Instability on the March in Sudan, Chad and Central African Republic

Posted in Africa | 06-Dec-06 | Author: Adam Wolfe

In 2003, rebels in Sudan's western Darfur region took up arms against Khartoum, in part as a reaction to the peace negotiations the government was conducting with a separate rebel group in the south. Instead of including the western rebels in the peace process, Khartoum armed and aided irregular militias to suppress the Darfur rebellion. The resulting violence has been staggering. Although the situation is intricately complex and fluid, PINR analyzed the conflict and legal precedents in January 2005 and concluded that "although not officially labeled as such by the United Nations and the European Union, genocide is occurring in Darfur."

The slow response to the crisis from Western powers and Khartoum's intractability on accepting U.N.-led forces in the region have allowed the carnage to spread to neighboring Chad and Central African Republic (C.A.R.). Both countries are hobbled by weak rulers, and the prospect of oil wealth is attractive for their domestic rebel movements. Former colonial power France maintains a military base in Chad and has forces stationed in C.A.R.; as a result, the task of protecting the two governments has fallen on Paris. It is not clear, however, whether the current stationed forces, operating under the existing mandates, will be able to rout the rebel groups. Should the violence continue to proceed unchecked, it may be Khartoum that ends up paying most heavily. It appears that the peace deal Khartoum concluded with its southern rebels, which excluded those in Darfur, may collapse as violence pours back across the border from Chad and C.A.R.

Background to the Darfur Conflict

Darfur has been a source of regional instability since rebels first attacked a military complex in this western Sudanese region in early 2003. At the time, Sudan's government was nearing a peace deal with the southern rebels who had fought successive governments in Khartoum for 21 years. Rather than expand the negotiations to include the western region, as the Darfur rebels wished, Khartoum attempted to quickly stamp out the uprising by arming and assisting irregular militias, known as the infamous Janjaweed. Sudan was under pressure from the United States to resolve negotiations with the southern rebels since US$100 million in aid payments was tied to progress on the north-south negotiations.

Another factor, however, was that surveys indicated that Darfur may contain significant oil reserves. The government did not wish to negotiate away access to these potential reserves, as it was already facing the prospect of sharing revenue with the southern rebels for the oil located in the south. While the decision to limit the negotiations to north-south issues prevented further complications to the peace process, the escalation of violence in Darfur since 2003 has spread instability to Sudan's western neighbors. [See: "Western Conflict in Sudan Threatens to Derail Peace Process"]

On April 8, 2004, the main western rebel groups and Khartoum signed the first in a series of ignored cease-fire agreements. Notably, the signing ceremony took place in neighboring Chad, which was already hosting 100,000 refugees from Darfur. This allowed humanitarian workers and 60 African Union (A.U.) observers to access the area. While initial reports indicated that the Janjaweed were conducing a "scorch-the-earth" campaign, Western governments appeared shocked by the destruction reported after the cease-fire.

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The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may not be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of All comments should be directed to