Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the Darfur region of western Sudan. For information on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur see Darfur conflict. For the city in Minnesota see Darfur, Minnesota.
Darfur (Arabic دار فور, meaning "home of the Fur") is a region of far western Sudan, bordering the Central African Republic, Libya, and Chad. It is divided into three federal states within Sudan: Gharb Darfur (West Darfur), Janub Darfur (South Darfur), and Shamal Darfur (North Darfur). The current conflict between the Janjaweed and the non-Arab peoples of the region has led to the ethnic cleansing of tens of thousands and the displacement of millions (see Darfur conflict).
Darfur covers an area of some 493,180 km² (196,555 miles²), with an estimated population of 6 million people. It is largely an arid plateau with the Marrah Mountains (Jebel Marra), a range of volcanic peaks rising up to 3,000 m (10,100 ft), in the centre of the region. The north comprises a sandy desert, while bush forest exists in the south. The region's main towns are El Fashir , Nyala, and El Geneina .
Economy and demography
Darfur's economy is primarily based on subsistence agriculture, producing cereals, fruit and tobacco as well as livestock in the drier north. The main ethnic groups are the Fur (after whom the region is named), speaking a Nilo-Saharan language, and the Arab Baggara. Others include the non-Arab Zaghawa, Masalit, and Midob . The Baggara are divided into several tribes. Some of them, such as the Misseiria , speak languages other than Arabic natively. Many of these ethnic groups also have significant populations in neighboring Chad, particularly the Zaghawa and Baggara.
During much of Darfur's history, relations between the Arab and non-Arab inhabitants of the region have been tense. Formerly, it was a centre of the slave trade, with the Fur kingdom exporting Africans from other parts of Sudan as slaves to the Arab world. The Arab and non-Arab inhabitants of the region have differing economic needs, which has led to clashes: the non-Arab peoples are primarily sedentary farmers, while the Arabs are nomadic herdsmen, which has brought them into conflict over access to land and water resources.
The languages of Darfur include:
- Zaghawa , in the north
- Fur, in the center, from Wadi Azum in the west to Al Fasher in the east.
- Daju, in a small pocket near Nyala
- Tama, in a small pocket between Jebel Si and Jebel Marra
- Erenga , north of Geneina and across the border in Chad
- Arabic, particularly south of Nyala and in the east, but also touching the Chad border in a narrow strip north of Jebel Si, between Fur and Zaghawa
- Masalit, west of Wadi Azum and around Geneina; also spoken across the border, and in a small isolated area south of Nyala
- Sinyar , along the border south of Masalit
- Kujarge and Fongoro , south of Sinyar
- Fulbe, in a small area south of Nyala
- Beigo , in a small area south of Nyala
The Darfur region is mostly semi-arid plains that cannot support a dense population. The one exception is the area in and around the Jebal Marra mountains. It was from bases in these mountains that a series of groups expanded to control the region.
Kingdoms of Darfur
The Daju , inhabitants of Jebel Marra, appear to have been the dominant group in Darfur in the earliest period recorded. How long they ruled is uncertain, little being known of them save a list of kings. According to tradition the Daju dynasty was displaced, and Islam introduced, about the 14th century, by the Tunjur (of uncertain, possibly Arab origins), who reached Darfur by way of Bornu and Wadai. The first Tunjur king is said to have been Ahmed el-Makur , who married the daughter of the last Daju monarch. Ahmed reduced many chiefs to submission, and under him the country prospered.
His great-grandson, the sultan Dali, a celebrated figure in Darfur histories, was on his mother's side a Fur, and thus brought the dynasty closer to the people it ruled. Dali divided the country into provinces, and established a penal code, which, under the title of Kitab Dali or Dali's Book, is still preserved, and differs in some respects from Quranic law. His grandson Soleiman (usually distinguished by the Fur epithet Solon, the Arab or the Red) reigned from c.1596 to c.1637, and was a great warrior and a devoted Muslim; he is considered as the founder of the Keira dynasty.
Soleiman's grandson, Ahmed Bahr (c.1682-c.1722), made Islam the religion of the state, and increased the prosperity of the country by encouraging immigration from Bornu and Bagirmi . His rule extended east of the Nile as far as the banks of the Atbara. The death of Bukr initiated a long running conflict over the succession. On his death bed Bakr stated that each of his many sons should rule in turn. Once on the throne each of his sons instead hoped to make their own son heir, leading to an intermittent civil war that lasted until 1785/6 (AH 1200 ) Due to these internal divisions Darfur declined in importance engaged in wars with Sennar and Wadai.
One of the most capable of the monarchs during this period was Sultan Mohammed Terab , one of Ahamd Bukr's sons. He led a number of successful campaigns. In 1785/6 (AH 1200 ) he led an army against the Funj, but got no further than Omdurman. Here he was stopped by the Nile, and found no means of getting his army across the river. Unwilling to give up his project, Tayrab remained at Omdurman for months and the army began to grow disaffected. According to some stories Tayrab was poisoned by his wife at the instigation of disaffected chiefs, and the army returned to Darfur. While he tried to have his son succeed him the throne instead went to his brother Abd al-Rahman .
Abd-er-Rahman, surnamed el-Rashid or the Just. It was during his reign that Napoleon Bonaparte was campaigning in Egypt; and in 1799 Abd-er-Rahman wrote to congratulate the French general on his defeat of the Mamelukes. To this Bonaparte replied by asking the sultan to send him by the next caravan 2000 black slaves upwards of sixteen years old, strong and vigorous. Abd-er-Rahman also established a new captial at Al Fashir , the royal township, which he established as capital in 1791/2. The capital had formerly been at a place called Kobb .
Mohammed-el-Fadhl , his son, was for some time under the control of an energetic eunuch, Mohammed Kurra , but he ultimately made himself independent, and his reign lasted till 1838, when he died of leprosy. He devoted himself largely to the subjection of the semi-independent Arab tribes who lived in the country, notably the Rizeigat , thousands of whom he slew. In 1821 he lost the province of Kordofan, which in that year was conquered by the Egyptians ordered to conquer the Sudan by Mehemet Ali. The Keira dispatched and army but it was routed by the Egyptians near bara on August 19, 1821. The Egpytians had been intending to conquer the entirety of Darfur but their difficulties consolidating their hold on the Nile region forced them to abandon these plans.
Al-Fadl died in 1838 and of his forty sons, the third, Mohammed Hassan , was appointed his successor. Hassan is described as a religious but avaricious man. In 1856 he went blind and for the rest of his reign his sister Zamzam, the iiry bassi , was the de facto ruler of the sultanate.
Beginning in 1856 a Khartoum businessman al-Zubayr Rahma began to set up operations in the land south of Darfur. He set up a network of trading posts defended by well armed forces and soon had a sprawling state under his rule. This area known as the Bahr el Ghazal had long been the source of the goods that Darfur would trade to Egypt and North Africa especially slaves and ivory. The natives of Bahr el Ghazal paid tribute to Darfur, and these were the chief articles of merchandise sold by the Darfurians to the Egyptian traders along the road to Asyut. Al-Zubayr redirected this flow of goods to Khartoum and the Nile.
Hassan died in 1873 and the succession passed to his youngest son Ibrahim , who soon found himself engaged in a conflict with al-Zubayr. Al-Zubayr after, earlier conflicts with the Egyptians, had become their ally and in cooperation with them agreed to conquer Darfur. The war resulted in the destruction of the kingdom. Ibrahim was slain in battle in the autumn of 1874, and his uncle Hassab Alla, who sought to maintain the independence of his country, was captured in 1875 by the troops of the khedive, and removed to Cairo with his family.
The Darfurians were restive under Egyptian rule. Various revolts were suppressed, but in 1879 the British General Gordon (then governor-general of the Sudan) suggested the reinstatement of the ancient royal family. This was not done, and in 1881 Slatin Bey (Sir Rudolf von Slatin ) was made governor of the province. Slatin defended the province against the forces of the self-proclaimed Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad, who were led by a Rizeigat sheik named Madibbo, but was obliged to surrender (December 1883), and Darfur was incorporated in the Mahdi's dominions. The Darfurians found his rule as irksome as that of the Egyptians had been, and a state of almost constant warfare ended in the gradual retirement of the Mahdi's forces from Darfur. Following the overthrow of the Mahdi's successor at Omdurman in 1898, the new (Anglo-Egyptian) Sudan government recognized (1899) Ali Dinar , a grandson of Mohammed-el-Fadhl, as sultan of Darfur, on the payment by that chief of an annual tribute of 500. Under Ali Dinar, who during the Mahdi's era had been kept a prisoner in Omdurman, Darfur enjoyed a period of peace and a de facto return to independence.
British rule, and independence
In 1916, during the First World War, Ali Dinar allied with the Ottoman Empire and declared war on Britain. This was put down, the sultan was killed and Darfur was incorporated into British-ruled Sudan. It became part of the Republic of Sudan on the country's independence in 1956. After independence, it became a major power base for the Umma Party , led by Sadiq al-Mahdi. In 1994, Darfur was divided into three federal states within Sudan: Northern (Shamal), Southern (Janub), and Western (Gharb) Darfur. Northern Darfur's capital is Al Fashir; Southern Darfur's is Nyala; and Wester Darfur's is Al Junaynah .
The present Darfur crisis
Main article: Darfur conflict.
The region became the scene of a bloody rebellion in 2003 against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, with two local rebel groups - the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) and the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) - accusing the government of oppressing non-Arabs in favour of Arabs. In response, the government mounted a campaign of aerial bombardment supporting ground attacks by an Arab militia, the Janjaweed. The government-supported Janjaweed were accused of committing major human rights violations, including mass killing, looting, and rapes of the non-Arab population of Darfur. They have frequently burnt down whole villages, driving the surviving inhabitants to flee to refugee camps, mainly in Darfur and Chad; many of the camps in Darfur are surrounded by Janjaweed forces. By the summer of 2004, 50,000–80,000 people had been killed and at least a million had been driven from their homes, causing a major humanitarian crisis in the region.
According to Human Rights Watch:
- "The government and its Janjaweed allies have killed thousands of Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa—often in cold blood—raped women, and destroyed villages, food stocks and other supplies essential to the civilian population. They have driven more than one million civilians, mostly farmers, into camps and settlements in Darfur where they live on the very edge of survival, hostage to Janjaweed abuses. More than 110,000 others have fled to neighbouring Chad but the vast majority of war victims remain trapped in Darfur..."
- "Human Rights Watch spent twenty-five days in and on the edges of West Darfur, documenting abuses in rural areas that were previously well-populated with Masalit and Fur farmers. Since August 2003, wide swathes of their homelands, among the most fertile in the region, have been burned and depopulated. With rare exceptions, the countryside is now emptied of its original Masalit and Fur inhabitants. Everything that can sustain and succour life—livestock, food stores, wells and pumps, blankets and clothing—has been looted or destroyed. Villages have been torched not randomly, but systematically—often not once, but twice."
- "The uncontrolled presence of Janjaweed in the burned countryside, and in burned and abandoned villages, has driven civilians into camps and settlements outside the larger towns, where the Janjaweed kill, rape, and pillage—even stealing emergency relief items—with impunity."
- "Despite international calls for investigations into allegations of gross human rights abuses, the government has responded by denying any abuses while attempting to manipulate and stem information leaks... The United States Agency for International Development has warned that unless the Sudanese government breaks with past practice and grants full and immediate humanitarian access, at least 100,000 war-affected civilians could die in Darfur from lack of food and from disease within the next twelve months." 
Jan Egeland said, that far more people have died in Darfur during the two-year conflict than previously admitted.
- Trip Report of visit to Darfur by US Senator Brownback and US Congressman Wolf
- Darfur Info
- Living with Refugees
- Multimedia Presentation on Darfur
- Ongoing genocide in Darfur
- Sudan Emancipation & Preservation Network
- Ideas on the Background of the Present Conflict in Darfur (PDF)
- Darfur King List
- Gender Dynamics in Darfur (has a lot of background on other matters)
- Darfur: The inversion of ethnicity (lots of background on ethnic classification)
- Photographs from the Sudan Region
SaveDarfur.org Similar to the Livestrong wristbands that have become so popular, you can buy wristbands that say "Not On My Watch - Save Darfur." The act of buying the wristband not only contributes money to the cause, but increases the visibility of this important issue. or  or 
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