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The intensity of the violence in Darfur is not constant, but comes in waves. Times of the greatest intensity follow close on the heels of racially inflammatory rhetoric by the Sudanese government and militia leaders.

The Sudanese government is enlisting the help of Arab militias to destroy the black African population in Darfur. The attacks are more than an effort to counter an insurgency against the government. Official denials notwithstanding, the evidence shows that the goal is genocide, plain and simple. It's about race, and about destroying a race.

Criminologist John Hagan draws on interviews with Darfurian refugees and media accounts to build a picture of race motivated genocide.

But, what evidence do we have that the violence is anything more than a local internecine conflict between Arab nomads and black African farmers in Darfur? Is the Sudanese government really involved and how are they directing the violence?

Rolling Genocide

Unlike genocide in Rwanda—which occurred over the course of a few months of intense killing and rape—the violence in Darfur has occurred over time with waves of intense violence followed by relative quiet. Hagan calls this “rolling genocide.”

The question is, why does violence flare up at some times but not others? What is the trigger?

Judging from the number of deaths, violence was highest during two periods: June 2003 to August 2003 and December 2003 to March 2004. What happened to begin and end these waves of violence?

  • Both waves of violence began with racially inflammatory rhetoric by government or militia leaders,
  • Both waves came to an end with the Sudanese government pulling back their military operations.

If actions by the Sudanese government were in response to rebel activity, why the racist rhetoric? If the conflict were simply between Darfurian rebels and the Sudanese government, why were Arab militias involved? And, if the actions were merely local conflicts between Arabs and black Africans, why did the waves of violence subside when the Sudanese military pull back?

The pattern of “rolling genocide” provides evidence that the genocide in Darfur was carried out by Sudanese military in cooperation with Arab militias, and that the underlying motivation was not to put down a counterinsurgency. The goal was the extermination of black Africans from Darfur.

Evidence for Genocide in the Story of Three Arab Militia Leaders

In order to help make the case that the violence in Darfur is more than a local conflict, Hagan shows that:

  • Local militia leaders were in contact with government officials and the violence was carried out by the militia leaders with government support and resources,
  • The violence was preceded by inflammatory speeches designed to whip up racial hatred of Arabs toward black Africans,
  • Expression of racial hatred was a key component of the attacks.

Drawing from eye-witness accounts, Hagan describes three Arab militia leaders (Hamid Dawai, Ali Kushayb and Abdullah Mustafa Abu Shineibat) and demonstrates that their role fits the above pattern. Survivors of attacks lead by these Janjaweed leaders show that they were in close contact with government forces (in at least one case, the Arab leader was a member of the Sudanese military). Testimony also confirms the role of racism in the attacks against Black Africans.

In the case of all three Janjaweed leaders, attacks against civilians (thinly justified as attacks against rebels) were not limited to killing and looting. Witnesses tell harrowing stories of rape and torture as well.

The conclusion is that the cooperation of the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed was not about putting down a rebellion in Darfur. The goal was to use murder and terror to exterminate or drive black Africans out of Darfur.

Data and Methods:


Hagan draws from two data sources:

  1. Survey data gathered by the Atrocity Documentation Team commissioned by the U.S. State Department in 2004 from Darfurian refugees in ten camps and nine settlements in eastern Chad from July through August 2004. Researchers gathered information from 1,136 randomly selected refugees using a semi-structured interview protocol.
  2. A survey based on news and NGO reports of deaths in attacks on 101 villages. Andreas Höfer Petersen and Lise-Lotte Tullin, The Scorched Earth of Darfur: Patterns in Death and Destruction Reported by the People of Darfur, January 2001-September 2005, (Copenhagen, Bloodhound).

Funding Source:

? unknown--ask Katie to track down

Full Text Availability:
Text not yet available

Hagan, John. Forthcoming. "The Rolling Genocide." Chapter 6 in [name of book].

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