Darfur Donor Conference: A recipe for construction or more destruction?
By Ahmed Hussain Adam
April 3, 2013: The International Donor Conference for Darfur is set to be held on 6-7 in Doha-Qatar. The Conference has been postponed several times, due to differences over its rationale and timing, between the State of Qatar and the Government of Sudan on the one hand and the key international players on the other. The position of those who have been opposing the Conference, including Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), refugees, armed movements, Sudan’s advocacy groups and some donor countries, is that the Conference lends support to the genocidal government of Khartoum and hence it is legally and morally wrong to convene it. They correctly point out the fact that Darfur is still at war and no peace is on the horizon as of yet. The facts on the ground show that the war and the aerial bombardment of Darfur by the Government of Sudan have not stopped to date. More painful is the Government process (security arrangements) of integrating Janjaweed militias into the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), the signatory to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), which effectively means the Janjaweed and other Government allied militias are to be paid from donor funds. Moreover, for every dollar given by the donors, the government of Sudan saves a dollar for war activities. The government can replenish its war chest for further atrocities. Therefore, the Donor Conference will be a pre-mature and counter-productive initiative and will only prolong the suffering of the people of Darfur.
Different Groups Perception of the Conference:
As of today, the Darfur Donor Conference has been widely considered as a controversial initiative. For instance, IDPs, refugees, armed movements, Sudan’s advocacy groups and other stakeholders are adamantly opposed to the conference and widely dismissive of it as another attempt by the international community to appease the Sudan government as quid-pro-quo for its tactical position on outstanding issues between Sudan and South Sudan. The IDPs are bewildered as to why donors allocate funds for their repatriation when government militias are still holding them hostage and creating deteriorating security and humanitarian conditions in Darfur.
The real players who are behind the idea of the conference, namely, the State of Qatar and the Government of Sudan (GoS), have set the overall objective of the Conference as the following: To achieve the reconstruction and development of Darfur. Nonetheless, based on daily reports from Darfur, it is evident that the pre-requisite of peace without which development work cannot take place is simply not there. On the contrary, the security and humanitarian situation in many parts of Darfur is on the verge of total collapse. The state authority is decimated by government actions.
The Current Situation:
The genocide in Darfur continues to unfold: aerial-bombardment against the civilian populations and their livestock is continuing on a daily basis, more displacement is occurring due to the continuous fighting between armed movements and government forces and their allied militias as well as the ensuing inter-ethnic disputes. As has been reported, there have been at least 5 rape cases monthly. The United Nations and African Mission in Darfur (UNIMID) which have been mandated by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) since 2007 to protect the civilian population in Darfur are failing to even protect themselves, let alone protect the people of Darfur. Moreover, the Doha Peace Document which was signed by a faction composed of groups in the Diaspora and some defectors of the main armed movements (The Sudan Liberation and Justice Movement-LJM), in July 2011 in Doha, has not been implemented. Therefore, it has had no positive impact on the ground.
It is also worth mentioning that, the Doha Peace Document has been widely rejected by the main stakeholders including IDPs, refugees, armed movements, Darfur civil society and other national stakeholders. This is the result of its failure to address the root causes of the conflict and its lack of inclusion of the main armed movements.
Why a Donor Conference Now?
That said, why then the insistence on convening the Darfur Donor Conference given the current situation and despite all the objections of IDPs, refugees, armed movements and other stakeholders? Why now and who are the ultimate beneficiaries, then?
To answer the above questions, it is necessary to outline the positions and vested interests of the concerned parties that are pushing for and that wholeheartedly support the conference.
From the outset, and since the signing of the DDPD in July 2011, the State of Qatar has been pushing hard for this Conference to take place. Its main agenda is to counter the prevailing reality: that its investment in Darfur peace efforts has failed to bring about a comprehensive, holistic and lasting peace in Darfur. No doubt, such a stark reality will undermine the image of Qatar as a peace broker and champion of democratic change in the Arab world. Indeed, public relations and image matter very much to the State of Qatar. As for the Sudan Government, it has, since 2009, a clear and consistent agenda underlying the whole Darfur Doha Peace Process, namely to secure Qatari money to redress the Khartoum regime’s acute financial and economic crisis.
Only recently, President Bashir made it very clear that he expected a great deal of donations from the proposed conference specifically from the Arab and Islamic world, in order to address Sudan’s economic and financial crisis. Hence, for Bashir’s regime, this proposed conference isn’t about Darfur at all. In addition, it can only contribute to transmitting a false perception of the existence of peace in Darfur. Such a perception could be further exploited by Bashir as a convenient cover and propaganda to continue his genocidal campaign as well as to dismantle the IDP camps (the symbol and vivid evidence of the Darfur genocide) and impose a forced return on the IDPs in the name of peace and development.
Moreover, Bashir could use donors’ money to enhance his regime’s genocidal military machine and finance his disillusioned Janjaweed militias to continue their genocidal campaigns. As for the international community, it is aware that there is no peace in Darfur and the security situation is worsening by the day, therefore, many members of the international community consider the Donor Conference as a pre-mature move. But they dare not say No to Qatar. Qatar is too rich to contradict! Recently and as a tactic to get more donations from the conference, Sudan’s Vice President stated that the Sudan Government commits to contributing to the fund. They are masters of deception and they know how to channel the money from development to armament. In fact we could ask the question: Where has the Arab League Fund for Darfur been spent? It went to the Janjaweed and to corrupt officials and bribes.
The irony is, even the Qataris don’t expect or need the money of the Western donors; Qataris need the Western representatives’ presence and endorsement for the conference for public relations and image purposes. For the Government of Sudan, it needs the resources and the cover to legitimize its atrocities and preserve the status quo in Darfur.
It should be noted that, the people of Darfur have not been consulted about this conference. Rather the IDPs have stated unequivocally that the ending of violence remains their paramount priority, and not a donor’s conference for development. The people of Darfur know that whatever funds come out of this conference, they will not be channeled towards improving their lives. They know there is no legitimate or capable partner that will oversee or ensure that the donations will go to the real beneficiaries. Undoubtedly, the regime in Khartoum will continue controlling and manipulating any potential outcome.
The proposed Conference will not serve the best interests of the people of Darfur. On the contrary, it will serve the interests of Bashir’s regime in Khartoum by enhancing its military capabilities and advancing its genocidal campaign in Darfur and beyond. Indeed, the outcome of the Conference will not bring about peace for Darfur; neither will it transform Darfur into a peaceful and prosperous place. Every dollar donated is a dollar the Government of Sudan will use to commit further genocides. Regrettably, this Conference will further divide the people of Darfur, exacerbate the conflict and strengthen the status quo in Sudan. Such a conference can only bear fruit when genocide ends and a just, comprehensive and lasting peace are well established in the region, and when people are free to voice their concerns and opinions without any fear of retribution or persecution.
Ahmed Hussain Adam is a Visiting Scholar and Co-Chair of the Two Sudans Forum at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR), Columbia University in the City of New York. He can be reached at: email@example.com