Now that the rebel leaders seem to have moved on from Haskanita to Nairobi to sort out their power struggles (or at the very least spend another few nights in a cushy hotel while they don't actually sort out a thing), the people of Darfur continue to ponder the fate of the upcoming peace talks. As usual, this one's being hyped up as "the final round" (many people in the camps have heard this one so often now they have either stopped believing it or caring that the talks are still taking place at all).
It's not surprising really. Even those Darfurians who are still interested in the big talks taking place so far away from their homes are failing to see how the eagerly awaited signatures on that piece of paper will bring them any tangible change.
Despite all the signed ceasefire agreements, despite even the much heralded Declaration of Principles signed in July, persistent attacks are still preventing people from making a living in Darfur.
This rainy season, many have managed to go back to their farms during the days to plant - but no one knows yet whether they will actually have anything to harvest. In June, I wrote about the problems of militia or other armed groups occupying people's lands and stealing their mangoes, and no one here has forgotten that this is a very real threat. If this rainy season brings another round of trampled fields, destroyed or looted crops and occupied lands, it's very unlikely people will be convinced that Darfur is really safe enough to begin thinking about the start of a normal life again.
And while the talks focus on the big issues of power sharing and wealth sharing, there is little indication they are addressing major grievances like compensation (both in terms of land and assets, as well as blood money for family members that have been lost). "I think every woman who has lost their husband should receive support from the government," is a suggestion made frequently by the young women who have been left to raise their children without the usual safety nets that existed in Darfur before the conflict tore their lives apart. Unfortunately, people aren't exactly queuing up to listen to these ideas.
Even if it were safe enough to return home, I am often reminded, people's villages have been destroyed - burnt to the ground in many cases. "I have been back to my village once to see, but there's no water there since the well was destroyed. How can we live?" men ask me. Schools, hospitals, and most importantly homes would need to be rebuilt - roofs literally have to be put over people's heads. "And with what?" they ask. "There's no money for all of that."
I hope that the rebel leaders marching around to the tunes of the shiny brass band in Haskanita last week spent at least a little bit of their time listening to these voices.