05/14/2012 Sudan (Compass Direct) - Security agents in Sudan’s South Darfur state have closed down the Nyala offices of the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) and relief group Sudan Aid, sources said.
Agents from the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) arrived at the organizations’ compound in Nyala at 8 a.m. on April 22, ordered SCC staff members to hand over keys of offices and vehicles and, without explanation, ordered them to leave immediately, an SCC staff worker said.
“They came early in the morning to our office and took all the keys of the offices, chasing us out of the compound with no reason given to us,” the SCC staff worker told Compass by phone.
Three staff members from Sudan Aid were arrested in the course of the closure and were taken to an undisclosed location, the source said.
“Their families are living in agony due to the uncertainty of their fate,” the worker said.
NISS agents also closed down a church clinic that was serving the needy in the area.
The actions came as Christianity is increasingly regarded as a foreign faith to be excised from Sudan, which has begun transporting ethnic South Sudanese to South Sudan following the latter’s secession last year. An estimated 350,000 ethnic South Sudanese, many of them Christian, remain in the Islamic north, with many having never lived anywhere else.
The day after the closure of the SCC and Sudan Aid offices, staff members reported to work only to find more than a dozen security personnel, some carrying arms, cordoning off the compound. The security agents told the employees the offices were closed and to go home.
The agents took the keys of five cars and drove them away, according to an SCC press statement. Three motorbikes were also taken.
“We do not know the whereabouts of the cars,” the SCC officials say in the statement.
On April 24, Sudan’s federal Humanitarian Aid Commission froze the bank accounts of the SCC in Nyala.
The security agents also took four cars and five motorbikes from Sudan Aid, sources said. Five staff members were arrested, though two were later released.
Sources told Compass the incident left churches in South Darfur, one of five states that makes up the Darfur region, deeply disturbed and frightened.