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On Darfur, After IDP Camp Is Razed, SC Resolution, UK on UNAMID

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 3 -- Two days after an internally displaced person's camp in Khor Abeche, Darfur was burned down right next to a UNAMID peacekeeping base, the UN Security Council adopted a UK-drafted resolution about UNAMID by a vote of 15-0.  The resolution is online here.

  After the vote, Sudan's Deputy Permanent Representative spoke about "positive developments in Darfur."  Moments later, UK Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant and representatives of three Western wire services showed up simultaneously at the Council stakeout. (The Free UN Coalition for Access asserts that such press availabilities at the UN should be more widely announced.)

  After two of the wires, Inner City Press was able to ask Lyall Grant about UNAMID's (in) action as the residences in Khor Abeche, and reportedly a sheikh, were burned.

  Lyall Grant diplomatically answered that at times UNAMID has not been robust enough. He said that weaker performing contingents are being rotated out - it would be good for UN Peacekeeping to disclose the specifics - and said that the government bans some nationalities from serving in UNAMID.

  (Inner City Press also asked about Chad's decision to withdraw its soldiers from the Central African Republic, but Lyall Grant declined to comment on CAR. We'll have more on all this.)

  Lyall Grant concluded that UNAMID's Chambas will speak with the Council later today under Any Other Business. We'll see.

  On April 1, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about Darfur. There are satellite photographs, recently released, that show, next to the Khor Abeche camp, basically, that the camp did shelter people that lived in the surrounding IDP [internally displaced persons] camp, that the camp was entirely destroyed and burned down and that the sheik was killed by fire. Some people say that it is Government-supported rebels. In any event, it seemed clear like a lot of people were killed right next to a UN camp. So I wanted to know, what is the response of UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] to those who say it shows that they are not really able to protect people? And also, why hasnít the UN itself raised the red flag about this attack in Khor Abeche?

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq: I will check with our peacekeeping colleagues what information that they have from UNAMID on that.

   Later on April 1, the UN Spokesperson's office sent Inner City Press an email pointing to a previous statement about food, and added it to the transcript:

[The Deputy Spokesman later noted that a UNAMID convoy with relief items from UN agencies arrived in Khor Abeche on 26 March. The Missionís peacekeepers, with the support of community leaders, distributed food to thousands of internally displaced persons who are taking refuge at the Missionís base there.]

   But what about the burning down of the houses? Is that all that today's UN say or does about it?

   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.

  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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