Doha meet raises $3.6 billion for Sudan’s Darfur: Qatar

People attend a conference for internally displaced people in Nyala in South Darfur on March 25, 2013.  By Albert Gonzalez Farran (UNAMID/AFP/File)

People attend a conference for internally displaced people in Nyala in South Darfur on March 25, 2013. By Albert Gonzalez Farran (UNAMID/AFP/File)

DOHA (AFP) – A Darfur donor conference has raised $3.6 billion in pledges to finance the development of war-ravaged Darfur in west Sudan, mostly from Khartoum itself, host country Qatar which contributed $500 million announced Monday.

“These pledges cover more than the $177 million needed for urgent” projects, said UN Resident Coordinator Ali Al-Za’tari following announcements by Qatar and other donor countries.

Qatar’s minister of State for cabinet affairs, Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Mahmud, said a total of $3.6 billion was pledged at the two-day meeting, including the contribution of Sudan’s government set by a July 2011 peace deal at $2.65 billion.

Energy-rich Qatar will make an immediate contribution of $88 million, half of the $177 urgent aid pledged at the conference, Mahmud said, adding that his country’s promise of $500 million will include grants and contributions to projects.

Qatar also confirmed its commitment to contribute to the capital of a two-billion-dollar Darfur Development Bank, initially with $200 million, said Amin Sharkawi, the deputy country director of the United Nations Development Programme.

The European Union pledged 27 million euros ($35 million) and Germany promised 16 million euros in aid at the conference.

Britain had on Sunday offered at least 11 million pounds ($16.5 million, 13 million euros) for Darfur annually over the next three years to help communities to grow food and boost employment skills.

Darfur’s neighbour, Chad, pledged one million dollars at the conference that aimed to endorse a strategy to rebuild Darfur, where the conflict has shocked the world with atrocities against civilians.

The meeting, which drew condemnation from rebel groups still fighting the regime, was agreed under the 2011 peace deal which Khartoum signed in the Qatari capital with an alliance of rebel splinter groups.

It seeks support for the six-year, $7.2-billion (5.5-billion-euro) strategy to move Darfur away from food handouts and other emergency aid, and lay the foundations for lasting development through improved infrastructure.

“We do not need to raise the $7.2 billion today. What we need to raise is sufficient funds to start implementation and to build credibility of the process. And this we have already achieved at this stage,” Za’tari said.

Ahead of the Doha gathering, displaced people held protests in several camps in Darfur, demanding that security take priority, with some saying they would not return to their villages until peace is restored.

Za’tari said opposition to the strategy was “understandable, mostly because of continuous access and security problems.”

“Yet, we believe that the only way to turn the tide in Darfur is to move towards recovery and development,” he said.

“Large parts of Darfur are ready for recovery and the population badly desires support to become independent from aid, to be able to take their destiny back into their own hands.”

Sudan is perceived as one of the world’s most corrupt countries. The development plan proposes an independent monitoring mechanism and other safeguards.

The meeting came 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 by the country’s Arab elite.

In response, government-backed Arab Janjaweed militia committed atrocities against civilians, prompting an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir over alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

While the worst of the violence has long passed, rebel-government clashes continue along with inter-Arab battles, kidnappings, carjackings and other crimes.

The rebel Sudan Liberation Army’s Minni Minnawi faction claimed on Monday that its forces were close to the South Darfur state capital Nyala.

The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) on Sunday reported a fresh spate of violence, adding that the rebels have “attacked and seized” the towns of Muhagiriya and Labado.

The violence prompted thousands of civilians to seek UNAMID protection.

Major insurgent groups have rejected the Doha peace pact, which UN chief Ban Ki-moon said in January had seen only limited progress in its implementation.