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As UN Now Probes New Darfur Attack, Silence from Council on Sudan Press Crackdown

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 3 -- With the UN speaking less and less on human rights, the UNAMID peacekeeping mission in Darfur has provided fewer and fewer reports about casualties of fighting in the area, about arrests and crackdowns on media.

  On November 3, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky why UNAMID had nothing to say about days old reports of a new attack on civilians in Tawila, leading to at least 18 casualties being taken to the hospital in El Fasher, UNAMID's headquarters.

  Less than three hours later, Nesirky's office confirmed, only over the loudspeaker squawk system in the UN press floor and not anywhere in writing, that UNAMID is “aware of reports” of the attack on Tawila and “is investigating them... there have been other incidents recently.”

  But most of these incidents, UNAMID has had no comment on. Many observers opine that UNAMID's silence emboldens the government and its proxies to step up their attacks on civilians in Darfur.

   The UN has still not spoken on arrests by the Sudanese authorities in the Darfur IDP camps, both Abu Shouk where the UN Security Council visited, and now in Al Salaam in North Darfur, about which Inner City Press asked on November 3.

  Written questions directed to Nesirky's office on November 2 about UNAMID's selective reporting -- and not just Humanitarian Coordinator Georg Charpentier's -- and about UN conflicts of interest and UNAMID chief Ibrahim Gambari's mode of transport have still not been answered.

IDPs in Tawila, protection of civilians not shown

  At the Security Council stakeout earlier on November 3, Inner City Press asked this month's Council president Mark Lyall Grant of the UK, the lead country on Darfur, if the Council planned any meeting, discussion or action on the Government's radio station closure. On November 2, the US State Department's spokesman PJ Crowley, then Ambassador Susan Rice, spoke and wrote on the topic.

  As Ambassador Rice entered the Council Wednesday morning for a Council meeting about Ivory Coast, Inner City Press asked if the US would be asking for Security Council action on this issue.

  Lyall Grant later on Wednesday, after the meeting, told Inner City Press that “as President of the Security Council, there are no plans to discuss the issue specifically” although he said Sudan is “the centerpiece of the British presidency” of the Council. He added that in his national capacity, the UK regrets any restriction on free press, especially at this “sensitive time.” Video here, from Minute 3:04.

France, on the other hand, had as the UN had nearly nothing to say about Darfur, or even the wider Sudan. Watch this site.

From the UN's transcript of Tuesday, November 2:

Inner CityPress: Does the UN have any comment on these arrests of Darfur human rights activists, both in Khartoum and in Darfur, the closing of a radio station, and can it confirm that Georg Charpentier has said that there should be none but an essential monitoring mission sent out from now until February, as some in Darfur are saying?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: On the last question, we’ll check. On the first, likewise on the middle one about the radio station, we are aware of those reports about the closing down of the radio station and the reported arrests of some journalists. Clearly, we would urge the authorities to ensure that journalists can carry out their work freely.

Inner City Press: Human Rights Watch did a report on these arrests and the activists, saying they note that UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] doesn’t report on human rights conditions, and that Charpentier hasn’t put out a report on this since November 2009. Why did the UN stop reporting on these topics at this important time?

Spokesperson: Well, you asked Ms. [Valerie] Amos that, and I think that she gave you an answer. I don’t have anything to add to what she said last time. Maybe there will be an update at some point from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, but I don’t have that at the moment.

Inner City Press: Sorry, I’m sorry…

Spokesperson: Yes, there are other people who have questions.

Inner City Press: I understand, but the difficulty is that if we start at 12:15, it becomes tricky. But the human rights and the humanitarian reporting are two separate issues. The humanitarian, I understand that it’s a joint thing with the Government, but the human rights reporting is something that just seems to have ceased, and some are now saying that there’s a Joint Monitoring Assessment Centre [JMAC] that in fact has reports of civilian deaths and doesn’t report them to the public. Somehow they leak out to some, but… I guess I wanted to ask you… it’s two separate things.

Spokesperson: Let me find out, Matthew. Let me find out.

We're still waiting. Watch this site.

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Amid Darfur Force Build Up by Sudan, UK is Cautious, UN Cuts Off Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 2 -- The UK leads on Darfur for the UN Security Council, over which it presides this month. Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant what the UK is doing about the arrests which have followed the Council's visit to Darfur last month, and about reports of the Government of Sudan amassing forces for an assault on Darfur before the North - South referendum is scheduled on January 9.

  Lyall Grant said that it is “unclear who was arrested” and whether they met in preparation “for the Security Council meeting or actually met” with the Council members. He said it will be pursued, before the at the Council's November 16 session about Sudan. He did not address reports of a build up.

  Sources tell Inner City Press that tanks and troops have been seen in the North Darfur areas of Kutum, Kernoi, and Altina, while janjaweed gatherings have been seen in the West Darfur in areas of Geneina and Kulbus.

  When pro Government of Sudan volunteers reportedly landed in Kutum airport, one was asked by a Darfuri policeman, who are you and where are you going? The person reportedly answered, we are mujahideen and the government told us we have to fight the infidels and their supporters in Darfur. We came to clean Darfur.

   Some Arab tribes revolted and refused to participate in the operation. Sources say most of those revolted were in the army and belong to Bani Halba Arab tribe. The operation would start with aerial bombings with planes taking off from Dongola in the North Sudan (neighboring state to Darfur in th nile north) rather than from Darfur airports (due to the last noise regarding U.N.S.C. visit and arms embargo reports). The operation is timed to finish before referendum of Jan 2011. That's what sources say.

  Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky if the UN could confirm that its humanitarian coordinator in Sudan Georg Charpentier has ordered the cessation of all “non essential” monitoring missions and thus reporting, and if it could confirm the build up. Nesirky said that he will check and get back. He curtailed the Q&A session for Lyall Grant's briefing, and declined to continue it afterward.

UK's Lyall Grant & US Susan Rice stroll in Sudan, arrestees & Darfur build-up not shown

   During Lyall Grant's program of work briefing, Inner City Press also asked about the November 4 “horizon scanning” briefing by the UN's Department of Political Affairs, whether it was meant to be called “preventive diplomacy” but some countries opposed that. Lyall Grant did not directly answer, but said it should be free wheeling, as he said that evening's dinner and UK ship ride with Ban Ki-moon will be. We'll see.

Footnote: in setting the program of work, the UK service muffins and coffee, and gave each Council member a copy of a caricature of all 15 Ambassadors by artist Steve Nyman. Inner City Press asked UK Deputy Permanent Representative Philip Parham, said to have originated the idea of giving a caricature instead of, say, a clock, about the artist. It's said he has a web site. For the UK's knowledge, the names of two people arrested after the Darfur visit are Abdullah Ishaq Abdel Razek, the supervisor of the nutrition program of the camp’s schools, and Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed Al-Haj. Their connections to the Security Council visit are also on the web. Watch this site.

* * *

UN Sudan Debate Degenerates to Book Sales, In Empire of Deng, Genocide Forgotten

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 27 -- When the UN holds an event entitled “Sudan, a Vision for the Future” six weeks before the referendum on secession is slated to be held, it seems worth going to.

There were piles of books for sale by the event's entrance in the UN's North Lawn building. UN official Francis Deng, charged with preventing genocide but rarely seen these days, was speaking about his writings, including “New Sudan in the Making” published, strangely, by Third World Book of Trenton, New Jersey and Asmara, Eritrea.

The event was moderated by Kiyotaka Akasaka of the UN Department of Public Information, who intervened to cut short the response by Sudanese Ambassador Dafaala El Haj Ali Osman so that questions could be asked the audience, including those online.

Inner City Press asked about the religious differences between South Sudan and the North, about how external debt might be divided, and the implications of a planned new oil pipeline to run south through Kenya. Only one of these questions was answered, and even then only by saying that debt is being negotiated in Addis Ababa, under the rubric of Liabilities.

Afterward, Inner City Press asked Mr. Deng what other countries he and his UN Prevention of Genocide are working on, including what he might think of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka, which has not even asked to visit that country.

Deng said “we don't like to single out countries” then said he was distracted due to an upcoming appointment. He was courteous as always and patrician -- of Abyei aristocracy -- but one wonders what is being accomplished.

Sources say that under Deng, the UN Prevention of Genocide office is largely devoted to producing and promoting Deng's writings, including the time of other staff members of the Office.

 “Nice work if you can get it,” one insider commented, while noting that a less distracted person might be better for the UN's Prevention of Genocide post, unless it is by UN design a no-show job.

Deng earlier at UN, book sales and Prevention of Genocide not shown

  If Deng's writings are being produced on UN time and with UN money, then shouldn't they be attributable to the UN? His “New Sudan in the Making” volume has a chapter by “Eltigani Seisi M. Ateem” -- the former UN staff member at the Economic Commission on Africa who was drafted, including by joint UN - African Union mediator Bassole, to lead the Darfur “Astroturf rebel” group the Liberation and Justice Movement. (Astroturf, the artificial surface in the now demolished Houston Astrodome, means fake grassroots.)

Also appearing on the panel was UN peacekeeping's Team Leader of the Sudan Operational Team Jack Christofides, who afterward briefed a Permanent Five Security Council diplomat about the “logistics” of the Security Council's recent trip to Sudan.

What is the UN accomplishing with all this book publishing and self- and Deng-promotion? As Deng concludes New Sudan in the Making?, “the question mark... is therefore pertinent.” Watch this site.

Footnote: as to UN DPI and Mr. Akasaka, having debates with Q&A is generally a good thing. But it was alleged by a panelist after Tuesday's session that the purpose was to promote sales of a UN official's book. This should be clarified. Mr. Akasaka at the end mentioned possible future sessions on Haiti or Pakistan -- perhaps Jean Maurice Ripert could lead that session, since he is still being paid despite being relieved of his Pakistan envoy position. Could there be a book deal in the works?

Watch this site, follow on Twitter @InnerCityPress.

 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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