Home | News    Thursday 23 December 2004

Sudanese employee of Doctors Without Borders killed in Darfur


NAIROBI, Dec 21 (AFP) — A local employee of aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) was killed last week in an attack by government troops in Sudan’s Darfur region, MSF said, further highlighting the risks faced by humanitarian workers there.

A doctor from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF - Doctors without Borders) treats an orphan brought to the hospital by his surrogate mother (L) in October 2004 in Sudan. (AFP).

The killing brings to six the number of aid workers killed in the strife-torn region in last three months - four from Britain’s Save the Children charity and two from MSF.

In a statement released in Nairobi on Wednesday, MSF said its employee "was shot dead in front of the MSF warehouse in Labado town while off duty."

"According to reliable reports, the Sudanese aid worker was killed on December 17 during an attack led by government troops on Labado in south Darfur," it said.

MSF emergency coordinator Ton Koene said his organisation could still not account for another 29 of 38 of its national staff working in Labado, home to about 27,000 people and which has been the scene of clashes between government troops and rebels in recent days.

"Aid workers are increasingly at risk in Darfur. Several organisations have lost staff," the MSF statement said, urging "all parties to respect the neutrality of our organisation, our staff and the work we do."

On Tuesday Save the Children said it had withdrawn from Darfur after four of its workers were killed there in the past two months.

"We just cannot continue to expose our staff to the unacceptable risks they face as they go about their humanitarian duties in Darfur," Save the Children - UK Director General Mike Aaronson said in a statement.

The UN on Wednesday said it deeply regretted Save the Children’s decision.

"All parties to the conflict are responsible because they have failed to respect the ceasefire," the spokesperson for the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in the Sudan, Radhia Achouri, said.

UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that the killing of aid workers and the withdrawal of humanitarian groups could eventually worsen the situation on the ground.

"Such events will make the humanitarian community even more cautious and eventually worsen the situation by hampering the delivery of basic humanitarian goods to IDP’s," Roshan Khadivi, UNICEF’s spokesman for Darfur told AFP.

"The majority of NGO’s in Darfur work in partnership with UN agencies. If one of them pulls out, some of our programmes collapse and we have to look for other partners," Khadivi added.

"Both sides, especially the government, have made some efforts to facilitate humanitarian assistance. But all sides are also responsible for continued violations," Khadivi added.

Darfur has been embroiled in conflict since February last year, when rebels from the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) launched a revolt against Khartoum, claiming the Arab-led Islamic government in Khartoum had marginalised and persecuted the region’s black African tribes.

In a subsequent crackdown, pro-government militia, known as Janjaweed, have attacked black communities, murdering and raping tens of thousands of civilians and driving more than 1.6 million from their homes, according to United Nations estimates.

UN has described the scale of disaster in the resource-rich region, the size of France, as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

The southern Darfur town of Labado, where the MSF employee was slain, was the scene of a shooting attack at the weekend on a helicopter belonging to the African Union mission monitoring a ceasefire.

On several occasions, aid groups have complained of attacks by armed men on their vehicles — despite bearing identification symbols — looting of property and relief supplies.

More than 800 AU troops are currently in Darfur monitoring a shaky ceasefire that was signed in April this year.

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