South Darfur expels French NGO: governor

14th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

A French non-governmental organisation has been expelled from South Darfur, the state's governor said on Monday, for alleged cooperation with one of the region's main rebel groups.

The United Nations said it was the latest in a list of NGOs to be forced out of Darfur in the past year.

"We expelled Medecins du Monde because we have information that this NGO worked outside its mandate... and is supporting Abdelwahid's rebel group in east Jebel Marra," South Darfur's Governor Abdelhamid Kasha told AFP.

"We have documentary proof of this from information sent by Sudanese working for the NGO to their office in Khartoum and to their headquarters in New York," he added.

The NGO, which provides primary health care, nutrition and health education in the east Jebel Marra area of Sudan's war-torn western region, refused to comment on the accusations.

A spokesman for the French embassy in Khartoum also declined to respond.

Abdelwahid Nur's faction of the Sudan Liberation Army is one of three main rebel groups fighting government troops in Darfur along with Minni Minnawi's branch of the SLA and the Justice and Equality Movement.

Several Medecins du Monde staffers were arrested in Darfur last Thursday, according to UN sources. Most of them, including all foreign staff, were later released, but two were still believed to be missing on Monday.

The Catholic Relief Services (CRS), an aid agency operating in West Darfur, was also forced to suspend its operations there two weeks ago.

The UN Organisation for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan said the latest developments came at a time when humanitarian work was already failing to meet local needs.

"We're very concerned about the loss of capacity of the humanitarian agencies. We're already facing a situation where we fail to meet the humanitarian needs in Darfur," said OCHA spokesman Christophe Illemassene.

He said that, in addition to Medecins du Monde and CRS, six NGOs had stopped their work in Darfur in the past year, some because of lack of funds, but others because of the increasingly difficult operating environment and what he called "administrative impediments."

Just last week, after meeting Sudan's foreign minister, the US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration hailed the "great steps" the government had taken to facilitate the movement of international NGOs and the joint African Union-UN peacekeeping force (UNAMID) in Darfur.

But his comments contradicted the assessment of several aid workers at the time, and of UNAMID itself, who have strongly complained about restrictions on movement in Darfur, whether because of security concerns or obstruction by government troops.

Renewed fighting between rebels and the Sudanese army has forced more than 43,000 people to flee their homes since December, according to UN estimates.

The world body says at least 300,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict since non-Arab rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum in 2003. The government puts the death toll at 10,000.

© 2011 AFP

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