INGOs Expelled from Darfur: Time to Acknowledge the Smoking and Loaded Gun
Yes, nobody wants to see Darfuris in the IDP camps and elsewhere suffer needlessly. And that “nobody” also includes, yes, the Sudanese government – as noted by LA Times journalist Ed Sanders in his recent piece about the government’s – thwarted – efforts to ward off a meningitis outbreak and water-pump fuel shortage in Kalma Camp.
Yet, the INGOs and their vociferous supporters in the US and other Western governments, media, and academicians and, indeed, humanitarians themselves have continued to ignore the key reason behind the Sudanese government’s expulsion of thirteen NGOs (mostly international aid operators) from Darfur. Instead, they have moved (ducked?) smoothly into a predictable chorus of cat calls and gnashing of teeth at the Sudanese authorities in an attempt to “browbeat” the Sudanese government into letting the INGOs back into Darfur and carry on with “business as usual” (i.e the day before the announcement).
That’s wrong by the expelled INGOs and their supporters on two main counts.
First, as repeatedly noted by the Sudanese authorities, there are legitimate concerns – as noted in this terrific post recently by Neha Erasmus to be raised, and questions to be answered, about the overall ownnership and thrust of the international humanitarian intervention in Darfur – some five years on from that overwhelmingly successful response.
Nobody – and that should include self-dubbed friends of Darfur – should want to see a repeat in Darfur of UN Operational Lifeline in southern Sudan: a $20 billion food, basics and personal initiative-sapping international aid programme, which lasted for a ridiculous ten-plus years – with similarly little/no advocacy from international aid groups for both sides to sit down and end a pointless war – and whose negative impact on southern Sudanese seizing ownership over their own destiny is still even today all too clear to see.
In other words, a return to “business as usual” for the expelled INGOs and other international aid organisations in Darfur is, actually, in nobody’s interest – and that includes displaced Darfuris just existing in the camps.
Secondly, the expelled INGOs and their supporters in US and other Western governments, media etc have purposefully skirted over — and, in my mind, disingenuously — avoided answering the government’s explicit charge of whether there are any grounds for its claim that the INGOs expelled from Darfur have strayed way beyond both their own claimed humanitarian mandates and individual bilateral agreements signed with their host (the Sudanese government).
There’s no smoke without fire. And in the case of claims of the politicisation of international humanitarian operations in Darfur, it’s a pretty big and, in fact, very visible fire.
ICC Prosecutor Ocampo, despite his public denial, is clearly involved in a hasty, belated, damage (read expelled INGOs’ reputations/brands) limitation exercise. Many international staffers here in Darfur and Khartoum admit (privately) that some activists had/have infiltrated some international aid organisations working in Darfur (stress on “some” in both cases – hence reason why all INGOs in Darfur, i.e. majority were not expelled), and provided informational and testimonial assistance to the ICC – either directly or through “˜back-channels’ to the ICC such as supplying information (most likely poor quality as they are untrained for such a technically difficult task) to the likes of Eric Reeves, who was openly working with the ICC Prosecutor on the Bashir/Haroun/Kushayb indictments.
In fact, see this link from journalist Rob Crilly on the case of New Jersey pediatrician Jerry Ehrlich who worked for MSF in one of the Darfur IDP camps – likely Kalma – as an example.
Other activists within some INGOs (i.e. those that have been expelled) provided material assistance and moral succor to the rebel groups in Darfur, and so selfishly undermined the strictly humanitarian slant (and thus reputation – not just in Sudan but globally) of the INGOs in question.
Indeed, it turns out that the politicisation of humanitarian assistance in Darfur is not – as has been short-sightedly claimed by the Western media etc – a figment of imiganation of the Sudanese authorities. It is a fact. Indeed, we in Sudan saw it before during the North-South civil war, notably when Norwegian People’s Aid was censured by the Norwegian parliament in the mid-90s for gun-running for the SPLA (it had crates of rifles and guns hidden under stacks of bibles.)
Moreover, the ODI, the UK’s leading development think-tank, identified succinctly the worrying politicisation of humanitarian assistance in Darfur in a 2006 report, which noted:
“The role of advocacy in humanitarian action has given rise to debate about the politicization of humanitarianism, and concerns that greater engagement in advocacy undermines humanitarian principles and threatens humanitarian space… For many humanitarian agencies [in Darfur], public advocacy is partly seen as a way of maintaining profile. Darfur has become a priority for the media and communications departments of most humanitarian actors, and many have used advocacy not just to effect policy change, but also to gain exposure, not least for fundraising purposes.”
Similarly, here’s another, more recent, flashback from the ODIwhich also noted succinctly the huge problems and contradictions surrounding the politicization of international humanitarian assistance in Darfur.
A particularly striking finding of the second ODI report on the matter is the “˜flat lining’ of public advocacy by INGOs in conflicts in the Dem. Rep. of Congo, and Somalia compared to Darfur – with the latter two evidently worse and more protracted “protection crises” than that in the west of Sudan (using the INGOs own labeling of the Darfur conflict).
Put simply, the report lends strong credence to the view that from the get-go, INGOs, by spuriously dubbing Darfur as the “world’s first protection crisis” and, in turn, invoking the R2P mantra, have been indulging in a politicised, shallow campaign against the Sudanese government; after all if it’s just about protecting civilians from the effects of war, why haven’t those same INGOs issued a flurry of stand alone press release condemning rebel atrocities on civilians in Darfur or, likewise, why haven’t their sister counterparts in the DRC or Somalia issued a raft of protection-related press releases or missives?
The Sudanese government therefore has merely raised the legitimate question to the INGOs in Darfur – and has yet to receive an answer – why their sister agencies located in other, more troublesome or longer-term conflict zones around the world (e.g. DRC, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Colombia, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan) have not issued or publicized with great fanfare a slew of press releases or statements decrying international “diplomatic dithering” as, for example, Oxfam in Darfur did.
I believe in freedom; if anybody wants to be an activist on Darfur that’s their right. But use the correct silo for this: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Justice Africa etc. But don’t contaminate INGOs and their brand by indulging in shallow, politicised objectives as the activists did – that’s just morally wrong.
I’m a huge fan of INGOs generally – and what they have done in Darfur to stop hunger and provide the basics has been little short of miraculous. But I also know deep down that the indignation of international and Sudanese staff of the expelled INGOs (and sections of the international community) to the Sudanese government, while expected, should instead be directed towards the activists – i.e. their former (and in some cases current) international staff colleagues.
It was, after all, they who made the wrong – and selfish – judgment call on the belief that they were on some “˜higher mission’.
Surely, the international staffers who chose to pursue an activist agenda about the Darfur conflict, as opposed to a humanitarian one, must have realized that they would only serve to inflict heavy damage on the reputation of the INGOs if their activist activities were discovered by the Sudanese authorities.? They evidently did not care a hoot.
Then again, given the evident “˜Darfur protection-bias’ of global INGO operations and advocacy, it’s no small wonder that activists who infiltrated the expelled INGOs felt that their organisations would provide an atmosphere of moral succor – even if activist “˜interventions’ on behalf of the ICC or Darfur rebel groups ran counter to the official line of local INGO managers or the humanitarian mandate of the NGOs.
Members of the INGO community in Darfur who have continued to deny all knowledge of such activities in Darfur by renegade staff members, and paint the expulsions as merely a transparent retaliation against the recent ICC verdict and, in turn, are trying to brow-beat/intimidate the Sudanese government into allowing the expelled INGOs back into Darfur and carry on as “business as usual”, are certainly doing themselves, the reputation of INGOs, their profession and Darfuris themselves – no favours at all.
Ibrahim Adam, El Fasher, North Darfur
The main issue is not whether humanitarian affairs have been politicised or not, them main issue, why do have millions of people in Darfur who are displaced and totally dependant on hands out from charities. Darfuri are very hard working people able to feed themselves and other, why are they in this situation now it is politics. Politics which made them displaced, forced to leave their villages.
Some NGOs have their agenda but to brand all the NGOs community or the majority of them as purely pursuing their agenda and not to look after the people who in desperate need to their service is something I cannot accept.
Care International was working in Darfur since 1984 are they spying all that time and if that the case where is the authority.
NGOs play very important role nowadays not only in conflict areas, or the third world but in the reach countries always covering areas where they public sector cannot cover, and now they called them the Third Sector.
If we want to talk about politics within the NGOS sector , the most politicise NGOs sector in world is in Sudan I have met NGOs activists from the five continents, most of them have a very strict code of conduct in Sudan it is pure politics that why we have very weak NGOs sector and need very long time to be able to play a significant role in shaping the future of the country . I hope we have very strong and independent civil society sector that what Sudan desperately need.
What is desperately needed in Darfur now is to deliver the basic need to millions of IDPs which include food, clean water, medical services and other and I hope that is just a short term need and soon those people will be able to go back to their villages and resume their normal life again.
Dear Ibrahim Adam,
Many thanks for this impressive and interesting contribution.
I am no sympathizer with Beshir or with the regime in Khartoum, but I have been advocating from the beginning, in this forum and elsewhere, that we should tackle this issue of the aid agencies expulsion with some sort of rationality. Apparently, and despite our appreciation to certain level of the existence of some humanitarian concerns over the situation in Darfur, nonetheless, the reactions to the expulsions decision amount, in my view, to a public relations and pure political propaganda. There are so many ways in which the international community could address the matter in a more brave and positive way that could contribute directly to the alleviation of the suffering of the people of Darfur instead of transforming the issue into a confrontation tool with the regime in Khartoum for one reason or another. Some of these ways, is to address the allegations of the government in a professional way and to admit where they crossed the borders for “higher reasons”, to scale up the support Darfur to the the existing international and national aid agencies in Darfur without underestimating their roles and capacities.
Having witnessed the way in which Susan Rice handled the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict (1998-2000), I am a little bit concerned, if her recent remarks and attitude in the UN in reaction to the expulsion issue could really contribute bringing peace and stability in Sudan or in convincing Beshir to reverse his decision, it also made me wonder on her understanding of the underlying unique realities and socio-cultural issues in the Horn of Africa, that are responsible, to a great deal, in the way the leaderships in this region react to threats?
The expulsions decision, may or may not have some grounds, and I am not in anyway in a position or have the interest in defending it, however, my firm professional view is that, not only because it is becoming sexy – in terms of fund-ability, that aid agencies are bringing the demarcation between political advocacy – that could touch on issues of sovereignty and states’ national security – and humanitarianism into a blurry line, I guess the issue goes deeper into the evolutions of the post WWII cultural intercourse between the multiculturalism and the neo-racism derivatives of the humanitarian aid policies that are not only supportive to the new globalization, but also helped in portraying Northern/Western aid agencies, as the “Neo-Lawrence of Arabia” in his advance to resolve the complex emergencies of the troubled south , preparing it for its predetermined role of raw materials producer and recipient of consumer goods and democracy ideas and dreams; and to resolve the Norths’ own internal crisis and and triangle of “Terror, developmentalism, and Human Security” specifically with increasing tune following the 9/11 events.
Let us separate the ICC issues from the Humanitarian issue. Let us accept the fact that Luis Moreno Ocampo is a “Lawyer”, that he knows exactly what he is doing, and that it is unfair for us to ask him or the the ICC as a legal body to be a “politician” in the handling this matter and its timing. Let the confrontation between the ICC and the regime goes uninterrupted to its destined end, and let us focus our efforts and resources on the best ways to deliver our good-intentioned and genuine humanitarian support to the people of Darfur, and let the rest of the international community and the Sudanese see the best ways to bring peace and stability to the country.
I can only wonder about the fairness of your suggestions. Everything you mentioned here is debatable. But the fact remains the same; Sudanese govt. and not INGOs is responsible for mass killings, rape, crimes against humanity, displacement and the continuous suffering of millions of IDP’s and refugees.
Those “renegade” elements in the INGOs who collaborated with ICC and international media to expose the crimes of the regime in Sudan are not the ones who should be on trial; they made an ethical judgement call. The perpetrators are in fact the ones on trial, believe it or not. And the retaliation of the sudan govt. against ICC and the west was proved exactly what the ICC accusations were suugesting; that khartoum means harm in darfur.
I have no trouble imagining why individual staff members of some INGOs working in Darfur might have acted out of line with their organisation’s official policy – which is to be impartial. I can even imagine that there are INGOs with a more activist agenda that would not mind cooperating with the ICC.
I have no trouble imagining why the Government of Sudan might be weary of INGOs cooperating in one with or another with the ICC. The ICC itself considers NGOs as an important partner in factfinding, contacting victims and creating awareness about the ICC.
However: if the Sudanese Government had been aware of any illegal activities by (members of) any INGOs, it should have acted on learning about these activities; it should have confronted the organisation concerned immediately and it should have taken the appropriate steps in dealing with such instances as stipulated in the regulations governing INGO activities in Sudan.
What it did now – expelling a good dozen INGOs at once on the accusation of spying for the ICC – is a childish, irresponsible and rather obvious act of retaliation for the indictement of President el Beshir. The accusation against the INGOs have not been substantiated by the Gvernment of Sudan with any evidence, and yet here you are, more than willing to publicly go along with this blaming game. Amazing.
Adam conflates two issues here. One is the question of whether NGOs passed information to the ICC. The other is the question of NGO advocacy more broadly, and whether such advocacy – i.e. speaking out about the situation in Darfur, or lobbying international powers to take action – violates their humanitarian mission.
As for the first, it seems the best evidence Adam can muster is the story of one volunteer doctor who worked with MSF, and who passed on children’s drawings of conflict and atrocities, as well as two broad statements from ODI about the “politicization” of humanitarian aid.
Not quite enough to support sweeping generalizations about activist infiltration of NGOs, or that NGOs provided support to rebel movements.
More evidence would be useful.
One of Adam’s greatest complaint seems to be that NGOs were far more outspoken about atrocities in Darfur than in, say, Congo or Somalia or Sri Lanka.
Which leads to the second, more problematic issue – where should NGOs draw the line in terms of advocacy? I wish I had an answer. Would love to hear anyone’s thoughts.
It seems many bloggers / commentators are keen to talk on the politics of aid agencies and humanitarian intervention, especially in regard to the expulsion of NGOs from Sudan.
In this blog, there are some key points that have been conveniently over-looked by the author.
At the heart of his piece is the presumption the NGOs have been expelled for cooperating with the ICC. Though the media has been full of accusations, commentators opinions and political rhetoric, the government of Sudan has not given official and specific clarity as to the reasons for expulsion to the NGOs, only stipulating the NGOs have acted outside their various mandates.
Of course it is an obvious point that should the government of Sudan officially accuse the NGOs of providing information to the ICC, when the outcome of information gathered, which would then according to accusations include that of ground present NGOs, has led to the indictment of the President, it would effectively be an admission of guilt. It is for this reason why the more savvy Sudanese officials are stating in the press that the expelled NGOs were fabricating information and passing it on to the ICC. The public accusations against the NGOs are of a bizarre conspiratorial nature, as is often the case with the NCP government, while the official communication to the NGOs remains typically unclear.
As is often the case with Sudan and commentary on Sudan, the devil is lost in the details.
The author also notes, “the expelled INGOs and their supporters in US and other Western governments, media etc have purposefully skirted over â€” and, in my mind, disingenuously â€” avoided answering the governmentâ€™s explicit charge of whether there are any grounds for its claim that the INGOs expelled from Darfur have strayed way beyond both their own claimed humanitarian mandates and individual bilateral agreements signed with their host (the Sudanese government).” In fact, the author is simply uninformed about how NGOs are going about managing expulsion from Sudan.
Some NGOs are going through the process of appealing against the decision, others have been told not to by the agencies government of Sudan so to open the opportunity of returning to Darfur at a later date. NGOs have also communicated to government of Sudan agencies that they do not accept they have acted outside their mandates. (Note: just because it is not in the press it does not mean it does not exist).
It is also of note that the expulsion is not yet complete with international staff from expelled NGOs still in Sudan, and of course thousands of national staff at risk of harm should the NGOs publicly criticize the decision by stating the government has falsely accused the expelled NGOs.
Sadly it seems some bloggers/commentators enter into politics and drag others in with them without sufficient knowledge of the modus operandi of other actors. In this case, the author has dragged NGOs into politics in much the same way as did the government of Sudan with the expulsion and accusing them of acting outside their mandates.
The following should be clear for the author and for readers of such blogs.
The goal of NGOs is not point scoring. It is not to show the government of Sudan they were wrong. It is not to publicly demonstrate the government of Sudan has targeted specific NGOs as a way of undermining the humanitarian effort in Darfur, or retaliating against international governments which have supported the ICC (specifically France, the UK and the US â€“ note: most of the NGOs expelled are from these countries â€“ the others are Norway and Holland), or buying political negotiation leverage (e.g. Sudan makes an agreement on allowing aid to be implemented in â€˜xâ€™ location in exchange for UN backing off on protection issues).
Though by no means perfectly executed, the goal of NGOs is to access and provide aid to people who need it. It is simply defamatory to say otherwise.
Sudan has put the NGOs, donors and the UN in an extremely difficult position for years. The government has exchanged silence for intervention, made NGOs provide services (which should be a sovereign responsibility) in exchange for access to the vulnerable populations, targeted and maligned by the government.
The author would be well advised to read more about the complications of aid especially in complicated environments such as Darfur. He may also be advised to research better the modality of the expulsion and the real understanding with even the Sudanese security services that off the record recognize the decision to expel the NGOs was a political decision and an opportunistic decision (in the context of re shaping humanitarian presence in Darfur) and not one based on suspicion in regard to NGOs acting outside their mandates.
As the author references smoke I will do the same.
The smoke present in this blog is hiding real issues that should be being discussed in relation to Sudan and the ICC.
Perhaps unintentionally the smoke was created by lack-lustre author knowledge and research, and too swift a desire to raise a naively perceived valid point which is in fact flawed at its very foundations.
A great post… but I think conflating two things.
First, the role of humanitarian relief in maintaining populations in a miserable high-dependency low-welfare equilibrium. This is a generic problem with serious ‘agency’ issues: how strong is WFP’s incentive to find ways to stop feeding? Why is aid delivered as food (a ‘fiscal sedative’ to local markets) not as purchasing power? What is the right exit strategy from major relief operations? These are uncomfortable questions for which there are few convincing answers.
Second, the conduct of NGOs regarding the arrest warrant for Bashir and their own subsequent expulsion from Sudan. Here the NGOs have been political – but in self-serving and damaging way. I don’t think that the apolitical humanitarian space exists outside the imagination of idealists. The question is always how the politics are played – for the benefit or to thye detriment of the people the NGOs are supposed to be helping. Here the NGOs bear some real guilt – they all recognised and bolstered the iconic status of the Darfur conflict and have and generally taken hard line advocacy positions on the regime and even encouraged the idea that the crisis of 2003-4 continues today – all with an eye on public opinion in US and Europe. The truth is that those really concerned about the future of Sudan would have given paramount importance to the peace processes – and especially the CPA. To any informed observer, the Bashir warrant should have rung a loud alarm bell in that it threatened to destabilise Sudan (and still does). The option of an Article 16 deferral was available and could have averted the crisis we now face. Yet the reaction of NGOs was either to cheer on the prosecutor or to remain mute, not wishing to side with an uncomfortable yet necessary compromise between peace and justice.
The NGOs never created the politics that would have forced the P3 of the Security Council to face their responsibilities to recognise that the ICC’s SC-sponsored pursuit of justice for Darfur could destroy the SC-sponsored pursuit of peace in Sudan. As it is they have ducked it and are keeping their heads down while the situation deteriorates in Sudan. The normal role of NGOs is to call out these failures and make the right things happen – but that hasn’t happened, and it is a major failure.
Dear Nanne and Michael:
“Broad statements by ODI?” Would hardly call them friends of the Sudanese government, and just underlines that it’s not gov delusions about the evident politicisation of humanitarian aid in Darfur.
Indeed, Michael, I note that you were not able to answer my simple question about the inversely disproportionate level (let alone tone of agression) of advocacy by INGOs in Darfur compared to other conflict zones. That’s surely the kernel about the politicisation discourse re Darfur.
I happen to have seen the evidence about the politicisation of humanitarian activities by the activists within the INGOs (both those involving materially or morally aiding Darfuri rebel groups and the ICC; I, to quote a phrase, “begged, borrowed and stole” to get my hands on it.
I thank God that the Sud govt has chosen (so far) NOT to publish it, as in this current climate it could easily provoke some retaliation against Westerners by radicals. I’m keeping the names of the INGOs out as I don’t want to embarass them; those that work in them will be familiar with the incidents.
To the skinny; here’s a few (there’s lots more) to add to the MSF example:
1) An ‘international’ in an INGO arranging the transportation of 30 oil barrels, which were moments later found full to the brim with fuel on their way to a Darfur rebel group. International was expelled and hushed up with support from home-country embassy.
2) An ‘international’ in an INGO caught buying telephone charge-cards and supplying cell phones to Darfuri rebels.
3) Numerous false reports of govt bombings or assaults in Darfur (all factually disapproved), with apologies subsequently issued to the Sud Govt and SAF for the allegations (which begs the question, especially about the bombings, why the allegations were made in first place)
4) INGO produces report about claimed rapes by members of SAF; report legally challenged by Sud Govt; INGO fails to substantiate claims; Sudanese workers in INGO suggest report was made-up and/or purposefully and unscientifically inflated by international ‘activists’ in group.
5) A couple of INGOs assisting in the transportation of alleged victims to testify to the ICC.
6) An ‘international’ in an INGO proactively communicating with Darfur rebels in a nearby ‘spoiler’ country – hardly necessary for an issue of access even if INGO was operating in rebel area.
El Fasher, North Darfur
Let those who care about the people of Darfur stop challenging Ibrahim and others to produce smoking gun evidence for NGOs that passed evidence to the ICC! Enough damage has been done. If he (or for that matter, if the National Intelligence and Security Service) produces any firm evidence it will just inflame the already dangerous situation further and provide ample reason for additional measures against NGOs and their staff both foreign and Sudanese nationals. For the good of our long-suffering people let the curtain fall on this discussion.
I agree with Nanne here: even if there were a few NGO violations,it was unfair for Bashir to kick all of them out. Now how do you expect the people who are suffering to get help?
Ibrahim: fascinating stuff. I was particularly drawn to points 3 and 4 in your list above:
“3) Numerous false reports of govt bombings or assaults in Darfur (all factually disapproved), with apologies subsequently issued to the Sud Govt and SAF for the allegations (which begs the question, especially about the bombings, why the allegations were made in first place)”
“4) INGO produces report about claimed rapes by members of SAF; report legally challenged by Sud Govt; INGO fails to substantiate claims; Sudanese workers in INGO suggest report was made-up and/or purposefully and unscientifically inflated by international â€˜activistsâ€™ in group.”
You say that you’re keeping the names of international NGOs out of this for their own protection, but both of these points suggest that the INGOs in question made public statements that they were later forced to retract. If that is indeed the case, then I’d be interested to know which NGOs and which reports you’re referring to, and why you assume the intent was malicious rather than the result of the fog of war – unless you’re claiming that the Sudanese government has never bombed villages and SAF members have never committed rape?
As to the “disproportionate level… of advocacy by INGOs in Darfur compared to other conflict zones” – what’s your basis for judging it disproportionate? What would you judge a “proportionate” level of advocacy for a situation that was called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis?
The following blog posting captures the dilemmas of Kalma today:
I think Ibrahim has raised some important points.You are of course rightt to challenge his points.However,the real issue now,is after the ICC arrest warrant,what else?Would the arrest of General Bashir ,in itself,put an end to the war,hence an end to the tragic human situation in Dar Fur ,to the satisfaction of the NGOs and the “International Community”.
As for the NGOs in Dar Fur,I propose to you.and to Alex and other genuine and concerned activists,that we launch our independent investigation of the activities of those NGOs,not for the sake of Sudan or General Bashir,but for the sake of the future of ant other humanitarian action,in other places of the world.Incidentally i happened to have worked in Dar Fur,and have come across things,that may surprise you.
The only solution for all this mess is a take over of Darfur by the UN, like what happened to Kosovo, than an independent Darfur and independent South Sudan and than may be peace will occur.
Dear David – the arrest of Bashir will not put an end to the conflict, but nobody has ever claimed it would. Will it worsen the conflict? I don’t feel able to make that case – you may wish to. The problems of Darfur go much deeper than the current conflict, and require a much longer-term vision for the future of the entire country and region. Unfortunately the current Sudanese government does not possess that vision.
Nothing that you’ve come across in Darfur would surprise me. I have no problems with evaluating NGO activities to see just how effective they are at meeting beneficiary needs, but that’s not what the Sudanese government has done. What they have done is used those NGOs as a smokescreen and a scapegoat. That’s why I asked Ibrahim for specific examples of NGO wrong-doing, but what I really want to see is specific examples of the sort of wrong-doing that they are accused of by the Sudanese government.
Thanks much for your reply , and was wondering if you’d like to write a guest post on Humanitarian Relief — the site, not surprisingly, is somewhat biased in favor of NGOs (mostly because I’m biased in favor of NGOs), and a dissenting voice should spark some interesting debate. If you’re at all interested, please drop me a line at [email protected],
Thank you very much.Indeed so far,the arrest warrant,seems to have complicated things in Dar Fur.The pronouncements of some Leaders of the Rebel Movements,notably Khalil Ibrahim of JEM and Abdel Wahid Mohamed Nur of the SLA.The AU/UN Joint Mediator,Djibril Bassole,told the UN Security Council,that the warrane made some parties harden their positions.You are no doubt aware that JEM already announced that it would suspend it’s participation in the Qatar sponsered talks in Doha,though conditioned participation on the return of the expelled NGOs.One can hardly see the relation between the Peace Talks and the return of specific NGOs.Mr.Jan Pronk,the former UN Special Reperesentative to Sudan,was among those who criticized the ICC’s ruling.
As for the NGOs,i think Ibrahim has given some examples and you may also wish to read”flash from the ODI report”,the link in his article.
I have read the statement of the SLA/Abdel Wahid Office in Israel,where the movement is commending some NGOs for their work in gathering evidence to the ICC.
I also know that some NGOs have been criticised for providing assistance to selective camps,and not to villages that also need assistance,thus forcing the people of those villages to move into camps(like camps across the border in Chad).
If i proposed an independent,objective assesment of INGOs activities,it is because there seems to be a lot of politicised activists who found their way to some NGOs and who may be doing more harm than good to a noble cause,
Ibrahim Adam, many thanks for your interesting article.
I am phd student, not an aid worker but I am often surrounded by them here in Khartoum and I appreciate that indignation and frustration can sometimes cloud their perspective of the issue.
When it comes to Darfur, everyone has a partial “embedded” view of what happens and no-one is immune to this. Those that interpret the events from London or Washington are able to look at things more theoretically (but perhaps too idealistically) whereas those on the ground might let their emotions get the better of them, but at the same time, they do not know what they are talking about when it comes to the immediate situation… It is important to listen to both perspectives.
The point I want to try and make is that the expulsion might not have been as well planned as people like to present. I am not sure it should be interpreted as a well thought-out coherent response based on concrete evidence. I think it just built momentum and lost control. And then it became too late for the government to contract its decisions.
From what I have heard from a lot of NGO staff in Khartoum, it seems that the government let their response get out of hand. At first, they were only going to expel these groups from Darfur. Indeed many government agencies outside of Khartoum were completely unprepared for the announcement, especially those in transitional areas. In some areas, the groups have not been expelled because of CPA considerations. There is still bargaining going on there. It seems strange that the government would not prepare its representatives for such a huge change. Perhaps they wanted to keep it “secret” to create more of a big announcement? But that points to the fact that this is more about PR and not about malpractice.
I do not doubt that some individuals might have lost sight of their organizations guidelines in attempt to follow a higher mission, but at the same time, I think we need to consider the size and notoriety of the expelled groups. It makes me exceedingly suspicious that all the “big boys” were kicked out. What role did assets play in their expulsion? What role did their “big names” play in terms of government PR? A couple of NGOs were hastily added to the list after the first announcement. One friend thinks his was added because of their organizations’ assets. The government has yet to formally charge them with ANYTHING.
I think that in some ways you are right in saying that international aid has become a bit of a neo-lawrence of arabia mission (this line made me chuckle). Charity always comes with ideology. One cannot criticize Saudi/wahabi charity and influence in Egypt without also thinking critically about what ideology western NGOs try to bring to Sudan. My own view is that religion and politics should be kept to a minimum when it comes to aid. So of course, having huge western organizations working in Sudan is in no way ideal. Of course, Sudanese NGOs should be given support to do things for themselves. For example, I hope that the internet may make it possible for such smaller NGOs to garner financial support for their activities… inshallah!
At the same time, most of the staff of the expelled groups were Sudanese. Oxfam says 90% of its staff were Sudanese. I have been told that MSF was in some ways primarily there to pay Sudanese health staff in Darfur. They trained them for years to respond to complex emergencies but at this point in the conflict, they were mostly just employees of Sudanese doctors and nurses.
I think that everyone can learn from this crisis. NGOs should make sure that their staff do not take liberties; they are there to do a job and in order to do that job, they must resist the temptation to succumb to their emotions or politics. It is easy to forget how sensitive the situation is. It is easy to forget what is at stake. This should refresh everyone’e memories.
I think that Ocambo and all the other lawyers out there should realize that politics do matter. They are not politicians, they are lawyers, that is true but everyone could use a little PR in the way that they present themselves. To me, the fact that a Sudanese election is coming up is important. This seems like a real blow to the election- taking away any kind of legitimacy before preparations have even begun.
I read on Alex de Waal’s blog that he tried to warn Bashir and other politicians about last year’s ICC announcement before it happened to allow them time to “cool off” before they responded. I think this is extremely important! It is hard for politicians to back off once they have made an announcement.
In some ways, the events of the last two weeks should be read as a tragedy of pride.
firstly Anonymous in Darfur supports Ibrahims point about the infiltration of actavists in aid groups in Darfur,because I am guessing this person is anonymous because his or her position doesnt allow the involvment in actavism,this person aknowledges that some aid workers have exceeded their agreed mandate and violated their terms of operation in Darfur.Some aid workers/actavists come with entrenched views about darfur and sudan which they are unwilling or unable to reconcile with fact.The reason why conflicts like somalia or congo do not get the same attention because they are worth nothing politically,there is no desire to manipulate these conflicts because there is no desire for regime change in either of these countries(infact somalia had its first stable goverment in 20 years ousted at the beheast of the US because they thought it was a little too islamic for their liking a year ago).The US has always villanised its enemies,neo conservatives often refer to irans government as a genocidal regime,even though iran has never persecuted any of its ethnic minorities.After the expeltion the media was on high alert to anything that might prove that this would have an adverse affect,and a week later there was a report that two people in darfur might have died from menengitas maybe due to the fact that some aid agencies were expelled,of course every major news outlet jumped on the story,at the same time another story that 750 people in south sudan had been killed due to tribal fighting,the response by the media was anemic to this story because it serves no political purpose,the south is governed by the splm the only person you can blame is the splm a US alley.The US does not accept any country that is willing to confront it,and sudan has done more then its fair share of confronting,the US has ousted a government in every single south american state invaded dozens of countries,collapsed economies through sanctions,but yet after beeing bombed,sanctioned,villanised sudan still remains. sanctions against sudan have been around way before Darfur,when the US set up the organization of countries against islamic extremism in east africa(a group made up of sudans neighbouring states to monitor sudans government,the group has since collapsed)there was no case of Darfur when the US put us on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism there was no case of Darfur,when the us bombed a pharmaceutical plant that provided 50% of the nations medecine there was no case of Darfur,the attempt to villanise sudan over Darfur is an new strategy of an old game,because unlike the south, Darfur is hardly a ethnic conflict it is primaraly a political one khalil ibrahim of JEM himself was a member of the government but only decided to feel for the plight of Darfur after he lost his possition of power.most Darfuris do not support the rebels to most they are not freedom fighters but bandits and the Ironic thing is that al bashirs party will likely come second in elections in Darfur after the ummah party which has a traditional base in darfur.
so we might be painted as paranoid sudanese in to conspiracy theories,but I will remind you that those who believed that a picture of a truck somewhere in Iraq was not enough evidence to prove a nuclear programme where branded as paranoid, they were proven right through a devastating US invasion. I would rather be branded as paranoid then be proven right.
You are simply wrong. While I don’t think Iran should be villainized; they have in fact persecuted ethnic groups in their country; Iranian Arabs. I know this because my friend’s family was forced to leave the country and years lateer, her father was taken in Syria and deported back to Iran despite the fact this is illegal. They don’t know what happened to him..
I think that Iran and Sudan have the same problem; wonderful people, terrible governments but the main difference is that Sudan is not as important as Iran strategically for the US. Iran is.. The focus on Darfur primarily comes from lobbying from people, who for better or worse, seem to care. The ICC isn’t even an American thing.
Like you said anonymouse the US rejects the ICC for it self but when its prosecuting its enemies then so called justice must prevail does this not reek of hypocracey to you?
What Sudan and Iran share in common is that theyre governments both oppose America and for that they have both been branded as genocidal regimes by the bush administration,regardless of the fact that Iran didnt have a conflict.The US is manipulating sudan like it manipulated iraq the whole of south america and parts of asia simply for regime change,the fact is that the “home of the free” isnt to extatic about freedom when it comes to others,you either join the “civillised world” meaning submit to the US or be ousted.
Ibrahim, were you referring to something like this: http://www.allthingspass.com/uploads/html-264THE%20WINTER%20OF%20BASHIRS%20DISCONTENT.htm
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