Home | News    Tuesday 30 November 2004

Sudan reviewing decision to kick out British aid chiefs

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KHARTOUM, Nov 30 (AFP) — Sudan said it was reviewing a decision to expel the heads of two top British aid organisations after accusing them of meddling in its politics.

Sudanese refugees wait for relief under the watch of a soldier. (AFP).

"We regard the decision as still effective but we are presently reconsidering it," Abdel Rahman Abu Doma, under secretary for humanitarian affairs, told AFP.

Khartoum ordered the expulsions on Monday, declaring the aid chiefs from Oxfam and Save the Children persona non grata and setting a 48-hour deadline for them to leave the country.

It said the two had "exceeded the limits of humanitarian work and the laws of the country," which state that "humanitarian work must be far from political objectives."

The move came as aid agencies operating in the troubled Darfur region warned that deteriorating security conditions could worsen the plight of more than 1.6 million displaced persons there.

Both Oxfam and Save the Children have been active providing humanitarian assistance to thousands of internally displaced persons in Darfur.

The United States called Monday on Khartoum to reverse its decision.

"We are very concerned about the situation," US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "These two non-governmental organizations have played, we think, an important role in helping alleviate the suffering of the people of Sudan, especially in Darfur."

International humanitarian agencies have in recent weeks blamed government forces and rebels in the region for an escalation of the 21-month conflict between rebels and government-backed militias which has left tens of thousands dead.

The surge in the fighting, despite the signing in November of a security and humanitarian protocol by the warring sides, shocked aid agencies into fleeing the region, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without food.

Boucher also decried Khartoum’s failure to live up to pledges to allow assistance to get into Darfur as well as ongoing violence by both sides but singled out the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) for particular criticism for violating a fragile April ceasefire.

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