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On Sudan Ousters, Sudan Lauds UNSC Inaction, PR Scapegoating?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 30, more here – After Inner City Press received a leaked copy of Sudan UN Development Program Country Director Yvonne Helle's December 24 e-mail saying she had been ordered to leave the country, it reported it and asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it at the UN's noon briefing on December 24. Story here, video from UN noon briefing here.

  On December 30, UN Security Council consultations came to nothing: no Press Statement, not even "elements to the press." The UN Secretariat's briefer, Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, did not come to the stakeout to speak, even after a request from Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access (see below).

 Now the Sudan Tribune -- we name the media -- quotes Foreign Minister Ali Karti crowing that "[The UNSC] did not come out with anything." They also report that "local Sudanese newspapers quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Khartoum decided to replace its UN ambassador Rahamtalla Mohamed Osman and have him return home by mid-January... Sources attributed the move to his unjustified absence from the UNSC briefing this month by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda... Sudan’s current ambassador to Juba Mutrif Sideeg is speculated to replace Osman."

  Inner City Press noted the presence outside the Security Council on December 30 of Rahamtalla Mohamed Osman; Council sources described to it an encounter between Rahamtalla Mohamed Osman and UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant including the latter saying, You can't say that, it is outrageous -- which might actually help Rahamtalla Mohamed Osman. We've asked.

 Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked the UN:

"This is a request that Deputy SG Eliasson or someone else from the Secretariat hold a press availability on Sudan's decision to expel Yvonne Helle (which I asked about at the December 24 noon briefing) and Ali Al-Za'tari... I understood the DSG to say he would not be speaking afterward since it was consultations. But a media availability by the Secretariat, ideally the DSG but another if necessary, later this afternoon is being requested, including on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access."

   UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq replied in the negative:

"Regarding your request for a press availability, yes, the Deputy Secretary-General said that he would not speak at the stakeout, given that the Security Council had held consultations. The views he expressed were in keeping with what we have been saying on Sudan, including in the 25 December SG statement:

'The Secretary-General condemns the Government of Sudan's decision to expel the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator and the Country Director of the United Nations Development Programme. The sanctioning of United Nations personnel sent to Sudan to carry out their duties in accordance with the United Nations Charter is unacceptable. The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Sudan to reverse its decision immediately and urges it to cooperate fully with all United Nations entities present in Sudan.'"

 Later on December 30, minutes before the UN Security Council was to vote on the draft Palestine resolution, the UN put this out:

Note to Correspondents – in response to questions on Sudan

The Secretary-General’s strongly critical position on the expulsion from Sudan of the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC) and UNDP Country Director is clear.

Departure of these key senior United Nations officials would constitute a serious loss for the humanitarian and development community in Sudan at a time when humanitarian needs are growing and the country faces significant development challenges.

The United Nations has been engaging the Government of Sudan at several levels to obtain a reversal of its decision.  It is essential that the United Nations can continue to carry out its crucial duties in the country. The Government has agreed to extend the deadline for the RC/HC's departure from 2 January until the end of the month. Discussions on this issue continue.

The United Nations remains committed to a productive and fruitful working relationship with the Government of Sudan for the benefit of its people, on the basis of respect of sovereignty. The United Nations counts on the full cooperation of the Government of Sudan in enabling all UN entities and their leadership to carry out their important work.

"  Inner City Press has asked, why was nothing said when Sudan expelled the Country Director of the UN Population Fund UNFPA in April? When Sudan this Fall chased a UN aid official out of Darfur? There have been no public explanation, but Inner City Press is compiling a picture -- call it "Profiles in Cowardice" -- from multiple sources; watch this site.


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