x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Bashir arrives in Darfur

The president of Sudan visits Darfur for the first time since the issue of a warrant for his arrest on war crimes charges.

Sudanese president Omar al Bashir arrived in the North Darfur state capital El-Fasher today on his first visit since the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest. The trip is seen as a calculated show of defiance by Mr al Bashir in the face of mounting western criticism of his government's expulsion of 13 aid agencies following the ICC's announcement of the warrant on Wednesday for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the western region.

The UN say the expulsions will leave 1.1 million people without food, 1.5 million without health care and more than a million without drinking water. However, foreign ministry under secretary Mutrif Siddiq has warned that the expulsions are an "irreversible decision". "The decision of the authorities expelling foreign organisations .... is an irreversible decision," Mr Siddiq said in a statement carried by the official SUNA news agency.

Sudan accuses the aid agencies of providing evidence to the ICC. "Evidence has proved their co-operation with the so-called International Criminal Court," Mr Siddiq said. The relief organisations deny any complicity. UN agencies in Sudan have warned that the expulsion of key aid groups will have "devastating implications" and that in their absence "much of the aid operation literally comes to a halt".

The expelled organisations account for "more than half" the capacity of the aid operation in Darfur, the UN says. However, remaining organisations will be allowed to operate in Sudan "as long as they are committed to the laws regulating humanitarian work", Mr Siddiq said. * AFP