March 18, 2005
The crisis that has bedeviled Sudan's western region of Darfur since February 2003 has devastated the civilian population. An estimated 70,000 are reported dead, one and a half million displaced, and 200,000 forced to flee across the borders into Chad. This crisis is the latest in a series of conflicts pitting Sudan's Arab-dominated center against the 'Black-African' marginalized majority at the periphery. Sudan suffers from an acute identity crisis resulting from a long history of stratification and discrimination. The conflict pitted the South against the Arab-Islamic North in 1955, triggering a war that lasted 17 years and was halted by a peace agreement that granted the South regional autonomy. The unilateral abrogation of that agreement by the Government led to the resumption of the war in 1983. The Sudan People's Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/A) recast the war in the South not as a war for secession but as a war of the liberation of the whole country. This vision began to appeal to the non-Arab regions of the North, thereby exploding the simplistic myth of the dualism between the North and South. A third identity, comprising the marginalized Black Muslims in the North, began to assert itself. The Nuba and the Funj were the first to join the SPLM/A. The Beja to the east, the Black Darfurians and even the Nubians in the far north have all organized opposition to the center. Events in Darfur cannot therefore be understood without relation to developments in the country as a whole, and which indicate a country in painful search for itself.
Dr. Francis Mading Deng is Research Professor of International Politics, Law and Society and the Director of the Center for Displacement Studies at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC. Deng served as Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons from 1992 until 2004. During 2002-2003, was concurrently a Senior Fellow of the United States Institute of Peace. Dr. Deng served as Human Rights Officer in the United Nations Secretariat, as Ambassador of the Sudan to Canada, the Scandinavian countries and the United States of America, and as the Sudan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. After leaving his country's Foreign Service, Dr. Deng was successively Visiting Scholar and then Senior Research Associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Distinguished Fellow of the Rockefeller Brothers' Fund, one of the first Jennings Randolph Distinguished Fellows at the US Institute of Peace, and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Following his appointment as Representative of the Secretary-General, Dr. Deng co-founded with Roberta Cohen, the Project on Internal Displacement. Although still affiliated with Brookings as a non-resident Senior Fellow, Dr. Deng took a position at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York as Distinguished Professor until he joined Johns Hopkins University in 2002. In addition to appointment on Khartoum University's Faculty of Law upon graduation, Deng taught legal anthropology at New York University, African Law at Colombia Law School, and Law and Nation Building at Yale Law School. Dr. Deng holds an LL.B. (Honours) from Khartoum University an LL.M. and J.S.D. from Yale University. Deng is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and winner of the 2004 Distinguished Africanist Award, given by the African Studies Association for lifetime achievement in that field. In recognition of their work on behalf of the internally displaced, together with Roberta Cohen, Deng received the 2005 Grawemeyer Award for improving world order. He has authored or co-authored and edited or co-edited over twenty books and numerous book chapters and articles in the fields of law, conflict resolution, internal displacement, human rights, anthropology, folklore, history and politics and has written two novels on the theme of the crisis of identity in the Sudan.