Darfur residents doubtful on new Prime Minister’s promise of peace


Darfur residents’ plight underlines the challenge facing Sudan Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok as he and his transitional government try to settle the conflict and bring the north eastern African country out of decades of diplomatic and financial isolation that was exacerbated by sanctions imposed over Darfur.

Violence may have subsided since the days when Bashir mobilised mostly Arab militia to crush an uprising by mostly non-Arab rebels, unleashing a wave of killings and mass displacement that Washington and others called genocide, but it is still too dangerous for families to go back and for things to return to how they were, says Saleha Nour.

Nour sits selling nuts in the market in El Fasher, Darfur and dismisses her new prime minister’s promise of a brighter new future with a wave of her hand. She has heard all the promises before and long given up hope of returning to the village she was forced to flee at the start of the fighting.

The makeshift camps that housed hundreds of thousands at the height of the violence have grown walls and infrastructure and solidified into settlements, making it harder to persuade people to resume long-abandoned lives.

And the societal and ethnic divisions that fuelled the worst of the conflict are still there in the background.

A day later, Hamdok draws a crowd of hundreds as he tours ZamZam camp just outside El Fasher on Monday.

The soft-spoken civilian greets them with the words “freedom, peace and justice” – a slogan chanted by the crowds that took to the streets across Sudan in this year in mass rallies that eventually ousted Bashir.

“We will meet your demands. We will work together,” Hamdok tells the crowd.

He stays talking for most of the day but offers little in terms of concrete new proposals.

“Our conditions for a return are security, peace, education, health care,” 21-year Ahmed Ibrahim tells Reuters during the visit. He was 10 when his family fled.

Hamdok took office in August under a three-year power sharing deal with the military.

Since then the transitional government has asked the United Nations and the African Union to keep operating their joint peacekeeping mission in Darfur – a force that Bashir was trying to shut down.

Khartoum is also taking part in peace talks with rebels from Darfur and other borderlands. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)