History of the Sudan: What Led
Up to the Genocide in Darfur
By Reid Rosenberg, Katie LaBarre, Charlie
Carroll, Laura O’Friel and Sandrine Fimbi
Ancient History of Kush
• Kingdom in northern Sudan from
11th century BC to 4th century AD
• Province of Egyptian Pharaohs
until 8th century BC
• 23 BC- Northern region a
Roman province,
after Egypt is
conquered by Romans
Christian Nubia
• 350 AD- Christian invasion from Ethiopia
• 6th Century ADThree Christian Kingdoms of Nubia
• 9th-10th Century AD
-Peak of prosperity
-Isolation from Muslim
dominated Middle East
Muslim Domination
• 16th century AD- Kingdom of Sennar
Black Muslims known as the Funj begin Sultanate
• 19th century AD- Internal corruption and discord
weakens Sennar
• 1822 AD- Defeat of Sultanate
Ruled by Ottoman Turks and Egyptians
Darfur: Arab vs. African
• Dar Fur—independent Sultanate (c.1600-1916)
– 1600-1700 Fur identity
– Traces roots to Arab past—Mohammed
• The Arabs of Dar Fur are Bedouin Arabs who trace their lineage
directly to Mohammed. In their view, they see themselves as more
Arab than the Riverian Arabs of lighter skin tone.
• Riverian Arabs treat Bedouin Arabs as second class citizens.
• Nilocentrism—three Sudans
• Labels—“Arabs” and “Africans”
– Response to Turco-Egyptian state (1821-84)
– “From the viewpoint of Dar Fur, the distinction between ‘Arab’
and ‘African’ [had] not [yet] arise[n]” (de Waal, 2005)
Arabs and Islam
• Islam—Came from the west.
• Hakura—land awarded by Fur sultanate in
exchange for loyalty (de Waal, 2005)
– Southern, Baggara (cattle-men) received these. The
Rizegat were a main Baggara tribe who received a
great portion of the Hakura.
– Northern Abbala (camel-men) nomads became
subjects of Dar Fur and they received no land or
• The Janjaweed (who later became Arab militias) were
mostly made up of Abbala – i.e. their clans were poorer
because they did not have land.
1820 - 1870s
• 1820: Northern Sudan was unified by Ottoman
Turks and Egyptian forces, “Turkiyah”
• Egypt was a rising economic and military power
under the Khedive Muhammed Ali so took
advantage of its place on the Nile and near the
Sudan for natural resources, slave trade
• 1870s: European slave trade caused an
economic crisis in the south, which caused
widespread poverty and paved the way for the
rise of the Mahdists
• Muslims believe in a “Mahdi”, a redeemer who
will come to the world unannounced as a
prophet to redeem the world
• Muhammad Ahmad claimed to be the Mahdi in
the 1830s and gained followers
• Capitalizing on the discontent resulting from
Anglo-Egyptian rule, he declared a jihad against
Egyptian rule and started a nationalist revolt that
peaked at the siege of Khartoum (the capital of
Sudan) in 1885
Independence: Part I
• The Mahdi raised an army of followers (“Ansar”)
and led a successful revolt against Ottoman rule
in 1881
• Khartoum was held by the British (Col. George
Gordon), the Mahdi and his Ansar began a siege
of the city in 1884
• Khartoum finally fell to the Mahdists in 1885, the
Mahdiyya (Mahdist government) took over. The
Mahdi died in 1885 but a successor, the Khalifa
took over his government
Independence: Part II
• In 1895, England started to make plans for the
reconquest of the Sudan
• 1898: Battle of Omdurman (near Khartoum)
between Horatio Kitchener’s English army and
the Ansar “dervishes”
• In 5 hours, 11,000 Ansar were killed, compared
to 40 English (400 wounded)
• The Mahdiyya was clearly ended, England took
control again
Foreign Rule
• From 1898 on, England and Egypt were in
charge of the Sudan (this was a strange
relationship because England was the dominant
world power and it ruled Egypt, which was a
dominant power in Africa)
• They divided the country into 2 distinct zones
(north and south)
• Northern Sudan: Main languages were Arabic
and English, Muslim population
• Southern: Main languages were African and
English, Christian population (missionaries)
British Conquest 1916
• Darfur finally incorporated into Sudan
• Native Administration established to create new
tribal hierarchy. It also “contributed to tidying up
the confusion of ethnic identities” (de Waal
2005). “Definitions” of tribes.
• Hakuras become Dars
– Ethnic territory where dominant ethnicity had control
– Hakuras were racially and culturally mixed almost
entirely by 1970s
• 1946: England decided to reverse its
policy of dividing the coutry and unify it
into one country
• Southerners felt betrayed:
– New govt’s language was Arabic, but the
southerners had not been trained in that
language (or much English)
– South not as politically organized, so it was
not as well represented in new gov’t.
• 1945: formation of political parties. The National
Unionist Party, headed by Al-Azhari, was the
political faction of one of the most powerful
Muslim sects in the country at the time, the
Khatmiyah brotherhood. This party wanted union
to Egypt and was facing the opposition of the
Umma Party of the Ansar, who favored sole
• 1953: British and Egyptians grant Sudanese-self
government for 3 years.
• 1956: Independence proclaimed on January 1,
after unanimous vote of senate.
Summary/General Trends
• The Mahdists had a big effect on keeping the
British out from 1885-1898, although it was a
primarily Muslim movement centered from the
• Colonizing powers divided the Sudan into 2
regions: North and South. They had different
languages, governments, etc.
• The powers then unified the country without
consulting the Southerners. Many Southerners
don’t recognize the Sudan as a legitimate state
Government Supported Islamic Groups
Muslim Brotherhood
National Islamic Front
1930s: originates in Egypt as a
1960s: Founded by Hassan Al-
nationalist movement during
-goal of institutionalizing Islamic
Law, Muslim values,
restoring a global Caliphate,
anti-colonial, anti-Zionist,
contains armed wings
Other radical movements, some using
violence, have been partially
inspired by them in later years
(Bin Laden)
-government official under
Nimeiri and Al-Bashir
- strongly promotes nationalism
through Shari’a (Islamic law)
1983: September Laws
Shari’a= National Law
- great opposition to this in South
who are largely NOT Muslims
1990s: led by President Al-Bashir
who funds militias that
perpetrate genocide in South
National Democratic Alliance
*umbrella group for opposition parties*
1993: Formation of NDA as opposition force to NIF/Al-Bashir Government
Current Goal: Overthrow of Bashir regime and replace with
democratic government
1. Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement
1980s: Founded by John Garang
- From Sudanese military unit that defected to rebel side
- Promotes democratic reform, against imposition of Islamic law
2005: Garang becomes Vice-President of Sudan and
administrative head of South after Comprehensive
Peace Agreement
-Killed same year in helicopter crash, provoked riots throughout
the country because of suspicion of assassination
National Democratic Alliance
2. Sudan Liberation
Darfur Liberation Front
-Wanted secession from Sudan
2003: Changed goal and name
New Goal: greater autonomy,
distribution of resources
throughout all Sudan
3. Justice and Equality
Movement (JEM)
1993: Islamic dissidents within the
IMF meet secretly to plan reform
2000: Publish The Black Book:
Imbalance of Power and Wealth in
the Sudan
-focuses on the disproportionate distribution of
power in Sudan
Goal: Overthrow Bashir,
Reform of law so that Shari’a
applies only to Muslims
Current: Suspicions of leadership by
exiled Al-Turabi (he denies)
*SLA/M and JEM merge in 2006
Major People In Modern History
Al-Turabi: Founder of NIF
-Government positions under Nimeiri and Al- Bashir
-previously pro-Shari’a, suspicions of now heading JEM
Nimeiri: Semi-Dictator from 1969-1986, who rose to power in coup d’etat
-gradually enforced strict Islamic Law to retain political support
Al-Bashir: President of Sudan since another military coup in 1989
-Head of NIF, supports Islamization and Shari’a Law
-his current regime funds militants such as the Janjaweed and turns
blind eye to genocide in South
John Garang: Founder of SPLA/M
-Insistance on keeping one Sudan instead of secession of Darfur
caused divisions within the rebel groups during the 1990s
-Appointed Vice-President in 2005 after peace talks with Khartoum,
killed same year in helicopter crash
National Democratic Alliance
2. Sudan Liberation
Darfur Liberation Front
-Wanted secession from Sudan
2003: Changed goal and name
New Goal: greater autonomy,
distribution of resources
throughout all Sudan
3. Justice and Equality
Movement (JEM)
1993: Islamic dissidents within the
IMF meet secretly to plan reform
2000: Publish The Black Book:
Imbalance of Power and Wealth in
the Sudan
-focuses on the disproportionate distribution of
power in Sudan
Goal: Overthrow Bashir,
Reform of law so that Shari’a
applies only to Muslims
Current: Suspicions of leadership by
exiled Al-Turabi (he denies)
*SLA/M and JEM merge in 2006
Sudan and Libya
• Old relationship (long before colonization)
• Very amicable until Qaddafi seized power in
Libya in 1969.
• Qaddafi failed attempts to unify Egypt, Sudan
and Libya, then Chad, Sudan, and Libya, under
a common Islamic state.
• Coup d’etat sponsored by Qaddafi against
Numeiry in 1976 failed. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and
Sudan unite against Libya.
Sudan and Libya
• 1989: Bashir coup d’etat. Relations warmed up between
Sudan and Libya. Possibility of unification of Chad,
Libya, and Sudan once again discussed.
• Bashir and Qaddafi fell out. Qaddafi then accused of
supporting the southern rebels and also, later, the Darfur
• Nevertheless, Qaddafi tried to use his influence to
resolve the Chad-Sudan conflict with the February 2006
Tripoli Agreement, which was signed by Libya, Sudan,
and Chad. The tensions between Chad and Sudan result
from the fact that each of the two countries believes that
the other has a hand in destabilizing the civil order in its
Sudan-Chad Conflict
• Starting in September 2005, some Janjaweed began to
cross over the Chadian border presumably to follow the
Darfuri who succeeded in escaping, but in fact attacking
Chadian population and stealing food.
• Around the same period, the UFDC (United Front for
Democratic Change) rebels, who are based in Darfur,
started some attacks on Chadian soil. This Chadian
rebel group is, according to the Chadian government,
backed by Sudan.
• On December 23, 2005, Chad declared state of
belligerency with Sudan
Sudan-Chad Conflict
• Sudan denied Chadian accusations of backing
the UFDC and claimed Darfur rebels are backed
by Chad.
• Tentative peace agreement reached in Tripoli on
February 8, 2006, but neither rebels nor
Janjaweeds invited at the meeting.
• Janjaweeds and UFDC continue attacking and
massacring the Chadian population.
• Bilateral relations between the two countries
severed first in April 2006, and have been on
and off since.
Why do Chad and Libya Matter?
• Chad is important to the resolution of the Darfur conflict
not only because it is neighboring Darfur, but mostly
because it supporting the Darfuri rebels as Sudan is
supporting the Chadian rebels. This war of tit for tat must
be solved first to have lasting peace in the region. For
more information on that dynamic, click here.
• It is essential to have Libya on board for peace in Darfur
because Libya is the big power of the region, and
Qaddafi is known for his love of interfering in the internal
affairs of other countries. Also Libya has been providing
arms to Darfuri and Southerner rebels, contributing to
the instability in the region.
Musa Hilal
• Powerful leader of Janjaweed, member of
Um Julal clan of Rizeigat tribe
• Pride in position as government agent to
fight rebels and organize militias
• Arab Supremacist
• Hilal issued a directive in 2004 to military
intelligence agencies to “change the
demography of Darfur and empty it of
African tribes.”
Origins of Janjaweed: History of the
• Janjaweed developed from tribal and
economic conflicts involving the Abbala
• Began with Sheikh Hilal Mohamed Abdalla
of the Um Julal
• Moved to Aamo to ally himself with Ereigat
[who are they?] and bring in Arabs from
Chad to develop a following
Origins of Janjaweed: History of the
• Great drought of 1984-85: Pastoral lands
devastated and Rizeigat migrate south to
farmlands of Fur and Tunjur & they are
only given poor land
• 1985: Fall of Nimeiri; Libyan Islamist exiles
flood into Darfur with weapons
• By 1990, weapons become easily
available and crime increases
Arab Supremacy
• 1981 – Darfurian Arabs demand more representation
and control
• The Tajamu al Arabi organization, also known as the
“Arab Gathering” creates militant Arab supremacy
movement that pushes for Arab representation in
government and majority rule in Darfur
• Prior to Darfurian governor elections, the Arab gathering
had published and sent a letter to the government
threatening more Arab representation. They published
the “Quraish Manifesto” after election of Fur governor,
which preached the supremacy of the Abbala and
Baggara Arabs as pure Muslim descendants of
Mohamed and called Arabs to action against Africans.
• Hilal receives arms from Ibn Omar, leader of Chadian
opposition front (CDR) sympathetic to his cause
• 1989 conference – Warring Fur and Janjaweed militias
disarmed at conference
• 1987-89—First conflict in Darfur between
Fur militias and the Abbala Arabs
• Native Administration Council—NAC
– Recreated by Sudanese government to find
solutions between groups
– Could not find solutions. Renewed conflict in
– Gave land to certain ethnic groups as means
of reinforcing central authority
Government Backing of the Militias
and Arab Rule
• Militia used by government in two ways: 1)
tool of military control and 2) to mask
ethnic conflict
• 1991, SPLA enters Darfur and Militias
used by government for first time
• 1994 – Ali al Haj, the Arab Minister of
Federal Affairs, divides Darfur into three
regions. More leadership positions go to
Arabs, while non-Arabs made into
The Masalit Conflict
• Governmental leaders known as “Amirs” arm themselves
and persecute the Masalits, a non-Arab Darfurian tribe
• 1999: General Mohamed al Dabi from Sudanese Army
sent to Darfur by Bashir in Khartoum to train youth
militia, worsening militarization of the conflict
• For first time militia leaders are paid by government
• 2000: Arab becomes North Darfur governor and support
for Janjaweed increases
• 2001: SLA growing and Arabs recruit for Janjaweed with
promises of benefits
• October 2002: 1st offensive against non-Arab civilians.
Sudanese government ignores this and never punishes
Reflections and Analysis
• Riverine Arabs believed that the Bedouin Arabs in Darfur were less
Arab than themselves, even though the Bedouins trace lineage
directly to Mohammed. Thus, they tried to “arabize” Darfuris and
promoted Arabized Darfuris to prominent government posts.
• African versus Arabs is way too simplified to understand this conflict
• SPLA influenced “Africans” and SLA which used to be Darfur
Liberation Army.
• Visualization of conflict—a Westerner would imagine this as a
conflict between light skinned Arabs and dark skinned Africans.
Americans especially imagine aggressive Arabs as terrorists and
black Africans as an oppressed people. When the two are
combined, Westerners see light-skinned, dominant terrorists
oppressing poor black people. This is not the case, both sides
share a nearly identical skin tone. The term genocide further
polarizes two sides by making them believe that the conflict is all
about race, and if one side does not defend itself, the other will wipe
them out causing more people to pick up arms. This escalates the
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History of the Sudan: What Led Up to the Genocide in Darfur