Aid agencies expelled: fears grow for situation in Sudan

11 March 2009

by Ed Beavan

Hand-delivered: the Archbishop of Sudan (second from left) and the Bishop of Salisbury (second from right) deliver their letter to 10 Downing Street

Hand-delivered: the Archbishop of Sudan (second from left) and the Bishop of Salisbury (second from right) deliver their letter to 10 Downing Street

AID AGENCIES fear that the humanitarian emergency in Sudan could turn into a disaster, after the expulsion of 13 relief groups from the country by its President, Omar al-Bashir, last week.

President al-Bashir revoked the licences of the humanitarian agencies, including Save the Children, Oxfam, and Médecins sans Front­ières, after accusing them of supplying evidence to the International Criminal Court, which last week issued a warrant for his arrest for war crimes in Darfur.

The expulsion could worsen the humanit­arian emergency in the country, particularly in the Darfur region, where 2.7 million people have been displaced by fighting, and 4.7 million people rely on aid for food, medicine, or water. About 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the conflict in Darfur since it began in 2003.

Jonathan Spencer, of the British aid agency Tearfund, said that it was “very concerned” about recent developments. “Currently, Tear­fund is not one of the agencies listed, but we are still trying to get more information about the situation. Tearfund, like other NGOs, has been working to relieve the suffering for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Darfur living in camps.”

Tennille Bergin, of World Vision, said that it was still working in the Darfur region, where its food-aid programme supports 1.5 million people.

The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has urged the Sudanese government to recon­sider its decision. The purge, he says, could cause “irrevocable damage” to the situation.

The All-Africa Conference of Churches has called for Russia and China to withdraw from the UN Security Council debate on President al-Bashir. It says that the two superpowers are supplying arms to Sudan.

Archbishops petition Prime Minister. The Archbishop of Sudan, Dr Daniel Deng Bul, has written to Gordon Brown, call­ing on the Gov­ernment to maintain diplomatic pressure on the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which con­tin­ues its campaign of violence against civilians in southern Sudan, northern Uganda, and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The letter, which was also signed by the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi, and Bishop Georges Ande, of Aru, in the DRC, calls on the UN peacekeeping forces to do more to stop the attacks by the LRA. The violence has displaced 50,000 people. The prelates also called for an increase in international aid.

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