Beliefnet
What's happening in Sudan?

In the western region of this African nation, armed militias are raiding villages, killing villagers, raping women, and burning homes and crops.

How many people are affected?

Mounds of children's graves
near a refugee camp in Iridimi,
Chad. Photo courtesy of U.S.
Holocaust Memorial Museum.
As of now (July 2004), aid groups estimate that 10,000 people have been killed. One million people have lost their homes or been displaced. Many have been pushed into the desert, and tens of thousands are in makeshift camps.

Where did the armed militias come from and why are they killing people?

Sudan has historically been plagued by conflicts between Arab nomads and village farmers belonging to local African tribes, as the two groups compete for grazing land and other resources. Some members of the nomadic community have aligned themselves with what were originally government-sponsored militias, broadly referred to as the Janjaweed.

Thus, critics charge that ethnicity is a factor in the violence: the Janjaweed militia are primarily Arab, and the displaced villagers are primarily black.

Critics accuse the Sudanese government of sponsoring the Janjaweed militias. Others say the militias have spun out of control and are not supported by the government. Chronic instability in the country, exacerbated by decades of war, is another factor.

Why is the situation in Sudan considered even worse than most humanitarian disasters?

The sheer scale of the problem--one million people without shelter, water, sanitation or food--is staggering. In addition, the Sudanese government has prevented access by aid groups in the past. Finally, the rainy season is beginning, when roads become impassable and the threat of diseases like malaria and cholera increases.

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