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As UN Admits Burning of Darfur Village, It Had a Health Center But Now “No Access”

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 17 -- A recently destroyed Darfur village, mentioned in a document of UN humanitarian coordinator Georg Charpentier but not to the Security Council during their visit last week, has been belatedly been acknowledged by the UN, in a prepared statement issued October 14.

  After Inner City Press asked about the village, and the UN's silence, on October 11 and 12, on October 14 spokesman Martin Nesirky said “I have been asked a couple times about reports of attacks on a village in Jebel Marra. We have actually had reports of attacks on as many as six villages, including the one already named, Soro, as well as other villages in eastern Jebel Marra. These villages have not all been identified, as the information about the reported attacks is very sketchy. Confirmation is difficult, and there is no access in these areas.”

  First, Inner City Press which traveled to Darfur last week can name other attacked villages: Dera and Jawa, whose residents fled to Sebi village, and Suni whose residents fled to Logi village.

Second, it is worth comparing the UN's October 14, 2010 statement “there is no access to these areas” to a job advertisement of the village of Soro in 2008, recruiting a coordinator to work in a health clinic there. (See below.)

That this now destroyed village was a health clinic is significant, as is the fact that the access that existed is now gone. Under the tenure of Georg Charpentier and UNAMID chief Ibrahim Gambari, so close to the regime of Omar al Bashir that he is about to turn over supporters of Fur rebel Abdel Wahid Nur to Bashir, there has been less and less protection of civilians in Darfur.

Rather, from Charpentier we have propaganda like press releases such as the one Nesirky read out on October 14:

Georg Charpentier, is concerned by limitations on humanitarian access in view of intensified fighting in parts of Eastern Jebel Marra in Darfur. The Humanitarian Coordinator welcomed the recent access by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to some parts of Eastern Jebel Marra, and he calls upon parties to the conflict to facilitate humanitarian access on a regular basis. In this regard, he notes recent assurances from the Government of Sudan that access will be enlarged and sustained to allow for coverage of the national immunization campaign that started today.”

  As the local press Radio Dabanga has noted, “Past press releases from Georg Charpentier have been screened by the Sudanese ministry of humanitarian affairs, a UN official who is senior to Charpentier has told the New York-based Inner City Press. Charpentier has denied this.”

   Ambassadors including US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice have had this issue and now Soro raised to them, but so far at least publicly have done nothing.

  The only reason Inner City Press learned of Charpentier's awareness of the destruction of villages in Jebel Marra was that he left a single copy a binder marked “Internal Use Only” on the Press bus in El Fasher on October 8.

  The internal document was from “September 27 - October 4 2010” and referred to “Sora” with an A, and spoke of “intense ground fighting and aerial attacks in Eastern Jebel Marra over the past week, with several villages heavily affected, including Sora, which was completely burned down.”

  But in the Dubai airport on the way back to New York, Inner City Press managed to ask two Permanent Five members of the Security Council if Charpentier had mentiones this village destruction to them. One said plainly, “no;” the other jumped ahead to use of the above quoted, whether the destruction was aerial (direct government) or ground (government supported janjawiid).

Once back in New York, Inner City Press asked on October 11

Inner City Press: as we left there, some, Mr. [Georg] Charpentier had provided a document that seems to indicate that, in the week before the Council’s visit, a village called Sora in eastern Jebel Marra was “entirely, completely burned down”. I know that Mr. Charpentier briefed the Council” members, but none of them on the way back seemed to… this wasn’t mentioned to them. I heard the very positive upbeat report you gave, what does UNAMID and Mr. Charpentier do when a village is entirely destroyed? Is it an important thing? Is it the kind of thing that they should brief the Council about?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Can you roll back and tell me again, because it is sort of confusing.

Inner City Press: Okay. Among documents that Mr. Charpentier provided at the end of the trip…

Spokesperson: To whom?

Inner City Press: He gave it into the Press bus, saying that this would just verify things that he’d said about things not being a problem in Jebel Marra. But deep in the document, it says that a village named Sora was completely burned down. It doesn’t say whether it was by ground fighting or an aerial attack. But if it’s aerial, it seems it would be the Government. None of the Security Council ambassadors on the way back had been aware of this or had been briefed on this. So, I guess my question, it’s a twofold one, factually it would be is it possible to discover from Mr. Charpentier, whose document this is, whether the village of Sora was destroyed from the air or by ground? And maybe some statement on why, in the briefing that he gave to the Council, this destruction was not raised?

Spokesperson: I am assuming you didn’t raise it with him yourself, because it was passed into the bus, and then you read it after the bus pulled away?

Inner City Press: I read it actually on the way back, yes, yes.

Spokesperson: Right. Okay, well let’s relay that back whence you just came.

At the next day's noon briefing, Nesirky provided update. So Inner City Press asked again:

Inner City Press: Did you get anything back on this issue of this village of Sora that was listed as being…?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I can assure you that something is in the works. I don’t have anything for you right now. Something is in the works.

It was two days later on October 14 with the above-quoted “thing in the works” was unveiled.

Charpentier behind Gambari, Sora / Soro destruction not shown

  It was a prepared statement from Charpentier, read out by Nesirky, that did not disclose whether the villages were destroyed by aerial attack or ground fighting, but rather welcome access granted by the government of Omar al Bashir and, like Gambari, Bashir's assurances.

Here's from the Medecins du Monde job notice about Soro

General Coordinator

Médecins du Monde

Médecins du Monde is an international humanitarian organisation whose mission is : to provide medical care for the most vulnerable populations when they are faced with crisis or exclusion from society, the world over, including France

The rationale of the project is to participate to the improvement of the health care status and capacity of the population to maintain its own health status, in Deribat region. It will seek to:

- Reinforce primary health care services for the population, covered by six health care centres (Deribat, Jawa, Suni, Dera, Kebra, Soro) with the focus:

- of improving maternal and children health

- of improving the nutritional state of children under 5

- of preventing and treating common pathologies and those that could lead to epidemics

- Implement a global and integrated evaluation of population needs and a protection chapter on the question of human rights.

So there was a health care center in Soro. And now it's gone. Watch this site.

* * *

In Darfur, Sora Destroyed and Kalma Dismantled Before Blind UN Council Visit

By Matthew Russell Lee

KHARTOUM, October 9 -- In the week before the UN Security Council arrived in Darfur, the village of Sora “was completely burned down” as part of “intense ground fighting and aerial attacks in Eastern Jebel Marra.”

These quotes come from a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report which was left on the bus of the Press covering the Council's visit.

  But the destruction of Sora, and the systematic dismantling of the Kalma Internally Displaced Persons camp, were not highlighted to the Council ambassadors by the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Georg Charpentier.

Inner City Press asked two Permanent Five members' ambassadors, after the Council's final press conference, about the destruction of Sora and dismantling of the Kalma Camp. One had never heard of Sora's destruction, despite briefings ostensibly on humanitarian issues in Darfur.

The other, who said that the dismantling of Kalma Camp had not been discussed, took interest in the wording of the OCHA document Inner City Press quoted from, that the destruction was either from ground fighting or aerial attacks. Which one? Not that the UN Security Council would imposes a no fly zone at this point over Darfur or South Sudan.

The document was brought to and left on the press bus after Inner City Press asked Charpentier why he had not been more vocal about the government's blockage of the Kalma Camp during the summer, and the lack of humanitarian access to Jebal Marra from February to September of this year, and now again, after a single assessmentmission to parts of Jebal Marra.

Charpentier replied that the blockade of Kalma Camp has been “exaggerated” by the media. Of Jebel Marra, he said that food was not a problem but rather blankets, since “it gets cold up there.” He did not mention the destruction of whole villages like Sora, either to the Press or it seems to the Council.

Many in the humanitarian and journalistic communities have doubts about Charpentier's even handedness -- the former saying he tries to assuage Khartoum by saying little, the latter that he has checked his press releases with Omar al Bashir's Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Joseph Lual Achuil. (Charpentier has denied this, but a higher UN official tells Inner City Press it is true, during “this sensitive period.”)

But that the Security Council Ambassadors did not themselves zero in on conditions in Kalma Camp, which has suffered violence then the blockage and now a stand off in which the UN's Ibrahim Gambari is negotiating with the Al Bashir regime to turn over five supporters of Fur rebel Abdel Wahid Nur for show trial and punishment, exclusively reported by Inner City Press, is troubling.

  Regarding this impending and unprecedented turn over, a Western diplomat speaking to Inner City Press on Saturday on condition of being identified this way -- that is, on background -- said that “Professor Gambari conveyed to me and others this is an issue the UN continues to work on, in discussions with the government and the UN is committed to dealing with this in a fashion consistent with its principles and international humanitarian law and that's the basis on which they continue to negotiation and discuss.”

This is discussing turning over government opponents to a strongman indicted by the ICC for war crimes and genocide, with the fig leaf that said president's promise not to execute those turned over make it comply with international humanitarian law and the UN's principles.

Is the failure to follow through the the dismantling of the Kalma IDP camp, and the failure to do anything about the destruction of the entire village of Sora in the week before the Security Council came to Darfur, consistent with the UN's, OCHA's and the Security Council's principles? Watch this site.

* * *

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.

* * *

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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