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On S. Sudan, Ban Cites "Productive" Kiir, As Elections Delayed 2-3 Years

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 12 -- When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave a speech to the Security Council on May 12 about his trip to South Sudan, he did not mention that elections in the country have been pushed back two or three years.

   Kiir's government on May 12 announced "Elections will not take place in 2015 - the period has been extended 2 or 3 years."

  Without addressing this, Ban said he "had a long and productive meeting" with Kiir last Tuesday, and spoke by phone to Riek Machar. Some wonder, if the meeting was so productive, why are the elections being pushed back two or three years?

 Ban said conditions in the UN's camps in South Sudan "are worse than in any of the many refugee camps I have visited around the world, including those in Syria." Some wondered at that, including about camps for Syrian refugees outside of Syria.

 Ban said he sees five priorities -- none of which was democracy or elections.

  Inner City Press earlier on May 12 asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about this Dujarric replied that elections should be part of a comprehensive process.

  But if this results in Kiir and Machar, accused by UN system officials of through their clash of personalities and ambitions killing many people, staying in power for even more time, is the UN welcoming it?

  Dujarric again used the word "comprehensive." Ban Ki-moon is to take some questions at 4:45 pm, before a newly scheduled 5:10 pm meeting with "a group of Indigenous people." Dujarric told Inner City Press Ban could be asked its question about Cyprus. We'll see.

  Neither Ban's Office of the Spokesperson nor his Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous have released the supposedly completed UN investigations into UN Peacekeeping moving weapons by land to Bentiu, ostensibly for Ghanaian troops only 44 of whom arrived there, and into cluster bombs.

  And so after Ladsous gave a closed-door briefing to the Security Council on May 8 about South Sudan it was expected that he would do, at least in his fashion, a question and answer stakeout to speak about the country.

  The meeting began at 4 pm but it was after 7 pm when it ended. When Ladsous emerged, the UN Television crew was told to be ready. But Ladsous walked straight to the stairs and to the elevator, muttering a few words in French on his way.

   South Sudan is a country which other UN officials say faces genocide. Ban Ki-moon says his team now implements a post Sri Lanka failure "Rights Up Front" program of raising the alarm. But his head of peacekeeping could not even speak or take a question about South Sudan.

  It is inconceivable that Ladsous' predecessors Alain Le Roy and before that Jean-Marie Guehenno, all French, would not have spoken to the media after a consultation about a country in the shape of South Sudan. But to this has the UN descended. The new Free UN Coalition for Access says, the UN must do better.

  On May 6, Ban's Associate Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci claimed to Inner City Press that an answer or "line" had been sent to it about the Ghanaian (or "Guinean") weapons. Inner City Press disagreed and the Associate Spokesperson said she would "check the transcript."

  On May 7, the Associate Spokesperson answered Inner City Press' question on another topic by saying oops, no answer had been sent. Video here.

  Inner City Press asked, what about the cluster bombs report? You've just gotten three answers, the Associate Spokesperson said. Apparently there is now a UN quota for providing responses, even if they are late.

   At the May 6 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked, video here:

Inner City Press: White the Secretary-General is in South Sudan, there were two things that the UN said that they would investigate and at least it seemed that they would make the reports public. One was the Ghanaian weapons that were found in a box being taken by land to Bentiu. There other was the cluster bombs that came even before that so I think on 30 April, I asked Stťphane, have those reports being made public and he said Iíll check.

Associate Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci : Right, and I believe we answered you. Yes we did, we sent you a line.

Inner City Press: Whatís the line?

Associate Spokesperson: On the GhanaianÖ

Inner City Press: That there were 44Ö

Associate Spokesperson: Yes, we sent you a line, thatís our answer for now. If I have anything else at some point, Matthew, I will definitelyÖ

Inner City Press: Iím only asking because I didnít get a line. I got a line that there were 44 peacekeepers there.

Associate Spokesperson: Iím pretty sure we answered you on that. I mean, I can go through the transcripts and figure it out, but Iíll see, okay?

   By 7 pm, no answer.

Back on April 30, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about the Secretary-Generalís statement yesterday on South Sudan where he said he urged President Kiir to intervene personally to stop a negative campaign against UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) and to issue a public statement to this end. What does he mean by intervene personally beyond issuing a public statement? And number two, the issues that have arisen about UNMISS, for example, the truck of weapons that were going to the Ghanaian peacekeepers, has that report ever been issued publicly? Has the cluster bomb report? I'm thinking of things within the UNís power to do --

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: I think the information on the weapons box was shared with the Government of South Sudan. I think you know, like in any mission, there areÖ it is normal that sometimes there are points of tension between the host country and the mission, but I think here in South Sudan we have seen issues of having to do with our ability to move around that is being hampered. Attacks on our compounds where we feel the Government has a responsibility to protect those compounds, so I think there are improvements to be made in the relationship between the Government and the Mission.

Inner City Press: the reason why Iím asking about the weapons, I still get e-mails from over there from people saying they havenít seen the UN report. So, I wonder what is the UNís own duty to go to the public and say this is what happened here, understand what we did. It seems to me that that report has never been issued publicly. Maybe you gave it to the Government, but if people donít know--

Spokesman Dujarric: I think we spoke about its conclusions from here but I will double check.

   Six days later, no follow up from Dujarric or his deputy Farhan Haq or now his associate spokesperson. Even if something had been said "here" -- in New York -- that is not releasing the report, and that is not in South Sudan. So will Ban release these now that he is there?

   As if in a parallel universe, the UN Security Council met about the country on May 2.

   There were calls for accountability: US Ambassador Samantha Power, for example, said that before the deadly attack on civilians in the UN compound in Bor, senior government officials made statements leading to the attack.

   But the UN's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng said that "both President Kiir and Riek Machar assured us that they are investigating any serious violations by their respective forces and that those found responsible will be held accountable."

  Inner City Press asked Dieng after the meeting, couldn't Kiir easily know who his senior government officials were, making statements before the Bor attack?

  Dieng said one must await the investigation. So Inner City Press asked about the reported killing of 200 Nuer in Juba, already cited in a UN report. Any accountability? Dieng cited yet another report coming out next week.

 (Dieng also gave this reporter a lengthy answer on Burundi, the April 3 cable about the ruling party arming its youth wing and more, the May 6 video also has the UN saying it could confirm or deny receiving letters from opposition parties and NGO, which the UN did not do, 7 hour later.)

   Earlier on May 2 Kerry spoke  by phone with former vice president Riek Machar. A senior US State Department official on background summarized: "Secretary Kerry urged Riek Machar to abide by the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement both parties signed in January and to take steps to bring an end to the violence.

"He provided an update on his meeting with the Foreign Ministers from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam, as well as his trip to Juba and meetings with President Kiir. He also expressed strong concern about the humanitarian situation on the ground and the need for improved access for humanitarian workers in the face of the very real risk of famine to the people of South Sudan.

"Secretary Kerry urged Riek Machar to participate in a meeting as early as next week with IGAD negotiators to discuss bringing an end to violence, and engaging in meaningful political dialogue, and made clear that he had made the same request of President Kiir, who indicated his willingness to attend."

 Earlier on May 2, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric if the UN will play any role. Apparently not. Some say UN enovy Hilde Johnson is not viewed as impartial and is on her way out by this summer. We'll have more on this.

   Earlier on May 2 spokesperson Jen Psaki told the press that while in Juba, Kerry

"will reiterate the need for all parties to respect the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, to immediately cease attacks on civilians, and to fully cooperate with the United Nations and humanitarian organizations to protect civilians and to provide life-saving assistance to the people of South Sudan.  He will also meet civil society leaders, IDP representatives, and UNMISS officials."

   Will Kerry meet not only with Salva Kiir but also with Riek Machar, as outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay did?

   On May 1 in Addis, Kerry flanked by his counterparts from Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia referred to a "legitimate force... to help make peace." Some wondered how far outside the UN would this be? If the UN used a Force Intervention Brigade in Eastern Congo, is that model being considered? At the UN on May 1 an ambassador from one of those countries told Inner City Press this is "just the IGAD force." The Security Council meets later on May 2.  Kerry said on May 1:

"itís clear that everybody is in agreement the killing must stop; that humanitarian access needs to be delivered; most importantly, a legitimate force that has an ability to help make peace needs to get on the ground as rapidly as possible. And we agreed on both the terms and timing and manner and size, and we need to go to work to make sure that happens."

 After on April 26 Kerry spoke with Salva Kiir. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki gave this read-out:

Secretary Kerry spoke today with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir to express grave concern about the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, including recent violence in Bentiu and Bor and the deliberate targeting of civilians by armed groups on both sides of the conflict. Secretary Kerry welcomed the Government of South Sudanís decision to release the four senior political officials who had been in detention since December. He urged President Kiir to stop military offensives and to adhere to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, and noted U.S. demands that anti-government forces do the same. Both Secretary Kerry and President Kiir expressed their support for the IGAD-led peace process. Secretary Kerry noted the important role played by the UN Mission in South Sudan, denounced recent attacks on UNMISS bases and personnel, and encouraged President Kiir to ensure full and unfettered access throughout South Sudan for UNMISS, the African Union Commission of Inquiry, and the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism.

   On April 24, Kerry aid he would travel to the country, as stateed at an event with Norway's foreign minister:

FOREIGN MINISTER BRENDE: Also, our work in South Sudan is now in the top of our agenda and the troika work there. The UN Security Council will hopefully make clear statements on this, because itís unacceptable what weíre seeing of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding. So thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well said. I forgot Ė Iíll be there next week, as a matter of fact.

FOREIGN MINISTER BRENDE: Me too. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: So weíll talk about it. (Laughter.) See?

  Kerry's statement came after US President Barack Obama threatened sanctions against not only former vice president and now opposition leader Riek Machar's forces but also those of president Salva Kiir.

  The question arose: would Kerry meet not only Kiir but also Machar while in Juba? US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki on April 24 said there could be more details about Kerry's Africa trip in the next 24 to 48 hours. After Kerry's statement beside Norway's Foreign Minister Borge Brende, that timetable became 24 hours.

  Inner City Press suggested that Kerry might also want to visit Burundi, where a leaked April 3 cable about the government arming a youth wing, published by Inner City Press on April 10, now appears in the process of being hushed-up in the UN, click here for that.

 But on April 25, the State Department put out an itinerary listing only Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. What does this mean?

Secretary Kerry Travels to Addis Ababa, Kinshasa and Luanda

Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Luanda, Angola, on April 29-May 5 to encourage democratic development, promote respect for human rights, advance peace and security, engage with civil society and young African leaders who will shape the continentís future, and promote trade, investment and development partnerships in Africa.

The Secretaryís trip will also highlight U.S. investments in the Presidentís Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

In Addis Ababa, Secretary Kerry will co-convene the Fourth Session of the U.S.-AU High-Level Dialogue and discuss a range of issues on which we partner with the African Union (AU). Secretary Kerry will meet with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom to discuss efforts to advance peace and democracy in the region, and strengthen important areas of bilateral cooperation with Ethiopia.

In Kinshasa, Secretary Kerry will meet with President Joseph Kabila and will discuss how the DRC governmentís progress in neutralizing some of the dozens of dangerous armed groups that victimize the Congolese people can be consolidated and how to best advance the DRCís democratization and long-term stability, including through a timely and transparent electoral process.

In Luanda, Secretary Kerry will commend President Josť Eduardo dos Santos for Angolaís leadership of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and encourage the Presidentís continued personal engagement in the Great Lakes peace process. The Secretary will also discuss bilateral policy and trade issues with Foreign Minister Chikoti.

Secretary Kerry will also be accompanied by Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the Democratic Republic of the Congo Russell Feingold, Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth, and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issue Catherine Russell.

   Donald Booth going on the trip might indicate an unscheduled stop in Juba -- or just, talks in Addis.

 At the April 25 State Department briefing, spokesperson Jen Psaki said, "trips are always subject to change, as you all know who have traveled with us.  But I donít have any other stops to announce today."

   As to South Sudan, in the wake of the April 15-16 mass killing in Bentiu, UN official Mary Cummins said "we need the Ghanaian contingent to come soon."

  This was troubling and strange, since it was ostensibly to ship weapons to the Ghanaians that the UN moved trucks of weapons by road to Bentiu. Weapons without soldiers?

  So Inner City Press asked at the April 22 UN noon briefing and was promised an answer that never arrived. At the UN Security Council stakeout on April 23, Inner City Press put the question to UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous who refuses Press questions. Even at the April 24 noon briefing, when Inner City Press asked for a third time, there was no answer. Now this belated response:

Subject: Your question on South Sudan.
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 4:51 PM
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at] innercitypress.com

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations says that, as of now, 44 members of the Ghanaian Battalion are in Bentiu.

  But that doesn't answer about the Ghanaian Battalion's (non) presence during the April 15-16 killings. And shipping containers of weapons for a mere 44 members? Compare this to the 350 troops from Ghana's continent in Cote d'Ivoire that the UN told Inner City Press about in January, here. We hope to have more on this.

    The UN Security Council belatedly met about Bentiu on April 24. Afterward UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations chief Herve Ladsous came out and took three questions, curtly.

  The UN itself says that the Ghanaian battalion -- the shipment of whose weapons by land to Bentiu triggered an objection by South Sudan's government and a report by Ladsous' DPKO that has yet to be publicly released -- was not in Bentiu to even try to stop the April 15-16 killings.

   Inner City Press put this question to Ladsous both on and off UNTV's camera, but he refused to answer it. Video here and embedded below. Criticisms of his DPKO are spreading, but Ladsous refuses to answer them.

  Back on April 22 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the Ghanaian contingent:

Inner City Press: on South Sudan, I saw that Mary Cummins, who is the acting Coordinator for Unity State, really sounded the alarm that they need more forces there. And she said, ďwe need the Ghanaian battalion to arrive soonĒ. I thought that was the battalion whose weapons that were found in the boxes--

Spokesman Dujarric: Let me find out.

  But more than 24 hours later Dujarric, or ultimately Ladsous' DPKO, had not provided any answer. So Inner City Press put the question to Ladsous at the stakeout. Ladsous refused to answer it, pointedly calling first on Reuters, then Voice of America, then on state-owned France 24.

  Then Ladsous lumbered from the stakeout microphone and up the stairs, with a retinue of DPKO staff, many of whom worked under Alain Le Roy and even Jean-Marie Guehenno but now enable this decay within UN Peacekeeping.

  From inside the closed consultation, the French mission's spokesperson tweeted that a film was being screened of Bentiu. This was confirmed to Inner City Press by an actual ambassador in the meeting; at the stakeout afterward Inner City Press asked Security Council president Joy Ogwu of Nigeria if the film was only about Bentiu and not Bor and she said Yes, only about Bentiu.

  The April 15-16 killings in Bentiu have been attributed to the Sudan Peopleís Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in Opposition led by former vice president Riek Machar, who has denied that his forces killed civilians. Likewise, the April 18 murders inside the UN peacekeeping camp in Bor have been attributed to supporters from the Dinka tribe of president Salva Kiir, and statements by his information minister bear this out.

  The UN has alleged that in Bentiu the victims were targeted based not only on tribe but nationality. One response was that Darfur rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement who were fighting along with Kiir's government forces were killed, but not civilians.

  In this environment, for UN Peacekeeping to be run by an official who can't even answer basic questions is a major problem. Watch this site.


 

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