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UN Refuses to Answer Mugabe Ambassador Question, Then Punts and Still Stonewalls on Sudan

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 14, updated -- Three days ago, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky was asked if the UN could confirm, and comment on, the Sudanese government's interrogation and intimidation of internally displaced people who spoke with members the UN Security Council during their trip to Darfur. Nesirky said, “let's find out” -- but three days later, nothing.

The same for another question asked by Inner City Press at the October 12 noon briefing, about the Sudanese government's beating and arrest of pro secession demonstrators. Nesirky said “I’ll see what we can get you on that” -- but two days later, nothing.

At 8 am on October 14, along with reiterating these and other outstanding questions, Inner City Press posed to Nesirky and his deputy Farhan Haq a few simple, factual questions, asking that they be responded to by the conclusion of Nesirky's October 14 noon briefing.

But five hours later, none of the question have been answered. One was referred to the Secretariat by the UN Mission in Sudan; another concerned public calls on Ban Ki-moon to not accredit the Ambassador sent by Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. Inner City Press asked:

On Zimbabwe, what is the Secretariat's response to the contention that the Ambassador sent by Robert Mugabe should not be accredited, as his appointment did not comply with the process agreed to with the involvement of the UN and Haile Menkerios? Is Mr. Ban going to meet with and, separately, accredit the person Mugabe has sent?”

Nesirky was also asked this question on October 13.

Mr. Ban and Nesirky, answers to simple questions not shown

 Is it too much to expect for an office the size of his to be able to provide a response to, or at least acknowledge receipt of, a simple factual question re-posed four hours before his noon briefing? Apparently for now it is. [After 4 pm, a response was received and is set forth in full below.]

  There were also three totally unresponsed to questions on a topic that Nesirky and Haq - and their boss? -- show most resistance to answering. These remain unanswered.Watch this site.

Footnote: On October 8 in its “Week End,” Nesirky's office said that there will be no October 15 noon briefing, just as another Friday noon briefing was canceled despite other spokesperson's office staffers being there. Nesirky has said that such cancelations are okay because questions can be asked by email. But then he and his office neglect to answer simple factual questions submitted by email four and more hours before noon. So which is it?

Update of 5 pm: the following arrived:

Subject: Your question on Zimbabwe
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply
To: Matthew.Lee [at]
Date: Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 4:38 PM

While the appointment of a Permanent Representative is an internal matter for Zimbabwe, which is to be decided upon in accordance with the provisions of its own domestic law, the Secretary-General believes that the Prime Minister’s letter highlights a source of concern regarding the political transition in Zimbabwe.

In that regard, the Secretary-General urges all Zimbabwean parties to respect the commitments they made in the Global Political Agreement of 15 September 2008 and ensure that the Agreement is implemented in its entirety in the interest of stability in Zimbabwe and the welfare of its people.

The Secretary-General encourages the guarantors of the Agreement, the Southern African Development Community and the African Union, to continue to accompany the implementation process and help build trust between the Zimbabwean parties. The United Nations has expressed its readiness to support that process, if requested to do so.

The appointment of a Permanent Representative is an internal matter for a Member State, which is to be decided upon in accordance with the provisions of its own domestic law. Ambassador Chipaziwa was properly accredited as Permanent Representative of the Republic of Zimbabwe to United Nations Headquarters in New York on 28 June 2010. We will be bound by the letter of his accreditation until advised otherwise by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

So it took more than eight hours to say... “we aren't going to do anything”? And what about the numerous other unresponded to, not even acknowledged questions? Watch this site.

* * *

In Sudan, UNMIS Dodges on Panel and Exclusions from UN Jobs & UN Plane

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 14 -- Upon arriving in South Sudan a week ago, the UN Security Council was met by two separate demonstrations.

  The reported one was pro-secession, in the run up with the referendum scheduled for January 9. Also in the crowd, noted by more than one journalist but at the time not reported, were signs and chants of “workers rights are human rights.”

  The following day the Sudanese media on the UN flight from Juba to Darfur were thrown off the plane. This was first reported by Inner City Press, then by Sudanese publications and others.

  From the US early on October 13, Inner City Press directed three questions to the UNMIS spokesman in Khartoum. Twenty four hours later, responses were provided.

  But each was a model of evasion, explicitly not providing the basis information requested and in one case simply referring the question back to spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York, Martin Nesirky, to whom it has been re-directed four hours before his October 13 noon briefing.

Here are Inner City Press' three questions among with explanation, and UNMIS spokesman Ashraf Eissa's responses:

Please provide by email asap what UNMIS put out about the incident with the Sudanese journalist(s) on the tarmac in Juba in the Security Council delegation's plane.”

The basis of this question was a journalist on the trip referring to a canned UNMIS statement put out in writing in the UN Spokesperson's Office in New York. It was no longer there when Inner City Press checked. So Inner City Press asked UNMIS. But after 24 hours, Eissa replied:

UNMIS has received formal complaints re the incident from the two institutions with which four journalists who traveled with the SC group are affiliated. UNMIS has formally responded to these complaints.”

Why not say what the “formal response” was? Security Council members, including a Permanent Five member whom Inner City Press spoke with about it, saw and then read out the ejection of the Sudanese media. What is UNMIS' response? The Council meets on Thursday morning about its Sudan trip - will it exclude this aspect?

Inner City Press also asked:

Please provide the response of UNMIS / the UN to the "The Southern Sudanese Drivers and Mechanics Association... cit[ing] UNDP, UNMIS and Kenya Commercial Bank among the organizations that continue to employ foreigners in positions that many unemployed indiginous should hold, rendering local drivers redundant.”

To this, Eissa responded:

On employment. It is for other organisations to answer, but as far as UNMIS is concerned, All national staff jobs are exclusively for Sudanese nationals.”

While Inner City Press was told, while at Juba airport, that much (but not all) of the protest of the UN was directed UNDP, the UN Development Program, and not only at UNMIS, doesn't UNMIS have some role to speak for the UN system, at least in South Sudan?

For example, the UN system's Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Representative Georg Charpentier is, he seemed to say in El Fasher, an employee of UNDP. But still he purports to speak for the wider UN system.  (Inner City Press has posed these and other questions to UNDP).

  Cannot a formal spokesman like Eissa do the same?

UN's Menkerios, reclusive UNMIS chief, responsive info not shown

    UNMIS' stated mandate includes “promoting understanding of the peace process and the role of UNMIS by means of an effective public information campaign, targeted at all sectors of society... promoting the rule of law, including an independent judiciary, and the protection of human rights of all people of Sudan” -- including, presumably, those Sudanese protesting their exclusion from jobs of the UN system, including UNDP.

   While the Council and media were in Sudan, UNMIS one-year chief Haile Menkerios did not speak with the press, despite requests made to the UN. Media based in Sudan say Menkerios rarely provides responses to reporters. What about “promoting understanding of the peace process and the role of UNMIS by means of an effective public information campaign" ?

Inner City Press third questions, not related to what it saw first hand in South Sudan, was

Please describe how Benjamin Mkapa, António Monteiro, Bhojraj Pokharel and their staff are being compensated or having their expenses paid.”

   To this factual and financial question, UNMIS' Eissa has responded:

The SG's Panel is a totally independent panel from UNMIS. It reports directly to the Secretary-General in NY.”

The work of this panel in South Sudan and Abyei until October 15 is breathlessly reported on UNMIS' website, so Eissa's response seems too legalistic. Even though answers promised by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson in New York Martin Nesirky back on October 11 have still not been provided, Inner City Press is re-directing this and other questions to Nesirky. Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Ban Meeting with Sudan Archbishop Excludes Press, No Answers on Debt

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 11 -- The UN says that the situation in Sudan is of much import to it. But then the UN refuses to answer questions, and refuses to let the Press cover what the UN is doing about Sudan.

  The October 11 schedule of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon included a 4:30 meeting with “Sudanese Church Leaders.” Every other appointment continued the name of the counter-party.

  Usually such meetings begin with a photo opportunity. This one was no different -- except only UN Photo and not the Press was allowed to photograph the meeting.

  Inner City Press asked the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit if it could photograph beginning of the meeting. It was confirmed that UN Photo was going; the staged handshake would take place. But “Farhan” -- on information and belief, acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq -- said no, Inner City Press could not attend the already scheduled photo op. No reason was given.

  Nevertheless, Inner City Press went to the North Lawn building, two stories below Ban Ki-moon's office. Francis Deng, the Sudanese advisor to the Secretary General on Genocide, went up, stopping to confirm to Inner City Press that he was attending the meeting. Then a UN Photo staffer went up. But Inner City Press was not allowed.

  After the meeting, Inner City Press waited and spoke with the Episcopal Archbishop of Sudan, Daniel Deng Bul. He told Inner City Press that everything must be done to ensure an on time and peace referendum, that was the only way to protect the churches in North Sudan.

  He told Inner City Press: "they have to push to have a peaceful Sudan, the referendum [in time] - once done, you've brought a peaceful country."

  But few whom Inner City Press spoke while covering the Security Council's four day trip to Sudan were hopeful for an on-time much less peaceful referendum. And the demonstrators in Khartoum on October 9 were saying that only unity could bring peace.

   Inner City Press asked about resource sharing, Abyei and oil. The Archbishop said the CPA contains the mechanism: 50 / 50. But even now the mechanishm is hardly working.

Salva Kiir of South Sudan and Archbishop, Ban and UN protection not shown

 Archbishop Bull and his delegation -- Inner City Press also spoke with Caritas' Permanent Delegate to the UN -- have other meetings set up. Let's hope those are more transparent, and that those met with can bring more to the table. Watch this site.

Footnote: also at the UN on Monday, Inner City Press directed a question about Sudan's external debt to Eckhard Deutscher, Chair of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development: would OECD countries be willing to forgive some of Sudan's $37 billion in debt, as a way to sweeten the pot, or make the loss of oil revenue more palatable?

   Mr. Deutsche responded with platitudes, about the IMF's good programs. But a Permanent Five ambassador on the Sudan trip told Inner City Press that Sudan (and South Sudan) are not eligible for the HIPC program. So what is being done?

* * *

In Darfur, Gambari Criticizes Nur & Inner City Press on Video, Transcription Here

By Matthew Russell Lee

DARFUR, October 8 -- Peacekeepers were sent to Darfur after reports of a brutal campaign by the government of Omar al Bashir against opponents of his regime and civilians perceived as supporting them.

Now top peacekeeper Ibrahim Gambari, as shown by documents leaked to and published by Inner City Press, is near to turning over five supporters of rebel Abdel Wahid Nur to that same Bashir regime, in exchange for a promise by Bashir to commute any death sentence his courts impose.

Several members of the UN Security Council, which ostensibly oversees Gambari's actions along with the African Union, expressed surprise to Inner City Press once they saw the leaked documents, consisting of a draft letter and “Additional Terms” from Gambari to Bashir's foreign minister Ali Karti.

On the UN plane Thursday to El Fasher from South Sudan, US Ambassador Susan Rice told Inner City Press that she intends to inquire into Gambari's offers about the Kalma Camp Five while in Darfur. This echoed a statement of intention previously issued by another Permanent Member of the Council.

After a closed door meeting with the visiting Security Council members, Gambari and two of his military officials, in uniform, came to see the Press. Gambari called Inner City Press' publication of his draft documents “reprehensible” and told Inner City Press to “be careful... lives are at stake.”  Transcription below.

  Yeah, a witness to Gambari's statements later said, the lives of the Kalma Camp Five are at risk if the UN turns them over to a strongman already indicted for genocide and war crimes. “Is this what the UN should be doing?”

Gambari, Lyall Grant, Susan Rice, Churkin- oversight not seen? (c) MRLee

  Gambari's statements to Inner City Press were caught on video and will soon be published online as such. For now, here is a transcription, prepared late Thursday night at a guest house in El Fasher outside of Gambari's UNAMID compound:

Inner City Press asked Ibrahim Gambari, “What's happen with the Kalma Camp Five that you are considering turning over to the government... or that documents indicate you are considering turning over?”

Gambari answered: “Here is the situation. We have these five sheikhs who have been accused of some very serious offenses. We have no means as UNAMID to try them... Down the line if ever there was a death sentence, the President has the prerogative of mercy. All has been discussed confidentially. I want to say how reprehensible it was that somebody leaked the confidential communication of the government of Sudan...endangering the lives of those in the camps. The recipient of such a leak I think should also think twice about what they do considering that they are endangering the lives.. We've lost 27 peacekeepers between UNAMID and UNMIS, I mean AMIS.”

Inner City Press asked about Abdel Wahid Nur saying that if the Five are turned over, it will make UNAMID complicit in genocide, and that his group would not cooperate with the UN any more.

Gambari responded, “you quote words Abdel Wahid was supposed to have said... I met Khalil Ibrahim yesterday, asked how about how someone said JEM wants Gambari to resign for Tarabat Market. [He said he] ever said that, never authorized this... I want to hear from Abdel Wahid. I've been to Paris twice, I went to Tripoli...What happened in New York I condemn it. Matthew I have known you a long time, you should be careful... You are a recipient of a leaked document... Journalism also is a responsibility. I regard you as a friend, I used to, I regard you as a friend, I am admitting that.”

Of Abdel Wahid Nur, Gambari said: “He wants all issues resolved almost before he comes.”

“Matthew, I'm very angry with you , what are we supposed to do, keep people indefinitely?”

Inner City Press said, “Several Security Council members, when they saw the leaked documents, said they were not aware that you or UNAMID were in such discussions, and some expressed worry. How much is this Mission overseen by the Security Council?”

Gambari said “Ask them. Ask the S-G. I am responsible to two masters. You have the AU and you have the UN. The unity of the international community is key to finding a solution.”

Inner City Press said, as Gambari backed out the door toward his vehicle, “Transparency you can always say is dangerous, but I think it's probably a good thing.”

“No,” Gambari said. “Believe me, lives are at stake.”

Or maybe jobs, a witness to Gambari's statements later said, adding that the lives of the Kalma Camp Five are at risk if the UN turns them over to a strongman already indicted for genocide and war crimes. Among other lives put at risk, without oversight, transparency or explanation. “Is this what the UN should be doing?” Watch this site.

Footnote: it's worth noting that even before Inner City Press obtained and published Gambari's draft letter to Sudan's Ali Karti, Gambari had already expressed anger at Inner City Press' publication of other leaked documents concerning his time as UN envoy to Myanmar.

  That time, before the UN's September 24 high level meeting on Sudan, Gambari didn't argue about lives being at risk. He claimed the documents were “old” (2009) and not newsworthy. “Just leave me alone,” he said, having in the past declined to respond to questions sentto his UN e-mail address by Inner City Press. Now, the claim that lives are put at risk. Is it just opposition to transparency?

Watch this site, follow on Twitter @InnerCityPress.

 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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