Sudan vows to expel foreign NGOs

March 17, 2009 12:00 am

, KHARTOUM, Mar 17 – Sudan does not want any international NGOs in war-ravaged Darfur in a year’s time, President Omar al-Beshir said on Monday in his latest act of defiance of the international community.

"I ordered humanitarian affairs officials that in one year we don’t want any foreign aid organisation working on the ground with our citizens and that Sudanese organisations will fulfil this role," in Darfur, Beshir said.

"If they want to bring in aid, they will have to leave it at the airport," he added, addressing a rally in Khartoum by thousands of Sudanese soldiers who renewed a pledge to defend Beshir "to the death."

Sudan expelled 13 foreign NGOs from Darfur after the International Criminal Court on March 4 issued an arrest warrant against Beshir for alleged crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.

The targeted organisations, including Britain’s Oxfam, the US Care as well as the Dutch and French sections of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), make up about half the humanitarian aid capacity in Darfur.

The United Nations has said that more than a million people have already been affected by the expulsions, with that figure set to rise dramatically if the 70 remaining international NGOs are also told to pack their bags.

NGOs in Darfur distribute food, medical aid and help provide access to clean water for the 2.7 million people displaced by six years of fighting in the ravaged western region roughly the size of France.

Sudan does not have the capacity to make up the shortfall, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said last week.

Sudan last week issued a list of 19 Sudanese NGOs that will replace the expelled organisations, with the health ministry saying it would send 100 doctors and quantities of medicine to Darfur.

"The expelled NGOs were aid distributors, but the donors are still present, the (UN) World Food Programme, the World Health Organisation and others," senior ruling National Congress party official Mandur al-Mehdi told AFP last week.

"No one has asked them to leave," he said.

A Western diplomat who requested anonymity described the steps against foreign NGOs as "blackmail," adding that several donor nations to the UN had serious doubts about Khartoum’s plan to distribute aid itself.

"But they also don’t want to see innocents suffer," the diplomat said.

Three foreign NGO workers and a Sudanese colleague were released on Saturday, three days after being kidnapped at gunpoint from their compound in Darfur.

North Darfur Governor Osman Mohammed Yusef Kabir said on Saturday that the kidnappers called themselves Beshir’s Eagles, a reference to the president.

Kabir, who previously referred to the kidnappers as bandits, said they had acted in response to what he called an affront to national sovereignty by the ICC.

The United Nations says 300,000 people have died in the conflict between ethnic minority rebels and the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, which puts the figure at only 10,000.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has urged Khartoum to rescind the expulsion order and said he was "deeply concerned" by the abductions.

Since the issue of the warrant — the court’s first against a sitting head of state — the United Nations and United States have warned of security problems in Sudan and threats to foreign targets.


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