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As Sudan Moves to Expel UN Officials from W.Darfur for Hunger Petitions, UN Silent on Kidnappers of Pilot, Inviting More

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 16 -- The UN in Sudan is like a beaten spouse. It just keeps taking it and staying silent, hoping things get better. But in this case, the UN's silence hurts not only itself but those civilians the UN is charged with protecting.

After a weekend in which two UN peacekeepers were taken hostage in South Darfur, and three UN officials reported threatened with expulsion in West Darfur, Inner City Press asked UN acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq about the incidents, and if the UN was finally ready to say who kidnapped its Russian pilot nearly a month ago. Video here, from Minute 8:11.

While the kidnappers' identity as government supported janjaweed militias has been widely reported, Haq said “I don't have anything further to say.” When the pilot was released, the UN said he would rest and then be interviewed as to who had taken him. But nothing has been said since.

Likewise despite reports in a newspaper in Jordan, from where the two just abducted peacekeepers come, that their kidnappers have made demands for reform of UNAMID, just as Sudanese authorities are making, Haq said the UN would say “nothing further at this time,” that the UN is “working for their safe release.”

This was the approach taken to the Russian pilot: but once released, there was no accountability for the kidnapping. Does it surprise the UN that given this impunity and the UN's silence, there are more kidnappings?

Jordanian peacekeepers training, kidnapping and UN silence not shown

   On the threatened expulsions from West Darfur -- Haq initially said they were from the Kalma Camp, which is in South Darfur -- it is reported on the UN's own ReliefWeb that one of the UN officials is being targeted because he forwarded a petition about eliminating hunger without the government's approval. Inner City Press asked, do UN officials accept that they need government approval, in Sudan or elsewhere, to forward such petitions?  Video here, from Minute 11:31.

I'm not aware that is a central issue,” Haq said, adding he would say nothing else because “discussions are ongoing with the government in Khartoum.” Like we said, the UN is like a battered spouse, getting hit, kidnapped and expelled but staying quiet, then surprised that it just keeps happening. But the UN is supposed to be protecting civilians: its silence hurts them as well. Watch this site.

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In Darfur, UN Denies Threatening IDPs, Defends Ending Humanitarian Reports, No Access to Jebel Marra

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 12 -- On Darfur, even when the UN belatedly provides some answers about the ongoing starvation of internally displaced people by the Sudanese government, it simultaneously dissembles about what six IDPs say were threats by the UN to turn them over to the government.

In the Kalma Camp, the six IDPs said

Joint Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari met them on Wednesday in presence of a government delegation led by state minister for humanitarian affairs Mutrif Sideeg... Gambari asked them to accept the presence of joint patrols formed by the Sudanese government and the hybrid peacekeeping mission. 'If you refuse to accept this deal I will have no choice but to hand you over to the Sudanese authorities,' Gambari told them.”

While UN spokesman Martin Nesirky denied this account on Thursday, when Inner City Press asked if Gambari had asked the IDPs to consent to searches of the camp by Sudan government authorities, only then did Nesirky read out a second part of his prepared guidance. Video here, from Minute 12:35. As subsequently provided to Inner City Press by the UN Spokesperson's Office:

Further to your questions at today's Spokesperson's Noon Briefing regarding Kalma camp in Darfur...

Joint Special Representative Gambari (JSR) met with the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kalma yesterday on a joint visit with Government of Sudan officials with whom he has been holding consultations on issues related to recent developments in Kalma. Contrary to press reports, the JSR did not "threaten" the IDPs. UNAMID will not hand over the six IDP leaders in question without a reassurance that certain preconditions as to their rights are met.

The JSR stressed the protection of civilian mandate of UNAMID and emphasized the need for sustainable peace in Darfur for all its populations. He highlighted that IDP camps are designed to provide shelter for vulnerable populations. Criminality and proliferation of weapons is not acceptable in Kalma and or any other IDP camp. He reassured the IDPs that all issues related to the Kalma incident are being discussed with a view to mutually-acceptable outcomes for all parties.

What are the “certain preconditions” under which the UN would turn over these IDPs to the Sudanese government? Watch this site.

UN's Ban and Gambari, reports of threats to IDPs (and Darfur Humanitarian Reports) not shown

Finally, these answers came in from UNAMID's Officer-in-Charge of both the Media Relations Unit and the Publications Unit, Christopher Cycmanick:

Inner City Press 1. I was told re Kalma Camp that international NGOs are barred, but some local NGOs get in. What percentage of the humanitarian work is impacted by the ban on INGOs?

OCHA: Due to increased insecurity and tension within the Kalma Camp the work of International NGO's and Humanitarian Agencies is not taking place. The last batch of humanitarian assistance reached the camp some 11 days ago. No proper estimate of impact on humanitarian programs in Kalma can be given without gaining access.

Inner City Press 2. Are the same or other restrictions in place at the Zalingi Camp?

UNAMID: There are no such restrictions in Zalingei. Humanitarian organizations maintain full access to the camp.

Inner City Press 3. What can you can about lack of humanitarian access to eastern Jebel Marra?

OCHA: Access to eastern Jebel Marra remains closed to humanitarians with very few exceptions.

Inner City Press 4. What access do UNAMID peacekeepers have?

UNAMID: Mission Peacekeepers do not have access to the Jebel Marra area because of the prevailing security situation and restrictions/denial of access from both Government of Sudan and rebel movements.

Inner City Press 5. Can you confirm reports of firing into Kalma Camp by people in government vehicles, and if UNAMID responded, what did this response consist of?

UNAMID: Sporadic firing in Kalma camp was reported, but this firing was done by some camp resident. There were no reports or evidence of firing by “people in government vehicles”. UNAMID Police is conducting 24/7 patrols in the Camp to increase security.

Inner City Press 6. Less immediately pressing, on humanitarian, the UN used to publish a "Darfur Humanitarian Profile" every quarter. It seems that these documents ceased appearing (with no explanation offered) after the Jan 1, 2009 report (reflecting conditions as of October 2008). Why is the UN no longer organizing and promulgating what data it has, as it used to do with the "Darfur Humanitarian Profiles"?

OCHA: Information continues to be collected and disseminated on the humanitarian situation in Darfur. The Darfur Humanitarian Profile was produced with broad participation of humanitarian organizations working in Darfur. The expulsion of 13 international NGOs from Sudan in March 2009 and increased relocation of remaining NGO staff in remote locations (largely as a result of insecurity) have critically reduced humanitarian presence on the ground. As a consequence, efforts to produce reliable data at the level of the DHP became untenable. OCHA continues to seek ways to restore reliable data collection in remote locations.

Inner City Press 7. Q: What data do the UN / UNAMID have on Global Acute Malnutrition? Why isn't it being collated and released publicly? Please provide your most recent data for the three Darfur states.

OCHA: A limited amount of malnutrition data for Darfur has been verified, which will be available in the next 1-2 days. Remaining data is still in the process of verification and will be released once verification is complete.

So not even UN peacekeepers have been able to access Jebal Marra. What about the protection of civilians mandate?

Inner City Press has asked for the malnutrition data and the “certain preconditions” under which UNAMID would turn over the six IDPs to the Sudanese government, and has posed the following additional questions:

What was ever found out about how had taken the Russian helicopter pilot?

Any movement on the Security Council's call for DPKO / UNAMID to reach a “full understanding of the facts” underlying the violence in Kalma Camp?

Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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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

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