Sudan’s state governor threatens to expel foreign aid groups

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January 12, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Ahmed Haroun, the governor of Sudan’s conflict hit state of South Kordofan, has warned international aid agencies that they will be immediately expelled if they attempt to overstep their mandate.

Haroun’s warning comes amid renewed efforts by the United Nations (UN) to persuade the Sudanese government to change its mind and allow international aid agencies to access South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where food insecurity and malnutrition have reached "alarming" levels in rebel controlled areas, according to the UN’s top humanitarian official Valerie Amos.

The Sudanese government, which has been fighting rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) in the two states since last year, refuses to let foreign aid groups access the area or setup displacement camps.

Sudan’s minister of social welfare, Amira Al-Fadil, told Valerie Amos during a meeting in Khartoum last week that the government has resolved to prevent the establishment of displacement camps in the two states.

In an address on Thursday, during a workshop on emergencies and humanitarian intervention, Haroun launched a severe attack on the humanitarian organisations that were expelled from his state following the outbreak of the conflict in June last year.

According to Haroun, these organisations were an integral part of the crisis in South Kordofan.

Haroun reiterated his commitment to President Omer Hassan al-Bashir’s resolution to “Sudanise” the field of humanitarian assistance in the country. He added that all foreign aid organisations seeking to access his state must do so after obtaining relevant permission from local government offices except the UN whose work, he said, is regulated by the ministry of foreign affairs and ministry of humanitarian affairs.

According to the governor, international humanitarian interventions are one of the means of prolonging the conflict. He added that local organisations are better suited to deal with the situation due to their knowledge of realities on the ground.

The conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile has displaced approximately 417,000 people, more than 80,000 of them into neighbouring South Sudan, according to UN figures.

Khartoum, which is deeply distrustful of international aid groups, fears that allowing them to access the new war zones will create a replica of the situation in the western region of Darfur, where millions remain in displacement camps following the conflict that started eight years ago.

In 2009, Sudan expelled ten foreign aid groups from Darfur after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for the arrest of the country’s President Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in the region. Haroun is also wanted by the ICC on the same charges.