The Problem with the Camps

Here at Stand-Canada, we've been talking for quite some time about the dangers and difficulties associated with the camps for Internally Displaced Persons and refugees in and around Darfur. Today, the New York Times has a really good article illustrating some of the problems associated with the camps, particularly the upending of traditional authority structures and the empowerment of radical elements. It focuses in particular on the rise of angry youths in the camp who are rabidly anti-government:

“You cannot call them a unified group with one political ideology, but they are all angry...That is the factor unifying them.”

This article touches on a couple really good points that I'd like to stress here:

1) the situation in the camps drastically complicates the rebel groups' ability to negotiate. We've already seen that with exiled rebel leader Abdul Wahid al-Nur who frequently takes an extremely hard-lined position in order to consolidate his support among radical elements in the camps. This article suggests that the inhabitants of the camps are so anti-government that any rebel group seen to negotiate would immediately lose legitimacy in their eyes and possibly even put people of their similar ethnicity in danger of reprisals (rebel groups tend to line-up with ethnicity in Darfur).

2) The article briefly touches on something that jumped out at me from this article. Does anyone else see the resemblance in this scenario of situations in Afghanistan, Somalia, or Lebanon? Basically, in a lawless environment, people turn to radical elements that are able to provide meaning and bestow some semblance of order in an unstable world. The Taliban did this in Afghanistan following the country's many civil wars in the '90s. The Shabab, or Islamic Youth, in Somalia are also seen as the only real possibility for order in the country, despite their brutal tactics. The Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are still sources of trouble in that country as well.

Basically, this is a worrying scenario. The government doesn't know how to deal with it (and is probably unable to deal with it actually). These youth are angry, frustrated, and disillusioned with both the international community and the rebel groups. And, something that the article does not touch on is the fact that they all have guns - I recently spoke with someone who returned from the camps and was just floored by the sheer number of guns available. These "mobilized" youth could become a source of violence and trouble for a long-time to come in the country.

I don't really know that there is any easy way to deal with this situation, other than try to stem the number of weapons entering the camps, provide some sort of opportunity for the youth, and work to end the war. I'd love to hear more thoughts, but this situation is definitely something to look out for...

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