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UN Loses Focus on Darfur, Pushes to Silence Questions of it Climate Change Role

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 20, updated -- Darfur, which along with climate change used to be called the UN's and Ban Ki-moon's top priorities, has fallen further by the roadside.
   Days ago, the UN's own broadcaster in Sudan, Miraya FM, reported that "the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM)-Abdul Wahid Nour Faction called on the United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to intervene and rescue civilians from aerial bombings [by the] Sudan Armed Forces in Kutum, North Darfur."

At UN headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky has for the past week resisted in noon briefings taking any questions except about Haiti, telling Inner City Press "today I'm sticking to Haiti." So Inner City Press asked UN top peacekeeper Alain Leroy about the Darfur report, at the end of a briefing on Haiti on January 18, but has yet to receive any answer.

On January 20, Mr. Nesirky said he would at last take non Haiti question. Inner City Press asked about Darfur and climate change (but was cut off from asking if the UN is doing anything about the 400 killed and 4000 displaced in ethnic and religious clashes in Jos, Nigeria. Ironically, subsequent to this cut-off, the UN Secretariat prepared, approved and issued a canned statement on Nigeria, here.)

  Of the Darfur report, by the UN's own radio station and on its, Nesirky said he hasn't heard of it. On climate change, when Inner City Press asked about a quote in the UK Guardian by top US climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing that it is "impossible to imagine a negotiation of enormous complexity where you have a table of 192 countries involved in all the detail."

  Nesirky responded that Mr. Ban had seen the Guardian interview, and that Pership had been contacted and said he was misquoted. The Guardian, however, has not run any correction, and it is unclear if Pershing or the UN has requested one.

  Inner City Press would have asked, but Nesirky insisted that no further questions could be asked at the briefing. (He said it could be asked afterwards, but as noted he has left unanswered for weeks numerous questions Inner City Press has emailed to him, and even some asked during the briefings this year.)

Press and UN's Nesirky, watching TV, Miraya FM and Darfur not shown

Inner City Press would also have asked, on Sudan, about the death sentences just imposed on JEM rebels for the attack on Omdurman, on the "sacking" of numerous governors in the run up to an election the UN said it cared about, as well as other questions -- but Mr. Nesirky permitted no more questions, even after a week.

Since the UN says it was able to procure a statement by Pershing that his seemingly anti-UN statement was misquoted, one wonders if the UN saw one of its Darfur experts on Al Jazeera last week, calling "extremist" those who say that Omar al Bashir should actually being put on trial in The Hague, where he has been indicted. Is that now UN policy? Or is the UN just not paying attention? Watch this site.

Update of Jan 20, 6 p.m. -- better late than never, two days after asking, then after a second ask, this was provided:

Subj: Re: Follow-up on your questions
From: DPKO at
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 1/20/2010 5:51:16 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

Matthew - Here is information from DPKO concerning Darfur:

Following reports of fighting between GoS forces and SLA/AW fighters around Insuru area on 16 January, UNAMID team conducted a security assessment patrol to the area on 17 January. The team visited the scene of attack at Furoge village (40km northwest of Kutum) and interacted with the SLA/AW commanders and locals who reported that on 16 January, at about 12:00 hours, GoS military supported by Arab Militia from Dowa (13km northwest of Kutum) and Birmaza (53km northwest of Kutum) launched an attack at Furoge market area. During the attack, 15 locals were reported killed and 20 others injured. On 18 January, UNAMID Team Site in Kutum carried out humanitarian assistance in the area and offered medical treatment to critically injured patients at Furuge Clinic. The team site also plans to supply water to residents of Furuge.

We'll have more on this, watch this site.

* * *

For Gambari, From Iraq Swan Song to Darfur on Thursday, UN in Transition

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 -- With the UN in transition, its Ibrahim Gambari's losing his job in Iraq. Monday was the swan song, in a standing room only conference room in the UN's new North Lawn building.

  The Press was invited to attend, but was then told it had to leave after Gambari's speech. "Good turn out," Inner City Press complimented the staff. The response, delivered with pride, was"Seventy Ambassadors!"

Well placed sources say "they had to call around to get the Ambassador to come." Several came late, and UN staff asked non Permanent Representatives to give up their seats. The Palestinian Observer, for example, displaced a lower ranked Asian. The Observer swept in half an hour later, with his Egyptian counterpart. Presumably the walling off of Gaza was not being discussed.

  Gambari recounted how Iraq's leadership came to resent the International Compact with Iraq, to feel it was a test whose questions had to be answered. Iraq's Ambassador said he wished Gambari had added that Iraq had passed the test.

  While Inner City Press and a TV station filming were told they had to leave, a source who remained in the meeting says that after the Deputy Special Representative spoke about good governance and human resources, Iran's Ambassador called his foreign minister's visit to Baghdad historic.

  Both the EU and UK spoke, which after the Lisbon Treaty seems strange. According to the source, Lebanon's Ambassador erred and called for better relations between "Iraq and Iraq." Presumably he meant Iran, representing as he does Beirut's Hariri faction.

Afterwards in the hall Inner City Press stopped Mr. Gambari and asked two questions about his new job in Darfur. A staffer says Gambari's Darfur bound on Thursday. The rebels are calling for the UN to protect civilians in North Darfur. Gambari'd yet to hear about it.

UN's Ban and Gambari on ICI, focus on Darfur not (yet) shown

  The question's been put to UN Peacekeeping, along with one about Chad's statement that MINURCAT's mandate should not be renewed in March. And they said Darfur and its spill over were a major priority. Perhaps Gambari's role in Darfur is to shut UNAMID down. Come and visit, Gambari gamely said. Time will tell.

   There is, sources tell Inner City Press, a connection between the end of Gambari's job with the Compact with Iraq and him being assigned to UNAMID. Part of his salary came from Iraq, and part from Myanmar. When the Iraq stream stopped, something had to be done. With Nigeria clamoring for one of its nationals to take over UNAMID, after their Martin Luther Agwai was replaced by a Rwandan as force commander, it was two birds with one stone. But the Secretariat has yet to describe Gambari's salary structure, or whether Bob Orr's ASG position legally exists and how it's funded.

Footnotes: the Temporary North Lawn Building is looking better. The Great Wall of China, from the old Delegates' Lounge, now hangs on the first floor. Contractor Aramark tells Inner City Press that, following requests and complaints from diplomats, it is looking more likely that a bar will re-open in the new building. A Delegates' Lounge in exile has been tried, but not the same. On this, watch this site.

* * *

UN's Holmes Hasn't Heard of Mercenaries, Haitian Staff Records Only in Hotel

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 -- Fresh back from Haiti, top UN humanitarian John Holmes told the Press on Monday that fuel is coming in from the Dominican Republic, and that towns outside Port au Prince will soon be served by the UN, which has a facility, "though not humanitarian," in Jacmel.

  Inner City Press asked for Holmes' and the UN's reaction to reports that private military contractors, also known as mercenaries, are offering their services to NGOs and others in Haiti. I haven't heard that, Holmes replied.

  But what do you and the UN think of it? Holmes said, it depends on what services are being offered. Video here. A lawyerly answer, though perhaps surprising from a UN humanitarian coordinators after the events in Baghdad (and the U.S. court system).

  Since last week the UN did not include its national Haitian staff in its counts of UN staff, Inner City Press asked Holmes if finally the UN had checked in on its national staff. Holmes said that the funds, programs and agencies have -- for example, WFP, UNICEF and UNDP -- but that for the UN Peacekeeping MINUSTAH, the work is still ongoing.

  Holmes attributed this to all personnel records have been destroyed in the Christopher Hotel. But are these records computerized, and a copy stories somewhere else other than in the physical headquarters?

UN's Holmes speaks on Haiti, staff records and mercenaries not seen

  Holmes also denounced what he called a CNN report that UN peacekeepers ordered a Belgian humanitarian and search team to stop working, due to unrest. That's false, Holmes said. He was asked, what about a similar report in French media? I haven't seen it, Holmes replied.

  A wire service scribe asked when the troops and police requested by Ban Ki-moon could start to arrive. Holmes said, we already have 9000 there. So why the rush to vote to increase the number, except to show the UN's doing something? Click here for Inner City Press' coverage of the Security Council meeting and politics of aid. Watch this site.

Footnote: despite, as simply one example, coordinated attacks throughout Kabul, the UN has apparently canceled its Monday noon briefing. In its place will be a four p.m. briefing by Peacekeeping, on Haiti only. There are other questions. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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