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From S. Sudan's Pibor,  ICP Publishes UN Report on Gunfire, UNexplained

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive series

UNITED NATIONS, December 30 -- In the UN's continued withholding of news and answers about South Sudan, the UN declined to provide any update about Pibor on December 29 when Inner City Press asked, in writing, below, based on leaked internal UN reports it obtained. The UN, for 29 hours and counting, has said nothing.

  Now after the UN Spokesperson's Office has closed without answering any South Sudan (or Burundi or Tamir Rice) questions, Inner City Press is here publishing an internal UN Situation Report, which of Pibor diplomatically says:

"On 29 December 2015 at about 06:50 hrs, in Pibor (GPAA) sporadic gunfire was heard  at about 600 meters north of the UNMISS Pibor compound. At about 10:43 hrs, about 15-20 armed SPLA soldiers positioned themselves outside the UNMISS Pibor perimeter on the Northern side of the old PoC. No hostile actions have been reported at this time. INDBATT Protection Force is monitoring and on high alert. All staff members have been accounted for and are inside the UN compound."

 (The Sit Rep also recounts the UN Mission's UNexplained confiscation of "homemade alcohol" including from "an SPLA.")

  Also on December 30, Inner City Press obtained and asked the UN Spokesperson about this internal UN report:

"On 30 Dec (today), from 10:45hrs to 11:30hrs, an UNMISS team comprising of UN security, MLO, INBATT2, UNPOL and CAD conducted joint patrols in Pibor town and environs.
The team observed the following:
·         30 meter long trench have been dug by armed personnel from David Yau Yau’s Cobra Faction close to their HQ and former UNMISS water point in Pibor main town. 60mm mortar gun stands are position in the trenches facing Likuangole. (The mortar range is approximately 1.5kms). Ammunition boxes are also placed in the trenches.

·         Huge presence of cobra faction militia in Pibor town and posted at every strategic location around Pibor.

·         Shops are closed with less civilian population in town."

 And still, nothing from the UN. This is called more cover-up.

Update of 10:34 am: Inner City Press hears from South Sudan -- still nothing from UN Headquarters despite two days of questions -- that David Yau Yau elements have killed the father of the newly appointed SPLM-IG governor...

"On South Sudan, Inner City Press has seen a document in which UNMISS states that 'the people of Pibor and the Cobra faction (loyal to DYY) also informed DYY that they will never allow Baba Koneyi (the supposed Governor elect with origins from Likuangole and whom they consider as a Bor politician supporting the Dinka and not the Murle) to come to Pibor.'

"Please state what UNMISS is doing about this, including but not limited to protection.

"Please respond to criticism that UNMISS in Malakal, aware that humanitarians are resistant to working in a military camp, will reportly not provide any medical services?

"What is the UN's / UNMISS' / DPA's view of or response to the SPLA-IO position that the 28 state decree must be removed?"

  Of the five questions Inner City Press submitted to three UN Spokespeople on the morning of December 29, a partial response was received only to this one: "On Puerto Rico, please confirm (or deny) receip of the Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla's letter to Ban Ki-moon and response to the position that the US is reversing a decades-old understanding that Puerto Rico, while a U.S. commonwealth, governs through its own constitution."

Near 4 pm on December 29, the UN spokesman answered:

"From: Stephane Dujarric [at]
Date: Tues, Dec 29, 2015 at 3:53 PM
Subject: Press Qs in lieu of a Dec 29 UN noon briefing: Burundi, South Sudan, Puerto Rico/US, UNHQ, Jordan, still UN scandals / reforms, Yemen; thanks in advance
To: Matthew Lee [at]
Cc: FUNCA [at]

"Matthew--on Puerto Rico, we can confirm that we have received the letter from Governor Garcia Padilla. On the rest, if we have updates, we will share them with you."

 So, nothing at all on the South Sudan questions.

On December 28, Inner City Press asked four UN spokespeople:

"In South Sudan, the UN's Dec 24 Situation Report said 'On 23 December 2015 at around 09:30 hrs, at Baggari Jadid check point in Wau an UNMISS Integrated patrol team heading to Ngisa for security assessment was denied passage by local security agents manning the check point. The local security team stated that they received orders from their superiors not to allow UNMISS vehicles to proceed along Wau - Bazia axis. Efforts to obtain permission from SPLA to proceed on the patrol were turned down, therefore, the mission was aborted.'

"What has been done since? And what has the UN done about the continuing detention of WES Governor Joseph Bakasoro?"

Dujarric replied at 2 pm on December 28 to another question, partially (on Burundi) then added: "On the other issues, if we have an update to share with you, we will."

 So on South Sudan, as usual, there is no UN response. But here, the UN not protecting civilians in laid bare - with no response. We'll have more on this.

Back on December 9, the day after the UN belatedly confirmed ceasefire violations in South Sudan, only after Inner City Press published proof of the UN's knowledge and asked about it, then the UN Peacekeeping mission in the country shifted to either intentionally mis-reporting government actions in Yambio, or showing ineptitude in its response.

   Again receiving leaked UNMISS Situation Reports, Inner City Press found this paragraph:

"On 7 December 2015 around 20:00 hrs, heavy exchange of gunshots occurred in the area of Hai Kuba, Ikpiro in Yambio in Western Equatoria State. The shooting lasted approximately twenty to thirty minutes. Reportedly, the shooting started when the local authorities attempted to arrest three (3) local youths suspects."

But Inner City Press' sources said the arrests were political, of former Yambio Commissioner Angelo Bakote and 3 young men. So on December 9 Inner City Press asked, of protection, transcript here:

Inner City Press: On South Sudan, and thanks for the additional report on Yambio.  What I wanted to ask you and it's really because the reports have become somewhat troubling there.  You'd said that the… they were triggered by arrests of people connected with… I guess you said youth gang; some people use the term "arrow boys".  But I wanted to ask you is, I asked you about this former commissioner of Western Equatoria State, Angelo Bakote.  And why I'm asking you is, since his arrest, there's been a broadcast by the caretaker governor of the state on Radio Yambio FM saying Mr. Bakote will be dealt with.  And people there say this is something UNMISS has heard; even the troika people in Juba have heard.  And I wanted to know, what steps is UNMISS taking to ensure at least fair treatment and not being physically taken care of of the former governor and viewed as an opponent of Salva Kiir, who was arrested yesterday?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as I said, the details we have on this is that the Mission's belief is that the fighting was triggered by the arrest of individuals suspected to have connections with the armed youth.  That's as much as we have on that for now.

Back on December 8 Inner City Press asked, video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: On Yambio, I've seen the situation rep… report, and it says that they believe that this fighting was started by… when local authorities attempted to arrest three local youths.  But I've also heard that it was former Yambio commissioner Angelo Bakote that was arrested.  I'm wondering, is… I mean, in these reports that you give, is what triggered the violence and whether the violence is still ongoing… I've also heard there's still heavy gunfire, at least as of a half an hour ago, right outside of Yambio.  So what is the UN's role?  It's good that you report it, but was this violence triggered by an attempt to arrest on… some people believe on a political basis a former commissioner of Yambio by the Government?

Deputy Spokesman:  First of all, I'd caution against reading too much into situation reports, many of which are compendiums of different types of reports from the ground, of different degrees of reliability.  Some may be media accounts.  Some may be from other local sources.  What we report from here is what we can get as verified information from the UN Mission.  So… but beyond that, of course, the Mission is functioning on the ground in terms of protecting people.  As you know, they're… as I just mentioned, they're providing security for people who are trying to get into a nongovernmental organisation compound in Yambio, and the police there are also providing… are helping with the screening for people trying to gain access into that camp.  This is part and parcel of the many functions that the UN Mission has done.  As you know, for… since the start of this crisis, for about two years now, this is a Mission that has been providing protection to well over 100,000 people and oftentimes much more than that at its various bases while at the same time conducting the normal activities of a UN peacekeeping mission, whether it be patrolling or contact with parties to make sure that situations are resolved on the ground.

Inner City Press:  As in other peacekeeping missions, does it co… you know, have a human rights reporting function?  That's my… I guess my question is, it seems like in this instance, particular instance, just taking this one, that the trigger of the violence seems to be… [Cross talk]

Deputy Spokesman:  The mission has reported on human rights, and it continues to do so.

  We'll have more on this.

For weeks amid fighting in South Sudan, Inner City Press has asked the UN why it refuses to report even what it knows. Even as Inner City Press has obtained, asked about and published emails showing the UN's knowledge of fighting, the UN spokesperson has repeated, Ask UNMISS.

  On December 7 Inner City Press obtained an UNMISS situation report stating

"On 05 December 2015 at 22:40 hrs, reportedly SPLA and SPLA-IO clashed at Bisilia, Bazia Farajalla, and Bringi in Western Bahr el Ghazal. No further information is available regarding the fighting. On 06 December, there is a mobile network blackout since early morning as all the three networks (MTN, Zain and Vivacell) in Wau are not available. As SPLA blocking the main Wau airport road and restricting movements around Wau airport, the ASC declared Grey Alert State at Wau town. All UN travel is restricted, except for travel movements explicitly authorized by the HoA/Units on a case-by-case basis linked to PC 1-2. All staff members are requested to monitor their radios for further announcements."

 This was followed by a shorter announcement with different spelling:

"Ref: 084/SB/07/12/2015

This is to inform all UN staff members that due to insecurity, Grey Alert Status has been declared for the following locations in Western Bahr El  Ghazal State;

1.        Farajallah
2.        Bussare
3.        Bazia
4.        Bissellia

GREY Alert Status: All UN travel is restricted, except for travel/movements explicitly authorized by the Heads of Agency or Units on a case-by-case basis linked to PC 1-2."

 PC 1-2 means critical or essential. The UN never announced this, but when Inner City Press after the publication above asked about it, the UN confirmed it - and dodged on why it wasn't announced. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about South Sudan.  The UN seems to be aware of fighting in Western Bahr el Ghazal State and has declared a grey alert, saying its personnel should not travel to four towns there because of fighting between the SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] and SPLA in Opposition.  So, what I'm wondering is, what is… what does the UN perceive of as its role of reporting when ceasefire violations and fighting take place?  If they're aware of it to the degree of telling their own personnel not to go to places and naming the date and times of fighting, what is its role in saying the ceasefire is being violated and by whom?

Deputy Spokesman:  On that, I have an update from the Mission.  The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has received reports that clashes took place between the Sudan People's Liberation Army and opposition forces in Bisselia, Bazia, Farajallah and Bringi in Wau County in Western Bahr el Ghazal on Saturday.  Since 5 December, the SPLA has reportedly been conducting military operations in areas of Bazia, Bisselia and Wau.  The Mission is concerned by these reports of violations of the ceasefire and continues to urge the full implementation of the peace agreement.

Inner City Press: I just wanted to ask you one thing, and thanks for confirming that.  But my question would be, what's the role… in terms of the role of the UN, like, you've confirmed it.  You had the statement.  Would you have read the statement if it weren't asked?  And, if not, why not?  Why doesn't the UN Mission say, this fighting is taking place; this is a problem; people are being killed or whatever else?

Deputy Spokesman:  I read it if asked, because this is something for which I had some details in case people ask.  Regarding the reports, we have been trying to verify reports.  For example, you'd asked some… more than a week ago about fighting in Western Equatoria State.  There were reports and we took note of those reports, but those were some of the reports that we were not actually able to verify.  It depends… it takes time to verify things, but we do patrolling.  The Mission goes out to different areas to try to verify reports, and when it has these reports, it reports back to the Security Council and others about any particular violations, as it did in this case.

   Amid reports of renewed fighting in the Equatoria states, Inner City Press on November 25 asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about the fighting, and a peacekeeper killed on November 23. The (non) answers are below.

On December 2, Inner City Press obtained a UN email acknowledging knowledge of fighting between the Government and SLPA/IO in Busere, Western Bahr El Ghazal State, stating that “fighting is still ongoing as of 02 Dec 2015” and that “no UN interest is involved at this time.”

  UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said he doesn't get these emails. Inner City Press asked why UN Peacekeeping, led by Herve Ladsous, does not report on fighting of which it is aware, and how “no UN interest is involved” is consistent with the UN's protection of civilians mandate or claims.

   Dujarric wouldn't even attempt an answer to this policy question (which Ladsous refuses, like other Press questions, to answer). Dujarric repeated, as if it were an answer, that he has not seen the email.

  So Inner City Press publishes it, here:

"From: Enoch Penney Laryea

Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2015 9:15 AM

To: SANTUR Abdulahi; Simon Agnew [WFP]; Christoffel Du Toit; Safari Djumapili [OCHA]; Ruiz, Domingo (FAOSS); Carlyne Romulus [at UNMAS] Sorin GIFEI [WFP], Shane Yates [UNCHR]; Abdikadir Tulicha; Sylvain Denairies; UNMISS-FHQ-J2;  John McCue (IOM); Gatluak Gatluak [and others at UNICEF], IMF

Subject: FW: Fighting in Busere - Western Bahr El Ghazal State

"Info received indicate that on 01 Dec 2015 at about 05:00 hours (LT) fighting erupted between SPLA and SPLA/IO at FIRKA and BUSERE (20 km South of Wau town). The fighting subsided around 10:00 hours. Military pickups and ambulances were observed transporting casualties along the airport road at high speed towards the military barracks. SPLA soldiers in the town were seen to be on high alert and on stand by mode.

"Comments: Reportedly the SPLA/IO group attacked SPLA at the affected area. When SPLA soldiers were sent to reinforce their colleagues they were also ambushed by the rebels leading to further casualties on the part of SPLA.

"Fighting is still ongoing as of 02 Dec 2015.

"No UN interest is involved at this time."

Again, why doesn't Ladsous' DPKO report this, and how is this “no UN interest is involved at this time” consistent with the UN's protection of civilians mandate or claims? We'll have more on this.

Inner City Press obtained the UN Security Situation Report for November 29, and finds in this internal report, exclusively published here:

"On 28 November 2015 at around 22:45 hrs, in Yambio town near Tourist Hotel along the main road, a UN Agency national staff member was reportedly involved in a traffic accident. UN Security responded to the scene of the incident and found another civilian vehicle turned over with the driver apparently dead inside the vehicle whilst the UN agency staff member sustained visible injuries in his head. The local police on the spot attempted to arrest the UN staff member involved in the accident, however,
after negotiation UN Security transported him to UN clinic for the medical treatment."

 Can you say, impunity? On December 1, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, transcript here:

Inner City Press: on South Sudan, it was said on Friday that the Mission was going to go and check these deaths.  And I’ve been looking at these [situation reports].  It seems to me that they’re not really reporting on things that even the media’s reporting of attacks in the country.  So, one, do you have anything on that?  And, I wanted to ask you about something that was in one of the [situation reports], yesterday’s, where it says that a UN staff member was driving a car.  He had a crash.  UNDSS [United Nations Department of Safety and Security] appeared and said that the sustained visible… somebody was dead in the other car.  Basically, it’s a deadly car crash caused… or involving the UN staff member.  The reason I’m asking you is, it says the local police on the spot attempted to arrest the UN staff; however, after negotiation, the UN staff member was taken for medical treatment.  What is… are UN staff members exempt from traffic laws even in deadly crashes?

Spokesman:  I don’t… this seems to me like an isolated incident.  I would encourage you to reach out to the mission to see if you can get more detail.  I’m not going to speculate on…

Inner City Press:  But the policy is not isolated.  The guy is dead.

Spokesman:  I’m not going to speculate on this particular case, but if you reach out to the mission, I’m sure they…

Inner City Press:  But can you find out what the UN policy is on negotiating the release of…?

Spokesman:  I’m not going to speculate

  Haq on November 25 said he had nothing on the fighting, but said that the peacekeeper who was shot was from Ethiopia and who fired the shot was unknown. On November 27, having received information from South Sudan on both issues, Inner City Press asked the UN in writing: "please state if the UN / UNMISS or its affiliated radio station is/are aware of airstrikes on Gariya Bongolo, Western Equatoria in South Sudan, and separately if they are aware of or belief that Ugandan aircraft were involved."

Later on November 27, the UN sent Inner City Press this:

"Regarding your question on Wednesday on fighting in South Sudan's Equatoria state, we can say the following: On 26 November, UNMISS received unconfirmed reports that 14 people had been killed and a number of people injured 30 km south of Mundri town. The Mission is seeking to verify these reports, and the number of casualties reported."

 But how hard, really, was and is UNMISS trying to verify? No update was provided for three days; when Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric on November 30, he had no information.

 It's worth noting that the UN-affiliated Radio Miraya reported on the killings. Inner City Press has heard, "UPDF helicopter gunships attacked and killed civilians while purporting to be hunting SPLA IO forces. When finished in Mundri the caretaker Governor of WES Patrick Zamoi has requested helicopter attacks on Ezo."

    When the UN is criticized for how it treats internally displaced people (IDPs), does it seek to improve, or only grow defensive? On November 19, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, transcript here:

Inner City Press: In South Sudan, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has asked publicly for UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] to increase the space available to IDPs [internally displaced people] in the Malakal protection site, saying basically they're crammed in and seems to violate even the sort of standards put out by UN and others.  What is UNMISS doing about these?  They have more space.

Spokesman Dujarric:  What UNMISS is doing is sheltering over 100,000 people since the start of the Civil War in very difficult conditions, in places that were not designed to house people.  They were not designed to be… to hold internally displaced people.  These were, for most of them, logistics bases.  The mission is constantly trying to improve the conditions, whether it's hygiene and living standards.  Obviously, we're limited by space, by funds, and we're trying to do the best we can.

Inner City Press:  Well, I guess… I mean, but are they saying MSF doesn't understand that?  They work in the camp but they're saying the people…

Spokesman Dujarric:  I'm not saying MSF… MSF says what it feels needs to be said, and I say what I feel I need to say.

But what will be done?

 On October 26, based on NGO and AP reporting, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about South Sudan, there's reports by something called the protection cluster there that 80 civilians have been killed mostly by Government attacks in Leer County in the month of October.  So people there are asking, where is UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan]?  And it seems that UNMISS has not sent any patrols.  They're in Bentiu.  And I wanted to know, can you find out if there's any plan…

Spokesman:  Where is UNMISS?  UNMISS has been, I think, providing protection for more than 100,000 civilians and has been doing a superhuman job, for lack of a more adequate diplomatic word, in terms of trying to protect as many civilians as possible.  The Mission does send out patrols where it can and observes what it can.  I will take a look at that specific report and get back to you.

Inner City Press:  Yeah.  It seems like in Bentiu, they have peacekeepers from Mongolia, Ethiopia, India and Ghana…

Spokesman:  No, I am well aware of where peacekeepers are.  You're also talking about a country that's currently in the middle of a civil conflict.  I think the Mission is doing… is stretching itself and doing whatever it can to protect civilians.  So as I said, I will look into that specific report.

  Well, here's from the report by the Protection Cluster: "Over a three week period between 4 and 22 October, at least 80 civilians were reportedly killed in Leer County. Among these were at least 57 children, 29 of whom drowned while fleeing attacks.2 Widespread use of sexual violence was also reported, with contacts on the ground reporting over 50 cases of rape. IDPs further reported that Government forces shot into swamps at fleeing civilians, burned houses, and abducted women and children."

 We'll have more on this.

From September 29, 2015: An internal UN document leaked to Inner City Press, which is exclusively publishing it today, shows the high degree of dysfunction in the country, and in the UN.

UN's South Sudan Report, Sept 2015, Leaked to Inner City Press by Matthew Russell Lee

  Here are some quotes, the full document we have put online here:

Within South Sudan the inextricable link with the Government’s political party SPLM with the SPLA military has exacerbated the crisis and this bond is also a potential stumbling block to finding a peaceful solution in the future. Currently the Government cannot adequately protect its population or institutions and therefore by extension is also unable to provide adequate protection to UN personnel or assets. The fragmentation of the military from the beginning of the crisis, the misuse of national security agencies and the economic status resulting from the collapse of state structure and drop in income, has led to further political instability.

This assessment defines that the UN is not a primary target for direct violence. However, this situation could change if the economic situation declines further, the military armed conflict continues and tensions rise within PoC sites.

Currently there is no mainstreaming of Security within the planning of UN activities/ programmes. Therefore, the policy that defines that security needs to be involved at all levels of management to ensure security is considered/ mainstreamed into all activities or programmes is not applied, specifically in UNMISS.

The high prevalence of alcohol and illicit drug use within the PoC sites has exacerbated violence and criminal behaviour directly impacting upon UN and AFP personnel working or living within or adjacent to the PoC sites. The smuggling of weapons into the PoCs poses a potential Direct Threat to UNMISS and AFP staff.

 Continued accusations by government actors or affiliates that the PoC sites are sanctuary for supporters of the SPLA in Opposition also make the PoC sites a target; this point was actively demonstrated in the attack in the Bor in April 2014 resulting in the death of 55 IDPs within the UNMISS site.

Prior to December 2013, the UN was well regarded by the South Sudanese for its role in the drive towards independence from Sudan, for its humanitarian interventions and for efforts to protect civilians. But the ongoing crisis in South Sudan has also negatively impacted on sentiments and threats directed to UN personnel in the course of their work, for example IDPs insisting that national staff not from their preferred ethnic group are removed from programme activities in POC sites and some Ugandan UNPOL having to wear civilia clothes and be removed from POC duty due to active UPDF military support for the
Government of South Sudan.

In March 2014, a labelling error was discovered whilst transporting containers loaded with duty equipment for the UN Ghanaian peacekeepers in Unity State which brought strained relations to even a lower point. The error was exploited to galvanise hostility towards the UN in favour of the government by falsely presenting the UN as supplying weaponry to the opposition. It took elaborate interventions, investigations
and communications to clear the false impression that this created.

[ICP note: the same type of "labeling" or "clerical" error occure this months with weapons headed to MONUSCO. This is what UN Peacekeeping has become under Herve Ladous, who linked peacekeepers' rapes to "R&R, here.]

On 26 August 2014 under suspicious circumstances a UN contracted helicopter crashed near Bentiu in Unity State, killing three (3) aircrew and injuring one (1) other, underlining the threats involved in working within South Sudan. Investigations into the cause of the crash were inconclusive.

There have been increasing reports of criminal acts occurring within the Protection Of Civilian (POC) sites; also there have been a number of serious assaults against the UN and other humanitarian workers, sometimes involving weapons which
has resulted a few times of hospitalisation of personnel. These incidents have, and continue to affect not only the civilians seeking refuge at UN sites, but also the ‘safety and security’ of individual UNMISS and Agencies Funds and Programmes (AFP)

"In February 2015 there was an alleged sexual assault of a Canadian INGO by a subcontractor for a UN Agency in UNMISS Bentiu team site."

[ICP note: the UN and UNICEF have not addressed this; the head of UN Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, has linked rapes to R&R.]

As the fighting also continues at a pace within Sudan on two fronts – Darfur and Nuba Mountains (South Kordofan in particular) the impact for the whole border region cannot be ignored. Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are also carrying out
aerial bombing campaigns in the Nuba Mountains but also extending into South Sudan in November 2014 to hit alleged JEM targets in Raja, Western Bahr el Ghazal which killed 24 people including women and children.

South Sudan lacks an adequate air traffic control system, countrywide. The government took control of the country’s airspace from Sudan in 2011, but to date has not issued any “Notice to Airmen” (NOTAMs.). There are areas, however, that the government has declared a “no fly zone” (i.e. over the Presidential Palace in Juba), suggesting that the government reserve the right to fire upon an aircraft that violates this airspace.

The SPLA-io has reportedly mined the roads to the north of
Bentiu resulting in several incidents of vehicles being destroyed and civilian casualties. This is of particular concern to the UN as these routes are a vital corridor in delivering humanitarian aid.

The existing EU sanctions delivered in July 2014 had little impact on the deescalating of the crisis."

We'll have more on this.


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