skip to content

The Sudan and Darfur Research Collections

The scene just outside a camp for displaced persons near Nyala, Sudan. A family gathers firewood then makes the long trek back to the camp, as it is unsafe for women to gather firewood alone. The family passes by a dead donkey belonging to a woman who was raped and murdered outside the camp.
Photograph by Bradley E. Clift, April 25, 2005 from the Bradley E. Clift Collection in the Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.


An Overview of the Conflict in Sudan

(Information courtesy of the United States National Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Sudan is Africa’s largest country and has been at war with only a brief reprieve (1971-1982) since its independence from Great Britain in 1956. With power centralized in the north around its capital Khartoum and natural resources concentrated in the South, Sudan is further divided by religion, ethnic differences, and economic disparities. Lasting over two decades, the second civil war between the North and South resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2 million people and displaced 4 million others. An on-going conflict in the western region of Darfur was marked by a period of intensive, systematic targeting of the civilian populations from the Fur, Zaghawa, and Masaalit ethnic groups.

The government-backed groups, also known as ’Janjaweed,’ routinely raid and burn villages, arbitrarily kill civilians, steal livestock, and systematically rape women. In the course of attacks, government and Janjaweed forces routinely use racial epithets, indicating their desire to remove black Africans from the land and replace them with ethnically Arab Africans allied with Khartoum. On September 9, 2004, the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that genocide was occurring in Darfur.

Today, Sudan’s entire civilian population faces enormous threats from continuing and potentially new violence. In January 2011, Sudan faced a decisive political moment when southerners voted in favor of independence in a referendum stipulated by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the civil war in 2005. With unresolved disputes over borders and resources, in addition to the challenges of creating new political systems in both the north and the south, the process of formal separation is seeded with potential sources of conflict. Partition will take place amid ongoing conflict in Darfur, sporadic incidents of violence in the South, uncertainty about the status of key transitional regions between the north and south, and rumblings of discontent in the east. Half of Darfur’s six million people are dependent on a precarious international aid effort, as displacement and insecurity continue.

The Sudanese government has established its capacity and willingness to commit genocide and related crimes against humanity. This is evidenced by actions the government has taken in the western region of Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and the South that include:

• Use of mass starvation and mass forcible displacement as a weapon of destruction;
• Pattern of obstructing humanitarian aid;
• Harassment of internally displaced persons;
• Bombing of hospitals, clinics, schools, and other civilian sites;
• Use of rape as a weapon against targeted groups;
• Pitting ethnic groups against each other, with enormous loss of civilian life;
• Training and supporting ethnic militias who commit atrocities;
• Destroying indigenous cultures;
• Enslavement of women and children by government-support militias;
• Impeding and failing to fully implement peace agreements.

While rebel groups in the south and Darfur have also committed abuses, the Sudanese government, led by Omar Al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity, bears primary responsibility for atrocities against and continued danger to civilians.

This resource is a collaboration between the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and the Human Rights Institute at the University of Connecticut, Storrs,
with guidance from the United States National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.