March 7, 2009 (KHARTOUM) – The Government of Sudan today declared that its decision to expel 13 non-governmental organizations was irrevocable.
After the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant Wednesday against Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, the authorities announced the expulsion of 13 foreign aid groups and the dissolution of two local non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
The organizations are accused of spying for the ICC and attempting to defame the Government of Sudan. Further Sudanese President described the aid groups as "thieves" accusing them of keeping the most important part of the aid.
"The media report that 2 billion dollars had been spent in Darfur aid operations; but when we revised these figures we found that what reached Darfur effectively is less than one hundred million. Actually they took more than 99.9%," he said.
NGOs immediately began evacuating staff to Khartoum or abroad and initiated a 30-day appeal process that is granted to them under Sudanese law. Leaders of the humanitarian organizations are trying to stress to government officials that they are not political actors and therefore should not be caught in the crossfire of a political contest.
Today the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mutrif Siddig, said in a statement to the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) tha "the decision of the authorities expelling foreign organizations whose violations to the laws of the humanitarian work and their involvement in cooperation with the so-called International Criminal Court have been proved by evidences is an irreversible decision."
Like Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations, who spoke at a briefing yesterday, Siddig downplayed the humanitarian impact that the decision could have on populations. He commented that "the rest of the foreign organizations operating in Sudan, whose number exceeds 100, perform their work in the various licensed areas, as long as they are committed to the laws organizing the humanitarian work."
But aid organizations suggest the expulsion will have far-ranging and dire consequences in Darfur as water systems break down in urban camps, food distributions stall, vaccination efforts end and millions are left without medical treatment. From within the aid community there are indications of a sense of loss, frustration and fear.
"The humanitarian operation was just destroyed" said an individual associated with the aid effort. "There isn’t a humanitarian operation at this point; there is a remainder that will try to cover, but those who were removed were fundamental to everything."
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the expelled groups, said Friday that it still appeared somewhat unclear as to which assets were affected by the property seizures initiated by the government, but at least some computers and phones. However, another aid official stressed that assets like computers and communications equipment contain knowledge vital to the running of the programmes, such as lists of beneficiaries.
Since the expulsion orders on Wednesday, the UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator Ameerah Haq was meeting officials in Khartoum and Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Northern Sudan Toby Lanzer was seeking to do this same in El Fasher, North Darfur.
On Friday the UN-African Union peacekeeping operation reported an increase in banditry activities, targeting UNAMID personnel and international NGOs, in all three security sectors of Darfur.
Roughly 6,500 national and international personnel, which equates to 40 percent of the aid workers in Darfur, are departing in the wake of the Sudan government’s decision, according to the United Nations.