23 July 2004: US Congress declares Darfur atrocities ‘genocide’

On 23 July 2004 the US Congress unanimously declared ongoing atrocities in Darfur to be genocide.

Destruction of a Darfuri village © Brian Steidle

By issuing a joint House-Senate resolution that accused the Sudanese leadership of such crimes, the United States delivered a message to the world that the Genocide in Darfur must be stopped.

Darfur, a Westerly region of Sudan around the size of France, was racked by violence and civil war throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 2003, Black African groups launched a violent rebellion against perceived Arab domination in Sudan by attacking military bases. Under the pretence of quelling this uprising, the government of Omar al-Bashir began a brutal war of retribution against the Black African Darfuri population. As well as using military aircraft to destroy the towns and villages of Darfur, the government unleashed the Janjaweed upon the civilian population. As recounted by survivors such as Halima Bashir and Daoud Hari, these Arab militias have ravaged the people of Darfur through a systematic campaign of rape, torture and murder.

In the summer of 2004, the US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Darfur as part of a United States investigation into the atrocities. When a verdict of genocide was returned by the State Department to reinforce the Congress resolution of 23 July 2004, it seemed that America and other nations were prepared to take the necessary steps to stop the atrocities in Darfur. Yet the International Community have been unable to end the violence in Darfur and nearly 3 million Black African Darfuris remain affected by the genocide today.

On 9 July 2011 the South Sudanese people gained independence from the north but ethnic fighting across Darfur and South Sudan remain widespread. 

Explore our other dates to remember

Genocide in Darfur

Genocide in Darfur

Darfur is a region in the west of Sudan, bordering Chad, in north-east Africa. Before the conflict Darfur had an ethnically mixed population of around six million black Africans and Arabs.

International Community/UNAMID

International Community/UNAMID

In September 2004, the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell applied the label of ‘genocide’ to Darfur – the first time the US Congress has done this during an ongoing conflict. However, despite this and the ICC indictments, international intervention in the conflict has been limited.

Karim

Karim

Karim's village was destroyed by the Janjaweed - Arab tribes armed by the government. Some of his family were murdered but others, including Karim, were able to flee to Chad.