One Darfur community is sick of fighting – bringing peace back
Feb 26 2016
The Darfur conflict erupted in 2003, leading to the death and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese citizens and capturing the world’s attention.
Three years later, the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed — but the war raged on. Then, in 2011, came another peace agreement, the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. Again, the conflict continued.
The Khartoum government’s divide-and-conquer strategy led to rebel groups breaking into more rebel groups breaking into even more rebel groups. Today, a plethora of weak and divided rebel movements remain entrenched in Darfur’s Jebel Marra mountains. Some of these say they will never sign a peace deal. But one thing almost all of them have in common, as the 13th anniversary of the Darfur conflict looms, is this: They are sick of fighting.
The Darfur peace process has stalled, and is now contingent upon the political opposition’s decision whether or not to join a national dialogue with President Omar al-Bashir’s government. As the region wavers in violent limbo, one community in Darfur has refused to wait for peace to come to them. Instead, they went out and made peace for themselves.
Al Malam lies 600 miles southwest of the political apparatus of Khartoum. It’s at the foot of the rebel-held Jebel Marra mountains, and at the heart of the Darfur conflict.
Al Malam’s community includes rival Fur and Arab tribes. Tens of thousands of ethnic Fur were displaced from there in the government’s initial military campaign in 2003. The area has endured relentless and vicious sparring between government-backed Janjaweed militias and rebels for the last decade.
Spearheading an initiative for peace in Al Malam was Lukman Ahmed, a journalist originally from Al Malam who moonlights as a peacebuilder. Ahmed believed that if he could develop the area around Al Malam by rebuilding schools, hospitals, and markets, he could provide enough incentive for Al Malam’s residents to return home from the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps to which they’d fled, and to live together peacefully in the name of improving their livelihoods. So Ahmed did just that.
With funds raised from the Sudanese diaspora in the United States and international groups, Ahmed’s organization, Malam Darfur for Peace and Development (MDPD), rebuilt Al Malam and the surrounding villages. When displaced residents living in the camps heard about MDPD’s work, they decided to give their hometowns another chance.
After the initial batch of Al Malam residents returned to the area, MDPD facilitated peace dialogues between the rival tribes. A group of women formed a peace committee, composed of traditional leaders from all the surrounding communities. And when the rebels and Janjaweed militias returned to Al Malam, they were told: “Enough.” Al Malam was done with fighting. With or without a political agreement implemented from Khartoum, they were moving on from war.
The story of Al Malam’s recovery is no fairy tale. Many displaced people are afraid of leaving the camps, fearful of returning home to more attacks from government militias, and suspicious of any effort to move them from the camps. For many, they have nothing to return to; their homes were burned to the ground, their families killed, and their land stolen.
Countless questions remain unanswered: How will this issue of land rights be addressed? Will there be justice for the people who were killed? What happens to IDPs who would rather stay in the cities they fled to? All of these questions will need to be part of a larger conversation about transitional justice and reconciliation.
In the meantime, the people of Al Malam will continue to give peace a chance. Once the rival tribes around Al Malam realized they could achieve more by living in peace than fighting each other and fleeing to camps, trade routes through the area reopened, markets filled up again, and commerce began to rise.
MDPD is now expanding its work to other areas of Jebel Marra, hoping more communities will recognize the dividends of peace. While ongoing conflict ravages other parts of Darfur, Al Malam is proof that when a community wants peace and development, they don’t need to wait for a national political process. They can sideline the spoilers and make peace for themselves.

Katie Campo is a Sudan expert at the National Endowment for Democracy. She previously served as a political officer at the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, where she specialized in Darfur. Katie writes in her personal capacity, and views expressed are her own. You can follow her on Twitter at @KatieCampo1.

Displaced Kashmiri Pandits want status change to IDPs

Excelsior Correspondent
Displaced Kashmiri Pandits plead for status change from ‘Migrant’ to IDPs
Youth for PK meets British MP
JAMMU, Feb 21: A high power delegation of Youth for Panun Kashmir (PK)-the frontline youth wing of Panun Kashmir today held a meeting with the British MP Bob Blackman who is on a visit to India and had come to assess the situation in the State. He met the Panun Kashmir youth delegation in New Delhi and gave them a patient hearing.
In a memorandum submitted to the visiting dignitary, community youth have asked him to apprise the policy makers and the international community that the Kashmiri Pandit community is a frontline victim of the Islamic Jihad, which has now engulfed the entire world and is posing a grave threat to democracy and human rights.
It was due to Islamic Jihad unleashed under the garb of Azadi that Kashmiri Muslim society in Kashmir and their Jihadi foot soldiers inflicted genocide and human rights violation of the Kashmiri Pandit community in 1990.
Memorandum also appealed to MP Bob Blackman to sensitize the world opinion and the Indian State that Kashmiri Pandits are not “migrants ” but Internally Displaced People (IDP) as they have been rendered homeless in their own State and within the borders of their own country -India. As such it is the prime duty of the international community to help the KP community to get justice under the covenants of IDP principles as underlined by the United Nations.
All the IDP principles should be applied in case of KPs as it will guarantee their return and rehabilitation in their separate Homeland as envisaged in Margdarshan Resolution. MemZorandum categorically states that only separate Homeland with full application of IDP principles will ensure the reversal of KP genocide.
Bob Blackman assured that he will raise the IDP issue in United Kingdom and ensure that the Indian government works on the lines proposed by the delegation.
Feb 21 2016

Sudan’s national dialogue – a test for government’s commitment
Sudan’s National Dialogue Poses Test to Government’s Commitment

Thursday, February 11, 2016
Susan Stigant
In Sudan, a country still struggling with violent conflict in Darfur and two other states, almost 700 participants in a national dialogue process are finalizing recommendations after three months of vigorous and genuine discussion. But legacies of tension and division are hard to overcome. Key groups that must be involved for any resolution to be sustainable have not joined. Most concerning, the open debate exercised within the national dialogue does not extend outside the doors of Friendship Hall.

University of Khartoum. Photo credit: Petr Adam Dohnálek/Wikicommons
The hall, Khartoum’s main conference center near the banks of the Nile, is playing host to intensive discussions on fundamental issues of identity, human rights, the economy, governance, foreign affairs and peace. President Omar al-Bashir initiated the process in 2014, and the conference convened in October 2015.

“Internal peace in countries like Sudan and South Sudan requires political transformation – a new, inclusive, responsible and accountable way of governance.” – Ambassador Princeton Lyman
In a visit this week with Ambassador Princeton Lyman, a special advisor at USIP, we sought to learn more about the prospects of the national dialogue; explore how it relates to other local dialogue initiatives and the peace talks on Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile; and understand the ongoing challenges to securing an inclusive peace.

We saw first-hand the dedication and achievements of those who participated. As Ambassador Lyman said in a lecture afterwards at the Peace Research Institute at the University of Khartoum, “There is no doubt that the participants in the dialogue have been addressing very critical and sometimes very sensitive issues with vigor and earnestness. The results could be far-reaching.”

But it is not enough. The dialogue has not been sufficiently inclusive. Key armed groups and members of the political opposition declined to join the national dialogue, saying that the structure is dominated by the ruling National Congress Party. The government counters that more than 100 political parties and 30 armed groups have joined and that the invitation to the opposition remains open. But as the deliberations in Friendship Hall wind up in the coming days, a mechanism is needed to further broaden discussions about the future of the country.

Without an end to the wars, it is hard to imagine how the resolutions agreed to in the national dialogue could be implemented. Furthermore, throughout Sudan, civil society organizations are being denied registration or closed, non-violent activists are being detained with documented cases of mistreatment, political and civic leaders are being barred from traveling to meetings outside of the country and media outlets are being shut down. The government justifies these actions in the name of national security, but this limited political space runs directly contrary to the supposed purpose of the dialogue.

Test for the Government
In the coming months, the Sudanese government’s commitment will be put to the test. Will the recommendations be taken to the Sudanese people for a broader, more inclusive dialogue? Will negotiations to end the violent conflict make progress? Will the hundreds of recommendations from the national dialogue be implemented?

“I would suggest that at the heart of the problem is that there has not yet been a commitment to a real democratic transition, especially by the ruling authorities,” Ambassador Lyman said in his Feb. 9 speech, “The Missing Piece: Where is the Peace in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement?”

A former special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Ambassador Lyman assessed the challenges to building a lasting peace within Sudan and South Sudan and engaged in a vigorous discussion with the 30 university professors, civil society leaders, former political leaders and students who attended. Drawing on experiences from South Africa to South Korea, he argued that “internal peace in countries like Sudan and South Sudan requires political transformation – a new, inclusive, responsible and accountable way of governance.”

The issue of U.S. sanctions on Sudan was raised often during the visit. The United States has imposed penalties on the Sudanese government since 1997, including economic measures in 2007 “in response to the government’s continued complicity in violence occurring in the Darfur region,” according to the State Department.

Ambassador Lyman pointed out that sanctions are linked to the most critical challenges Sudan is confronting: Conflict, human rights, and political transformation. The national dialogue is addressing several of these, and the conclusions and follow-up implementation will be closely watched.

But as Ambassador Lyman pointed out in his speech, the national dialogue has to be linked to political negotiations that end the internal conflicts and support a transition to democratic governance. Moreover, civil society, the media and political activists have to be given space to exercise the rights and freedoms guaranteed by Sudan’s own constitution. And an agreement on humanitarian access to assist civilians impacted by violent conflict that resurged in Darfur in late 2015 and early 2016 and that continues in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states must be put into action. The issues of sanctions has to be seen in this context.

“In Sudan and South Sudan, despite years of intensive negotiation, multiple agreements, and the dedicated work of so many, peace remains not only elusive, but—in South Sudan and parts of Sudan— has been lost altogether,” Ambassador Lyman said. “Yet we cannot despair nor pull back from this work. Too many people are suffering, too much potential is being lost, too much danger exists of even greater loss of life that, if anything, we must intensify our work.”

Susan Stigant is USIP’s director of Africa programs.

Displaced KPs continue to fight – right to return

December 28, 2015
Displaced KPs continue to fight for their right to return, led by the group’s NGOs to choose to return to a “Separate homeland”.

On December 28, 1991, KPs first raised their demand for a “distinct homeland” within the Kashmir Valley, from which they were forcibly evicted in 1989/90, the new homeland to be called “Pannun (our) Kashmir” to be governed by a centrally-administered (Delhi government) territory under the Indian Constitution. December 28 has come to be observed as the ‘Homeland Day’ among this community when the ‘Margdarshan Resolution’ was passed in 1991.

Pannun Kashmir, a civil society movement representing this community has lately promoted this idea through ‘Kashmiri Youth Conference’, with its nodes in many part of the globe, known as the ‘Friends of Pannun Kashmir Overseas’. NGO has mobilized the youth in solidarity in many parts of Europe and ask the community to “engage people and politicians in dialogues even with whom they disagree”.
The NGO has also been voicing its opinion to set up a tribunal to probe into the violence responsible for the eviction of this community, labeled by the group a ‘genocide’ and an ‘ethnic cleansing’ of this community.

Dr. Sudha Rajput
Professor: ‘Refugee and IDP Issues Analysis’
School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University
Consultant/Trainer (USAID) Bahri University, Khartoum, Sudan
Book Chapter: “Internal Displacement of Kashmiri Pandits” in State, Society, and Minorities in South and Southeast Asia.
World Bank (Ret.)
Follow me on Twitter
Link to the full story

Displaced Serbians accommodate incoming Syrian Refugees

Where Wars Collide: Inside a Serbian Center Home to Refugees Old and New
By Sara Elizabeth Williams

November 23, 2015 | 10:41 am
Afghani teenager Khalil squinted in the winter Balkan sunshine and winced as he flexed his left bicep, red and inflamed where a police dog bit him a few days back, in Bulgaria. Across a muddy field, an older woman in a bandana watched warily as she swept a porch. She had seen his kind come and go, and today would be no different.

Like most of the other hundred or so young men re-tying shoes and adjusting bandages, coats and rucksacks at the refugee transit center on the outskirts of the Serbian capital, Khalil was bound for Europe.

Few people on the refugee highway running through Belgrade want to stay: of the 335,000 who have registered with the UN refugee agency in Serbia on their way through the country this year, just 30 have filed claims for asylum.

Bulgaria had been brutal and Khalil had no wish to stay in eastern Europe. “The police robbed me,” he told VICE News. “They took 70 Euros and my smartphone. I have no money now and no phone.”
smail, a 26-year-old father of three girls, worked as a translator with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province. He was determined not to leave, but after militants came to his house and threatened to kill him, he had no choice.

“It’s not true that there is no war in Afghanistan,” he told VICE News. “It’s not only the Taliban but also American bombs. There are 100 groups.”

Ismail hoped to set up in Europe and send for his wife and daughters in future. After seeing his country torn apart and endangering himself and his family by working with Westerners, he believes they all deserve a new start.

“If the US and NATO will not bring peace to the country, what should we do?” he asked.
Khalil and Ismail have dreams of a better life. For other residents at the center in Krnjaca, about half an hour from Belgrade, it’s a little different: this collection of spartan barracks-style dormitory blocks is home.

More than eighty people forced from their homes from the 1990s Balkan conflicts still live at Krnjaca, sleeping in its bunk beds, dining in its stale-smelling canteen, and raising their Serbia-born children as perpetual refugees.

The current migration epidemic, in which more than 650,000 people have flooded into Europe fleeing war in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, or poverty and brutal regimes in countries such as Eritrea and Congo, is not the continent’s first refugee crisis.

More than two million people were displaced during the Balkan conflicts, a series of wars and insurgencies between 1991 and 2002 that saw the former Yugoslavia broken up and parts of eastern Europe ravaged by ethnic cleansing, genocide and other war crimes.

The Krnjaca facility was one of 700 so-called “collective centers” built in Serbia at the height of the crisis to house refugees and internally displaced people. Most have been closed down, but a handful remain, and are now seeing past and present humanitarian crises become entangled.

The Serbian government, a poor country plagued by accusations of corruption and committed to an austerity budget, is proving as unable to help its new refugees as it was the old.It can stretch to just 60 euros per person per month in welfare, and doesn’t have the money to build new housing for its oldest refugees, let alone the new arrivals.

The Krnjaca center feels like it has been forgotten by the world, surrounded by a scrubby wood, with rubbish and discarded masonry piled on either side of the road by which the refugees arrive.

Separate accommodation blocks for men, women, and families each follow a cookie-cutter design: bunk beds, a communal room tacked over with art, ageing bathrooms with wet floors, and dripping faucets.

The Serbian government opened the center to international refugees in August 2014. According to Marija Bojic, a government employee who works at Krnjaca, “Since it opened, asylum seekers are coming in different waves constantly.”
Managers say 6,000 refugees and migrants have passed through Krnjaca so far this year. With the rarest of exceptions, they stay just 24 hours. And so in ever-repeating cycles, the refugees from the past and the present come into the same orbit, sharing a canteen, an ageing collection of playground equipment, and a wifi network named “Asylum.”

After 20 years at Krnjaca, those displaced by old wars are adapting to a new routine: twice-daily buses dropping off foreign strangers and stragglers coming up the approach road, shouts and laughter in different languages.

Beyond language and cultural differences, Krnjaca’s two groups of residents are on the opposite sides of hope and it’s this that separates them as much as anything else. The possibilities of an endless search for refuge, of a life stopped and never restarted, of joblessness and economic failure, of children born stateless and forever remaining that way – these are the elephants in the room at Krnjaca.
Officials say Serbia’s Commissariat for Refugees and Migration is working provide build houses for its long-displaced families in a village nearby, and people are gradually being moved on — at one time the center housed hundreds of Balkans conflicts refugees and IDPs — but at a snail’s pace. And so the 85 longterm residents remain at Krnjaca, living in a limbo that threatens to stretch to two decades: on 14 December 2015, it will have been 20 years since the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement that put an end to the Bosnian War.

Across a sludgy creek and a stand of trees is the canteen, nearly empty between the rush of young men grabbing a breakfast before leaving, and the usual lunch crowd of long-term residents. A trio of blond Kosovar children, some of the center’s youngest residents, have breakfast as canteen staff and some older residents look on. The children were born in Serbia to refugee parents. Without the jobs and social mobility to become self-sufficient, they have remained at Krnjaca.

Nearby, 57-year-old Dragiša waited for a meal in the lull time between shifts of internationals. An ethnic Serb from Croatia, he has been at Krnjaca for 20 years. He says he doesn’t hold the newcomers’ circumstances against them.

“What can you do about politics?” he shrugged. “I can’t say anything. I’ve seen it all. Everyone is running from troubles.”
At the center’s entrance the bus is being loaded, taking Khalil and his companions to Belgrade and then north to the Croatian border and the promised land: Europe. For the lucky ones, there will be welfare, jobs, and a future as European citizens.

For others, like Dragiša and other long-displaced citizens of a country that no longer exists, there will likely be disappointment as jobs fail to materialize, social exclusion limits opportunities, and the money to build a life long dreamed of proves elusive.

As the bus rolls away from Krnjaca, the cycle begins again.
Follow Sara Elizabeth Williams on Twitter: @saraewilliams

Kashmiri Pandits – Minority Status for Pandits Irks Sikhs

Minority Status for Pandits Irks Sikhs, PoK Refugees
By Fayaz Wani
March 24, 2015
SRI NAGAR: The recommendation by a Parliamentary Panel to grant minority status to migrant Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) in Jammu and Kashmir has led to strong resentment from Sikhs and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) refugees, who have warned of a strong agitation.
“The recommendation by Parliamentary Panel is in contravention to the guidelines set by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) as far as classification of minorities is concerned,” All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina told reporters here on Monday.
He said the NCM had made it clear that there were six minority communities in the country — Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains. “Recommending minority status to the Pandits is against the procedure laid down by the NCM. Granting minority status to Pandits would upset the whole equilibrium in the society,” said Raina.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its report on rehabilitation of migrant KPs had urged the J&K government to look into the demand for granting minority status to the Pandits, who migrated from the Valley after the eruption of militancy in 1989.

“J&K has a special status in the Indian Constitution so the state government should look into the demand of the Pandits for conferring on them minority status keeping in mind their pitiable condition,” the panel has stated.
The J&K government has recently revealed that 37,128 Kashmiri Pandit families had migrated from Kashmir following the outbreak of militancy in 1989.
Raina warned that if the Central government went ahead with granting minority status to Kashmiri Pandits then the Sikhs would have no option but to come out on to the streets and stage strong protests in support of their demands.
“We have suffered a lot in the past and we cannot live with it forever. Justice has to be done and there cannot be any compromise in this regard. We will launch an agitation so that justice is done and injustice is rooted out,” he said.
The APSCC chairman said the National Minority Act needed to be implemented in letter and spirit in Jammu and Kashmir so that the Sikh community gets the privileges that they were entitled to.
Rajiv Chuni, chairman of SOS International, an organisation for PoK refugees, said the Centre’s move to grant minority status to KPs was unacceptable.
“The Parliamentary Committee recommended minority status to Kashmiri Pandits by looking at their pitiable condition but the panel has not been moved by the miserable plight of PoK refugees, who are living in gloom since 1947,” he said.
The PoK refugees migrated to the state from Pok after 1947. Chuni said Kashmiri Pandits had their safe homes in the state while PoK refugees and Chammb refugees had lost their homes, land, everything and were forced to live in despondent conditions. “We will oppose tooth and nail granting of minority status to Pandits. We will mobilise people and launch an agitation if the Pandits are granted the status,” Chuni said, adding they would also approach the courts if the Centre went against the people’s aspirations and provided minority status to Pandits.

Syrian Refugees in Turkey- Exploratory post

Exploring policy framework for the Syrian refugees in Turkey.
What has the Turkish government done, so far to respond to the refugee crisis, which policies are in the making?
How are the policies different than policies for other refugees in Turkey?
What are the social dynamics between Syrian refugees and Turkish local communities<?

Please feel free to share your insights.

Sri Lankan Refugees in India – Durable Solutions

Durable Solutions for Sri Lankan Refugees in India

A Group representing 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees put forward a document explaining durable solutions for their settlement and concerns of challenges likely to be faced during the repatriation.
Recognising repatriation is one of their solutions, the document prepared by Chennai-based Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation, one of the major agencies in India for Sri Lankan refugees, said rebuilding their homeland is the most durable solution for most of the refugees other than options such as staying in Tamil Nadu and emigrating to a third country.
The document comes in the wake of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s tour, who arrived Sunday in New Delhi — his maiden foreign trip after assuming charge last month.
The document titled “Asserting the Right to Seek Durable Solutions, the Voice of the Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees in the Camps of India”, was prepared after several rounds of consultations among refugees, who live in 110 camps in Tamil Nadu, over the last nine months. It suggests three durable solutions: A safe voluntary repatriation to Sri Lanka with an assurance of securing a livelihood, local integration of refugee community through an appropriate agreement allowing refugees to enjoy all basic rights available to Indian citizens, and a third country settlement for those who find no other guarantee, safety and security in Sri Lanka or India.
A set of four documents, already submitted before Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, warned that any delay in political action to facilitate refugees to choose voluntarily the option of returning to Sri Lanka will aggravate the ordeal of being a refugee in Indian camps.
While discussions between India and Sri Lanka are already underway on how to handle the refugee issue, the document suggests the signing of an MoU to ensure a smooth and safe repatriation. The document also suggests a dozen recommendations to the Sri Lankan government, including the implementation of constitutional amendments to ensure the civil and political rights, and resettling the remaining Internally Displaced People , among others.
The document also says that India should take some decisions immediately such as the announcement of a generous package of assistance for refugees to return to Sri Lanka, granting work permit enabling Lankan refugees to be employed in private sector, providing educational loan for children and granting Indian citizenship to Lankan refugees married to Indian citizens.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai

Retrieved Feb 16, 2015

Sudan Conflict derails kids’ education

Analysis by Sudha Rajput
Due to the ongoing conflict in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan areas of Sudan, school-aged children have lost the opportunity to complete their basic education (similar to many situations of protracted displacement). Schools have been closed, and those that have remained open, transporting kids to the schools has been a challenge.

Consequently children’s educational years have been diverted to tending to domestic duties of collecting firewood and fetching water for the family. Some of the students that fled their villages during the conflict have been able to return, but many face an unknown future.

Those wanting to return are finding that the school capacity cannot accommodate them and those who can be accommodated find themselves either too young or too old to fit in with the given class curriculum.
In addition, there are issues of integrating the kids back into the classroom, who suffer from trauma of having escaped the violence to seek refuge in bushes and mountains. The experience of shelling and the conflict in general continues to haunt them. The returning IDP students need special support to address their psychological trauma and to catch up with what they had missed.

UNICEF, has built new classrooms at the school to accommodate the new arrivals and to provide a friendly environment for all the students. Challenge remains to have all those displaced children return to school.
Full story at:
By Eman Eltigani
Feb 10, 2015

Taking care of Ukraine’s IDPs:

Violence and armed conflict has forced thousands of people to seek safety in neighboring countries and within Ukraine, thousands have been killed and wounded. people in Ukraine continue to be forced from their homes by violence after seven months of fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine. Many organizations have partnered with local churches, such as the Aid Center in Zaporizhzhia, in an effort to support those in desperate needs. Such centers are helping people deal with the trauma of displacement and in establishing stable living conditions. Since the opening of the center, seven months ago, about 200 people a day are using the services. The center plans to expand into medical and legal services. About 40,000 had fled to seek safety in Zaporizhzhia, some from Donetsk, more than 100 miles away. The challenge remains helping those who were not able to leave their places and continue to struggle midst violence and destruction. These people are living in poverty and some with disabilities.

See full story at:
January 6, 2015