World View: Darfur War May Explode into Full-Scale Genocide

This morning's key headlines from

  • Darfur war may explode again soon into full-scale genocide
  • History of the Darfur war
  • Assad escalates Syria war again with Scud missiles

Darfur war may explode again soon into full-scale genocide

Darfur refugee camp
Darfur refugee camp

Violent protests by hundreds of students in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, were broken up by police using heavy teargas on Wednesday. The increasingly potent protests, four days so far, were protesting the mysterious deaths of four deaths on December 7 of four Darfuri students, and the disappearance of two others. The bodies of the dead students were found in a canal after they went missing following their participation staged by students from Darfur to protest the university's tuition increases, in violation of their own signed agreements.

This comes at a time when money and troops are being withdrawn from the U.N.'s Darfur peacekeeping force, while violence against the millions of Darfuris in refugee camps is increasing. The U.S. labeled this a genocidal war in 2004 and the U.N. expended enormous resources to separate the sides and stop the fighting.

The war in Darfur, which is a western region of Sudan, has been an interesting case study for Generational Dynamics, since I've been able to follow it since it turned into a generational Crisis war in 2003. (The other war in that category was the Sri Lanka war, which became a crisis war in 2006, and reached a climax when the Tamil Tigers surrendered in May, 2009. Sri Lanka is currently in a generational Recovery era.)

The war began in the 1970s, but the world only discovered it in 2004, and then it became the most popular war in the world, with famous movie stars visiting, one after the other.

History of the Darfur war

Low level violence began in the 1970s between two ethnic groups, one of farmers and the other of camel herders. (There was a similar conflict between farmers and cowboys in the United States in the 1800s.) Farmers are infuriated when herds of animals trample their crops. They'd respond by building fences, and that infuriates the herders. (A more detailed history can be found in my 2007 article, "Ban Ki Moon blames Darfur genocide on global warming")

Sudan and neighboring countries. Southern Sudan is now a separate country, South Sudan
Sudan and neighboring countries. Southern Sudan is now a separate country, South Sudan

Prior to 1983, disagreements could be resolved by the elders, but things changed because of the drought and famine that ran from 1983-85. Both farmers and herders were forced to travel to regions with water, and that brought the two sides into closer contact. It also lessened the role of local leaders, with the result that both farmers and herders began to turn to Khartoum for help.

In Darfur in 1987, there were outside agitators on both sides, resulting in a brief war.

The two groups of Darfuris -- herders and farmers -- could also be distinguished ethnically as Arabs and non-Arabs, respectively. But that distinction had never before made as much difference as the individual tribal identifications, according to Sudan expert Alex de Wall.

A brief 1987 Darfur war was instigated by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who for years had been trying to start up a "pan-Arab" movement across northern Africa, under his leadership. He distinguished between the two groups of Darfuris -- herders and farmers -- could also be distinguished ethnically as Arabs and non-Arabs, respectively. He recruited the "Arab" herders, and tried to agitate them to be part of his attack force on the neighboring country Chad. That attempt failed, but the identity group name "Arab" stuck, and later became associated with the élite group running the government in Khartoum, who also think of themselves as "Arabs," and the other Darfuris as "non-Arabs," or just "Africans."

Once that happened, the conflict became international, with outsiders taking the side of the "Arab" herders or the "African" farmers, depending on their ideology.

In the 1990s, the level of low-level violence increased in Darfur between the two groups. If you're standing in Khartoum, Darfur is almost 1,000 miles away, and seems as far away as the moon, and the Darfuris might as well be an alien species. All the Sudan government wanted was for the Darfuris to take care of themselves, and leave Khartoum alone. Khartoum was already fully engaged in another war, with other ethnic groups in what is now South Sudan.

In the 1990s, the Khartoum government essentially delegated the responsibility of policing the region to the Arab Janjaweed militia, formed from certain groups of herders. This was an ideal solution to Khartoum, since it meant that the "African" and "Arab" Darfuris would have to solve problems themselves, and Khartoum would stay out of it. This would leave the Sudanese army free to focus on the southern war.

The transition from low-level violence to a full-fledged generational crisis war occurred in 2002-03. There were two shock events that triggered this transition.

The first occurred in April, 2002. The young men of one ("African") farmer village in central Darfur complained to the district authorities that they were being harassed by a herder ("Arab") militia group. The shock that they and the farmers received was that, instead of getting help, the young men were jailed, and so was a lawyer who tried to represent them. This infuriated and radicalized the Darfuri "African" farmers, especially the younger generation.

Jailing the young men was a catalyst the led to the formation of the Darfur Liberation Front.

The second shock event (the "regeneracy") occurred on February 26, 2003. The Darfur Liberation Front attacked a police station to take back their lost weapons from the time of the arrest. This action radicalized the "Arab" herders, especially the Janjaweed militia, who previously were supposed to be an impartial police force.

This led to panic in Khartoum. Suddenly the Darfuris, though still 1,000 miles away, turned overnight into a huge mass of millions of people ready to attack Khartoum itself!

In the mass hysteria that followed, the conflict escalated into a full-scale genocidal war. The Janjaweed militias (herders) began a program of mass murders, rapes, genocide and scorched earth.

It was only in 2004 that the word "discovered" Darfur. Jesse Jackson, the so-called anti-war activist, wanted President Bush to send troops into Darfur to stop the slaughter. Joe Biden wanted to move troops out of Iraq, where there no civil war, into Darfur, where there was civil war. He wanted to stop the Darfur civil war with just 2,500 American troops, to "end the carnage" and "stop the bleeding." ( "Still tilting at windmills, the UN will send 'peacekeepers' to Darfur")

The United Nations put millions of Darfuris into tents in the middle of the desert, and dozens of aid organizations sent food in. The idea was to spend $2 billion a year to "stop the bleeding," and then send Kofi Annan in to negotiate a peace deal that would end the war and bring peace to the region.

A generational crisis war MUST run its course. If you can imagine Kofi Annan's grandfather trying to negotiate a peace deal in 1944 between Britain and Germany, or between Japan and the United States, then you can imagine how ridiculous it was to expect a peace deal between the Sudan "Arabs" and "Africans."

Earlier, I mentioned the Sri Lanka civil war. That war ran its course and reached a crisis era climax in 2009, which I described in detail while it was occurring, as well as before and after.

But the Darfur civil war has NOT run its course, and has NOT reached a climax. You still have millions of Darfuris out in the middle of the desert, being protected by a dwindling number of U.N. peacekeepers. Once the peacekeepers are gone, the massive program of genocide, rapes, mass murders and scorched earth will begin again, and this time the war will reach a climax. Sudan Tribune and Reuters

Assad escalates Syria war again with Scud missiles

The regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad is escalating the war further by firing Scud missiles within Syria, presumably at rebel groups, according to U.S. officials. The missiles were fired from the Damascus area into northern Syria. They did not cross the border into Turkey, but they came close. Analysts say the Assad government maintains up to 400 of the short- and medium-range Russian-developed Scud missiles. CNN

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