Ban voices concern after aid workers abducted in Darfur
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said here on Thursday that he is deeply concerned at the recent kidnapping of humanitarian workers in Darfur in western Sudan, and once again called on the Sudanese government to reverse its decision last week to expel 13 major aid groups.
On Wednesday night, five staff members of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Mdecins Sans Frontires/Belgium -- three internationals and two Sudanese nationals -- were abducted by armed men from their office in North Darfur, Xinhua reported.
"I am deeply concerned by this development together with, again, attacks against UN peacekeepers a few days ago," Ban told a news conference here, noting a marked increase in security incidents and "deliberate" attacks against the UN and aid community in recent weeks.
"Clearly we all want to see the immediate, unharmed release of these staff abducted and urge all parties in Darfur, including the government of Sudan, to fulfill their responsibility to ensure the security of UN and other aid workers," he said.
Meanwhile, the secretary-general also reiterated his appeal to the Sudanese authorities to reverse its decision to oust 13 NGOs working in Darfur, stressing that these groups play a vital role in assisting some 4.7 million people in the strife-torn region.
"The concern of the United Nations in Sudan has always been, and will remain, peace and the well-being of the country's people, " he said. "For millions of Sudanese, these NGOs are a lifeline. They must be allowed to do their work."
The expulsions started immediately after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. Khartoum accuses the groups of giving evidence to the court, a charge the charities deny.
As of March 10, 183 international staff of the affected NGOs had already left the country, with others awaiting exit visas to depart, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Ban pledged that the UN "will continue to conduct its vital peacekeeping operations, humanitarian, human rights and development operations and activities in Sudan."
At the same time, he said he did not believe that the UN and the Sudanese government will be able to fill the gap created by the absence of the ousted NGOs.
The hybrid African Union-UN mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reported Thursday that it continues to conduct daily patrol activities throughout the region, in particularly in the camps housing internally displaced persons (IDPs).