Sudan expels British aid agency heads

Sudan has ordered the expulsion of the directors of two British-based humanitarian organisations, accusing them of tacitly supporting rebels in Darfur.

    The UN says Darfur is the world's worst humanitarian crisis

    The country's Humanitarian Affairs Commission said the programme directors of Save

    the Children UK and Oxfam International had violated the law on

    non-intervention in the country's political, ethnic or sectarian issues.

    "It has been decided to consider you persona non grata for the management

    of your organisation in Sudan," the acting commissioner, Abd al-Khaliq al-Husain, said in

    letters addressed to the local directors of the aid organisations.

    "Therefore, you must leave the country within

    48 hours."

    The ministry of humanitarian affairs, which supervises the commission,

    said it was responding to statements on this month's upsurge in violence in

    Darfur, in the western region of Sudan.

    A rebellion in Dafur has provoked a

    counter-insurgency campaign that has killed thousands of people and displaced

    about 1.5 million inhabitants.

    "The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs views the statements issued by

    those two organisations as sending signals of support to the outlaws and

    rebels for continuation of the war," the ministry said in a press release

    .

    Government condemnation

    An Oxfam spokeswoman in the UK confirmed the

    expulsion.

    "Oxfam can confirm reports that their country programme manager for North

    Sudan has been asked to leave the country. We are seeking further

    clarification on this matter," Amy Barry said.

    In Khartoum, the Save the Children country director refused to comment.

    "The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs views the statements issued by

    those two organisations as sending signals of support to the outlaws and

    rebels for continuation of the war"

    Statement by Sudan's Humanitarian

    Affairs Commission

    The government referred to two press releases by Oxfam - one on 19 November

    that condemned a UN Security Council resolution for its weakness on

    Darfur, and another on 22 November

    that called on the European Union to exert

    pressure on Sudan to stop the violence.

    "Rejecting the resolutions of the UN Security Council that calls for

    peace realisation in Sudan simply means that organisation wants the

    continuation of war in Darfur," the ministry said.

    It also said that calling for EU pressure on Sudan was sending signals

    to the rebels to continue war.

    The ministry criticised a 21 November press release by Save the Children UK

    that accused the government of bombing a site in the North Darfur town of

    Tawilla.

    Ceasefire violations

    It said the aid group's report of both sides breaking the cease-fire

    did not distinguish between the rebels and the police who were protecting

    civilians.

    In a 22 November statement, Save the Children had accused both sides of

    "utter disregard" for the ceasefire, saying innocent people were suffering

    "at the hands of the rebels and their own government".

    Darfur rebels have been accused
    of violating ceasefires

    The ministry said the organisations should have contacted the government

    about these matters.

    "We would like to stress our rejection of any handling of security

    matters through the media," the ministry said.

    The government has a history of tension with aid groups, which have

    previously accused Khartoum of unnecessarily restricting access to the

    displaced people in Darfur.

    The government argued it was denying access for

    security reasons.

    Although the rebellion began in Darfur in February 2003, the government

    did not ease restrictions on aid groups until May 2004, as the world

    condemned the suffering of hundreds of thousands of homeless people without

    adequate supplies of food and medicine.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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