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Phoning It In on Darfur, Sudan's Reply to Enough, With UN Censorship Alliance

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 20, more here -- With UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous still providing few to no updates on its UNAMID mission's November 9 covering up of rapes in Darfur, just as Ladsous stonewalled about mass rapes in Minova in the DR Congo, here, and on June 18 ejected Inner City Press from an open meeting, here, some soft on the UN try to raise the issue without blaming those responsible for the cover-up.

   On June 19 there was a closed door session about Darfur - Inner City Press staked it out, and was the only media there -- followed by a non-televised session in the UN Correspondent Association, publicized only to those who pay money to UNCA (also known as the UN's Censorship Alliance, see below). From the UNCA session, not a single photograph or even tweet emerged, only a canned Reuters story with a quote from a statement not found online anywhere, and no response how ever knee-jerk from Sudan.

  In this context, of the UN's Censorship Alliance and not finding anywhere the quoted comment, herebelow is Sudan's Deputy Permanent Representative's response; perhaps UNCA, partying in the Hampton after renting an apartment to a Sri Lankan alleged war criminal, will reply:

"Regrettably, we followed the negative press remarks made by the Permanent Representative of United States to the United Nation, as she stated  unwarranted judgements,that  it is premature to consider  the exit strategy for the United Nations /African Union Mission UNAMID from Darfur , claiming that the security situation in the region has deteriorated more than ever before.

"By doing so, the US ambassador is contravening facts and realities in a very flagrant manner , simply because the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur  DDPD has gone so far and there is no any open warfare between the Government and the rebel movements , how ever there are limited marginal activities by the remnants of the non-signatories to the( DDPD) in their failure attempts to impede the implementation of agreement, otherwise , the  the entire five Darfur states are enjoying the lasting peace and stability as dividends of the DDPD. Based on these facts and pursuant to the relevant provisions of the last Security Council resolution that mandated UNAMID last year , Res 2173 (2014), a Joint Working Group (JWG) comprising UN,AU and the Government of the Sudan, has been duly formed and conducted all the preparatory work and planing for the exit strategy of UNAMID from the certain agreed areas in Darfur.Thus the process of this exist  strategy was in accordance of an agreed Term of Reference and not from  a vacuum.

"Once again we reiterate our commitment towards the full cooperation with  UNAMID and the facilitation of   the smooth discharge of it,s mandate through the Tripartite Mechanism entrusted with that task since the early phases  of the mission,s deployment , and any bid to criticize or blame the Government of the Sudan on the so- called  , restrictions imposed on the mission, is just a base less. we refer here to  the last report of the Secretary General which confirmed ,inter alia ,that the total of the visas granted to UNAMID during the last reporting period was (595),while there are only (7 ) pending visas."

  Why did those who purport to want to discuss Darfur do so first behind closed doors, then only in the UN Censorship Alliance? Then a canned story by Reuters, from a correspondent himself engaged in censorship, here? We can literally say, this is just phoning it in on Darfur.

  Meanwhile, from an "open" meeting of UN Peacekeeping, Inner City Press was ejected; while the Free UN Coalition for Access has protested, the UN Censorship Alliance said nothing at all, quite the contrary. This is today's UN. FUNCA has said, and will always say: on Darfur, Sri Lanka, Burundi and other topics, a press conference "in" the UN should be held in the UN's Press Briefing Room S-237, not in a private club of censors.

  After a closed door session set for June 19 about Darfur - no mention yet of Tabit - two of the briefers instead of holding a regular press conference in the UN Press Briefing Room as other NGOs do has chosen to partner with the UN Correspondents Association, a group whose board has tried to get investigative Press thrown out of the UN, including for its reporting on Ladsous (and on UNCA's president Giampaolo Pioli renting of one of his apartments to Sri Lanka's Palitha Kohona, for whom he then held an UNCA screening of Sri Lanka's war crimes denial film, then tried to censor the Press' report, here.)

  Yet this UN Censorship Alliance, which has done nothing to hold Ladsous accountable, puts behind its closed doors, publicized onto those who pay it money, these speakers:

Abdelrahman Gasim – a lawyer from Sudan
Hawa Abdallah Mohammed Salih – a Sudanese activist, born in North Darfur
Omer Ismail, Advisor for The Enough Project.

 Particularly the last should have done a little research, including UNCA, Ladsous and Tabit. It's not too late to do the press conference in an open fashion, in the UN Press Briefing Room or elsewhere. But with the UN Censorship Alliance? UNreal.

  While some claim that Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping is trying to get back to Tabit, a Sudanese diplomat told Inner City Press he had met with Ladsous on February 9 and "it was nice." How's that, for Ladsous' supposed commitment to get to the bottom of rapes and rights abuses?

 Instead, in order to NOT move against the FDLR militia, Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping is now claiming to care too much for human rights to support the Congolese Army's supposed offensive against the FDLR -- which, the UN belatedly acknowledged to Inner City Press, has not even begun.

  But on the Tabit rapes, that the Sudanese diplomat without irony described his February 9 meeting with Ladsous has "nice" is telling.

  It is easy and appropriate, of course, to blame Sudan, as it was and is to blame the Congolese Army and government for the rapes in Minova. But there is a pattern, and until UN Peacekeeping's senior leadership's cover up of these incidents - and even silence on dead peacekeepers for more than a week -- nothing will improve.

  So why is Human Rights Watch, which alongside its detailed work goes out of its way not to criticize the UN and especially Ladsous, for example on Central African Republic, as Inner City Press reported here, partnering to hold a privatized event on Tabit, not in the UN Press Briefing Room but among friends, as they say?

 Why have HRW and its hosts said nothing about posts in UN Peacekeeping under Ladsous being sold for money, exclusively exposed by Inner City Press on February 7, asked about February 9, and partially answered by the UN on February 10, here?

  Any country can sponsor such a briefing in the UN Press Briefing Room. But HRW hides behind and in the clubhouse of the UN Censorship Alliance, Board members of which in the past have ordered changes to articles about Ladsous - and about Sri Lanka, more here. Human rights? Hardly.  Look how Human Rights Watch's selectively distributed invitation whitewashes UN Peacekeeping's and Ladsous' role:

"Between October 30 and November 1, 2014, Sudanese government forces entered Tabit, North Darfur, and carried out massive abuses against the town’s residents, including a mass rape of women and girls. Sudan responded by denying the abuses and has refused to allow international peacekeepers and other independent monitors to investigate the crimes."

  This is misleading - Ladsous' UNAMID was in Tabit on November 9, and put out a press release whitewashing the rapes and saying the people there like the government's security forces. This was shameful.

 More publicly, Inner City Press on January 26 asked Security Council ambassadors Mark Lyall Grant of the UK and Raimonda Murmokaite of Lithuania, "what happened with UNAMID going back for real investigation of rapes in Tabit?"

  Lyall Grant replied, "We continue to press DPKO to encourage UNAMID to revert on the Tabit allegations."

   Murmokaite added, "have been raising the issue at consultations, will continue."

 And so Inner City Press at the January 26 UN noon briefing asked Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here:

Inner City Press: two of the Security Council ambassadors this morning said they continued to ask DPKO to ensure that the Tabit site of alleged mass rapes is revisited. I want to know has any action been taken on that? Has there been any move by UNAMID?

Spokesman Dujarric: The request to visit Tabit stands. There's nothing to report.

 Nothing to report? Back on January 8 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, video here:

Inner City Press: what has the UN system done in order to get access again to Thabit in Darfur, where there were allegedly 200 rapes, and then the Government didn’t allow any inspectors. What have you done since we last spoke on it?

SG Ban: As for the first part of the question, as you know, we tried to have a thorough investigation. This report might not have been sufficient because of the lack of full cooperation of the authorities on the ground. That has really hampered our authorities to go into the field and get a thorough investigation. It is important that we have to have a thorough investigation and as a matter of principle, there should be a clear accountability process and justice. I am firm about this matter. And we will, in the course of time, have better information on this matter.

  While appreciated, it is widely recognized that the more time goes by, the more difficult a credible rape investigation becomes. So why did UNAMID issue a cover-up November 9 press release?

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