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Islamic countries pledge $850 million to develop Darfur

The $850 million pledge for development projects in Sudan's troubled Darfur region comes out of a one-day donor conference of Islamic countries in Cairo Sunday, just one month after a significant Darfur peace agreement.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / March 22, 2010

From left to right: Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League; Minni Arkou Minnawi, Sudanese senior assistant to the president; Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkish foreign minister; Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egyptian foreign minister; and Akmal Eddine Ihsan Oglo, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Conference, are seen during the opening of the International donor conference for the development and the construction of Darfur, held in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday.

Amr Nabil/AP


Johannesburg, South Africa

A donors' conference composed mainly of Islamic countries has pledged some $850 million in reconstruction aid to help ease the suffering for the people of Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur region. But don’t expect that this money will mean a quick end to the seven-year-long conflict.

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The  conference in Cairo – led by Egypt and Turkey and attended by other representatives of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference – comes just a month after a significant peace agreement was signed by the Sudanese government of President Omar Al-Bashir and one of Darfur’s largest rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). It was brokered by the government of Qatar.

The United Nations estimates that 300,000 Darfuris have been killed in the conflict, and up to 2.5 million more have been displaced from their homes. The conflict began in 2003, when local people took up arms to protest the neglect of their region by the Sudanese government in Khartoum.

Khartoum responded by arming nomadic Arab tribes to fight the rebels as a kind of proxy army. The resulting death toll has led the International Criminal Court to charge Sudanese President Bashir with crimes against humanity.

The Egyptian hosts for the Darfur donors' conference hailed the donations made thus far, and promised that more would be forthcoming.

"Since the beginning of the crisis in Darfur, the basic issue has been one of development, which has taken on political, tribal, and social dimensions," said Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit at the conclusion of the conference. “We are convinced that the key is to improve development and raise the standard of living for the Darfur citizen."

How substantial is the latest peace deal?