions around the North - South divide predated the creation of Sudan in 1956 by a century or so. For sure the current dynamics of an elite ruling group (3 Arab tribes) ruling from the centre (Khartoum) with a marginalized periphery, was cemented during the British rule. And even before that, it was the South that provided many of the slaves from East Africa (and not forgetting that some in the South were complicit).

Challenges for any new country are immense and South Sudan is no exception.  Within South Sudan they range from the almost complete lack of infastructure (only around 100 km of paved roads in a country the size of Texas or France); to education (about 15% literacy rate); to the possibility of creating yet another authoritarian and oppressive government (already several splinter groups); let alone dealing with all the unresolved issues of secession from Sudan (oil sharing, debt negotiation, border demarcation, currency and so on).

Sudan (the original Republic of the Sudan, in the north) also shares the joint secession issues (in particular the loss from oil revenue and the unrest that can follow); has heightened tensions surrounding the joint border and the Abyei region (largely self-created); suspicions of ethnic cleansing in the Nuba mountains area; appears to be taking a stricter Islamic tone (making a large number of Southerners still in the North, as well as many people in Darfur, as well as people in the south such as the Nuba, all feel highly vulnerable); and has the ongoing conflict in Darfur. 

Finally, Darfur has again been largley lost in the creation of South Sudan and all its reverberations, notwithstanding the attempt by some to take an all-Sudan approach.  Given that President Bashir has significantly increased his attempts to subdue all resistance in Darfur over the last two years; and given how the 2 million in IDP and refugee camps, as well as the other one to two million in need of aid, have continued to wither; and given that the international community has been so ineffective at helping resolve the conflict; it is only in the sheer resilience of the people, and the perseverance of those trying to resolve the issue, that one can take any hope.


C.  ANALYSIS  [Updated: December, 2009]

The basic anchoring point is that one of the prime duties of a government is to protect its people.  Not only has Sudan failed that test, but by using the Janjaweed, civilians became the prime target, a method consistent with the history of conflict during the Bashir regime.

The above brief survey should be sufficient to demonstrate that while there are many layers at play in this conflict, claims by the government tend to use selective and minor aspects of the overall picture (such as it being a conflict of farmers versus nomads, or that they can't control the Janjaweed - yes there likely are both rogue and fickle elements as indicated above, but the overall picture leans heavily on the side of the GoS control).  The GoS is a master of manipulation, deception and divide-and-conquer techniques.

Finally, while many reports tend to view the GoS as a unified entity, I find Alex de Waal's framing a balancing perspective, viewing it as a continuously in-flux and virtually dysfunctional struggle internally by various power groups and sub-groups, combining with pragmatic alliances with equally self-serving neighbouring players. The stronger one feels that this analysis is correct, the stronger one will advocate all other means of changing the calculus of the GoS, primarily via negotiation (largely based on or patterned after the CPA, improbable as he finds that), over any form of military intervention.  And if military proposals are to be part of any package, they must not imply regime change (except through democratic elections, such as those scheduled by July 2009 as mandated by the CPA), since this regime, like almost any, would fight it and it has ably demonstrated its monstrous capabilities.  His 26-page analysis (the 2nd of two PDF parts) can be Downloaded Here.

Thus, while I find de Waal's highly detailed and nuanced work of value, and have expanded the Strategy section below based on some of his observations, I also believe there is sufficient wriggle room to advocate a ramp-up on the various fronts.  As he and others have noted, Sudan thrives on empty gestures; thus on all fronts (negotiations and other diplomatic channels; sanction threats and other forms of pressure; and peace-keeping operations) the ramp-up must be credible.  And even with that, the key will be in the proper emphasis and timing within the complete package.

Doha Peace Agreement and Its Great Dividing Line: "Trust"
In May 2011, the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, was formalized after two years of negotiations (hereafter, DDPD; full text: UNAMID page containing link to PDF).  The GoS and the LJM rebel movement signed it on July 14, with invitations for other parties to sign it. No other major rebel movement has signed it; rather they have criticized and rejected it, along with most IDP camps.  I hope, soon, to have a proper analysis of it. A quick sweep indicates it has most of the right words and concepts (from disarmament through to development and words like "micro-credit", "sustainable", "capacity-building").  It seems that the divide isn't so much about the document as about trust, specifically the lack of trust in the institutionalized capacity to ensure these are not either mere words, or concepts that may be implemented until the whims of government change.  This latter notion seems to be supported, in essence, by the total rejection by the rebel groups who formed the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), toward the GoS, and thus its clear call for regime change as the essential first step to any durable peace.

Summary of Major Stances:  Before delving into the actual strategies, it should be noted that in many ways the Darfur crisis is a microcosm of international politics - no one can read the mind of another (in this case the GoS decision makers) nor predict with certainty the future; thus one is left making various risk-benefit assessments.   In this case the broadest distinction is between those, such as Alex de Waal, who conceptually do not find genocidal intent rampant, but rather the above chaotic, shifting mix of agendas, and end up concluding that any military (or most other coercive) action will almost inevitably make things worse and that the focus must be on whatever instruments will strengthen democratic dynamics (thus ensure the CPA is supported and whatever else that will lead to the 2009 elections; as well as any negotiations that might mitigate Darfuri suffering now);  and on the other hand, people like John Prendergast, who believe genocidal-or-ethnic-cleansing dynamics are deliberate and that coercive pressure (UN military, sanctions, divestments, etc) has a good chance of lessening those dynamics (as part of his 3Ps: peace negotiations, protection of civilians and punishment of those responsible).  These distinct views require more dialogue to clarify best strategies (and I hope will occur). In general the strategies below are a mixture that leans more heavily on the latter stance, for reasons that currently remain beyond the scope of this article.

Most Likely Default Outcome (Dec./09)

  ICG and Sudan's Next Step>

Implications of ICC Proceedings Against President Bashir:
As backdrop, the ICC's prosecutor has brought 3 sets of people before the court.  In 2007 Ahmed Haroun and Ali Kushayb were named for their roles in Janjaweed atrocities; in July 2008, President Bashir was named on 10 counts; and later the leaders from a rebel movement were included though not named, for the killing of UN peacekeepers.  Regarding the first set, Sudan elevated Haroun to a prominent position in Darfur; they also refused to hand over Ali Kushayb, although after President Bashir's indictment, they did arrest him, saying they could look after him, although nothing more has come of it.

I wish to briefly focus on the effect of naming President Bashir.  There were immediate cheers from the IDP camps and other Darfuris (as well as some S. Sudanese).  For many in Darfur, who have faced gang rape, watched family tortured or killed and their entire communities destroyed, who have been packed into IDP or refugee camps, which are not safe and often deteriorating - they have nothing left to lose - there is no peace anyway, their only hope is for the justice of seeing Bashir clearly named for what they know him as - a repulsive tyrant who masterminded the atrocities.  In my opinion this group sub-divides into those who naively think that the ICC can arrest Bashir (they can't; they have no power to do so and must rely on him being handed over); those who believe this will eventually be a tipping point for the internal struggle within the government, and the GoS will see Bashir as a liability, not likely handing him over but more likely shuffling him off to a safe country (and of course, depending on who one thinks will emerge as the next leader, the outcome will vary); and finally those who still don't see much hope for Darfur, but simply take satisfaction in all they have left - that Bashir has been clearly named for the whole world to see the contemptuous criminal that he is.  (See links below for more in-depth debate).

President Bashir, clearly worried, denounced the charges, labeled them Western interference, smacking of neo-colonialism.  He threatened to pull aid workers (and on March 4, 2009 when the ICC issued a warrant for him, he expelled 13 aid agencies accounting for about 40% of Darfur's aid; more on this, below) and threatened peacekeepers and Westerners in general in Sudan.  He set about rallying the support of the Arab League, the African Union and others, to have the case deferred; some of that initial support has waned recently.  Because of his control of the media in Sudan, he has indicated he will rally support within Sudan.  In essence he has tried to signal that if the "West" thinks the ICC will bring justice by calling for his arrest, then it may come at the expense of any hopes for peace.

It has created a vigorous debate in the international community about the implications, should the ICC proceed to charge him, as is expected on Mar 4, 2009.  For many it is a choice of justice - support the ICC despite consequences;  the reasons for doing so may stem from their support of the innocent victims' stated desires, or may come from the desire to eventually have a more just world and that takes a forum like the ICC that can be seen as credible and successful, etc. That only comes about with hard choices; the alternative is to perpetuate around the world, the tyrannical thuggery that we allow under the guise of national sovereignty (much ink has also be used looking at previous indictments to suggest, anecdotally, that in general such charges tend to diminish the person's stature and do not result in greater long term chaos - for example, former Yugoslavia's Milosevic, Liberia's Charles Taylor, and the current Ugandan LRA leaders).  It may also stem from believing that Bashir has manipulated any agreement for his purposes and will continue to do so, and thus those who feel such a process may lead to peace are deluded, including those who feel the CPA is a counter-example (no, even there Bashir has simply drawn out the process to avoid giving away substantive power, and has been manipulating the census, etc., to ensure he will win any eventual elections, etc).

For others it is a choice of peace - negotiations are the only way to produce lasting peace and the ICC move either shreds such a path or at least makes it problematic;  they see in the broader picture that Sudan's North-South agreement, which ended 20 years of war, with 2 million dead, and which is in a very fragile state, could unravel due to the implications of charging Sudan's head of state, which could plunge the whole nation into civil war.  The best path is to minimally defer the charges (done within the UN Security Council, annually) which might maintain enough peace/stability to perhaps resolve the obstacles to peace agreements.  For some, Bashir needs to stay in order to implement the remaining critical elements of the CPA; for others, having the government remove Bashir and provide him safe haven in another country, would be much preferable.  Either way, justice won't technically be served, but over time if all works out, the people's lives can resume some form of normalcy, which really is the desired goal.  It may even be possible to obtain justice later, according to historical precedent (whereby many leaders charged only on paper, eventually did end up being caught).

Of course everyone would prefer peace with justice and the above can only sketch the most basic of positions, Darfur showing how complex that can be in reality.  Relevant here, is this website's notion of Well-Being, which holds in tension the complexity of factors involved here.  For me, I side with the ICC, partly because enough seemingly informed Darfuris do, and partly because I think there are enough openings to move forward without a significant loss as viewed through Darfuri eyes (and many S. Sudanese eyes as well).  I doubt true justice will be served, at least in the short term, and I think some greater violence is most likely to occur in the short term.  But if the Darfuris are willing to take that risk, then I support them, and call on the international community to exert the type of overwhelming impetus for peace with justice, narrow as that path is (diplomatic primarily, but also protecting the civilians via a fully supported UNAMID) that Bashir, and the government in general might actually heed.

Links of fuller debate:
  Enough Project Support of ICC
  Alex de Waal, et al, on Problems of ICC (especially Feb 11-9 entries)
Short articles:
  NYT: Desmond Tutu: African leaders should support justice and ICC
  NYT: Graham: Defer Charges; N-S Agreement needs Bashir; He can adapt

Implications of JEM attacks on Khartoum, May, 2008:  JEM's stated aim in attacking Khartoum, was to bring the Darfur conflict to the capital, to burst the "Khartoum bubble" - where those living in the capital had previously been insulated from the conflict via distance and media manipulation. JEM has stated that by bringing the conflict to the capital, it will exert pressure on President Bashir to resolve the conflict. Even if this is taken at face-value, it is a gamble involving both the Darfuris living in Khartoum, who have and could continue to be targeted by the government; and Darfur at large, as it easily plays into the hands of GoS hardliners. However as noted above in the NYT article, it could also be a move having more to do with the status of JEM than direct concern for Darfur. These can only remain conjectures at this early stage in these changed dynamics.


D.  STRATEGIES TO END THE CONFLICT  [Revisions:  Major: August, 2007;  Minor: December, 2010]

There are three levels that require attention in order to bring lasting peace to Darfur: (1) Darfur and its relationship with the Sudanese government; (2) Sudan itself, which, due to its history of a strong center neglecting or playing off its peripheries, remains vulnerable to having any internal agreement unravel due to this unstable arrangement (for example, there is real concern about the possible unraveling of the CPA [North-South agreement], which would most likely drag down with it any Darfur agreement; brewing issues have also existed in the East and in the North); (3) Sudan's neighbouring countries, which continually present instability factors.

Dec./10:  Given the South's referendum will be voted on starting January 9, 2011, the following points, while all remaining valid and necessary pieces of the solution, need to be updated to address and highlight the post-referendum tensions and flash points that exist given that the Abyei referendum has been scrapped, the borders haven't been all demarcated, etc.  It seems the best one can hope for is that no trigger points will escalate, and the two sides will gradually stumble through sufficiently non-volatile milestones.

Dec./09:  The following points remain the key and multi-layered pieces of the puzzle.  But is is worthy to add that since the U.S. revised Sudan Policy, combined with the AU report, there is the possibility of anchoring a coherent international stance that, with sufficient backing and continued monitoring, would maximize the chances that the pieces of the puzzle may be actually put into proper place.

1.      DARFUR: Just Peace Agreement:
Ultimately negotiation is the only step to a lasting peace.  There are three essential common goals that must be addressed, as clarified by the Enough Project [Common Requirements]: (1) Political empowerment (the lack of this is what ignited the 2003 attacks); it must be based on the 1993 census not the 2008 one which left out all displaced people; (2) Security: This starts with the full UNAMID deployment, includes a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program (DDR), ending with a displaced people feeling secure enough to return home and finding a new civilian police and dispute mechanism program, partly relying on traditional dynamics as suitable; (3) Welfare: All dispossessed people will receive adequate restitution of stolen livestock, etc; The issue of land tenure must also be satisfactorily resolved.

Steps to assist this include (not in any order; they are all needed):

a.       Unifying the Rebel Voice:
[2018]: There really only exist JEM, SLA/AW and SLA/MM as significant groups.  SLA/AW is being attack for the last year in Jebel Marra and the GoS and RSF have broken into the area.  All groups are weaker now; JEM doesn't operate in Darfur and suffers from a lack of leadership since the death of its original leader Kahlil Ibrahim.

[2010]:The rebel movement has fractured into many factions (although again I suggest the number is overplayed - there are 4 or 5 groups that should be part of the political process; the remainder are largely minor groups motivated by opportunism or plain banditry; this view has been reinforced by Enough Report on Rebels).  Until the rebels can agree on a common set of demands, noted above, negotiations will remain uncertain. Efforts have occurred, although prior to the first two meetings their locations were bombed by the GoS.  More concerted international effort is needed to expedite this process, and the August 2007 meetings were wobbly steps in this effort. The May 10, 2008 attacks by JEM on Khartoum, call into question the whole enterprise of rebel unification. In the aftermath, the SLA/Unity position must be clarified before anything meaningful can be stated (SLA/Unity controls North Darfur and is active in West and South Darfur. With up to 20,000 troops, they remain a somewhat little understood factor).

b.      Giving Darfur Its Own Voice:
The original DPA was flawed in that it didn't include the voices of all the stakeholders in Darfur (non-rebel leaders such as tribal leaders, women, CBOs, etc) and had a forced deadline.  This dialogue must be formally established and given resources and prominence to reach whatever endpoint it can.

c.       Resolving the Issue of Land Tenure:
Traditionally, the farmers have had a form of title to land while the camel-herding nomadic Arab Darfur tribes have not. Years ago there was a missed opportunity to resolve this. With desertification squeezing the available land, it increases tension. In some ways this is a sub-heading under the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue - all parties must come to some consensus on how to fairly resolve this issue. It is hard to imagine sustainable peace otherwise.

d.       Changing the Calculus of the GoS: so that it finds it in its own self-interest to enter into true negotiations, as opposed to using negotiations as stalling tactics. (see some of the interim actions).

2.      DARFUR: Interim Actions:

a.       The Janjaweed (now RSF) and all other hostilities must be stopped.  This has been agreed to, and then ignored on several occasions.

b.      Ensure access for humanitarian aid - it has often been restricted and aid workers threatened; the expelled aid capacity must be reinstated.

c.       Strengthen the moderate voices within Darfur.  These are the people who know the above history is one where, on the one hand, when left to itself, Darfur has a resilience in its centuries-old dynamics, yet on the other hand, know it is been manipulated by others for other agendas, always leaving Darfur worse off.

d.      Freeze assets  on key figures who planned or orchestrated the atrocities;

e.       Authorize a forensic accounting firm to aid those seeking to uncover the corruption of the GoS leaders and to try to trace companies providing financial support to the illegal militias ( see ICG Briefing #43, Oct 12, 2006);

f.        Impose travel bans on key figures;

g.       Impose sanctions that harm the perpetrators but not the population at large;

h.       Enforce a no-fly zone for Darfur, though only in conjunction with full package;

i.         Act to reduce the growing effect in neighbouring countries;

3.      DARFUR: Last Resort:

a.       Implement the full force of UN Security Council Resolution 1769, which transitions the woefully understaffed 7000 AU peacekeepers into a more fully robust AU-UN hybrid mission of an additional 26,000 personnel. UNSC 1769 took effect on Jan. 1, 2008, but has been hobbled both by GoS roadblocks and the international community's reluctance to fully embrace it (incredulously being unable thus far to find 24 - yes 24 - helicopters among the thousands that are collectively owned or could be leased . . . and yes it does require extra helicopters, acceptable pilots, maintenance personnel, etc - but still!!)

b.       It should be noted that according to some analysts, such as former General Romeo Dallaire (who headed the UN mission during the Rwandan genocide) that he estimates needing at least 40,000 troops.


4.      SUDAN: Strengthen and Broaden the CPA:

[2018April]: While South Sudan is its own country now, the general sentiment holds, namely that the peripheries of Sudan, need to be included as equals in a just distribution of power and resources.  Currently there is no one with such a vision openly in the GoS.  Some rebel formations have drawn up charters for such a state but it remain a dream for now.

[2010] The GoS has other smoldering peripheries than Darfur. The South's agreement, the CPA, which it signed in 2005, is fraying. Its deadlines are behind schedule, its division of oil revenues does not yet match its targets, etc. In many ways, the fate of Darfur and the South are intertwined.  The GoS also has conflictual situations in the East and North.  Unless it wants a perpetual state of crisis (which has served it well in the past, but does make it vulnerable to manipulation from neighbouring countries, as well as vulnerable to any form of uniting of the peripheries), it needs to strengthen the CPA and use it as a basis to address the country-wide concerns.  While this seems like quite a conceptual leap, it must be continually raised up by the international community as Sudan's only real hope for stability.  For more details, see International Crisis Group Recommendations.


5.      SUDAN'S NEIGHBOURS: Stabilize the Whole Region:

On August 22, 2007, a draft proposal was being circulated to help address the spillage of the Darfur conflict into Chad and the Central African Republic (See Guardian article;  Update: The EU will send over 3,500 troops starting in Feb/08 - see Reuters article). While it holds some promise, it is only part of the overall picture that must be held in view. Sudan shares borders with 9 other countries; For example,on its eastern section, Sudan and Ethiopia have interacted for better and generally worse, for decades, and more recently Eritrea (and Dec/07, even Kenya convulsed, previously a relative bastion of stability, and aside, its opposition leader previously had ties to Sudan). Thus, at an even more conceptual leap than the above section, true peace and prosperity will require all neghbouring countries to achieve more stable dynamics, whether it is through the existing umbrella organization, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or some other AU forum.  As unthinkable as that may seem, it was at one point, as unthinkable among Europe's countries.



All above efforts should be done simply for the sake of the Darfurian victims, and more generally victims within the entire region.  However I wish to end on a more visionary note, however improbable.  Should the Darfur crisis be properly resolved, one hundred years from now it just might been seen as the pivotal tangible action that started the world towards the end of genocide and other acts whereby international thugs had been allowed free reign, hiding behind the rule of national sovereignty.  The international pieces are in place to take international structures and dynamics to a new plateau, thanks to the UN Assembly's accepting the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, and the UNSC adopting Resolution 1706, based on it (now morphed into Resolution 1769).  I doubt I will see the fruition of this process in my lifetime, but the ending of slavery did occur (with exceptions) and while this next level is a quantum level more complex to implement, sooner or later enough of the world will see that a more decent world dynamic is in everyone's best long-term interest and such a vision will prevail.



Send feedback to:  Rod Downing.

  Back to Home (UntilAll.org)

Main Sources:

M. W. Daly: Darfur's Sorrow: A History of Destruction and Genocide (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007): Most detailed and coherent of recent histories.

Alex de Waal, editor: War In Darfur And The Search For Peace (Harvard: Global Equity Initiative, 2007): Interesting set of authors; worth it simply for Alex de Waal's highly detailed post-mortem of the DPA negotiation dynamics.

Julie Flint and Alex de Waal: Darfur: A Short History of a Long War (New York: Zed Books, 2005):  Good careful facts; but is not particularly well written in terms of flow, etc.  [2008 Edition: Much better layout, flow and updated information].

Gerard Prunier: Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005): Slightly more sweeping, a little cavalier?; haven't read the newly revised one.

Various UN reports and documents; ICG, HRW, and SSRC (de Waal) reports; New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, Al Jazeera, Sudan Tribune, etc., articles; and Radio Dabanga.

Key sources have also been my Darfuri contacts.

Other Perspectives of Value:

Mahmood Mamdani: Saviours and Survivors (Pantheon: 2009): Good academic research, but otheriwse I found too out of touch with on-the-ground dynamics.  Good to see his critique of the activist community (under "Save Darfur" umbrella, of which I am very loosely a part) but very dated & stereotyped.  Good to raise up vision of AU, but no critique of it, etc.

Rob Crilly: Saving Darfur: Everyone's Favorite African War (Reportage: 2010): Crilly's book is neither academic history nor analysis; it is journalistic observations during his time in Darfur, & thus differs from the other books.  There is good value in his anecdotes and how much messier a picture it can paint.  As such he takes aim at the activist movement's simplified scripts, though again along with its value, it is dated and sterotypical, just not nearly as much as Mamdani, and with a seemingly clearer understanding of such movements, their value and pitfalls.  One chief argument hinges on the "teddy bear and teacher" story, which was defused by background negotiation, allowing Bashir to change stance without losing face.  Good to reinforce the value of negotiations, but without a dissection of its limits in this context, it is prone to being vastly overplayed.

Rebecca Hamilton: Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide (Palgrave MacMillan: 2011): While the author was part of those voices in America working to end the atrocities in Darfur, her book presents a well-grounded account of that citizen's movement (in the U.S,)  No rose-coloured glasses here - it coaxes out invaluable insights regarding the limitations, failed understandings, and so on, that the above two books could not plumb and thus often could only unhelpfully caricature.  Whether one wants to understand where the campaigns to "Save Darfur" were on solid ground and where and why terribly off-base; or whether one wants to learn from this in general the promise and pitfalls of citizen movements that want change for far-away places or complex issues, this book should be considered essential reading.


Rod Downing holds both a M.Sc. degree and a Master's in philosophical theology with a focus on global issues.  He has been a peace / justice activist for over 30 years, and in particular has had a focus on Darfur soon after it erupted in 2003-4.




BBC website (2006): (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6213202.stm)


The BBC News website examines how this instability has spilled over into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic.



1. Chad accuses the Sudan government-backed Arab Janjaweed militia of attacking villagers in Chad. It says the militia has also attacked some of the 200,000 refugees that came to eastern Chad after fleeing violence in Darfur.  Chad also accuses Khartoum of backing the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD), which is a coalition of small armed groups and army deserters who have launched cross border attacks from Darfur. These attacks have raised communal tensions in eastern Chad, which has a similar ethnic make-up to Darfur.



2. Sudan accuses Chad of backing Darfur's National Redemption Front rebels as they carry out cross-border raids. There have also been allegations that many of these rebels have become assimilated into Chad's national army - a charge Chad's government denies.  Some Darfur rebels come from the same Zagawa ethnic group as Chad's President Idriss Deby.



3. The Central African Republic (CAR) says Sudan backs Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) rebels who have seized towns in CAR.  The government says the UFDR are operating from Darfur with the support of the Sudanese authorities.  French forces have already deployed against CAR rebels in support of the government



4. Chad says it will send troops to help CAR fight rebels attacking northern CAR.  It accuses Sudan of attempting to destabilise both Chad and CAR and has suggested an anti-Sudan alliance.  Almost 50,000 refugees have arrived in Chad in recent weeks, fleeing fighting in CAR.



[Note: Cluster map has been reset in April 15, 2017, due to new scheme]