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Darfur Peacekeepers Taken Without a Fight, Gambari Thumbs Nose at Ban

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 21 -- In Darfur, the credibility of the peacekeeping mission and its chief, Ibrahim Gambari, is under question from both sides: the government and the Justice & Equality Movement rebels. Sometimes this is indicative of being fair, equally angering both sides. But sometimes not.

  JEM says Gambari is a tool of Khartoum. Notably, as Inner City Press asked about for two weeks, Gambari took photos with President Omar al Bashir, who has been indicted for genocide in Darfur.

  Finally, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman on February 1 told Inner City Press that "Mr. Gambari's attention has been drawn... to the need to avoid such encounters in future, how ever unintentional this particular encounter may have been."

  But faced with this supposed admonition, Gambari remained defiant, attacking those who questioned his photos with Gambari, and in essence promising to do it again in the future.

  When Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Nesirky for clarification on February 21, Nesirky said the message has been sent. But what message?

   Meanwhile the Justice and Equality Movement in Darfur took 49 UN peacekeepers hostage, then released them while calling on Gambari to resign. Inner City Press asked Nesirky about it on February 21, particularly what the rules of engagement of the peacekeepers were. How can these peacekeepers be protecting civilians if they allow themselves to be taken hostage without firing a shot?

Nesirky claimed that this showed wisdom, and again expressed confidence in Gambari despite his defiance. Ban is weak, said one wag, and the peacekeepers are weak.

Actually, it's a matter of choice: a well placed source in UN Peacekeeping tells Inner City Press that each troop contributing country has its own rules of engagement. "Ask the Senegalese," the source said. But why not ask the UN if they pay full compensation to peacekeepers who say in advance they will not fight, much less protect civilians?

Gambari in his Hardshell on the Hill, accountability not shown

Sudan's Permanent Representative appeared at the Security Council late Tuesday afternoon, to raise again the blockage of a UN Darfur sanctions monitor from Tumsaha in South Sudan. Afterward he told Inner City Press the hostage taking in Darfur called into question the commitment of UNAMID and its "Chapter Seven mandate."

Gambari has been described to Inner City Press by people close to him as "looking for another job," and using the UNAMID jet to do so. On Tuesday at the UN there was a suggestion: why doesn't Gambari try to replace Jean Ping atop the African Union? A Francophone West African Permanent Representative countered, "Why not Joy?" The reference was to Nigeria's Permanent Representative to the UN. Another said, Nigeria and South Africa won't fight, notwithstanding differences on Cote d'Ivoire.

So who will be the next UN Special Adviser on Africa, a position once held by Gambari himself before, after heading DPA, he "called in chits" to get Ban's African interlocutors to urge Ban to keep him on? That will be another story, soon - watch this site.

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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