56,000 people on the run from violence in western Sudan

Ten years after the genocide in Darfur:

On Thursday, the Society for threatened Peoples (STP) in Göttingen reported that about 56,000 people fled from the fighting in Darfur in western Sudan during the last ten days. 20,000 refugees sought protection in neighboring Chad after militias had destroyed their villages close to the border – and around 36,000 people are on the run from clashes between the Sudanese army and one of the liberation groups more than 500 kilometers to the east.

"Ten years after the genocide in Darfur, the people in western Sudan don't have much hope for sustainable peace," said Ulrich Delius, the STP's Africa-expert. But the German government seems to think otherwise: On April 8, the German Development Minister, Dirk Niebel, had promised 16 million Euros for development projects in Darfur. To justify this decision, Niebel explained at an international conference on Darfur in Doha (Qatar), that the signing of a peace agreement is to be seen as a "chance for peace". Representatives of the more than two million Darfur refugees had criticized the promised reconstruction aid. "As long as western Sudan is not safe, it is too early to start rebuilding the war-shaken and neglected region," said Delius.

The 20,000 Darfuris who managed to escape to Chad are from villages in the region of Dhukan in the south of western Darfur. According to their reports, armed militiamen had attacked their villages and burned down houses and mosques.

According to Ali al-Zaatari, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, about 36,000 people fled from their settlements in the eastern state of Darfur. Their exodus was caused by clashes between the Sudanese army and the rebel groups under Minni Minawi from the Sudan Liberation Movement – which occurred in the cities of Labado and Muhajiriya ten days ago.

In May 2006, Minni Minawi had been the only leader of a Darfuri liberation movement to sign a peace agreement with the Sudanese government. Back then, he had been Chief Advisor to the Sudanese President. In 2008, he steeped back, disappointed. In 2010, he announced that the peace treaty had failed. "Minawi's turbulent history clearly shows how bad the chances for peace in Darfur are," said Delius. "It also shows how unrealistic the German government's valuation of the situation in western Sudan is."