Amid claims of declining violence and wider regional transformations, the Darfur conflict has all but vanished from the international agenda since 2010. Virtually unnoticed by the international community, the conflict has moved into a new phase, in which the Government of Sudan has shifted away from using Arab proxy militias only to rely on newly formed (and newly armed) non-Arab proxies. ‘Forgotten Darfur’ documents how this development has fundamentally changed the ethnic map of eastern Darfur, drawing on previously latent tensions between non-Arab groups over land, ethnicity, and local political dominance—and generating some of the most significant ethnically directed violence since the start of the conflict in 2003.
The ‘new’ war in eastern Darfur, which erupted in late 2010 and early 2011, has pitted non-Arab groups against other non-Arabs; specifically, government-backed militias drawn from small, previously marginalized non-Arab groups—including the Bergid, Berti, and Tunjur—deployed against Zaghawa rebel groups and communities.
‘Forgotten Darfur’ also reports how patterns of arms supplies to Sudanese government forces and proxy militias in Darfur have been almost entirely unimpeded by the international community, including the ineffectual UN arms embargo on Darfur. The Sudan Air Force has continued to move weapons into Darfur with complete impunity; it supported ground attacks with aerial bombardment in all of Darfur’s states during 2011 and in West and North Darfur during 2012, despite the UN Security Council’s prohibition on such offensive aerial operations since 2005.
The report also documents how transformations, regime change, and realignments in Chad, Libya, and South Sudan have not fully removed either the mechanisms of the motives for cross-border flows of arms, personnel, or political support to Darfur’s armed actors. In particular, ‘Forgotten Darfur’ explores relations between rebels and communities in western South Sudan and South Kordofan, and their potential to draw the Darfur conflict into much larger North–South confrontations. Increased linkages between Darfur’s rebel groups and the SPLM-N in South Kordofan, and the overlooked potential for conflict on the Darfur–Bahr al Ghazal border, are also highlighted.
New internal ethnic dynamics in Darfur; ongoing supplies of weapons and other support to all sides; and growing connections to latent and actual conflict in contested parts of South Sudan and South Kordofan—all these factors raise the prospect of a continued, slow-burning war of attrition with armed actors and against civilian communities within Darfur and along new fronts on the region’s southern and eastern boundaries.