More Aid Groups at Risk in Sudan
Sudan's life-saving relief work and fragile peace process are at much greater risk if President Omar al-Bashir follows through on his threat this week to rid the country of all international aid groups within 12 months.
In a passionate speech delivered to a military rally in Khartoum's Green Square, Bashir said he wants all relief distribution efforts turned over to Sudanese groups in order to "clear our country of any spies," wire services reported early this week.
Earlier this month, Bashir expelled 13 aid groups from the western region of Darfur, following the International Criminal Court's (ICC) decision to issue a warrant for his arrest on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. He has accused international aid agencies of secretly collaborating with the ICC. The agencies reject the allegation.
"We have ordered the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to completely 'Sudanize' the voluntary work in Sudan within one year, and after that we don't want international organizations to deal with Sudanese citizens on relief," Bashir told the rally, according to press reports. Bashir said groups that want to continue to provide aid "can just leave it at the airport and Sudanese NGOs can distribute the relief."
Confused by reports of Bashir's order yesterday, relief groups said they will continue to operate until they receive confirmation that they have been ordered to leave.
"World Vision has not received any such communication from the authorities," the nonprofit said in a statement. "We are continuing to implement our programs, which are reaching some 500,000 people in Darfur alone." World Vision also provides services to close to three million people in southern Sudan, and also has projects in northern Sudan.
Darfur activists and relief workers critical of the ICC's arrest warrant say its move gives Bashir the excuse he's been looking for to kick out aid agencies helping the vulnerable victims of his radical Islamist government's genocide against native Darfurians and southern Sudanese Christians.
"Of course, to 'Sudanize' the work is the goal for any indigenous-based ministry in Sudan, which is what we are, so conceptually, that is the perfect stance," said Kimberly Smith, president of Make Way Partners, which finances the only indigenous orphan-care network in the countryand rescues Sudanese women and children from slavery.
"The problem is, Bashir has learned exactly what to say. He wants these groups out, and unless the world does not want them out and is willing to take action, he will be successful in doing that."
Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom of the Hudson Institute, and a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the ICC's "naïve" move and Bashir's response "may prove catastrophic for millions of beleaguered Darfurians and South Sudanese."
"[The ICC] has essentially made an empty threat that gives Bashir the excuse he's been looking for to block international aid to war-ravaged Darfur and, quite likely, to end compliance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in the South," said Shea.
"Bashir has in effect already carried out two genocides — in Darfur and in the South. He is a remorseless tyrant," said Shea. "His long-term goal has been to annihilate and drive out these non-Arab and/or peacekeepers, humanitarian agencies, and governments."
Samaritan's Purse is one of about 70 remaining foreign organizations working in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and areas in southern Sudan, where millions of suffering war victims are dependant upon them for survival.