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Darfur refugees are returning home in record numbers

The death of Muammar Gaddafi has weakened rebels and given new hope to displaced refugees in Sudan.

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Fighters of Sudan's Justice and Equality (JEM) Movement wait to greet Sudanese presidential adviser Nafie Ali Nafie during his visit to al-Fasher, Northern Darfur, on July 25, 2011. (Ashraf Shazly /AFP/Getty Images)

More than 100,000 displaced refugees in Sudan have returned home in the past year, the New York Times reported. While that number represents a small portion of refugees, it marks the biggest return of displaced people since the civil war in Darfur began. “Things aren’t great, but they’re getting better," a refugee who had returned home told the Times. 

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Problems began in 2003 when a civil war broke out in Darfur, a region in Western Sudan. The conflict, between the Government of Sudan and its allied militia against armed rebel forces, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people who lived in Sudan, the United Nations says. The UN estimates that 2.7 million Darfur residents fled the region.

But the return home of thousands of refugees shows that the conflict may be dying down, the Times said. 

Officials say that the conflict may be cooling off in part thanks to a peace agreement signed by the presidents of Sudan and Chad in 2010, "the first step towards the achievement of a lasting peace," CNN reported in 2010.

The death of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has also made life better for residents, the Times said. Gaddafi was the rebel forces' main supporter, the Sudan Tribune reported

The Times went to the village of Nyuru in Darfur, where thousands had recently returned and "were back on their land doing all the things they used to do." 

But this doesn't mean the conflict has died down completely. Just last week, the Associated Foreign Press reported that 12 government soldiers and 10 civilians were killed in a fight in Darfur.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120227/darfur-refugees-are-returning-home-record-numbers