Sudan decided to postpone a decision to expel the country heads of two British aid agencies on Monday, citing administrative difficulties and humanitarian grounds, the state minister for humanitarian affairs said.
Muhammad Yusuf Abd Allah said the decision to expel Save the Children and Oxfam country heads for breaches of Sudanese law had been delayed until after he returned from a trip to Europe in four or five days.
“We will postpone it until I come back,” Abd Allah said. “This is an administrative decision which we did not realise all the implications of.”
But he said the organisations were still on notice for what the ministry had said was interfering in political issues, forbidden by Sudanese law governing emergency aid agencies working in the country.
“The government of Sudan has made it clear that they have to work on the basis of humanitarian grounds and not to take sides,” the minister said.
Oxfam has been working throughout north Sudan for 20 years and has been praised for its humanitarian work around the globe.
Oxfam has criticised the UN
Save the Children is one of the largest food distributors in Darfur. It confirmed it received two letters from the ministry on Monday morning, expelling its country director Kate Halff and officially warning the organisation.
The British charity Oxfam said it received a letter of warning, suggesting their country director might be expelled.
A ministry statement said Save the Children had broken Sudanese law by issuing a press release saying a government plane had dropped a bomb close to one of its feeding centres last week in Tawilla town, North Darfur, without waiting for confirmation from AU ceasefire monitors.
Support for rebels
It also rejected a statement from Oxfam criticising a UN Security Council resolution issued in Nairobi earlier this month which contained weaker wording on the possibility of sanctions against Sudan than previous resolutions.
The Humanitarian Affairs Ministry said the organisations should not deal with security issues through the media and said they should instead liaise with the government.
It said it saw all these statements as indications of support for the rebels eager to continue the war in Darfur.
Abd Allah said for humanitarian grounds the government would not expel Halff, because she was married to a Sudanese man and had Sudanese children.
The AU is overseeing a ceasefire
He added the decision to expel Oxfam had been postponed for administrative reasons.
The British ambassador to Sudan and the United Nations had been pressing Khartoum to reverse the decisions.
A Western diplomat said the delay was a face-saving gesture.
“The whole idea is that there will be a delay and then it will disappear,” the diplomat said.
After years of tribal clashes over diminishing land and water resources in arid Darfur, rebels took up arms early last year, accusing Khartoum of general neglect.
The AU is monitoring a ceasefire signed between two main Darfur rebel groups and the government in April.