Khartoum needs no excuse to make life difficult for the international charities that operate in Darfur. Now Zoe’s Ark has handed them a perfect reason to get tough on organisations trying to dish up food or provide water to some four million people.
The real issue here is the impact that irresponsible charity workers can have on more reputable outfits.
Take Darfur. I understand that country directors of all the international NGOs operating there were called in by the commissioner general of Sudan’s Humanitarian Affairs Commission on Thursday to be read the riot act. The actions of Zoe’s Ark in neighbouring Chad have placed them all under suspicion. They were left in no doubt that they could expect greater scrutiny and more problems moving workers around the country. I am told that French aid workers are already being denied visas to enter Sudan or permits to travel to Darfur. Ministers have been quoted in the local press accusing Unicef of child smuggling.
The charges are clearly ridiculous. And no-one in the Khartoum government can really believe them. But that doesn’t matter.
As one of my pals in the aid world said: “This whole thing has given Khartoum a big stick and all the signs are that they are going to use it.”