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As Sudan Expels UN Officials from Darfur for Rape Detection, UN Silent, Menkerios One Year & Out, Gration's Khartoum Jaunt

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 18 -- As in West Darfur UN officials are being expelled for distributing rape detection equipment and collecting signatures on an anti-hunger petition, the UN in New York insists on saying nothing, trying desperately to ingratiate itself to Sudanese authorities.

After a spokesman for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization confirmed the expulsion of its official for circulating the petition on hunger, Inner City Press asked the Spokesman for Ban Ki-moon about this, and the expulsion of other UN officials for conducting research into rape in Darfur. Video here, from Minute 17:41.

Nesirky insisted, contrary to the FAO confirmation, that the UN has “still received no official notification,” is still speaking with the government and “can't say any more.”

But doesn't this reflect a split of the UN Secretariat from from FAO, which confirms the expulsions? Nesirky pointed back at his own answer, that he “can't say anymore.” Can't or won't?

Ironically, Nesirky moderated an August 6 press conference by Margot Wallstrom, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, at which Ms. Wallstrom said that Sudan would be a major focus of her offices since rape by “men in uniform” is widespread there. Video here.

How can the UN work on the issue of rape in Sudan it is lets its personnel be expelled for distributing rape detection equipment, and then refuses to defend them or even speak about the case?

UN's Ban and Wallstrom on rape, comment on Sudan expulsions not shown

Inner City Press also asked if the UN is facilitating or helping the visit to Sudan by US Envoy Scott Gration. While some said with this trip Gration would be addressing his perceived disinterested in Darfur, now this trip is reported to be mostly about the North - South conflict and the referendum.

So who in the UN would be facilitating his trip -- Haile Menkerios, the head of the UN Misssion in Sudan? Earlier this week, Inner City Press asked Nesirky's acting deputy Farhan Haq to confirm that Menkerios only went to Sudan begrudgingly, with a deal to come back to New York and his Department of Political Affairs job in at most one year.  Video here, near end.

  That is the informal understanding, Haq said. What does this say about the UN's commitment to protecting civilians in Sudan?

Another joke making that rounds is that while Sudan may throw out the UNAMID mission, it would allow UNAMID chief Ibrahim Gambari to stay. Others say Gambari, despite all odds, may have his eye on the top post in his native Nigeria. We'll see.

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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.

 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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