Sudanese NGO in Darfur targeted following Peace and Security Council meeting: time to rethink AU strategy

(KAMPALA, March 25, 2006) It has now been over ten days since Sudan ordered the closure of two field offices of the leading Sudanese humanitarian and development organisation, SUDO—just one day after the African Union reaffirmed its strategy in the region.

In shutting down all of the agency’s operations in West Darfur, the authorities also forced the handing over of assets and property and the freezing of bank accounts.

“Destroying SUDO’s capacity to provide crucial humanitarian services in the context of huge and growing need in West Darfur is impossible to comprehend,” said Dismas Nkunda, spokesperson for the Darfur Consortium.

“Before the summary actions of the authorities, SUDO’s essential food distribution and health and nutrition units in West Darfur were reaching over 30,000 people. This action can only be interpreted as an attack on the most vulnerable of Sudan’s citizens,” Mr. Nkunda said.

The Darfur Consortium calls on the Government of Sudan to indicate as a matter of urgency how it intends to take up the shortfall in food and health services created by the seizure of SUDO.

Last week the UN Secretary General told the UN Security Council that in West Darfur international and national aid workers were coming under increasing attack and that the agency had been forced to cut staff levels, restrict movement, and reduce food rations.

“It is hard to imagine how the closure can be justified legally or morally in such an acute humanitarian situation,” stated Mr. Nkunda.

It is understood that the basis for the closure was cited as the “Organisation of Humanitarian and Voluntary Work Act,” a piece of legislation which was recently passed by the Sudanese parliament.

SUDO is one of the largest and most respected indigenous humanitarian and development agencies in Sudan. It provides not only critical humanitarian care in Darfur but educational, cultural and development programs through local offices right across Sudan.

“It is vital that the African Union (AU) intervene immediately to ensure the reversal of this decision,” urged Mr. Nkunda.

“The African Union has pledged that the continuation of its leadership role in Darfur would not result in lesser protection for Darfurians. In particular, in rejecting an early transition to the UN it put its faith in the will of the Government of Sudan and other States in the region to see ‘African solutions for African problems.’ This action, coming just one day after the AU Peace and Security Council met in Addis Ababa calls this good will into question. And the people of Darfur are suffering as a result.”