WARFARE IN DARFUR
The Desert versus the Oasis Syndrome
By Dr Mohamed Suliman, 1993
(this is a historical background paper on the war in Darfur published by the author in 1994 and can be found in full in the book ‘Environmental Degradation as a Cause War’ Ruegger Verlag, 1996)
1. The Environment: A new dimension in the Sudan’s political and social landscape
The armed conflicts, which have afflicted the Sudan over the last three decades, have usually been interpreted as typical ethnic-tribal and/or religious-cultural conflicts. While these categorisations may have served as plausible descriptions of earlier conflicts, and may still have some bearing on how the conflicts are conducted and perceived today, the reality is that conflicts are historical processes, not static events, and so their causes do change and diversify over time.
During the last three decades serious ecological transformations have taken place in the Sudan. Prolonged and severe climatic desiccation coupled with intensive exploitation of soil, forest and other natural resources, as well the huge increases in human and livestock populations, have so degraded the fragile environment of northern Sudan that conflicts caused or catalysed by these compounding ecological factors were bound to take place.
In fact, ecological degradation has been so severe that the traditional means for the prevention and management of inter-ethnic disputes have been rendered virtually unworkable. Many of the current disputes are not being fought along traditional political borders, but along ecological borders that divide richer and poorer ecozones. This transformation has highlighted the need for qualitative development of the traditional methods of conflict management enables the parties concerned to deal effectively with this new and unprecedented predicament.