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In Darfur, UN Is Forced To Correct Its Fast Thanks to Sudan, Kalma Camp Problems, Expulsions and UN Silence Persist

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 16 -- The UN in Sudan is too slow to complain and too fast to celebrate. On August 16, after refusing to confirm to Inner City Press at the noon briefing that UN officials in West Darfur are being expelled, the UN Spokesperson's Office put out an unequivocal statement that “the Secretary-General appreciates the restoration today of humanitarian access to Kalma Camp.”

Inner City Press' sources in South Darfur told it that access had not, in fact, been restored. Even the UN had to acknowledge it, putting out a correction at 3:25 pm that “the Secretary-General appreciates the restoration today of some humanitarian access to Kalma Camp.”

Nearly immediately, Inner City Press wrote to the two top officials working in the Spokesperson's Office on Monday, asking

In light of the revision of today's statement on Darfur to include “some” in “restoration of some humanitarian access,” please describe as specifically as possible what types of humanitarian access have NOT yet been restored. On deadline. Thanks.”

Despite the statement “on deadline,” and the UN's own mistake, three hours later no response was provided. A report from Sudan quoted an OCHA spokesperson whose contact information is not online that “it was mostly an assessment mission.”

Another UN spokesman in Sudan confirmed on Monday what the UN in New York would not, that "The heads of the UNHCR (U.N. refugee agency) and FAO (Food and Agriculture) agencies in West Darfur as well as the head of UNHCR agency in Zalengei have been asked to leave.”

UN's Ban and Al Bashir, thanks for access to Kalma: correction not shown

At Monday's noon briefing in New York, according to the UN's own transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask a couple of questions about Sudan. One is: can you confirm the reports that in West Darfur, the head of FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization], two people from UNHCR [United Nations refugee agency] and two Red Cross people have been expelled by the Government? Particularly as to the UN officials, is that something you can confirm? And also as to the two peacekeepers, a Jordanian newspaper has said that those who had taken the peacekeepers have made demands about some reforms for UNAMID to make. I wonder if the UN has any idea whether these are Government-affiliated kidnappers. And finally, whatever happened on the pilot investigation, the Russian pilot that was taken in Darfur? Did they ever find out who was behind that? Was it the Government-affiliated Janjaweed or other rebels?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, first of all, on the question of the various abductions: on the Russian pilot issue, I don’t have anything further to say. On the issue of the two people that were abducted over the weekend from UNAMID, we did put a press release from UNAMID over the weekend mentioning that abduction, but we do not have any further comment or any details at this time. We are, of course, working for their safe release and wouldn’t have any comment to make on that.

As for the situation at Kalma camp of the various agencies, we have seen the preliminary reports of these developments, and we are awaiting further clarification from the Government of Sudan.

Inner City Press: It seems like a whole other region; these expulsions are the head of FAO for all of West Darfur, and El Geneina and in Zalingei. I’m not trying to be… I’m just saying that it seems like the standoff between UNAMID and local officials in Darfur seems to be spreading from South Darfur to West Darfur. I just wonder what the plan to deal with this is.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: On the question of West Darfur, our understanding is that the statements were related to security matters in West Darfur State. However, expulsion orders have not been officially issued. Discussions are ongoing between the UN and the Government in Khartoum. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has requested that it will handle these developments on its own behalf, which the UN will respect...

Inner City Press: I’m sorry, there’s just one more on this. There’s a story about these West Darfur expulsions, says that the head of FAO for West Darfur was asked to leave because he had forwarded a petition against hunger, “”, and authorities said he did not obtain approval for it. So I’m wondering, you said it was a security situation, but is there any indication… that’s why I’m saying it seems like the Government is cracking down. Are UN officials permitted to forward things like this “” petition to stop hunger without governmental authority, or do they seek approval?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’m not really aware that this is a central issue. Like I said, discussions are ongoing between the UN and the Government in Khartoum, and we’ll see what the results of that are.

But at the same time, Abdallah al-Fadil, head of UNAMID in West Darfur, was quoted that "The heads of the UNHCR and FAO agencies in West Darfur as well as the head of UNHCR agency in Zalengei have been asked to leave.” So why did the UN in New York says that “expulsion orders have not been officially issued” and that all humanitarian access to the Kalma Camp had been restored?

The UN in Sudan is too slow to complain and too fast to celebrate. And this puts civilians at risk. Watch this site.

* * *

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.

 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.

* * *

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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