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Bashir threatens more expulsions in Darfur

El Fasher, Sudan, March 8, 2009

Sudan's President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir threatened on Sunday to expel diplomats and more aid groups, brandishing a sword at a Darfur rally days after a Hague court issued a warrant for him for war crimes.

Sudan has already closed 13 foreign and three local aid groups saying they helped the International Criminal Court (ICC), which last week issued the arrest warrant for Bashir over charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

"We expelled the organisations because they threatened the security of Sudan," Bashir told a rally in El Fasher, capital of north Darfur.

"We will expel anyone who goes against Sudanese law, whether they are voluntary organisations, diplomatic missions or security forces."    

Bashir waved the sword as he rallied the crowd, after a speech in which he insulted the court, poured scorn on the West and defended the decision to close down the humanitarian organisations.

Bashir shouted out a list of atrocities he said had been carried out by the West, from the mass killing of Native Americans during the foundation of the United States, to the bombings of Hiroshima, Vietnam and Iraq.

"They killed millions of Indians ... Why are they not on trial," he said.

"The International Criminal Court and everyone who works for it are under my feet," he added, a serious insult across the Arab world.

Thousands of people, many riding horses and camels, waved banners and flags to greet Bashir, who rode into the town, waving from the back of an open pick-up truck.

Some members of the crowd taunted ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. One man was seen leading a donkey with an Ocampo mask over its head, while others carried a model of a dog with Ocampo's name written on the side.

Before the expulsions, the United Nations and aid groups were running the world's largest humanitarian operation in Darfur where, international experts say, almost six years of conflict have killed 200,000 people and displaced more than 2.7 million people from their homes.

Bashir made his defiant visit to Darfur as officials said the expulsion orders were "irreversible". Foreign Ministry undersecretary Mutrif Siddig told the state Suna news agency that the aid groups' cooperation with the ICC had been "proved by evidence".

Siddig was also quoted by the Sudanese Media Centre as saying government agencies would cover the programmes left by the expelled aid groups, with help from remaining foreign and local organisations.

The expelled groups, including Oxfam and Save the Children, have denied helping the court and warned the closure of their programmes will have a devastating impact on hundreds of thousands of Sudanese people in Darfur and beyond.

UN agencies in Sudan released a statement on Saturday saying it would be impossible to fill the gap left by the expelled organisations which made up around 40 percent of the humanitarian work force in Darfur.

"While some 85 international NGOs (non-governmental organisations) operate in Darfur, without these organisations much of the aid operation literally comes to a halt," the statement said.

The expulsions sparked a wave of criticism from the United Nations, Western countries and leaders from the ruling party in Sudan's semi-autonomous south, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

Aid officials have warned the expulsions will hit other turbulent areas of northern Sudan, particularly in areas along the contested border with the country's semi-autonomous south. - Reuters




Tags: Darfur | sudan | Bashir |

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