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Darfuri Refugees Feel Hopeless About Future Peace

It has been nearly a month since the government of Sudan and the largest rebel group in the Darfur region signed a peace agreement, which was hailed as the best solution for ending the three-year conflict, even though two rebel groups have refused to sign. Reporter Noel King visited a camp in El Fasher for some of the estimated two million people displaced by the fighting, and found little hope for the peace deal.

All throughout this vast refugee camp, men and women sit in small groups talking of peace in Darfur.

None of them believe it has come yet.

A peace agreement between the government of Sudan and one faction of the Sudan Liberation Army, led by Minni Minnawi, was signed in early May.

But displaced Darfuris at the sprawling refugee camp say the agreement is worthless, following the refusal of rebel leader Abdel Wahid Mohamed Nur, to sign on to the deal.

Nur has said the agreement does not grant Darfuris a fair share of the region's wealth, and he has demanded the appointment of a Darfuri vice president.

Darfuris rebelled three years ago, complaining that the region was undeveloped because of neglect by the central government.

The Sudan Liberation Army split in November, with most rebels allying with Minni Minnawi.

But Abdel Wahid Nur remains popular among civilians.

Abdel Hamed Musa, like many others who have been displaced, condemned Minnawi for signing the agreement. He says he agrees with Nur, that the agreement does not grant enough rights to those in the region.

"Minni Minnawi signed this agreement, but Abdel Wahid Nur did not. We dont want it," he said. "There is no justice. This is not a complete agreement; it is an agreement without rights. We want our rights," he says.

The displaced here speak of Minnawi as a traitor and Nur as a hero.

Tribal loyalties are strong in Darfur, and the majority of people in the Abu Shouk camp are members of Nur's Fur tribe, the largest in the region.

Minnawi is a member of the Zaghawa tribe, which has its roots in Chad.

Babikir Musa, a displaced student, says the war will not be over for him, until Nur says it is.

"All people in Darfur [do] not like Minni. All people like Abdel Wahid. [If] Abdel Wahid says we are going, we are going. [If] Abdel Wahid says we are not going, we are not going. All people like Abdel Wahid in Darfur," he said.

Others have a different reason for their distrust of the peace agreement.

Many say they are afraid to return to their villages, because they fear continued attacks by militias known as janjaweed.

The janjaweed are widely believed to have been armed by the Sudan government, in order to crush the 2003 rebellion.

The janjaweed's savage campaign of rape and murder has led to severe trauma among refugees.

Abdallah Mohamed Ramadan says he does not believe that the janjaweed have left his village.

"There is no peace yet. There is no peace yet," he says. "Until now, in my village, there are still janjaweed. Many, many Arab Janjaweed," he says.

Abdallah says, in recent months, he has been told of the deaths of more people in his village, Jebel See.

Under the terms of the peace agreement, the Sudan government has agreed to disarm the janjaweed, but admits it will be no easy task.

For now, the displaced at Abu Shouk say they will continue to wait.

Abdel Wahid Nur and leaders from the rebel Justice and Equality Movement have missed a Wednesday deadline set by the African Union Peace and Security Council to sign the agreement.

The AU, which has 7,000 troops monitoring a widely ignored cease-fire in Darfur, has threatened to slap sanctions on the holdout parties.

But political maneuvering means very little to the people here. Until Nur signs the deal, they say, there will be no peace in Darfur.