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At UN, Obi Wants Drones, Pibor in the Mist, Haiti in Denial, M23 Stronger

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 20 -- For six months the UN has refused to provide its estimate of the number of civilians killed in Pibor and Jonglei State, when the Lou Nuer and Merle clashed and the UN was slow to react because it had been without military helicopters since November.

  On June 20, Inner City Press asked Major General Moses Bisong Obi, the Force Commander of the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan, how many people were killed, when he knew he didn't have helicopters to protect civilians, and did he mean drones with his reference to technology? Video here, from Minute 30:19.

  Obi provided a revisionist version of Pibor: the Lou Nuer column was twelve kilometers long, those killed had made the mistake of "bouncing" down cattle tracks. He said "I'm almost convinced.. it's not in the thousands, at worst in the hundreds."

But now then does it compare to Houla in Syria, 100, which the whole world has condemned?

  Weeks ago, Inner City Press asked UNMISS top envoy Hilde Johnson what the Pibor casualty figure was, and when the report would be released. Immanently, she said. We're still waiting.

What IS the number in Pibor, and why does the UN think it can escape releasing a number? As with cholera in Haiti, the credibility of the UN and its Department of Peacekeeping Operations under Herve Ladsous is being damaged every day.

Inner City Press asked Ladsous, including about drones, when he left the Security Council on June 20 after four of "his" Force Commanders spoke.

Only three went to the press conference; the Italian chief of UNIFIL in Lebanon, Major General Paolo Serra, either didn't want to answer about Syria or was shy.

  The later seems unlikely since Serra met with "his" Italian Permanent Representative Cesare Maria Ragaglini, who spoke with him about "the recent crisis in Syria" - that is, more than a year and counting.

  But Ladsous said, "I don't talk to you, Mister." This is the third time. The first time, on camera, Ladsous refused to answer Inner City Press questions about cholera in Haiti and about he and Ban Ki-moon having as a Senior Adviser an alleged war criminal Sri Lanka general Shavendra Silva. Ladsous doesn't answer. But the questions pile up.

So Inner City Press asked Obi about drones; he said he didn't get the question. Video here, by Minute 35:22. Ladsous proposed drones -- sources say French, from Thales -- in a closed door C34 session. But he has not answered since, calling Inner City Press' coverage "innuendo."

Obi said of course he'd like drones, and any kind of surveilance.

But, Inner City Press asked, who would get the information? Only the Mission? Troop Contributing Countries? All Security Council members? Only the P-5? Only France?

Obi said the policy would be made "by the UN" -- Ladsous? Ban Ki-moon? -- and that if he got these resources, he'd be given limitations and guidance. By Ladsous?

Inner City Press asked Major General Fernando Rodrigues Goulart the Force Commander of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti if the near certainly that his peacekeepers introduced a South Asian strain of cholera to Haiti made it more difficult to carry about his mandate. Video here, from Minute 31:08.

Goulart said this "did not effect at all," then talked about protection of civilians. Video here, from Minute What about "first do no harm"? We'll have more on this.

Footnotes: While Inner City Press was not called on again to put a question to Lieutenant General Chander Prakash, the Force Commander of the Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, afterward Inner City Press asked him about the reports, including by the UN's own Group of Experts, of Rwanda involvement and bullets in the DRC. Prakash said he is not in the position to judge, but M23 is getting stronger.

Now five hours after Inner City Press published a piece on the blocking or delaying of the Group of Experts' DRC Sanctions report, there are outright denials of blocking, no response to the more nuanced "demanding the information be vetted" for a few weeks.

Finally, after yesterday's joint stakeout by Ladsous and General Robert Mood, it was remarked that Mood, as a straight talking -- talking! -- soldier, would make a much better chief of UN Peacekeeping than Ladsous. Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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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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