Following up on Cordell’s post below, the scarcity of water in western Sudan is often cited as a catalyst of the conflict there. Over the past twenty years, desertification in western Sudan had increasingly pitted historically nomadic Arab tribes in competition for water and arable land with the so-called “black African” tribes of Dafur. The ruling elite in Khartoum used this underlying tension to its advantage when it hired militias from the ethnic Arab tribes to crush rebellious “black African” militias in Darfur.
Even today, as the UN plans for a possible peacekeeping force in Darfur, the scarcity of water sources in western Sudan presents a huge logistical problem. If the force ever gets off the ground, water must either be imported, or else a number of water bores must be drilled to sustain the peacekeepers.