22 August 2017

Sudan: Qatar Grants U.S.$70 Million for Darfur Model Villages

Khartoum — Sudan signed a new agreement for the construction of model villages for displaced people in Darfur with the State of Qatar in the capital of Sudan on Monday.

The agreement for $70 million from the Qatari Fund for Development should boost development efforts in Darfur. Ten projects, two in each of the five states, are to include fully integrated villages for refugees and displaced people in Darfur to voluntarily relocate to from the camps.

Khalifa Bin Jasim El Kowari, the Director of the Qatari Fund pointed out that the projects are part of the pledge made by Qatar during the Donors' Conference held in Doha in 2013. "[...] they would reflect positively on the peace process and the stability in the region."

El Kowari said the previous five projects in Darfur costed over 32 million dollars. The projects aim to benefit "over 300,000 people who return voluntarily to the region".

The Qatari ambassador to the Sudan, Rashid Bin Abdel Rahaman El Naimi said during the signing ceremony in Khartoum that the projects follow previous ones that have showed success: "All people in the concerned areas benefited. The areas where those villages were built have witnessed return and settlement by returnees and refugees."

The ambassador renewed his call for the rebel movement to join the peace process and help with the development in Darfur.

Assistant of the President of the Republic Musa Mohamed Ahmed commended the role played by the State of Qatar in support of the peace and development in the various areas of the country, and in Darfur in particular. He called the Gulf state "a brotherly partner and an outstanding contributor in the peace and building process in Darfur region".

In June Sudan refrained from taking sides in the diplomatic crisis surrounding Qatar, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Funds for villages

In February 2016, the UN and the government of Sudan signed documents worth $88.5 million in contributions from Qatar for projects in all Darfur states over a period of nearly two years. The majority would be spent on constructing model villages for displaced Darfuris.

Darfur displaced have often rejected relocation to model villages as they consider the situation in the conflict-torn western region far from secure enough to leave the camps. In June, displaced people in West Darfur refuse to be replaced to a new town northwest of El Geneina, calling upon camp residents "not to move an inch from the camp". In December 2015, residents of villages in the area of Aro in Wadi Azum locality, Central Darfur, took to the streets in protest against the construction of a model village in the area.

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