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Amid Sudan Threats, UN Ban Silent on Darfur with Sarkozy & US Steinberg

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 31 -- The UN under Ban Ki-moon seems to many to have turned away from Darfur. As peacekeepers under Ban's envoy Ibrahim Gambari stand idly by as the Sudanese government drags IDPs out of camps ostensibly protected by the UN, the UN has little to say.

In Addis Ababa over the weekend, Ban held a number of meetings with Presidents of African countries and France, and US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, with nary a mention of Darfur in the UN's read-outs.

On January 28, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky questions about Darfur, the belated response to which was a canned statement with no specifics about IDP camp raids and the UN's inaction. Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: on Sudan, in Darfur there is an NGO [non-governmental organization], CRS [Catholic Relief Service], says that it was escorted by UNAMID [United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur] from El Geneina to Khartoum based on complaints made by the Government against the NGO and I wonder what… can you… what can you say about that? When would UNAMID escort an NGO out of Darfur? And also what does UNAMID say to these reports that the Sudanese army said that they would burn down IDP [internally displaced persons] camps if UNAMID “interferes in their activities”?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, as I think we already told you a little earlier, we would expect to have something further to say on the second part of your question a little bit later. And on the first part on Catholic Relief Service, I will check.

   Earlier on January 28, Nesirky's office had said that an answer about the IDP camp threats would be forthcoming. But not only was there no answer at the day's UN briefing -- even afterwards, the statement the UN issued did not directly address the threats. The CRS question has yet to be answered, three days later.

   On January 30, among with a questions about the UN in Egypt, Inner City Press asked Nesirky and his Deputy Farhan Haq:

What did UNAMID do when the Sudanese authorities searched ZamZam IDP camp and took IDPs away? Please respond asap to quoted by IDP leader Omda Ahmed Atem, coordinator of camps in North Darfur, accusing UNAMID “of standing by idly” and that the government’s strategy of “peace from within” as a cover for operations designed to dismantle the camps and perpetuate the genocide.”

Ban's spokesmen did not answer or even acknowledge the question, while their office sent out a slew of anodyne read-outs of meetings, at which Ban did not raise Darfur. To US Deputy Secretary of State Steinberg Ban raised, according to the UN read-out:

On Sudan, the Secretary-General expressed his strong hope that the positive trend generated by the peaceful conduct of the referendum would lead to renewed focus on resolving post referendum issues and helping Southern Sudan establish strong democratic institutions.”

But even on this, and the related issues of Abyei, the UN is unresponsive. On January 29, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Nesirky and Haq:

What is the UN's / UNMIS's response to and action on that 'Kuol Deng Kuol, a Dinka Ngok paramount chief from Abyei, an oil-producing region straddling northern and southern Sudan, accused Friday the Misseryia tribe of violating Kadugli agreement'?”

Two days later, Ban's spokesperson's office has not answered or even acknowledged the question. The answer provided on January 28 to another Southern Sudan question was as follows:

Inner City Press: There is also, there is a Colonel Gai who has been at odds with the SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement], has some days ago asked for UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] to get involved in either mediating or somehow trying to bring about a peaceful resolution. What does UNMIS think of that and are they going to actually get involved in that?

Spokesperson: Let me check. I know that’s one of the points that you have already asked and we have sought some information on that. [He later said that UNMIS has been working with the parties and will continue to do so to ensure that all differences are resolved in a peaceful manner.]

  But if UNMIS was already “working with all the parties” why would Colonel Gai go public with a request for UN involvement in mediation? And, most troublingly, UNMIS' “involvement with all the parties” includes having provided air transportation and support to Ahmed Haroun, indicted for war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court.

UN's Ban pushed by Sarkozy - but not on Darfur or Haroun, Ouattara not shown

  While some claim that France is seeking a UN explanation of this, the UN's read out of Ban's meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy does not mention the issue. Watch this site.

Footnote: while in Gabon the opposition figure Mba Obame sought the support of Ban's UN and Ban's spokesmen have been asked day after day by Inner City Press for an update on the UN's response, Ban in Addis Ababa met with Gabon leader Ali Bongo, with nary a mention of democracy issues. That seemingly is the update.

* * *

UN Praises Exit of Darfur IDPs, Silent on Censorship, Refuses Sudan Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 21 -- The UN's cover up of abuses in Darfur hit a new low on Friday when Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky openly refused to take a question about Darfur, telling Inner City Press “I will take questions from you when you behave in an appropriate manner.”

  Apparently, asking about the UN's double standards is no longer “appropriate” under Ban Ki-moon and his spokesman Nesirky.

  In Sudan, through Ban's humanitarian coordinator Georg Charpentier the UN absolves the government of responsibility for murders by nomadic tribes, despite International Criminal Court indictments of President Omar al-Bashir and Ahmed Haroun for organizing such tribes to drive people from their land. Some point out that in Cote d'Ivoire, the UN blames “tribal” deaths on the “defiant leader” Laurent Gbagbo.

  On January 21 Nesirky read out a statement by Charpentier praising the “resettlement of IDPs from Kalma Camp.” The Sudanese government has been trying to move people out of Kalma Camp and shut it down for months, even imposing a blockade that the UN at first did not publicize or even mention.

  Having questioned top UN Peacekeeper Alain Le Roy on January 20 about the mission he oversees, UNAMID, and been told that there are now 43,000 new IDPs from fighting in Darfur, Inner City Press on January 21 asked Nesirky to compare these 43,000 to the undisclosed number of people moving out from Kalma Camp, voluntarily or not.

  Nesirky declined to provide any of the numbers underlying the Charpentier statement he had read out, merely saying that it was “worth drawing attention to.” Video here, from Minute 16:45.

  Earlier in the January 21 briefing, Inner City Press had asked why the UN has said nothing about Sudan's Omar al Bashir's government blocking the printing of an SPLM newspaper directed at Southern Sudan, Ajras al-Huriya, after they published articles about the secession referendum. Inner City Press also asked about the UN following its own rules. Video here, from Minute 16.

  In response, after first indicating he would take Inner City Press' question about Ban Ki-moon's Charpentier's claims that the thousands of violent deaths in Darfur in the last 12 months are not the fault of the government of Omar al-Bashir, Nesirky abruptly ended the briefing, telling Inner City Press “I will take questions from you when you behave in an appropriate manner.”

  What could be inappropriate -- to ask about the UN's failure to abide by a UN rule? To ask about the UN's ludicrous praise of and providing of transportation to indicted war criminal Ahmed Haroun?

UN's Le Roy (says 43,000 new IDPs), Nesirky reads PR re Kalma IDPs, refuses questions

   On January 18, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: what does the UN say about that, and also the lawyer for these Darfur activists, including the editor of Al-Safaha newspaper, said that they were tortured? They’ve just recently been released. Their lawyer said that they were tortured, and I just wonder what is… Given the Darfur connection, what does Mr. Gambari or the UN system, along with praising the referendum in the South, what do they say about these two things?

Spokesperson Nesirky: On the first, we’re aware of the reports, and I think we’ll be able to say something a little later. On the second, I’ll need to check with my colleagues. I don’t have any details on that.

The next day, just before the noon briefing, Nesirky's office sent this: “On your Darfur rights question from yesterday: "UNAMID is aware of the story which appeared in the press. The item is being monitored by the Mission's Human Rights Section." In the two days since, nothing. Monitoring?

On January 20, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: in Darfur, I wanted to know whether, now, several days after it happened, UNAMID has any confirmation or I guess denial of shootings of students in El Fasher right near the UN’s base, reported by Radio Dabanga and others. Has it been able to confirm that? Or did it not take place?

Spokesperson: What I can tell you is that, as the mission understands it, three students were hurt in this shooting incident at a high school in El Fasher, as you mentioned, on 18 January. The mission tells us that those three students have been evacuated by the local authorities to Khartoum for medical treatment and one of them is listed in critical condition.

Question: Who were they shot by, and why?

Spokesperson: That I can’t tell you, I don’t know, I would need to find out. But this is information that I have from the mission.

  The Charpentier question that Nesirky refused to take on Friday concerned precisely this UN blurriness about who is responsible for allowing the deaths of civilians. Again, in Cote d'Ivoire, the UN blames “tribal” deaths on the “defiant leader” Laurent Gbagbo. In Sudan, through Charpentier it absolves the government of responsibility for murders by nomadic tribes, despite ICC indictments of the President and Ahmed Haroun for organizing such tribes to drive people from their land.

  Inner City Press wanted and wants an explanation of this blatant double standard. But Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky simple refused to take the question. What should happen next? Watch this site.

* * *

As UN Admits Transporting ICC Indictee Harun to Abyei, NGOs & US Have Yet to Speak

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 11 -- The UN Mission in Sudan transported and assisted International Criminal Court indictee Ahmed Harun, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky confirmed to Inner City Press on Tuesday, because the UN finds Harun helpful in dealing with violence in Abyei.
   Nesirky implied that the UN will continue to transport Harun, saying that the UN "will continue to provide necessary support to key players."
Video here, from Minute 13:48.

  Inner City Press asked why the UN transported Harun, not only in light of his ICC indictment for war crimes in Darfur, but also of the capacities of the Sudanese Air Force, which has recently conducted bombing raids in and near Southern Sudan.

  If the Sudanese Air Force can bomb, Inner City Press asked, why can't it fly Harun to Abyei? Nesirky did not answer this question. Nor would he tell Inner City Press if UNMIS, led by Haile Menkerios, had checked with UN Headquarters' Office of Legal Affairs or Ban Ki-moon before transporting an indicted war criminal.

  It seems to some that the Sudanese government of Omar al Bashir, who has also been indicted by the ICC for genocide as well as war crimes, has no lack of capacity to transport its official Harun, but instead wanted to get the UN further involved in undercutting the war crimes indictments.

  Already, Haile Menkerios and his counterpart at the Mission in Darfur UNAMID Ibrahim Gambari attended the inauguration of Omar al Bashir. Inner City Press asked Nesirky, without answer, if the UN would provide transport and assistance to other ICC indictees, including Joseph Kony of the the Lord's Resistance Army, widely thought to be in South Darfur.

UN Security Council in Sudan w/ Gambari, 10/10 (c)MRLee

  Earlier on January 11, Inner City Press asked representatives of non-governmental organizations active on Sudan about the UN's transport of ICC indictee Harun. David Abramowitz, the Director of Policy and Government Relations of the group Humanity United, said that he wasn't aware of the reports of Harun being transported, "I have not seen that report."

  Nor has the US administration, including its Mission at the UN, yet spoken on the matter. Some wonder whether they were consulted, even whether, in light of the offer to delink Darfur from the offer to remove some sanctions on Sudan in exchange for the South Sudan referendum, if the US agreed.

  Sam Bell, the Executive Director of the Genocide Intervention Network / Save Darfur Coalition, said he hadn't seen the report confirmed, but either way it did not send a good message to the people of Darfur, where Harun was indicted for war crimes: "already Darfuri are suspicious of UNAMID and UN personnel."

  In fact, Harun was indicted for working with and organizing the type of nomadic tribes which are accused of the killings in Abyei, and now in South Kordofan state as well.

   Nesirky told Inner City Press that "Governor Harun was critical" to bringing the Miseriya tribes together. Video here, from Minute 15:58.

  So in this view, it is not only a matter of the fox guarding the hen house: the UN has taken to transporting the fox to the hen house. Where will there be accountability? Watch this site.

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.

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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

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