Sudan expels top UN officials

Ali El Za’tari and Yvonne Helle ordered to leave Sudan by the end of 2014, for reasons yet unknown.

Sudan has ordered two top officials from the United Nations to leave the country by the end of this year. The move is a surprise as the two most senior UN officials in Sudan are both not involved in Unamid, the peacekeeping operation that was asked to leave a month ago. The officials are heading the largest humanitarian development agency in Sudan, the UNDP.

UN sources told Reuters that the officials are the Jordanian UNDP Resident Coordinator Ali El Za'tari and the Dutch Yvonne Helle, UNDP's country director. The reason for the expulsions was not clear, and Sudan's Foreign Ministry declined to comment. Contacted by email, Helle also declined to comment. Za'tari was not immediately available.

Sudan had already shut Unamid's human rights office in Khartoum and called on the joint UN-AU peacekeeping mission to prepare an exit plan. This request came after the government refused that the peacekeepers conduct more investigations into an alleged mass rape by Sudanese soldiers in Tabit, a village in North Darfur.

Mass rape reports

Radio Dabanga reported that, according to elders, health workers, and victims, between 60 and 200 women and girls were raped on 31 October. Unamid sent a verification patrol on 9 November, which was accompanied by armed forces, security officers and police. The mission said in a public statement that it had not found any evidence to prove the rape allegations, but requested to conduct a second investigation. Sudan's Foreign Ministry refused, and sent a verbal request to the mission to put an exit strategy from Darfur in place days later.

The head of the UN peacekeeping forces said that Unamid was unlikely to bow to Sudan's request to leave, as the situation in the region appears to deteriorate. Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir has told international media that the Darfur conflict was solved.

(Source Reuters)