On March 4 Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir decided to expel foreign aid organizations that provide food, water and medicine for more than a million of his people. He also shut down the operations of 3 national relief organizations that were providing similar assistance.
International humanitarian aid organizations have reported incidents of increased Government harassment, seizure of program and personal assets, and bureaucratic impediments to remaining operations.
President Bashir claimed that the groups expelled were working against Sudan, alleging that, among other things, they helped the International Criminal Court in its investigation that led to the issuance of arrest warrants against him. His decision will have a devastating impact on the humanitarian situation throughout Sudan, and he should take steps to immediately reverse it.
The United States fully supports the work of these groups and the badly needed aid they provide. Such assistance is far beyond the capabilities of the government in Khartoum, and letting the organizations continue their work is the only way to keep a bad humanitarian situation in Darfur and other parts of the country from getting worse.
Ending the violence in Darfur and bringing relief to the region has long been a top priority of the United States, one that has been renewed and strengthened by President Barack Obama. Further, the U.S. believes those who have committed atrocities should be held accountable for their crimes.
The United Nations Security Council will have a large role in how the indictment of Mr. al-Bashir plays out, but in the interim the Sudanese government, armed rebel groups and other concerned parties should exercise restraint in responding to the developments.
The U.S. remains committed to helping the parties reach a political settlement to the crisis and will continue to provide the needed humanitarian aid. The suffering of the Sudanese people has gone on too long.