OCHA concerned over official’s expulsion from South Darfur

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The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan is holding talks with government officials over the expulsion of its South Darfur head of office, an official said on 8 November.

“We are extremely concerned at the expulsion and meetings are going on at the highest levels with the government to resolve the issue,” said Orla Clinton, the OCHA Public Information Officer in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

The governor of South Darfur, Ali Mahmoud Mohammed, reportedly wrote a letter last week ordering Wael Al-Haj Ibrahim to leave the state.

Clinton said OCHA had not received a “clear reason” for the expulsion, only that it was a directive from the state for alleged violation of the 1995 Humanitarian Act.

She said OCHA played a pivotal role in South Darfur, coordinating humanitarian activities aimed at helping at least a million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and thousands of other conflict-affected civilians.

Since 2003, armed conflict in the whole Darfur region – comprising South Darfur, North Darfur and West Darfur – has claimed the lives of at least 200,000 people and the displacement of more than two million others. The conflict pits various rebel movements against forces of the Khartoum-based central government, which is accused of marginalising the region.

Clinton said the directive was for Ibrahim to leave South Darfur, not the country, and that

Ibrahim, who was based in Nyala, had travelled to Khartoum.

News agencies have reported that UN aid officials and non-governmental organisations working in Darfur have in the past complained of bureaucratic harassment by Sudanese authorities.

The Sudanese government has in recent months stepped up pressure on IDPs to leave some camps in Darfur, saying they had become congested and dangerous. In one incident, UN officials said they had evidence of government forces chasing civilians out of Otash IDP camp near Nyala, which hosted tens of thousands of IDPs.

Speaking out about such alleged abuses is particularly problematic in Darfur, according to the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG), a UK-based team of researchers.

“Darfur demonstrates many of the classic characteristics of a non-permissive advocacy environment: high levels of insecurity for aid workers, continuous efforts by the Sudanese government to curtail what it perceives as ‘political’ activities and inconsistent levels of humanitarian access,” HPG said in an October policy brief, entitled Humanitarian advocacy in Darfur: the challenge of neutrality.

The full HPG report: www.odi.org.uk

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