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Pro Bashir Protest Greets UN Council in Darfur, IDP Camp Visits in Play

By Matthew Russell Lee

DARFUR, October 7 -- Chants against the US and the International Criminal Court greeted the UN Security Council's 15 Ambassadors when they arrived in Darfur on Thursday. Inside the airport, a group of women chanted their devotion to Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, who has been indicted by the ICC for war crimes and genocide.

At the airport gate, a larger crowd including children for a time blocked the Council's convoy, which ultimately broken through and rushed behind the barbed wire perimeter of the Super Camp of the joint African Union - UN Mission in Darfur, UNAMID.

 Once inside, the Ambassadors were whisked in to meet with Joint Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari and other UNAMID officials. Inner City Press went in too, for the promised photo opportunity at the beginning of the session.

  But in the corner, Gambari and Security Director Reddy were in intense conversation with US Ambassador Susan Rice, accompanied by her UK and Uganda counterparts Mark Lyall Grant and Ruhakana Rugunda.

Out window of UNSC bus, children waving fists, bridging not shown (c) MRLee

  Rather than freedom of movement for UN Peacekeepers and protection of civilians, the discussion seemed to revolve around the next days program of work: either a close-by internally displaced persons camp and then a Saudi-funded hospital, or an IDP camp some 20 kilometers from Al Fasher. Inner City Press, upon request, is not publishing the name of either camp. The impact of the protest that greeted the Council at the airport is not yet known.

Footnote: inside the UNAMID Super Camp, the Press was led to a welcome Internet cafe. But in seeking to leave the air conditioned container, Inner City Press was told that “you're really not supposed to wander around... I'll go with you.” Essentially, a minder system.

  Nevertheless UNAMID has its beauty: a V shape of birds in the sky, lit up periodically by lightening. After the call to prayer, people dropped to their knees in a larger, carpeted container. A UNAMID staffer said he rarely leaves the base. That's what the rebels say.

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Kiir Won't Declare Independence, Susan Rice Says, Debt, Darfur & LRA Followup Unclear

By Matthew Russell Lee

UN PLANE TO DARFUR, October 7 -- Susan Rice spoke on the record to the Press on the back of the UN plane at the conclusion of her South Sudan leg of the UN Security Council's trip to Uganda and Sudan.

 The US Permanent Representative to the UN recounted how Salva Kiir gave assurances that South Sudan will not make a unilateral declaration of independence. Rather, if Khartoum delays the nationwide referendum, South Sudan will hold its own referendum.

  Inner City Press asked, what about the Southerns living in the North? Could they vote in this scenario? How many of them are there?

  "No one knows," Susan Rice said, adding that the South had accepted the count of 500,000 Southerners in the North in the last election, but now Khartoum has boosted the figure to 2 to 3 million.

  This echoed earlier on the record comments by UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant. Neither Ambassador would answer what is being done to prevent registration fraud.

  Nor would Susan Rice answer what if anything the US plans to do about Sudan's nearly $40 billion in debt. She told Inner City Press that the US role on this is to support what the parties decide.

 But how could the South accept the transfer of more than its fair share of the country's overall debt without an assurance that it would be forgiven?

Pressed, Susan Rice said that there are "legislative constraints" to forgiving Sudan's debt, and that even an independent South Sudan might not be "HIPC eligible." But isn't most of the debt non-IMF high interest rate loans?

Salva Kiir & Susan Rice, UDI & debt relief not shown

Finally, Inner City Press asked her about the accusation by South Sudan Minister of Internal Affairs Gier Chuang Aluang, in front of the Council and media, that the Omar al Bashir government is arming the Lord's Resistance Army and cattle rustlers. We've heard that before, she said, including in UN reports. But his allegations were specific. What will be done? Watch this site.

Footnotes: the reception Wednesday night involved not only Rice and the Council but also George Clooney, being followed around South Sudan by tele-journalist Ann Curry. Clooney joked that he wouldn't take a photo with a South Sudanese who was "too tall."

  On the plan, while Susan Rice said she would leave UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant to speak about Darfur, Inner City Press asked her a question: what is the US' position on UNAMID's proposed turn over to the government of Omar al Bashir of five supporters of rebel Abdel Wahid Nur, which documents obtained and published by Inner City Press exposed as being immanent. Susan Rice said she wants to find out more about it during the Council's time in Darfur. We'll see.

* * *

South Sudan Accuses Bashir of Arming LRA as Susan Rice Smiles, Others Queasy

By Matthew Russell Lee

REJAF, SOUTH SUDAN, October 7 -- A military band greeted Susan Rice and 13 other Security Council Ambassadors on Thursday morning at this police training camp on the banks of the Nile River.

  The minister of internal affairs of the Government of South Sudan, Gier Chuang Aluong, gave a speech, in which he accused the government of Omar al Bashir of supplying ammunition not only to cattle rustlers but also the Lord's Resistance Army.

  Susan Rice did not react to this accusation, rather smiling broadly as South Sudan military figures praised her.

As the Security Council delegation took a tour of the facility, compete with mock hijackings of VIPs in four by four vehicle, fought off by the just trained police, Inner City Press asked another Council Ambassador if he was comfortable with the tone of the visit to Rejaf, sometimes called and spelled Rajaf.

  “It's a very sensitive situation,” he said, going on to wonder what the government of Sudan in Khartoum would think of this show of readiness for independence and with what some call its Susan Rice “cult of personality” aspect. Others say it is merely Susan showing her passion.

  Still, the mood was hopeful, with young South Sudanese singing and marching around in robo-cop crowd control outfits complete with thigh and shin armor. Inner City Press interviewed a number of the trainees, who said they are only paid from time to time and have no toilets, having to “use the bush.”

A speech to the Council members asked for $50 million to take the training facility to the next stage. Afterward an Ambassador joked to Inner City Press, “Did they expect us to take out our checkbooks?”

Susan Rice & SSudan minister, status neutral & $50 million not shown, (c) MRLee

  One Permanent Representative was conspicuously absent: Russia's Vitaly Churkin. It led one to wonder how such a Council Mission to Kosovo would have looked, while UNMIK was running it, before the unilateral declaration of independence. There, the UN's watchword was “status neutral.” Was that only because Serbia had Russia taking its side in the Council? Watch this site.

Footnote: the last leg of the Susan Rice portion of the trip, a visit to Wau, was canceled when the UN plane, run by Swift Air, broke down on the Juba tarmac. The entire delegation moved to the Russian base of UNMIS. Things started friendly, but then a Russian commander ordered the Press to stop using the Internet.

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.

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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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