In 2003 two Darfuri rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), launched attacks on Sudanese Government military targets. The Sudanese Government reacted by arming militia – the Janjaweed (which translates as ‘devils on horseback’) – to attack black African people in Darfur who were perceived to be supportive of the rebels.
These Janjaweed raids have caused a humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur. Thousands of villages have been destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people murdered, and millions forced to flee their homes. Refugees from Darfur say that after Government-ordered air raids on villages, the Janjaweed ride into villages, slaughter the men and rape the women, before stealing whatever they can.
A special panel of experts set up by the United Nations in 2004 stopped short of calling the conflict in Darfur genocidal. However, the International Criminal Court (the ICC) issued indictments against the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir for three counts of genocide on 12 July 2010. Al-Bashir continues to resist arrest. The British Government has endorsed the ICC decision regarding al-Bashir and has urged the Sudanese Government to cooperate.
Violence continues in Darfur to this day. In addition, in the lead up to South Sudan’s independence in 2011, fighting broke out between the Sudanese Government and rebel groups in the border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. In 2014, President Bashir incorporated the Janjaweed militia groups into the Sudanese Armed Forces, renamed as the ‘Rapid Support Forces’, or R.S.F.
Reports have been made that government forces are attacking civilians in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains, based on racial and religious identity, and employing the same ‘scorched earth’ policies as were used in Darfur. These conflicts have not been defined as genocide, and it is difficult to get information about the scale of these atrocities, as humanitarian and media organisations are not allowed within Sudan’s borders. However, they shed light on Sudan’s ongoing human rights abuses.