The Sudanese government has told the Norwegian Refugee Council to leave the country. The council is an NGO operating one of the largest refugee camps in the region. The NRC says it has no political agenda in Darfur and fears its withdrawal will disrupt camp operations.
Jens Mjaugedal is the director of the international department of the Norwegian Refugee Council. From Oslo, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the end of its operations in Darfur.
“We are packing and leaving by now from Kalma camp in Nyala in South Darfur, which is the main camp for internally displaced people in South Darfur. We got the order yesterday and by tonight all our staff will be back in Khartoum,” he says.
When asked why the NRC was told to leave Darfur, Mjaugedal said, “We haven’t got any precise explanation. What we know there is no critique against what we have been doing. We have a good standing. We have been there are a long time and we have a good standing among the internally displaced people. But this is the third time actually that we are facing the same problem. On the first of May last year, we were given 24 hours notice to leave the camp as well. And I think it’s on the one hand generally more difficult working conditions and less humanitarian space in Darfur in general as provided by the government of Sudan. And secondly, we have a position in the major camp called coordinator, which is seen as kind of a troublemaker because we are also then acting on behalf of the internally displaced and working on coordination of humanitarian work, and working in the field of protection, which is the main issue for internally displaced people in South Darfur.“
The NRC official says he hopes the government will ask the agency to return to Darfur. But in the meantime he fears conditions in the camp will deteriorate over time without the agency there to coordinator operations.