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Sudan Will Split Darfur Into Five States, Regional Head Says

Sudan plans to increase the number of states in the western region of Darfur, where government forces are battling rebels, to five from three, the head of the transitional regional authority said.

“The government vision behind the split is empowering the people of Darfur, giving them a chance to get involved in political decisions,” Al-Tijani al-Sissi, the head of Darfur’s Transitional Regional Authority, said today by phone from El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state.

Under the plan, the states of West and South Darfur will be split into West, East, Central and South Darfur, while North Darfur will remain as one state, he said.

Insurgents took up arms in 2003, accusing the government of neglecting the region and favoring Darfur’s largely nomadic Arabs over African ethnic groups. The conflict has led to the deaths of as many as 300,000 people, mainly due to illness and starvation, and forced about 2.7 million to flee their homes, according to United Nations estimates. The Sudanese government has put the death toll at about 10,000.

Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of responsibility for genocide and war crimes in Darfur.

Dividing Darfur into smaller states is part of the government’s “well-know tactic of divide and rule,” said Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, founder and chairman of the Sudan Social Development Organization, a rights group in Darfur.

“The division actually means more marginalization for the people as the allocated budget will be spent on salaries for officials rather than on development,” he said today by phone from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.

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