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With Pilot En Route to Doha Taken Hostage in Darfur by Janjaweed Seeking Pay, Russian Action Looming Unless Released

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 29, updated below -- With a Russian pilot still held hostage in Darfur, at the UN in New York Inner City Press asked the head of UN peacekeeping and Sudan's acting Ambassador about the identity of the hostage takers.“So are they Janjaweed?”

  Head peacekeeper Alain Le Roy didn't disagree, but said that the first priority is to get the pilot released. “But if or most probably when that happens, will the UN disclose what they know about how did it?”

  Sudan's charge d'affaires, asked if the hostage takers are or have been aligned with the government, also didn't disagree, and said he thought the pilot would be released soon.

  He told Inner City Press that the flight was to “collect” members of the Liberation and Justice Movement “arrangement committee,” take them to Abache in Chad, and from there to Doha on “regular flights.”

A mid-level Russian diplomat told Inner City Press that Khartoum is “working with the relatives of those who took him,” but that if the pilot is not released soon, “we'll just...”. His voice trailed off.

   A senior Russian diplomat also spoke with Inner City Press, presumably on background.

   What appears to have happened is that a government aligned militia, whether or not called Janjaweed, took the hostage as a sort of cry for help, or money.

  Sources say that government payments to the Janjaweed have actually decreased, now that the Liberation and Justice Movement has been created under the leadership of a UN staff member and is willing to negotiate. And so, this protest. Watch this site.

A helicopter in Darfur, Janjaweed and Russian response not shown

From the UN's transcript of its July 28 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: Russia’s envoy on Darfur, Mr. Margelov, has said that they have received information by Janjaweed, Government connected… It is a direct quote where he says: “It has become clear today that our helicopter pilots are in the hands of regular armed formations that theoretically must obey Khartoum”, Janjaweed. So I am wondering, given that that is a major Member State presumably getting that information from…

Spokesperson Nesirky: As I say, there have been a number of different reports, different media reports and other pieces of information. DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] is working very closely with our colleagues on the ground to try to establish exactly what happened. And, as I say, the main focus is on finding the pilot.

Inner City Press: Still on helicopters in Sudan, yesterday, the Japanese, I guess Mission, I will say… they had been very close to giving helicopters for UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] in South Sudan and then decided not to. Yesterday they explained it as follows: they said the United Nations required the total disassembly of helicopters that arrive in Port Sudan, and that that seems unnecessary and made it unlikely to give helicopters, and also that the United Nations process of reimbursing countries for helicopters does not distinguish between commercial and utility helicopters, and therefore is a money loser, not that they would not take one on the trim.

So I am just wondering, does DPKO acknowledge that some of their difficulty in obtaining helicopters was both the restrictions they allow Sudan to impose and their failure to compensate countries even at their own cost?

Spokesperson: As I mentioned to you yesterday, I think you will be briefed by DFS [Department of Field Support] later this week and by DPKO soon after that and you would be able to ask directly at that point.

Watch this site.

Update of 3:15 pm, July 29: The UN has just announced that the pilot was located and returned to Nyala. Located by whom? Having been held by whom? Released in return for what?

  The UNAMID press release says that "UNAMID will report further on this incident once more details become available." We'll see.

* * *

At UN, Nigeria's Reception Features Fela and Gambari, UNAMID Vote Friday

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 28 -- At Nigeria's end of Security Council Presidency reception Wednesday night, the de facto guest of honor was Ibrahim Gambari. Ambassador Joy Ogwu, who has followed him in each of his Nigerian jobs, took photos with him, as did Nigerian and other UN staff members in attendance.

  The event was in the penthouse of Nigeria House, built under Gambari's tenure as his country's ambassador to the UN. So it was something of a home coming.

  As regards his current job, the joint African Union - UN Mission in Darfur, the vote to extend its mandate will be Friday and not Thursday. Gambari chatted up the political coordinators of Council members such as Mexico, Austria and Turkey. He schmoozed Western Deputies Philip Parham and Rosemary DiCarlo.

  Chief backer China did not appear in attendance. But that was not the point: Nigeria's representative on the UN Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions was there, kindly telling Inner City Press about ACABQ's trip to El Fasher during one of Gambari's absences, to see the cost of living differences in different parts of Sudan.

   Later, she helped procure a plate of food for Ghana Perm Rep Leslie K. Christian, then clear the tables It is a down home and full service mission, one refreshingly without pretensions.

   The soundtrack was pure Fela, spun by a Ethiopian DJ who words for the Nigerian mission. More than one Nigerian remarked to Inner City Press that Gambari, like Fela, might not always be welcome in Nigeria: the latter because of protest, Gambari due to perceived defense of the military dictatorship of Sani Abacha.

   But on Wednesday Sani Abacha was scarcely mentioned. Ambassador Ogwu, the host with the most, said she does not envision following Gambari to a peacekeeper mission, as she is 64, as in the Beatles' song.

Joy Ogwu and DPA, Ms. Gurlach not shown, outside candidate in wings?

   Goodluck Jonathan's picture was up; the UN Department of Public Information's reticence to move from Lagos to Abuja was a bone of contention. A spicy dish came with fish bones included. The vibe was good: but where were China and Russia, August's president?

It was confirmed to Inner City Press that DPI is consenting to include the word “blogger” for the first time in their accreditation guideline. Still they are trying to confine it to a footnote. We'll see -- watch this site.

Our own footnote, then: the top Department of Political Affairs post with Security Council Affairs, from which Horst Heitmann was removed without ceremony, will not necessarily go to Ms. Gerlach. The talk now is of an outside candidate. But why leave this post unfilled for so long?

* * *

On Darfur, UN's Gambari Discloses Gration in Alaska, Opposes UNICEF, Dodges Genocide

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 27 -- The mystery of why US envoy to Sudan Scott Gration did not attend the UN convened summit in Darfur on July 5 was finally resolved on July 27. Previously, Inner City Press asked the US Mission to the UN why Gration did not attend, which was viewed in Sudan as a snub of the process, such as it is, led by Ibrahim Gambari.

The US Mission said that only Gration's spokeswoman and office could answer. But Gration's spokesperson Marie Nelson declined to return a series of detailed phone messages. The US Mission reiterated that only she could answer.

Not so -- on July 27, Inner City Press asked Gambari himself, and Gambari proudly said that “General” Gration had served in Alaska, and wanted to attend a Fourth of July parade in the state. There -- was it so difficult? US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice indicated that even she didn't know the reason. What was that, about the Obama administration's Sudan policy being clear and united?

Gambari also criticized UNICEF for reaching a child soldiers deal with the Justice and Equality Movement rebels in Darfur, saying that since they say they have no child soldiers, why reach a deal with them? The focus, Gambari said, should be on pressuring JEM to return to the Doha process.

Later, the UN's senior anti child soldier official acknowledged to Inner City Press that more should have been done in advance of the deal's announcement to prepare the ground. With the government of Sudan? No -- with the UN's mission in Darfur, UNAMID. We'll have more on this, from UNICEF.

Gambari on July 27, response on Al Sissi and genocide indictment not shown

Inner City Press also asked Gambari about the propriety of using a paid UN staff member, Al Tijani Al Sissi Ateem, to lead a “rebel” ground, the Liberation and Justice movement. Gambari said we wouldn't comment on that, but that even a deal with LJM wouldn't bring peace to Darfur. Video of all here.

As he tried to walk away from the microphone, Inner City Press asked about “the genocide indictment” against Omar al Bashir. We can continue informally, Gambari said. And to his credit he remained by the stakeout, and told Inner City Press that the Security Council may go to Darfur in October. We hope to be there. Watch this site.

 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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