Frontline World

Sudan - The Quick and the Terrible, January 2005

Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "The Quick and the Terrible"

The Geopolitics of Tragedy

Witness to a Crisis

Land and People, History and Government, Effects of War, Economy and Oil

Background, News, Humanitarian Response, Defining Genocide




By Kelly Whalen

Sudan's western region of Darfur is home to the painful story of a people with a long history of political neglect by a ruthless government. Since February 2003, rebels have been fighting the Khartoum government and its Janjaweed militias. From April 2004, when the United Nations began keeping track of the casualties, through December 2004, 70,000 people, mostly civilians, died, many as a direct result of the violence, others from disease and starvation. More than 2 million Darfuris have been forced from their homes and are living in overcrowded camps that continue to be attacked. The Darfur landscape, from the high deserts in the north to the once-lush grasslands in the south, is blackened from government attacks and bombings. Hundreds of villages have been destroyed, granaries have been burned to the ground and croplands that once fed the Darfuris now feed wild animals.

Darfur has received international attention for what has been called one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. Human rights groups and relief agencies have dedicated significant resources to aiding the survivors of a cruel war. The United Nations has become involved, both politically and on the humanitarian front. The newly formed African Union has deployed monitors to Darfur in an attempt to stop the killing. And the warring parties have agreed to enter peace talks. But many observers say the prospect of Sudan becoming like anarchic Somalia is far from remote. A disturbing cycle of violence has taken hold in Darfur as angry victims of violence and displacement join the rebels. A top African Union commander compared the conflict in Darfur with "a time bomb which could explode at any moment."

And there also is the threat of violence in other parts of Sudan. Discontented religious and ethnic minorities are poised to attack the Islamic government in the capital city of Khartoum, a government that has increasingly isolated itself from the rest of the country. The government's remarkable January 2005 peace accord with southern Sudan, where a civil war had been raging for more than 20 years, could either quiet or incite such attacks. Meanwhile, the killing in Darfur continues.

Here, FRONTLINE/World casts light on some of the many actors in the drama of Darfur. Both internal and external forces have fanned the fighting in this vast country, although there also are those who offer the possibility of peace. We look at the relationships among the more visible and the less-seen forces, showing the many dimensions of this conflict. To learn about these key relationships, roll your cursor over each player's name. Then read more about the many forces at work in Darfur and their influence over the fate of a people.

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By Kelly Whalen
Veteran FRONTLINE/World Web contributor Kelly Whalen is a freelance writer and documentary producer recently awarded the International Reporting Project fellowship to report in Russia in spring 2005.

Producer: Angela Morgenstern; Designed by: Susan Harris, Fluent Studios; see full web credits.