A donors' conference has raised 3.6 billion dollars (2.7 billion euros) in pledges to help rebuild the Darfur region.
The oil-rich state Qatar has been hosting a two day donors' conference in a luxury hotel in the capital Doha. $3.6 billion were pledged for the reconstruction and development of the western Sudanese region of Darfur.
2013 sees a sad anniversary in Darfur. Ten years ago, rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated central government in Khartoum. According to the United Nations, at least 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have been displaced. Darfur was for a long time seen as the world's worst humanitarian disaster, but these days the crisis region rarely makes the headlines, even though fighting between rebels and the government or between ethnic groups still breaks out. The UN says as many as 130,000 people have fled the violence since the beginning of the year.
Billions for reconstruction
Sudan's Presidential Adviser Ghazi Salah Al-Deen Al-Attabani and LJM representative Al-Tijani Al-Sissi at the 2011 signing ceremony
Aid previously pledged for Darfur has mostly been spent on humanitarian relief and the international peacekeeping mission UNAMID (United Nations Mission in Darfur). Around 20,000 peacekeeping troops and police have been stationed in Darfur since 2007. Jörg Kühnel, who works for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and was a participant at the conference, said until now there has been little in the way of investment in the region's reconstruction. He said the UNDP intends to launch a new development strategy, which would enable Darfur "to lift itself out of dependence on aid, develop its own economy and local administration."
This would mean building roads, repairing public buildings and social facilities, promoting commerce and agriculture and allowing tens of thousands of refugees to return home.
The UNDP says this would be a mammoth project, costing about $7 billion (five billion euros) over the next six years, which would be undertaken in collaboration with the regional administration of Darfur, the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA). The central government in Khartoum would have to provide a third of the funding and the international community would raise the remaining sum of $4.6 billion.
A fragile peace
Al Tijani Al-Sissi heads the regional administration in Darfur. His rebel group Liberation and Justice Movement (JEM) signed a peace agreement with the Khartoum central government in Doha in 2011. He said that since the signing of that agreement "the security situation has very much improved, and all can testify that including international organizations." But he admits that challenges remain.
"These mainly include the rebel groups that have not signed the agreement and also those who are supported by South Sudan," Al-Sissi maintained.
Kristine Linke, who works for Germany's Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Sudan, says the root causes of the Darfur crisis have not been addressed. Agreements have only been signed so far between the government and splinter groups, whose leaders are usually rewarded with political posts or other material incentives," she said.
Linke also warned that "the security situation is catastrophic, the humanitarian situation is worsening daily and small aid projects can't be carried out without the support of the UN mission."
In 2009 Sudan's president Al Bashir expelled several aid organizations from Darfur in protest at the arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court. Al-Bashir is alleged to have committed genocide and other crimes in Darfur.
Donors in Qatar
For years, donors' conference host Qatar has been investing in real estate and infrastructure in Sudan. It has also been supplying the country with oil. "Qatar wants to extend its political influence in the country in order to pursue its economic interests. But in the last six months investment have been scaled back because the business climate is not very appealing," Linke added.