Sudan Darfur donor conference raises $3.6bn

Sudanese woman pushing jerry cans of water in a camp for displaced people, Darfur, March 2013 As many as two million people have been unable to return to their homes in Darfur

Donor countries have pledged $3.6bn (£2bn) for the development and reconstruction of Sudan's Darfur region, to be paid over six years.

The announcement was made at the end of a two-day international donor forum hosted by the Gulf state of Qatar.

Organisers had sought some $7.2bn in development aid aimed at making the region more self-sufficient.

Around 300,000 people are thought to have died during a decade of conflict in Darfur, according to UN estimates.

As many as 1.4 million remain homeless.

The pledged figure includes 2.65bn from the government in Khartoum as part of a peace deal signed in Qatar in 2011.

"These pledges cover more than the $177m needed for urgent [projects]", said UN spokesman Ali Al-Zatari following the announcement on Monday.

Qatar pledged $500m while the European Union said it would contribute $35m.

The British aid package, totalling $102m, also includes assistance for Blue Nile and South Kordofan, two other Sudanese regions affected by conflict.

Flawed efforts?

Sceptics, however, said efforts to bring peace to Darfur were flawed, pointing to continued instability and division.

Protests against the Qatar conference had taken place across Darfur on Friday.

Demonstrators said the lack of security made reconstruction efforts premature. They also opposed the 2011 peace deal signed in Qatar, which was rejected by major rebel groups.

But a draft development strategy released ahead of the Qatar conference said delays would only make recovery harder.

"There will likely never be a time when an ideal set of conditions for recovery is apparent in Darfur," it says.

The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when rebels began attacking government targets, accusing Khartoum of oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs.

The mainly Arab Janjaweed militia was accused of carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide against Darfur's black African population in response.

Though violence in Darfur has come down from its peak, there are still clashes between government forces, rebels, bandits and rival ethnic groups.

Sudan's President, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and genocide in Darfur.

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