Sudan Worse?

Darfur Refugees

Darfur Refugees

I wrote to a friend who has on the ground experience in Darfur to see if he had any insight on the al-Bashir warrant from the ICC and how it will affect NGOs on the ground. I asked 4 major questions:

1) With the International Criminal Court issuing an arrest warrant for Omar Hassan al-Bashir, do you think there will be backlash for NGOs and humanitarians?

2) Will Sudan become more beligerant and extreme in its policies overall?

3) With the UN behind the ICC do you think that China, in order to avoid accusations of contact with a “war criminal”, will divest its interests more?

4) Is this a step in the right direction? If you think it’ll hurt more than help, do you think it is good to set a norm of enforcement for those that need to be held responsible?

To which he replied hastily:

First, I just got off the phone with my friend X.  We worked together in Darfur and in Khartoum with a small NGO. He later stayed on and is still with the X NGO. He was part of the 10 NGOs kicked out yesterday and now seven more added to the list today. They took over his office and confiscated all his stuff including some personal things like his laptop and photos, etc. So to answer the first question- yes, there will be a enormous backlash to the international community starting with NGOs.

Second, the ramifications are huge. Why?  Lots of money will be lost in this process. When NGOs are asked to leave in 48hours, bank accounts are taken over, property, cars, etc and overall investments disappear. Second, while the UN may stay as the 800lb gorilla that it is, they do not implement programs or development as much as you would think; that has always been the job of NGOs in the field. This is related to your other question Jaime- this is a sign of more draconian impositions that Sudan is taking on efforts to assist the people not only in Darfur but the south. I’ve been asked to consider a job in Sudan but I’m very hesitant now. The reasons why Bashir is wanted is the same reasons for which throwing out the NGOs will be scrutinized- he is not protecting or assisting his people to combat war and poverty.

As for China, this is a relationship of mutual interest and the interest is money. China has already troops pledged with the UN in Sudan to help augment the peace effort; however, politically, China is a friend to Sudan and until the African Union makes a statement condemning Sudan or calling for the resignation of Pres. Bashir, I think you will have a hard time seeing that China will take a stronger public change on their position. The internal special envoys however may be at work now to see how to diffuse part of the situation there.

So there you have it. Some inside knowledge from a friend heavily engaged in this issue. Anonymity is important since the regime consistengly cracks down on outsiders, seriously hampering NGO assistance.

UPDATE: Another email regarding what’s going on added this:

….in the last 48hours, HAC and the police have not only expelled them [NGO workers] but confiscated all his [a fellow NGO worker’s] stuff, including personal photos, etc. They PNG’d [persona non grata’d] him and all the NRC expats. 10 NGOs yesterday and 7 more today including CARE, Save the Children, etc. The bigger NGOs are out. He’s flying out tonight from Khartoum…. There are more NGOs I guess getting ready for their notice to leave. He only got 48 hours to exit the country or they said they would have to arrest him….

A very stressful moment for aid workers there.

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~ by The Common Man on March 5, 2009.

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