The UN Failure in Darfur

Sudan's revolution could end the conflict in Darfur | The Economist

Yasser Harrak

The Darfur case study is a notable failure of the UN that instead of building peace, it built a hospitable environment for an everlasting conflict. The UN promotes legitimate elements that must characterize successful mediation.  These elements are preparedness, consent, impartiality, inclusivity, ownership, international laws and norms, coherence and quality peace agreements (United Nations, 2012). The chronology of the Darfur crisis illustrates how none of these was respected.  The marginalization of southern and western Sudanese tribes has its historical roots that date back to the colonial era when the British favoured the Arab population (Zaremba, 2011, p. 44). There are aggravating elements to add to the marginalization of these Sudanese areas such as Jaafar Numeiri’s Sharia implementation in the 80s over all Sudan including Christians and African communities (Zaremba, 2011, p. 45). Demands had surfaced by the JEM and SLA  seeking equitable development, land rights, social and public services, democracy, and regional autonomy (Zaremba, 2011, p. 46). These demands are legitimate without question, but the way these demands were pushed forward leads us to the number one factor of failure in the Darfur crisis, which was the use of violence as a starting point. This post surveys this along with other factors responsible for the continuity of the Darfur crisis.

In February 2003, SLA and JEM, representing separate black tribal groups in western Sudan (Darfur), launched attacks on government positions, claiming the arid region of western Sudan known as Darfur has been neglected (Darfur Conflict/Crisis Chronology, 2010). This step should have been condemned by the UN and world community because it sets a negative precedence for world peace. One can argue that if marginalized areas in the US such as Detroit today or Flint during the water crisis took arms against the US government, all actors against the government would be considered terrorists, let alone being invited to the negotiation table. In the case of Sudan, no international reaction was expressed until the government retaliated 5 months later. Surprisingly, the first reaction was the UN undersecretary was qualifying the Darfur crisis to be the worst in the world (Ibid). It was obvious at that time that the UN was in for one party against the other. Although in 2004 the government readmitted international aid workers and the SLA and JEM agreed to a new cease fire (Ibid), the UN did not take advantage to start the peace building process and chose to react by comparing the Darfur crisis to the Rwandan genocide (Ibid). The Rwandan genocide was not a good choice as an example considering the role that UN played in not stopping it.  The UN escalation would culminate in issuing an international arrest mandate against Omar Al-Bashir in 2007 (Ibid). The failure of the UN led the African Union to take the lead with help from NATO while refusing to go beyond truly inducing a resolution (Zaremba, 2011, p. 53). China being a major power with vested interest and influence in Sudan chose to push for dialogue rather than confrontation (Ibid).

The Darfur crisis is chiefly a result of the UN’s mishandling, partiality and selective action and inaction. The Darfur crisis shows that the UN is going one way while the African Union, China and the Muslim countries –including US allies- are going the other. When mediators lose their impartiality in a conflict and start working against each other, the conflict is deemed to last.


Darfur Conflict/Crisis Chronology. (2010, Aug 12). Background Information Summaries . Retrieved from Background Information Summaries:

United Nations. (2012). Guidance for Effective Mediation. Retrieved from United Nations Mediation Guidance :

Zaremba, B. (2011). Conflict in Darfur: Calculation and inadequate International Response. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Criminology, 1, 43-62. Retrieved from


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