20 March 2019

Sudan: South Darfur Wali Pledges Development in Areas of Voluntary Return

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Nyala — The Wali (Governor) of South Darfur, Ahmed Abushanab, has called on the state's government to solve the problem of the displaced, by planning the camps and providing services for the returnees in the areas of the original voluntary return villages.

The governor of South Darfur said after meeting leaders of displaced people in the state's camps the he knew why the displaced wouldn't go back to the voluntary return or seasonal return. He said he is identifying their problems and the needs required for their stability, especially related to farms and homes, and pledged to provide protection and planning for them.

The Wali also promised the provision of health centres, schools, and agricultural equipment, providing protection, and the return of some of the property and farms that were seized by settlers during the period of their absence.

Abushanab told the displaced that the government is serious to resolve their case and provide their needs.

The Minister of Health and the chairman of the Committee for Support of Voluntary Return Projects in North Darfur, Marwan El Tijani, announced that arrangements are being made by the Committee these days to carry out comprehensive field surveys of voluntary returnees to their areas of origin in different localities.

He explained that the survey aims to establish a database and assess the needs of the returnees, in addition to conducting comprehensive inventories and knowledge of the problems facing them in order to find effective solutions in cooperation with the competent authorities and partners.

El Tijani said in a press statement that the survey also comes in order to conduct field interventions for the needy and help in how to develop the plan for the year 2020 and extend the plan to this year.

Voluntary return

Radio Dabanga frequently receives reports of attacks on formerly displaced people who have returned to their villages an farms. This discourages many displaced people from leaving the vast camps.

Starting 2017, the Sudanese government began to issue announcements about the improved security situation in the region, which showed the first signs of the campaign to increase the numbers of voluntary returnees from the camps to their areas of origin.

Reports, however, of militiamen with their families occupying the abandoned villages and farms started to emerge too. This was already the case in 2015 when witnesses narrated their visits to specific areas which were occupied by newcomers or foreign settlers, and continues to be a problem for returnees.

Voluntary return is one of the options which the Sudanese government has given to the people in Darfur who have been displaced by the armed conflict that erupted in 2003. Another option for them is to remain in the camps which will be transformed into residential areas.

Recently, Darfur state governors made a promise to return any land of people who have been displaced by war and now willing to return, to their rightful owners by force, at the Darfur States Conference of Displaced People in Nyala in December 2018.

In November, the North Darfur governor claimed that nearly 153,000 displaced people had returned to their villages of origin. Camps where displaced people have been living, will be renamed to districts and towns.

The conflict in Darfur erupted in 2003 and has displaced over 2.7 million people from their homes (OCHA, 2017) -however, up-to-date numbers are difficult to ascertain by humanitarian organisations in Darfur.

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