There’s a cycle of violence in the Sudanese peripheries. This post looks at Darfur. In the first phase of the cycle, there is an extremely violent contest between two contending forces. On the one side is the Sudan Armed Forces, paramilitaries and other security forces, and hired militia. On the other side is a coalition of rebels. The violence is localized, fierce and includes large-scale killing of civilians.
Figure 1: Pattern of violent fatalities in Darfur
In the next phase, the violence morphs. Each of the coalitions breaks down, and the pattern is akin to a war of all against all. This is captured in the following table.
Table 1: “Who is killing whom” Darfur 2008-09
Source: Alex de Waal, Chad Hazlett, Christian Davenport and Joshua Kennedy, “The epidemiology of lethal violence in Darfur: Using micro-data to explore complex patterns of ongoing armed conflict,” Social Science and Medicine (2014).
But this type of lower level or anarchic violence always has the capacity to reignite into a more centralized confrontation.
Figure 2: Killings in Darfur: incidents and numbers
What we see is, in 2003-05, a relatively smaller number of large battles and massacres, followed by a pattern of lower level killings, in a larger number of smaller incidents. And then, in 2013, an escalation in both number of incidents and numbers killed.
In some respects this looks like a return to 2003. But the following figure suggests it is more complicated:
Figure 3: Incidents attributable to different groups, 2013.
And analysis of what is happening on the ground, for example in Darfur’s new hotspot of the gold mining areas near Kebkabiya, shows that it is indeed complicated, with the principal Arab groups acting on their own behalf at least as much as the government’s. See Jérôme Tubiana’s recent “Letter from Jebel Amir.”
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