Climate Change and Darfur

The Free Republic, in its traditionally understated way, highlights an Investors Business Daily editorial excoriating Ban Ki-moon for making the connection between climate change and the Darfur conflict. “The new U.N. secretary general invokes a Twinkie defense,” says the editorial. “Excusing Islamofascist genocide in Darfur by blaming it on global warming. Forget the Chinese weapons. According to Ban Ki-moon, your SUV is responsible.”

The Atlantic Monthly ran an excellent feature on this topic two months ago. Darfur, which is composed of the three provinces in Sudan’s west, enjoys little natural wealth. It is a vast, unforgiving, and arid place. But it was not always as arid as it is today. As the Atlantic Monthly piece by Stephan Faris explains, southward expansion of the Sahara desert toward Darfur is a relatively recent phenomenon.

The desertification of Darfur has pit traditionally agrarian “black African” tribes in competition for arable land with nomadic tribes of ethnic-Arab herders. Of course, that alone is not sufficient to explain the accusations of genocide. Rather, when ethnic Darfuri tribes launched a rebellion against the central government in Khartoum in 2003, the government recruited and armed militias drawn from ethnic-Arab tribes, with promises that the land would be theirs. The fact that the two groups competed for natural resources in ways they had not in previous generations made the government’s strategy to recruit militias that much easier.