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UN Claims Medevac to Abyei Was from Kadugli, Not S. Sudan as UK Said

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 5 -- The UN's lack of transparency about the delay of medevac helicopter transport from Abyei of three peacekeepers who died after a landmine explosion grew worse on Friday, highlighting the UN's lack of planning for the UNISFA peacekeeping mission of Ethiopian soldiers it is paying from in Abyei.

On August 4, after outgoing chief UN peacekeeper Alain Le Roy answered Inner City Press that the Sudanese government "prevented us to take off... by threatening to shoot at the helicopter." Video here, from Minute 46:56.  Audio here, from Minute 46:53.

Le Roy said that while the UN had yet to sign a Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA with the Khartoum government for the UNISFA mission in Abyei, the old SOFA of the expired UN Mission in Sudan was still in place.

But later on August 4, UK Permanent Representative to the UN Mark Lyall Grant told Inner City Press that "the UN asked for permission for helicopter to come from Wau to pick up the injured. The Sudanese government said they couldn't come from Wau because that was a different country. So they said can we bring a helicopter from Kadugli. It took about three hours or so to get that permission, by the time they picked them up and took them back, it was too late."

On August 5 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky to confirm or deny that the UN has asked to fly a medevac helicopter from Wau and had been denied.

Nesirky in essence denied it, saying "the helicopter was to come from Kadugli to bring the wounded peacekeepers to Kadugli."

The difference is important: if the possibility of needing to bring a helicopter from Wau, since July 9 in the independence nation of South Sudan, had not been thought out by the UN, it would in many views be negligence.

  The reported actions of Sudan are outrageous -- but not unforseeable. So it is responsible for the UN to put peacekeepers into Abyei without having an agreed plan to get them out for medical treatment if needed?

  Was it a helicopter from Kadugli to Abyei, both in Sudan, that Khartoum "threatened to shoot down," as Le Roy put it? Nesirky would not repeat the shooting threat statement, rather saying that that "could not take off because there was a long delay" in getting permission.

In Wau, Lyall Grant in light jacket, Rice on the mic, SC reaction to copter block not shown

But if as Le Roy told Inner City Press on August 4 the old UNMIS Status of Forces Agreement is still in place, why would permission have been needed to fly within Sudan for medical purposes? Nesirky himself went on to say "it is standard procedure that medevacs do not require clearance."

Why did the UN wait for clearance if it was only asking to fly within Sudan, and not from South Sudan? Is there a SOFA in place? What ensures that the same thing can't happen today, or tomorrow? Watch this site.

* * *

  The US Mission to the UN, meanwhile, had no response 22 hours later to these questions from Inner City Press, to USUN's two top spokesmen:

This is a request for comment from the US Mission or Ambassador Rice on Alain Le Roy's reply just now to Inner City Press, on UN TV, that in the case of the Abyei peacekeepers who died after mine explosion, the Sudanese government "prevented us to take off... by threatening to shoot at the helicopter." from Minute 46:53.

What is your comment, will you be seeking action in the Security Council, and what is your position on there not being a signed SOFA for UNISFA in Abyei?

Relatedly, what follow up will you seek on the UN Human Rights report on Southern Kordofan, which DPKO has still not released but the leaked copy of which describes war crimes as well as inaction, even before July 9, by the Egyptian battalion of UN peacekeepers in Kadugli?

  Neither lead spokesman Mark Kornblau nor his deputy, admittedly out of the office and about to leave the Mission for non-spokesman work with the State Department, responded to these questions. Watch this site.

Here is from the UN's August 3, 2011 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: the UNISFA [United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei] – the mission in Abyei — has it reached any kind of Status of Forces Agreement with the Sudanese Government?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I would need to check on the precise technicalities there. But I can tell you that the deployment has been continuing. Already there are more than 1,000 troops in the area. As you know, there was an extremely serious incident yesterday, and I would also anticipate that we’d have more to say on that in the coming days.

Inner City Press: Is it known now or can you, after various questions, say how many peacekeepers are still in Southern Kordofan?

Spokesperson: Again, I would need to check on that. I know you’ve asked repeatedly, and as have I, but I don’t have the answer for you at this point.

  That has become Nesirky's, and Ban Ki-moon's refrain.

Click for July 7, 11 re Sudan, Libya, Syria, flotilla

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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