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Sudan and the Darfur Crisis

I. Introduction
II. Overview of Sudan
III. Overview of Darfur Humanitarian Crisis
IV. Trends in the Darfur Crisis
V. Darfur Crisis Testimonies
VI. U.S. Humanitarian Assistance to Darfur
VII. International Effort in Darfur
VIII. Darfur Chronology
IX. Photos

For more than forty years, civil war has raged intermittently in the Sudan between the black African, predominately Christian population of the south and the Muslim, Arab-dominated government of the north. The most recent outbreak of violence began in 1983 following President Ja'far Muhammed Nuayri's decision to withdraw a previous grant of autonomy to the south and impose Islamic law throughout the country. It is estimated that 2 million Sudanese have died over the last two decades, and an additional 4 million Sudanese have been displaced from their homes and villages.1 The vast majority of these casualties are not combatants killed in battle, but southern civilians who succumb to famine and disease.

During the 1990s, U.S. relations with the Sudan were strained, with Washington denouncing the Khartoum regime for its war policy in the south, human rights violations, and support for international terrorism. The U.S. named the Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism and imposed comprehensive sanctions.2 Washington supported the southern insurgents and attempted to isolate Khartoum on the international stage, but did little else to end the fighting in the Sudan. In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, however, the Bush Administration concluded that failed states, such as the Sudan, posed a direct threat to U.S. national security by providing operational bases and safe havens for international terrorists. In response, Washington both deepened its cooperation with the Sudan to combat terrorist activity and re-engaged as a broker in the Sudanese peace process. A Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was officially signed on January 9, 2005, officially ending Africa's longest civil war.3 In 2008, per the CPA, Sudan will conduct a national census, with national elections scheduled for 2009.

In February 2003, a separate conflict began in Darfur, in the western part of the Sudan, when southern rebels attacked government-supported security forces in the town of El Fasher. In contrast to the Sudanese civil war, the combatants on both sides of the Darfur conflict are Muslim. The conflict is mainly between the Janjaweed, a militia group recruited from local Baggara tribes, and of Arab descent, and the non-Baggara Africans of the region. Although the Khartoum regime publicly denies having provided support to the Janjaweed, human rights groups allege that the government has recruited and heavily armed the militia. The horse-mounted Janjaweed stand accused of ethnic cleansing, murdering civilians of the non-Bassara tribes. In July 2004, the U.S. House and Senate declared the atrocities in Darfur genocide, and the Bush Administration issued a similar declaration in September 2004.4 The conflict has spread to neighboring states, with a Sudanese-backed rebel army launching an unsuccessful invasion of Chad in February 2008. The attack was part of a larger regional struggle between Chad and Sudan, which accuse each other of backing rebels in each country.

The conflict has led to a major humanitarian crisis, with an estimated 200,000 Sudanese dead, and an additional 1.9 million people displaced from their villages and more than 213,000 forced into in eastern Chad.5 The United States is the largest single international donor to the Sudan, providing nearly $4 billion for humanitarian programs in Sudan and eastern Chad since FY 2004.6 In FY 2007, the US provided $694.43 million in aid, including over $260 million in food.

On May 5, 2006, the government of the Sudan and a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement and Army (SLM/A) signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). The peace accord, which was brokered by the African Union (AU), calls for a monitored ceasefire and the establishment of a new, transitional regional government in Darfur. Thus far, the peace agreement has failed to halt the violence, primarily because the Khartoum government has failed to disarm its proxy Janjaweed forces and rejected the introduction of a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur. While the U.S. supports the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) of approximately 9,000 peacekeeping troops, it has led the call for a rapid transition to a larger, more robust U.N. peacekeeping mission in Darfur, as outlined in U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1679.

In early 2008, the Khartoum government, while still blocking the participation of certain non-African nations, at last agreed to the deployment of a UN-AU peacekeeping force of 26,000 troops in Darfur, with force granted both freedom of movement and communications. It will take most of 2008, however, to deploy the full force to Darfur.7

I. Overview of Sudan

Table 1: Background Data on Sudan

Table 1: Background Data on Sudan

    Area (sq km) 2.5 million
    Population (2005 estimate) 40.2 million
    GDP (USD 2005) $22.75 billion
    GDP annual growth rate (2005) 7.0%
    Inflation rate (2005) 9.0%

Source: US Department of State,

II. Overview of Darfur Humanitarian Crisis

Table 1: Overview of the Darfur Humanitarian Crisis

Table 1: Overview of the Darfur Humanitarian Crisis

Estimate Source
Conflict-affected persons in Darfur and Eastern Chad 3.4 million people UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) (April 2006)
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) in Darfur 1.8 million people UN High Commissioner for Conflict Affected-Persons in Darfur (UNHCR) (April 2006)
Sudanese Refugees in Chad 220,000 people in camps UNHCR (April 2006)
Sudanese Refugees in Uganda, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Central African Republic, Egypt, and Eritrea 358,000 people UNHCR (March 2006)

Figure 1: Map of Sudan with Darfur Region
Click to enlarge

Source: US Department of State,

Figure 2: Map of Camps for IDPS in Darfur

III. Trends in the Darfur Crisis


Figure 1: Estimated IDP and Total Affected Population
Click to enlarge

Source: UNSUDANIG, Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 29 (1 Oct. 2007). Available at

Figure 2: Projected IDP and Refugee Returns in 2007 - "Most Likely Scenario"

IV. Darfur Crisis Testimonies

V. U.S. Humanitarian Assistance to Sudan

Figure 3: US AID Assistance to Sudan FY 2007
Click to enlarge

Source: USAID, Sudan Monthly Update (November 2007). Available at

VI. International Effort in Darfur

1. Tables on UN effort available at

VII. Darfur Chronology




Figure 3: US AID Assistance to Sudan FY 2007
Click to enlarge

White House Photo by Paul Morris.

Suggested Reading

    • Francis Deng, "Sudan at the Crossroads," Audit of Conventional Wisdom, MIT Center for International Studies, May 2007.

    • Gerard Prunier: Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide (Ithaca: Cornell Univeristy Press, 2005).

    • M. W. Daly: Darfur's Sorrow: A History of Destruction and Genocide (New York: Cambridge Univeristy Press, 2007).

    • J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins, Darfur: The Long Road to Disaster (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2006).

    • Alex de Waal, ed., War in Darfur and the Search for Peace, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2007).


International Crisis Group,

See, for example,

United Nations Mission In Sudan (UNMIS),

Glenn Kessler and Colum Lynch, "US Calls Kilings in Sudan Genocide," Washington Post (September 10, 2004).

International Crisis Group,


Opheera McDoom, "UN-AU Darfur force needs much of 2008 to deploy," Reuters (Jan. 28, 2008).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology