The Gulf state of Qatar hosted a two-day conference (April 7 – 8) on development and reconstruction in Sudan’s Darfur region. The conference is seeking some $7.2bn (£4.7bn) in development aid aimed at making Darfur more self-dependent.

Ahead of the meeting, the UK announced it would contribute at least £33m. The UK’s three-year aid package is designed to assist communities to grow their own food and improve their chances of finding work.

“Our aid will help the poorest to get the help they need to stand on their own and make them better able to cope when crises occur,” international development minister Lynne Featherstone said in a statement.

“The government of Sudan also needs to do their part,” she added. “Aid workers must have free, fair and safe access they need to do their job and the people of Darfur need peace so that they can rebuild their lives.”

The British aid package, totaling £67m, includes assistance for Blue Nile and South Kordofan, two other Sudanese regions affected by conflict.

It is also key to note that demonstrations against the Qatar conference took place across Darfur on Friday last week, AFP news agency reported. Activists said the protests were called because the lack of security made reconstruction efforts premature.

They also say they oppose a 2011 peace deal which was signed in Qatar but rejected by major rebel groups.

But a draft development strategy released ahead of the Qatar conference said delays would only make recovery harder.

“There will likely never be a time when an ideal set of conditions for recovery is apparent in Darfur,” it says.

The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when rebels began attacking government targets, accusing Khartoum of oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs.

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