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Between War and Peace Life in a internally displaced persons’ camp in Darfur

by Olivier Chassot


Between War and Peace Life in a internally displaced persons’ camp in Darfur

Dedicated to the population of Darfur


Foreword

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udan and South Sudan hold the dubious distinction of having the largest population of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the world. In Darfur alone, an estimated 1.9 million people live in 95 IDP camps spread across the state. Forced to flee their homes for security reasons, most of the displaced population have spent more than five years in these camps. While the ongoing conflict keeps creating new displacements in some regions of Darfur, the emergency situation is now over for many IDPs. They are settled in, have access to food and water, their children go to school, and basic health care is available. So much so that some people living in villages have begun to think that their living conditions are worse than those of the IDPs. In addition to the assistance provided by the international community and NGOs, many small enterprises have also sprung up within camps. While some IDPs are still looking for ways to improve their quality of life before they can go back to their homes, others have essentially given up on the idea of ever returning. They are now looking for ways to be independent and to start a new life. The Abu Shouk IDP camp, in North Darfur was closed to new arrivals in November 2005. The security situation in the camp is relatively good and many IDPs, along with the inhabitants of neighbouring villages and the city of El Fasher, are involved in a number of economic activities. Abu Shouk now looks more like a big village than the usual IDP camps, images of which are so frequently presented in the newspapers and media. These ubiquitous images of massive camps with rows of tents, people queuing up behind food distribution trucks, and malnourished children with bloated bellies create a perception to the world that IDPs exist only in abject misery, poverty, and squalor. This project in an attempt to show another reality in Darfur, where, despite still occuring armed confrontations, many IDPs do not want to stay passive, just waiting to return home, relying on the largesse of the international community. Step by step, they have slowly and resolutely taken their lives into their own hands, learning new skills, using the resources at their disposal, building and hoping for a better future. Fleeing from conflict and living in camps that were supposed to be temporary, they are trying to bring some semblance of stability into their lives, by existing between war and peace.


Sudan and the conflict in Darfur

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he genesis of the Darfur crisis, as we know it, dates back to early 2003 when the world learnt of atrocities committed against non-Arab tribes by militias called the janjaweed, allegedly supported by the Government of Sudan (GoS). However the Darfur conflict is far more complex, often transcending tribal, regional, and international borders. With increasing population, recurring droughts, and scarce resources, competition over land, water and grazing rights has exacerbated conflicts among the communities at the local level. The pervading sense of political and economic marginalization and negligence of the region for decades by Khartoum spawned a number of armed insurgencies by various rebel factions, launching significant attacks against government forces in 2003. Further, the role of the Sudan’s neighboring countries in engaging in proxy wars along its borders brings to the fore the international dimension to the already multi-layered conflict. While sustainable peace in Darfur has been elusive so far, there have been attempts to achieve peace through a number of peace agreements. The first round of talks began in N’Djamena, Chad, with the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement in 2004, and culminated in the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) (2006) in Abuja, Nigeria. In the following years, the rebel movements split further into smaller groups. The Sirte talks hosted in Libya (2007-2008) were the reunification attempts made by Special Envoys from the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN). Since 2008, peace negotiations have shifted to Doha, under the AU-UN Joint Mediation Support Team and the Government of Qatar, and the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) was signed in July 2011. United Nations (UN) operations in Darfur began in 2004 with the advent of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) and the deployment of military observers into the state. As fighting continued, and with the signing of the DPA, the GoS agreed to expand the peacekeeping operations in July 2007 into an UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), whose mandate includes protection of civilians, provision of humanitarian assistance, and support to the DPA and subsequent peace agreements. In an unstable environment of frequently stalled peace negotiations coupled with international pressure on the GoS and the rebel Movements to halt the conflict, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March 2009 charged the Sudanese President, Omar H.A.Al Bashir, of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and responsibility for genocide in Darfur. The indictments have had significant consequences, with the GoS increasingly suspicious of the international community, and restricting humanitarian access to areas within Darfur. The UN estimated 1.9 million people ousted from their homes into sprawling IDP camps is the unfortunate legacy of this protracted conflict.


Abu Shouk IDP Camp

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bu Shouk IDP camp is located six km North of El Fasher town. The camp was opened in 2004 in response to displacement influxes. It currently has a total population of about 54, 761 IDPs, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). Due to the lack of land for settlement and limited social services, the camp was officially closed to new arrivals in November 2005. 25 omdas (local leaders), each representing their community and assisted by sheiks (local representatives), are responsible for the general administration of the camp. They assist the humanitarian community in the planning and distribution of humanitarian aid. A committee of 50 women, elected by the entire camp, is also responsible for all women related affairs within the camp. GoS, UNAMID, UN Agencies, and NGOs continue to facilitate the voluntary return of IDPS out of the camps and back to their homes, with varying degrees of success. The camps have evolved into semi-permanent (at times permanent) settlements, where the IDPs have managed to create a way of life for themselves, shifting from total reliance on humanitarian assistance to pursuing income-generation and livelihood improvement activities.


Al Salam IDP Camp Abu Shouk IDP Camp

Abu Shouk Village

El Fasher City


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or many inhabitants of the camp, brick-making is a lucrative activity requiring minimal investment and no specific skills. Water and clay are easily accessible, and the bricks can be either dried under the sun, or fired in kilns using firewood. However, it is also the source of serious ecological problems. UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) estimates that the brick kilns consume over 52,000 treesworth of wood per year and occupy, and in many cases destroy, valuable agricultural land by digging up clay soils around towns.


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usaina Abdulshukur, 18 years old. She left her village, Beli (South Darfur) and moved to the camp in 2004 when her family lost their land. She is a student and makes bricks during weekends and her vacations. It is a small income but she considers it “better than nothing� to support her family. She learnt brickmaking by observing other IDPs.


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he cows found in the camp are orginally from West and South Darfur, regions with more grazing pastures than the North, where Abu Shouk is located. The cattle do not usually remain in one place too long, and are either sold to butchers or other cattle vendors. However, herding cattle around Darfur is not an easy task, as breeders are prime targets for thieves seeking to extort them out of their money and animals.


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hmed Yhay Ahmed, 25 years old, from Korma. He arrived at the camp in 2004. Farmer before, he now herds cattle between the camp and grazing pastures. He earns between 20 and 30 SDG* per day, depending on the cattle size. He is currently looking for a new job.

*1 USD = 3.75 Soudanese Pounds (SDG)


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ohammed Adam Ismail, 38 years old, originally from Tulus (South Darfur) was born in El Fasher. His family has been raising cows and producing milk since 1943, when his grandfather bought his first cows. Most of Mohammed’s 70 cows are outside the camp, in pastures. He only keeps the calves and a few cows that produce milk within Abu Shouk. He lost 36 cows during the draught in 2009, but Abu Shouk and his cows remain his best source of income, about 100 SDG per day.


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udan Water and Environmental Sanitation (WES), in collaboration with UNICEF, provides safe drinking water in the camp through 38 hand pumps and 12 water distribution points. Families receive eight jerrycans, of 16 liters each, every four days during the rainy season and four jerrycans during the dry season. However the wells are not an unlimited source of water supply. According to UNEP, the camp is increasingly vulnerable to acute water shortages with even one year of below normal rainfall. This calls for an integrated approach to sustainably address the water needs of the Darfuri population.


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ohammed Abdulkarim, 17 years old, from Tarne (North Darfur). He arrived in the camp in 2004. When not at school, he makes money by carrying water for other IDPs, from the water point to their home. He likes studying but does not know yet what he wants to be later.


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ens of goats, cows and camels are slaughtered and butchered everyday in the slaughter area of the camp. The meat is then carried straight to the market, where it is sold. Despite numerous attempts by the Ministry of Health to improve the situation, animals are still killed directly on the ground, without any particular hygienic measures.


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ahedin Osman Abdallah, 18 years, from Korma came to Abu Shouk three years ago. He decided to use his skill in slaughtering and preparing cow and goat meat on camels. Now he is one of the only two camel butchers in Abou Shouk. He was a student, and he became butcher to earn enough money (2000 SDG) to continue his studies. He earns about 25 SDG per day.


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ood plays an important role in the Darfuri social life and the situation within the camp is not exception. Men usually have late breakfast/lunch around 10H00 at the market or in the streets, while the women and children eat at home. In the evenings, around 20H00, families gather around a common dish and sit on the floor to eat together. For most families in the camp, meat is usually too expensive (around 25 SGD per kilo) and is therefore saved for special occasions. The main food for breakfast/lunch and dinner is asida (stiff millet porridge). The annual harvest during the rainy season adds some variety to the plates.


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atima Mohammed Ibrahim, 33 years old, is from Abu Shouk village, next to the camp. She cooks in the camp because it is a good way to support her family. She serves about 100 meals/day, each costing between 3 SDG (vegetables) and 5 SDG (meat). Following the tradition in Darfur, she learnt to cook from her mother.


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ziza Abdulrahman Ali, 32 years old, from Korma. Previously a farmer, she moved to the camp in 2004 and used the knowledge she received from her mother to prepare tea for other IDPs in the camp. She knows the size of her clientele by counting how much sugar she uses. Three kilos of sugar daily represent about 100 customers.


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he main uses of Darfur’s forest resources are timber for construction and furniture-making, firewood for domestic and some commercial use such as brick-making and charcoal production, and for grazing. The majority of the wood sold in Abu Shouk is imported from other places in Darfur. Transportation of wood becomes a problem during the rainy season, due to the impassable roads. The large displacement of people in the region has put serious pressure on the already limited forest resources in Darfur.


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ustafa Osman, 31 years old, from Malam, was a farmer. He lost his land during the conflict and moved to the camp in 2005. With the small amount of money he had, he bought some wood and started a business. He realised that he did not have enough money to open his own grocery shop, and that brick-making was not lucrative enough to support his family. He can now take care of his family, but is afraid that there might not be enough wood in the future to continue his business.


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akaria Mohammed Abdulrahman, 17 years old, from Garsal (West Darfur). When he arrived in the camp in 2011, he decided to continue to do what he knew best: preparing and selling wood. He cuts bamboo and makes walls with it. He considers it the best way for him to make money.


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bu Shouk IDP camp has 17 basic schools and 4 higher secondary schools. 15,846 pupils, separated between boys and girls, are taught by 428 teachers (including 34 volunteers). There can be up to 100 pupils per classroom, and they sit on the floor due to the lack of school furniture. Plan Sudan, supported by UNICEF and Sudan Ministry of Education (SMoE), is working to improve the conditions of the schools in the camp.


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idad Mohammed Idris, 37 years old, from Melit. She worked in Kabkabya before moving to El Fasher, to teach in Abu Shouk primary school “Al Salam 7�. From the beginning, she knew she wanted to work as a teacher as she enjoys teaching. With the proposed development of the camp, she hopes to get more furniture and a permanent school in the near future.


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he Women’s Center at the Abu Shouk IDP Camp was established in 2004, in an attempt to educate women and empower them by training them in income generating and livelihood development skills. Founded by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), with support of Women Development Association Network, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Ministry of Social Affairs and UNAMID, it offers a wide range of training in activities including handicrafts, basket weaving, food processing, sewing, and adult literacy classes in Mathematics, Arabic, and Religious Studies. It also teaches women from the camp to build and use fuel efficient stoves to reduce use of firewood. Currently, more than 2000 women are enrolled at the centre.


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hadija Abhakar Ahmed, from Turbo but arrived in the camp in 2004. Self-taught, she learnt to make baskets by observing other women. She produces about one basket per week and waits to complete five or six before going to the market to sell them for 7 SDG per piece. She sometimes shares her technique with other women at the Center but preferes to keep some secrets to herself, in order to sell more.


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bu Shouk market provides many basic goods and services to the inhabitants of the camp. Shops are usually grouped according to the goods or services they deliver: street restaurants, butchers, grocery stores, boutiques, and even perfume stores. Most of the goods come in from El Fasher market or Khartoum. But with the depreciation of the Sudanese pound, and the general economical problems faced by Sudan, prices are increasing making it more difficult for people to buy even basic commodities.


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dam Ibrahim Mohammed, 55 years old from Korma. His shop back home was destroyed before he moved to the camp in 2004. He has now opened a new shop inside the camp. He does not face any problems to get the goods that he sells, and is happy with his business.


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aleh Mohammed Hamid, 35 years old from El Fasher. He began by making his own perfumes, before deciding to sell them, along with the perfumes brought in from Khartoum and abroad. He has a shop in the camp as he believes that business opportunities are better here.


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ohammed Musa Adam, 39 years old, from Korma. He learnt his job as tailor from his contacts in Khartoum. Moving to the camp in 2004, he decided to apply his skills to make money. He tailors jalabiyas (traditional Sudanese clothes), uniforms, and trousers which he sells to cloth vendors. Confident in his skills, he now considers himself good enough to compete with graduated tailors.


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ousif Abduljabar Adam, 29 years old. The conflict forced him to leave his village in Jebel Mara in 2003. With the assistance of a relative, he learnt how to start a business and decided to open a clothes shop. WIth no initial investment at hand, he began by selling the clothes of his family. He now buys clothes from Khartoum and El Fasher market, and sells them in the camp through his own shop.


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shag Abdulrahman, 28 years old, from Kabkabya. He arrived in Abu Shouk IDP camp in 2004. He works in a shop selling shoes and bags that he buys in El Fasher. He decided to work in a shop as he understood the business and had connections through relatives.


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ohammed Ishag, 27 years old, from Jebel Marra. He studied the Holy Koran before moving to Abu Shouk IDP camp in 2005. He later decided to open a store as it was a good way for him to make money. He sells within the camp shoes bought in El Fasher market and Khartoum.


Thanks to all the persons who supported this project and particularly to: Sidig Musa Mohammed and Rachna Sundararajan

Between War and Peace, Life in a internally displaced persons’ camp in Darfur by Olivier Chassot First published December 2011 Photographs and introduction text © Olivier Chassot - UNAMID except Map p.6 - Wikipedia, ©Wikipedia, NordNordWest, Makko Map p.8 - Google Earth, ©2011 Google, Image©2011 Digital Globe, ©2011 Europa Technologies Design: Olivier Chassot UNAMID Communications and Public Information Division unamid-publicinformation@un.org http://unamid.unmissions.org/ Olivier Chassot contact@olivierchassot.com http://olivierchassot.com/


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livier Chassot is a Swiss photographer based in El Fasher, North Darfur, Sudan, between September 2008 and December 2011 with the United Nations - African Union Peacekeeping Mission (UNAMID). In Fall 2011, he spent a few weeks in Abu Shouk internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camp, in an attempt to show another reality in Darfur. Despite the ongoing armed confrontations, many IDPs do not want to stay passive, just waiting to return home, relying on the largesse of the international community. Step by step, they have slowly and resolutely taken their lives into their own hands, learning new skills, using the resources at their disposal, building and hoping for a better future. Fleeing from conflict and living in camps that were supposed to be temporary, they are trying to bring some semblance of stability into their lives, by existing between war and peace.


Between War and Peace  

Life in an internally displaced person's camp in Darfur. A photography project by Olivier Chassot.

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