by Stephanie McCrummen
Five years after the Darfur conflict began, the nature of violence across
this vast desert region has changed dramatically, from a mostly one-sided
government campaign against civilians to a complex free-for-all that is
jeopardizing an effective relief mission to more than 2.5 million displaced
and vulnerable people.
While the government and militia attacks on straw-hut villages that defined
the earlier years of the conflict continue, Darfur is now home to
semi-organized crime and warlordism, with marijuana-smoking rebels,
disaffected government militias and anyone else with an AK-47 taking part,
according to U.N. officials.
The situation is a symptom of how fragmented the conflict has become. There
were two rebel groups, but now there are dozens, some of which include Arab
militiamen who once sided with the government. The founding father of the
rebellion lives in Paris. And the struggle in the desert these days is less
about liberating oppressed Darfurians than about acquiring the means to
power: money, land, trucks. . . .
It is a marked change from the beginning of the conflict in 2003, when the
Sudanese government unleashed a brutal campaign to crush rebels who had
taken up arms under the banner of ending decades of discrimination by a
government of Arab elites.
Of the 450,000 deaths some experts estimate have been caused by the
conflict, most occurred during the first two years,
. . . the Sudanese government has little need for military action, as Darfur
is at war with itself.
Robert Menard and Stephen Smith, "Darfur Needs Peace, Not
Peacekeepers," Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2007