No one stamped our passports when we entered Darfur, in western Sudan. There were no Chadian patrols at the border to stop our two-car convoy from crossing and, more importantly, no Sudanese troops on the other side to detain us. For many miles, there were simply no human beings at all, just desert, empty villages, and the occasional corpse of a camel or a sheep.
It was late July, and we had snuck into what the rebel groups that control the area like to call “liberated territory.” But the barren and depopulated landscape we saw before us suggested defeat rather than victory. It took a few hours of driving before we came upon people: a weary group, mostly women, with babies on their backs and random household goods on their heads, making the long trek toward Chad and safety.
Over the past year and a half, since the Sudanese government and allied militia began their scorched earth campaign against the black African population of Darfur, more than 1.5 million civilians have fled their villages.