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Sudanese Minister Expects Peace in Darfur in Two Months

Sudan's minister of humanitarian affairs says he expects the war in Darfur to be over within two months. In anticipation of that, he has presented a post-conflict recovery program at the United Nations in Geneva which, he says, he plans to present to donor governments for financing at some future date.

Sudan's Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Mohamed Yousif Abadalla says he does not think it is premature to start planning for Darfur's recovery and rehabilitation. He says the peace agreement to be signed this month will end more than two decades of war between the Muslim north and Christian and Animist south. And this will have a positive impact on the war in Darfur.

"We expect to conclude an agreement maybe within the next two months," he said. "Therefore, we think that's very important also to engage in the process of the recovery. The priority areas for us are urgent needs where we would provide the humanitarian needs to the IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons] and enable them to go back to their areas. We would address also the issue of arm collection by disarming all the groups that have taken arms."

War between the government-backed Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed and two rebel groups has been raging for the past 22 months. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, more than 1.5 million people have been displaced and some 200 thousand fled to neighboring Chad.

The Sudanese government denies supporting the Janjaweed. Mr. Abadalla says the government has disarmed around 30 percent of the Arab militia, but has no control over the rebel groups. He denies reports that the government is preventing United Nations and other aid agencies from gaining access to the displaced people in camps.

"There are two problems I can say," he said. "One problem is insecurity. Where rebels actually create insecurity. It is not the government which is denying access, but those who are creating the situation of insecurity."

Mr. Abadalla agrees that civilians are victims of human rights violations. But, says this is a natural consequence of war. He says his government is doing what it can to protect civilians and has many police officers on guard at the camps.

A recent report by U.N. human rights observers tells a different story. A U.N. spokesman, Jose Diaz, says the observers report women and girls are afraid to leave the camps for fear of being attacked or raped. And fighting between the Janjaweed and rebels continue to put internally displaced persons at risk.

"IDPs throughout the region continue to fear and distrust the police," he said. "There is widespread impunity which is continuing with reports of police refusing to record complaints by IDPs. Armed Janjaweed…continue to roam areas throughout Darfur contributing to this sense of insecurity among IDPs."

The Sudanese minister of humanitarian affairs calls these fears unjustified. He says 12,000 policemen are being deployed to protect the civilians and an unknown number of people accused of abuse have been brought to justice.