Darfur: The Crisis Continues

In September 2004, President George W. Bush declared the crisis in Darfur “genocide” — the first time a sitting American president had made such a declaration regarding a crisis that was still ongoing.

Despite the world’s growing outcry, however, the violence persists in Darfur and the number of dead and displaced continues to increase.

Currently, as many as 3 million people have been displaced within Darfur, with an estimated 263,000 refugees living across the border in Chad.

Overall, the UN estimates that more than 3.2 million people in Darfur (out of a total population of roughly 7.5 million) are still affected by the conflict.

Key Facts

  • On September 9, 2004, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell declared the conflict in Darfur genocide. This was the first time the U.S. had ever declared genocide while the genocide was still occurring.
  • The genocide in Darfur has claimed 300,000 lives and displaced over 3 million people.
  • 3.2 million people, more than a third of Darfur’s population, remain in need of humanitarian assistance
  • More than 300,000 people have been displaced by violence in 2013

Spring 2003

A Genocide Unfolds


The current president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, rose to power in a 1989 coup Inheriting a long-running war with rebels in the South, Bashir sought to gain an upper hand by intensifying attacks, especially in the Nuba Mountains region.

The genocide in Darfur began in the spring of 2003 when two Darfuri rebel movements — the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) — launched attacks against government military installations as part of a campaign to fight against the historic political and economic marginalization of Darfur.

The Sudanese government, which at the time was engaged in tense negotiations with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) to end a two decade long civil war between the north and the south, responded swiftly and viciously to extinguish the insurgency. Through coordinated military raids with government-armed militia (collectively known as the janjaweed), the Sudanese military specifically targeted ethnic groups from which the rebels received much of their support, systematically destroying the livelihoods of Darfuris by bombing and burning villages, looting economic resources, and murdering, raping and torturing non-combatant civilians.

An interactive history of the conflict

The Response

United States

darfur-colin_powell-genocideDespite Secretary of State Colin Powell’s use of the term “genocide” to describe the crisis in Darfur on September 9, 2004, the U.S. did not change its official policy towards Darfur because Washington was supposedly already pressuring the Sudanese government to stop abuses. The Bush administration did, however, renew its targeted arms sanction that had originally been imposed by the Clinton administration in 1997. Additionally, in May 2007, they issued a new economic sanction, preventing 31 companies and 3 individuals from conducting business in the U.S, or with U.S. companies.

Although action at the executive level of government proved largely disappointing, policy decisions at the legislative level were more promising. In a unanimous vote in the House and Senate in July 2004, Congress declared “the atrocities unfolding in Darur, Sudan, are genocide.” Both the House and the Senate passed the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act which was signed into law on October 13, 2006. Under this law, sanctions were to be imposed against people responsible for genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity. The House also provided $55 million in aid to the African Union (AU) peacekeeping operation in Darfur and called for NATO assistance to the AU.

United Nations

Peacekeeping - UNAMIDThe United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has passed several resolutions on Darfur including establishing an arms embargo and offensive flight ban over Darfur and referring the Darfur case to the International Criminal Court. Unfortunately, few of the resolutions have been enforced.

The UNSC also deployed a hybrid peacekeeping mission known as the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to replace an underfunded and underequipped African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur in January 2008. Nevertheless, to this day, UNAMID remains without the necessary resources to protect the 3 million internally displaced persons who live in large camps across Darfur.

The Sudanese government has continuously obstructed UNAMID and humanitarian organizations by restricting access, leaving the most vulnerable civilians cut off from outside aid and assistance.

The International Criminal Court

al-bashir-to-icc-sudan-tribuneIn March 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for two counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity. The following summer, the ICC added genocide to the charges against al-Bashir.

The ICC has also issued arrest warrants for Ali Kushayb and Ahmad Haroun for a combined 92 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against civilians in Darfur. In March 2012, the ICC added Sudan’s current Minister of Defense, Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein to the list, issuing an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

Despite the warrants Bashir continues to travel to many countries with impunity.

What We Are Calling For

niemat-ahmadi-what-we-call-forThe Sudanese government remains willing to use deadly force against Darfuris to further their own political goals. We call on the U.S. government and all members of the United Nations to respond to the Sudanese government’s atrocities against civilians by:

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