Reckoning the Costs: How many have died during Khartoum’s genocidal counter-insurgency in Darfur? Wh

There is a growing possibility that the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) regime in Khartoum will soon prevail militarily in its thirteen-year campaign in Darfur. The current Jebel Marra offensive seems increasingly likely to overwhelm the last resistance by the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdel Wahid, and thus the last major natural redoubt controlled by rebel forces in the region. If in fact Khartoum prevails, we may sure that military resources (including Antonov “bombers”) now utilized in Darfur will be moved to the ominously growing campaign in South Kordofan. It does not appear premature to begin something like a retrospective account of the immense cost of the genocidal counter-insurgency that began in 2003.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in its March 15, 2016 “Sudan Humanitarian Bulletin,” reports figures revealing that the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is greater than at any time during the thirteen years of violence and civilian destruction in Darfur that have defined Khartoum’s pursuit of a genocidal counter-insurgency. 2.66 million people were displaced as of December 2015; 110,000 people have fled to North Darfur and South Darfur during the current Jebel Marra offensive. There are no definitive figures for Central Darfur and Jebel Marra itself; but estimates from the UN and other sources suggest that the number is again measured in the tens of thousands. In short, some 2.8 million are internally displaced in Darfur, overwhelmingly from the non-Arab/African tribal groups of the region.

The UN High Commission for Refugees in its “2015 Country Operations Profile—Chad” reports that approximately 380,000 Darfuris were refugees in eastern Chad. Although this figure has been reduced by some 60,000 refugees who have evidently returned to Um Dukhun in West Darfur and Tina and Karnoi in North Darfur, we cannot be sure of the cause of these returns. WFP budgeted nothing its food operations for the twelve camps along the Chad/Darfur border, and many have returned to Darfur not because of improved security but because they were slowly starving in Chad, where the regime of Idriss Déby has made clear its desire to remove the Darfuri refugee population. Still, more than 300,000 Darfuris remain in Chad as refugees living in increasingly tenuous circumstances.

We have no reliable census for the number of girls and women raped during these terrible thirteen years, but all evidence suggests that the figure is many, many tens of thousands(see my analysis of rape in Darfur for the years 2014 – 2015:

Continuing Mass Rape of Girls in Darfur: The most heinous crime generates no international outrage | January 2016 |

استمرار الاغتصاب الجماعي للفتيات في دارفور: أبشع جريمة لا تغضب العالم |

Darfur suffers as well from the broad food shortage that is increasing throughout Sudan, with a population of 2 million suffering from Acute Malnutrition. 4 million people are or will become seriously food insecure in 2016, and in some regions the situation is catastrophic. The South Kordofan/Blue Nile Coordinating Unit reports (March 2, 2016) that: “As many as sixty four percent (64%) of households in the [Kau-Nyaro-Warni area are severely food insecure; and a further thirty six percent (36%) are moderately food insecure (total 97%).”

Water shortages—for both livestock and people—are reported constantly throughout Darfur, but particularly in Darfur, where many IDP camps have dangerously low capacity.

Thousands of villages have been destroyed, either wholly in part. Much of the destruction has been confirmed by satellite photography. Radio Dabanga reports an estimate that in the past two months alone, during Khartoum’s military campaign in Jebel Marra, 150 villageshave been destroyed to date, even as a renewal of the offensive seems imminent:

East Jebel Marra, during the past three fighting seasons, has seen more than 1,000 villages wholly or partially destroyed. See my extensive data collection and mapping for November 2014 – November 2015:

“Changing the Demography”: Violent Expropriation and Destruction of Farmlands in Darfur, November 2014 – November 2015″ |

Mortality in Darfur, 2003 – 2016

The consequences of this massive, ethnically-targeted onslaught are clearly overwhelming in scale. Even so, we have no definitive account of how many people have died as a direct or indirect result of violence. The latter population includes death during flight from violence, a huge total unto itself; children—even infants—finding themselves without families; inadequate humanitarian resources for the displaced; and what epidemiologist refer to grimly as “deferred mortality”: deaths that are not immediate but are simply delayed or made more likely by the direct or indirect consequences of violence.

In the early years of the genocide, by far the greatest cause of death was violence itself. Failure to recognize this basic fact thoroughly vitiates an otherwise valuable mortality assessment (January 2010) from the Center for the Epidemiology of Disaster (CRED, Belgium), which essentially excludes violent mortality for the period February 2003 to what if vaguely referred to as “early 2004.” Since this is perhaps the very most violent year in the Darfur genocide, such a bizarre shortcoming destroys the credibility of any estimate of total morality from violence (the CRED distortion of data is discussed at length in my August 2010 mortality study, below). At some point, however—perhaps in 2006—the greatest cause of death became, and has remained, malnutrition and disease among the populations violently displaced.

The last time the UN offered an assessment of mortality in Darfur was in April 2008—eight years ago. At the time, Sir John Holmes, head of UN humanitarian operations, offered a figure of “300,000.” That figure—eight years later—continues to be cited in the world’s appallingly inadequate reporting on the region. In August of 2010, using all extant data and surveying all relevant reports, I produced the analysis that appears below. It concluded that approximately 500,000 Darfuris had died as of that date, overwhelmingly from non-Arab/African tribal groups. Although I had frequently attempt at earlier stages in the genocide to quantify the death total, since 2010 Khartoum has made impossible the aggregation of new mortality data, and both the UN and nongovernmental humanitarian communities seem content with the failure to take account of the lives lost.

But as I argued in a recent email interview with Agence France-Presse (an excerpt was included in the final version of the dispatch), efforts to establish the number who have died during violent conflict is neither morbid nor gratuitous, for two primary reasons:

[1] If we know how many have died, we have the single greatest indicator of how many more are likely to die if conditions remain unchanged. This is why continuing use of the April 2008 estimate of “300,000” is so disturbing. Although levels of violence have varied over 13 years of conflict, violence certainly produced, directly and indirectly, massive new mortality since April 2008. Had the world taken seriously the UN estimate of 2008, we would in fact have a much better sense of current mortality. And yet AFP, Reuters, the NY Times, The Guardian, Bloomberg are all constrained by, and use, the UN figure of 300,000 that can’t possibly be right.

[2] The second reason mortality estimates are important: if we don’t make every effort possible to ascertain human mortality, we are implicitly devaluing the lives of those who died but whose deaths don’t figure in our assessment of an ongoing humanitarian emergency. This is as true in South Sudan as it is in Darfur, as well as South Kordofan and Blue Nile. If we give up on establishing mortality estimates, if we content ourselves with only the easily gathered and quantified data, we are in one way or another saying that the lives of those not so easily captured in such data don’t “really count.” But they do matter, whether we count them or not.

Building on the figure of 500,000 from August 2010, I conclude that approximately 600,000 people have now died in the Darfur genocide. In extending my 2010 figure I am able to use no single set of data, but rather a close analysis of all reporting by Radio Dabanga; figures for Severe Acute Malnutrition for children under five (among whom the mortality rate is over 50 percent for those not in a hospital or therapeutic feeding center); data and reports from all dispatches by Sudan Tribune; reports and data from UN OCHA that allow some inference about mortality; reports from confidential sources on the ground; and a wide range of reports of conditions in the IDP camps.

Again, there are no hard data sets to aggregate, there is no certainty to the conclusions I draw from a reading of all published (and unpublished) reports on conditions and mortality in Darfur. Yet given the data spreadsheet from “Changing the Demography”: Violent Expropriation and Destruction of Farmlands in Darfur, November 2014 – November 2015″ |, I have concluded that it is impossible that significantly fewer than 100,000 civilians have died in the five and a half years since my August 2010 analysis.

For comparative purposes only, I might note that the April 2008 UN figure of 300,000 yields an average annual mortality rate of about 60,000. Wholly, coincidentally, my August 2010 analysis (coming two and a half years later, but using much fuller sets of data) also yields an average annual mortality rate of about 60,000. By contrast, a figure of 100,000 dead over the past five and a half years yields an average annual morality rate of under 20,000. Given the high level of violence and violent displacement over the past four years, particularly in East Jebel Marra, there are many reasons to believe that this may significantly understate mortality.

600,000 dead

It has become a truism of genocide studies that no two genocides are the same. The destruction of perhaps 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in spring/summer 1994 was—in stark contrast with Darfur—largely over in 100 days, although the terrible aftermath of that vast spasm of ethnic violence is with us still. And the vast Nazi campaign to destroy European Jewry during the Second World Wars has too often served as a distorting paradigm of what genocide must be. But the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide specifies acts that have all defined Khartoum’s ruthless counter-insurgency campaign in Darfur:

Article 2

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

“In whole or in part…” There can be no denying that 600,000 dead—overwhelmingly from the non-Arab/African tribal populations of Darfur, who have clearly been targeted “as such”—is a very substantial “part” of the “group.”

Darfur has been, and continues to be, the site of genocide—the longest genocide in over a century—one the world simply got tired of.

Eric Reeves | March 18, 2016


QUANTIFYING GENOCIDE: Darfur Mortality Update, 6 August 2010

Eric Reeves | 6 August 2010 |

In the late summer of 2004, during the most violently destructive phase of the Darfur genocide, the US State Department commissioned the International Coalition for Justice (CIJ) to oversee a systematic interviewing of Darfuri refugees who had fled to eastern Chad. It was on the basis of the report that emerged from these interviews (“Documenting Atrocities in Darfur” at that Secretary of State Colin Powell would make his September 2004 determination that genocide was being committed in Darfur. The personnel conducting the research included human rights experts, law enforcement officials, genocide scholars, forensic experts, and those with significant experience in the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. They were provided with ample resources, including a full complement of translators.

On the basis of 1,136 carefully randomized interviews, conducted among the Darfuri refugee population in Chad at 19 camp locations along the border, the Coalition for International Justice (CIJ) found that “sixty-one percent [of those interviewed] reported witnessing the killing of a family member.” The implications of this extraordinary figure were registered by only a very few among those who purported to speak about levels of mortality in Darfur. My own efforts to draw implications from these data (first in fall 2004, were followed by those of Professors John Hagan and Patricia Parker (April 2005, commissioned by the Coalition for International Justice) and by Dr. Jan Coebergh, an independent researcher ( They yielded comparable results using different statistical methodologies.

But because “Documenting Atrocities in Darfur” was not specifically designed as a mortality study, its consequential findings were dismissed by many professional epidemiologists, in nearly all cases with painfully little contextual understanding of the Darfur conflict—and ultimately by the US Government Accounting Office, which similarly dismissed the data from “Documenting Atrocities in Darfur” and the reports that utilized them. This ham-fisted dismissal has been smugly accepted as definitive in some quarters. My own finding was that by the beginning of 2005, 215,000 people had been killed (this based primarily on CIJ data) and that another 200,000 had died as a result of disease and malnutrition directly consequent upon ethnically-targeted violence (my primary sources for this latter figure were UN World Health Organization mortality studies, particularly of August/September 2004; see Total mortality, I argued, was over 400,000 (400,000 was the figure that Hagan and Parker would arrive at several months later, though making assumptions that I believe worked to understate violent morality and overstate mortality from disease and malnutrition).

There have been no subsequent mortality studies that have used the CIJ mortality data.

But those data have recently (July 14, 2010) found remarkable corroboration and amplification in a report entitled “Darfurian Voices” ( ). The report indicates that 72% of Darfuri refugees (in a population of approximately 250,000) had one or more (up to ten) “immediate family members (parents, siblings, spouses, children) [who] were killed in attacks related to the current conflict” (page 14).

What are the statistical implications of these figures (pages 14 – 15 of the report)?

Let us assume for clarity in treating percentage data 100 respondents (the actual number of respondents was approximately 1,250; see citation of “Footnote 2” in Appendix 1b); let us assume as well a rather large average immediate family size of 10 (see Appendix 2), so that the 100 respondents represent a total statistical cohort of 100 families or 1,000 refugees; and finally, let us assume no duplication in family representation in the survey, an assumption warranted by the statistical methodology of the survey.

[specific percentage values here are from the bar graph on page 14, rounded to nearest percentage integer]:

Percentage of 100 families who experienced “x deaths” per immediate family:

0 deaths 28% = ( 0 deaths within the statistical cohort of 1000)

1 death 20% = (20 deaths within the statistical cohort) (1 x 20)

2 deaths 16% = (32 deaths within the statistical cohort) (2 x 16)

3 deaths 12% = (36 deaths within the statistical cohort) (3 x 12)

4 deaths 8% = (32 deaths within the statistical cohort) (4 x 8)

5 deaths 5% = (25 deaths within the statistical cohort) (5 x 5)

6 deaths 3% = (18 deaths within the statistical cohort) (6 x 3)

7 deaths 3% = (21 deaths within the statistical cohort) (7 x 3)

8 deaths 2% = (16 deaths within the statistical cohort) (8 x 2)

9 deaths 1% = (9 deaths within the statistical cohort) (9 x 1)

10 deaths 2% = (20 deaths within the statistical cohort) (10 x 2)

100% of 229 total deaths within the statistical cohort of 100 families (1,000 refugees)

The statistics represented here in simplified form are derived from approximately 1,250 interviews of persons 18 years of age and older residing in eight of the twelve official Darfur refugee camps (see Appendix 1c). The report uses a “stratified random sampling approach” (though see Appendix 1 concerning selection of leadership figures). The survey was able to field a full complement of translators (speaking Arabic as well as Fur, Massalit, Zaghawa, and other African languages).

The report assumes a total Darfuri refugee population of approximately 250,000 (249,744), based on a May 2009 calculation by the UN High Commission for Refugees. (The “Darfurian Voices” data were collected between April and July 2009.)

Assuming no family duplication in representation (again, such duplication is highly unlikely given the sampling method) and an average immediate family size of 10:

For 100 respondents—each representing 10 family members, for a total represented population of 1,000 refugees—there is confirmation of 229 “immediate family members (parents, siblings, spouses, children) [who] were killed in attacks related to the current conflict” (in other words, 22.9% of the 1,000 represented refugee population).

If we assume that this figure is fully statistically representative for Darfuri refugees in the camps of eastern Chad (as it was designed to be), the total figure for violent mortality experienced by this population is approximately 57,250 (229 x 250 [250 = 250,000 1,000 persons] as of July 2009. Alternatively, we may calculate 22.9% of 250,000—again 57,250. If we assume a smaller average size for families in the camp, the total number of deaths increases proportionately. (Such an assumption does not increase the number of family members killed in the sense of numbers per family, but rather increases our estimate of the number of families represented in the camp, and thus the total number of deaths.)


Since the total displaced population in eastern Chad and Darfur has grown over more than seven years, we require an average figure on which to base any extrapolation to the internally displaced populations inside Darfur. Using UN figures, such averaging moves from a starting number of 0 (zero) for early 2003 to approximately 1.66 million in December 2004 to approximately 2 million in October 2006 to the present figure of 2.7 million, first reported by the UN in October 2008 and relevant through the gathering of “Darfurian Voices” data in April July 2009. Finding a precise average number of displaced persons, including refugees, with proper weighting of particular time-frames, is not feasible. More troublingly—from a statistical perspective—displacement is less and less directly related to violent attacks—and thus violent mortality—after 2004, although it is still typically related to concerns about insecurity, and significant violent mortality continues. But if precision is impossible, reasonable estimates can be made from available figures for displacement.

If we assume an average internally displaced population of 830,000 (830,000 = (0 + 1.66 million) 2) for the period of February 2003 to December 2004, and if we assume that the Chadian refugee mortality figure is fully representative of this population, then we may estimate that the total number of family members killed is 229 x 830 (830 = 825,000 1,000 persons) or almost 190,000 (190,070) “immediate family members (parents, siblings, spouses, children) [who] were killed in attacks related to the current conflict.” Alternatively, we may calculate 22.9% of 825,000—again 190,000 (190,070).

The average total of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) for January 2005 to October 2006 may be estimated as 1.83 million (1.83 million = (1.65 million + 2 million) 2). Thus the average increase in the internal displacement population for the period of January 2005 to October 2006 is 1.01 million (that is, this figure represents the increase from the average population of internally displaced persons for February 2003 through December 2004: 1.83 million minus 825,000). If we assume that by this point in the conflict the Chadian refugee violent mortality rate overstates by a factor of 5 violent mortality among internally displaced Darfuris, then we may estimate that the total number of family members killed is (229 5) x 1,010 (1,010 = 1.01 million 1,000 persons) or approximately 46,000 (46,258) “immediate family members (parents, siblings, spouses, children) [who] were killed in attacks related to the current conflict.” Alternatively, we may calculate (22.9% 5) of 1.01 million—again 46,000 (46,258).

The average total of IDPs for November 2006 to July 2009 may be estimated as 2.35 million (2.35 = (2 million + 2 .7 million divided by 2). Thus the average increase in the internal displacement population for the period of November 2006 to July 2009 is 520,000 (that is, this figure represents the increase from the average population of internally displaced persons for January 2005 to October 2006: 2.35 million minus 1.83 million). If we assume that by this point in the conflict the Chadian refugee violent mortality rate overstates by a factor of 10 violent mortality among internally displaced Darfuris, then we may estimate that the total number of family members killed is (229 10) x 520 (520 = 520,000 1,000 persons) or approximately 12,000 (11,900) “immediate family members (parents, siblings, spouses, children) [who] were killed in attacks related to the current conflict.” Alternatively, we may calculate (22.9% 10) x 520,000—again 12,000 (11,900).

Violent mortality through July 2009 is thus estimated to be:

57,250: violent mortality among Darfuri refugees in Chad

190,000: violent mortality among Darfuri IDPs, February 2003 – December 2004

46,000: violent mortality among Darfuri IDPs, January 2005 – October 2006

12,000: violent mortality among Darfuri IDPs, November 2006 – July 2009

305,250: total violent mortality among displaced Darfuris through July 2009

Obviously these calculations all depend upon how we answer a basic question: how representative are Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad of the displaced population within Darfur itself? And how does the answer to this question change over the course of the conflict? “Darfurian Voices” attempts no extrapolation of the sort offered here, confining the relevance of all their data on all issues to eastern Chad alone. But the question of larger relevance is imperative, given the paucity of data on violent mortality in Darfur, especially in the first year of the conflict. Moreover, we are not completely without suggestive, if more localized, data.

One important consideration in answering this central question is the reason for civilian flight.

Nearly all the refugees in eastern Chad fled from violence. For an analysis of the relationship between violence and human displacement within Darfur itself, especially valuable data come from an early study published in The Lancet (October, 1, 2004, “Violence and mortality in West Darfur, 2003-2004”

at ). This study suggests an extremely high correlation between violent displacement and displacement per se, precisely what we find among refugees in eastern Chad. (In fact, this study presents data indicating that violence within Darfur during the first two years of conflict is associated even more closely with displacement than among the Darfuri refugees as reported in “Darfurian Voices.”) Thus it supports in particular the calculations here for violent mortality for the period of February 2003 to December 2004.

Certainly we may safely assume that the 1,250 interviews conducted by “Darfurian Voices” are highly statistically relevant, especially given the ethnic and geographical range of those interviewed (virtually all were from non-Arab or African tribal groups, with 82% from the Massalit, Zaghawa, and Fur tribes; eight geographically distributed camps were represented). At the same time, there is no purely statistical justification for these deflator factors of 5 and 10; they are estimates based on close textual analysis of many hundreds of reports of violence during the periods in question.


Although the “Darfurian Voices” study is deeply impressive in its research, it must also be noted that, as was the case with the CIJ study, there are several limiting factors in any statistical assessment of the responses that were recorded, factors that might well drive total violent mortality within displaced Darfuri populations either higher or lower.

[1] Neither the CIJ study nor the “Darfurian Voices” study can take into account families in which all members were killed, and who thus had no reporting presence in the camps where interviews took place. There is circumstantial evidence that this number may be significant (e.g., the survival of only one member of a large family would suggest that this family came perilously close to being unrepresented). Non-survival works to understate total violent mortality.

[2] Further, families with small numbers of survivors are under-repr