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UN Confirms Banning from Sudan of Whistleblower, Darfur Violence, NGO Moves On

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 27,updated Dec. 28, below -- The day after the UN was asked to confirm that and explain why one of its staff members serving in Darfur was told not to return, the UN provided confirmation but did not address the allegation that senior UN management, to retaliate against the staff member's complaints of harassment, suggested the expulsion to the government.

  This being a gaping loophole to the UN's supposed protection of whistleblowers, the issue will continue to be pursued.

  On the morning of December 26, Inner City Press sent questions to the Office of the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to two spokesmen at the UNAMID mission in Darfur, and to UNAMID leader Ibrahim Gambari, including

"beyond Friday's still unanswered questions about bombing and fighting in Darfur, on deadline, this is a request for UNAMID / UN confirmation or denial that UNAMID staff member [ ] has been told by UNAMID not to return to Sudan, from which she is on leave, because the Government of Sudan has said she should leave the country in 72 hours. Separately please confirm or deny that [the staff member] has complained of harassment by senior UNAMID management, and respond to charge that this and the aforementioned barring from Sudan are connected."

  Gambari quickly replied to Inner City Press that "I am not currently in the Mission area but my colleague as the OIC and our colleagues at HQ can respond competently and adequately to your questions."

  From "HQ," the spokesman for Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous replied that "I will not have an update for you today, but will make contact with you tomorrow."

  The following day, Ban's spokesperson's office sent this:

"In response to your questions, DPKO advises the following:

"UNAMID Staff Member Designated Persona Non Grata

"With regard to the UNAMID staff member referred to by Inner City Press, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed UNAMID on 18 December that the staff member had been designated persona non grata. The staff member was outside of Sudan at the time and remains so. UNAMID has called on Government officials to provide an explanation for the decision. The Mission takes incidents involving the expulsion of staff members without following due process very seriously and is protesting the matter with the Government. The staff member continues to work for UNAMID outside of Sudan. We do not have any more details to share at this stage."

  This answer entirely dodges the second part of the question, to "confirm or deny that [the staff member] has complained of harassment by senior UNAMID management, and respond to charge that this and the aforementioned barring from Sudan are connected."

  The staff member, who we are still leaving unnamed, was moved out of Sudan to Entebbe in Uganda, a logistics base overseen by the former head of UN procurement, who left amid controversy and scandal. We will continue to follow up on this.

  Also on December 27, the UN belated answered questions Inner City Press posed at the December 23 noon briefing. From the UN's December 22 transcript:

Inner City Press: there are reports by the, I guess, newly-formed Revolutionary United Front that the Sudanese army is bombing in North Darfur and also they are fighting in South Darfur, and I have seen that… I see these daily [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] press releases, but they don’t seem to acknowledge this fighting. Is it not taking place, or are they not going out to verify it, or they are just not putting it in the statements?

Spokesperson: Which fighting are you referring to particularly?

Inner City Press: Bombing in North Darfur described by the spokesmen of the Revolutionary United Front, and also an announcement by LJM that they themselves are fighting with the Government in South Darfur.

Spokesperson: Right, okay, I will check with our colleagues.

  Having gotten no answer, Inner City Press reiterated these questions on December 26. Later that day, the spokesman for Peacekeeping chief Ladsous said he still would not answer that three day old question. On December 27, this was provided:

"In response to your questions, DPKO advises the following: Reports of Fighting

"In relation to the question about recent reports of fighting in North and South Darfur, UNAMID has verified several reports of troop movements and clashes between SAF and armed movements in North Darfur in recent days. These include clashes between Government and movement forces in the Malha and Um Kadada areas. In addition, the Mission has received multiple reports of armed faction convoys moving in the Muhajeria, Shaeria and Yassin areas in South Darfur. The Mission is verifying these reports. UNAMID has increased patrolling in these areas and has called on the parties involved to avoid hostilities."

  While other bombings have been reported, if the UN was aware of and had "verified" armed conflict in Malha and Um Kadada areas, why is this no included in the UNAMID "press reports" sent on, which are replete with happy talk about how great UNAMID is doing? Watch this site.

(c) UN Photo
Gambari claps, replies, Ladsous smiles, runs - like 1 NGO?

Footnote: Given the above armed conflict confirmed even by UNAMID, to say nothing of the continuing bloodbath in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, some were surprised today to see the following tweet from Sudan Now @SudanActionNow, self described as "challenging the [Obama] Administration to fulfill its promises for strong and immediate action in Sudan" --

"We’re moving into a new phase of advocacy for Sudan so this week will be the last that SudanNow will be posting."

  Is this the time to stop challenging for "strong and immediate action in Sudan"? Is there some other explanation? We hope so and will hope to hear, and will keep digging on all fronts. Watch this site.

Update of Dec 28, 2 am -- we're told that "@actforsudan will continue to challenge the Obama administration for strong and immediate action in #Sudan."

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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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