Expulsion of UN humanitarian official from South Darfur sparks concern
Preliminary reports indicate that Wael al-Haj-Ibrahim, the head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan, has not been rendered persona non grata by the national Government, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters yesterday.
Rather, he has been forced to leave South Darfur under a directive from the State Governor, and the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ameerah Haq has taken up the issue with the authorities in Khartoum, the national capital.
Ms. Okabe said the UN was extremely concerned about the potential ramification of the expulsion decision, especially given that it violated the letter and spirit of the Joint Communiqué on the Facilitation of Humanitarian Assistance in Darfur that was signed earlier this year by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
OCHA is extremely active in South Darfur – one of three states that comprise the war-torn Darfur region – and works with the Sudanese Government, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and donors to assist up to one million internally displaced persons (IDPs).
In total, more than 2.2 million Darfurians are now displaced because of the conflict there between rebels, Government forces and allied militias. Another 200,000 people have been killed since fighting began in 2003, and the UN and the African Union are in the process of deploying a landmark hybrid peacekeeping force (UNAMID) to try to quell the violence and suffering.
Meanwhile, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees L. Craig Johnstone has arrived in West Darfur state for a four-day mission to review the agency’s operations. Mr. Johnstone plans to visit IDP settlements to obtain a first-hand understanding of the situation across the vast region.