But to characterize this crisis as a tribal conflict would be simplistic in the extreme. To the contrary, the Darfur crisis is caused by political, economic and social marginalization that, unless properly addressed by both national policies, will wreak havoc upon the region for some time into the future.
To fully understand the root causes of the present crisis, it is necessary to gain a complete appreciation of the Darfur region in its proper geographic and historical contexts. Geographically speaking, the western portion of Sudan known as Darfur is in area about 493,180 square kilometers, about 20% of the nation's total territory of 2,505, 813 square kilometers and is subdivided into three wilayats or states known as Gharb (West) Darfur, Janub (South) Darfur, and Shamal (North) Darfur. These states suffer from the lack of perennial watercourses and as a result, their population is scarce and tends to cluster around permanent wells. Western Darfur is a plain that has the greatest water supply. The drainage from the volcanic massif, the Jabal Marrah, washes onto the plain, allowing for a somewhat larger settled population. This area also has a significant portion of the so-called qoz sands. Here, although livestock raising is the major economic activity, significant crop cultivation also takes place. In contrast, North and South Darfur are semi-deserts that have little water from the wadis or the wells that dry up in the winter. The soils in these areas support vegetation for grazing (Geography). The entire region has few natural resources.
About six million people inhabit Darfur, drawn from about eighty different tribes and ethnic groups. From a subsistence perspective, these ethnic groups fit into two categories. First, there are the livestock herders who are for the most part, Arabic speakers. The second group is composed of the farmers, who are bilingual and are considered Africans. The ethnic groups in Darfur include the Fur, Bani Halba, Tanhor, Borty, Habaniya, Zaghawa, Zayadia, Rizaigat, Masaleet, Taaishya, Maidoub, Bargo, Dajs, Bani Hussain, Tama, Mahria, Mohameed, Salamat, Messairia, Eraighat, Etafab, Fallata, Ghimir, Bani Mansour, Ab-Darag, Selaihab, Mima, Turgom, Marareet and other
African and Arabian tribes. The language spoken is Arabic and the religion for both Arabs and Africans is Sunni Muslims (Darfur Conflict).
Historically, the inception of modern day Darfur came with the Fur dominated Keira dynasty that arose in the seventeenth century. This sultanate, which was established by Sulayman Solongdungo (1650- 1680), managed its expansion throughout the region through a combination of peaceful and coercive incorporation of territorial and tribal groups (Young). In 1787, Sultan Mohammed Tayrab extended the sultanate to the Nile when he conquered the Funj province of Korodofan (Young, 2). The rulers of the Keira dynasty then continued to encourage a pattern of immigration into the region to provide for increased manpower needs. Whole groups were brought into the area through means such as land grants and high sultanate positions (Young, 2).
Eventually, this process of assimilation and incorporation settled the basic pattern of ethnic grouping into specific regions that still stand to the present day. The tribal distribution that emerged can be categorized by livelihood and ecology. The sedentary farmers, which include