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» 14.07.2009 - Eritrea not backing militancy – Presidency

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Politics | Society

Eritrea expels more aid agencies

afrol News, 6 November - The government of Eritrea remains defiant in expelling aid agencies from its territory. The Monday expulsion of International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Samaritan's Purse did therefore not come as a surprise, despite the isolated poor country's desperate need for foreign aid.

Both agencies have been using Eritrea as their bases to operate in eastern Sudan. The NGOs received letters from Asmara authorities, asking them to wind up because their permit would not be renewed after they expire on 15 November.

This brings the total number of expelled aid agencies in the country to 11 over the last 18 months.

The Eritrean Information Minister, Ali Abdu, said the services of the two aid agencies were no longer needed. He said the signing of a peace agreement between Sudan and its eastern rebels had made IRC and SP redundant.

"These two NGOs were allowed for cross-border operations," he told the French news agency, 'AFP'. "Since there is now an agreement between the government of Sudan and the Eastern Front [rebels], signed here in Asmara, there is no need for such work."

The Asmara government said since there is was a conducive atmosphere in eastern Sudan, there was no need for aid agencies to do cross-border operations. "We are grateful for what they did but since there is no need ... we kindly ask them to stop."

Samaritan's Purse calls itself a US evangelical Christian organisation "that provides spiritual and physical aid to injured people in the world." The organisation further provides physical aid those in need, especially in war-torn areas.

Also the IRC, which currently operates in 25 countries, distributes life-saving aid, rebuilding devastated communities, establishing schools and train teachers. It also supports good governance initiatives in post conflict locations and helps resettle refugees abroad.

Since January, Asmara has ordered nine other organisations, including the US government Agency of International Development (USAID), to pack up.

Branding their act as neo-colonialism, the Eritrean government has adopted zero-tolerance to aid agencies. It said it will not hesitate to ban agencies that pope their noses in what Asmara calls political or economic "sabotage".

It therefore tightened legislations that regulate the operations of NGOs in the country. The legislations required NGOs to submit their project reports every three months and renew their licenses annually. Besides, it waives taxes on their imported materials.

Nine agencies were ordered to leave the country after their refusal to obey the regulations.

Eritrea has also expelled a large group of UN peacekeepers, which include Americans, Europeans, Canadians and Russians who have been monitoring the Eritrea/Ethiopia borders. The men, numbering 150, were given only ten days to leave Eritrean shores. While Ethiopia asked Asmara government to come to its senses, the concerned international community received the news with shock and disbelief.

This development had opened yet another diplomatic conflict between Eritrea and the UN. UN officials blamed Eritrea for showing its true anti-peace colours.

Eritrea on earlier occasions has angered the UN, which is spending large funds to monitor the fragile peace at the Eritrean-Ethiopian border. When the Asmara government claimed the UN peacekeepers were causing insecurity, the UN mission threatened to pull out all of its troops.

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