Refugees too scared to go home despite Darfur deal peace

By Claire Soares in Gaga, Chad 
Published: 08 May 2006

It is going to take more than a couple of signatures
on a piece of paper to persuade Kaltam Ali to go back
to her home in Darfur. 

Janjaweed militia torched her village in Sudan two
years ago, forcing her to flee to Chad. She sought
refuge in a village near the frontier. But last month,
the "devils on horseback" staged a cross-border raid.
They stole the family's cattle and executed her father
with a single bullet to the head.

So it is little wonder that, as news of a long-awaited
Darfur peace deal filtered down to the Gaga refugee
camp where she now lives, the 28-year-old did not rush
to pack her bags. "I don't have confidence in the
Sudanese government to rein in the Janjaweed," she
said. "And if these marauders are still in Darfur, how
on earth can we be expected to go back and live

Jan Egeland, the UN's chief humanitarian co-ordinator,
began a tour of the war-scarred Darfur region
yesterday. He will also visit eastern Chad this week,
where 200,000 refugees are sheltering. He is likely to
encounter a wall of fierce scepticism there regarding
Friday's peace deal.

After two years of African Union-sponsored talks, and
last-minute pressure from the US and Britain, the
Khartoum government and the main SLA faction signed an
agreement in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

But two smaller rebel groups rejected the deal. "They
are our representatives and they will do what's best
for us, the people of Darfur, so if they haven't
signed up then there must be a good reason," said Adam
Sherif, a butcher and refugee, as he listened to an
Arabic news bulletin on a battered radio, propped
among yellowing mounds of meat at Gaga's market.

For many, the thought of returning to Darfur is
unthinkable, unless they are compensated. "We have
lost our belongings, our animals. All these things
need to be sorted out before we can begin to
contemplate rebuilding our lives back home," said
Adama Dingila, a refugee community leader. Camped out
in dust-covered tents in a barren landscape broken
only by prickly thorn bushes, other refugees said they
would be staying put until a UN force was on the
ground in Darfur.

The Sudanese government had said it would consider a
UN presence after a peace agreement, but with the ink
dry on the Abuja deal, Khartoum refused to be drawn
over the weekend on whether it would give the green
light to blue-helmets.

Meanwhile, hundreds of refugees continue to arrive
every week at Gaga camp.

And then there are those such as Halima Anour Yaya,
who fled Darfur only to find herself in the midst of
Chad's own rebellion, caught in the crossfire between
government troops and insurgents bent on ousting
Idriss Deby, Chad's President. "When is this going to
end?" the wizened 67-year-old said with a sigh. It is
a question much of the rest of the world is asking. 


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