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Of UN Council, Rice on Sudan and Congo, S. Africa Running for Seat, UN Musical Chairs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- Promoting its candidacy for a Security Council seat in 2011-12, South Africa threw a reception at the UN Monday night. The news, however, came from current Council members. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice was there, meeting and greeting including with the Press. One of her answers, about the Council's Congo trip, she said was off the record. Other answers will be reported, diplomatically of course.

  Since on the day Sudan's Omar al Bashir declared electoral victory the UN had said nothing at its noon briefing, rebuffing a shouted question from Inner City Press on Sudan and from another journalist about the Balkans, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rice if she thought the UN was being too quiet.

  Amb. Rice replied, as she would on Northern Congo, that she had spent the day immersed in something else, presumably Iran. These proposed sanctions, it seems clear, are the US Mission's and Administration's focus. But what about the outbreak of fighting between the SPLM and northerners, either tribes or Bashir's army?

  The focus, Amb. Rice said, the "big enchilada," is really on the referendum on South Sudan being independent. But if the process of these election was not credible, why and how would that one be?

  Still on Sudan, when Inner City Press told Ambassador Rice about reports of UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari meeting earlier in the day with Omar al Bashir, she smiled thinly. On the other hand, Sudan's Ambassador told Inner City Press he had called Gambari directly, and Gambari had gushed about the meeting, He said that in the pending UNMIS resolution, there is an attempt to give UNMIS chief Haile Menkerios a role up in Darfur.

  A Moroccan political coordinator, on the other hand, said the mixing of UNMIS and UNAMID would give Gambari a role in the South, "even if it breaks away." We'll see.

  Turning to the Congo, Inner City Press asked about the UN's strange failure to commit to investigating the alleged 11 civilian deaths caused in the re-taking of the airport in Northern Congo. When told that the alleged perpetrators are the Congolese Army, with which the UN works, Ambassador Rice said "good question." Inner City Press told her she is more likely to get an answer. "Thank you," she said.

US's Susan Rice, Gambari and "big enchilada" not shown

  There was chit chat, too. A reporter recounted that St. Lucia's Ambassador said Ms. Rice is part Caribbean. Ambassador Rice nodded. "All you need to know about me," she said, is I am half Jamaican and was conceived in Nigeria. She laughed. "My grand mother's maiden name was Daley [or Daly], as in Irish."

  Some reporters suggested she speak more with the press, contrasting her approach to that of the French. She shrugged. I can't do it every week, she said, adding that Americans are "not peacocks."

Menkerios, as it happens, will speak to the Security Council on Tuesday afternoon and then, it is promised, with the Press. An African Ambassador, requesting anonymity, told Inner City Press on Monday night that Menkerios' old position with the Department of Political Affairs will be filled by current Cyprus representative Taye-Brook Zerihoun. Then who would take Cyprus -- Atul Khare? Watch this site.

Footnote: as requested by the South African mission, Inner City Press would be remiss not to note that, with the African Union's endorsesment, South Africa is virtually assured of re-gaining a Council seat in 2011-12. When Inner City Press quipped that this fast return made the country the "Japan of Africa," a South African representative reminded that before what's now called the Dumisani Kumalo term, South Africa had not been represented. So welcome back -- the fix is in.

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Amid Sudan Deaths, Bashir Victory Declaration, Silence at UN, Disdain for Rebels

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- With Sudan's Omar al Bashir declaring victory in Sudan amid deadly clashes and kidnapped UN peacekeepers, in New York the UN Security Council, which had been scheduled to meet about Sudan, was silent Monday morning.

  The Council's schedule provided for a meeting about UNMIS, the UN Mission in South Sudan. Inner City Press was told that UNMIS chief Haile Menkerios would be present and take questions. But at this key moment, in the UN's basement, the Council sat empty.

  Over in the UN's three story North Lawn building, an Assistant Secretary General told Inner City Press that Bashir's 68% of the vote made him look more legitimate than "those countries where the leader claims ninety-eight percent."

  Is this why the UN is implicitly blessing the election? "This way we avoid violence," said the ASG. And the UN gets to stay in the country. But at what cost to its credibility?

   Moments later, a South African diplomat told Inner City Press his country's peacekeepers had been released. Just as Al Bashir said it would be: once the results -- and his winning -- were announced. As they say in legal Latin, res ipsa loquitur: the things speaks for itself.

On Friday, before al Bashir declared victory, Inner City Press asked the UN about violence:

Inner City Press: There are these reports of 50 civilians killed in South Darfur that I am sure, I believe, the UN has probably seen. There are also, it’s reported that Mr. [Djibril] Bassole was told by JEM [Justice and Equality Movement] that they believe the Government is about to begin another military assault in Darfur. What’s the UN doing, just as an update? Has it gone to Jebel Marra? Is it trying to investigate the death of civilians? And can you confirm JEM’s concerns?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Well, it’s not for us to confirm JEM’s concerns, of course. On the second part, UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] has also received an unconfirmed report, but the mission has not received any reports that confirm signs of an imminent attack by the Government, or indeed the presence of the JEM in east and North Darfur. So, that’s the first bit, that we’ve heard these unconfirmed reports. We cannot, we have not received any reports that would confirm signs of an imminent attack.

And as for the violence in South Darfur that you are referring to, according to UNAMID, and you may wish to ask them for more details, but from what I understand, this was an incident on 20 April, and it involved inter-tribal violence, the details of which are a little sketchy, I would say. But its result, from what we know, according to UNAMID [is] 15 people killed, 24 injured. This also included Sudan border guard police, who were, according to UNAMID, ambushed in the course of this inter-tribal violence that I referred to. That’s pretty much what I have for you there. As I said, it may well be that UNAMID could provide you with more details.

UNAMID chief Ibrahim Gambari was meeting one on one with al Bashir, who telling promised to get the kidnapped UN peacekeepers from South Africa released. Reporting by Inner City Press indicates that the kidnappers are affiliated or aligned with Bashir's government. The UN has said nothing.

UN's Ban and Bashir, in previous handshake: repeated?

Insiders tell Inner City Press that Gambari would like Bassole to step down, so he could take over the Doha portfolio as well. Gambari was pushed out of his role in Iraq by UNAMI chief Ad Melkert. On Sudan he wants to consolidate his position. In New York he had told Ban, I can help with with GA President Ali Treki. He told Treki the same. Thus are careers made and preserved in the UN. But what about Darfur? What to make of the UN's and Council's silence?

Footnote: In front of the empty Security Council Monday morning were ambassadors of several developing countries, waiting for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement next door. The NAM recently told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon he has no jurisdiction over war crimes, should not follow through on his promise to name a panel on Sri Lanka. And Ban has not moved forward, reverting to meeting with the Sri Lankan attorney general and hoping, like Sudan's scam elections, that the issue fades away.

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Amid Fraud in Sudan and Kidnapping by Bashir-Affiliated Militia, UN Cuts Off Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 21 -- With fraud exposed, on film, in the Sudanese election to which the UN provided technical assistance, and with four UN peacekeepers still missing in Darfur, apparently taken by a government affiliated militia, UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky on Tuesday cut off questions about Sudan and the election in favor of a press conference on Guatemala. Video here, from Minute 11:28.

  On April 19, when Inner City Press asked for a response to the view that the kidnappers of the UN peacekeepers are from a government-aligned militia, Nesirky dodged the question. On April 20, he simply did not take the question.

  Meanwhile, "UNAMID spokesperson Noureddine Mezni said, 'The Sudanese authorities know the identity of the kidnappers.'"

Consider that on the UN's own ReliefWeb site, it is reported that

"NYALA – A new group calling itself the Movement for the Struggle of the People in Darfur claims to have kidnapped four South African UNAMID peacekeepers in South Darfur. They want a ransom of an amount equivalent to half a million US dollars (a billion sudanese pounds) and the release of their 'detained leaders'... the group is part of the Irada Hura (SLM Free Will), a mixed group that signed a Declaration of Commitment after the Darfur Peace Agreemnent in Abuja. Their leader prof. Abdelrahman Musa died. The new leader, Ali Majok, was apparently appointed with support of the government and became a minister. But a faction within the group disagreed with his leadership. Adam Salih, another member of the faction, called for a meeting to contest the leadership. He formed in the meantime a new Movement for the Struggle of the People in Darfur."

Adam Salih, aka "Ahmad Salah Abubakr Abdallah" was previously associated with the "SLA Free Will" movement. The leader of the "Sudan Liberation Movement - Free Will faction had joined the national unity government" in 2008. "Aid agency sources say that SLA-Free Will is the creation of the GoS delegation in Abuja, whose goal is to split the rebels along tribal lines" [source]

"Ahmad Saleh, a Birgid, is a former SLA-Minni commander who joined SLA-Free Will in September 2006 and is believed to be close to the GoS" [source]

Amnesty International has implicated Adam Salih in "Janjaweed militia attacks"... [source]

  So were the UN peacekeepers taken by a government-affiliated militia?

  Is the UN not only "liaising" but negotiating with the government for their release?
Inner City Press, which has been asking the UN about its role in the re-election of indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir, sought to proceed with the question, or to have Mr. Nesirky return to the rostrum after the Guatemala presentation. While Nesirky said, "Let's do that," he left the briefing and did not return. But the questions will continue. Watch this site.

From the UN's April 21 transcript, Inner City Press' questions and OSSG's Nesirky's responses:

Inner City Press: On Sudan, the missing or kidnapped peacekeepers in Darfur, it is now being reported that South African Government has been negotiating with the group and the group has said that they will release the peacekeepers once the election results are released in Darfur. There are also reports that this group, both by the name of its founder and otherwise, are a somewhat Government-supported militia. What I wanted to know is whether the UN has had any involvement in these discussions between the South African Government and the hostage takers or, and whether, what it would say to a trail of evidence that seems to indicate that the hostage takers are in fact in some way initially created by or affiliated with the Government of Sudan?

Spokesperson: I have mentioned here before that the UN is concerned for the well-being of the four people, the four South African peacekeepers who are missing. And I have also said that the UN has been liaising with the Government of Sudan and, as in other such cases, it’s the responsibility of the host Government to ensure the safe return of people in such circumstances. And beyond that, I don’t have any comment at the moment.

Question: Of the concern that this liaising, that in fact, I mean, there’s also been, a UNAMID Spokesman has said that the Government knows who the hostage takers are, so that’s why I am assuming that that’s a UN-wide position.

Spokesperson: At the moment…

Question: Is that a matter of concern to the UN; that the host Government is aware of and allegedly is connected to the hostage talkers, is that of some concern?

Spokesperson: At the moment, there are two things. One is that the overriding concern is, again, for our people on the ground. And for that reason, I don’t have anything further to say.

Question: But you will, I mean once they’re released maybe you will…?

Spokesperson: The whole aim of the game is for our colleagues to be returned safely.

 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.

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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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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