Sudan to deport foreign NGO workers

By Mohamed Osman-Associated Press

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudan’s government confirmed Wednesday it will expel a number of international aid workers from the restive western region of Darfur, without specifying how many.

U.N. officials earlier said six staffers from international aid groups had been told by local Darfur officials that their security no longer could be guaranteed and were asked to leave West Darfur.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press, said it was a verbal order. Those expelled worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the U.N.‘s refugee agency.

Expulsion orders from local officials is a new phenomenon for aid groups working in Darfur and the latest sign of rising strains between the international organizations and the government.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Muwaia Khaled told the Associated Press that the aid workers were being deported individually and that the deportation does not reflect on the organizations they work for.

“Any organization that abides by the regulations and code set will be respected,” Mr. Khaled stressed. “There are indeed some violations committed, and this is the reason why they were expelled.”

He did not elaborate on the nature of the offenses and said the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs would disclose more later.

At a recent gathering, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir told local Darfur officials that they can act independently “to expel and order out any international organization or agency or any quarter that exceeds its stipulated mandate or tries to obstruct the work of the local authorities.”

The United Nations has said constraints on aid agencies operating in the vast Darfur region have been increasing steadily since March 2009, when 11 international aid organizations were expelled following an indictment of the Sudanese president for crimes against humanity in Darfur by the International Criminal Court.

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