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In Sudan, Eight UN Armored Personnel Carriers Languish, Corruption Alleged

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, April 1 -- In Port Sudan, eight armored personnel carriers intended to be used to protect civilians in Darfur are sitting idle, the UN confirmed on March 31. While the UN and others often affirmatively complain of the Sudanese government blocking or delaying equipment in the port, this case is more complex, and the UN said nothing about it until asked by Inner City Press.

   Beyond a written answer saying that Nepalis have been sent for training to the Czech Republic, on background UN Peacekeeping sources say one problem is that "since military equipment sent to Maoist Nepal goes in but doesn't come out, it has to be directly delivered" to the UN Peacekeeping Mission where it will be used.  There has to be a better way.

    Inner City Press inquired at the March 31 noon briefing into the UN's delay in paying Nepal for the APCs and other gear to accompany the Nepali formed police unit in Darfur:

Inner City Press: There are reports of these Nepalese foreign police units that were sent to Darfur, have been there for five months, and none of their equipment has yet been delivered to them.  There are some complaints, and a UN investigation in Nepal, about why it hasn’t reached Darfur, why the country hasn’t been paid.  And someone said that the armored personnel carriers they sent are, in fact, second-hand, which is why they have not been transferred nor has the country been paid.  Are you aware of that, and what’s…

Spokesperson Michele Montas:  I think you should address your question to the Spokesperson of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

Inner City Press:  DPKO or Department of Field Support?

Spokesperson:  DPKO would be the one.

Inner City Press: Okay.  There’s an investigation in Nepal.  That’s why I’m wondering whether there’s some knowledge…

Spokesperson:  You know, it’s a DPKO issue.

     Since the Office of the Spokesperson, which holds the UN's noon briefing every day, often speaks about peacekeeping issues, they seemed to be the ones to ask. But in this case, DPKO came through later on Tuesday with an answer:

Subj: Question on Nepal FPU
From: DPKO
To: Inner City Press
CC: Office of the Spokesperson
Sent: 3/31/2009 7:09:37 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time

Hi Matthew, regarding your question at the Noon Briefing , here's what we have for you:

There is a Nepalese formed police unit (140 strong), which has deployed to Nyala with all of its own equipment, except for eight armored personnel carriers (APCs) of Czech origin. The APCs have not been deployed from Port Sudan yet as the training package for these vehicles was not able to deploy in country due to visa restrictions on the technicians. To fix this, there's now an agreement now in place to send a Nepalese police personnel to the Czech Republic for training with these APCs.

  The level of detail is appreciated. The head of the UN's Department of Field Services, Susana Malcorra, is as luck would have it in Darfur's Nyala. In Nepal, they are saying that the APCs were donated by India and repainted, that they might even be used and not new. Inner City Press has asked, as follow-up.

An APC in action, unlike the 8 stuck in Sudan, Czech training not shown

 It is also reported in Nepal that

The reason the UN has not paid back the Nepal Police: most of the goods sent from Nepal are yet to arrive in Sudan and even the goods that have reached the African country have been found to be substandard. The goods include kitchen appliances, first aid kits, daily utilities, water tanks and cleaning and supervision equipment. As a result, the Nepal Police is losing out on the monthly U.S. $21,835 installment it gets from the U.N...

The amount of embezzlement in the whole affair is breathtaking. According to Nepal Police records, over Rs. 5.1 million was spent just in “repair and coloring” of 17 India-donated vehicles packed off to Sudan. Some high-ranking police insiders suspect the eight APCs stuck in the Sudanese port to be second-hand vehicles. Some other goods the police fund paid for -- for instance, night vision binoculars (Rs 9.1 million) and distance-measuring equipment (Rs 2.3 million) -- have not reached Sudan. Food material worth over Rs 4.6 million sent to Sudan has also been found to be substandard or rotting. Perhaps the most shocking fact is that the quoted value of almost every goods item sent is up to three times their normal market price....

The Home Ministry wrote to Nepal Police Headquarters asking it to investigate the sordid affair. The police, in response, has sent the Home Ministry a detailed report on the issue. The Home Ministry, for its part, has also set up a separate committee to probe the matter further. The Committee for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) is expected to institute its own investigation in the not too distant future.

  So things do not sound as hunky-dory as DPKO in New York makes them out to be. But at least they answered -- the same day, at that!  We will continue to follow this, including the issues raised concerning "direct delivery" to UN Peacekeeping missions of military hardware for  deployments from Nepal and other troop (and police) contributing countries.

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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