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As Darfur IDPs Speak of Hunger, UN Says No Famine, Silent on Blockade, No UNSC Oversight

By Matthew Russell Lee

ABU SHOUK IDP CAMP, DARFUR, October 8 -- Minutes after internally displaced women here told Inner City Press of being unable to feed their children due to cutbacks by the UN World Food Program, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Georg Charpentier told the Press that “there is no lack of food in Abu Shouk.”

  Charpentier's evidence, as he presented it, was the presence of taxis in the IDP camp's market area. The standard he applied became clear when Inner City Press asked why it had taken him and the UN so long to speak out against Sudan's government's blockade of the Kalma IDP Camp.

  Charpentier said that “there was no famine” in Kalma, and that therefore the warnings were “exaggerated.”

  On question after question, Charpentier sounds suspiciously similar to the Wali of North Darfur, who earlier on Friday had harangued the UN Security Council members with statistics that various forms of crime have decreased 70 to 80%. It is one thing for a government to try to downplay its problems. But to have the UN humanitarian coordinator joining in the spin is problematic.

  US Permanent Representative Susan Rice, who was on the trip, was previously informed by Inner City Press of problems with Charpentier's performance of his supposedly impartial humanitarian duties. Ambassador Rice said she would look into it while in Darfur -- but did she?

  The UN Security Council members spent less than a quarter of an hour in the camp. Their intake was purely anecdotal. Inner City Press watched as one Ambassador used a UN translator to ask a Sudanese woman how long it had been since she'd been home. Oh you go ever six months, the Ambassador then said. No, the woman said, I said I still have some family members there, but I can't go due to safety.

  Who really oversees the UN's missions and ostensibly humanitarian operations on the ground? This trip has made it clear at the Security Council is not overseeing even the peacekeeping missions it forms and send into the field. In the humanitarian sphere there may be even less oversight.

Kids in Abu Shouk IDP camp, malnutrition not shown due to UN, (c) MRLee

  Inner City Press is widely told by people in Sudan that Charpentier has “gone native” and sides and shares documents with the Sudanese authorities. (Charpentier denies the latter, although a high placed UN official has already admitted that the government of Sudan has been shown UN documents before they are released.)

  While Inner City Press was trying to report on the Council members' movements through the IDP camp, UN staff repeated told Inner City Press to “put the camera away,” that the “G.O.S.” or Government Of Sudan could come and seize the camera and even put Inner City Press in jail.

  It emerged from the UN staff that this had happened not ago to a Japanese TV journalist. Why did the UN say nothing about this? Why did Georg Charpentier say nothing while the Government of Sudan blockaded the Kalma IDP camp? What will Susan Rice and the other Council members do to try to stop any of these trends? Watch this site.

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N. Darfur Wali Lectures UN Council, One Eyed Statistics: Down, Down USA or ICC?

By Matthew Russell Lee

AL FASHER, October 8 -- The UN Security Council was lambasted on Friday by the Wali of North Darfur as approaching Sudan's problems with “one eye” rather than two. In a large room at the Wali's compound, Sudan's Permanent Representative to the UN translated a series of statistics comparing crime including violence against women from 2004 to 2010, each time with a decrease.

One New Yorker in the crowd saw it as similar to Rudy Giuliani. But when it was the turn of Mark Lyall Grant to speak, as the Council's leader of the Darfur leg of the trip, he countered with the 250% increase in violent death from last year to this. While this surge -- which the US has referred to as a mere “uptick” -- is undeniable, Lyall Grant did not directly respond to the Wali's numbers, 2004 to 2010.

After some initial back and forth, the Press was asked to leave, reportedly at the request of one or more UN Security Council members. Just outside the door to the Wali's meeting room, several dozen protesters -- some from Thursday's protest inside the airport -- chanted “Down, down ICC.”

Once, the man with the bullhorn shifted to “Down, down USA” but was quickly corrected by an official looking protester. A Rwandan UN Peacekeeper joked about it with Inner City Press.

Outside the Wali's walls a crowd of several hundred chanted pro Bashir slogans and asked that their banners be photographed. Soon thereafter, the Council Ambassadors pulled out in their four by fours on the way to Zam Zam IDP camp, whose population is now up to 80,000 - another increase.

Footnote: Inner City Press was in this same room in June 2008. Since then, the Wali's forture seem to have improved: a large horseshoe table, better air conditioning and better food provided. Some out in the crowd also spoke about a recent Ponzi scheme and local dissatisfaction with the Wali. As requested, we are looking with two eyes. Watch this site.

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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.

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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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