Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hope In Darfur's El Fasher

EL FASHER, SUDAN -- Amid the suffering of Darfur, there's an odd prosperity bubbling up in this once sleepy town.

Paved streets and lampposts are replacing sand roads. A fleet of bright blue South Korean-made taxis, newer and nicer than those in Khartoum, the national capital, create afternoon traffic jams so bad that a police officer must direct the flow.

A pair of multistory office buildings are under construction downtown, and newly built rental homes can fetch $5,000 a month, not including utilities, of course, since most of El Fasher doesn't have water or electricity.

In stark contrast to the burned-out villages and squalid displacement camps that characterize much of Darfur, this dust-choked city is booming, thanks largely to an influx of scores of United Nations agencies and private charities, as well as the newly deployed U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission.

Since the conflict in Sudan's western region began in 2003, El Fasher's population has nearly doubled to 500,000 as refugees sought safety in camps along the city's borders or with family members in town. Though the North Darfur capital has its share of crime and gunfights, it has largely escaped the fighting that has plagued other areas. - Los Angeles Times

At least something is going right over there.

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