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As UN Confirms 2 Dead, 28 Wounded in Darfur, Nothing on Journalists's Arrest

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 4 -- As killing in Darfur escalates, the UN stays several days behind, belatedly reporting on November 4 on a deadly November 1 attack outside Tawila, and then only because asked.

  On November 3 Inner City Press asked why the UNAMID mission had not spoken about the second deadly attack near Tawila. Hours later, the UN said it was investigating. A source asked Inner City Press, what's to investigate, since the UN has a peacekeeping base in Tawila itself?

  As it turns out, the UN did know what happened. On November 4 spokesman Martin Nesirky read a statement that on November 1, unidentified gunmen attacked two vehicles, resulting in two deaths and 28 wounded who were taken to an MSF clinic in Tawila. Eight of the more serious injuries were transferred to a hospital in El Fasher, which is UNAMID's base.

But why didn't UNAMID just routinely report this? Similarly, Jaafar al-Sibki the Darfur reporter for the Sahafa daily newspaper in Sudan was arrested by authorities, but UNAMID and UN had no response except to point to UNAMID's belated statement about a radio station's closure.

While the UN - African Union mediation in Doha has now been suspended until mid December, the UN had no statement on that either on November 4.

IDP in Tawila, UNAMID not shown

 The Doha process does not include the supporters of Fur rebel Abdel Wahid Nur, nor the Justice and Equality Movement. The one group it does include, the Liberation and Justice Movement, has a leader who was a UN staff member at least until March 8, 2010, then (the UN says) resigned. We'll have more on this. Watch this site.

From the UN's November 3 transcript:

Inner City Press: on Sudan, I wanted to ask you two factual things. There are reports that at least eight people injured in Tawilla, where there is a peacekeeping base, have been taken to the hospital in El Fasher. I haven’t seen anything by UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur]; I’m just wondering if it’s possible to get… whether UNAMID can confirm that this attack took place, who they think did it? There are also reports of the arrest of the leader of a refugee camp, Al Salaam in North Darfur, by the authorities. And I’m wondering, again … these things build up, but whether UNAMID can confirm these two incidents, and also, if these things are true, why these things are not being said in some way by UNAMID? And I know you may say “ask them”, but I’ve asked them and I’ve received nothing in return.

Spokesperson Nesirky: We will ask them. All right, thanks very much. Good afternoon, everybody.

[The Spokesperson later added that we are aware of these reports and are investigating them. UNAMID is concerned about heightened military tensions on the ground. There have been other incidents recently. UNAMID calls on all parties to refrain from the use of force.]

* * *

As UN Says It 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.

  Some 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, 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.

* * *

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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