Sudan's Darfur conflict: Why Abdullah has never seen his 'home'

As international peacekeepers prepare to finally leave Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, concerns are growing for the safety of civilians if the new fragile peace deal there fails, as the BBC's Mike Thomson reports.

Source: BBC

Fourteen-year-old Abdullah sits on an old tire outside a ramshackle hut in a sprawling, impoverished camp for displaced people.

He was born in Abu Shouk camp, just outside Fasher in North Darfur, where he has spent his entire life - he has never seen the village his family calls home.

"I've been told that my family and other relatives were living together in a very beautiful village surrounded by green land.

"My parents have told me that it was a lovely place and that life was so much better there.

Abdullah, who has only seen a television once in his life, lives in fear of armed gangs who often raid the camp at night.

"We have to hide, there's nothing more we can do. If you confront them you'll be attacked."

It is hoped that a recent peace deal will enable Abdullah and his family to go home, and finally put an end to the 17-year-long conflict in Darfur, which has left 300,000 people dead and forced 2.5 million people to flee their homes.

Source: BBC

The violence began back in 2003 when armed groups there rebelled against the government, claiming their region was neglected.

Khartoum responded by arming Arab nomad herders, who became known as the notorious Janjaweed, and paying them to brutally suppress the uprising.

Most rebel groups have now signed a peace agreement with the government, but at least 1.5 million people, like Abdullah, remain in around 60 camps spread across Darfur.

Source: BBC

Most, like Zara, who has been in Abu Shouk camp for 17 years, aching to go home, but still can't.

"We cannot go to farm our lands simply because they're occupied by others. They're the ones who killed us, they're the ones who displaced us, and we're still here."

'Every day is killing'

A trip to the jittery town of Nertiti, about six hours drive from Abu Shouk camp, highlights another reason why many displaced people are still refusing to go home.

Most farmers there are too afraid to go into their fields following numerous killings and rapes.

Those in the town itself clearly are not safe either.

Armed groups, described as Janjaweed, recently shot dead Khadiga Ishag's husband and one of her sons before shooting her too at their home in Nertiti.

"Every day is a crisis, every day is killing," she said.

"We don't trust our government, the military, or the police, we really don't trust them at all. If a solution isn't found there will be genocide here."