After more than a decade of rebellion, proxy arming, and shifting alignments between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and both Arab and non-Arab populations in the region, the Darfur conflict appears little closer to resolution than it did in 2003. While the conflict has evolved since 2003, widespread violence, massive displacement, and aerial bombardment remain dominant themes. In the first three months of 2013, new violence displaced nearly 300,000 people, more than in the whole of 2012.
The formal peace process is troubled: the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) which signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) in July 2011, has not been able to deliver substantial change on the ground. The second signatory to the DDPD, a splinter group from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which signed the agreement in April 2013, has not appreciably added to the DDPD’s legitimacy to date. In a further violent setback, its leader, Mohammed Bashar, was assassinated on his return to Sudan, only six weeks after he signed the DDPD.
The major rebel movements, including the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minawi (SLA-MM), the only rebel group to have signed the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement, the SLA-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW), and the mainstream JEM have repeatedly rejected participating in the Doha process. The rapprochement between the long-estranged SLA-MM and the Fur-dominated SLA-AW, as well as with JEM, has been maintained under the banner of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), formed in November 2011. The Darfur movements have conducted several joint operations against government forces in Darfur, and show no sign of giving up their fight.
New conflict trends have emerged in 2013. The most prominent of these, resource-based conflict in the Jebel Amir area of North Darfur over control of artisanal gold mining and trade, began in January 2013. While there is a national dimension to this fighting, with gold now Sudan’s most important resource commodity, the consequences of the fighting have been local and bloody. Other resources have also generated inter-communal violence: in South Darfur, the Gimir and Bani Halba have clashed over the harvesting of gum Arabic. This expansion of the conflict is worrying as it suggests that local means of resolving disputes, already severely stressed by the years of war, can still collapse further.
For more information on Darfur conflict, including on specific armed groups as well as arms flows to the region, use the left-hand navigation bar. See also Issue Brief 18 (‘Business as Usual: Arms Flows to Darfur 2009-12’).