UN, Watered Down Plan For Darfur Force Is Promoted by Anonymous Official, to
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, June
6 -- As the outcry to get a peacekeeping force into Sudan's Darfur region grows,
the UN has resorted to sleights of hand and crossing its fingers.
Tuesday Ban Ki-moon submitted to the Security Council a "revised 'Report of the
Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on the
hybrid operation in Darfur." The report, 31 pages and 129 paragraphs long,
raises more questions than it answers.
key question of who would be in charge of the proposed hybrid peacekeeping
operation, the report essentially punts, stating in Paragraph 63 that "further
clarify and agreement on the UN role in command and control will be required by
UN troop- and police-contributing countries in order for them to provide
personnel for the hybrid operation."
Wednesday afternoon, a briefing was provided by a person who the UN required
only be identified as "a senior UN official."
At the noon briefing, Inner City Press
asked Deputy Spokesperson Marie
Okabe to explain the need for anonymity. Let's address that upstairs, Ms. Okabe
answered. But upstairs, in a room with 30 reporters, the person called what was
about to be said "background, or deep background, so I can be candid."
about the above-quoted Paragraph 63, the senior UN official said that while
public portion is vague, things are spelled out in more detail in so-called
"technical documents." When a reporter called these "secret," the unnamed person
said, "I did not call them that." The person noted that there are many documents
the press does not have access to.
City Press asked the senior UN official who, then, will have access to the
purportedly more specific technical documents. Will the African Union, whose
Peace and Security Council has to vote, have access? Will Sudan have access?
senior UN official answered, "All and any documents on the AU/UN hybrid
operation are common documents to the AU and to the UN. We are working in
transparency, we share them with troop contributing countries."
and AU envoys in Sudan: soft ear, soft language, technical documents not shown
in the press corps, it appeared that the UN is trying to put off for another day
the fight with Sudan about who would command the hybrid force. However, Sudan
has shown a willingness to bring the process to a halt when it does not like a
proposal. To some, it appears that with Ban Ki-moon having put himself on the
line on Darfur, as a test of what he calls his diplomacy of the soft ear, the UN
is almost desperate to appear to be making process. Several reporters asked,
exasperated, weren't we at a similar point months ago? Others pointed out that
revised draft is in fact weaker on UN involvement, or "more vague," which is the
same thing. The senior UN official refused to agree -- and refused to be named.
of this particular document will come in on the 12th of June, when the UN's
Department of Peacekeeping Operations will report to briefing the Security
Council on the African Union's, and perhaps Sudan's, response to the revised
report. On June 17, Council members will be in Khartoum. And as the senior UN
official put it, even if Sudan said okay today, it would take at least 120 days
to build facilities for the force -- to be built, it is said, by a U.S.
contractor -- and to drill water wells. The senior UN official named four
countries, two African and two non-African, which have between them committed
six battalions. The names of the countries are, for now, entirely off the
conclusion of the briefing, the senior UN official was asked again if any name
could be attached to the quote that were provided. The answer was that proposed
on the record quotes could be emailed and a response would be forthcoming within
an hour. Two hours later, at deadline, there was no response. [An hour after
that, a tweak of a quote with the admonition to "use the quote in a way that
doesn't compromise the identity of the briefer," to which we have acquiesced.]
We are left with a murky revised report, clarified only in "technical documents"
which are not being provided, described by a person who by request cannot be
named. We will continue on the beat.
UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540
Other Inner City Press
reports are available in the ProQuest service and some are archived on
Copyright 2007 Inner City Press, Inc. To request
reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] innercitypress.com - phone: (718) 716-3540