Africa
Sudan to expel foreign aid groups
President pledges to 'Sudanise' humanitarian aid work in the country within a year.
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2009 16:20 GMT

The ICC warrant for al-Bashir's arrest has sparked rallies in support of the Sudanese leader [AFP]

Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's president, has accused foreign aid groups of providing false testimony against him and his government and says he wants them to leave the country within a year.

In a speech to thousands of Sudanese security forces on Monday, al-Bashir said he had ordered Sudanese aid groups to take over the distribution of all relief inside the country.

"We need to clear our country of any spies," he told the crowd at a rally in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital.

"We directed the ministry of humanitarian affairs to Sudanise voluntary work. Within a year, we don't want to see any foreign aid group dealing with a Sudanese citizen," he said.

"If they want to bring relief, let them drop it at airports or seaports. Let the national organisations deal with our citizens."

Aid expulsion

Al-Bashir expelled 13 international aid groups earlier this month after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of orchestrating atrocities in Sudan's western Darfur region.

He also shut down three local aid groups, including one of the largest local groups operating in Darfur.

The Sudanese government accused the aid organisations of co-operating with the ICC against al-Bashir, though the aid groups deny working with the court.

Al-Bashir on Monday also accused the aid organisations of using the Darfur conflict to embezzle money from Sudan. 

He said humanitarian groups claim to spend billions of dollars in Dafur, but according to Sudanese government calculations, aid groups spend less than $100m every year.

Al-Bashir said the government is ready to match that amount.

'War crimes'

The United Nations says that more than 180 foreign aid workers have left Sudan since Khartoum's order to expel the aid groups.

The ICC charged al-Bashir on March 4 with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his involvement in the Darfur conflict, which the UN estimates has killed between 200,000 and 400,000 people.

The Sudanese government puts the death toll at 10,000.

Al-Bashir has dismissed the ICC's charges as a ploy by Western powers and the move has led to angry protests in Khartoum.

Al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state to ever receive an arrest warrant from the ICC.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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