DARFUR ON THE MOVE - Mediation, not escalation

Solving problems and disputes through mediation by the paralegals at the JCC- Photograph by © UNDP Sudan 2014

“We are getting back to square one (2003) in Darfur” says Saaed Adam Sharfeddin.  Due to an upsurge in fighting between the Government’s Rapid Support Force and rebel groups in South Darfur, a total of 19,582 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have recently moved into Kalma camp in Nyala, South Darfur. Most of the new arrivals are women and children, and rising crime in the camps is becoming a problem.

Saeed, who heads the Justice and Peace Building Society, a community-based organization that provides paralegal services in Kalma camp, continues: “The number (of IDPs) is increasing every day and the need for humanitarian support is also increasing every day. We appeal to UNDP to help those people as we believe the newcomers are exposed to tough situations. The same interventions that we undertook in previous years will be of vital importance”.


  • Paralegals play a key role within Justice and Confidence Centres (JCC) created in 2004 within the camps of internally displaced persons (IDPs). They resolve potential problems that can erupt in the camps and, as such, take the mediation role of traditional community leaders. In Darfur these paralegals are located within seven Justice and Confidence Centres at the IDP camps of ZamZam and Abou Shouk in El Fasher, Kassab/Kutum and Kabkabiya in North Darfur, Kass and Kalma in South Darfur and Dorti in West Darfur.

Darfur has long been affected by competition over natural resources and scarce services. However, with increased desertification and shortage of grazing land, tensions between tribes and livelihood groups have mounted. With the weakening of the Native Administration, and pressures on local governance and rule of law structures following years of violent conflict in the region, many are left without the possibility of professional and legal support, let alone trust in the formal structures’ capacity to resolve specific problems.

Together with paralegals across the 5 states, Saeed has received intensive courses in paralegal activities every year since the inception of the UNDP Governance and Rule of Law project in Darfur in 2004. When reflecting on the fighting and revenge attacks he has observed over the last few years, he now attributes these to a general lack of awareness about legal rights and justice in an environment where suspicion and mistrust run deep. Together with fifteen colleagues, Saeed provides awareness of legal rights in the IDP camp, gives legal assistance to inhabitants, mediates in disputes and helps build social cohesion in the Kalma community.

Since 2007, a total of 4689 cases have been mediated through paralegals across Darfur who have set up Justice and Confidence Centres. These paralegals are working specifically to support those who do not normally have access or recourse to justice or legal aid. Protecting the most vulnerable, they work to mediate local disputes before they escalate to violent conflict or expensive court cases.

Saeed and the other paralegals aspire to see their organization continue to play a leading role in building peace and harmony among the various communities in Darfur, and are encouraged by the foundation UNDP has built for them. “UNDP has helped build the capacity of our organization to the point that we have signed two micro grant agreements in support of our activities. We have also received training in resource mobilization, financial management and reporting that are important for the sustainability of our organization beyond the current UNDP support mechanism” Saeed points out, adding: “the community has also come to acknowledge the rights of women and children. Hence, they are free to sit through mediation sessions and seek justice without fear of victimization by the community.”

As awareness grows, faith in the government security organs has also improved and trust is built between people and government institutions such as the police and judiciary. The first pillar of the Darfur Development Strategy also recognizes the paramount role played by access to justice and legal assistance in the recovery and reconciliation of post-conflict societies. Over the next few years, both government and non-government actors will work together to create an independent, credible and accessible justice system for all.

UNDP’s work in support of rule of law in Darfur would not have been possible without the generous support of the Strategic Partnership.

 Note: As of 2012 figures of West and South Darfur also include data related to Central and East Darfur, respectively.

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