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Amnesty, SERAP, others task Yar’Adua over expulsion of aid agencies from Darfur

April 7, 2009

Amnesty International and 12 Nigerian civil society groups have told President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua that “now is the time to take strong position on Sudan over the expulsion of humanitarian aid agencies from Darfur and attacks against human rights defenders by the government of Sudan, if millions of people in Darfur are not to die of hunger and disease in the region.”


The Nigerian groups included Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP), Access to Justice, Alliances for Africa, Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS), Partnership for Justice (PJ), West African Bar Association (WABA), and Women's Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON). 

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At a press conference in Lagos on Wednesday 8 April 2009, addressed on behalf of the groups by Adetokunbo Mumuni, Executive Director of Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP), the groups stated that “The government of President Yar’Adua has not demonstrated the required leadership and authority to put pressure on the Sudanese authorities to allow expelled aid organizations to resume their operations in Darfur. This is unacceptable, especially given Nigeria’s role and contribution to the African Union (AU) and its contribution of troops to Darfur.”



The groups also stated that “The government of Sudan continues to harass and intimidate human rights defenders and staff of national and international aid and human rights organizations. The government has shut down the operations of 13 international and 3 national aid organizations, following the issuance by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of arrest warrant against President Omer al Bashir of Sudan. The government is punishing its own people in retaliation against the arrest warrant. The most vulnerable in society---women, children, the elderly and the infirm---are the ultimate victims of the government of Sudan’s decision to expel aid organizations from Darfur.”


The UN estimates that some 4.7 million people will be affected by the decision of the government of Sudan. More than 300, 000 people have so far died from the conflict and some 2.7 million people have been displaced.
The aid agencies expelled from Darfur include Action Contre la Faim (ACF), CARE International, Cooperative Housing Foundation (CHF), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Médecins Sans Frontières France (MSF-F), Médecins Sans Frontières Holland (MSF-H), Mercy Corps, and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Others are Oxfam Great Britain, PADCO, and Save the Children. The affected local organizations are Khartoum Centre for Human Rights, Sudanese Social Development Organisation SUDO, and AMAL Centre. 

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“The aid organizations have been in Darfur since 2003 and have been providing water, food, shelter and medicines to the people of Darfur because the government was unable to provide these essential supplies,” the groups added.
The groups also said that “The closing down of aid organizations by the government of Sudan and the continuing failure to put in place measures to ensure that aid supplies to civilians would be unaffected is a failure of moral and legal responsibility to protect the civilians in Darfur and to ensure that they have access to food, water, shelter, health care and other essential needs.”  


The groups warned that “unless influential African countries like Nigeria use their positions and influence to prevail on the government of Sudan to immediately recall expelled aid organizations and stop harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and organizations, the situation in Darfur will continue to deteriorate.”


“If the decision to expel the aid organizations is not reversed, there is a real risk that the African Union peacekeepers currently in Darfur with the joint United Nations-African Union force (UNAMID) will be faced with the prospect of protecting a civilian population that is at the same time dying from thirst, hunger and disease,” the groups added. 


The groups insisted that as a member of the AU and signatory to its Constitutive Act, Nigeria has a legal obligation to stop a human tragedy from occurring in Darfur. The groups therefore called on the government of President Yar’Adua to:
•    Urgently send a special envoy to Sudan to urge the Sudanese authorities to recall expelled aid organizations, and to stop further harassment and intimidation of local human rights defenders and organizations


•    Work closely with other members of the AU to put pressure on the government of Sudan to respect norms of international human rights and humanitarian law in Darfur including by ensuring unfettered access of civilian population in Darfur to food, water, medicines, and other basic necessities of life

Signed by
Adetokunbo Mumuni
Executive Director
Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP) on behalf of:
Amnesty International
Access to Justice
Alliances for Africa
Centre for Rule of Law (CENTROLAW)

Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR)
Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS)
Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP)
National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADL)
Partnership for Justice (PJ)
Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP)
West African Bar Association (WABA)
Women Advocates Research & Documentation Centre (WARDC)
Women's Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON)