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At UN, Ladsous Shifts Pibor Dead from Dozens to 100s, Inconsistent with Johnson

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 8 -- "Hundreds" of people were killed in Pibor in Jonglei state, after the UN was unable to transport "lethal assets to dissuade" the violence due to a lack of military helicopters. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has laid the blame for this on Russia for refusing to fly.

  Along with sexual abuse and the introduction of cholera in Haiti, it is one of the biggest recent scandals for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, headed by the fourth Frenchman in a row, Herve Ladsous.

Was the UN negligent in not acting more forcefully before the bloodshed (after which it arranged for two Bangladeshi helicopters from its Congo mission)? Inner City Press has repeatedly been informed, by Russian and UN officials, that the Russian made clear in mid-November that they wouldn't fly.

  But in a January 23 video briefing, UN envoy to South Sudan Hilde Johnson said that after the Russians notified the UN of this in mid November, after assurances by South Sudan it would comply with the Status of Forces Agreement, the Russian flew "to some team sites again." She continued that "subsequently" the Russians told the UN they would not fly.

  Inner City Press asked again: when was this "subsequently" - when did the Russians re-tell the UN that they would not fly? In her second answer, Johnson simply did not answer this question, but rather said that APCs got to Pibor "through the mud" -- again without stating the timing.

  Allowed a final round of questions, Inner City Press for a third time asked for the date(s) and Johnson now said "we'll have to get back to you, I don't have that in front of me."

  Since then, despite repeated requests, no date has been provided. Ban's spokesman referred Inner City Press to DPKO chief Ladsous.

  February 7 at the stakeout in front of the Security Council, Inner City Press asked Ladsous for this "subsequent" date. He answered that even though the Russians had said they would not fly, they were occupying space or spots for helicopters.

At Ladsous' February 8 press conference, Inner City Press asked Ladsous to square his answer with that of Hilde Johnson, and Ban's claims in his January 18 speech. Ladsous now referred to a cap on helicopters. But should the UN have earlier raised it voice or "begged" as Ban said he did, some think far too late?

Ladsous said that the media was wrong to report -- based on a local Jonglei state official -- that thousands had been killed. He said that "hundreds" were killed. This varies from what Ladsous previously said -- "dozens" -- and what Nesirky's deputy said, fifteen.

(c) UN Photo
Ladsous in the briefing room

  Inner City Press asked Nesirky why the UN had not provided this number updated to "hundreds" in a case where the UN may bear some responsibility, while the UN is providing numbers about other places. Nesirky said that Ladsous had just provided a "preview," and that more information will be released by the UN. Watch this site.

Footnote: Inner City Press asked Ladsous if he believes that making Shavendra Silva, named in Ban's own Panel of Experts report as heading a battalion in Sri Lanka which shelled hospitals and killed surrendering people, a "Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping Operations" to the UN and DPKO. Ladsous insisted that it was up to the Asia group, mentioned that there is some further consideration.

If, as several member states have told Inner City Press, the "fix" is to switch for Silva the top Sri Lankan ambassador Palitha Kohona, who also played a role in the so called White Flag killing of surrenderees, it will be difficult for Ban or Ladsous to claim any role, having both said they have no power, no role, even no opinion. We'll see.

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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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