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Sudanese president warns remaining relief organizations

March 15, 2009 (KHARTOUM) — President Omer Al-Bashir on Sunday warned the remaining international humanitarian organizations in Sudan against “overstepping their mandate,” the same charge used as a pretext to expel 13 international aid agencies in the wake of the International Criminal Court arrest warrant issued for Al-Bashir on March 4.

The relief groups provide for some 2.7 million people have fled their homes and lands in Darfur since major hostilities erupted approximately six years ago, in addition to more than a million more “conflict-affected” people. They are accused of exceeding their mandate as neutral providers of aid by passing information to the world court in a bid to defame Sudan.

“Any organization that does exceed its mandate has only to blame itself,” said the president. “Organizations that have been expelled had been working under the guise of humanitarian work for the implementation of the colonial agenda in the region.”

The Sudanese president made the remarks while addressing a meeting of national charities and voluntary organizations which the government is touting as a proper replacement for the ousted foreign groups.

Bashir announced that donations made by these organizations could fill 100 percent of the needs left by the departing aid agencies, which have warned, by contrast, that the expulsions will have dire consequences for conflict-affected civilians in Darfur and other areas of North Sudan.

Returning to a theme commonly voiced by ruling party figures, the Sudanese president also stressed the government’s commitment to aiding “voluntary return” of people displaced by the conflict, who mostly live concentrated in large urbanized camps near Darfur’s major towns and cities.

“I do not want the children of Darfur to remain in the IDP camps” said Bashir, who is sought by INTERPOL, the world’s largest international police organization, for his alleged role in coordinating a campaign of widespread, systematic attacks, pillage, rape, torture, murder, forcible transfer and extermination against civilian populations.

But earlier today the Sudanese government announced new protection measures for foreign aid workers in Darfur, following the abduction and release of three staff of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The foreigners are urged to remain in their headquarters in major towns. “There are security measures to protect organizations and their headquarters,” Hassabu Mohammed Abdel-Rahman, commissioner for humanitarian aid, told reporters in Khartoum.

“There will be coordination between the Sudanese Ministry of the Interior and the security agencies and the local governments of the three states in Darfur,” he added.

But another Sudanese official, who requested anonymity, said that the intelligence service itself had been responsible for the abduction of the MSF workers. The claim is unsubstantiated, but the kidnappers demanded no ransom, instead calling for suspension of the ICC warrant, a position held by the Sudanese government.

(ST)

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