Decision reference number: ECHO/SDN/BUD/2004/02000
1 - Rationale, needs and target population:
1.1. - Rationale:
Since late 2002, the security situation in the Greater Darfur Region of western Sudan has been steadily deteriorating and basically evolved from pocketed and relatively traditional tribal clashes and banditry into a more widespread situation of general insecurity affecting large segments of the population(1) in this vast and inhospitable region which has approximately the size of France. This development took place against a backdrop of desertification, increased competition between sedentary farming communities and nomadic groups over diminishing natural resources, political and socio-economic marginalization, in combination with a breakdown of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms and proliferation of regional small arms trade.
Open warfare erupted in Darfur in early 2003, when the newly emerged Sudan Liberation Movement / Army (SLM/A) attacked Government of Sudan (GOS) forces. Not much later, another armed political group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), came to the forefront. Both groups stand for similar demands, i.a. an end to the region's marginalization, as well as improved protection for their communities from attacks by Arab nomadic groups.
A further dimension was added to the conflict during the latter part of 2003 when militia groups known as 'Arab militia' or Janjaweed(2) were mobilised and started a wide spread campaign involving attacks on civilians and destruction of essential infrastructure (e.g. irrigation channels, water sources) and large scale looting of private household assets, as well as essential livestock and seed stocks (i.e. coping mechanisms) of indigenous non-Arab communities(3). The international community has over the past year on many occasions urged the GOS to protect the civilian population against the Janjaweed attacks.
The targeted and systematic attacks by militia groups led to the conclusion among highranking UN officials(4) and many other actors that the situation unfolding in the Darfur States amounted to 'ethnic cleansing'. Certain other observers, however, refer to a 'protection crisis' in view of the deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians and non-combatants. Escalation of Janjaweed attacks and fighting between the GOS and the armed opposition led, especially since mid-December 2003 when ceasefire talks between the GOS and the rebel groups collapsed, to massive displacement among civilian populations. According to the United Nations and other sources(5), the impact of the conflict on civilians can be summarized as follows:
- One third of the total population of the Darfur region (i.e. approximately 2 million people) is directly or indirectly affected;
- Out of this number, one million people of primarily non-Arab origin are internally displaced;
- Hundreds of towns, villages and other settlements have been burnt, looted and depopulated(6);
- Thousands of Sudanese refugees have fled into Chad;
- At least 10,000 deaths have occurred since early 2003 due to direct killing, as well as excess mortality due to displacement and its consequences (over-exposure, disease, lack of basic services).
Whilst the above facts led to the classification of Darfur as the largest newly emerged humanitarian crisis in the world, the humanitarian response in the Greater Darfur Region was actually very limited to non-existent for most of 2003 and the first months of this year. This was partially related to the low response capacity on the ground and physical conditions (hundreds of pockets with Internally Displaced People (IDPs) scattered over an enormous insecure region with very little to no infrastructure), but the primary cause was and remains related to questionable respect for International Humanitarian Law(7) and related principles (e.g. the obligation of parties to the conflict to facilitate humanitarian assistance delivery to all groups in need in the midst of conflict), as well as related government impediments of an administrative nature (e.g. visa and travel permit restrictions for humanitarian personnel), thus making it difficult and sometimes impossible for humanitarian actors to react to needs in a timely, principled, impartial and meaningful manner.
(1) Population estimates range from 6.5 - 7.7 million inhabitants, divided over more than 60 different ethnic groups.
(2) Janjaweed can be translated as 'armed horsemen'.
(3) This included, according to human rights reports and accounts from affected communities, systematic rape of women and specific targeting of middle-aged men.
(4) UN ERC, Mr. J. Egeland and former Sudan UN RC/HC Mr. M. Kapila.
(5) i. a UN Humanitarian Needs Profile (1 April 2004) and UN Darfur Contingency Plan (10 April 2004).
(6) Exact figures are not yet known.
(7) In particular Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.