17 April 2017

Sudan: 'Militiamen Living in Our Villages, Using Our Lands' - Darfuri Displaced

Beleil / Zalingei — The continued announcements of the Sudanese government and the recent declaration of the US military attaché in Khartoum about the improved security situation in the region are "false propaganda", according to the displaced people in Darfur.

"These statements about security in Darfur have no basis in reality," Hussein Abu Sharati, the spokesman for the Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association, commented to Radio Dabanga.

"In terms of security and stability, the situation in Darfur is now more serious than three years ago. As the region is currently under the control of those who fought alongside government forces against the people, and chased them from their villages. The government rewarded them by letting them occupy our lands."

Abu Sharati explained that the displaced and refugees do not refuse to return voluntarily. "On the contrary, they are longing to return to their places of origin. It is imperative however, to achieve a comprehensive peace, to restore security, disarm the militias, expel the militiamen and their families from the occupied lands, and bring those who have committed crimes against civilians in Darfur to justice.

"Otherwise, we have nothing to do with any re-planning of camps, nor with the so-called voluntary return as it is promoted by the government," he added.

"If the camp areas are annexed to the towns and the displaced registered as town residents, they will deprived from the possibility to reclaim their land. Thus the way to legalising the new settlers' ownership of our lands will be paved."

'Baseless propaganda'

According to El Shafee Abdallah, Coordinator of the Central Darfur camps and one of the members of the Darfur Camps Coordination Committee, the government's announcement of security in Darfur and the possibility for the displaced people in the camps to return to their villages is "baseless propaganda.

"The lands and villages of the displaced people are currently occupied by militiamen, from the region or neighbouring countries, who are allied with the government," he said. "They daily prevent the displaced from leaving the camps to collect firewood and straw, let alone to return to their villages."

He explained that "The government aims to keep the displaced people where they are, after a so-called replanning of the camps.

"If the camp areas are annexed to the towns and the displaced registered as town residents, they will deprived from the possibility to reclaim their land. Thus the way to legalising the new settlers' ownership of our lands will be paved."

"That is why the displaced people will never accept the re-planning of the camps and their integration into the towns," he said.

Land management

On Sunday, a workshop, organised by the UN Human Settlements Programme, was held in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur.

The workshop, on strengthening land management and peaceful coexistence in Darfur, concluded with calls for the enforcement and implementation of landownership legislation, in particular concerning the areas of voluntary return, and the enhancement of the use of land at the local level.

The workshop's participants, North Darfur civil society and native administration leaders, as well called for the creation of "a mechanism for collecting, reviving, and disseminating the native traditions and customs that strengthen and enhance the bases of arbitration in Darfur".

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