Catholic Relief Services remains in Sudan as other humanitarian agencies withdraw

Nairobi, Kenya, March 1, 2000 -- Catholic Relief Services will remain operational in southern Sudan amidst the withdrawal of other humanitarian agencies in the region. The withdrawal comes as the result of an ultimatum delivered by the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA), the relief wing of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), stating that all non-governmental organizations must sign a Memorandum of Understanding before March 1, 2000 or withdraw from all SPLM-controlled areas. SPLM has been fighting for independence in Sudan since 1983. "We feel that our presence and activity in support of those in need, the local church and other civic organizations will not be compromised by the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding," said Kenneth F. Hackett, Executive Director of Catholic Relief Services."
The Memorandum of Understanding, drafted by the SRRA, details the relationship between the SRRA and all non-governmental agencies working in southern Sudan, and outlines points of cooperation to which humanitarian agencies operating in southern Sudan must agree. Subsequent SRRA correspondence stated that all non-governmental agencies that do not sign the agreement must withdraw their staff from SPLM-controlled areas by March 1. The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross are exempted from the MOU.

Catholic Relief Services remains the largest non-governmental agency operating in southern Sudan, directly reaching more than 200,000 beneficiaries in the war-torn region. Since 1983, southern Sudan -- largely Christian and animist -- has been fighting for independence from the largely Muslim and Arab north. An estimated two million people have been killed in the fighting, which has resulted in massive internal displacement and famine in southern Sudan.

"We hope that, although the deadline for withdrawal has now passed, further dialogue between all concerned parties can still take place so we can all help bring an end to the suffering and injustice taking place in southern Sudan," Hackett said.

Catholic Relief Services is the official overseas relief and development agency of the United States Catholic Church. Operating in more than 80 countries around the world, Catholic Relief Services provides assistance based solely on the basis of need, not race, creed, or nationality.

For more information about Catholic Relief Services and our programs around the world, visit our web site at

Jennifer Lindsey
Communications Associate - Africa
Catholic Relief Services
Tel. (410) 625-2220, ext. 3256
Fax (410) 234-2992


U.S.: Jennifer Lindsey, tel. 410-625-2220, ext. 3256
Nairobi: Dave Snyder, 254-244-2086