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Amid Probe of UNAMID's Darfur  Cover-Ups, Mandate Renewal, Here

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 26, 2014 -- On Darfur, the UN Security Council is set to renew the mandate of the UNAMID Mission's mandate on August 27, in a resolution helpfully put online here. 

 On August 25, Inner City Press asked the UN about Egypt's announcement that it will send "peacekeepers" to Darfur:

Inner City Press: The Egyptian assistant Foreign Minister has announced that Egypt will be sending peacekeepers to the new UN force in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA.  And I wanted to know given the allegations made about the killing of up to about 1,000 protesters by the Egyptian security forces that still remain unprosecuted and unresolved, what steps DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) is taking to ensure that the soldiers and security forces not only sent to MINUSCA but to you know UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) in Darfur and Mali are not, in fact, soldiers who took part in those events?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Let me check about the reports and then we can talk about what theyíre doing.

  Twenty nine hours later, no answer, as the mandate renewal draft goes online.

  While calling for leadership vacancy to be filled, for example, the resolution does not directly address the UNAMID cover-ups exposed by a whistleblower. It should: UN Peacekeeping and its mission in Darfur continue take a selective and lax approach to protecting civilians. 

   This example concerns the UN's evolving statements on the Al-Salam camp.

  After whistleblower Aicha Elbasri further exposed UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous as covering up attacks in Darfur, on June 17 several Security Council members joined International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in calling for an investigation.

  On August 7, Inner City Press asked the Joint Special Representative of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, about the status of the probe.

   Chambas told Inner City Press he had met earlier in the day with the commission, whose members will be on their say to Darfur.

 Inner City Press asked if the report will be public. Chambas only said his staff will cooperate. Apparently it will be up to Ban Ki-moon, or even Herve Ladsous, to decide to release or withhold the report.

 Back in Khartoum on August 11, Chambas said this:

"And on the attack on Alsalam camp, let me state that we have information about this. We have always stated that the responsibility for maintaining law and order in Sudan lays with the Government. This is a sovereign country, it has law enforcement obligations, it has its justice system and the AU, the UN is only here to facilitate and ensure that law and order and justice are maintained and are enforced according to due process of law. So, we want to say that we will continue to engage with the Government of Sudan in accordance with its own protection of civilian mandate and to ensure that the activities on law enforcement agencies are carried out without infringement of the rights of innocent civilians specially vulnerable communities in IDP camps. We hope that on the other hand residents of IDP camps can understand and do understand that possession of weapons, carrying of weapons is not allowed in IDP camps under international humanitarian law.

"Itís also imperative, and itís a responsibility of the leaders of IDP camps to ensure that no one is using these camps to keep weapons or to hide weapons, because this is against international humanitarian law. These are the issues involved there and we as UNAMID we will continue to work with both sides, with IDP leaders to educate them what is permissible in these camps and what is not, and at the same time working  with Government to enforce legitimately law and order but to do that respecting the civic and human rights of the citizens and also respecting due process of law. Thank you."

  Since this seemed to defer to Sudan's Abu Tira, and even to blame the victims, Inner City Press on August 13 asked:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about Darfur, Missouri and Afghanistan.  On Darfur, photos have come out of the Sudanese uniformed Abu Tira forces going through a refugee camp or [internally displaced persons] camp in El Salam and making the residents lie on the ground.  And Mr. Chambas was asked about it and said that this was entirely up to the Sudanese and it just seems sort of strange. I mean, I know there is a Human Rights component to these peacekeeping missions.  Does the UN, does UNAMID [United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] or does anyone in the Secretariat, are they aware of these photographs?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:  I will check.

  Twenty three hours later, Dujarric sent nothing to Inner City Press. But UNAMID issued a belated statement, which seems to contradict or attempt to rehabilitate Chambas' dismissive August 11 comments:

"Following a security raid conducted on Al Salam IDP camp on 5 August when individuals were arrested for alleged possession of illegal drugs, weapons and ammunition, UNAMID monitored the trials of those arrested during the operation; most of whom have since been released. UNAMID has been engaging relevant state authorities on the conditions of those still being detained.

"Other security raids have been conducted in Otash and Dereig camps and are part of a wider campaign by the South Darfur authorities to address the high level of criminality in the State, especially around Nyala.

"The security raids have generated alarm and anxiety amongst IDPs in Kalma camp, who are anticipating a similar operation at their camp and have expressed their concerns to UNAMID."

 We'll continue on this.

  Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq if an independent investigation of Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping will be done, and if not, why not? Video here.

  Haq claimed that UN Peacekeeping is already acting on Elbasri's complaints, and that it had been telling the press about it. Inner City Press asked, where have these updates been provided.
 
  Haq cited a read-out given in March, largely generic; then he said the requests made on June 17 would be studied.

 Now on July 2, Ban's spokesman Dujarric - in the midst of a controversy about a non-factual response on June 27, not corrected when asked June 30 and July 1, about Ladsous' mission in the DRC flying sanctioned FDLR leaders around, released this:

"The Secretary-General is concerned about the recent serious allegations against the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). These allegations cover a wide range of issues, including inaccurate reporting of the facts on the ground in Darfur, specific instances of failure to protect civilians and accusations of mismanagement of UNAMID.

"UNAMID has undergone several investigations and reviews over the last two years, which have sought to address both strategic issues and specific incidents related to the Mission's performance. The Secretary-Generalís Special Report of 25 February 2014 provides an overview of the strategic and managerial challenges faced by the Mission and the work being done at United Nations Headquarters and in UNAMID to address them.

"The Secretary-General remains committed to improving UNAMID's performance and is determined to take all necessary steps to correct any wrongdoing. He has instructed the Secretariat to review the reports of all investigations and inquiries undertaken since mid-2012 to ensure that their recommendations have been implemented and that any relevant issues have been fully addressed. This review, to be completed within one month, will enable the Secretary-General to determine what has already been done and, if recommendations are outstanding, what corrective action needs to be taken."

 On DRC, Dujarric said "you can pick up the phone" - after siting next to Ladsous while he refused to answer Press questions on DRC.

  As recently as May 29, Ladsous refused Press questions, video here, compilation here.

   Back on April 24 when Darfur as such was the topic of the UN Security Council, three major Darfur rebel groups wrote to the Council to investigate "all reports of the Peace Keeping Mission, including reports presented to the UNSC by [Under] Secretary General for Peace Keeping Mr. Ladous and the reliability of the sources he had relied on."

   But unlike his abortive stakeout on the evening of April 23 about South Sudan, video here, Ladsous did not come out to answer any questions. And at the April 24 UN noon briefing, when Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq for a response to the request for an investigation of Ladsous and his reports, there was none: not one modified or corrected report was cited.

  Instead, from the "holy seat" of the UN Correspondents Association a long time scribe followed up to say that it is not all Ladsous' fault, and to cast blame on the government. (This same dynamic was repeated at the June 17 noon briefing.) This reflexively shifting of blame from the UN to the government, whose new Permanent Representative spoke in the Council on April 24, is in this case particularly absurd: how can the government be responsible for the UN's own reports being inaccurate?

  Those requesting this investigation of DPKO and Ladsous are not the government of Omar al Bashir, which whom Ladsous met in July 2013 without any readout, but rebels Abdel Wahid Mohamed Ahmed Nur, Chairperson, Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M-A/Wahid), Gibriel Ibrahim Mohamed, Chairperson of Justice & Equality Movement Sudan (JEM) and Minni Arko Minnawi, Chairperson Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M-MM).

  Pending UN answers, again we ask: how can one write about the corruption of a UN Peacekeeping mission, at length, without naming the person in charge? Why would one airbrush that person, in this case Herve Ladsous the UN Under Secretary for Peacekeeping Operations, out?

   The former spokesperson of the UNAMID mission in Darfur quit, spoke out and finally leaked documents. Radio Dabanga as well as Foreign Policy began publishing them on April 7 (FP did not mention Dabanga, and called its back to back  Ladsous-less pieces an exclusive investigation).

  The last piece focused on the US role, all to the good, but not only doesn't mention that the UN's Ladsous met with International Criminal Court indictee Omar al Bashir in July, without providing any read-out, but also omits France's hosting of Darfur rebels, for example.

 

 Back on March 25, 2013, Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesperson about how the UN Peacekeeping in Darfur could have let a group of Internally Displaced People be kidnapped while they were ostensibly protected:

Inner City Press: there is this incident where IDPs were taken hostage or kidnapped by people that were in Government army uniforms, and somehow UNAMID is saying that they opposed it and they denounced the kidnapping, but some people are wondering how armed UN peacekeepers could have IDPs under their care and they could all be kidnapped. Can you clarify how it took place and how it is consistent with protection of civilians?

Spokesperson: Well, I have asked the Mission for more details on that, and I think if you were listening carefully you will have heard me read out precisely what you just said to me.

Inner City Press: But what I am asking about specifically about how it could take place?

Spokesperson: I heard what you said, and Iíve said that Iíll see if I can find out more, which is what I have already asked the Mission and Peacekeeping Operations.

  Now Radio Dabanga has published a memo by UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, from April 10, 2013, still saying he didn't know how it happened.

  What is Ladsous doing? Then, and apparently now, he refuses Press questions about topics ranging from Sudan -- why did he meet with International Criminal Court indictee Omar al Bashir in July 2013? -- to rapes in the DR Congo by UN Peacekeeping's partners in the Congolese Army.

  Dabanga to its credit says it is reporting the memos along with FP. The FP story, at least the first one, does not mention Dabanga, nor Ladsous' meeting with Bashir. Previously an explanation was provided for not reporting on Ladsous' extraordinary and public "non-answering," noted from the UK by the New Statesman, here.

  We'll be following this. Watch this site.


 

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