The Norwegian People’s Aid accused of peddling arms in South Sudan; what have they been up to in Gaza?

lifted from dagen.no (google translate)

New weapons charges against employees of Norwegian People’s Aid
Tuesday 02, September 2014,
NTB-Johan Falnes
SOUTH SUDAN In a new book about Norway’s role in Sudan employees of the Norwegian People’s Aid are accused of having helped to smuggle weapons to the rebels in the south.
In the book “Norway in Sudan: At the bottom of the Sun”, which is published this week, a previous employee of Norwegian People’s Aid confirmed anonymously that several of the organizations people helped to smuggle weapons into the Sudanese rebel group SPLA.

This must have happened while the civil war raged at its worst in the 1990s, without the knowledge of the  leadership of Norwegian People’s Aid.

The book is written by Bibiana Dahle Piene, who work as a journalist in NTB. She says that it has been very difficult to get people involved to talk about weapons smuggling.

– It is simply dangerous to talk about it. People are very afraid that the information can be traced back to them, she says.

Under the radar
The book reproduces Piene a conversation with “Mike”, a former employee of Norwegian People’s Aid will only speak anonymously. He says that the employees of the organization helped to organize weapons smuggling.

The missions sometimes came directly from the SPLA leader John Garang.

“Garang could call on the satellite phone and say that he wanted it and that, and so we arranged it,” says Mike in the book.

According to him there were only four to five people in the Norwegian People’s Aid who knew what was happening. Under the radar of the management of the organization, both in Nairobi and Oslo, aid workers coordinated with the pilots who flew to Eritrea, Congo and other neighboring countries. They came back with weapons like Kalashnikovs, grenade launchers, landmines and ammunition, writes Piene.

She emphasizes that she has no reason to doubt the information that the  management of Norwegian People’s Aid did not know about arms smuggling.

Dilemma
Liv Tørres, Secretary General of the Norwegian People’s Aid, can neither confirm nor deny the information in the book. These are rumors that have circulated for a long time, and resurface from time to time, she points out.

– We have all the time been clear that this is completely inconsistent with Norwegian People’s Aid principles. We have also repeatedly examined these rumors, but found nothing to confirm that this has happened, says Tørres.

Norwegian People’s Aid can not guarantee that no employees at no time has been involved in illegal activity, she adds.

– But our attitude throughout has been that this is completely unacceptable and incompatible with working with us, says Tørres.

moral dilemma
For aid workers, the situation must have been a difficult moral dilemma, says Piene.

Dealing with weapons is taboo for charities, a clear violation of their humanitarian mandate. But at the same time, what do you do when you support and who you think fighting a fair fight is about to lose? How far can the solidarity stretched? she asks in the book.

Solidarity is a flexible concept, Piene says.

– When working on the ground in such a conflict, the moral boundaries are challenged, she says.

renewed fighting
Today, South Sudan is again haunted by war. The weapons the rebels in their time was smuggled into the country, they now face each other.

In the center of the fray is president Salva Kiir and Riek Machar former vice president. One a Dinka, the other a Nuer . Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, over a million have been displaced. At the same time the country is on the brink of starvation.

The conflict forced Piene to re-write the end of her new book. As she worked with the epilogue, she received a message from one of the sources she had talked to, a pilot who flew goods into the country in the 1990s.

“My mother was right,” he wrote on Skype. “We should never have transported all those weapons.”

To be fair, it is unlikely that the Norwegian People’s Aid have smuggled arms to Gaza, but one must certainly press them on whether they knew about the Hamas tunnels that stretched well into Israeli territory, built with the intention to murder as many Israelis as possible on Rosh HaShana (the Jewish New Year celebration). After all, the Institute for Palestins Studies reported in 2012 that at least 160 Palestinian children had been killed in the tunnels, and Gazans certainly have known about tunnel construction. It seems fairly far fetched that an organisation with such strong ties to Gaza as well as the Hamas controlled authorities there would be clueless about these terror tunnels as well as rocket launchers and weapons caches hidden in or near schools, hospitals and refugee camps.

It would behove this organisation to explain its role not only in Sudan but also in Gaza. Their fierce and wildly exaggerated attacks on Israel certainly merits this lingering feeling of doubt regarding their moral stature in this difficult conflict.