Arab militias known as Janjaweed have terrorized Darfur's African civilians with the backing of Sudan's government since 2003, despite international clamor against what the U.S. government and human rights groups call genocide. Peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and rebels teetered on the brink of collapse for nearly a week until Friday morning, when the Sudanese government and Sudanese Liberation Movement—the largest rebel faction—agreed to a deal called "a shaky foundation" by the Financial Times. The pact, which rebel leaders agreed to "with reservations," was brokered by U.S., British, and African Union (AU) mediators, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who rushed to the talks in Abuja, Nigeria after the sides failed to meet an April 30 deadline (AllAfrica.com). The history and main players of the Darfur crisis are explained in this CFR Background Q&A.
Three years after government-backed Arab militias known as "Janjaweed" began burning villages and conducting large-scale massacres in the Darfur region, the Sudanese authorities and rebel forces are moving at a painfully slow rate toward peace. In the meantime, a situation the U.S. State Department has called "genocide" has left some 2 million people displaced and hundreds of thousands dead. A well-meaning but ill-conceived peacekeeping mission by the African Union has failed to stop the massacres and destruction of villages. Now the UN Security Council, in spite of reluctance on the part of China and Russia, is calling for greater UN and NATO involvement in the crisis, against the wishes of the government in Khartoum.