Sauver Le Darfour dans le monde

Can Darfur's peace survive?

Bbc News, 15 Mai 2006

No-one was expecting Darfur's peace agreement to bring about an immediate transformation on the ground.

But the short time since the deal in Abuja have shown the size of the challenge ahead.

The Sudan Liberation Army, the region's biggest rebel movement is split in two.

One faction lead by the wiry Minni Minnawi has signed the deal while the other faction under Abdul Wahid Mohammed al-Nur demands further concessions from the Sudanese government.

In Gereida and Kalma - two of Darfur's biggest camps - the impact of the deal on the rebels and their supporters could be immediately seen.

Misery

The town of Gereida is Minnawi territory.

About 100,000 people are squatting there, surrounded on all sides by government and Arab militia.

It is a flash-back to what Darfur's camps used to look like three years ago.

Dusty and disorganised, it is inaccessible to aid convoys and everyday freshly displaced people arrive from the surrounding area.

Sitting under trees with the few possessions they could carry, they tell of government planes attacking them in their villages.

"Twelve days ago I left Joghana because we were attacked by the government and Janjaweed," says Nasser Mohammed Yusuf Ahmed, 23.

"All my relatives I've lost. I've lost all my luggage and all the aid agencies give us here is water."

Rebel headquarters in Gereida is a grey square building that used to belong to Sudatel, Sudan's state run telecommunications company.

Inside the now dark building SLA commander Hamed Ismail Tijani says his faction will implement the peace agreement.

"The peace agreement signed is not according to our will but it will reduce the humanitarian crisis and that is why we agreed to it," he said.

"If the government doesn't attack us and disarm the Janjaweed then we will respect the agreement."

Protest

Kalma is 90km north.

Whereas Gereida has little food, Kalma has until recently had the opposite problem.
Community leaders manipulated ration cards so that aid agencies were distributing grain for tens of thousands more than the 90,000 people who actually reside there.

As one of Darfur's oldest camps, Kalma has an increasingly permanent feel.

Small brick factories are converting the camp's mud into square blocks, as increasing numbers of people trade in their makeshift shelters for a simple square hut.

Just 10 kilometres from South Darfur's airport, Kalma is the camp of choice for the concerned international visitor.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, America's Robert Zoellick even actress Mia Farrow have all been here.

This week a large demonstration greeted Jan Egeland, the United Nation's top humanitarian envoy.

"We need US redcoats to protect us. Up, Up USA," one banner said while the crowd chanted for the United Nations to deploy a peacekeeping mission.

That message Mr Egeland agreed with - but few of the demonstrators supported the recently signed peace agreement.

"Our leader of Darfur didn't sign the agreement - that Minni Minnawi is not welcome here he is not our leader," Ahmed a smartly dressed young man told me.

"There is nothing to make us return to us our village as there is no protection."

Survival

The demonstrators in Kalma were from the Fur community. It's the biggest group in Darfur and the same group as Mr al-Nur.

As Mr Egeland's visit to Kalma ended, the demonstration spun out of control.

A rampaging mob attacked the African Union compound in Kalma.

The eight unarmed policemen were over-run and in the violence their Sudanese translator was axed to death.

In the camps of Zalingei, Kass, Tawila and Abou Shouk there have been similar incidents as Mr al-Nur's supporters objected violently to the peace agreement.

The African Union has found itself targeted as the organisation that mediated the controversial peace agreement.

"We need to survive the next few weeks and that is through the African Union and humanitarian activities," Mr Egeland said.

"It's not over. We all need to seize the opportunity now to enforce peace."

The next steps are far from clear.

Sudan has yet to approve the sending of United Nations peacekeepers while funding shortages mean that Darfur's food rations for May have been cut in half.