Darfur donor conference begins in Doha
07 APR 2013

RIMANEWS-Hundreds of delegates are meeting Doha for a donor conference to raise support for a mulit-billion dollar project to rebuild Sudan's Darfur region after a decade-long conflict.

The two-day conference beginning on Sunday was agreed under a July 2011 peace deal that Khartoum signed in the Qatari capital with an alliance of rebel splinter groups.

"Peace time has begun in Darfur. A peace that will be protected by development, not by force," said Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani, at the opening of the conference.

Jorg Kuhnel, team leader of the UN Development Programme in Sudan, said the conference would be a unique opportunity for Sudan and Darfur to turn the destiny of the conflict-ridden region.

Al Jazeera’s Omar Al Saleh at the conference said that the second session had started and speaker Al-Tijani Sisi, head of the Regional Darfur authority was “calling on the international community to help rebuild Darfur and to start the recovery strategy.”

Britain on Sunday pledged at least $16.5m for Darfur annually over the next three years to help communities to grow their own food and for providing skills training to help people find work.

"It is not good enough to simply offer more handouts," Lynne Featherstone, Britain's international development minister, said.

"Our aid will help the poorest to get the help they need to stand on their own and make them better able to cope when crises occur."

The development strategy calls for agricultural upgrades, access to financing and other measures to help Darfuris support themselves under a more effective system of local government.

Al Jazeera's Harriet Martin, reporting from Khartoum, said aid agencies at the conference would be stressing that Darfur is a complex region.

"What Darfur needs is a more nuanced approach  - humanitarian aid in some places, development aid in others," she said.

Protests in Darfur

Ahead of the meeting, protests against it were reported in refugee campus in Darfur, with demonstrators calling for an end to insecurity.

Al Jazeera's Al Saleh said demonstrations were held in camps controlled by rebel groups who were not signatories to the donor conference.

"Darfur is not 100 percent secure," he said. "It's a region that is bigger than France, and the fears of insecurity are valid."

The Doha 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.

Qatar brokered a peace deal between a rebel faction and the Sudanese government in 2011, but major rebel groups like the Justice and Equality Movement rejected it.

The Doha peace deal was seen as a cornerstone of international efforts to end the violence, but the hundreds of thousands of refugees forced to flee say they can go home only when they are compensated for their losses.[ach/AJE]

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