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7 March 2009

South Sudan's ruling party urged the Khartoum government on Saturday to reverse its decision to expel aid agencies that it had accused of passing information to war crimes prosecutors. Khartoum shut down 13 foreign and three local aid groups this week after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to face charges of war crimes in Darfur. Aid groups deny the allegation. Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) spokesman Yien Matthew said the expulsion would have a devastating impact on tens of thousands of displaced Darfuris. [...] U.N. agencies rely on aid groups to deliver much of their food aid and other assistance to people on the ground, so the expulsions will also hit programmes run by the World Food Programme and other bodies. The expulsions did not affect agencies in southern Sudan.


7 March 2009

Sudan's president defied calls to arrest him for war crimes on Saturday, defending his decision to expel aid groups and dancing in front of crowds wearing traditional feathered head dress. [...] Bashir defended his decision to shut down 13 foreign and three local aid groups over accusations that they passed information to the court's prosecutors. Aid groups deny working with the court. "These humanitarian organizations are just thieves," he said, referring to the aid groups. "They take 99 percent of the money and spend just 1 percent on the ground." [...] U.N. agencies rely on aid groups to deliver much of their food aid and other assistance to people on the ground, so the expulsions will also hit programs run by the World Food Program and other bodies. The expulsions did not affect agencies in southern Sudan.


6 March 2009

Even before Sudan's president expelled aid groups from Darfur following an international warrant seeking his arrest, diarrhea was spreading among newcomers at one of its largest refugee camps and people waited hours in line for water. The picture at the Zamzam Camp grew even bleaker Thursday when no aid workers showed up, leaving residents to figure out how they would get life sustaining goods from sorghum seeds to running water and tents for the influx of new refugees. [...] Catherine Bragg, the U.N.'s deputy emergency relief coordinator, said [aid] organizations [ordered to be expelled] are responsible for "at least half" of the humanitarian operations in Darfur and are vital partners for U.N. agencies in delivering food, providing health care, water, education and other services. "With the loss of these NGOs, 1.1 million people will be without food aid, 1.1 million will be without health care, and over 1 million will be without potable water," she said.


6 March 2009

After seven months' deliberation, the judges of the international criminal court finally issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, this week. Their appeal for retributive justice, in the form of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, was solemnly echoed in European and US capitals, and universally by rights organisations and activist groups. Within hours, however, the Sudan government showed that the court and its backers were powerless to defend or feed the millions of Darfurians in whose name justice is being sought. [...] The UN agencies are still there. For the moment. But the World Food Programme relies on two now absent NGOs - Care and Save the Children - to distribute 80% of its rations. Will Khartoum allow the WFP to build a new food distribution infrastructure - a task of many months? Or will it simply insist on doing the job itself? Most likely the latter.


6 March 2009

Families who fled their homes in the face of government assaults in Darfur face a new emergency. Having fled to the safety of aid camps in search of shelter, food and water, they find the charities that supported them are being locked out by the very regime responsible for much of the region’s slaughter. Aid officials warn that a humanitarian emergency is in danger of becoming a disaster after 13 international non-governmental organisations were expelled by Sudan. [...] Human rights campaigners accused Sudan of holding the people of Darfur hostage. “Millions of lives are at stake and this is no time to play political games,” said Tawanda Hondora, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Africa programme. “These aid agencies provide the bulk of the humanitarian aid required by more than two million vulnerable people.” [...] Doctors and nurses with MSF were trying to contain two deadly outbreaks of meningitis before being expelled. Their clinics have closed. And the supply of food to 1.1 million people is in doubt, as the UN’s World Food Programme scrambles to find trucks to deliver sacks of grain. They had been using four of the expelled charities to get food to people in need.


6 March 2009

[...] The Sudanese Government, having bombed more than two million people into camps [in Darfur], is expelling aid workers in retaliation against a world that wants to arrest its President. Aid officials warn that a humanitarian emergency is in danger of becoming a disaster. The move has put the supply of food to 1.1 million people in doubt, as the UN’s World Food Programme scrambles to find lorries to deliver sacks of grain. It had been using four of the expelled charities to get food to people in need.


6 March 2009

The U.N. human rights office will examine whether Sudan's decision to expel aid groups constitutes a breach of basic human rights and possibly a war crime, a spokesman said Friday. Rupert Colville said the Sudanese decision to expel relief workers from 13 of the largest aid groups constitutes a "grievous dereliction" of duty, putting the lives of thousands at risk. The World Food Program says some 1.1 million of the 2-3 million people it feeds each month are dependent on deliveries from the groups that have been expelled. [...] A senior foreign ministry official in Khartoum, Mutrif Siddique [...] claimed that major U.N. aid agencies were not affected by this expulsion decision and stressed that "hundreds of Sudanese NGO workers remain and work in Darfur." The World Food Program questioned whether the remaining aid groups would be able to fill the gap. "We simply don't have the capacity to carry out the life saving work of the NGOs," said the agency's spokeswoman in Geneva, Emilia Casella.


5 March 2009

Sudan ordered at least 10 humanitarian groups expelled from Darfur on Wednesday after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the country's president. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the action "represents a serious setback to lifesaving operations in Darfur" and urged Sudan to reverse its decision, U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said. Aid groups protested, saying they had no connection to the court and that their absence could lead to a crisis for for more than 2 million of war-weary Sudanese who need such basics as shelter, food and clean water. [...] The non-governmental aid groups ordered out were Oxfam, CARE, MSF-Holland, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, the Norweigan Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee, Action Contre la Faim, Solidarites and CHF International. The Sudan Media Center said two Sudanese organizations, the Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development and the Khartoum Amal Center for the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Violence, were also expelled, saying they cooperated with the court.


5 March 2009

Quiet contentment is the best way to describe reactions to the news of Omar al-Bashir's indictment in the Farchana refugee camp - a dustbowl in the far east of Chad, home to 20,000 Sudanese from Darfur. Although some of the more educated camp leaders articulated their happiness at the verdict, there was no massive outpouring of jubilation, or much to show that today was different from any other. [...] As we journalists argue frantically with editors in London and kick malfunctioning equipment, a steady stream of ladies dressed in stunning yellow and orange striped fabric glide silently past with grain sacks and water balanced on their heads. The children start to wander off. Today's food distribution by the UN's World Food Programme seems to be the new show in town.


5 March 2009

Western aid groups in Darfur were forced to close clinics and put off a meningitis vaccination campaign Thursday because of the Sudanese government's decision to revoke their registration hours after President Omar al-Bashir was made the target of an international arrest warrant. Ten aid groups were told to suspend operations by Sunday, three days before the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. [...] Some groups, including the World Food Program and Catholic Relief Services, were allowed to continue operating.