Darfur was an independent sultanate before it was incorporated into British-controlled Sudan in 1916. Sudan gained independence from the British Empire in 1956.
Historically Darfur’s many different ethnic groups lived peacefully alongside each other. However its location and its ethnic mix of black Africans and Arabs have made it a target for both the Sudanese government’s Arab nationalism and interference from neighbouring states like Libya and Chad. The Sudanese Government has been condemned as racist – favouring Arabs over black Africans, and being complicit in ‘ethnic cleansing’ and enslavement of black Africans.
Many people in Darfur believe that the area has been neglected and marginalised by the Khartoum Government, which has concentrated development on the capital city and the centre of the country. A famine killed nearly 100,000 Darfuris in 1983-4.
Some of these grievances motivated the Darfuri rebel movements which attacked the Government in 2003, provoking the unleashing of the Janjaweed.