Al-Bashir: Darfur won't need foreign aid in a year

Sudan will no longer need any international NGOs in war-ravaged Darfur in a year’s time, President Omar al-Bashir said on Monday amid rising tensions with the international community.

“I ordered humanitarian affairs officials that in one year we don’t want any foreign aid organisation working on the ground with our citizens and that Sudanese organisations will fulfil this role,” in Darfur, al-Bashir said.

“If they want to bring in aid, they will have to leave it at the airport,” he added, addressing a rally by thousands of Sudanese soldiers in the capital Khartoum.

Sudan expelled 13 foreign NGOs from Darfur after the International Criminal Court on March 4 issued an arrest warrant against al-Bashir for alleged crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.

The targeted organisations included Britain’s Oxfam, the US Care as well as the Dutch and French sections of Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

The United Nations has said that more than a million people have already been affected by the expulsion of the aid organisations.

Khartoum disputes the figure, saying it is able to carry out the NGOs’ work, which includes distributing food aid as part of UN programmes.

Sudan last week issued a list of 19 Sudanese NGOs that will replace the expelled organisations, with the health ministry saying it would send 100 doctors and quantities of medicine to Darfur.

Three foreign NGO workers and a Sudanese colleague were released on Saturday, three days after being kidnapped at gunpoint from their compound in Darfur.

North Darfur governor Osman Mohammed Yusef Kabir said on Saturday that the kidnappers called themselves al-Bashir’s Eagles, a reference to the president.

Kabir, who previously referred to the kidnappers as bandits, said on Saturday they had acted in response to what he called an affront to national sovereignty by the ICC.

The United Nations says 300 000 people have died in the six-year-long conflict between ethnic minority rebels and the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, which puts the figure at only 10 000.

An estimated 2,7 million people more have fled their homes.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has urged Khartoum to rescind the expulsion order and said he was “deeply concerned” by the abductions.

Since the issue of the warrant—the court’s first against a sitting head of state—the United Nations and United States have warned of security problems in Sudan and threats to foreign targets.

Thirty workers with MSF left Darfur for Khartoum, a spokesperson said on Friday, adding that the rest of the group’s 35 workers had stayed behind.—Sapa-AFP

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