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Map of Sudan showing Darfur region

/wiki/File: Map _of_Darfur





1.1       Background to the Study

            The history of recent violent conflict in Sudan goes back to the August 1955 mutiny by the Torit Garrison Headquarters of the army`s Equatorial corps in Sudan.1 This mutiny was a result of discontent and disappointment over the Sudanization process dominated by the Northern Arab-Islamic elites in the centre who dominated the civil services, the army and police. Southerners perceived this as Northern domination and colonization, similar grievances were later shared by other groups in marginalized regions in North Sudan. For example in 1958, the Beja Congress was formed to advocate for equitable development for marginalization of Beja region in Eastern Sudan.2

            Since independence, Sudan has experienced chronic political instability and armed conflicts.3 Historically, this has been expressed in chronic power struggle at the centre characterized by violent changes to central government and a vicious political circle that takes the formula: fractions ruled by political parties-military rule a popular uprising that restored civilian rule.4 The nemesis regime was toppled in April 1985 by the second popular uprising against a military regime, beginning another cycle of the vicious circles, civilian rule of sectarian parties. Military rule popular uprising leading to civilian rule.5 The uprising was led by professional associations and trade unions. In June 1987, there followed a military Islamist coup that adopted an Islamization and Arabization project on the basis of a fundamentalist, repressive, exclusivist and polarizing brand of Islam. The centre periphery conflict spread all over the Sudan and escalated intensively.6 Shortly after the Islamist coup, the opposition parties in the North and South joined the

armed struggle with the Sudans people Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/A) under the umbrella of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) operating from Eritrea. This centre periphery conflict system culminated in its latest cycle in the outbreak of Darfur conflict in March, 2003.7  

                The Darfur region is located in the Western part of Sudan having border with Chad. Its size is approximately 2295,259 square kilometers which cover almost the size of France.8 The Darfur region in 1916, was annexed to the Anglo-Egyptian colonial administration in the territory which is today’s Sudan. Until then, the Darfur Sultanate had been independent and one of the most powerful kingdoms in the region for three centuries.9 The main motive lying behind the annexation of Darfur was nothing very ambitious but participation of the area against “land-grabbing” French in West ward.10

            In the 1980s, especially after the famine, Darfurians started to complain that although they were being subjected to “becoming Sudanese”, they were not treated as “full citizens of the Sudanese state”.11 This situation was interpreted as Darfur being a “prisoner of geography”.12 They were mal-administered and government services were lacking. In addition, their land was suffering from “desertification, soil erosion and loss of fertility and problems of water availability” which were getting worse with population growth.13 As a result, from the end of 1980s on, the Darfur region has turned into a marginalized area of bloody conflicts. In Mandeni`s words, the crisis in Darfur started as a “localized civil war” in 1987 – 1989 and then turned into “rebellion in 2003”.14

1.2       Statement of the Problem

            Darfur crises, in far Western Sudan, started in February 2003 as an insurgency movement against the government in Khartoum. The causes of the uprising in the region consist of enduring and intertwined conflicts on ethnicity, political power, economic tensions and sharing processes. When the rebellious Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equity Movement initiated an attack on the government forces, the counter attack of the ruling National Islamic Front Party became devastating and paved the way to the extreme violence.

It is based on the foregoing that this study seeks to assess the role of United Nations in peacekeeping. As such this work would be built around the following questions. What is peacekeeping? What factors led to the Darfur crisis? Who are the actors and what are the leadership roles in the Darfur crisis? Then, how did the United Nations intervened and the effectiveness in the peacekeeping mission?

1.3       Aims and Objectives

The aim of this study is to critically look at the role of the United Nation in peacekeeping operation in Sudan with particular reference to Darfur western region. It tends to achieve this goal by first, examine the actors in the Darfur crisis. Next, it would assess the causes of the Darfur crisis. Then, it would assess the United Nations contribution to the Darfur crisis.

1.4       Significance of the Study

The research is significant for the fact that it will bring to the knowledge of the readers on the crisis in Sudan and United Nations intervention. The research will also add in the knowledge and to the existing literature in Darfur and United Nations peace keeping. Finally, the findings of the study will act as a reference material to the students of History and International Studies, international organizations and regional bodies interested in this area of research.

1.5       Review of Related Literature

            There exist a wide variety of literatures on the role of Unite Nations in peacekeeping. However, for the purpose of this research, the following would be reviewed.

           Commenting on the origin of the Darfur crisis, Tim Murithi in his article traced the root causes of the conflict back to the 19th century when Arab incursion led to the establishment of a sultanate amongst the indigenous Darfurians, Masalifin, and Zagharoa people of the region. A history of co-existence amongst the pastoralist and the agrarian societies in the region was put under pressure by drought, social and economic marginalization of Darfurians by the ruling regime in Khartoum laid the foundation for the rebellion that was launched in February 2008. Again on the issue of origin of the conflict, Alex de Waal in his article, Sudan: What kind of state? What kind of crisis?, stated that since its half a century of independent statehood, the attainment of independence until 1972, intermittent low-level conflict on Darfur from 1987 exploded into full-scale insurrection in 2003. Just as effort to conclude the Southern war were leading towards a landmark peace agreement.16

            Imongan believes that the Darfur insurgences began in 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Movement launched attacks against the government of Sudan as part of the campaign to fight against the political and economic marginalization in Darfur. The government of Sudan (GoS) responded with brutal counter insurgency against the people of Darfur through the Janjaweed militias.17 The conflict was as a result of the oil-natural resources when the nomadic Arab ethnic group encroached into the farming communities of Darfur for water and grazing which triggered armed conflict between the Arabs and non-Arab groups. He concluded that the people have long been neglected and marginalized in all spheres which necessitated the violence in Darfur.18

Zartman argues that in order to resolve a conflict some steps must be taken. For him, actors can resolve their differences only at it ripe moment, whereby the consequence of any other action can be costly. Zartman`s theory of ripeness is extended by the “Prisoners Dilemma” in which a rational decision is to be taken by players in a game which each player has a stake and should make appropriate decision.19

            Understanding the role of the United Nations in Darfur is a task beyond the theoretical analysis. In 1992, Ex-secretary General Butros Butros Ghali under the request of the security conflict delivered a report called an “Agenda for Peace”. That report is a strong analysis of how the United Nations should be with conflict such as the one in Darfur.20

However, John Burton, in his piece of work “Global Conflict: The Domestic Sources of International Crisis, Brighton: Wheat - Sheaf Books, 1984” provided a different scheme. Burton came with the idea of problem solving approach in which he argues that first, one problem solved will lead to another constructed situation and this new situation may become a source to future conflicts. The author further mentioned that there is a need for a combination of ideas and establishment of new conceptualization of a problem in its integration. Instead of dealing with the superficial of a conflict Burton says that conflict should be tracked to its roots if it is to be resolved.21

John Karlsnid in his works “Understanding Bottom-Up Authority in United Nations Peacekeeping”, the literature grappled with complex decision making structures within organizations like the United Nations. According to him, special representatives of the Secretary General can act as norm arbitrators in the United Nations system, generalizing new practices by weighing against each other the conflicting norms that guide peacekeeping.22

Oksamy Kseinya believes that the Darfur crisis are accounted for by numerous factors that include historical violence in the region, ethnic division, social, political and economic marginalization. The Darfur crisis like he stated is an outcome of the struggle for power between Sudan central government and peripheral simmering structural violence finally exploded into physical conflicts and genocidal campaigns when Khartoum imperialist goal was threatened.23    

In a work on United Nations mission in Sudan, the point is made that the U.N was established in Sudan by the U.N Security Council under resolution 1590 of 24th March 2005 in response to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People`s Liberation Movement on January 9, 2005 in Nairobi, Kenya. The United Nations mission in Sudan is to support the implementation of the comprehensive agreement to perform certain functions relating to humanitarian assistance, protection, promotion of human rights, and to support African Union mission in Sudan.24  

From the foregoing, it becomes evident that the role of United Nations in peacekeeping has over the years, received inadequate scholarly attention. However, no scholar has focused on the United Nations intervention in Darfur. It is therefore this gap in knowledge that this study wishes to fill.

1.6       Scope of the Study

The scope of the study spans the Darfur conflicts from 2003 to the United Nations intervention for settlement in 2008 and the peace agreement. The choice of the country is motivated by the co-operation of the parties of the conflict towards peace agreement and United Nations role in the peacekeeping agreement.

The study is divided into three chapters. While one assesses the concepts upon which the study is founded, another explores the actors, causes and leadership role to the Darfur crisis and then the other appraises the United Nations role and efforts in the peacekeeping.

1.7       Methodology

            The analytical approach was employed in the execution of this work. The research depended largely on secondary sources which include books, academic journals, newspapers and magazines. Some unpublished academic dissertation from credible institution was used in the course of this research.

1.8       Limitation of the Study

The execution of this work is faced with a number of constraints. These include inadequate funds, and the issue of time as the research is subjected to a specified time frame. Despite these limitations however, the researcher has attempted to present an objective research work.


1.         D.K.G ,Taurus, Major Kenya Army: Effectiveness of United Nations Mission in Africa. A Comparative assessment of UNAMIL, MOUNIG, and UNAMID (Kenya Diploma in Strategic Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya 2006), p. 76.

2.         Thu Thi Quach: The Crisis in Darfur and the Analysis of its Origin and Storylines (Alexandra Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2004) pp. 25

3.         L.P, Blanchard, The Crisis in South Sudan, C.R.S Report for Members and Committees of Congress 2014, pp. 11.

4.         Alex de Waal, War in Darfur and the Search for Peace, Cambridge M.A Global Equity Initiative, (Harvard: University Press, 2007). pp. 12

5.         Darfur-Khartoum Conference Proceedings University for Peace, Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, December 2004, pp. 23.

6.         S.M Hassan and Ray .C: Darfur and the Crisis of Governance in Sudan (Trenton: Africa World Press Inc. and Red Sea Press, Inc. 2008) pp.12

7.         John Garrett: Global Affairs Final Project, University of Leiden and University of De Geneve: A Collection of top 18 Essays, pp. 66

8.         R.S Ofahey. 2008, The Darfur Sultanate. London: Hurst, p.1

9.         Julie Flint and Alex de Waal, Darfur: a new History of Long War. London, New York: Zen Books, 2008. p. 6

10.       M.W. Daly, Darfur`s Sorrow: A History of Destruction and Genocide. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007, p.2

11.      Julie Flint and Alex de Waal: 2008, p.11

12.       Julie Flint and Alex de waal: 2008, p.15

13.       O`fahey R.S. p. 301

14.       Mahmood Mandani, Saviours and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, New York: Pantheon Books, 2009. p. 4

15.       Tim Murithi: The African Union Evolving Role in Peace Operation: The A.U Mission Burundi, the A.U Mission in Somalia and the African Union Mission in Sudan, African Security Reviews, Instability for Securities, 2010, p. 20

16.       Alex de Waal: Sudan What Kind of State/ What Kind of Crisis? Occasional Paper No. 2, 2007, p. 23

17.       Thu Thi Quach: The Crisis in Darfur and Analysis of its Origin and Storylines, p. 24

18.       E.O. Imogan, The Role of United Nations in Peace Keeping Operations in Africa: The Darfur Experience (International Journals of Peace and Conflicts Studies Vol. 2, No.3, 2015,p. 44

19.       United Nations News Centre: December 5, 2003. “Humanitarian and Security Situations in Western Sudan Reach their Lows, U.N Agency says. Available at http//:www.un.org/apps/news/printnews Ar.asp?nid=794 Retrieved 25/04/2016.

20.       Burton J. (1984) “Global Conflict: The Domestic Sources of International Crisis, Brighton: Wheat Sheaf Books”. p.5

21.       Burton .J (1984) P.5

22.       John Karlsnid, 2013. Journal Global Governance, Volume 19, p. 525

23.       Thu Thi Quach, p. 24

24.       United Nations Security Council Resolution, 1590.s/RES/1590 (2005). www.unsecuritycouncil.com, Retrieved 25/04/2016

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