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HOPES OF PEACE BUILT ON SAND: solid infrastructure development essential to Sudan's future

April 07, 2013
tags:#Africa, #African Union, #AID, #Dafur, #development, #South Sudan, #Sudan, #UN
located:South Sudan, Sudan
by:FairPlanet Editorial Team
Darfur desperately needs help, but not just to repair damage from the horrific 2003 conflict that killed 300,000, destroyed hundreds of villages, and drove 2 million people to refugee camps. Instead Darfur must also overcome the marginalisation and underdevelopment that fueled the conflict in the first place.

This weekend, delegates from donor countries and financial institutions will be meeting in Doha, Qatar, and are expected to pledge support for an ambitious development strategy in Darfur. And yet, why are so many Darfuris, and Darfur activists, still so uneasy?

The Continuing Struggle

  • Firstly, the armed conflict in Sudan is not yet over: the Sudanese government is still using its army, air force, and militias – including the janjaweed – in its counter-insurgency operations against rebel groups, and its abusive attacks on the ethnic communities accused of supporting the rebels. Lawlessness and the proliferation of arms have spurred communal conflicts, in which government forces often participate. This conflict has resulted in hundreds of deaths and displaced more than 100,000 people in this year alone.
  • Secondly, vast parts of Darfur are not accessible to peacekeepers or aid workers. The African Union/United Nations peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) cannot visit the majority of areas in which violence has occurred, preventing them from protecting civilians and accurately monitoring the abuses. This is not just as a result of security concerns, but also because the government persists in restricting access for independent international monitors and observers.
  • The third problem is the Sudanese government’s own repressive policies, using national security laws to harass and detain suspected rebels - and any presumed supporters - for long periods without judicial review or charge. The government has yet to do anything to provide justice for victims of some of the most serious abuses during the conflict – including for any of the government’s own attacks on villages.

With a few exceptions, the authorities shield members of government forces from prosecution and have ignored International Criminal Court warrants for the arrest of President Omar al-Bashir.

Under these circumstances, it is difficult to see how the 155-page Developing Darfur: A Recovery and Reconstruction Strategy – which advocates for a $7 billion infrastructure development project to include the building of new roads, schools, clinics, and agricultural schemes - can ever be meaningfully implemented. As the World Bank itself has noted, countries mired in violence are where people face the worst failures of development. The World Bank's 2011 World Development Report notes how crucial security, justice, and jobs are to break the cycles of violence.

Moving Forward: How to Develop Darfur?

The aims of the conference are admirable. In addition to supporting recovery and development projects, it will draw attention to a region that has slipped out of the limelight of late, and may act as a catalyst in ongoing negotiations surrounding the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. However, long-suffering Darfuris deserve international solidarity and generosity, but there are real concerns that funds will not improve human rights.

Money can’t buy the reforms needed to make the strategy’s vision of respect for human rights and the rule of law materialise. Only Sudan’s government can rein in its forces, disarm militia, hold abusers accountable. 

All of those steps are set out in countless UN Security Council Resolutions and incorporated into benchmarks such as those put forward by the UN Group of Experts for improving the human rights situation. But Sudan has continually repudiated external efforts to change its behaviour and implemented almost none of them.

International donors rightly want to see sustained development and respect for basic rights in Darfur. They should not accept partial, politicised development, nor should they ignore ongoing rights abuses or the pressing humanitarian needs that still exist. Instead, donors should lean hard on their beneficiary government and insist on long-demanded reforms and better human rights conditions. They should insist on full access to Darfur, transparency in the management and oversight of the funding, and independent monitoring to ensure that funds promote real improvements in the human rights situation and don’t contribute to continuing repression.


A form of this article was originally published by Think Africa Press.

To sign Fairplanet’s petition calling on the Sudanese government to end violence in South Kordofan click here…

Article written by:
FairPlanet Editorial Team
Editorial Team
South Sudan Sudan
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