In ZamZam Camp: Inhabitants Facing Risk of Programme Closure

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An outlook at the desperate premises of ZamZam Paralegal Justice and Confidence Center (JCC) in Northern Darfur is probably sufficient to reflect the hard living conditions and unenviable future of the camp’s residents. This condition has primarily been aggravated by diminishing financial resources that severely affect the camp and the JCC’s functionality and performance. The camp residents suffer from inadequate shelter, low health standards, and lack of gainful employment; all stealing the hope from the camp’s residents.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is providing legal aid through a number of JCCs in Darfur to support the empowerment of local communities, including Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). UNDP provides this aid as part of the process of restoring the confidence in the rule of law institutions, and gradually build a culture of justice, that is conducive to peace and sustainable human development.

Reduced programme effectiveness

Adam Ishag, Head of the Paralegals Team at the camp expresses deep concerns about the diminishing activities of the center. “We had started in March 2006 and our performance hit a peak till March 2009. After that, availability of fund fell dramatically and constrains the performance of on-going projects and our deliverables as we almost stopped our regular training sessions,” “The training enjoyed good reputation among the camp’s residents, for instance, when we call for a workshop for 50 seats, normally we get over 90 responses to register. These opportunities are non-existent, any more, unfortunately.” Adam concluded sadly.

ZamZam is an IDP camp and is a home to more than 170,000 internally displaced people "IDPs" who trace their roots to al of Darfur. It is located 17 kilometers from El Fasher town with a symbolic police post and two government check points en route to it from El Fasher. The camp itself has no police post thus exposing the camp population to a diverse set of vulnerabilities and crimes. The JCC is one of four in North Darfur and a total of eight in Darfur that UNDP’s Rule of Law Project has been supporting with funds from donors.

DFID, currently the only donor supporting the activities since April 2012, provided a no cost extension from December 2012 to March 2013. No guaranteed fund is available after that period. Former donors included Norway, Sweden, and Netherlands. The Governance and Rule of Law Unit is developing proposals to seek additional funds to keep the programme operational including the JCCs.

Mariam Adam Eisa, a 35-year-old female camp’s inhabitant said “I have attended two workshops in the JCC on women and child rights. Now I feel I’m a free woman because the knowledge I received had freed my mind and changed my attitudes,” “The center should continue because it’s empowering women by educating them about their rights. CJJ paralegals have given me something that will never be taken away from me; knowledge.” She added.

Risk of sudden programme closure

In addition to the imminent security threats that may result from the closure of the JCC, camp’s inhabitants face other critical risks. For instance, one of the biggest problems with providing legal aid in insecure areas is that the community being served will suddenly be cut off from needed aid, and may be angry or resentful for pulling out the services from them, making re-entry into an area more difficult. Less tangible resources could be affected as well, such as information, knowledge, and the training that have been invested in the inhabitants and the paralegals themselves, even smaller programme suspensions can present serious challenges to legal aid programmes.

Ali Mohamed Fadl, a 65 year-old tribal chief said “Our knowledge about our human rights had tremendously increased. I have come to the camp with all the inherited beliefs that give the man and the leader an absolute authority to rule his family and society with an iron fist, luckily I have changed now.”

Further, programmes that were provided free of charge by the center as part of the whole package could be affected by interruptions of other services as well. For instance, counseling and referrals to health services in case of gender based violence could be dropped drastically, exposing the camp’s inhabitants to serious health issues.

UNDP has supported the establishment of legal aid networks who are handling a diverse portfolio of cases on behalf of vulnerable groups of women and children, including IDPs. This JCC and other paralegal entities are still in early development stages and UNDP exit is likely to precipitate their collapse.

The Center which is managed by 19 enthusiastic paralegals from ZamZam community, was a product of collaborative efforts between UNDP and IRC. Whereas IRC managed the centre with support from UNDP during 2005-2008, upon expulsion of IRC, UNDP took over direct support to the management of the Center from July 2008 up- to-date. The paralegals have received extensive training on mediation skills, human rights, Sudanese legislation, international instruments, children and women’s rights, amongst others. In return, the paralegals have extended considerable support to ZamZam camp residents in; mediation & improving access to Justice, raise community awareness of rights, and support survivor access to legal, medical, and psychosocial support. Further, and as stated by some governments officials the paralegals managed to break the barriers between the police and the IDPs community as at the awake of the displacement the IDPs were conceiving government’s officials as enemies.