New Darfur authority to give top priority to return of displaced people

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Khartoum, 15 January 2012 – The head of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) established under the terms of a peace agreement to end conflict in the Sudanese region said implementation of the deal was firmly on track and the DRA will give priority to rolling out development projects that would encourage the return of displaced people.

DRA Chairman Eltigani Seisi, leader of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) which agreed to peace with the Sudanese government last July, said both the government and the LJM had demonstrated their total commitment to the full implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD). The key institutions provided for in DDPD have now been established and budgetary provisions have been made to fund the DRA and its programmes, Seisi said in a UNAMID Media interview as he prepared to move to Darfur to take up his role as head of the new Darfur governance structure.

“Members of the DRA executive body have been named. They are being sworn in. The special court (to hear Darfur war crimes) has been set up, the special prosecutor was appointed, and then the National Commission for Human Rights has also been set up. And so we think things have started to move in a very good manner,” Seisi said.

“If things go at this pace then we’ll have a very good chance of achieving a very high rate of implementation of the agreement, without a doubt. We believe that the partner has been very cooperative. There’s very good mutual understanding between both of us,” he added.

Seisi was speaking on the eve of a meeting of the DDPD’s Implementation Follow-up Committee (IFC) at the headquarters of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which is supporting implementation of the DDPD including ceasefire monitoring.

UNAMID’s work in protecting civilians in Darfur and opening up access to humanitarian workers has resulted in a substantial reduction in combat-related violence in the territory and allowed more displaced people to return to their homes. But an estimated 1.9 million people are still sheltering in camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs).

Seisi said the main challenge to DDPD was securing the areas of return so these people can move back.

“There is a need to secure the area of origin before they go back, and then also to provide these areas with the necessary services, including water, education, health and so forth. Without these I don’t think we’ll be able to tempt anybody to return.”

He said a fund set up to compensate displaced Darfuris and some $100 million pledged by international donors would help provide the incentives for IDP residents to go home.

“There is already some money that has been allocated in the Compensation Fund, and I think the Commission for Returns will start setting up the specialised committees on the assessment of the compensation, and this will also persuade the refugees and IDPs to go back to their areas of origin.”

“There are a lot of challenges on the ground,” the veteran Sudan politician said. “Challenges relating to implementation of the agreement, challenges relating to the return of refugees and IDPs to their area of origin, and challenges relating to reconstruction and development in the areas that have been affected by the conflict. But the real challenge is whether we have the ability to address these challenges rather than shying away from them.”

This is the time for all Darfur movements who have not joined the peace process Seisi is leading to do so, he said: “I call on all of them, I call on the people of Darfur to continue supporting the peace effort on the ground and at the same time to talk to those who have yet to accept the peace process to come and join.”