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Displaced, refugees largely reject Nyala conference in S Darfur

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DARFUR / CHAD (22 Mar.) - A conference intended to address concerns of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees including voluntary return has been largely rejected by those who the talks are aimed at. The summit and its results will be discussed in upcoming Darfur Donors Conference in Doha.

Scheduled to take place in Nyala, South Darfur, next Monday and Tuesday, the majority of displaced in Darfur and refugees in Chad assured they will not take part in the conference as there is no peace or security in Darfur.

Others confirmed their presence, but noted the “timing of the conference is incompatible and inconsistent with what is happening on the ground”.

UNAMID and the Voluntary Return and Resettlement Commission of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) expect that over 1,000 participants will attend the summit.

They include displaced and refugees in Darfur and in Chad, civil society groups, government officials, non-governmental organizations, UN agencies and the diplomatic community, as quoted in a press release of 20 March.

North Darfur: “Dismantling camps”

The coordinator of North Darfur camps, Omda Ahmed Ateem, told Radio Dabanga this week he “rejects the Nyala conference”.

“The summit will be held in line with the agenda of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) aimed at dismantling camps”, he suggested, before noting that “whoever decides to attend it would be representing only themselves”.

Ateem also criticized the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), a Doha signatory group, and described its affiliates as “a bunch of opportunists and compliant tools of the Khartoum regime”.

The coordinator wondered how voluntary return could take place at a time when Khartoum and its militias are killing, raping, looting, burning and bombing unarmed civilians day and night, and “devastating” tribal clashes are happening in Darfur.

He pointed out the region has not witnessed such a large wave of displacement since the first years of the war in 2003 as it is experiencing nowadays.

Central Darfur: “conference a green light for violations”

Displaced persons of the Zalingei camps in Central Darfur have also declined the invitation they received to attend the Nyala conference next week.

The coordinator of Zalingei camps who spoke to Radio Dabanga wondered where the DRA stands in relation to violations taking place in Darfur and to the wave of new displacements amid bloodshed in the region.

He suggested the Nyala conference is giving a green light for further violence, murders and displacement in Darfur and called upon authorities and UNAMID to collect arms, stop violations and promote justice.

Lastly, the coordinator warned about “opportunists” pretending to be displaced who might attend the Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees summit.

South Darfur: “attend, but timing incompatible”

As opposed to displaced in other states of the region, the head of the coordination office of displaced persons in South Darfur, confirmed they will attend the Nyala conference.

However, Omda Salahuddin Abdullah Hassan noted “the timing is incompatible and inconsistent with what is happening on the ground: killing, looting, displacement and blackmailing”.

“Evidences” of violations can be found in El Salam (South Darfur), Murnei (West Darfur), Fata Borno (North Darfur) and Garsila (Central Darfur), he said.

Yet he considers taking part in the Nyala conference as an opportunity for the displaced to unify their visions, to reflect upon their issues and demands, and to look back into what has happened to them and to refugees in the past 10 years.

Omda Hassan demanded that freedom and security are guaranteed by the UN during the conference to ensure that everyone is able to freely express their opinions.

Refugees: “insecurity does not allows us to return”

Sudanese refugees in the eastern Chad camps of Treguine, Bredjing and Kounongou refused to participate in the upcoming Nyala conference, Radio Dabanga has learned.

They said that ongoing wars in Darfur amid lack of security, suppression of freedoms and the NCP manipulation are factors that do not allow refugees to return to Sudan to attend the conference, regardless of its theme.

Treguine’s chief, Mohamed Yaqoub, said that “everything” that forced them to seek refuge in Chad is still present in Darfur. He suggested that DRA’s invitation for the conference is an attempt to “lure refugees back to Sudan and arrest them”.

Jamal Daoud, head of camp Bredjing, questioned how refugees could be invited to attend a conference of voluntary return at a time when pro-government militias are terrorizing, murdering and raping civilians. These crimes, he said, are taking place "even inside camps in front of the DRA".

Kounongou’s leader Issa Al Tijani told Radio Dabanga that voluntary return should not be the theme of the conference of Dr. Tijani Sese, chairman of the DRA. “If refugees are aware of the reasons that led them to leave in first place, then they will not come back on their own”.

He called upon DRA to stop the flow of refugees to Chad and solve the problems in Darfur. After that, the leader continued, refugees will return without the need for a conference to be held.

Al Tijani sad that “all refugees” in Chad allege they will not go back to Sudan unless new settlers are expelled, militias are disarmed, security is in place, villages are rebuilt, they receive collective and individual compensation and criminals who committed crimes in Darfur are taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC).