Sudan: ICRC will not rest until abducted staff member Gauthier Lefèvre is freed
The ICRC is renewing its appeal for the release of staff member Gauthier Lefèvre, taken hostage in West Darfur, Sudan, on 22 October 2009. Daniel Duvillard, ICRC head of operations for East Africa, explains the efforts under way to resolve the crisis.
On 6 February, it was with immense joy and relief that we learned of the release of another colleague, Laurent Maurice, who was freed in Sudan after having been abducted 89 days before in eastern Chad. Now we hope and expect that the ordeal for our colleague Gauthier will be over soon. This Friday, 19 February, will mark 120 days of his captivity. Each day that passes is one day too long for himself, his family and for everybody here at the ICRC.
We are continuing to do everything we can to bring about his safe and rapid release. We are in contact with the abductors and with the national and local authorities and are following developments closely. Our priority is to ensure that Gauthier is let go without any further delay and without conditions. The responsibility for the treatment and well-being of our colleague is in his abductors'hands.
We are acutely aware of the pain and distress experienced by Gauthier's family. We want them to know that we are doing everything we can to bring about his swift release. We try to comfort them, but only the release of their loved one will bring them any real relief.
What was the aim of the recent visit of the ICRC President in Sudan?
On 9 February, ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger met in Khartoum with the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, to discuss efforts to secure the prompt release of Gauthier. President Kellenberger thanked the Sudanese government for having secu red the release of ICRC delegate Laurent Maurice. At the same time, president Al Bashir confirmed to president Kellenberger that his government is fully committed to doing everything it can to ensure Gauthier's safety, and to secure his speedy release.
What impact are the abductions having on your activities in Sudan?
Because security is a major concern, it is constantly being reviewed. We are taking every possible precaution to ensure that our staff can work safely. Although we did have to suspend movements and adapt our field presence in West Darfur, we are striving to maintain the essential services that no one else can provide. In particular, we are carrying on with our work in the camp for displaced people (IDPs) in Gereida, South Darfur. We are continuing to provide support for primary health-care centres and other local facilities, and for the activities of the Sudanese Red Crescent.
In remote areas of Darfur where very few other organizations can go, the ICRC had been involved in a range of activities such as making clean drinking water available and helping people support themselves through farming or herding. The fact that we have been forced to curtail our field presence means that we now provide fewer of these services. We deeply regret this situation. Our overriding priority is to obtain the release of our staff member as quickly as possible so that we can again bring all our resources to bear on the humanitarian work that needs to be done.
Finally, we want to stress that although our activities have been scaled down in particular areas, elsewhere in Sudan we are carrying on with our work as before.
See also: released ICRC worker Laurent Maurice talks about his experience