With the ink barely dry on a peace agreement signed in late May between the Islamic government of Sudan and southern Christians and animists, an estimated 1-2 million largely black Muslim residents of the western Darfur region have been uprooted from their homes by rampaging Arab militias supported by the Arab-dominated government. Some 200,000 refugees have poured over Sudan's border with Chad, crowding a string of official and "spontaneous" refugee camps. Christianity Today associate news editor Stan Guthrie spoke with Wilfred Mlay, World Vision's regional vice president for Africa, about the crisis. Mlay, a native of Tanzania, was in Chad at the refugee camp in Farchana, about 70 to 100 kilometers from the border with Sudan.
A peace accord has been signed, but the violence continues in Darfur. Why?
There are many factions that have been fighting the government for autonomy, for independence. The main faction that is known is the SPLA [Sudan People's Liberation Army]. Now with the prospects of peace between the government of Sudan and the SPLA, the other rebel groups, I believe, have put pressure on the government so that they'll get some consideration out of the peace accord. And the people in Darfur have been wanting some level of autonomy. They don't want to be forgotten when the full peace accord is signed.
What is it like in the refugee camps in Chad?
The camp that we visited [June 24] is in a place called Farchana. This camp is managed by one of the local aid agencies supported by UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and MSF [Médecins Sans Frontières, Doctors Without Borders]. And therefore it's much better organized than some of the other camps, where people have just spontaneously settled. In these ...1
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