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Darfur (därˈfo͞or), region and former sultanate, W Sudan. The region is mountainous, dominated by the central massif of Jebel Marra, which rises to 10,130 ft (3,088 m). Much of the terrain is dry plateau, and there are sand dunes in the extreme north. The region is divided into the states of Northern, Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern Darfur. The Fur (for whom the area is named) and the Baggara are the major ethnic groups. Darfur's economy is based on subsistence agriculture. Cattle, sheep, and goats are raised in the north.

The rulers of Cush, which fell c.A.D. 350, may have established a dynasty in Darfur. Christian kingdoms emerged in the period between 900 and 1200, but they were destroyed by Muslim incursions from Kanem in the mid-13th cent. Fur, a major kingdom probably founded in the 15th cent., pushed aside the Kanem rulers in the 17th cent. Fur was conquered by the Egyptians in 1874 and by the Mahdists (see Mahdi) of Sudan in 1883. With the fall of the Mahdist state in 1898, Darfur became a semiautonomous sultanate under Anglo-Egyptian suzerainty. The sultan attempted to expel the foreign colonizers during World War I, but his forces were defeated by the British in 1916, and Darfur was incorporated into Sudan.

In 2003 the region became the scene of fighting, with Sudanese government forces and their allied Arab militias (the janjaweed) battling non-Arab rebels originally linked to an opposition party, but the conflict gradually widened to include fighting between allied groups on both sides, as both rebels and militias splintered. Warfare also spilled over into Chad, and Chadian rebels based themselves in parts of Darfur. An African Union (AU) peacekeeping force was established in the region beginning in Aug., 2004; the force, which officially became a joint UN-AU operation in Dec., 2007, was not effective. Attempts to establish a cease-fire produced only temporary results, though in the 2010s fighting lessened. In 2013 the one of the main Darfur rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), signed a cease-fire agreement and committed itself to negotiations with Sudan, but subsequently there was resurgent fighting in Darfur, and JEM and its allies also mounted attacks in Northern Kurdufan. In 2016 Sudan was accused of using chemical weapons in an offensive in Darfur. Efforts at ending the conflict in the region gained new impetus after the ouster of Sudan's President Bashir in 2019, though tensions continued to simmer; in Dec., 2020, the United Nations ended the joint UN-AU peacekeeping operation.

An estimated 300,000 persons have died in the fighting or from disease, hunger, and other causes arising from the fighting, and some 2.7 million people have been made refugees. The government and janjaweed have been accused by some of genocide, and Bashir was indicted in 2009 for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.


See studies by M. W. Daly (2007), J. Hagan and W. Rymond-Richmond (2009), M. Mamdani (2009), and W. Rymond-Richmond (2009).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a plateau in the Sudan between the basins of Lake Chad and the White Nile. The designation “plateau” is relative. since the predominant relief consists of socle plains composed of ancient crystalline rock from a projection of the African platform; there are many monadnocks. The central part includes the extinct volcano Jabal Marra, which at 3,088 m is the highest summit of Darfur. The plateau has an equatorial monsoon climate, torrid with a dry season of eight to nine months; precipitation measures 500–600 mm per year. There are no permanent rivers, and vegetation is typical wilderness savanna.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a region of the W Sudan; an independent kingdom until conquered by Egypt in 1874
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The Islamic government sought to weaken the Southern People's Liberation Army and Movement (SPLA/M) by opening a new front and to distract the Baggara from the loss of some of their traditional grazing land in Dar Fur and Kordofan provinces to mechanized agricultural schemes financed by government banks.
In the Dar Fur region, the government has vigorously pursued the NIF policy of supporting Arab tribes to fight against non-Arab tribes, especially the Zaghawa and the Fur.
We are also appealing to the International Community to exercise pressure on Sudan Government to rapidly and unconditionally disarm the janjaweed and it's militias, remove the new dwellers it brought from the Neighboring Countries from the land of the indigenous people and stop the killing and depopulating the IDPs Camps " the International Community has to rise to the challenge of stopping the ongoing genocide in Dar Fur and it has an a awesome responsibility to achieve that and the fiasco to protect will wreck it's credibility and have grave consequences in years to come".