From a temporary emergency shelter to an urbanized neighborhood: The Abu Shoak IDP Camp in North Dārfūr

From a temporary emergency shelter to an urbanized neighborhood: The Abu Shoak IDP Camp in North Dārfūr

In early 2003, two rebel movements (the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice
and Equality Movement) launched an insurgency against the rule in Khartoum.
Supported by
Janjaweed
tribal militias, the government of Sudan responded with
decisive counteroffensives. Mass displacement of predominantly rural people was
evident from April onwards, increasing steadily throughout 2003–04. By May
2003, there were over 500 000 internally displaced persons in Greater D
ā
rf
ū
r,
mostly in IDP camps at the edge of big towns (Minear 2004, 78). Most, if not all, of
these camps still exist, because the causes that generated them are still very much
present; i.e., insecurity in the rural home areas. Also to be noted is that towns have
encroached on many of them.
There are many studies on IDP camps in Sudan, as shown in the subsequent
paragraphs, but none of them offer longitudinal information which allows us to see
processes of adaptation within a camp. The present article is a contribution towards
understanding long-term transformations and how such camps end up not being
temporary, as the word “camp” would suggest, but rather become permanent and
part of the towns/cities they are close to.
This article is part of a longitudinal study of one group; namely, the IDPs living in
the Abu Shoak camp
1
in the periphery of El-F
ā
sher, in North
Dārfūr
State. Following
earlier work on this camp, the article looks at, and traces changes in the lives of, these
IDPs since the inception of their camp in 2004. Specifically, the article looks at how
displaced rural families adapted to the new urban life. This effort builds upon an
assumption in urban sociology; that “urbanization as a way of life wreaks profound
changes in virtually every phase of social life” (Wirth 1938, 1).
Primary data was gathered for the same group of people repeatedly over the
past twelve years, through field visits in 2004, 2008, 2013, and 2016. Group and
individual interviews were used every time with mostly the same group of IDPs,
who played the role of cohort for the study. Most of these interviewees were heads
of displaced families, officials in the camp administration and representatives of
organizations operating inside the camp. The topics of the interviews included
everyday problems, changes in production and consumption patterns, impact of
the absence of husbands, working women and children, education, customs and
traditions, positive and negative impacts of displacement, food assistance to families,
and social facilities in the camp. The secondary data were derived by reviewing some
newspapers, scientific reports, documents and statistics.
This was beside the repeated direct field observations of the camp environment,
the nature of housing, the distribution and planning of residential sectors, and the
behaviors and dealings among individuals within and outside the camp over the
study period. Structured interviews using prolonged questionnaires with the heads
of displaced families were utilized in three surveys (in 2004, 2008, and 2013),
depending on a systematic random sample of 100 households every time. Sampling
frames of households in the camp were obtained from the camp administration
for the three surveys. The questions were about education, professions, number
of household members, ownership and legality of residence, housing construction
materials, water, electricity, sanitation, sources of income, and consumption.
The longitudinal approach allowed the authors of this article to detect
developments and changes in the characteristics of the target population. It was
helpful in making useful comparisons over time, distinguishing between short- and
long-term changes, and establishing sequences of events in the Abu Shoak camp.