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Darfur supporters seek $7.25 billion to rebuild ravaged region

By Isma'il Kushkush, for CNN
April 8, 2013 -- Updated 1003 GMT (1803 HKT)
A general view of the International Donors Conference for Reconstruction and Development in Darfur, in Doha on Sunday.
A general view of the International Donors Conference for Reconstruction and Development in Darfur, in Doha on Sunday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The United Nations, World Bank and governments convene to raise money for Darfur
  • Organizers seek to raise $7.25 billion to redevelop war-ravaged region in Sudan
  • Conference in Doha, Qatar, receives mixed reaction from residents of Darfur
  • Brutal Sudan government crackdown on Darfur rebellion began in 2003

Doha, Qatar (CNN) -- An international donors' conference on Darfur kicked off Sunday in Doha with the hope of raising $7.25 billion to bring aid and sustainable development to the troubled region in Sudan.

"There is an opportunity to assist the people of Darfur through massive generosity," said Ali Al-Zatari, the representative of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Sudan.

"Darfur still needs stability," Al-Zatari added. He said 3.5 million people need humanitarian assistance, and 1.5 million of them live in camps.

The conference, whose participants include the UN, the governments of Qatar and Sudan, and the World Bank, seeks to "to mobilize financial support for the recovery and development needs in Darfur."

Reactions to the conference, however, are mixed.

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"The conference is a strong message to the Darfurian people that they are not forgotten," said Abdullah Adam Khatir, a Darfurian writer. "It will take time, it's a process,."

Al-Baqir Afifi, a civil society activist, on the other hand, disagreed with the conference's approach.

"Those who are going to pledge money want to know if the money is going to reach Darfur or not," he said. "It is still insecure in Darfur; there is chaos," he added.

Protests against the conference took place in some camps in Darfur last week.

"What are they going to do with this money when there is no security?" an activist who preferred not to be named said, according to AFP.

Violence broke out in Darfur in 2003 when non-Arab rebel groups took up arms against the central government in Khartoum, accusing it of neglect and discrimination.

In response, the government of Sudan unleashed a massive counterinsurgency using militias known as the janjaweed.

The violence that followed has led to the deaths of 300,000 people, according to United Nations figures from 2008. The Sudanese government says that 10,000 have died.

The International Criminal Court as a result indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed in Darfur.

One rebel group, the Liberation and Justice Movement signed a peace agreement with the Sudanese government in 2011 known as the Doha Document for Peace, but progress on the deal has been slow.

Three other rebel groups have refused to sign the document.

On Sunday, a splinter group from the Justice and Equality Movement, the largest Darfurian rebel group, signed a "final peace agreement" with the Sudanese government.

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