When you watch the news about Darfur the conflict generally gets boiled down to being between a bunch of Arab nomads who, backed by the government, have mounted a genocide against a bunch of African farmers. But this oversimplification is unhelpful . Let me tell you a story – pure fiction – but one that might better help explain.
There was a tribe that lived in this rural area – let’s call them the Red Sox. They are poor, Muslim, and farmers. Right next to them live a tribe – let’s call them the Yankees - that is also poor, Muslim, and farmers. They hate each other. From time immemorial they launch raids on each others small plots, villages and flocks. The children of both groups die from preventable diseases, don’t have enough food, inadequate health care, and little clean water. Simple enough so far?
Every winter a bunch of different nomadic tribes (say…the whole American League) show up on the scene, passing through with their herds, both trampling and eating crops but also bringing meat and milk.
Then, one day, another tribe – let’s call them the Padres – show up fleeing the war where they live. They’re Christians and they settle down on the edge of town and scratch out a living. Their kids die of preventable diseases, and there’s general malnourishment and not enough water but they’re there. The Red Sox and the Yankees go on hating each other but put up with the Padres as an unavoidable nuisance.
Someone very rich somewhere gets wind of the fact that the Padres are there and that they’re starving. So they send food, a lot of it, and keep sending it for 15 years. They send medicine too, and health information. It doesn’t make the Padres lot in life any better, necessarily, but at least they’re not dying in droves so the very rich person somewhere gets to sleep better at night.
So, one year, it gets bad. There’s a drought, the Red Sox and the Yankees are starting to vie for land to farm. They decide to arm themselves and so now whenever they duke it out it tends to be bloodier. Added to that, they’re pretty cranky about this entire American League just trampling on everything so turn on them as well. The American League, however, has big guns of its own and begin using them at will to take what they want.
Then, another tribe – the Dodgers – turn up. They’re fleeing another war in another part of the country and don’t like the Red Sox or the Yankees, but they REALLY don’t like the Padres. They just generally make like a bit less liveable for everyone around.
The Red Sox, already cranky, start to think to themselves, ‘hey, wait a minute! These Padres over here just sit around and get food and free health care and we’re no better off than they are!’ So, they send letters to the rich guy saying that if they don’t get some of the beneies then they’ll stop the Padres getting them too. The rich guy thinks, ‘hey, I’m rich! Why not?’
Meanwhile, the Padres’ war at home ends but it’s not so easy to just uproot 5,000 people who have lived somewhere for 15 years. It takes some time. (Not to mention that they’ve gone and imported their own little militia from the war back home and staying somewhere where you are fed and cared for looks mighty fine compared to going back to who-knows-what where they came from)
And that’s Darfur in a nutshell. The Red Sox, the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Padres, and the entire rest of the American League all armed and jealous of one another….and one rich guy who doesn’t quite know left from right just trying to keep everyone fed and happy and not quite understanding why everyone isn’t just a touch more grateful.