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For Darfur Service, Female Peacekeeper Is Punished, UN Has No Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 15 -- The UN talks a lot about how much it values peacekeepers, and stresses the importance of having women as peacekeepers in its missions.

  On March 14, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric:

What is the UN's / UN Peacekeeping's response to an Indian police officer now facing punishment for having served in the UNAMID mission in Darfur? See,

  While Dujarric later on March 14 replied that he had no comment on another questions Inner City Press asked, about doubts if UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was validly invited to play any role in Thailand, the question about the woman peacekeeper punished for serving the UN in Darfur was not even acknowledged, much less answered.

   On March 15, UN Peacekeeping run by Herve Ladsous who refuses to answer Press questions, about child soldiers or anything else, tweeted, perhaps on automatic pilot, "Almost 1,000 female peacekeepers serve in AU - UN Mission in #Darfur #womenpeacekeeping."

  Inner City Press immediately replied, "What has #Ladsous done for this one? No answer."

  UNPeacekeeping, as usually, did not respond. But then Dujarric did: "No comment on the Indian troops... Your other questions will be addressed on Monday."

   How can the UN have no comment or response when a peacekeeper, in this case a woman peacekeeper, is punished for having served in a Mission? And as to Monday, there are a number of questions pending, from Nigeria to UN envoys to Ban's responsiveness (or not) to directives of the General Assembly. Watch this site.

  A week ago a mid attacks on civilians in Darfur in late February, and the blocking of African Union - UN peacekeepers of UNAMID from accessing the sites, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations under Herve Ladsous in New York had said little.

   Back in July 2013 Ladsous met with Sudan's president Omar al Bashir, indicted for genocide in Darfur by the International Criminal Court, but has refused to say why, despite critiques from some human rights groups, the Press and implicitly Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor of the ICCThis is Ladsous: film & UK.

  On the morning of March 8 US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki issued this statement:

We are deeply concerned by the recent escalation of violence by the Sudanese Government-supported Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Darfur. The United States strongly condemns attacks on civilians and calls upon the Government of Sudan to prevent further violence and to cease its own campaign of aerial bombardments.

On February 27th, the RSF, with media reports of support from the Sudanese Air Force, burned homes and attacked civilians outside of Nyala, resulting in multiple casualties and thousands of displaced civilians in Darfur. On February 23rd members of the RSF attacked and robbed internally displaced persons from the Kalma Camp in South Darfur, according to media reports. The Government of Sudan has refused to allow UNAMID peacekeepers access to the area to investigate these incidents.

We urge the Government of Sudan to uphold its commitments and allow UNAMID peacekeepers unhindered and immediate access to these areas, as mandated by the African Union and the United Nations.

The people of Darfur have suffered insecurity, violence and atrocities for far too long. Together with the international community, we urge the Government of Sudan and the armed movements active in Darfur to begin an inclusive and comprehensive political dialogue to achieve a peaceful resolution to the conflicts in Sudan and reestablish the rule of law.

   But where is Ladsous' DPKO?

  Back on February 4, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's lead spokesperson Martin Nesirky about a full-on critique of UN Peacekeeping's Darfur mission by its former spokesperson, Aicha Elbasri:

Inner City Press: On Darfur, maybe you have something on the Government ordering the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) to suspend operations. And I also wanted to know if thereís any response from the UN to former UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] spokesperson Aicha Elbasri. Sheís gone public, saying basically that, while serving as spokesperson of UNAMID, she wasnít given information; that the Mission under-reports abuses of civilians and other developments in Darfur. I wanted to know, whatís the response of the UN to that?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Iíd have to check with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations on both of those.

  So, respecting that, Inner City Press waited. The answers weren't directly provided by e-mail as the UN does with other, but read out at the noon briefing, apparently to see if anyone else might report more positively on them (no one did)

"we were asked about reporting by the African UnionĖUN Mission on developments in Darfur. UNAMID notes that it reports verified information on the situation in Darfur to the United Nations and to the African Union on a daily basis. This information is then made public in the Secretary-Generalís quarterly reports to the Security Council and, as the situation warrants, in press statements."

  To a casual or ill-informed listener, it sounded like a legitimate answer. But as the UN and its Department of Peacekeeping Operations under Herve Ladsous know, this is part of Aicha Elbasri's critique:

"On 24 April I resigned from UNAMID and wrote my end-of-mission report requesting the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to look into UNAMIDís violations of the UN Public Information policy which calls for open, transparent and honest information-sharing with the media. I didn't receive any response. On past August, I requested the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services to open an investigation into the matter. The information I shared with them should have made anyone who cares about the people of Darfur and the UN values and policies jump, call me and take a quick action. What I received so far is a deafening silence. And I can no longer wait, because every day that goes by, more men, women and children die in Darfur in total impunity and invisibility. So today I will break the UN code of conduct and share with you some confidential photos and information that show the African Union, the United Nations and UNAMIDí conspiracy of silence."

  Surely Ladsous' DPKO (and Carman Lapointe's OIOS) know what Aicha Elbasri submitted. But the public response was as set forth above.

  Ban Ki-moon tried to send his former speechwriter Michael Meyer to Sudan as communications chief of UNAMID; it never happened. Now Meyer is in Nairobi, "dean of the graduate school of media and communications at Aga Khan University." On the ICRC, Inner City Press checked and has found that inquiry was made - by the ICRC, not the UN -- with Sudan's "HAC." We'll have more on all this. Watch this site.


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