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In South Sudan as Official Says 3000 Killed, UN Said "Dozens," Ignores Ethnic Cleansing Question

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 6 -- While in South Sudan the Commissioner of Pibor County Joshua Konyi is quoted that "There have been mass killings, a massacre, we calculate so far that 2,182 women and children were killed and 959 men died," the head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous on January 5 put the number as "several dozen."

  How can the UN, with a large peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, be unable or unwilling to count the number of civilians who were killed, or to maintain a number so much lower than local officials?

  Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky, at the UN's January 6 noon briefing, to explain the UN's and Ladsous low estimate and the "huge discrepancy." Video here, from Minute 6:06.

  Nesirky disputed the statement of the local official, even that is WAS a statement of a local official, saying "these are media reports quoting an official... there are other reports with different numbers."

While some wondered if the UN would try to reach local officials and get them to reduce their casualty estimates, Nesirky said "it is important to note that the humanitarian operations is a main focus at the moment."

  This mirrored the UN's response to the charge they introduced cholera to Haiti: the UN wanted to focus on the future, not the past. But these killings took place less than a week ago.

(c) UN Photo
Ban Ki-moon and Ladsous: "dozens" killed or 3000?

After Nesirky similarly refused to confirm casualty figures reported by officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Inner City Press asked if the UN would even issue estimates of the number of people killed there and in Pibor, as the UN has in other countries. Let's see, Nesirky. Yes: let's.

Footnote: When Ladsous spoke to the press in a rare stakeout on January 5, while his microphone worked, the microphone used by the press to ask question was turned off.  Video here.

  Inner City Press asked Nesirky on January 6 if this could be benignly be attributed to the budget cuts Ban Ki-moon made so much of last month. "Good question, Matthew," Nesirky said, adding that Ladsous heard the questions, and answered them.

But asked if what happened in Pibor was "ethnic cleansing," Ladsous never answered the question. Watch this site.

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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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