Research studies

Portrayal of Darfur Conflict Causes by (Times of India) (2006-2007)


Prepared by the researcher  –    Dr.  Zuhire Mohammed Osman

Democratic Arab Center

Journal of Afro-Asian Studies : Ninth Issue – May 2021

A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin. The journal deals with the field of Afro-Asian strategic, political and economic studies

Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
ISSN  2628-6475
Journal of Afro-Asian Studies

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The paper intended to find out the extent to which the media portrays the conflict of Darfur region and its underlying root causes. The study focused on the newspaper stories reported in the times of India newspaper, which is a daily publication in India. The study adopted the method of documentary analysis and overall 61 articles from the newspaper for the period 2006-2008 were studied. The findings revealed that the reporting on matters concerning the Darfur region is not exhaustive. The newspaper reports are not based on primary observations of the reporters rather they are based on other western media sources like Reuters, which have been accused of sensationalism by other researchers. This report serves as a reawakening call for the mass media particularly the times of India newspaper to adopt ways of judicious reporting without distorting information.


               The Darfur conflict has been portrayed by the media as struggle between “Arabs and Africans” in addition to the instigation i.e. ethnic tension and competition over resources and ethnic cleansing. It is true that there are many other conflicts existing in Sudan and one single root cause cannot be held responsible.

    As a matter of fact a complex set of interrelated factors are driving the conflict; historical proliferation of arms, the militarization of young people, the absence of a democratic process and other governance issues-  all of these factors are responsible to Sudan conflict therefore one singular factor cannot be singled out  as a sole or primary cause. In the last few years a new wave of conflict in Darfur has changed traditional relationships between ethnic groups and the politicians have politicized them for their own benefits thus giving local conflict many extensive political dimensions to the situation, worsening rather beyond control.

Darfur conflict came into full-fledged from 2003. In its initial stage, sporadic clashes used to take place between different groups particularly the Masalit  Rizeigat, the Zaghawa and the Awlad zeid and quite amazingly these sporadic clashes caused over 100,000 people to evacuation from their respective homes and quickly turned 40, 000 into refugees in Chad- it was by end of 1999. The government termed these clashes only as “tribal clashes” whereas the real story was something different i.e. the root cause was that old animosities and local fractures were being increasingly politicized and mobilized by different forces, including the government itself, for military and political ends.

( Johnson, 2003: 141:flint and dewaal,2005)

          The self-proclaimed Darfur liberation front (D.L.F.) carried out a series of attacks on police stations and other government installation as well. It is to note that, this organization was mainly comprised of the Zaghawa and Fur ethnic groups, and eventually changed to Sudan liberation movement/Army (SLM/A). They increased their attacks in early 2003 with the collaboration of justice and equality movement. In April 2003 border town, Tine fell into their hands and they also attacked Al-fashir airport.

Actually, the Darfur crises were exploited by hardliners in the government. Many members were opposed to the IGAD peace process. This was due to again political reasons. The government decided to fight the rebellion outright. Small African tribes like the Gimir and the Tama and Former Islamic legionnaires were provided with supplies and armament and given a free hand. These militias are branded in the international media and among aid agencies and human rights organizations as the “Janjawied” (the term “Janjawied: was used for first time in 1989 to denote groups of Arab camel herders engaged in militia fighting). The counter insurgency they waged was conducted largely through attacks on the civilian population- the main intention being designed to curtail support for the insurgents and occupy land. The surprising fact that the government did not back the militias the  Sudanese army consistently supported militia raids on villages, sometimes using helicopters (gun ships) or fixed -using aircraft(ICI,2005:54), it was horrible brutality!

Such inhuman plight continued throughout 2004 and 2005, not withstanding intermittent peace talks and as well as the deployment of an African union force. The conflict was further exacerbated in late 2005 by divisions within the main insurgent group, SLM/A which frustrated peace negotiations in the Nigerian capital Abuja. On May 2006, the Sudanese government reached an agreement with the Zaghawa dominated faction of the SLM/A led by Minni Arcoi Minnawi.

The Darfur peace Agreement (DPA) was rejected by Fur dominated faction of SLM/A on the grounds that it did not meet fundamental demands concerning Political representation for Darfurians. They also claimed that it did not offer adequate compensation to civilian victims of counter insurgency and had insufficient guarantees with regard to the disarmament of pro-government militias.

The signature of the DPA was followed by a renewed wave of violence (ICG, 2006:4). On 31st August 2006 the UN Security Council expanded the mandate of UNMIS- (UNITED NATION MISSION IN SUDAN), the UN peacekeeper operation overseeing the implementation of the Sudan comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) and authorized its deployment to Darfur to replace African union mission in Sudan (AMIS).  From the outset, the Sudanese government had strongly opposed plans for a UN force on Darfur territory.

      The purpose of this paper mainly focused on how the Times of India newspaper is portraying the root causes of violence in the Darfur region.

           There is an assertion that the Darfur conflict is often portrayed by the world media as struggle between the Arabs and Africans sparked by ethnic tension and competition over resources. However as

S. Pentangle and Scorch O (2006)

reports, there is a complex set of interrelated historical grievances, local perception of race, demand for fair sharing of power between different groups, the inequitable distribution of economic resources and benefits and disputes over access to and control over increasingly scarce national resources (water, land and livestock); militarization of young people, the absent of democratic process and other government issues.

      In light of this the researcher undertook the initiative of finding out how the Times of India newspaper has been reporting about the causes of Darfur conflict from the years 2006-2007.


The main objectives of the study were:

  • To analyze the content of the Times of India newspaper in relation to how it is reporting about the causes of conflict in Darfur region of Sudan.
  • To study the extent to which the newspaper covers the causes of Darfur conflict.

3) To provide suggestions towards fair reporting in case it was found so.

Scope and Limitation:


  • The paper mainly focused on the portrayal of the Darfur region root causes conflict.
  • The paper based only on the reports by the Times of India newspaper.
  • The newspaper stories that studied were for the period 2006-2007.


  • There was a limited period for conducting the study.
  • Some paper extracts of the conflict could not be availed.

   Insecurity and protection in Darfur

              The study focused close examining current practice in humanitarian protection. At the same time explore strategies, programs and initiatives undertaken in different contexts to support the protection of civilians of Darfur. According to the author the conflict in Darfur is the first emergency to be characterized as a “protection crisis”. an unprecedented number of agencies have engaged in protection In Darfur, giving rise to an unparalleled level of protection programming and coordination initiatives the findings highlighted how these developments have in certain instances, helped to save lives or at least reduce the level of threat or intimidation for many people however they,  also signal the limited role that humanitarian agencies can play in protecting civilians under threat many believe that  despite the increased emphasis on protection by humanitarian actors operating in Darfur there has been a significant   improvement in the overall security of civilian population

The discussion paper analyzed the evolution of Darfur conflict and its impaction the civilian population as well as the measures civilians has taken in response to the different threats they confront.

The impact of the conflict on the civilian population

This article explored on the figures which shown the evidence of the impact, which runs into 200.000 people being killed and in addition two millions displaced since February 2003, when fighting erupted. The appalling atrocities burnt and looted villages raped women and killed men, forcing the survivors to flee across the border into Chad. The article further asserts that

“Atrocities against civilians and human rights violations had also been perpetrated by the armed opposition movements some of violence inflected by the insurgents on civilians had been More ferocious than that meted out by the pro_govenment militias (flint, 2006 a: Amnesty international, 2006) sexual violence against women has been the most brutal and heinous feature of the conflict. Further event in certain areas people in camps suffered violence from militias and several people had inadequate access to external assistance.

The pro_government militias had deliberated destroyed the food_ producing capacity of their non Arab neighbors inflicting serious and lasting damage on their livelihoods furthermore their, crops and food supplies were burnt and people were systematically stripped of their financial and physical belongings.

Access to markets and opportunities for labour was curtailed by insecurity, both within Sudan and between Sudan and neighboring countries.

The conflict has also inflicted pastoralist groups. Their livestock’s has been looted and wells and groundwater were poisoned. Livestock migration routes become increasingly inaccessible and livestock trade collapsed through out the region.

Another lawlessness feature of the conflict can be seen while most landless pastoralists saw in the government counterinsurgency a chance to capture land. Internal UN documents, interviews with Sudanese academics and analysts and research conducted by NGOs show that the secondary occupation of land has taken place in western and southwestern Darfur, where nomadic Arab groups like the Mahariya, the Missirya, the Salamat the Beni Halba and the Beni Hassan have occupied grazing land originally by non Arab groups such as the Masalit and Fur. The area around Awalla_Nankused, hostel more than 50,000 non Arab communities before the conflict began (2003), but today inhabited by nomadic groups of Arab origin ( intersos, 2004: 12)

  No ownership, no peace in Darfur (Laurie Nathan, 2006)

      In 2003 fighting broke out in the Darfur region of Sudan as rebel movements mobilized against the Government’s political and economic marginalization of their communities. Media reports tended to portray the conflict as a struggle between African farmers and Arab herdsmen over scarce resources but the root causes lay more deeply in Khartoum’s oppressive and exploitative relations with the peripheries of Sudan since pre-colonial times. The Government and its proxy force, the Arab militia known as the Janjaweed, responded to the rebellion with such systematic and large-scale destruction of people and villages that the US administration and others of committing genocide accused them. By 2006 an estimated 350,000 people have been killed and almost two million people have been displaced. In late 2005 the seventh round of the Inter-Sudanese Peace Talks on the Conflict in Darfur commenced in Abuja, Nigeria, under the auspices of an African Union (AU) mediation team.

The mediation was led by Salim Ahmed Salim, the former Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity, and supported by the UN, the UK, the US and other international partners. The purpose of the talks was to broker a comprehensive peace agreement between the Government of Sudan and the main rebel movements in Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). On 5 May 2006 the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed by the Government and by Minni Minawi, the leader of one of the two SLM factions, but was rejected by JEM and Abdel Wahid al Nur, the leader of the other SLM faction.

The Agreement did not achieve peace and in certain respects it heightened conflict. Following the signing ceremony there were violent protests against the DPA in Darfur. More ominously, the Government and Minawi formed an offensive military alliance and attacked communities that support Abdel Wahid, while the Janjaweed’s rampages continued unabated.

There was widespread opposition to the deal within the Minawi group, with some commanders announcing a suspension of the DPA. Conversely, four senior officials from JEM and the Abdel Wahid faction signed a declaration of support for the Agreement and several leaders in Abdel Wahid’s grouping broke away because of his stance. As the International Crisis Group (ICG) put it, the DPA “accelerated the break-up of the insurgency into smaller blocs along loose ethnic lines.

In order to counter this tendency, JEM and rebel leaders from different factions founded the National Redemption Front. Intended to address the causes of the conflict, the DPA contains provisions on power-sharing and political representation; wealth-sharing and compensation for the victims of the conflict; ceasefire arrangements and long-term security issues; and a Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation designed to facilitate local dialogue and reconciliation.

The content of the DPA has been criticized by a number of analysts, including the ICG whose commentary sparked a heated exchange with the AU. The current paper does not cover this ground. It focuses instead on the process of negotiations and mediation in Abuja between November 2005 and May 2006, and seeks to show that the manner in which peace agreements are prepared and concluded is as important as their content.

In summary, the Abuja talks had three primary dynamics: the negotiating parties were unwilling to engage in negotiations and failed to forge agreements; the AU and its international partners, desperate for a quick accord, pursued a counter-productive strategy of deadline diplomacy that inhibited progress; and the mediators were consequently unable to undertake effective mediation.

As a result of these dynamics, the DPA was not a negotiated settlement and its fulfillment was bound to experience severe difficulties.

  Diplomacy of deadlines

The seventh round of the Darfur peace talks began at the end of November 2005, the previous rounds having produced nothing more than a Declaration of Principles and a series of ceasefire accords that were violated regularly by the parties. Nevertheless, on a visit to Abuja in early 2006 Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary, admonished the parties for having failed to meet the 31 December 2005 deadline set by the UN Security Council for a comprehensive peace agreement. In January 2006 Pronk proposed a new cut-off date of February. In early February the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Said Djinnit, told the mediators and the parties to wrap up by the end of the month. In March the AU Peace and Security Council called for the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement by the end of April.

The UN Security Council endorsed this date as the final deadline.

The posturing over deadlines was ignored by the Sudanese parties because it was not backed up by action. It was meant to constitute pressure on the parties and convey the international community’s seriousness about ending the conflict, but the deadlines came and went without any negative repercussions. They were consequently not an effective form of pressure and indicated a lack of seriousness on the part of the international community, which talked loudly on Darfur but carried a small stick. In July 2006 a senior Sudanese government official was quoted as saying that “the United Nations Security Council has threatened us so many times, we no longer take it seriously.

The rebels asked the mediators to give them three weeks to study and comment on the document. When they were turned down, they rejected the DPA. They complained that it watered down proposals made earlier by the mediation team, favored the Government and did not address adequately the political, economic and security rights and demands of Darfurians.

They also objected to the imposition of a deadline and to the AU having “fixed a time that was never realistic or reasonable for studying the Project, given that the translated (Arabic) version was made available only one day before the deadline stipulated by the Mediation. The Government, on the other hand, stated that it was prepared to endorse the Agreement despite its reservations.

The posture of the parties

           Prior to the end of April the parties in Abuja paid no attention to the deadlines emanating from the AU and its partners. For weeks on end they attended meetings without entering into negotiations. They made no attempt to accommodate each other’s concerns and showed no interest in trying to find common ground. None of them was willing to make concessions to its opponents.

There was no bargaining, let alone collaborative problem-solving. Instead, the parties merely reiterated their demands ad nauseum, rejected the claims of their adversaries, traded accusations, recriminations and insults, indulged in grandstanding for the benefit of the international observers, and endeavored to win support for their positions from the mediators.

The rebels regarded the Government as an evil regime that reneged on peace agreements. It had come to power through a coup; it had a notorious human rights record; it had repeatedly undertaken to disarm the Janjaweed militia and failed to honor that commitment; and it was not implementing faithfully the Comprehensive Peace Agreement concluded in 2005, which had ended the civil war between the Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement in southern Sudan. In addition, the Government had enormous wealth and power, the rebels had neither wealth nor power, and the extreme marginalization of Darfur was one of the fundamental causes of the rebellion. Therefore, according to the rebels, the Government could, and should, make extensive concessions whereas the rebel movements had nothing to give up.

The pressure on the mediators

             For all the fuss made by the international partners about the violence in Darfur, they did not provide guaranteed funding for the peace talks. Instead, a small number of donors provided grants retrospectively to cover expenses already incurred and warned repeatedly that funding could dry up in the absence of a quick accord. Aside from the anxiety this caused the mediators, the reliance on uncertain deficit funding was not sustainable. In January 2006 Salim complained to the UN Security Council that the funding situation was extremely precarious. When Djinnit told the mediators to wrap up by the end of February, he cited the lack of funds as the main reason; and when the Peace and Security Council announced in March that the DPA had to be concluded by the end of April, the mediators were informed that the talks would not be funded thereafter.

The deadline diplomacy for Darfur, which aimed to produce a quick accord, was motivated chiefly by the appalling level of death and destruction in western Sudan. It was also driven by a range of geo-political factors. The other major strategies for tackling the crisis – tough sanctions and the deployment of a UN force with a robust mandate – were not attractive or even feasible in the short- to medium-term. These strategies are always difficult to implement, their impact is not predictable, their efficacy is uncertain; they are no substitute for a genuine peace agreement and, in the case of Darfur they were opposed in the UN Security Council by Russia and China. In addition to the humanitarian benefits, a quick accord would end the political struggles around these issues. It would also meet the US desire for reduced tension with Khartoum, regarded by Washington as an ally in the ‘war on terror” and enable the US to concentrate its attention on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, which had led to a new Interim National Constitution for Sudan and encompassed an arena of conflict deemed more important than Darfur. In the case of Darfur, the deadline diplomacy inhibited effective mediation, resulted in a peace agreement that did not achieve peace, and sowed divisions that exacerbated the conflict.

As with all civil wars, the humanitarian need for a quick accord was indisputable. But there is never a quick fix. These wars are social phenomena whose causes, dynamics and contested issues are multiple, complex and intractable, and the difficulty of resolution is heightened immeasurably by the protagonists’ mutual hatred and suspicion. In these circumstances, short-cuts and quick fixes are invariably cul-de-sacs.

For a combination of political, psychological and pragmatic reasons, a peace agreement has to be owned by the disputant parties. They have to sell the agreement to their constituents; they have to come to terms, in particular, with its compromises; they have to implement it; and they have to adhere to its provisions in the long run. The Abuja experience demonstrates that there is no benefit to be gained from pressurizing the parties to sign an accord to which they are not committed; and that the process by which an accord is prepared and concluded determines its acceptability and legitimacy and is therefore no less critical than the content The suggestion that the Sudanese parties were not ready for a negotiated settlement does not imply that international actors should have stood by idly in the face of the mass killing and displacement of people in Darfur. If a conflict is not ripe for resolution, then the challenge is precisely to determine how best to alter the strategic calculations of the belligerents and generate a ripe moment through

a mixture of incentives and pressure. Although the impact of punitive action in high intensity conflict is unpredictable, it seems clear that the approach adopted in relation to Darfur, where the international community issued threats and then failed consistently to act on them, emboldened the belligerents.

A Strategy for Comprehensive Peace in Sudan

Africa Report N°130 – 26 July 2007

             Lasting peace in Sudan requires a new strategy, one which tackles its multiple conflicts and potential conflicts in a consistent manner. The overwhelming international concentration on Darfur has come at the expense of the broader quest for peace in the country. Unless a more balanced approach is developed, Darfur will continue to suffer, and new wars are likely. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended Africa’s longest running civil war, contains the detailed provisions and schedule for governmental reforms and democratization process leading to national elections in 2009 which can be the building blocks for peacemaking in Darfur and elsewhere. It is in danger of collapse, however, due to government sabotage and international neglect, the latter a cruel irony in that preoccupation to conclude the CPA negotiations led to initial reluctance to address the developing Darfur crisis in 2003-2004. Urgent efforts are needed to build consensus among the main international players on a strategy for obtaining implementation of key CPA benchmarks.

While Darfur is Sudan’s most pressing regional issue, additional attention is also needed in Kordofan, where armed groups unhappy with CPA implementation threaten new conflict and may link up with insurgents in Darfur; in the far North, where the construction of dams has displaced and angered several communities, and the risk of major conflict is increasing; and in the East, where the 2006 peace agreement has only just begun to be implemented and could easily still fall apart.

If implemented, the CPA would help transform the oppressive governmental system that is at the root of all these conflicts into a more open, transparent, inclusive and democratic one. The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) resists this because it views full implementation as a threat to regime survival. It is undermining the reforms critical to democratization, as well as the ones that would allow for the promised self-determination referendum in the South in 2011. If the CPA fails – which is increasingly likely – Sudan can be expected to return to full-scale war, with dire implications not only for its own people but for all its neighbors as well.

International efforts over the last three years have lacked consistent leadership and been weakened by disagreements, particularly between Western donor countries and China, Russia and the Arab world. An informal contact group of these major actors, and including the European Union (EU), France, the African Union (AU), the UN and regional countries, is slowly beginning to cooperate more effectively on Darfur, however, and has made some progress over the past four months towards renewing negotiations for a political settlement.

This cooperation needs to be expanded to priorities core elements of the CPA but growing problems with that agreement are receiving little attention, even though peace in Darfur and elsewhere can only be built on its foundation. The first major implementation deadline _withdrawal of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) from the South by 9 July – was missed without an international response. Much of the implementation that has taken place is on paper only; many commissions and other bodies still do not function. The former rebels, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), were expected to be an agent of change in Khartoum but have focused most of their energy on internal southern issues, at the expense of the national agenda.

Consistent international engagement and vigilance is needed. Monitoring the CPA is the primary mandate of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) but it has been without a chief for more than half a year. The Secretary- General must immediately correct this, and UNMIS should refocus on overseeing CPA implementation.

The enlarged contact group on Darfur is to meet again in September. It should agree on holding the parties, especially Khartoum, to key CPA benchmarks. The Secretary-General should work with the AU to organize a broad-based international conference at which a comprehensive roadmap for peace in Sudan would be laid out, including those benchmarks, the AU/UN plan for reviving the Darfur political process, and consensus on the diplomatic and economic rewards and punitive measures to be taken with respect to the parties in proportion to action on that roadmap.


            This was a status study based on the quantitative descriptive research. The documentary analysis technique was employed for data collection.

Definition of Research:

           Best W and Khan Y. (2006) define research as the study of the basic problems that contribute to the edifice of human knowledge. It seeks to establish new truths, find out new facts, formulate new theory and suggest new applications.

Quantitative Descriptive Research.

           Best W and Khan J (2006) define quantitative descriptive research as that which uses systematic procedures to discover quantifiable relationships between variables.

Documentary analysis:

         Also referred as content analysis. It is defined as quantitative inquiry which yields excepts, quotations or entire passages from an organizational clinical or programmer records, memoranda and correspondence. Official publication and report, personal diaries and open ended written responses to questionnaires and survey (Best W: 2006:255).

 (Alsory (1986) ) says content analysis includes the methods and techniques research use to examine, analyze and make inferences about human communication

Berelson (1950: 689) defines content analysis as a research technique for the objective systematic and quantitative description of the manifest content of communication. P 489

  Osgood (1959:35) defines content analysis as procedure whereby one makes inferences about sources and receives from evidence in the message they exchange.

            Weber (1985; 9) define content analysis as a research methodology that unites a set of procedures to make valid inferences.

          Kerlinger F.R (1986:19) defines content analysis as method of studying and analyzing communication in systematic, objective and qualitative manner to measure variables.

          Ray and Mondal (1999) state that content analysis can be used to examine the effect of the experimental manipulation upon the dependent variables.

         Content analysis is a technique that is used to extract desired information from a body of material by systematically and objectively identifying specified characteristics of the material (Berelson etal: 1954).

        Sohoni R.P (1973) Asserts that the general categories of content analysis must be stated in analyzable forms appropriate to the particular content under investigation. In this way content analysis helps to draw several objective conclusions which in turn will help us draw important and scientific guidelines for textbook construction and evaluation


   Purposive sampling was used and all the Times of India newspaper stories containing extracts on Darfur conflict causes were used as sample for the period of time 2006- 2007.

A total of 61 newspaper stories about Darfur conflict  causes were sampled for the two years.

coding Instrument:

      The coding instrument for collecting the data was developed. Below is an extract of the tool.

Chart 1. Coding instrument.

Causes Year (2006) Year (2007)
Historical grievances
Power struggle
Resource Distribution
Rebels (Darfur liberation movements):
Government fighting own people
Control over resources
External forces

     Development of tool:

          The tool was developed after the underlying causes of the conflict were identified. The identification of these causes was done after thorough search and study on the causes of the war in Darfur, others were identified as a result of my experiences as a Sudanese national. Based on the causes so far identified the tool/ instrument was developed column wise indicating the causes and years 2006 and 2007 respectively. The tool is a modification of one such used by Calloway B.A (2005) on content analysis of news coverage of the HPV vaccine by US newspapers.

The coding instrument was developed through an iterative process of reviewing the sample of newspaper selected.

The coding schema was designed to capture the main causes of the conflict in Darfur. Year-wise inter coder reliability was determined. For the newspaper articles of 2006, inter coder reliability was 92.9% and 2007 it was 85.7%.

Overall inter coder reliability was found to be 89.3%. This percentage was accepted as being within the limits after disagreement were discussed and reached consensus.

Holsti (1969) formula for determining reliability was used in finding out the coefficient of reliability i.e.




Operation definitions of terms:

  Historical grievances:

               This refers to the past animosities, which the tribes of Darfur have against one another, which arose due to the lack of water for animals, grazing field and stealing of livestock.

Rebels (Darfur liberation movements):

 As used in this study refers to the Arab militia “Janjaweed” and the African militia called the Darfur liberation Army (DLA).

Power struggle:

        Refers to the struggle to gain supremacy over political matters of government. In this study, it refers to the quest by the Africans to gain political control over the Arabs in the war torn area of Darfur.

Resource distribution

        In this study, it used to refer to the sharing of national resources between Arabs and Africans in Sudan.


          Herein refers to the discrimination of Arabs against Africans living in Darfur region of Sudan.

Government fighting own people:

       In the context of this study, it refers to the depiction of government irresponsibility to protect people and the support of government to Arab militiamen to cause mayhem to the African villages in Darfur.

   Control over resources:

      Herein refers to the fight to gain control over oil fields and land in the black dominated Darfur region.


 Refers to tribal animosities between African tribes of Darfur region i.e. Masalit, Rizeigit, Zaghawa and Awlad zeid.


      Refers to general loss of forest cover. However, within this context it refers to the desertification as depicted in particularly the Darfur region of Sudan where there is no green vegetation.

Genocide (ethnic cleansing):

      Refers to mass extermination of human beings of a particular race. In this study, it implies the mass killings of Africans by Arabs in Sudan.


Conceptually, it means the use of violent and intimidating methods of coercing a government or community. Within the context of this study, it implies the use of force by both the Africans and Arabs to intimidate one another.

External forces:

        Herein refers to the outside parties than the real Sudanese nationals trying to causes terror and suffering on the people of Sudan.

13) Politics:

      Herein refers to political bickering between the government dominated Arabs and African minorities. The kind of dissatisfaction between the two forces refers to politics in the study.


         As the aim of the study was to analyze the portrayal of Darfur in relation to causes of the conflict, the study mainly concentrated on how many times these causes were identified as being major contributors towards the conflict.

        Overall thirteen major causes known to have been major contributors were analyzed for the period of the two years. The percentage distribution of the causes is shown in the table below.

Table 1 (percentage distribution of causes of conflict 2006-2007)

Causes Year (2006) Year (2007)
 Historical grievances 0 0
Racism 7 6
Power sharing 11 6
Resource Distribution 0 3
Rebels (Darfur liberation movements) 37 2
Politics 0 3
Government fighting own people 22 15
Control over resources 11 3
Ethnicity 0 3
Desertification 0 9
Genocide (ethnic cleansing) 7 9
Terrorism 0 6
External forces 4 12
14.Others 0 0
Total 100 100

      The graph that follows helps to illustrate this phenomenon based on all the aspects of the causes as identified in table 1 above.

Year wise analysis

  1. a) 2006:

   During the period of 2006, 22 newspaper articles contained stories of Sudan’s Darfur conflict. This same period indicates that most of causes identified as causes of conflict to be rebels forces of greater magnitude is a case of government fighting it is own people for example in may 19th 2006 on its title: US removes Sudan from rogue list. It is reported that the united states government spokesman Richard Boucher criticized Sudan for it is lack of cooperation in permitting international food aid supplies to reach Darfur, where the “government was fighting the local population”.

        The other causes which dominated the news during the period were power sharing and fighting for control over oil (11%), Racism and genocide in that order. This can is elaborated in the table below.

 Table 2: causes Darfur conflict as at 2006 percentage distribution of reporting by times of India newspaper.

Causes % age
Historical grievances 0
Racism between Arabs and African 7
Power sharing 11
Resource distribution 0
Rebels (Darfur liberation movements) 37
Political 0
Government fighting own people 22
Control over resources 11
Ethnicity 0
Desertification 0
Genocide  (ethnic cleansing) 7
Terrorism 0
External forces 4
Others 0

Graph 2 below helps to visualize the above representation as shown thus;

  1. b) 2007:

        During this year, Rebels were reported to be the major causes of conflict. However as compared to the year 2006, the percentage declined. It is worthy to note that the reporting here again shows other factors being reported like.

                         Desertification     9%

                         Terrorism           6%

                         Politics                3%

                         Resource distribution   3%

        As the major factors seemed to decline in the percentage of reporting, even some other reported in 2006 as almost insignificant surfaced to be major causes. For example the issue of external attacks when compared in the year 2006 and 2007, there were higher incidences of reporting it as major cause. China is mainly reported as the major exporter of small aims to the Sudanese government. Hence this shows the percentage increasing from 4% in 2006 to 12% in 2007.

        Overall, the percentage distribution of the causes in 2007 is shown in the table 3 below and subsequently the graph against the table is shown underneath.

      Table 3 (%age distribution of the causes of conflict in Darfur as portrayed in Times of India newspaper in the year 2007).

Causes % age
Historical grievances 0
Racism between Arabs and African 6
Power sharing 6
Resource distribution 3
Rebels (Darfur liberation movements) 26
Political 3
Government fighting own people 15
Control over resources 3
Ethnicity 3
Desertification 9
Genocide (ethnic cleansing) 9
Terrorism 6
External forces 12
Others 0


Graph 3 below helps to visualize the above representation as shown thus

         Analysis of the causes:

Historical grievances:

            It can be noted from the findings that for the two years 2006-2007, this cause was not identified in the reporting as being significant to warrant the causes of conflict and hence reporting.

         However as (Jolnson, 2003:141:Flint and Aewaal,2005) reports the conflict started in 2003 after several years of sporadic fighting between different Darfurian groups particularly the Masalit and the Rizeeigat and the Zaghawa And Awlad Zead. By the end of 1999, these clashes had displaced over 100,000 people and turned 40,000 into refugees in Chad…. In reality old animosities and local fractures were being increasingly politicized and mobilized by different forces, including the government itself for military and political purposes.

        This I think is the most significant factor which ought to be reported in the international media houses and newspapers in particular.

        By avoiding to including this factor in the reporting, the Times of India like the other western newspapers is also not providing balanced reporting about the causes of conflict.

       It is worthy to note here that unless the root causes of conflict in Darfur are identified then the peace keeping process will bear no fruits, old fractures and wounds must be healed if there is to be peaceful agreement. This can only be so if the media firms give balanced reporting regarding any problem happening in the world over notwithstanding Sudan’s Darfur region.

Racism between Arabs and Africans:

            Comparison of the reporting between 2006 and 2007 shows that the Times of India newspaper reporting had declined. In fact, there was a decline of 1% from 7% reported in 2006.

            Ideally, majority of the media houses in the west have  reported that, this is the major conflict in Sudan “A struggle between Arabs and Africans” (Pantuliant s and Sorcha O, 2006).

           It is imperative at this point to note that the Arabs came to this country as traders. Hence they do not own land and because of this, they are fighting for land ownership as the following extract below imply.

Land and conflict:

              Most Arabs groups in Darfur do not own land on the basis of land holding system called “hokura” this system which dates back to pre-colonial times, was built upon by the British administration which allotted tribes, several Arabs transhumant Camel herding groups especially in North Darfur were not magnet any land through access to land and water along transhumant routes was generally accepted through customary practices. The breakdown of the cooperative relations with their settled neighbors particularly after the devastating draughts of the 1970s and 1980s, left many pastoralists impoverished and deprived them of a sustainable livelihood base.

              When the conflict broke out in Darfur, landless Arab groups saw an opportunity to expand their access to land and water, the competition over essential livelihood sources which political marginal sate and poor governance, have left unaddressed over the past three decodes have increasingly assumed racial aspects and many people in Darfur perceive the current violence in a racial context (Pantitians S, and Sorcha O, 2006).

Power struggle:

      The reporting in the newspaper between 2006 and 2007 declined by 5% from 11% of the cases reported in 2006, this cause is however indirectly inferred due to  the peace agreements which were  signed between the government dominated Arabs and the Darfur rebel forces, otherwise called the Darfur liberation front.

     This kind of indirect reporting some how does not give the audience or the readers a clear picture as to what the causes of conflict are. Reporting in my opinion should be clear, precise and perceptive. It should not be in a way that it gives the readers a room for making uncalled for predictions. The portrayal in this sense however is indicating the political struggle as the cause. This should be reported in a direct manner. What the reports were indicating all through is a sense of concern over peace agreement between the rebels and the government. In most instances, the actual cause does not clearly come out in an explicit manner.

In this case, my view is that the reporting ought to be explicit rather than being implicit.

Distribution of resources:

          Largely, during the year 2006, this was not reported as cause of conflict. However in 2007, resource distribution was portrayed as another cause of conflict, one wonders whether this reporting is truly reliable.

           There is a tendency of piecemeal reporting about the conflict. Instead of reporting and focusing on the overall picture, each passing time comes with a new problem hence calling for new ways of solving it. It is worth noting that reporting of this nature makes the peace process to come to a standstill. Indeed, in the year 2006, there were no cases reported of this aspect as of being a cause, but the year 2007 shows 3% of the reports asserting resource distribution as being a contributor of the conflict.

         Just as (Tanner, 2005:22) reports, there has been political marginalization in terms of resource distribution between “Africans and Arabs”. One expects these phenomena to have been reported early in 2006 than in 2007. As the media is acting like spotlight of the society, one cannot forgive it for the mistakes committed over injudicious reporting. Good media reporting should be on the whole than the parts for the whole is better than the sum of its parts.

Rebels Darfur liberation movements (Militia groups):

           Over the two years, this tended to be reported as the major cause. Although there seemed to be a decline in the reporting between 2006 and 2007, the aspect remained top most in the two years despite decline in coverage from 37% to 26% in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

             Starting in mid_2002, the self-proclaimed Darfur liberation force (DLF) conducted a series of attacks on police stations and other government targets, the (DLF) insurgents mainly belonging to the Zaghawa and Fur ethnic groups, changed their name to Sudan Liberation Movement/ Army and stopped up the scope of their attacks in early 2003.

            In a joint operation with the newly formed Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in April 2003 the border town of Tine was captured and AL_Fashir airport was attacked.

           The rising of insurgent militias saw the rise of a counter insurgent militia, which was pro-government of Sudan. The militia has widely been known as the Janjaweed by the international media and aid agencies and human right activists. The counter insurgence they waged was conducted mainly through attacks on the civilian population, designed to curtail support for the insurgents and occupy land. Meanwhile, despite repeated claims by the government that it did not support the militias, it was unable to rein on them. The Sudanese army constantly supported the militia raids on villages, some times with helicopter gunship or fired wing aircraft (ICI, 2005:54).

           However a closer examination of the Times of India newspaper reports the following:

         In 10th May 2006 the conflict described as being caused by African rebels, in 14th December 2006 the times of India issue reported also the cause being the headline stand taken by African rebels, similar assertions were made in the following year 2007.      However, it is worth to note that the major causes of civilian attacks in the Darfur region has not been by the African rebels but by the government backed Arab militia “Janjaweed” (ICI, 2005:54).

           This reporting only is skewed in the sense that it leaves the readers with the notion that it is the Africans who are fighting within themselves while avoiding recognizing the damage caused by the Arabs to the Africans also.


          This aspect was considered as not so significant for reporting in the year 2006. However, it was reported in 2007 and it accounts for 3% of total reports that year.

          On November 3oth 2007 issue, the Times of India reported that war in the Darfur region was as a result of political dispute. This also makes one wonder how the reporting is not consistent. The war in the Darfur region started in 2003 or way back before 2003.

          But the way the reporting is done regarding to causes implies that no single factor can be attributed to the cause of the war. It is emerging also that with the passage of time, a new cause emerges, could this be possible? That a new cause seems to emerge every time there is reporting. Why are there inconsistencies in reporting? This for sure leaves a lot to be desired regarding the way newspapers are reporting the stories about Darfur.

         On July 1st 2007, issue, the Times of India termed the war as a political crisis     Government fighting own people:

                  This is also another element which was unveiled in due cause of analysis. It tells that since the government sought to fight it is own, the people were outraged to protect themselves against the government. It is worthy to note that majority of people in government in Sudan are Arabs, these are the rulers of African also. Hence this assertion has been reported by the Times of India and has taken 22% in 2006 and 15% in 2007. This in essence could be true because the government of Arabs who are landless could want to displace the Africans from their lands in order to settle their landless people

              On the above note, Richard Boucher, the US government representative was quoted by the newspaper of 1st April 2007 saying that since the government had failed to protect the people from the insurgents of Arabs militia, the Africans resorted to protect themselves.

            Pantuliano. O (2006) also confirms the assertion that the old animosities were politicized and mobilized by different causes including the government itself or military for political purposes. The Times of India has actually reported this phenomenon consistently. If all the aspects contributing to the conflict were to be reported in a consistent manner, perhaps the solution to the conflict could have been availed.


        Sudan is one country in Africa known to be the supplier of oil. Most of the oil wells are situated in Darfur, there is a strong belief therefore that the resources could have contributed to the war, whereas the Africans think that the land belongs to them and are therefore entitled to every right to own oil wells, the Arabs on other land are claiming a share of it. This creates conflict as to who is to control the oil fields.

       This aspect is captured in the Times of India newspaper stories/ articles wherein 11% and 3% of the reports were on 2006 and 2007 respectively. However, the decline in the reporting may make one think that the aspect was not a significant factor to have warranted such reporting in the previous year. This is also where the newspaper reporting has not been consistent towards reporting of problems.


              As noted earlier in the introduction, the Darfur region has different ethnic groups i.e. Masalit, Zaghawa and the Awlad Zeid. These groups have been  fighting each other over a long period because of the struggle for water and grazing fields for livestock. These tribes are pastoralists. The government of Sudan has been asserting that the Darfur conflict is as a result of tribal clashes implying ethnicity. This factor has been captured by Indian newspaper also (Times of India). In 2006, reporting in the articles accounted for 0% while in 2007, it accounted for 3%. Like other causes, the aspect is missing conspicuously in the year 2006. This again leaves one to ask whether the reporting is reliable and consistent.

           Much as there could be many causes regarding the Darfur conflict, one expects to find some sort of consistency in the reporting.

Reporting which is narrow and imperceptive does not do the profession of journalism any good. Instead, it brings untold psychological torture.

         Most landless pastoralists saw in the government counter insurgency a chance to seize land. The Bestowal of secure land tenure has been a long- standing demand for the nomadic tribes in north Darfur, who have never had any entitlement to Adar (homeland).

        This has led the central government to manipulate the issue of nomads and has used them to tackle security problems in the region. Many analysts belief that the pastoralists groups engaged in counter insurgency operation have been Promised Land of settled farming communities in return for their services in war (De Weal, Pantuliand 2005). It is also indicated that area around Awalla_Nanlrmsch, near Garsila, hosted more than 50,000 non Arabs before the conflict but today it is inhabited by nomadic groups of Arab origin (Tanner2005).

             This is a very significant cause of conflict and ought to have been given prominence and preference in reporting. Nevertheless, it was not featured in the reporting of 2006 and only 3% of the articles featured it in 2007, thus indicating to the readers that ethnicity is not a major factor worthy of  consideration. This leaves a vacuum in peace finding operations.


            The reporting about desertification is featuring most in the 2007 newspaper issue where 9% of articles reported that desertification is a contributing factor to the Sudanese conflict in Darfur.

           On the 27th June 2007 article entitled “Desertification threatens peace” the Times of India newspaper reported quotations from the UN secretary general saying that Global warming was the major causes of the conflict in war prone areas citing Darfur region as an example.

            Darfur region is a desert area, however the assertion that desertification can be the cause of conflict in the Darfur region leaves many perplexed. The UN which is supposed to maintain peace in the world is digressing from the real course of the problem affecting Darfur perhaps because of improper reporting by the media. If the media were to report fairly and objectively after thorough research and analysis about delicate matter as is the case of Darfur, then the peace makes could find a starting point.

             Concerning this aspect, the peacemakers may find themselves addressing desertification and global warming issues thinking that they are main causes of conflict in the region hence leaving the salient problems unsolved. However, this does not imply that desertification may indirectly contribute to the scarcity of resource and in turn cause conflict, what I mean to say here is that let problems be stated crystal clearly instead of being implied, that is when problems can be solved. Hence a problem clearly defined is a problem half solved.

Terrorism and genocide (ethnic cleansing):

        The western media has often described the war in Darfur as a result of terrorism and commitment of atrocities of genocide, in fact, the pope of Vatican is reported to have used the word fratricidal killings (24th Jan 2006).

       Overall, the reporting about genocide was 7% and 9% respectively in 2006 and 2007 while terrorism factor was o% and 6% in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

        According to Times of India newspaper, the assertion of genocide and terrorism is postulated by American. It is worthy to note here that on August 20th 1993, the Clinton administration launched cruise missile attacks on the Al_shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum alleging that the plant was making chemical weapons as part of Osama Bin Laden infrastructure of international terrorism. The Clinton administration made several widely reported, claims about Sudan and the factory – all of which were reported in the media, however after carefully assessing the claims, the other observes newspaper spoke of “a catalogue” of US misinformation, glaring omissions and intelligence errors about the function of plant. These claims are now accepted, internationally to have been unfounded. The US administration has also reported that the Khartoum had used weapons of mass destruction in the course of the then civil war in south Sudan; the some claims have been reported about terrorism in the following issues of Times of India, 2nd October, and 2nd December 2007.

          These are glaring omissions in reporting. If this trend of reporting continues unabated, then the peace process in Sudan is far fetched.

          Genocide attacks have been also reported by the news of 20th April 2007, 1st Jan 2007, 24th Jan 2006, and 30th April 2007, all this among other issues imply that the cause of conflict is due to the genocide attacks or anything to do with genocide. It is imperative to know first the root causes- these problems can only be uprooted with researched reporting.

    External forces:

            In the articles or stories for the two years, the newspaper has reported that external forces are contributing to the cause of conflict. China has been frequently cited to be the major external force exporting small arms to the Darfur region- reason being that it wants to extract the oil and take control over the oil fields, this reporting rose from 4% to 12% between the years 2006 and 2007. This is a very significant factor which the reporters have reported in fact if all other reports were to be conducted in the same manner the war in Darfur could be a thing of the past.

            The reason behind China’s involvement is that it wants to take advantage of the war and exploit the country’s natural resource base. If there would be constant and increased reporting, China will have to be warned by the UN Security Council to stop the importation of small arms to the war torn area.

As seen from the analysis, it is worthy noting that no single factor can be attributed to the cause of Darfur conflict. However, it is imperative to note that the times of India like the western media reports have some glaring omissions on the causes of the war.          


           From the analysis one can be able to clearly note that the war in the Darfur region is caused by multiplicity of factors. However, the reporting in the newspaper articles so far analyzed leaves much to be desired. On one hand, it seems that the reporters do not do a thorough research before reporting delicate and sensitive matters like the case of Darfur conflict, this makes the reporting to be skewed and therefore the general trend is that it earns a bad reputation to media. Based on these type of reports, people may end up trusting and believing on wrong information.

           Reporting of the causes of the conflict seem to be piecemeal. That is, there is no consistency of the reports as to what the cause of conflict might be. One is therefore left in the dark since as shown from the analysis of the causes; the reporting from one year varies considerably from one report to another.  A completely new aspect causing the war can emerge in subsequent years even though it has not been reported previously.

             The piecemeal reports hither to do not help in finding long lasting solutions. The peacemakers, after reading the paper article may come up with ways of solving a problem which is not the key cause. For example, by asserting that desertification is the root cause of conflict, the peacemakers may find it appropriate of holding conferences to sensitize the world on how to control desertification by suggesting either planting more trees or protecting water catchments areas. This sounds good in solving desertification problem. However, it cannot solve the problem of war in a place like Darfur where there are other underlying major causes than merely desertification.

              Judicial reporting by the media can only be an antidote to the problems we are focusing. With good judgment in the reporting, the problems and causes of war in places like Darfur will be solved amicably. It is worth to note that the whole is better than the sum of it parts. Hence the media reports should be based on this principle and report an issue wholly than giving partial information. Partial information only serves to solve the problem in parts and the end process will be a farce.


          In relation to the above analysis the following can be adduced as the main finding of study.

  1. The Times of India newspaper has given preference to Rebels militia and government irresponsibility as major causes of conflict in Darfur.
  2. The reporting on the Times of India newspaper is peace meal, the reporting about the causes is such that at one time a particular cause appears, then it disappears as another emerges.
  3. There is no consistency in the reports about the major causes of conflict.

Overall, the Times of India newspaper reporting on the Darfur region in Sudan conflict stories are based on the Reuters- a western media company. This implies that the reporting is inclined towards the western media reporting which have been accused of sensationalism and irresponsibility.


          For the Times of India newspaper to have a fair and balanced reporting regarding the root causes of any event in general and the Darfur conflict in particular, I recommend the following:

  • The reporters for the newspaper to report their findings from the source instead of depending on reported materials.
  • Before any publication, there should be a team of intelligence to censure the newspaper reports.

Recommendation for Further Research:

           Owing to the time factor. I could not do a comprehensive study about the Darfur conflict in relation to other Indian newspapers, I therefore recommend that a comprehensive study be done on “Portrayal of the causes of Darfur conflict causes on major Indian newspapers”.   



1/Berelson B (1954): Content Analysis- A Handbook for Social Psychology (G Lindssey Edn) Vol 1, Cambridge, M.A Addison Wesley.

2/Best W & Khan J (2006): Research in Education (9th Edition) Prentice Hall India, New Delhi

2/Holist O.R (1969): Content Analysis for Social Sciences and Humanities, Reading. M.A Addison Wesley.

3/Kerlinger F.R (1986): Foundations of Behavioural Research (3rd Edition) Holt, Rinehart New York

4/Weber R.B (1985): Basic Content Analysis, Sage Beverly Hills. Calfornia.


1/The ‘protection crisis’:

A review of field-based strategies for humanitarian protection in Darfur  2006 by Sara Pantuliano and Sorcha O’Callaghan

2/APGfS (Associate Parliamentary Group for Sudan) (2004) Sudan’s

Opportunity for Peace and Development? Visit to Sudan 27th

June–4th July 2004, compiled and edited by Sultana Begum.

3/A Strategy For Comprehensive Peace In Sudan

Africa Report N°130 – 26 July 2007

4/Researching Attitudes Towards Peace And Conflict In Darfur 2006 By Iginio Gagliardone

5/No Ownership, No Peace: The Darfur Peace Agreement 2005 By Laurie Nathan

6/International Crisis Group, “Unifying Darfur’s Rebels: A Prerequisite for Peace”, Africa Briefing, 32, October 2005

7/The Media and Darfur: Sensationalism and Irresponsibility 2006 By Mohammed Robert.


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