Al-Bashir Hits Back at ICC!
Dr. El-tahir Adam El-faki
President Bashir has a bad record with international organisations working in Sudan. He ordered the expulsion of 13 foreign aid agencies on 4th March 2009 in response to the (ICC) arrest warrant against him for seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity charges. He went berserk and openly accused all foreign aid agencies of spying for the ICC and collaborating with the rebels. He affirmed that they will be replaced with national agencies within one year. The United Nations strongly criticised his decision. He capitulated later and allowed few Western aid agencies into the country after negotiations with US envoy Scott Gration.
Now the ICC defied all odds and levelled three counts of genocide charges to the list of seven war crimes and crimes against humanity to Bashir. It is not unreasonable to expect that he will introduce retaliatory measures against foreign organs providing humanitarian support for the people of Darfur. Surprisingly, while I was preparing materials for writing this article news of the government expelling NGO officials surfaced to the media. The Sudanese authorities issued expulsion orders against two top officials working for the ‘International Organisation for Migration’, an inter-governmental agency that provides relief supplies for Darfur. Both Laura Palatini and Carla Martinez have been ordered to leave Sudan within 72 hours expiring Saturday 17th Jul 2010. The decision came less than three days after the ‘International Criminal Court’ (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against President Al-Bashir for alleged three counts of genocide crimes he committed against his own people in Darfur.
Of the thirteen agencies he already expelled was ‘Save the Children’ which was actively supporting some of Sudan's most vulnerable children - many of whom are incarcerated in squalid camps after fleeing their homes due to the ongoing conflict in Darfur. The international aid agencies ‘Oxfam’ appealed to the Government of Sudan to allow it to continue its vital humanitarian work for the hundreds of thousands in need in Sudan after its license to operate was revoked. Its pledges were met with deaf ears. The humanitarian organization ‘CARE’ which supports over 1.5 million internally displaced people in Sudan with food, water, sanitation, livelihood, and health assistance was among a number of humanitarian organizations which were ordered to stop all of its aid operations and leave the country.
The ‘International Rescue Committee’ (IRC) was forced to shut its offices and wrap up its aid programs in Sudan– a decision that put at considerable risk the lives of nearly two million women, children, and the elderly who totally depend on its essential lifesaving programs. The global relief and development agency ‘Mercy Corps’ was forced to cease all of its operations in Darfur and for its staff to pack up for immediate exit from Sudan.
Such was fraction of the attitude of Al-Bashir towards the humanitarian organizations which were there to help and save the lives of those he made to suffer. The real outcome of his decision has not been effectively assessed due to the strict control of the Sudanese security on reports critical to his policies. The Goodwill and Confidence building agreement he signed with JEM on 17th Feb 09 in Doha compels him to facilitate humanitarian work in the region. It didn’t matter. To the dismay of the international community he met the agreement was with absolute disregard.
While most of the effective international organizations were publicly expelled from Sudan there continues clandestine processes to oblige the other agencies providing vital help to be compelled to leave. Part of the policy to expel the remaining humanitarian bodies from Sudan is to stage fear and create atmospheres of insecurity for their staff by planned abduction and kidnapping of their foreign nationals and aid workers. Such has been the common practice in Darfur since the issuing of the arrest warrant in 2009. We must stress at this juncture that it was unusual for foreign nationals to be targeted in the early course of the conflict.
To be specific, four members of the ‘Doctors Without Borders’ medical charity (MSF): a French man, a Canadian woman, an Italian and a Sudanese national were kidnapped shortly after the ICC arrest warrant in 2009 but were freed a few days later. On 4th April 09, a French woman and a Canadian worker were seized in southern Darfur and released three weeks later. Two women aid workers from Ireland and Uganda were kidnapped by armed men in July 09. In April 2010, four South Africans from the African Union peacekeeping mission were abducted at gun point in Nyala but were later released unharmed.
The latest in the series of kidnappings and abductions targeting foreign aid workers and foreign nationals in Darfur is the abduction of German nationals in the region. Since the warrant's issue in 2009, 17 foreigners including 10 Westerners have been abducted in the troubled region. Most of the captives were released unharmed. An American female employee of ‘Samaritan's Purse’ kidnapped in May is still in captivity.
The security environment has deteriorated recently following the fighting between JEM and government forces as well as the inter-tribal fighting in south Darfur. The GoS refused unimpeded access to humanitarian agencies for fact finding and supply of aid especially in the areas affected by the fighting. The security hiatus compounded by the wave of kidnappings have forced many aid organizations to consider their future activities in the region and alter the way they operate. Some of the aid communities have decided to pack up and leave the country, while others have decided to spend less time on the ground to avoid abduction.
Ever since Bashir’s indictment last year the conditions for the humanitarian workers in Darfur have greatly deteriorated. Foreigners and aid workers have become subjects to abduction with some of the kidnappers demanding ransom.
There are certain characteristic patterns relative to the kidnapping of the humanitarian and foreign nationals:
- Firstly the kidnappings always take place in the government controlled areas most of which occurred in South Darfur where security is relatively better.
- Secondly the government surprisingly claim to secure the release of the hostages without providing any information of how it managed to do so.
- Thirdly the failure of the government to bring the perpetrators and the hostage takers to justice.
Such patterns point fingers of suspicion at the government as a collaborator, a beneficiary or a real partner in the hostage taking. It is deliberate creation of atmosphere of insecurity for the NGOs to give up and leave the country.
The author is Dr. El-tahir Adam El-faki/Speaker for JEM Legislative Assembly.
He can be reached at [email protected]