The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law
Volume 2, Issue 3, March 2000
Relief Workers Evacuated From Southern Sudan As Rebel Imposed Deadline Passes
Approximately 160 staff members of 11 NGOs providing humanitarian assistance to southern Sudan left the area as the March 1 deadline imposed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) for organizations to sign a comprehensive “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) passed. The workers were part of Operation Lifeline Sudan, an operation in which about 35 groups participate. The total number of workers involved is approximately 500. Operation Lifeline Sudan is based in the Kenyan town of Lokichio, is one of the longest running and largest aid efforts in the world.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has been fighting the Islamic Khartoum government for autonomy of the mainly Christian and animist south over the last 17 years. It is estimated that more than 1.5 million have died in the conflict to date.
The MOU places taxes on a number of relief organizations’ activities and imposes a variety of operating fees. In addition, the MOU gives soldiers of the SPLA the right to confiscate NGO property such as vehicles, communications equipment and food, without notice.
The SPLM’s ultimatum has created a split among the humanitarian organizations operating in Southern Sudan. Care, Save the Children, Oxfam, Worldvision, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Veterinaires Sans Frontieres, among other organizations have decided to discontinue their work in southern Sudan rather than sign the MOU, an action that many feel would compromise the independence of the private relief organizations. Other organizations, such as Catholic Relief Services and the Lutheran World Federations have decided to sign the MOU and stay in the area. These organizations believe that the MOU will not compromise their ability to provide assistance to the needy in southern Sudan.