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On South Sudan, ICP Asks Loj of SPLA in Bentiu Camp, No Fence or Journalists

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 14 -- After the UN's envoy to South Sudan Ellen Loj spoke to the Security Council on May 14, she came to take questions from the media.

  Inner City Press asked Loj specifically about the UN Mission in South Sudan base in Bentiu: if the SPLA has gotten in with guns, and why UNMISS has refused requests to build a fence, and has not allow journalists who have asked to visit the camp. Video here.

 Loosely transcribed by Inner City Press (video here), Loj replied

"Let me say what UNMIS has undertaken in collaboration with IOM [the International Organization for Migration]. Primarily the project is primarily financed by the Dutch government. It’s actually a new site for the camp, on higher ground and with better drainage, because the Bentiu camp was totally flooded during the last rainy season. That work is being undertaken as of this week. We are hoping to get it finished…
As far as the fence, the problem with the fence is not that UNMIS is not putting up the fence. It’s that even if the fence were there, the problem with the fence is that the IDPs themselves cross the fence  in order to sneak out...
Yes, we have had troubles with the SPLA,  right outside the gates, and we have tried to solve it...We are doing our utmost to ensure that nobody enters the camp with weapons. We are doing regular searches in all camps … for alcohol and illegal substances…"

  She then said that UNMISS installed lights, but people break them. There was more to ask, including from great reporters on the bround. Inner City Press asked for another question but was told no, to ask on May 15. Watch this site.

After the May 14 stakeout, Loj told a story about UN staff in Liberia telling her all about Inner City Press, which after time she associated with her time on the UN Security Council. She has seen the UN from that position and now two countries.

Back on October 22, 2014, Inner City Press asked Loj to explain two separate lines from her statement to the Council earlier that day, and one thing that was not mentioned: the deadly downing of a UN helicopter on August 26, allegedly after the UN was told by rebel Peter Gadet that it would be shot down.

  The first line Inner City Press asked about was Loj's statement that "UNMISS is looking into ways to support the efforts of national authorities to end the violence." Inner City Press asked, would the UN provide the Salva Kiir / SPLA forces military support?

  Loj asked to be shown the line, coming out from behind the UN microphone stand to take a copy of her own statement from Inner City Press. Video here.  Finally she said this might involve UNMISS conducting its own street patrols -- why would that be "supporting the national authorities" as opposed to the opposition, where it controls the streets -- or setting up a rape-help desk in police stations.

   When Inner City Press sought to remind Loj of the second line it has asked about, two national staffers "detained" since August, the moderator attempted to move the questioning on. Loj still replied that the UN doesn't know who has these two national staff members detained.

    On the helicopter, Loj said that a UN Board of Inquiry was in South Sudan last week and she doesn't know the outcome. The helicopter was shot down on August 26, and transcripts of taped called between Gadet and UN officials have emerged. We'll have more on this.

    (A Voice of America scribe tried to take the first question, and then after a softball question made social banter with Loj to the side of the stakeout.)

      Back on October 20 when Sexual Violence in Conflict expert Zainab Bangura spoke about South Sudan, Inner City Press asked of her meeting with Riek Machar and whether she thinks he controls Peter Gadet, under sanctions by the US and suspected of shooting down a UN helicopter. Video here.

  Bangura called her talks with Machar "decent" including "very detailed information on where he is in command." Apparently, Machar is responsible or accepts responsibility for Gadet. But where are the results of the helicopter probe? Another UN cover-up?

 Inner City Press also asked Bangura of the 130 rapes in Minova by the DR Congo Army in November 2012, after which only two soldiers have been convicted while UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous continues supporting the rapist units.

  Bangura said she couldn't speak to that part of the UN, and linked the lack of justice for Minova to the government's delay in investigating. Video here. But doesn't the government, and Ladsous' DPKO and MONUSCO, know which DRC Army units were in Minova during the rapes, and who was in charge of them? Impunity continues.

  While South Sudan President Salva Kiir was in New York, he did not attend the UN's “High Level” event about his country on September 25.

A Senior US State Department Official, speaking on background, said that “there was a lot of disappointment expressed in the meeting that Salva Kiir who is here in New York did not attend the meeting. He sent his Minister of Foreign Affairs and some of his ministers to the meeting and several of the attendees made a point of noting that Salva Kiir was not at the meeting.”

Inner City Press asked the Senior State Department Official if the US know who was behind the recent shooting down of a UN helicopter, if it could confirm that forces under the control of Peter Gadet, already under US sanctions, did it.

The US official said “we know that the UN is investigating it, we are waiting for the results of that investigation. Gadet has been put on the sanctions list even before that happened.”

The official called the shoot-down “evidence of how difficult it is to work in South Sudan,” and added that South Sudan's foreign minister had said the government is committed to not blocking NGOs and the UN from providing aid. “We have to hold them to that commitment,” the official concluded, “people are suffering.”

Background: back on May 6, 2014, when the US imposed sanctions on Gadet, Inner City Press asked:

MODERATOR: Great. Thank you. Our next question is from the other Matt Lee, Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Great. Thanks a lot, [Moderator]. I wanted to ask, there was a – it was said that in Security Council consultations at the UN that senior government officials were named in a radio broadcast prior to the attacks in Bor on the UN compound in killing the civilians. I just wonder if you can say are these people – is that the case? Do you know the names of people that sort of called for that attack, and in which case, why aren’t they on this list?

And I also – this might for Senior Administration Official Number Two. Secretary Kerry was talking about a legitimate force to help make peace. And I just wanted to know, is the UN – is the U.S. thinking of that as part of UNMISS mission or as the IGAD force? And if so, would it require a Security Council approval? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: On the first, I mean, we typically do not comment on actors against whom we are – we have not yet – we have not yet acted, a clunky way of saying we don’t comment on those who are not part of our designation. But anyone who is contributing to the violence, whether that’s by directing violence, whether that’s by funding it, fueling it, contributing arms, can be a subject of designation in the future. And I’ll leave it to my State Department colleague to answer the second question.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. On the question about the regional force and on UNMISS, we – it is something that conversations and discussions are ongoing between countries of IGAD, with New York, with ourselves and others on how best to create this additional force presence that we are working very much with UNMISS and see this as part of the same effort. But we do think it’s very important that the regional forces are able to join this effort in larger numbers and appreciate the efforts of, particularly, the governments of Ethiopia and Kenya, who are leading the mediation and who are seeking to work with UNMISS in this regard.


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