The top official in Sudan for the international aid agency CARE has been ordered to leave the country. CARE’s country director, Paul Barker, received a letter Saturday from Sudan’s Humanitarian Assistance Commission, telling him he had 72 hours to leave.
Barker was the third foreigner expelled from Sudan last week. The others were European Commission envoy Kent Degerfelt of Sweden and Canadian diplomat Nuala Lawlor.
CARE President and CEO Dr. Helene Gayle spoke from Atlanta, Georgia, with VOA English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about Barker’s expulsion from Sudan.
“We’re very disappointed in the expulsion. Paul barker is a long-time CARE employee with incredible experience. And we think he’s provided incredible leadership in a very difficult situation. And so we’re very, very disappointed and concerned, not only about what it means for CARE, but what it means for the humanitarian community in Sudan overall,” she says.
Asked whether Sudanese authorities gave an official reason for the expulsion, Dr. Gayle says, “No, we were given no reasons. Paul was given no reason. He just said that he was persona non grata and was asked to leave in 72 hours.”
She says she spoke with Barker after he received the expulsion order. “I think he wonders whether communications in the past might have been a concern. As part of his role as the country director he has to pass on information to staff both here in Atlanta as well as there in the country offices. It’s easy in a situation that’s as tense as that to have internal communication misinterpreted. So, it may be communication leaks that might have caused this, but we’re really not sure,” she says.
Will this affect CARE’s operations in Sudan? Gayle says, “We’ll have to look at that. First and foremost we have about 600 staff in Sudan. We have provided considerable resources. Over $184 million since we’ve been operating there, $60 million to the Darfur region just in the last three years. So, we feel like we do make a difference in the lives of people there, who are really struggling and suffering in many situations. So, our concern is to our staff…to people whose lives we’re trying to touch. And that’s going to be first and foremost. Our concern is how can we maintain a response that makes a difference in people’s lives. But we also have to look at the fact that this is really a breach in the relationship between ourselves and the government of Sudan. And I think we have to look at what does that mean for our long-term presence there.”