Qatar pledges $500m for Darfur reconstruction

Hundreds of delegates meet in Qatar’s capital to raise funds to rebuild Sudanese region racked by conflict.

Qatar has pledged $500m in aid to rebuild Sudan’s Darfur region after a decade-long conflict, an official has said. 

Monday’s announcement came as hundreds of delegates met for the final day of a two-day donor conference in Doha to raise support for a multi-billion dollar project to rebuild Darfur. 

“Qatar has pledged an amount of $500 million as grants and contributions for rebuilding Darfur,” said Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Mahmud, the Qatari minister of state for cabinet affairs. 

The conference, which began on Sunday, was agreed to under a July 2011 peace deal that Khartoum signed in the Qatari capital with an alliance of rebel splinter groups.

“Peace time has begun in Darfur. A peace that will be protected by development, not by force,” said Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani, at the opening of the conference.

Unique opportunity

Jorg Kuhnel, team leader of the UN Development Programme in Sudan, said the conference would be a unique opportunity for Sudan and Darfur to turn the destiny of the conflict-ridden region.

It seeks support for a development strategy requiring $7.2bn for a six-year effort to move Darfur away from food handouts and other emergency aid, laying the foundation for lasting development through improved water facilities, roads and other infrastructure.

Al Jazeera’s Omar Al Saleh at the conference said that the second session had started and speaker Al-Tijani Sisi, head of the Regional Darfur authority, was “calling on the international community to help rebuild Darfur and to start the recovery strategy”.

Britain on Sunday pledged at least $16.5m for Darfur annually over the next three years to help communities to grow their own food and for providing skills training to help people find work.

“It is not good enough to simply offer more handouts,” Lynne Featherstone, Britain’s international development minister, said.

“Our aid will help the poorest to get the help they need to stand on their own and make them better able to cope when crises occur.”

The development strategy calls for agricultural upgrades, access to financing and other measures to help Darfuris support themselves under a more effective system of local government.

Al Jazeera’s Harriet Martin, reporting from Khartoum, said aid agencies at the conference would be stressing that Darfur is a complex region.

“[Aid agencies say that] what Darfur needs is a more nuanced approach – humanitarian aid in some places, development aid in others,” she reported.

Protests in Darfur

Ahead of the meeting, protests against it were reported in refugee campus in Darfur, with demonstrators calling for an end to insecurity.

Al Jazeera’s Al Saleh said demonstrations were held in camps controlled by rebel groups who were not signatories to the donor conference.

“Darfur is not 100 percent secure,” he said. “It’s a region that is bigger than France, and the fears of insecurity are valid.”

The Doha meeting comes 10 years after rebels rose up in the western Sudanese region to seek an end to what they said was the domination of power and wealth among the country’s Arab elites.

Qatar brokered a peace deal between a rebel faction and the Sudanese government in 2011, but major rebel groups like the Justice and Equality Movement rejected it.

The Doha peace deal was seen as a cornerstone of international efforts to end the violence, but the hundreds of thousands of refugees forced to flee say they can go home only when they are compensated for their losses. 

Source: Al Jazeera