June 20, 2008
The Washington Post

A Wide-Open Battle For Power in Darfur

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

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