After six years of bloody fighting, there is hope that the civil war in the Sudanese region of Darfur will finally come to an end.
Agreement between the Sudanese government and Darfur’s most active rebel group is viewed as a step towards peace settlement in the area.
According to Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem Mohamad, the accord between the rebel group, the Justice and Equity Movement, and Khartoum is intended to pave the way to a final peace agreement due to be signed within three months.
The people of Darfur have survived one of the bloodiest and most devastating conflicts the African continent has ever seen. Despite widespread international attention, the security and the humanitarian situations in the area remain precarious.
The UN estimates that nearly 300,000 people have been killed here in the course of five years. Another two and a half million have been left homeless.
Many of them have moved to northern Darfur to rebuild their damaged lives from scratch, away from the front line.
When the first refugee camp was set up near the city of Al Fasher shortly after the beginning of the conflict in 2003, people were just living under canvas.
Little by little what was a camp became a city with its own streets and clay houses, schools and hospitals.
Now, the residents of this new city want to stay for a long time. They have safety, something they have been looking for years.
Still, Darfur's uprooted residents say they strongly need further support.
“Our life is very hard here,” said Al-Haj Ali Binnoor, a displaced person. “We call on international organisations to help us. We can hardly support ourselves here.”
International and local NGOs brought their humanitarian missions to the region soon after the fighting started. But there is still a very long way to go.
Years of Darfur conflict, which came after a two-decade-civil-war between the North and South, have left Sudan in ruins and turned the continent’s richest country into one of the poorest in Africa.
The authorities are seeking a way out and appeal to foreign investors.
“We thank Allah that our land is so rich,” said Minister of Finance and National Economy Awad Al-Jaz. “We call for investors from everywhere in the world to come and explore our treasures. That could help our country to revive.”
Russia is among those welcome in Sudan, and among those eager to come.
“Russia left Africa, Latin America and Asia after the collapse of the USSR. That was our fault,” said Russia’s special envoy to Sudan Mikhail Margelov. “The time has come to return. There is huge scope for Russian companies in Africa. We want to develop our co-operation in many spheres and we will start from Sudan.”
While investors are starting to rediscover Sudan, disregarded during its years of instability, the world wants those responsible to be punished.
The International Criminal Court has filed ten war crimes charges against the Sudanese president, including genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
However, Sudan’s presidential advisor Abdullah Ali Masar, says that the country “will not extradite any Sudanese citizen.”
“We believe this case is artificially made, deliberately created against Sudan,” he said. “To my understanding, the lobbies working in America are misrepresenting the situation in Sudan to achieve personal goals.”
What Sudan does see as important is a peace process in Darfur. As continuing negotiations do not seem to be achieving very much the country is pinning its hopes on Russia again.
“Russia put forward an initiative to hold a conference on Sudan in Moscow with international politicians and scientists taking part, something we’re strongly supporting as we think that can improve the situation,” said Foreign Minister Lyam Akul.