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Sudan Aid Agency Expulsions Could Hamper North-South Relations

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Sudan Aid Agency Expulsions Could Hamper North-South Relations
By Derek Kilner
Nairobi
20 March 2009
The impact of the Sudanese government’s decision to expel 13
international aid organizations will be felt most immediately in Darfur,
where the U.N. says those organizations provided half of the
humanitarian operations, and where rebel groups have said they will not
continue negotiations with the government. But observers also fear that
the move could cause a deterioration in relations between the north and
south, where a fragile peace agreement has been in place since 2005.
Since 2005, Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party has been sharing
power in the national government with the Sudan People’s Liberation
Movement, or SPLM, former rebels who now control a semi-autonomous
region in the South. Cabinet positions, oil revenues, and other
resources are split between the two sides.
But when the Sudanese government earlier this month announced the
expulsion of 13 international aid organizations for passing information
to the International Criminal Court, which had just issued a warrant for
the arrest of President Omar al-Bashir, the SPLM was not consulted,
according to Southern Sudan’s information minister, Gabriel Changson
Chang.
“The decision to discontinue the activities of NGOs in Darfur or in
Northern Sudan was arrived at without coordinating with the government
of southern Sudan, so we are not party to that and we don’t know
anything about that,” he said.
The South has little reverence for the northern government. But the SPLM
has so far backed President Bashir in rejecting the ICC warrant.
Southern leaders see good relations with the President’s National
Congress Party as the best guarantee of the 2005 peace agreement, which
calls for national elections this year and a referendum on southern
secession in 2011.
But, observers fear that unilateral actions by the northern government,
such as the decision to expel the NGOs, may have upset the SPLM, which
has already complained that the northern government is not sharing oil
revenues evenly and is acting too slowly in implementing the peace
agreement.
The southern government continues to avoid public criticism of the
northern government on the ICC issue, but Gabriel Changson Chang says
the south has done little to conceal it’s displeasure with the
expulsions.
“Definitely there will be a negative impact, especially on humanitarian
services. If they are not there then definitely there will be a gap, a
gap that will not be filled by the local NGOs,” he said.
The agencies expelled from Darfur have been allowed to continue
operating in southern Sudan. But observers fear that areas along the
north-south border, whose control is still disputed, could prove
problematic.
The so-called “Three Areas”, of southern Kordofan, Abyei, and Blue Nile,
have long presented the trickiest challenges to north-south peace
efforts. Now there is a fear that disputes could arise over the rules
for allowing international NGOs to operate.
Hafiz Mohamed, who heads the Sudan program at Justice Africa in London
says that these areas, particularly Southern Kordofan, also known as the
Nuba Mountains, are particularly dependent on foreign aid.
“In the Nuba Mountains, specifically, it’s a big problem. In the area
which used to be controlled by SPLM in the Nuba Mountains, 100 percent
depend on these organizations especially medical treatment and also
education. Because there are no central government services there, they
are still relying on these organizations, and most of these
organizations have now been expelled,” he said.
He says SPLM officials are currently in discussions over how to react.
“I think the SPLM in the Nuba Mountains have to find a way out. They are
actually considering different options. And one of the options is to
start a system of giving them a license to work in the areas and then
they can actually channel their supplies through Lokichogio just like
they’d been doing before the signing of the peace agreement,” said
Mohamed.
The north-south agreement is already extremely fragile. The global
financial crisis and the drop in oil prices has had a severe impact on
Sudanese finances, particularly in the South. National elections are
currently scheduled for this summer, but few think that the country will
be ready to carry out a credible exercise by then. And the expulsion of
NGOs will add one more challenge

Written by torit1955

March 23, 2009 at 7:41 am

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