Ban: aid workers’ expulsion from Sudan impeding peacekeeping, relief efforts

The expulsion of humanitarian and human rights agencies from Sudan following the issuance of an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president for war crimes is thwarting the United Nations’ efforts in peacekeeping and humanitarian aid, Secretary-General Ban K-moon says.
The UN News Service says Ban characterised the Government`s decision to eject 16 humanitarian and human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs), following the indictment on 4 March of President Omar Al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC), as an “extremely negative” development.
“While joint United Nations-Government of the Sudan efforts can address some of the most critical gaps in aid delivery in the coming weeks, the cumulative effects over time of the removal of such a large amount of humanitarian capacity puts well over 1 million people at life-threatening risk,” he wrote in his latest report to the Security Council on the deployment of the hybrid UN-African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in the war-torn Darfur region.
The start of the rainy season next month could exacerbate the already dire situation, he added.
The Secretary-General called on authorities to urgently “re-establish an atmosphere of trust and mutual confidence with the humanitarian community,” stressing the importance of cooperation to fill the most immediate gaps.
The impact of the expulsions on the work of the UN-AU mission, known as UNAMID, cannot be underestimated, he said. “A significant disruption in the provision of humanitarian assistance will almost certainly lead to a serious heightening of tensions among internally displaced persons [IDPs], particularly in the larger camps for the displaced.”
As a result, the risk of violence could rise, complicating UNAMID`s ability to carry out its protection mandate, Ban underlined.
He also voiced concern over continued insecurity – including clashes between Government forces and armed groups, the recurrence of tribal fighting and the build-up of troops along the Chad-Sudan border – which has impeded the mission`s ability to visit locations to assess the impact of bombardments on civilians.
The Secretary-General wrote that the security of UN and associated personnel is also a critical issue, with vehicle hijackings and compound invasions growing increasingly deliberate in nature.
“The latest security developments highlight, once again, the fundamental challenges that UNAMID continues to face while operating in an environment where the parties show no intent to give up the use of force, and further underscore the urgent need for a comprehensive settlement to the Darfur crisis,” he said.
An estimated 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and another 2.7 million have been forced from their homes since fighting erupted in 2003, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.
In spite of the challenges UNAMID faces, Ban said that the mission has “been able to make a difference on the ground.”
But the report called on Member States to provide critical equipment, especially military helicopters, to increase UNAMID`s mobility and operational impact.