In 2003 two Darfuri rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), launched attacks on Sudanese Government military targets. The Sudanese Government reacted by arming militia – the Janjaweed (which translates as ‘Devils on Horseback’ or ‘armed men on horseback’) – to attack black African people in Darfur who were perceived to be supportive of the rebels.

These Janjaweed raids have caused a humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur. Hundreds of villages have been destroyed, thousands of people killed, and millions of people forced to flee their homes. Refugees from Darfur say that after Government-ordered air raids on villages, the Janjaweed ride into villages and slaughter the men and rape the women before stealing whatever they can.

A special panel of experts set up by the United Nations in 2004 stopped short of calling the conflict in Darfur genocidal. However, the International Criminal Court (the ICC) issued indictments against the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir for three counts of genocide on 12 July 2010 and several states around the world have condemned the atrocities as genocide. Al-Bashir continues to resist arrest. The British Government has endorsed the ICC decision regarding al-Bashir and has urged the Sudanese Government to cooperate.

Fighting and lawlessness continue in Darfur to this day.