Darfur refugees sceptical of deal

Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad are wary of the peace agreement - signed on Friday between the Sudan government and the main rebel faction - because it does not include the other rebel factions.

    Refugees are not convinced that the deal is real

    Others are highly sceptical that the Sudanese government will keep its side of the bargain.

    Adam Dingila, a community leader at the Gaga refugee camp, said: "I'm all for peace, but the deal has to be a realistic one or we'll end up back home facing the same violence that caused us to flee in the first place."

    Dingila has lost 15 members of his family to the conflict in Darfur.
    The agreement was expected to end three years of fighting that has killed tens of thousands of people and forced two million to flee their homes, including over 200,000 who poured across the border into neighbouring Chad.

    But it is unclear whether the accord, signed in Nigeria after two years of African Union-mediated talks, would bring peace on the ground, because a rival faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army and the smaller Justice and Equality Movement have rejected the proposals.

    Humanitarian crisis

    Some refugees want all parties
    concerned to sign the deal

    Ismael Haron, 37, a refugee who runs a market stall at the sprawling Gaga camp, said that "all three groups have to sign up to the peace deal for me to accept it. It's the only way I will be convinced it's a real accord for the people of Darfur."

    "I'd like to go home in 2006, but I doubt it will happen," he added.

    Western diplomats who applied last-minute pressure at negotiations in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, stressed that Friday's deal was just a first step at ending what aid workers say is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

    Refugees living at Gaga, the newest of 12 camps strung across eastern Chad, had suggestions of their own about what they would like to see happen before they thought about leaving.

    Ali Yaya Omar, 48, voicing a concern raised by many refugees said: "It's not just a peace deal that we need. As refugees, we have our own problems. We had our animals and goods stolen, our houses burnt, we need to be reimbursed."
    Others were still worried about the Janjaweed marauders - whom Khartoum is accused of using to wage a campaign of arson and looting, slaughter and rape since early 2003 - and were unconvinced about pledges to disarm them.

    Abdul Rahman Yaya, 30, asked "what guarantee do we have of our security if we were to go back now? I want to see UN forces on the ground to protect us before I return."


    "We know (President Omar Hassan) al-Bashir. We have seen him make agreements and then break them 10 minutes later, and that worries us"

    Ismael Haron, a market vendor

    Western governments have called for the 7,000-strong AU mission in Darfur to be turned over to the United Nations, but the Sudanese government has said it will only consider a UN presence in the region the size of France after a peace deal.

    Many refugees said they expected Khartoum to renege on its pledge to cooperate to end the war in Darfur.

    "We know (President Omar Hassan) al-Bashir. We have seen him make agreements and then break them 10 minutes later, and that worries us," market vendor Haron sighed.

    Aid workers say it will take time for refugees to build up the confidence to brave going back.

    Many Darfuris who have ended up in Chad have fled the Janjaweed militias more than once and bear the physical and psychological scars of their attacks.

    "I'm in no hurry. I will wait for the war to really end.," said Halima Anour Yaya, a 67-year-old grandmother.

    "My children in Darfur will send word to me."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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