Future of Sudan’s Darfur uncertain post-referendum

From the AP:

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Years before Sudan’s south began casting votes for succession, the woes of Africa’s largest country were defined by the ethnic bloodshed in the western Darfur region.

Now, international mediators and rights groups are calling for stronger efforts to settle the eight-year Darfur conflict, fearing that the expected breakaway of the south may push Khartoum’s leaders to clamp down harder on dissent and place stricter limits on an international role in Darfur and other areas that remain under its direct control.

Human Rights Watch and other groups say violence was already increasing in the vast arid region in the lead-up to the southern referendum held earlier this month. At the same time, government restrictions are making it harder to obtain information on conditions there, they say.

On Friday there were reports of new clashes between the military and rebels in Darfur, leaving 21 dead.

As many as 300,000 people have died as a result of the fighting in Darfur — a vast region outside the secession-seeking south — between forces from the Arab-led central government and rebel factions whose demands include greater control over natural resources. At least 2.7 million people have been displaced inside Darfur and in neighboring Chad.

The roots of the breakaway movement in the south are similar, but it’s also fed by a religious split between the Muslim-dominated north and the heavily Christian south.

The referendum for southern independence was part of a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war. Preliminary results show overwhelming support to create the world’s newest nation.

American officials visited Darfur during the referendum to send a message that the region will not be forgotten.

U.S. Senator John Kerry reminded Sudanese officials that prospects for improved relations with the U.S. hinge on progress in Darfur. He also urged greater international efforts to reach a resolution in Darfur after more than two years of talks in Qatar have failed to reach a comprehensive peace deal.

Read the full article here.

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