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Amid Sudan Election Fears, UN Silent, As Visas Denied, EU Observers Leave

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 8 -- Even as Sudan denies visa for UN pilot to fly ballot boxes around, even as the European Union withdraws elections observers due to a lack of safety, the UN has nothing to say about the polls slated for this weekend.

  Meanwhile on April 7 a Security Council ambassador of a Permanent Five member bluntly told the Press, "Bashir is going to be re-elected, but he's indicted by the International Criminal Court. He cannot be our interlocutor. It is an awkward situation... but all African leaders will recognize the election and Bashir."

  This same ambassador relayed that Ibrahim Gambari, the UN's envoy to Darfur, confided that Bashir might agree to a one week delay in the polls. There's an attempt, it is said, to set up a four way briefing of the Security Council by Gambari, Haile Menkerios, and Messrs. Bassole and Mbeki. "It is hard to get Mbeki to New York," the ambassador said.

  The Security Council is slated to receive a closed door briefing by top UN Peacekeeper Alain Leroy about the impending election. It's said that US Ambassador Susan Rice will speak  to the Press at 10:45, before an NSC call at 11. Watch this site.

Gambari and Qazi in Khartoum, comments on visas denied not shown

From the April 7 UN noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: In the run-up to the elections in Sudan, there are reports that one of the opposition candidates, who is now boycotting the elections, has said that the UN was supposed to transport ballot boxes, and that visas for the UN’s pilots for the planes have been denied by the Government of Sudan. The European Union observers say that they may pull out of the country due to a lack of safety. So I have two questions -- one, can you confirm that the visas were denied and, if so, what is the UN going to do about that? And two, what is the UN and UNMIS’s [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] role in providing safety to election observers, albeit not UN but European Union elections observers?

Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe: Well on the European Union, the question about the European Union observers is a press report, so I do not have confirmation on that. And your first question about…

Inner City Press: …the denial of visas to pilots for the UN.

Deputy Spokesperson: …visas, I have not received anything on the visa situation, so I am going to have to ask DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] to look into that for you.

Inner City Press: But what is the, I guess we are really coming right up to the election, what is the UN’s assessment? You are having more and more opposition parties saying they are going to boycott it. More and more outside observers say it is, you know, I do not want to characterize it, but say that it is not credible. What is the UN, given its presence on the ground, what is its view?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, while we respect the right of candidates and political parties to reach their own decisions, we continue to encourage all Sudanese political actors to recognize the importance of dialogue, for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

As you know, one of the prime facets of the CPA is the opening of democratic space in Sudan, so that the people and the wide variety of political forces in the country can represent and participate in the process of decision-making. Therefore elections are an important step, designed to revive the democratic institutions and processes, so we encourage the Government of National Unity, the Government of Southern Sudan, and the National Elections Commission to ensure that the elections credibly reflect the will of the Sudanese people.

And, as you know, the UN Mission on the ground is there with a mandate to assist the Government and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) by providing technical and logistical support in order to enable timely conduct of the elections and in advising and encouraging the Commission, the Government and all parties to address concerns that may jeopardize their credibility. Okay?

That credibility is already shot.

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On Sudan, Moonlighting UN Staffer as Darfur "Rebel" Leader, As JEM Is Pressed to Support Elections on April 11

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, March 28 -- With elections in Sudan approaching as threats and irregularities multiply, a United Nations employee in Addis Ababa Al-Tijani Al-Sissi suddenly emerged as the head of newly formed rebel Liberation and Justice Movement. Beyond the politics, one wonders how a person can be a paid UN employee and at the same time by a pro-government "rebel" leader?

  Despite Al-Sissi being out of The Sudan for 20 years, and being a full time staffer of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa, he was brought to the fore as purported replacement for Abdel Wahid Al-Nur, leader of the legacy rebel Sudan Liberation Movement, whose Fur tribe has thus been unrepresented as Al-Nur refuses to participate in the Darfur talks much less elections.

  A Fur willing to talk with al-Bashir was needed, and a UN staffer was found. But to be a leader, he must have put time into the rebel movement, while being a UN staffer. Why was this accepted?

  Inner City Press is informed that Al-Sissi's supervisor at the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Abdalla Hamdok, complained about the moonlighting or double service of Al-Sissi, but that nothing was done.

  This does not look good, one long suffering Darfuri told Inner City Press on Friday. The UN has some explaining to do: watch this site.

Al-Tijani Al-Sissi, moonlighting from UN ECA job not shown but accepted

  Meanwhile, with Sudanese opposition parties nearing a decision next week on whether to boycott the April 11 election if Omar al-Bashir's National Congress Party does not agree to postpone it, Inner City Press is told by Arab Group ambassadors at the UN that pressure is being brought to bear on Khalil Ibrahim of the Justice and Equality Movement rebels to have JEM come out favor of April 11 polling.

  "Khalil Ibrahim has been summoned to Doha," Inner City Press was told by an attendee of the March 26 meeting of the Arab Group, at the Ambassadorial level, held in the UN's new building by New York's East River.

  At the UN on Friday, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky to explain Ban's quote in Al Hayat against any postponement of the election, video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: There is an interview that the Secretary-General gave with Al Hayat about… there are portions about President Bashir -- that he would not meet with him unless “absolutely necessary”. But particularly it seemed to be quoting him as saying that he is not in favour of any postponement of the Sudanese election. Something the opposition parties there requested and the Carter Center has said that -- and I believe that the UN in a background briefing has said -- that 11 April would be would very difficult to accomplish. So, what does he mean by no postponement? He believes it absolutely should be held on 11 April?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Read out the exact quote.

Inner City Press: Okay: “I understand that elections could be postponed for a short period of time, but why should be made to postpone the month of November? I am not sure it can properly [be] arranged at that time.” So I am asking, I guess there are some words missing there, but…

Spokesperson: Yes, there are some words missing. I read that, too, and there are some words missing in that transcript. What I think is clear is, as we have said before and has been said from here, there are fairly considerable technical challenges to delivering that election for the Government that is in the driving seat on this, and for those who are providing technical assistance. It is a considerable undertaking. What I think he is suggesting there is that, if there is a delay, it does not mean that it will be any easier should there be a delay to deliver at a later date. I think that is all he is saying.

  But some see a connection, which the UN has yet to address, to the UN housing or hosting a pro-government rebel leader to support talks with Al-Bashir, while also ignoring Sudanese opposition parties' call for a postponement in light of abuse. Watch this site.

Footnote: on the above quote by Ban Ki-moon, which came from the Sudan Tribune's pick-up of Al Hayat's interview, a junior Al Hayat correspondent ran into the UN press briefing room to say that her newspaper's version of the transcript did not have any words missing. While Inner City Press then explained where it got the quote from, strangely neither statement was included in the UN's transcript, although both can be seen in the video, here.

 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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