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We are humanitarians, not activists, says aid NGO

Text by Nicolas DE SCITIVAUX

Latest update : 2009-03-05

Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's president, confirmed that 10 foreign aid agencies had been expelled, accusing them of violating the law. Thierry Durand, of French NGO Doctors Without Borders, says his medical organisation is being wrongly accused.

Thierry Durand, head of operations in Sudan for the French section of Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials MSF), is protesting the Sudanese government's decision to expel 10 nongovernmental organisations.

"They have not recognised the difference between aid organisations like MSF and human-rights activists who have campaigned for years for justice and provided information to the international justice system," Durand said on FRANCE 24 television.

"We've tried to differentiate ourselves from human-rights activists, but the government hasn’t recognised that and expelled 10 NGOs, a strong political sign from Sudanese government."

Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, accused NGOs of breaking the country's laws on Thursday.

"We have expelled 10 foreign organizations after monitoring activities that act in contradiction to all regulation and laws," said Bashir in a cabinet meeting in which he confirmed the execution of the sentence.

"We will deal responsibly and decisively with anybody who tries to target the stability and security of the country," he added. The meeting was Bashir's first public speech since the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest on Wednesday.

Ten international NGOs were expelled: Britain's Oxfam and Save the Children; US-based CARE, CHF and the International Rescue Committee; the French Solidarités and Action Contre la Faim; and Mercy Corps, MSF’s Dutch section and the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Durand says the government's reaction is unacceptable. "They have not explained the decision and have not responded to the questions from MSF members," he said.

The organisations that have been expelled are involved in a number of areas, including distribution of water, food and medicine, explained Durand.

"Four other MSF sections will try remain in Darfur, but the expulsion of hundreds of NGOs has left no aid workers at all in certain places," he said.

The humanitarian situation in Darfur has been stable since May 2004, and according to Durand, there is no major emergency there presently. Nevertheless, he added, two million people there are "completely dependent" on international aid.

Date created : 2009-03-05

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