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Is the Sudanese government responsible for the conflict in Darfur?

Background Information


Read this carefully. It may help you to answer some of the questions.

The Darfur Conflict is an ongoing conflict centered on the Darfur region of Sudan. It began in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) groups in Darfur took up arms, accusing the Sudanese government of oppressing black Africans in favor of Arabs. One side of the conflict is composed mainly of the official Sudanese military and police, and the Janjaweed, a Sudanese militia group recruited mostly from the African-Arab Muslim tribes in the northern region of Sudan. The other group is made up of rebels, notably the SLA and the JEM, recruited primarily from the African non-Arab Muslim ethnic groups in the Darfur region. Although the Sudanese government publicly denies its support of the Janjaweed, multiple human rights groups have accused it of providing financial assistance to the militia and participating in joint attacks targeting civilians.

There are various estimates on the number of human casualties, while the United Nations gave the figure at 300 000, the Sudanese government disputes the figure contending that deaths in Darfur are only a tiny fraction of that – less than 10 000. Besides the high death toll, there have also been mass displacements and forced migrations, of millions into refugee camps all over the border, creating a large humanitarian crisis.


The role of the government in the Darfur conflict is heavily disputed. To what extent is the government responsible for the conflict? Study the following sources to find out.

 Source A A political cartoon drawn by an American student published in a school website.


Study Source A

Why do you think the American student drew this cartoon? Explain    your answer.               [5]

The student drew this cartoon because he was concerned that countries like USA are turning their backs on the conflict in Darfur, Sudan.(Infering the Purpose) 

The woman and children represent the Darfur conflict, they are standing on a floor mat which says ‘USA’. (Content)

This shows that the Sudanese have arrived at the doorstep of USA and are appealing for help from the Americans. From the cartoon we can infer that USA is looking at the conflict in Darfur from a peephole, the Americans knew of the conflict but are not opening the door to lend a helping hand. (Explanation)

The student wants to rally support and raise awareness amongst his fellow school mates and the Americans (Audience) that Darfur is suffering and it needs help from USA  so that the Americans would appeal to the US government to intervene in the Darfur conflict. (Outcome)


Source B:    From a magazine article published in April 2005 by a group of        American Professors fighting for UN intervention in the Darfur conflict.

A rebellion broke out in Darfur, led by two rebel groups--the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). These groups represented mostly by non-Arabized black African Muslims. In seeking to defeat the rebel movements, the Government of Sudan increased arms and support to local, rival tribes and militias, which have come to be known as the "Janjaweed." Their members were composed mostly of Arabized African Muslims. Attacks on the civilian population by the Janjaweed, have led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people in Darfur, with an estimated 2 million internally displaced people and another 250,000 refugees in neighbouring Chad.

Source C: From a news report published in May 2005 by the Sudan Tribune

The Sudanese Government claims that the SLA were destabilising the region and jeopardising peace talks with the government. More than two million people in Darfur are homeless, driven from their homes by two and a half years of clashes. Banditry and attacks on aid convoys are increasing and the finger of blame is being firmly pointed at the SLA, Darfur's main rebel movement. The rebels are rejecting any attempts by the African Union to resolve the situation and defuse rising tensions in the area.


Study Source B and C.

 How different are these two sources as evidence about the conflict in Darfur? Explain your answer.                                                               [6]

Sources B and C differs in their viewpoints. (Comparison statement)

Source B has a more balanced viewpoint as to the parties responsible for the conflict, whereas Source C puts the blame solely on one party, the SLA (or one-sided viewpoint) (or bias tone).

From Source B, it is stated that ‘a rebellion broke out in Darfur, led by two rebel groups, SLA and JEM’. This shows that rebel groups were the ones who caused the conflict. However ‘in seeking to defeat the rebel movements, the Government of Sudan increased arms and support to [the Janjaweed]’. This shows that the rebels groups were the ones who started the conflict, however the government is also responsible because in trying to defeat the rebels as it had engaged the Janjaweed.

On the other hand, from Source C, it is stated that ‘SLA were destabilising the region and jeopardising peace talks with the government’. This shows that the government is the victim of the conflict and that the rebel group, SLA is responsible for the conflict.(6m)


Sources B and C differ in their opinion as to the party who is responsible for the conflict.(Comparison statement)

*cannot just mention that Janjaweed caused the conflict, must be specific with specific details, e.g. Janjaweed caused death, kill…

Source B is holding the government of Sudan responsible for the conflict as they are the one who have ‘increased arms and support to local, rival tribes and militias…Janjaweed’ and ‘Attacks on the civilian population by the Janjaweed, have led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people in Darfur’. This shows that the government is to be blame for the conflict as they seen to be supporting the militia, Janjaweed.

On the other hand, Source C is holding the SLA responsible for the conflict. As seen in source C, the ‘Sudanese Government claims that the SLA were destabilising the region’ and ‘Banditry and attacks on aid convoys are increasing and the finger of blame is being firmly pointed at the SLA.’ This show that the SLA and not the government is to be blamed for the conflict.

*note for Source C students are not allowed to quote that the SLA is responsible for causing two million Darfurians to be homeless as it is not explicitly stated. 

Source D:       The opinion of Sudan’s Foreign Minister, expressed in a news interview, published in July 2006.  

There are crimes committed by the Janjaweed definitely, no doubt about that. Maybe other militias also subscribe to some kind of havoc in the region. But, there is a great deal of violations and if you would use, genocide, committed by the SLA and the JEM. But because they got sympathy from everywhere especially the West, and because many people also politicize the situation for different reasons, they are treated like victims. Are countries genuinely concerned about the situation in Darfur? We need to bear in mind some are just interested in establishing a permanent military presence in Sudan to seize control of Sudan’s oil from the Sudanese government

Study Source D.

 How useful is this source as evidence about the conflict in Darfur? Explain  your answer.                                                        [7]     

Go to this linkQuestion (c)                                                

Source E:     From a report in a newspaper published in America, June 2005.

There are numerous reports from international aid workers maintaining that Janjaweed raids would usually be followed by aerial bombardments by the Sudanese air force, that Janjaweed commanders are living in government towns, and that Janjaweed militiamen wear combat uniform identical to those of the Sudan Armed Forces. According to the Human Rights Watch, the Sudanese army was openly recruiting horse-owning Arab men, promising them a gun and a monthly salary of $116 in exchange for joining a Janjaweed cohort.

The Sudanese government has strongly denied offering any support to the Janjaweed.


Study Source E and F

The newspaper report and the Sudan president differ in their views on the role of the Sudanese government in the conflict. Does it mean that one of them is wrong? Explain your answer.                                   [7]                                       

                                                Go to the link Question (d)


Source F:     An American reporter questions Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, April   2006.

Omar al-Bashir: The Janjaweed are a bunch of thieves and gangsters, it is not true that the Sudanese government had given support to the Janjaweed in their campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Reporter: Have you at any point in time mobilised the militias in your fight against the rebel forces?

Omar al-Bashir: The government armed the people who volunteered to fight against the rebels and these people were not Janjaweed. The government has no hesitation at all in disarming the Janjaweed.

Reporter: Musa Hilal, the leader of Janjaweed had admitted to the Human Rights Watch group that the Sudanese military commands the Janjaweed.

Omar al-Bashir: It is not true.


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