The displaced in Wadi Salih locality in Central Darfur reject the replacement of the High Committee for the Displaced by a new committee formed by the state authorities.
“The authorities of the National Congress Party (NCP) have formed a committee of 21 displaced, including sheikhs, omdas, tribal leaders, and teachers,” a sheikh of the Jedda camp near Garsila told Radio Dabanga on Friday.
“The displaced formed the High Committee and elected its members 13 years ago to resolve arising problems,” he said. “Now they tempted some displaced with money and positions to replace the High Committee for the Displaced, and implement the agenda of the NCP by dismantling the camps and forcing the displaced to participate in the coming referendum.”
The sheikh warned of conflict in the camps if the authorities insist on replacing the committee, and called upon “all parties not to interfere in the affairs of the displaced”.
Last year, Sudanese officials announced more than once that large parts of Darfur have become safe. The hundreds of thousands of displaced in the conflict-torn western region have the choice to return to their area of origin or resettle in the areas of the current camps that will be rebuilt into new residential districts.
The Sudanese government also decided that the referendum on the permanent administrative status of the region will take place on 11-13 April. People currently residing in Darfur will be able to determine whether the region will continue as five states or return to one administrative unit.
The referendum was supposed to be held within a year of the signing of the peace accord. Last October, President Omar Al Bashir announced that the referendum will take place in April 2016.
The administrative status is not the main concern of Darfuris themselves: “What the people in Darfur want most is not a referendum but their being able to lead a decent and secure life in their villages of origin,” a Darfuri human rights lawyer told Radio Dabanga in October.
“The Doha Document prioritises the restoration of the security situation, through the implementation of the security arrangements and the disarmament of the non-military in the region. Yet, the disarmament has never taken place,” he said.
Darfuris living in the camps for the displaced, Sudanese opposition parties, and civil society activists have also expressed their grave concerns about holding the referendum in the current circumstances.
Residents of Jebel Marra, currently suffering under a major government offensive against rebel strongholds in the area, told Radio Dabanga that they wonder how a referendum can be held while their villages are being destroyed, and many people are hiding from continuous air raids.
The Governors of four Darfur states said last week that the registration rate has reached 80 percent. In the latest census, in 2008, the population of the Darfur region was estimated at 7.5 million.