The fact that attributing the Darfur conflict to environmental factors obscures human agency and, as a result, accountability for the violence is widely acknowledged. However, this point is frequently made in terms that reduce the Darfur conflict to one of political and economic marginalization alone, implying that the government is to blame for the violence. As a result, the academic discourse has created a false dichotomy between a local conflict that has been "depoliticized" and a national conflict that has been "polarized." This article attempts to reconcile that polarized debate by looking into the contested institutions in Darfur that are relevant to internal Darfur conflicts, the conflict with Khartoum, and regional conflicts, particularly those involving Libya and Chad. Three case studies of conflict in Darfur are examined, with a focus on the complex interplay between livelihood solidarity (which minimizes ethnic divisions) and ethnic solidarity (which emphasizes ethnic divisions) (which feature highly in conflict). Regional and national conflicts interact with conflict within Darfur through manipulation of contested institutions, among other means. The paper examines how divergent framings of natural resources and conflict have been instrumentalized within the global discourse on Darfur, to the detriment of both the search for peace in Darfur and a theoretical understanding of the links between natural resources and conflict.