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Sudan expels French aid group from South Darfur

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

February 14, 2011 (KHARTOUM) — State authorities in the troubled South Darfur region expelled Monday a French aid group accusing them of supporting rebels from the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) led by Abel Wahid Al-Nur.

Médecins du Monde (MDM), which has worked in Jebel Marra since 2008, announced in a press statement last week the evacuation of its staff members from Kidingir and Leiba on 11 February, citing heavy fighting in the areas between the Sudanese army and SLM rebels.

The group that provides maternal and child primary health care to the local population expressed fears that the increasing violence in the mountainous region since last December would force more civilians to flee the region. It also said it was concerned by the difficulty they faced in attempting to access civilians affected by the attacks.

Speaking in a press conference held at the premises of South Darfur government in Nyala, Governor Abdel Hamid Moussa Kasha accused the MDM of sharing intelligence with the rebels saying they had given indications of the movements of the Sudanese army to the SLM-AW rebels.

Kasha further said MDM releases false written and electronic reports about rape in the region, and provides the rebels with satellite telephones and medication. He accused also the French group of transporting four tons of expired medicines to Eastern Jebel Marra through the joint African Union – United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in coordination with UNICEF.

Since last November, the Sudanese army has intensified attacks on the positions of the SLM-AW, which is not part in the peace process in Doha.

Following an arrest warrant in March 2009 by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes, Sudan expelled 13 humanitarian groups working in Darfur among internal condemnation.

The Sudanese government says it is determined to end the conflict in Darfur before next July and President Bashir said recently the region would be “clean” from rebel groups. However, as the international focus is shifted to the South Sudan secession few voices express concerns on the growing violence in Darfur.

Aid workers in Darfur told Reuters that Sudanese authorities are now targeting staff members individually and sometimes force them to quit the region rather than expelling the groups working there.

Last January West Darfur authorities ordered some members of the U.S. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to leave the region saying their life was in danger because they are accused of distributing bibles.

(ST)

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