The largest country in Africa, it has suffered a long series of insurrections which have divided the ruling party in the capital, Khartoum, from much of the country.
By 2003, Sudan's capital was experiencing a new prosperity from the discovery of offshore oil, and Sudan's government had a new supporter -- China -- who was buying that oil.
A region in western Sudan, it is the size of France and home to 6 million Muslims. By 2003, the Sudanese government in Khartoum was prospering from new oil wealth, and rebel groups in Darfur emerged to claim a share of it.
It had endured a vicious 21-year civil war between the largely Muslim north and the Christian Sudanese in the south. A North-South peace agreement was in the works when the Darfur killings began -- one reason why the West delayed taking action.