AllAfrica’s Charles Cobb Jr. has an excellent article talking about possible motivations for the Khartoum government’s reaction to rebel groups in Darfur, a reaction that’s included ethnic cleansing and possible genocide. Cobb quotes (US) Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Charles R. Snyder as saying that SLM and JEM forces (the two major rebel groups in Darfur) had threatened Khartoum more than the SPLM, the rebel group in the South that’s fought Khartoum for a decades-long civil war. Snyder asserts that, while SPLM never threatened attacks on the city of Khartoum, Darfur rebels managed to shut down a major road between Khartoum and Nyala, the main city of southern Darfur, causing panic within the Khartoum government. There’s also fear of a domino effect – if the Darfur rebels get what they want, what about other rebel groups around the nation?
Complicating the situation is the fact that over 50% of the Sudanese military is from Darfur, primarily from the African Muslim population. These soldiers have had a great deal of sympathy for Darfur residents who complain of Arab favoritism. This may explain why the military has used Jinjiweed militias to fight a proxy war rather than formal military forces.
Roger Winter, an assistant USAID administrator focusing on the Darfur issue, now estimates that at least 100,000 people will die in Darfur due to starvation, exposure and disease even with massive international intervention now. He projects a worst case scenario of 350,000 deaths.