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The Darfur Crisis in Context

Francis M. Deng

EXCERPT

The rebellion in Darfur cannot be viewed in isolation from events elsewhere in Sudan.

As a result of the crisis in Sudan’s western region of Darfur an estimated 70,000 people have been killed, one and a half million displaced internally and 200,000 forced into refuge in Chad. A massive programme of humanitarian assistance has improved the situation but security remains precarious, even as the nascent African Union (AU) has stepped in to protect those monitoring th tenuous ceasefire between government and rebels with the planned peacekeeping force of over 3,000 and the AU chairman, President Olesegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, has initiated a peace process between the government and the rebels.

The crisis in Darfur is the latest in a series of conflicts pitting Sudan’s Arab-dominated centre against the “Black-African” marginalised majority at the periphery. These racial labels oversimplify the issue. Sudan suffers from an acute identity crisis resulting from a long history of stratification and discrimination. Historically, being Muslim, Arabic-speaking, culturally Arabised and successfully making claims to Arab descent enhanced one’s status—in sharp contrast wtih being black, heathen and from an area of Sudan long used as a hunting ground for slaves.

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