Darfur is a region in western Sudan. An independent sultanate for several hundred years, it was incorporated into Sudan by Anglo-Egyptian forces in 1916. The region is divided into three federal states: North Darfur, South Darfur and West Darfur. Because of the war in Darfur between Sudanese government forces and the non-Arab indigenous population, the region has been in a state of humanitarian emergency since 2003.
Most of the region is a semi-arid plain and thus insufficient for supporting a large and complex civilization. While the Marrah Mountains offer plentiful water, the Daju people created the first known Darfurian civilization based in the mountains, though they left no records beside a list of kings. The Tunjur displaced the Daju in the fourteenth century and introduced Islam. The Tunjur sultans intermarried with the Fur and sultan Musa Sulayman (reigned c.1596 to c.1637) is considered the founder of the Keira dynasty. Darfur became a great power of the Sahel under the Keira dynasty, expanding its borders as far east as the Atbarah River and attracting immigrants from Bornu and Bagirmi. During the mid-18th century the country was wracked by conflict between rival factions, and external war with Sennar and Wadai. In 1875, the weakened kingdom was destroyed by the Egyptian ruler set up in Khartoum, largely through the machinations of Sebehr Rahma, a slave-trader, who was competing with the dar over access to ivory in Bahr el Ghazal to the south of Darfur.
The Darfuris were restive under Egyptian rule, but were no more predisposed to accept the rule of the self-proclaimed Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad, when in 1882 his Emir of Darfur, who was from the Southern Darfur Arab Rizeigat tribe led by Sheikh Madibbo, defeated the Ottoman forces led by Slatin Pasha (that had just invaded Egypt earlier that year) in Darfur. When Ahmad's successor, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, himself an Arab of Southern Darfur from Ta’isha tribe, demanded that the pastoralist tribes provide soldiers, several tribes rose up in revolt. Following the overthrow of Abdallahi at Omdurman in 1899 by the Anglo-Egyptian forces, the new Anglo-Egyptian government recognized Ali Dinar as the sultan of Darfur and largely left the Dar to its own affairs except for a nominal annual tribute. During World War I, the British, being concerned that the sultanate might fall under the influence of the Ottoman Empire, invaded and incorporated Darfur into the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in 1916. Under colonial rule, financial and administrative resources were directed to the tribes of central Sudan near Khartoum to the detriment of the outlying regions such as Darfur.
A pattern of skewed development continued following national independence in 1956. To this was added an element of political instability caused by the proxy wars between Sudan, Libya and Chad. The influence of an ideology of Arab supremacy propagated by Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi began to be acted upon by Darfurians, including those identified as "Arab" and "African" people. A famine in the mid-1980s disrupted many societal structures and led to the first significant fighting amongst Darfuris. A low level conflict continued for the next 15 years, with the government co-opting and arming Arab Janjaweed militias against its enemies. The fighting reached a peak in 2003 with the beginning of the Darfur conflict, in which the resistance coalesced into a roughly cohesive rebel movement. The conflict soon came to be regarded as one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. The insurgency and counter-insurgency have led to 480,000 deaths, though the numbers are disputed by the Khartoum government. Over 2.8 million people have been displaced since the beginning of the conflict. Many of these refugees have gone into camps where emergency aid has created conditions that, although extremely basic, are better than in the villages, which offer no protection against the various militias that operate in the region. Whilst nearly two thirds of the population is still struggling to survive in remote villages, their needs have been largely overlooked by the international community, and in the face of soaring inflation in Sudan many families are facing serious difficulties. Virtually no foreigners are able to visit the region because of the fear of kidnapping, and only organizations such as Kids for Kids are continuing to provide long-term grass roots assistance.
Darfur Peace Agreement
A Darfur Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Liberation Movement of Minni Minnawi was signed in 2006. The agreement was signed by only one rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement, and rejected by the Justice and Equality Movement resulting in a continuation of the conflict. The agreement includes provisions for wealth sharing and power sharing and established a Transitional Darfur Regional Authority to help administer Darfur until a referendum could be held on the future of the region. The leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement, Minni Minnawi, was appointed Senior Assistant to the President of Sudan and Chairman of the transitional authority in 2007.
In December 2010 the Sudan Liberation Movement withdrew from the peace agreement and the regional authority. Its leader, Minni Minnawi, fled to Southern Sudan and has since been dismissed as Senior Assistant to the President of Sudan and as Chairman of the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority. The new Chairman Shartai Jaafar Abdel Hakam subsequently dismissed 10 other members of the Sudan Liberation Movement from the authority.
Doha peace forum
In December 2010, representatives of the Liberation and Justice Movement, an umbrella organisation of ten rebel groups, formed in February of that year, started a fresh round of talks with the Sudanese Government in Doha, Qatar. A new rebel group, the Sudanese Alliance Resistance Forces in Darfur, was formed and the Justice and Equality Movement planned further talks. The talks ended on December 19 without a new peace agreement, but basic principles were agreed upon; these included a regional authority and a referendum on autonomy for Darfur. The possibility of a Darfuri Vice-President was also discussed.
In January 2011, the leader of the Liberation and Justice Movement, Dr. Tijani Sese, stated that the movement had accepted the core proposals of the Darfur peace document proposed by the joint-mediators in Doha; the proposals included a $300,000,000 compensation package for victims of atrocities in Darfur and special courts to conduct trials of persons accused of human rights violations. Proposals for a new Darfur Regional Authority were also included; this authority would have an executive council of 18 ministers and would remain in place for five years. The current three Darfur states and state governments would also continue to exist during this period. In February 2011, the Sudanese Government rejected the idea of a single region headed by a vice-president from the region.
On 29 January, the leaders of the Liberation and Justice Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement issued a joint statement affirming their commitment to the Doha negotiations and agreement to attend the Doha forum on 5 February. The Sudanese government had not yet agreed to attend the forum on that date and instead favoured an internal peace process without the involvement of rebel groups. Later in February, the Sudanese Government agreed to return to the Doha peace forum with a view to complete a new peace agreement by the end of that month. On 25 February, both the Liberation and Justice Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement announced that they had rejected the peace document proposed by the mediators in Doha. The main sticking points were the issues of a Darfuri vice-president and compensation for victims. The Sudanese government had not commented on the peace document.
At the Doha Peace Forum in June, the Joint Mediators proposed a new Darfur Peace Agreement, which would supersede the Abuja Agreement of 2005 and if signed, halt preparations for a Darfur status referendum. The proposal included provisions for a Darfuri Vice-President and an administrative structure that includes both the three states and a strategic regional authority, the Darfur Regional Authority, to oversee Darfur as a whole. The new agreement was signed by the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement on 14 July. The Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement did not sign the new document at that time but had three months in which to do so if they wish.