solid black line
dotted black line
  About MAR
dotted black line
  MAR Data
dotted black line
  AMAR Project
dotted black line
solid black line
Contact Us     


Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Darfur Black Muslims in Sudan

View Group Chronology

Sudan Facts
Area:    2,505,810 sq. km.
Capital:    Khartoum
Total Population:    28,900,000 (source: unknown, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Black Muslims of Darfur in Sudan exhibit three risk indicators for continued rebellion against the government of Sudan: recent rebellion, territorial concentration and government repression. As long as the government-supported Janjaweed genocidal attacks continue, there will be no peace in Darfur. The Janjaweed attacks are not as frequent or as severe as they once were but they have continued, especially against Black Muslims returning to their homes from Chad and refugee camps.

Continued government repression and support for ethnic cleansing of the Black Muslims makes any other factors for peace in Darfur irrelevant. There have been efforts at negotiation and transnational support for an end to the violence in Darfur but so far these have not stopped the killing. Negotiations between the rebels and the Sudanese government have also continued, to little effect. As long as the government refuses to admit they had any part in the Janjaweed attacks, negotiation will be difficult. There was a humanitarian ceasefire between the Sudanese government and the rebel groups that took effect on April 8, 2004, but since then both sides have gone on to break it. The United Nations, USAID, the World Food Program and various state governments have been working in Darfur to try to stop the genocide. These organizations have provided aid, ceasefire monitors and protective troops, as well as setting up refugee camps for the Black Muslims in Darfur. Late in 2008, the Sudanese government faced additional international pressure to bring peace to the region as debates centered around the possibility of bringing President al-Bashir before the International Criminal Court (charges were filed against him in July 2008). It seems, however, that much more international pressure will be required to force the Sudanese government to live up to its guarantees to end the ethnic cleansing and punish those responsible.

Unless the Sudanese government is forced to halt the Janjaweed attacks of genocide the killing of the Black Muslims in Darfur will continue. Therefore, continued rebellion against the Sudanese government should be expected. Although the Darfur Black Muslims have discrimination, recent protest and repression as risk factors for future protest, the conflict situation overshadows the use of nonviolence, and it seems likely that rebellion will be preferred until more stability in the region is achieved.


Analytic Summary

The Black Muslims of Darfur are made up of three different African tribes: the Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit. They inhabit the area of Western Sudan, also known as the Darfur region (GROUPCON = 3). The Darfur region of Sudan is divided into 3 different federal states; Ghard Darfur (west), Janub Darfur (south) and Shamal Dafur (north). Black Muslims are concentrated in the rural areas of Darfur since they are primarily farmers (CUSTOM = 1). The Black Muslims account for about 50 percent of the population in Darfur (3.1 million). The other 50 percent of the population of Darfur is of Arab descent. Both the Muslims and Africans in Darfur share the common religion of Islam (BELIEF = 0). In addition to Fur and Zaghawa languages, the Black Muslims of Darfur speak a different form of Arabic than the rest of the population of Sudan (LANG = 1). The form of Arabic the Black Muslims in Darfur speak is more like a second language compared to the primary one used throughout Sudan.

Darfur was an independent African nation until it was conquered by Egypt in 1821. Darfur was later included in British-ruled Sudan in 1916 and became part of the Republic of Sudan in 1956 when Sudan gained its independence from Britain. The Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit are most bound by their African descent (RACE = 2), geographic location and oppression by Sudanese Arabs. The oppression has become especially serious since 2003 when the systematic killings of the Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit began by the paramilitary groupings, the Janjaweed.

The Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit have been subject to many disadvantages in Darfur. Black Muslims have faced continued poor health conditions, declining caloric intake, famine and environmental decline due to the continued natural disasters that affect Darfur (drought, flood, etc.), continually from 1980 to the present. These conditions are exacerbated by the conflict plaguing the region. The area of Darfur also has a history of intense tribal warfare, specifically between African and Arab tribes. The Black Muslims have a history of clashing with Arab tribes over grazing lands, water holes and the settlement of underutilized land. Conflicts between the Arabs and the tribes of the Masalit and Zaghawa began to break out in Darfur in the mid 1990s (the first between the Arabs and Zaghawa in 1994, and the Masalit in 1996). Conflicts between the Fur tribe and Arabs date back to the early 1980s (starting in 1981) and have continued sporadically up until present times. In 2003 two rebel groups from Darfur – the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) – accused the Sudanese government of oppressing black Africans in Darfur, while promoting Arabs in the region. The government at first denied any sort of rebellion but eventually responded with attacks on Black Muslim civilians orchestrated by Arab militias, called Janjaweed. It is important to note that the attacks have targeted civilian communities that share the same ethnicity as the rebel groups. The attacks by the Janjaweed have consisted of mass killings, looting, burning villages and the raping of women of Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit tribes (INTERCON03-06 = 6). The Sudanese military has often aided the Janjaweed with the attacks on the black Muslims, even though the government denies any involvement in the killings. Because of the attacks an estimated 300,000 Black Muslims have been killed, and more than 1.5 million have been displaced from their homes and forced to flee to neighboring areas such as Chad (EMIG03 = 3; EMIG04, = 1; EMIG05 = 2; EMIG06 = 1). The United States government described the situation in Darfur as genocide in 2004.

The JEM and SLA have demanded autonomy and self-determination for Dafur, as well as 80 percent of the oil profits the government receives from drilling in Darfur (POLGR06 = 3; ECGR06 = 2). They also want greater economic, political, and civil rights for the Black Muslims in Darfur. The rebels managed to seize the towns of Gulu and Tina from government forces in Darfur in early 2003, but the towns were eventually recaptured by Sudanese government forces. Since the beginning of the Janjaweed attacks on the Black Muslims in 2003 there has been public outcry from both the Black Muslims in Darfur and nations around the world for the Sudanese government to put a stop to the attacks. The Sudanese government, however, has continued to ignore the ethnic cleansing occurring in Darfur by labeling it as tribal warfare and doing little to intervene or put a stop to it. The Sudanese government has failed to halt or control the Janjaweed attacks in spite of guarantees to end the attacks and prosecute and punish all those involved in the massacres. Since 2003 the United Nations Security Council has passed two different resolutions on Darfur, one threatening sanctions against Sudan's government if it does not disarm and the second demanding that the Sudanese government prosecute the militias and others responsible for abuses in Darfur. These resolutions have had little effect on the situation however, as there have been continued attacks by the Janjaweed on Black Muslim civilians trying to return to their homes from Chad and refugee camps. The African Union has 7,000 peacekeeping troops in Darfur as of 2007 and the UN has authorized a 20,000 contingent of peacekeepers for the region. Other international involvement has included a ceasefire negotiated in 2007 with the aid of US Governor Bill Richardson, but it was short-lived.

Since 2003 and continuing through 2006, the Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit have been greatly displaced from their homes in Darfur (DISPLACE04-05 = 3; DISPLACE06 = 2). Since the fighting and displacement continue it is hard to say when the Black Muslims will be able to return back to their original homes. The Darfur Black Muslims are represented not only by the JEM and SLA, which joined with the National Democratic Alliance political party in 2004, but also by Darfur Forum for Dialogue and Peaceful Co-existence, G-19, and the National Movement for Reform and Development - a purported split from JEM (GOJPA06 = 4). There is some recent infighting amongst the Darfur Black Muslims (INTRACON05-06 = 1) and in 2005 the SLA split between supporters of Abdel Wahid Mohamed Nur and supporters of Minni Minawi.

The current status in Darfur right now is the continued government supported ethnic cleansing of the Black Muslims. Even though the Janjaweed attacks are not nearly as extravagant as they once were, attacks still occur. Fighting and displacement have continued, especially in Southern Darfur. Black Muslims have specifically been attacked when trying to return to their original homes in Darfur. The Sudanese government still refuses to admit it had any role in the ethnic cleansing of the Black Muslims. There was a humanitarian ceasefire between the Sudanese government and the rebel groups that took effect on April 8, 2004, but since then both sides have gone on to break it (REB03 = 6; REB04-06 = 5). A 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement did little to quell the fighting in the region. The government has continued to bomb civilian towns in Darfur whose relations to the rebel groups are relatively uncertain (REPGENCIV04-06 = 5; REPVIOL04-06 = 5). In 2004, government troops arrested 200 farmers in the region and summarily executed them along with community leaders (REPGENCIV04 = 5; REPNVIOL04 = 5).



Stephen, Chris. 11/20/2008. "ICC fending off Darfur challenge." BBC News., accessed 1/27/2009.

BBC News. 7/08/2004. "France opposes UN Sudan sanctions.", accessed 1/27/2009.

CBC News. 07/31/2007. "Security Council approves peacekeeping force in Darfur.", accessed 1/27/2009.

de Waal, Alex, ed. 2007. War in Darfur and the search for Peace. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

LexisNexis. Various news reports. 2000-2006.

Minority Rights Group International. 2008. "Sudan: Fur." World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. UNHCR Refworld, available at:, accessed 1/27/2009.

Prunier, Gérard. 2007 Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide. New York: Cornell .

Human Rights Watch. 11/2004. "'If We Return, We Will Be Killed': Consolidation of Ethnic Cleansing in Darfur, Sudan.", accessed 1/23/2008.

Human Rights Watch. 1/21/2005. "Targeting the Fur: Mass Killings in Darfur.", accessed 1/23/2008.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Sudan. 2000-2006.


© 2004 - 2023 • Minorities At Risk Project

Information current as of December 31, 2006