Sudan

Sudan: SPLM/SPLA Statement on the MOU between the SRRA and the NGOs

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News Article by SPLM on March 01, 2000 at 13:18:27:

SPLM/SPLA PRESS RELEASE

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement and Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLM/SPLA) makes the following statement on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA), which is the humanitarian branch of the SPLM/SPLA and the International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOS) working in the New Sudan. The MOU was meant to regularize operations and promote cooperation between the SRRA and NGOs in the field of deliverance of the humanitarian assistance to war affected areas in the New Sudan. At any rate there ought to be a framework document governing ythe relationship between the Movement and NGOs. Unfortunately, this good intention on the side of the SRRA was misunderstood and deliberately misinterpreted by some NGOs to mean control of their work by the SRRA. The SPLM/SPLA is hereby making clarification in this respect.

Background

The SRRA was authorized by the National Liberation Council (NLC) the law making body of the Movement, meeting in 1998 in New Cush/Himan to draw up a Memorandum of Understanding with NGOs with the view of transforming humanitarian and rehabilitation programme into a people's centered activity. It is also felt that for the purpose of accountability and transparency particularly taking into account the large number of NGOs working in New Sudan, it was necessary to have this kind of understanding. Consequently in January 1999, the SRRA initiated discussions with the NGOs and other stakeholders such as the major donors. In March 1999, the consensus document was reached upon, and was supposed to be signed immediately. However, some NGOs requested for more time to further study and discuss it with the SRRA. This request was granted until August when an agreement on the present MOU was developed with the approval of all the stakeholders and was therefore called the Consolidated Text. When asked to sign some NGOs again hesitated and requested for yet more time to consult with their donors and their respective headquarters. In the spirit of cooperation and solidarity the SRRA granted this request with the hope that these consultations would take a shorter time as the SRRA was requested to submit the same to the NLC in December 1999 for endorsement. Unfortunately the NGOs did not respond in time and instead stunned the SRRA by coming up with a totally new document at the beginning of December 1999 renamed a Letter of Understanding (LOU) between the SRRA, OLS and individual NGOs. Both documents, the MOU and LOU were presented to the NLC. The NLC rejected the LOU and instead endorsed the MOU for the following reasons:

(a) The LOU was substantially different from the consolidated text of the MOU.

(b) The LOU brought in OLS as a signatory; an idea that is irrelevant because the SPLM/SPLA has a Tripartite Agreement between the OLS and the Government of Sudan (GOS) in addition to several other bilateral agreements including the Ground Rules. The NLC therefore authorized the SRRA to implement its decision on the MOU by March 1, 2000.

Another fallacy being peddled by the politically motivated NGO's is that the SRRA through the MOU is forcing NGO's to recognize the SPLM as the authority in the New Sudan. This is, of course, an irrelevant speculation from these NGO's because the SPLM does not require any recognition from NGO's. We, as a liberation movement, will not ask for recognition from any NGO since they do not have the competence and legitimacy to do so anyway. The SPLM/SPLA controls all the liberated areas in the New Sudan and is a de facto authority in these areas; a fact that is well known. The truth is that most of these NGOs are being pressurized by the National Islamic Front (NIF) Government in Khartoum not to sign the MOU with SRRA as it amounts to recognition of the SPLM/SPLA. This is hypocrisy of the first order because some of these NGO's with offices in Khartoum have signed "operative regulations" with the NIF's Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) which has been created by the Khartoum regime to control distribution of relief items to displaced people and to control employment and appointments of senior national staff with NGO's. Most often Northern Sudanese are appointed in favour of more qualified Southerners due to pressure and threats from HAC on NGO's. Besides the "operative regulations" document, with HAC, all international NGO's are required to sign very many protocols with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Planning. Unfortunately some NGOs are telling the SRRA, that the New Sudan is "no-man's land". In Southern Sudan these NGOs want to operate at will and reject SRRA's remedial efforts to regularize their operations claiming that too many restrictions are being imposed on them.

2. Implementation

In early January this year, the SRRA requested the NGOs to sign the MOU as directed by the NLC. It was at this stage that NGOs agitated for the rejection of SRRA directives. No good reason was given except the delaying tactics that were used by the NGOs throughout the year 1999.

These NGOs began spreading rumours and sending wrong messages to their donors and respective headquarters that the Movement was forcing them to sign an agreement so as to curb freedom of relief work, control their assets and interfere with distribution of humanitarian assistance. It is unfortunate that the MOU has been deliberately misunderstood. The SPLM/SPLA would like therefore to put the record straight.

a) The Movement assures the international community that it will stick to its humanitarian mandate and will assist all NGOs in every aspect to make this commitment a success.

b) The MOU was prepared in good faith and in the spirit of transparency and accountability so that both the NGOs and the SRRA can approach their duties and roles responsibly. Transparency and accountability improve efficiency and utilization of limited resources for the benefit of the people. This is a reform that will lead to improvement of humanitarian situation. It is worth-noting that since 1994, the movement has been involved in extensive reforms and democratization which the international community has since then supported. This reforms and democratization were bound to reach the NGOs as well.

c) That the beneficiaries should be involved in initiating projects, and be given the right to be consulted. They are not only passive receivers but are partners. This is an era of people centred programmes that should be appreciated by people of good will.

d) To streamline programmes and activities and with the view to avoid malpractices. It is to be noted that chaotic situations with regards to humanitarian deliverance have been occurring in the New Sudan particularly during hunger and starvation in 1998. Of course, there are people who want to benefit from chaotic situations and would not want order to be established. We strongly believe that good organization leads to good governance.

In conclusion, the SPLM/SPLA is happy to note that a good number of NGOs have signed the MOU. We re-assure these NGOs that the Movement will cooperate with them and give them all the protection they need in our areas. It is gratifying to note that out of 43 NGOs working in the New Sudan 32 of them have signed the MoU and only 11 have not opted to do so. Similarly, the UN system (OLS, WFP, UNICEF and so on) are not affected because we have a tripartite agreement with them and the GOS. The ICRC is not also affected because we have a separate agreement with them. This group by far represents the vast majority of the international organizations working in the New Sudan, which means that the humanitarian situation will not be adversely affected.

The SPLM/SPLA however respects the decision of the few NGOs that have refused to sign the MOU and have opted to leave the New Sudan. We thank these NGOs for the good work they have done for our people. We further want to assure the departing NGOs that the Movement will guarantee their smooth departure from the New Sudan. This guarantee covers their personnel and properties. No NGOs assets will be tampered with and they are allowed to bring out these properties with them. In this regard, the SPLM/SPLA would like to make it abundantly clear that the SPLM/SPLA is not expelling any NGO. The SRRA is only implementing a decision made by our highest legislative body, the NLC. The SPLM/SPLA Leadership resents all attempts to pressure it into rescinding the decision of the NLC. Such attempts amount to a conscious effort to thwart the will of the people of the New Sudan as expressed through the resolutions of the NLC. It also smacks of hypocrisy to exhort the SPLM/SPLA to democratize and at the same time condemn it for consulting the people and democratically ascertaining their views. It is those NGOs who do not want to respect our laws and who do not want transparency and accountability that are opting to leave on their own.

The misinformation carried out in the international news media that the SPLM/SPLA is expelling the NGOs is not true. It is a democratic right of any NGO to reject our laws and leave peacefully.

Similarly there is another misinformation by some hostile NGOs that the SPLM/SPLA does not care about the welfare of our people including those who may die due to the departure of some NGOs.

This is untrue and such utterances cannot come from a responsible movement like ours. If indeed some people die, it will not be due to departure of some NGOs but because of the prevailing phenomenon of donor fatigue and politicization of relief which is not limited to New Sudan.

Finally, we would like to thank those non-political and very caring NGOs who have opted to sign the MoU. We look forward to work with them and improve upon certain aspects of the MoU that will enhance their work. We will assure them of unrestricted access of relief to those in need.

Signed:

Cdr Nhial Deng Nhial,
SPLM/SPLA Chairman for External Relations,
Information and Humanitarian Affairs.