ICC Arrest Warrant Repurcussions on Southern Sudan

[Warrap Town, Southern Sudan 45°C] Below is a podcast that was aired on Wednesday, March 25 on Amandla, a weekly Africa news and issues radio show on Montréal’s CKUT 90.3 FM.

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Here is the transcript of the audio report with a few added photos:

Exactly three weeks ago, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the President of Sudan, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur. Like many people in Sudan, I was glued to the television set to view the announcement. It was 4 p.m.

An anonymous blogger who worked for an international aid agency in Darfur wrote on AlertNet, that one hour after the announcement was made, his agency received a phone call. “The Government had revoked our licence and we must close all our programmes. No further explanation. First thing the next day we were told all international staff had to leave Darfur by 4 p.m.” They had to be out of the area exactly 24 hours after the ICC announcement.

According the the UN’s Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 13 International Agencies were expelled:
– Action contre la faim
– Solidarité
– Save the Children (UK & US)
– Medecins Sans Frontières (NL & FR)
– CARE International
– Oxfam (GB)
– Mercy Corps
– International Rescue Committee
– Norwegian Refugee Council
– CHF International
– PADCO
– And three Sudanese relief agencies were also closed.

The International Herald Tribune reported on March 21, that armed men looted Oxfam’s Darfur Warehouse, “stealing all of its contents.” While in Malual Kon, Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State where Mercy Corps has a compound, I learned that all of their equipment from their Darfur and Khartoum operations were seized since their expulsion: computers, communication radios, everything. Since their communication system was centred in Khartoum, they have had to reorganize their communication strategy for their activities in Southern Sudan.

Internews—which is an International NGO affiliated with Mercy Corps—coordinates Nhomlaau FM in Malual Kon. It has three other community radio stations in Southern Sudan. One of these is located in  Kurmuk, Blue Nile State, which is within the North/South transitional area. The radio station there was nearly closed along with Mercy Corps, but they managed to continue broadcasting by arguing their independence of the US-based NGO.

I’ve been travelling throughout Southern Sudan for the past four weeks and was recently in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal state, which shares its northern border with Southern Darfur. According to the IRIN News Network, Northern Bahr el-Ghazal is expecting an influx of Internally Displaced People (or IDPs) from Southern Darfur as conditions are expected to deteriorate as a result of the expulsion of the 16 NGOs. Although the report suggests that the UN and the Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission are “are preparing for potential inflows of Darfuris,”  their arrival will certainly put a strain on the area’s already scarce infrastructure.

IDPs returning to Northern Bahr el_Ghazal (courtesy IOM)

IDPs returning to Northern Bahr el_Ghazal in 2007 (courtesy IOM)

Since 2007, there has been a coordinated transport of hundreds of thousands of IDP returnees to Northern Bahr el-Ghazal from Southern Darfur and Khartoum. These people are returning to their homeland after being displaced during Sudan’s other civil war that ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. Many are returning to rural locations without access to sanitation, safe drinking water, clinics or schools.

According to the International Organization for Migration (or IOM), many villages in the area have had a rate of IDP Returnees as high as 80-90% of their pre-2007 population. 2007 is the year when organized returns of Internally displaced people began in earnest with the help of IOM and the government of Southern Sudan.

waterhole in War Faj, Northern Bahr el-Ghazal

waterhole in War Faj, Northern Bahr el-Ghazal

Access to safe drinking water is already in short supply throughout the state for those already living there. The influx of Darfuris could cause serious tensions at existing water sources and could lead to localized conflict. Waterborne infectious diseases, like cholera and meningitis, could become a serious problem.

To make matters worse, the rainy season is approaching. By the end of April, road travel will be become difficult and delivery of goods will be seriously impaired. Rain is a serious matter in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal and neighbouring states. During the 2008 rainy season the state experienced serious flooding. During my time in the area, I’ve driven past remnants of nearly half a dozen temporary camps where thousands were displaced to during last year’s flooding.

Flood Map of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal and Warrap States

Flood Map of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal and Warrap States (courtesy UNJLC, Juba)

A  March 1, 2009 report from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, writes, “The potential movement of 1.5 million displaced Darfur residents into Southern Sudan’s Northern and Western Bahr el-Ghazal states, due to disruptions in humanitarian assistance, presents a severe threat to food security in the two states.”

During a visit to Darfur four days after the ICC arrest warrant was issued President Al-Bashir said that his decision to expel the 16 NGOs from Darfur was “irreversible.” The position of the Khartoum government has not changed since, although they have vowed to replace the international NGOs with Sudanese agencies and end the need for aid in Darfur within the year. No clear solution is in sight.

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An interesting article about Fallout Scenarios as a result of the expulsion of 16 NGOs from Darfur can be found here.

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