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Sudan’s Eastern Front ex-combatants still wait for rehabilitation

November 15 - 2015 PORT SUDAN
A young Beja fighter (pulitzercenter.org)
A young Beja fighter (pulitzercenter.org)

The demobilised fighters of the Eastern Front rebel alliance in eastern Sudan’s Red Sea state are still awaiting the adjustment of their status. Eastern Sudanese MPs demanded the Eastern Sudan Reconstruction and Development Fund (ESRDF) to provide basic services to war-affected areas.

Omar Hashim El Khalifa, the chairman of the Eastern Front Ex-Combatants Committee told Radio Dabanga that the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process is “still stagnant”.

The DDR file, set out in the 2006 Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA), was transferred to three eastern Sudanese state governors, the chairman explained to this station in September.

On 20 September, the Red Sea state governor and the ESPA signatories signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which obligated the state government to “regularise, demobilise, and compensate psychological and physical harm, retro-actively compensate and allocate positions in federal and state institutions, along with allocating sustainable projects for the demobilised”.

El Khalifa said that the DDR commission had added false names to the lists of about 900 demobilised combatants. He also demanded an inventory of the donor funds for the demobilised fighters of the Eastern Front.

The Eastern Front alliance of opposition forces include the Free Lions, the Beja Congress, and the East Democratic Party.

Last Friday, El Khalifa demanded that the DDR Commission not spend any of the $600,000 fund provided by a Kuwaiti charitable organisation for the demobilised combatants before the issue of the false names has been solved. 

He also renewed the ex-fighters’ demand for employment in state institutions such as the Red Sea state’s Ports Corporation.

ESPA

The ESPA was signed by the Sudanese government and the Eastern Front rebel alliance, consisting of the Beja, the Rashaida Free Lions, and the Democratic Party of Eastern Sudan, in the Eritrean capital of Asmara on 14 October 2006.

In the agreement, the social, political, and economic marginalisation of the people of eastern Sudan was given as the core reason for the conflict in the region. Apart from political, economic, social, and cultural issues, it covered the security arrangements for Eastern Front ex-combatants.

The peace accord also provided for a national conference to address the administrative structure in Sudan, with the aim of identifying the inequalities in the employment of the eastern Sudanese in civil service and other structures.

The ESPA further required resources to be allocated to development through the ESRDF.

Funds

Last week, eastern Sudanese members of the federal parliament accused the executive director of the ESRDF, Abu Obeida Duj, of wasting money by “financing non-feasible projects that do not meet the needs of citizens”.

MP Mohamed Mahmoud Beitei told Radio Dabanga that he demanded the ESRDF to provide basic services to the war-affected areas in eastern Sudan, especially those of Hameshkoreib and Telekok.

The Geneva-based Small Arms Survey reported in May that the ESRDF appears to have been systematically underfunded, while much of the funding it received has been allocated to national dam-building projects. 

According to a prominent Beja member and professor at the Faculty of Administrative Sciences of the University of Khartoum, the Fund, since it assumed its duties in 2007, has implemented only 20 percent of the projects in the region, while it has received millions of dollars from donors.


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