Darfur, Who Started It? Timelines and UNMIS Background
On this question, it would take a book to explain and there are too many reports in the archives here at Sudan Watch for me to look up and simply point out right now. Off the top of my head, most reports are along the lines of the timelines by UN and CBC (see here below) and the following excerpt from Background report by UN Mission in the Sudan:
The conflict between the North and the South began in 1955, and has continued for all but eleven of the 49 years that Sudan has been independent. [The Sudan gained independence from British-Egyptian rule on 1 January 1956.] For the past two decades, the Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the main rebel movement in the south, have fought over resources, power, the role of religion in the state and self-determination.Excerpts from UN, CBC, Reuters, Islamic Relief, BBC, Human Rights Watch:
The civil war in the south has concluded with the signing of the peace agreement on 9 January 2005, yet another has continued in the Darfur region in the country's west, where tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 1.8 million others displaced or have fled to neighbouring Chad since rebel groups took up arms against the Sudanese Government in early 2003, partly in protest at the distribution of economic resources.
UN - Darfur Timeline: March 2003 - Fighting breaks out in the Darfur region of western Sudan between Government forces and rebels from the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).Excerpt from Coalition for Darfur:
CBC - Timeline of events since fighting began in Darfur, Sudan: In April 2003, refugees began arriving in eastern Chad to escape the conflict that erupted after the two main rebel groups in Darfur, SLA and JEM, began attacking government forces and installations in Darfur, western Sudan.
Reuters - Darfur conflict at a glance - Conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region began in 2003 when two rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), rose up against the government, accusing it of neglect. The government's response was swift and brutal.
Islamic Relief - Darfur Timeline: February - April 2003 - Emergence of SLA and JEM rebel movements in Darfur, who begin to campaign against the marginalisation of the region.; SLA launch surprise attacks on towns in northern Darfur; Refugees begin arriving in eastern Chad to escape the conflict. Large numbers of civilians flee their homes.
BBC Timeline: Sudan: 2003 February - Rebels in western region of Darfur rise up against government, claiming the region is being neglected by Khartoum.
Human Rights Watch: Since February 2003, Sudanese government forces and allied, government-backed militias known internationally as the "Janjaweed" have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of "ethnic cleansing" in Darfur in the context of a military counter-insurgency campaign against rebel groups known as the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) ... the conflict in Darfur in 2003-2004 and the humanitarian crisis it has produced is of an entirely different scale, gravity and nature than the clashes of previous years. This is largely due to the overlap of national security interests - combating the rebel insurgency - and local interests in claiming land and other resources. ... The emergence of the main Darfur rebel movement, the SLA, in February 2003, and its surprising military successes, sharpened fears in the central government, which was then engaged in longstanding political talks in Naivasha, Kenya with the southern rebels, the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) in an effort to end the long-running war in the south. The timing of the SLA's emergence in the midst of the Naivasha talks, its surprising military success in the first months, and fears that it did or could forge a coalition with other real or potential insurgencies seeking power-sharing in Sudan, resulted in the Sudanese government's decision to crush the rebellion militarily. It did this by looking beyond the national army, which had always been manned by ill-trained and ill-motivated conscripts and many troops from Darfur. As one observer noted, "President Bashir did not want to rely on his 90,000-strong regular army. It consists to a large extent of Darfuri foot soldiers whom he does not trust. So the Janjaweed was created."
Kuperman claims, and many others have argued as well, that much of the blame for the situation in Darfur falls on the rebels who, by rebelling, set off the counter-insurgency/genocide that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
As Kuperman says in his op-ed,
"Darfur was never the simplistic morality tale purveyed by the news media and humanitarian organizations. The region's blacks, painted as long-suffering victims, actually were the oppressors less than two decades ago - denying Arab nomads access to grazing areas essential to their survival. Violence was initiated not by Arab militias but by the black rebels who in 2003 attacked police and military installations."
I have seen this idea repeated in several places and so I just wanted to try and set the record straight. Read more: Darfur, Who Started It?