Oxfam boss deported after disappearance

Oxfam boss deported after disappearance
Adil Al-Mahi, Country Director of South Sudan Oxfam International (photo credit: The Tower Post)

The Country Director of South Sudan Oxfam International, Adil Al-Mahi has been deported, the organisation told The City Review on Monday. 

In an exclusive interview, Oxfam Senior Media and Campaign Officer, Dominic Kango Amos said Mr Al-Mahi surprised them days after he informed them that he was already in Sudan.

“He was deported after nine days of detention. They did not tell us the reason, we just discovered that he is already in Khartoum and he never briefed us of what had happened. He called when he was already in Sudan,” Kango said. 

Unidentified security personnel allegedly picked up Mr Al-Mahi on Thursday, September 30, the evening when he had just left the office, triggering worries among his staff.

“We don’t have any of that information [of his whereabouts], what we are doing now is to establish the fact of the matter and to ensure he is safe and well,” the Oxfam Deputy Country Director, Juliet Moriku Balikowa told The City Review a week after Mr Al-Mahi’s disappearance. 

Mr Al-Mahi’s arrest marked the latest in several onslaughts aimed at aid workers in the country, which have jeopardised the delivery of relief services as organisations shy away amid insecurity concerns.

Since 2013, at least 126 aid workers have lost their lives with nine and four humanitarian workers getting killed in 2020 and 2021 respectively. The slain workers were providing aid assistance to thousands of people in need across South Sudan.

Saddening trends

In September 2021, the government of Yei River County rescued two of the five abducted aid workers when the WFP convoy was ambushed on the road. One driver was killed and two others wounded by the suspected National Salvation Front (NAS) during the incident.

On June 30 this year, humanitarian agencies expressed concern about attacks on aid workers leading to at least seven deaths where most victims were South Sudanese nationals. This hindered relief support to vulnerable populations across the country.

Another heinous attack that happened in May on the aid organizations’ compounds in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, led to the destruction of thousands of dollars of prepositioned foods, essential aid items, and facilities. Similar incidents also took place in Renk and Torit.

Calls for action

In September, the United Nations called on the government to prioritise the protection of aid workers during a meeting with Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng at the sideline of the UN General Assembly Summit last month in New York.

“Honoured to meet with South Sudan VP Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior during UNGA. We discussed the importance of progress on the peace agreement, and I stressed the need for political incuriosity and protection of humanitarian workers,” said Linda Thomas Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the United Nations in a tweet in September.

The Japanese government, through its embassy in South Sudan, called on the government to ensure the safety of aid workers who have dedicated their lives to assist the vulnerable population.

Japanese Charge d’ affairs Mitsuhiro Toyama told the government that attacks on the aid workers were unacceptable adding the issue needs to be addressed to enable humanitarian workers to execute their role without hindering.

“I would like to point out the counter issue on the safety of the humanitarian workers in South Sudan, the violence against humanitarians is unacceptable and Japan strongly believe the issue should be addressed,’ said Toyama in August this year.