Conflict resolution in Darfur camps
07 March 2008
By Charlotte Brudenell for ACT/Caritas
Peacebuilding is crucial to the longterm success of Caritas work in Darfur
Nyala, south Darfur, 24 July 2007 - “No society is free from problems” says Ahmed, a young man in one of Darfur’s many camps. “We are altogether here in the camp united by our situation, but when there is a problem; people often divide into groups based on their origin” says Ahmed.
With thousands of people forcefully driven from their homes into overcrowded camps where both resources and opportunities are short, disputes have become a frequent feature of life for many of Darfur’s displaced.
“There are many problems inside the camp; problems within families - usually between the man and wife, problems between a sheikh and the people of his village, disputes between a buyer and seller” reports Ali, deputy sheikh of sheikhs in Dereig camp, which is currently sheltering over 20,000 people.
“Also, sometimes there is a misunderstanding between different groups of people. If an organisation is serving one sector of the camp and another sector close by is not receiving anything, then this can lead to conflict” explains Ahmed from Mershing, where 50,000 people are living in camps.
However, with training and assistance from two of ACT/Caritas’s national partners; SCC and Sudanaid, groups of sheikhs, women, and youths have been empowered with the skills and knowledge to enable them to solve conflicts peacefully. The trainees have set up conflict resolution and reconciliation committees in five camps* in south Darfur.
“Since we established the committee we have managed to solve many problems inside the camp” claims Ahmed, a member of the youth reconciliation committee in Mershing. “For example, disputes between husband and wife, between groups of boys, and we have also integrated the football teams of the camp with those of the local community.”
“To resolve a conflict, the way to create reconciliation is to mediate, this is our role” explains Babi, 27, another member of the youth committee.
Salih, a member of Derieg camp’s conflict resolution committee of sheikhs explains further; “in the training we learnt how to intervene so as to solve a problem between people or groups; we listen to both sides, initially separately, and then we bring the two sides together with the committee acting as a neutral party to mediate between them. This enables both parties to speak so that the mediators can determine a way to make peace. This is also reconciliation”.
But there are not only conflicts inside the camp. “We share water pumps with the local community, but sometimes problems erupt and they insult us, saying we have brought them problems. When we go to get firewood we are often threatened and attacked by armed men. Every month women are assaulted and sometimes killed when they go to get firewood” reports Babi.
What are the prospects that the committees will be able to address and resolve conflicts that occur outside the camps?
In Mershing the youth committee does not think it is yet possible. “We do not have authority to mediate with those outside the community; they are armed and we are normal people” explains Ahmed. “But if they put down their guns and their support is taken away, then there is a possibility. Human beings can do anything together.”
The committee of sheikhs share a similar view, “During the training we learnt about rights; human rights, the rights of women and children, and that as citizens we have rights; to be equal with others, in all fields” states Ali, a member. “But we are here in the camps because there is discrimination. If there was equality and justice we would not stay in the camps”.
According to sheikh Ali what needs to happen is threefold; “Darfur is not going to be stable unless there is disarmament of the militias. Then there needs to be recognition of guilt so that there can be reconciliation and forgiveness, and there needs to be talks, with all Darfurians participating and with a neutral party in the role of mediator, in order to solve the current crisis.”
Ali is positive; “We can use the methods we have learnt in the training to solve any problem. We have to use it in the future, such as when we return to our homes, so as to co-exist peaceful again with our neighbours. The training has shown us that if there is respect for opinion, and respect for justice, this will lead us to a safe land.”
*Separate committees have been formed by youths, women and sheikhs in the following camps: El Neem, Mershing, Dereig, Merir, Ta’asha.
Action by Churches Together International (ACT) and Caritas Internationalis (CI) are working together in a joint response to the Darfur crisis. Learn more about ACT Caritas
ACT International is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide. Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organizations present in 200 countries and territories.
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