In 2003, two Darfuri rebel groups from the sedentary tribes, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), an Islamic professing group, and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), a secular group, attacked government installations in Darfur. The agenda of SLM was to make Sudan a secular state; devolve power to states including Darfur; and respect democracy, human rights and individual freedoms. These two rebel groups felt that the government of Sudan had not only marginalized their people in Darfur, but had failed to protect members of non-Arab tribes from members of Arab tribes who often attacked villages riding horses or camels.
After these rebels attacked government installations and the government began sensing defeat, it employed a scorched-earth policy. The Janjaweed, a militia group comprised mainly of Arab tribes from Northern Darfur, were utilized to stop the rebels. Apart from Janjaweed, the government of Sudan also deployed its military in Darfur. They used armored vehicles, helicopter gunships, Antonov aircrafts and heavy machine-guns mounted on trucks. These troops bombed and burned villages; raped women; shot and killed innocent civilians; burned schools and towns; destroyed crops; and stole or killed livestock. Instead of attacking JEM and SLM fighters, however, the government forces and Janjaweed militia attacked unarmed non-Arab civilians and totally destroyed their villages. By 2006 there were over 180,000 dead and over 2 million internally displaced persons, many who had to become refugees in neighboring Chad.
As the conflict raged on, children, especially young boys, were recruited to either be active fighters or to carry weapons and ammunition in the battlefields. In 2008, Waging Peace, the British non-governmental organization that collected the children's drawings used in this online exhibition, wrote a report accusing JEM of recruiting child soldiers, a claim that JEM vehemently denies.