Sudan – Darfur: A confused withdrawal of aid workers

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Humanitarian workers from the United Nations and the Red Cross have been ordered to leave Darfur within 24 hours because their “security is no longer guaranteed in Darfur.” The Khartoum-based government of Sudan is suspected to have ordered the expulsions. However it remains uncertain who issued the withdrawals of the UN and Red Cross workers from Darfur and on what conditions the withdrawals were made.

Two senior members of the UN refugee agency were asked to leave the region for unknown reasons, an official at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said.

Chief delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross in El-Geneina and in the city of Zalingei were also ordered out of Darfur.

Also, the heads of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization office in El-Geneina were told to pack up and leave.

“We were told to leave within 24 hours because our security is no longer guaranteed in Darfur. It was not a blatant expulsion order,” a Western aid official speaking on condition of anonymity was quoted.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it was awaiting clarifications from the Khartoum government concerning the latest expulsions.

“The UN is fully aware of the situation but until there is official clarification from the government we cannot make further comments,” OCHA spokesman Sam Hendricks told reporters.

After an International Criminal Court decision to charge al-Bashir with genocide over the conflict in Darfur, two members of the International Organization were expelled for Migration in mid-July.

At the beginning of the this month, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir authorized local Darfur officials to expel international organizations which he said “trespassed” their mandate, according to local media.

The Khartoum government was however quick to insist the expulsions were not a decision taken by the Omar al-Bashir administration.

“It did not come from Khartoum and we are handling the matter with the state authorities of West Darfur,” the minister of state for humanitarian affairs, Mutrif Siddiq, was quoted by AFP.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir has refused to corporate with the international community in their efforts to relieve Dafurians of their humanitarian crisis.

When the ICC issued a warrant for his [al-Bashir] on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur in March last year, the Sudanese government expelled 13 relief organizations from the region.

Darfur has been plagued by civil war since 2003. According to UN estimates, over 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million displaced.

UN boss Ban Ki-Moon has urged the Sudanese government “to ensure that humanitarian access to all Sudanese remains open and humanitarian space protected,” a UN statement said.

“The secretary-general remains concerned over a string of recent incidents that have contributed to a general deterioration of the situation in Darfur. Abductions and mistreatment of UN staff and humanitarian workers will only aggravate the situation,” the statement read.

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