International donors and aid representatives met in Qatar on Sunday to discuss the recovery of Sudan's devastated Darfur region. The conference drew condemnation from rebel groups fighting the regime.
The conference, which ends on Monday, was agreed to in 2011 in a peace deal between Khartoum and an alliance of splinter rebel groups. It is trying to gain support for a strategy to rebuild the Darfur region, which requires 5.5 billion euros ($7.13 billion) over six years, to improve infrastructure and move away from relying on emergency aid and food handouts.
The meeting comes 10 years after rebels rose up in the western Sudanese region. Violence erupted in 2003, when ethnic black African rebel groups in Darfur - which spans 170,000 square miles (440,000 square kilometers), or roughly the landmass of Spain - rebelled against the central government, led by Arab officials. The non-Arab insurgents contended that the Muslim government had neglected their rights.
While stability has reemerged in some areas of Darfur, others remain dangerous despite the presence of an African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force.
Sudan's 'unique opportunity'
The development strategy being proposed at the gathering in Doha aims to help Darfuris support themselves under a better system of local government, in addition to agricultural upgrades and access to financing.
"This conference is a unique opportunity for Sudan and Darfur to turn the destiny of this conflict-ridden region," said Jörg Kühnel, the team leader of the UN Development Program in Sudan.
Ahead of the conference, Britain pledged additional funds for skills training and to help communities grow their own food. "It is not good enough to simply offer more handouts," said Lynne Featherstone, Britain's international development minister.
Rebels condemned the international donor conference, alleging that donor money will not reach the people.
"To have (a) donors' conference, you have to have peace and security on the ground first," Abdel Wahid Mohammed al-Nur, who heads a faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army, told the news agency AFP.
Major rebel groups, including Nur's faction, and the Justice and Equality Movement, have refused to sign the 2011 peace pact. On Sunday, Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha called on them to "respect the will of the people of Darfur."
jr/mkg (AFP, AP)