Sudan

Darfur displaced: we are willing to return if security and protection are in place

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Displaced in Zamzam camp in 2011 © Albert González Farran/UNAMID

Internally displaced people (IDPs) in North Darfur, who have faced another wave of violence directed at them recently, met with Darfur Wali (governor) Minni Arko Minawi to talk about their concerns after protests took place earlier this week. Lt Gen Suleiman Sandal of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) stressed that the recent attacks on North Darfur villages highlight the necessity of implementing better security arrangements.

Recently, villages in North Darfur that are home to the farms of displaced people faced severe attacks and looting incidents. Earlier this week, a vigil was organised to protest the murder of a displaced man under 'mysterious circumstances'.

During the meeting with the wali of the Darfur region. the IDPs of El Salaam, Zamzam and Abu Shouk camps in North Darfur complained about the lack of security around the camps, the attacks they face outside of the camps on their farms, the shortage of teachers and secondary schools, the lack of health centres, medical staff, and ambulances, and the lack of drinking water, among other things.

Representatives of the displaced also confirmed their willingness to return to their original home areas as long as general security and additional protection during the agricultural season are secured.

Minni Minawi stressed the need to work together to fulfill the provisions of the Juba Peace Agreement and achieve sustainable peace in Sudan.

Darfuri farm struggle

During the war in Darfur, Darfuri farmers faced atrocious attacks on their villages by government-backed Arab herding militias called the Janjaweed* in which their farms were occupied. Millions had to flee and found refuge in camps for the displaced but even these were frequently attacked.

Many people displaced by the war in Darfur since 2003 do still not feel safe enough to permanently return to their original farms. Often, they come back during the agricultural season to tend to their farms or commute from the camps.

JEM speech

Lt Gen Suleiman Sandal, Political Secretary of the Justice and Equality Movement and Vice-Chairman of the Security Arrangements Committee, said that the recent attacks in Kolgi and other North Darfur villages highlighted the necessity to implement security arrangements and form a joint force in Darfur.

'The recent attacks highlight the need to implement security arrangements and form a joint force in Darfur'

In his address at a training course on peacebuilding and civilian protection for armed struggle movements, he said that the recent events in the Kolgi region of North Darfur represented a real test for the armed struggle movements and the peace process partners to preserve and implement the Juba Peace Agreement.

He explained that it is very difficult to move to a democratic transition without implementing the security arrangements stipulated in the peace agreement because many protocols in the security arrangement clause of the agreement are related to Darfur.

Unless these security arrangements are implemented, there will be no voluntary return and development and urbanisation will not be achieved, Sandal argued.

Darfur has a long history of strife between often Arab herding tribes and non-Arab African herders or sedentary farmers, which were exploited by the previous regime of dictator Al Bashir who supported the Janjaweed militia that carried out many attacks on farmers. Al Bashir employed these militias, largely made up of Arab nomads, to repress a revolt over ethnic discrimination in the region, mainly targeting non-Arab African farmers. According to the UN, the conflict left at least 300,000 people dead and displaced more than 2.5 million.

In the past 10 years, Arab herders in Darfur and nomads from countries west of Sudan were invited by the government of Omar Al Bashir, ousted in April last year, to inhabit the areas where Darfuri farmers used to live before the war in Darfur broke out and they were displaced. Government militias protected these new settlers for years.