Qatar pledges $500 mn in aid to Darfur as donors meet

A member of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) attends the signing of a peace deal in Doha on April 6, 2013.  By Albert Gonzalez Farran (UNAMID/AFP/File)

A member of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) attends the signing of a peace deal in Doha on April 6, 2013. By Albert Gonzalez Farran (UNAMID/AFP/File)

DOHA (AFP) – Qatar pledged $500 million in aid to Sudan’s Darfur Monday at a donors’ meeting in Doha, even as rebels launched new attacks in the troubled region scarred by a decade of conflict.

“Qatar has pledged an amount of $500 million as grants and contributions for rebuilding Darfur,” said the gas-rich emirate’s minister of state for cabinet affairs, Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Mahmud.

In February 2010, Qatar had promised to establish a bank with a capital of one billion dollars to develop Darfur.

Germany also pledged 60 million euros in aid at the conference as other delegates expressed their support for development in Darfur without announcing their contributions.

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 to boost skills for employment.

The latest pledges came on the second day of a meeting of representatives of donor countries and aid groups in Doha. The conference aims 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 a July 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 foundation for lasting development through improved infrastructure.

The meeting comes 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 among the country’s Arab elites.

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 African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) Sunday reported a fresh spate of violence.

It said rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army’s Minni Minnawi faction “attacked and seized” the towns of Muhagiriya and Labado, while “several possible air strikes” were also reported in the area.

The violence prompted thousands of civilians to seek protection around peacekeeping bases.

Rebels had on Saturday said they killed government troops and occupied the areas, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of the South Darfur state capital Nyala.

Some 1.4 million people have been displaced by Darfur’s decade-long conflict.

Coinciding with the donors’ meeting, displaced people have staged demonstrations in several camps in Darfur, demanding that security take priority, with some saying they would not return to their villages until peace is restored.

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

A breakaway faction of the JEM on Saturday became the second group to join the peace deal. It signed a “final agreement” with the Sudanese government in Doha, Sudan’s official media reported.

Sudan is perceived as one of the world’s most corrupt countries. The development plan proposes an independent monitoring mechanism and says other safeguards will be built in, including from the UN and World Bank.